Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Guess who’s leading the list of applicants for information commissioners in the state? Bureaucrats, virtually synonymous with the very red tape that the Right To Information Act seeks to surmount, are showing interest after retirement in dispelling information of all things. Data provided by the state’s General Administration Department shows that out of the 40 applications the government received for information commissioner, 24 were from retired bureaucrats who served within and outside the state.

 “Around 60% of the applications came from babus. At least three applicants were above 65 and are hence not eligible. Many see the post of information commissioner as just another means of employment after retirement,” said RTI activist Vihar Dhurve who filed an RTI query on this issue.

 More interestingly, some of these applications come with ‘recommendations’ from ministers and opposition leaders, raising questions over their impartiality even before they have been selected. For instance, the data revealed that one of the applicants Rajendra Chaturvedi, who served as the DGP in Madhya Pradesh, was recommended by former human resources minister Arjun Singh. Then there is Bhagwat R Patil, who has declared himself as a farmer and developer, who has been recommended by former state minister Swarup Singh Naik who was convicted in a forest scam case in 2006. Patil was also recommended by former MLA Chandrakant Reghuvanshi. Similarly in another application J S Kharat who said that he was a founder one district cooperative bank was recommended by former state minister Balasaheb Thorat and former central minister Oscar Fernandes. And Rama Das, who was with the Central Administrative Tribunal, was recommended by former opposition leader Ramdas Kadam. The data also show that are a couple of recommendations made by the deputy chief minister. Some applicants did not even bother to mention their educational qualifications and age.

 Activist S K Nangia said any kind of lobbying by politicians is considered as a disqualification according to government procedures. “We will take up this matter with the state government. It is unfortunate that only 
one out of the six information commissioners is a non- bureaucrat. This is a dangerous trend as we have seen that Public Information Officers are not very comfortable providing information and higher officers protect them, ’’ Nangia said.

Rajen Dharod, convener Tarun Mitra Mandal, said, “Under the RTI Act people from all walks of life are eligible for the post of information commissioner. Then why is the state not encouraging professionals working in other fields to join the state information commissio? Bureaucrats, be it the public information officer (PIO) or appellate authority usually deny information.”

Some applicants like Shivaji Raut, a secondary teacher from Satara, had taken pains to give a detailed resume, explaining the role he played in spreading RTI awareness across the state by conducting various RTI training workshops in the last four years. “I do not know whether the state will finally will recommend me but Iam sure I can do a good job and help ordinary citizens who file a second appeal with the commission,” Raut said from Hyderabad where he was at a national RTI convention.

Civic activist Chandrashekhar Prabhu who exposed several lacunae in SRA schemes said he had not applied, but many people recommended his name.


· Eminent citizens from all walks of life with a wide knowledge and experience in science, technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, administration and governance are eligible for the post of state information commissioner.
· The applicant should send the forms to the General Administrative Department mentioning educational qualifications, age and experience in his field of activity.
· The GAD will make the first scrutiny and remarks and then send the final list to the state committee in charge of selecting the commissioners.
· The selection committee comprising chief minister, opposition leader and a cabinet minister will finally select the information commissioner.
· The post has an upper age limit of 65 years and a tenure of five years.
· The cost to the public exchequer is Rs 20- 25 lakh per commissioner per year.


· Selection process should be made public, names announced so people may nominate information commissioners. The selection committee should then shortlist the final applicants. -- Shailesh Gandhi | CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
· Often bureaucrats selected by politicians tend to toe the line of the establishment. There should be a proper framework for selecting infomation commissioners. -- Krishnaraj Rao | RTI ACTIVIST
· The commissioner should be made more accountable as he cannot be transferred or removed in case he performs abysmally. The applicant’s role in helping use of RTI Act should be considered. -- Chetan Kothari | RTI ACTIVIST
· We need someone who is not from the government to counter the process of denial when the case comes for final appeal, which is the last option for the RTI applicant. -- Rajen Dharod | RTI ACTIVIST


Krishnaraj Rao

1 comment:

  1. RTI activists must ensure Information commissioners are NOT from the bureaucracy.


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