मंगलवार, 7 जुलाई 2015

Huge Irregularities in appointment of Odisha Info Commissioner

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.

Dear friends

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

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