CONSIDERED TO be custodians of transparent laws in the state, the state information commissioners (SICs) have traditionally been former bureaucrats — a fact which has raised concerns about the appointment process. Now, in response to an RTI query raised by The Indian Express, the General Administration Department (GAD) of the state government has revealed that in the past 10 years, not a single advertisement was issued to fill up the positions.
Promulgated in 2005, the RTI Act contains provision for appointment of SICs and a single state chief information commissioner. These commissioners are supposed to exercise their quasi judicial powers and help in implementation of the RTI Act as well as hear second appeals under the Act. At present, the state has six SIC bench with Ratnakar Gaikwad functioning as the state chief information commissioner in Mumbai.
RTI Act specifies that SICs to be eminent persons of “eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.”
Barring journalist Vijay Kuvalekar, all other SICs in the Maharashtra have been former bureaucrats, a fact which has drawn severe criticism from all quarters.
The GAD’s reply to the RTI application now makes it clear that no advertisements were ever issued inviting applications from the public for the post of SICs. This newspaper had earlier reported how since 2005, the government had received 160 applications from people from various walks of life to fill up the positions but it’s the bureaucrats who have won the battle. (“Professors, educationists lose info panel race to ex-bureaucrats, IE April 18,2015).
Applications without proper advertisement and publicity, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said was meaningless and smacked of ‘match fixing’.”
“In my complaint to the governor of the state, I have pointed out how this was almost synonymous to paving the way for some people in a roundabout manner,” he said.
The state government, Kumbhar said, had earlier filed affidavit in the court to frame rules for appointments of SICs but that is yet to be done. “Appointments as custodians of transparency should itself be fair and transparent. In the case of Maharashtra, this is not being followed,” he said.