Days before it was voted out of power,Karnatakas BJP government bestowed an extraordinary gift on the states information commissioners,one which the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of India has now denounced as preposterous and absurd.
Following an order passed on April 24,retired information commissioners in Karnataka are eligible for a pension equivalent to that of the chief secretary,or about Rs 40,000 plus DA. This is several times the pension received by information commissioners and chief information commissioners at both the Centre and in other states.
The Central Information Commission has asked the Karnataka government to urgently review the order. In a letter written to Karnataka Chief Secretary S V Ranganath on May 27,CIC Satyananda Mishra has said (that) information commissioners after putting in just three years of service should be entitled to draw pension against the salary of Rs 80,000 per month is fallacious… (and) absurd.
It (the pension scheme) has to be reasonable and equitable and should not result in unmerited state munificence showered on individuals disproportionate to the extent of service rendered by them. After all,it is a liability to be borne by the public…, Mishra has written. The Karnataka governments order was based on the fact that information commissioners in the states avail the rank and perks of chief secretary. Citing section 16(5) of the RTI Act which details the terms and conditions of state information commissioners,the government issued a directive to provide pension (to information commissioners) equivalent to the chief secretary i.e. Rs 40,000 per month,since they are treated equal to chief secretary in the RTI Act. The order was issued with the approval of the additional chief secretary (Finance).
Sources in the Karnataka government confirmed that following Mishras letter,the states finance department was reconsidering its decision,and was likely to take a call soon. Mishra told The Indian Express,Yes,I have written asking them to re-visit the case and take appropriate action,since the decision of the Karnataka government would have far-reaching impact on all other states.
While no other state has announced such an attractive pension for its information commissioners,Uttar Pradesh has fixed a pension of Rs 6,600 for commissioners and Rs 8,000 for chief information commissioners.
Karnatakas move is significant because most information commissions have a mixed composition,and a hefty pension scheme for members who are not career bureaucrats is sure to be seen as setting a bad precedent. The present Karnataka commission,for instance,has six information commissioners two of whom can be described as outsiders.
In fact,chief information commissioners of states have rank of election commissioner,and receive Rs 5,000 as monthly pension if they spend three years at the post.