Huge Irregularities, favouritism, malpractice and politically motivated appointment made for the post of Odisha Information commissioner, exposed through RTI.
· Though two months passed since submission of RTI Application, the PIO did not supply any information sought about the details of procedure followed and criteria taken up for the selection of two candidates for the post of Information Commissioner.
· Self-claim of Nabin Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha committed to ensuring transparency in the administration is provided false and misleading and designed to cheat the people of Odisha.
· The colonial mindset of Odisha bureaucracy was also exposed.
· Apprehension of RTI Activists about Govt.’s secretive initiative to appoint useless and sub-standard people in the post of the Information which was in practice since last 10 years was again proved true.
The more interesting, ridiculous and irony of the whole episode is that the Information and Public Relation Department which is the nodal Departmet for implementation of RTI Act in Odisha entrusted to enforce transparency in the administration is denying information about appointment of Information Commissioner, an agency formed to enforce RTI and adjudicate cases of RTI violation to the Information Seekers who are RTI Activists and working to enforce effective implementation of RTI Act in Odisha.
RTI Act, which came into force in 2005 is mandated to enforce a transparent and accountable administration and contain corruption in the country. It has given right to the Citizens to access information held under the control of the Public authorities. Since 2005, RTI Activists of the state have not only raised the issues relating to mal-implementation of RTI Act but also demanding before the Govt. to follow transparent procedure in respect of appointment in the post of Information commissioner ( It needs to be mentioned here that the State Govt. has appointed most corrupt, useless, inefficient people like D.N.Padhi, Sri Jagadanand and Sri Tarun Kanti Mishra involved in land scam in the post of Odisha Information omission in the state within 10 years of the constitution of the omission) A number of 54 Complaints and 7 Writ petitions filed against these former Information commissioners is pending before the Governor, Odisha and High Court, Odisha since 8 years.
However, Demanding transparency in the appointment of Information is not confined to Odisha only. It is a demand of RTI Activists in all states even at national level. Amidst rising criticism over lack of transparency in appointment of the Information Commission and the huge discontentment and resentment of RTI Activists and Concerned citizens against the arbitrary and mindless, politically motivated appointment in the post of Information Commissioners, the Supreme Court while adjudicating Writ petition No. 210/2012 and Review Petition No.2309/2012 in 2013 gave the order to both Central Government and all State Govt. to follow the transparent procedure in respect of appointment of the Information Commissioners and make all the information discloseable under RTI Act. The direction of the Supreme Court is as follows.
“ v) We further direct that the Committees under Sections 12(3) and 15(3) of the Act while making recommendations to the President or to the Governor, as the case may be, for appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners must mention against the name of each candidate recommended, the facts to indicate his eminence in public life, his knowledge in the particular field and his experience in the particular field and these facts must be accessible to the citizens as part of their right to information under the Act after the appointment is made.”
On 3rd March 2013, while quashing the appointment of P.J.Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner in Writ Petition (C) No. 348/2010, the Supreme Court has made 10 legal arguments for transparent selection of CICs, SICs, Human Rights Commissioners & other Constitutional Authorities.
While hearing a Special Leave petition (Case No.9680/2012) , petition made challenging the appointment of Tamil Nadu Information Commissioner, the Supreme Court has made the following remarks-
“Whether the selection of appointment of State Information Commissioners can be made without adopting a transparent and fair method of selection in which all eligible persons can participate for appointment to such post/office can be treated as private affair of political set up”.
When the State Govt. started initiative for selection of the candidates through releasing advertisement publicly seeking application from the interested candidates in Feb. 2013, I submitted a memorandum to the Governor, Odisha seeking direction to the State Govt. to modify the advertisement and insert the provision of recommendation by public for the post of Information Commissioner.
On 25.3.15, Sri Sachikant Pradhan, RTI Activist had submitted RTI Application to the PIO, Department of Information and Public Relation, Govt. of Odisha, Bhubaneswar seeking information about list of applicants applied for the post of Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioner. Violating the provision of section 7(1) of the RTI Act, the PIO took around two months to respond the RTI Application. This is gross negligence and deliberate attempt to denigrade RTI Act. Secondly, the PIO also denied providing the information on the ground of personal information under section 8(1) (h) of the RTI Act which is not at all the personal information. This is an attempt to subvert RTI in Odisha and to keep the information secret.
When the State Government failed to put in public domain the transparent procedure to be followed for appointment of the Commission, RTI Activists under the banner of Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan organised Mass Dharana before Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar on 30th April 2015 and submitted memorandum seeking direction the State Govt. to issue detailed written transparent procedure in respect of appointment of the Commission, declare publicly name of the applicants, their background, experience and expertise, details of search Committee, inviting public view on the final list for the post of Information Commission prior to sending the name to the Governor of Odisha for appointment etc., modify the advertisement and include the provision of recommendation by public for the post of Information Commissioner.
Defying all the legitimate procedures and even ignoring the concern of Sri Narasingha Mishra, Opposition Leader and Member of Selection Committee headed by Chief Minister, on 16.5.15, the State Govt. arbitrarily selected two candidates for the post of Information Commissioners.
On 17.5.15, the Civil Society Groups and RTI Activists came together in state level meeting and discussed about arbitrary procedure followed for selection of the candidates in the post of all Commissions like OSCPCR, State Commission for Women, State Human Rights Commission, State Information Commission etc. As per decision in the meeting, all RTI Activists assembled together at Raj Bhawan and submitted memorandum to Governor, Odisha appealing for review of the appointment of the Chief information commissioner and Information Commissioner for Odisha.
On 18.5.15, I submitted RTI Application to the PIO, Dept. of Information and Public Relation, Govt. of Odisha seeking information about Procedure followed for selecting candidates for appointment in the post of Chairman and Members of Odisha Information commission, criteria taken up for shortlising candidates for the post of Chairman and Members of Odisha Information Commission which was presented to the selection Committee and name of the shortlisted candidates, proceedings of the selection Committee etc. Though one ad half moth has passed, the PIO has neither responded the application nor supplied the information.
Similarly, 5 no. of RTI Applications have been submitted by RTI Activists seeking similar information about procedure followed for selection and appointment of Information Commission. Not a single RTI application has been responded by the PIO, though statutory time limit has passed.
It shows that the State Govt. has adopted arbitrary method of selecting their political stooge for the post of the Information Commission. If the selection procedure is followed properly, then what is the problem with Govt to provide the information?
Pradip Pradhan, M-9937843482, Date-7.7.15