Six months after Ratnakar Gaikwad relinquished the position of State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC), the state government is yet to issue advertisements calling for applications to fill the post. However, replying to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express, the General Administration Department (GAD) has revealed that it has already received five applications for the post.
Gaikwad, who was a former chief secretary of the state, had retired from his position in April. Since then, the position has been lying vacant with Ajit Kumar Jain, the State Information Commissioner (SIC), Brihanm-umbai bench, holding the extra charge. Other than heading the Information Commissinonerate, the SCIC runs the body in consultation with other SICs. During his tenure, Gaikwad had earned a name for speedy disposal of second appeals.
Responding to a question by The Indian Express about the advertisement for the post, the GAD replied in negative.
But the GAD’s reply also showed that the department has already received five applications — of Bharatkumar Raut, Swadhin Kshatriya, Ajit Kumar Jain, Dr PS Meena and Dr Bhagavan Sahai — for the post. Barring Raut, all others are former bureaucrats. The SCIC is appointed by a three-member committee, headed by the chief minister, the second most important minister in the cabinet and the leader of the opposition. This committee is yet to meet to make the appointments.
Since the RTI Act has come into existence, the appointment of SICs has been a thorny issue as the state government has failed to bring about transparency in the process of appointments. More likely than not, the position has been filled by former bureaucrats, which has been objected to by the RTI users and activists.
The failure of the state government to bring about transparency in the process of appointments, many say, is in contravention to the Supreme Court’s directions. Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said the apex court has laid down rules for the appointment wherein the process should start three months before the position gets vacant. “However, in this state, this does not happen,” he said.
Referring to the past experience, activists say the SIC’s position is being reserved for former bureaucrats after their retirement. “Despite rulings by several High Courts, the government has failed to bring transparency in the process. If they go ahead with opaque appointments, this might be challenged in the High Court,” he said.