A notification of the former Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra putting the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) out of purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has come to light almost a month-and-a-half after it was issued, as activists opposing it put it, in a “stealthy” manner.
Besides questioning powers of the government to exclude the ACB from the transparency law, the timing of the September 6 notification has led them to raise suspicions.
The date falls between August 22, the day the ACB allegedly moved to seek a nod for inquiry against NCP leader and then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare in an alleged irrigation scam and September 21 when the State Home Department apparently granted permission.
The notification issued by the General Administration Department (GAD) came to light as an outcome of the follow-up by local RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar with the ACB regarding a list of tainted bureaucrats.”
“The government move to take the ACB out of the purview of RTI Act is a clear attempt to save political leaders associated with the irrigation scam and top babus who colluded in the crime. The timing of the notification tells it all. The government misused its powers to protect the corrupt at the cost of tampering with the spirit of the RTI Act,” Kumbhar said.
He accused the then government of “stealthily” bringing in the notification to exclude ACB from the purview of the RTI, “The then government deliberately hid the notification from public and did not publish it on the official website of the Maharashtra government. It is available in an innocuous corner at the ACB website.
Ideally, a public consensus should have been taken before such a notification with due ratification from the State Legislature. Due procedure was not followed as there was an obvious hurry to pass it,” Kumbhar said. In a letter to Governor Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao, Kumbhar appealed for immediate cancellation of the notification.
GAC officials concerned could not be reached for comment despite attempts to contact them in the Mantralaya, the state administrative headquarters in Mumbai. When contacted, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari was attending political meetings, while NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakde expressed ignorance about the circular and related issues.