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Your Right to Know: Selection process for state’s info commissioners raises questions

The state has six SICs functioning under a chief information commissioner.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
July 12, 2015 3:31:47 am
rti, right to information, rti news, pune rti, devendra fadnavis, bjp, devendra fadnavis bjp, devendra fadnavis rti, india news, pune news Headed by the chief minister, the committee comprises the leader of Opposition in the state and a senior minister from the cabinet.

The selection process of the state information commissioners (SIC) in Maharashtra appears to be shrouded in mystery as the high-powered committee meant to select them seems to be working in a highly ad hoc manner.

Minutes of the meeting of the high-powered committee, accessed by The Indian Express under the Right To Information Act from the General Administration Department (GAD) of Mantralaya, shows there was hardly any discussions involved in the process of appointment of SICs.

Headed by the chief minister, the committee comprises the leader of Opposition in the state and a senior minister from the cabinet.

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Applications for the post of SIC are received by the GAD and subsequently placed before the committee.

The RTI Act specifies that SICs “shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, or science and technology, or social service, or management, or journalism, or mass media or administration and governance.”

The state has six SICs functioning under a chief information commissioner.

Starting from 2005, the high-powered committee has met seven times in 10 years to select information commissioners.

From 2005-08, it met on an yearly basis, but meetings have been irregular since then.

Post 2008, the committee met in 2010 and then in 2012.

It met once in 2014 and then in 2015 to select SICs. The delay in meeting had led to many SIC benches being vacant for long periods.
The minutes of these meetings, however, throw no light on the process adopted before selecting the SICs.

Barring those of 2014 and 2015, the minutes did not even have any mention of the number of applications put before the committee.

Interestingly, each of these minutes consisted of only one page.

The 2014 minutes, which has the signatures of the then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and the then leader of opposition Eknath Khadse, noted that they had received 103 applications and it was necessary to select people of eminence from the field of the law, administration, journalism etc.

Similarly, the first high-powered committee meeting since the BJP government took over noted that around 100 applications were put before them.

This committee, which was chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, was also attended by Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse and the leader of Opposition Radhkrushna Vikhe Patil.

It was decided that only candidates who were able to serve for three or more years would henceforth be selected as SICs.

Also, the minutes had a brief note justifying the selection of Dattatreya Bansod as the SIC of Amravati bench.

Bansod, it was noted, was the former divisional commissioner of Amravati and had 34 years of experience in various fields of administration.

While the SICs are supposed to be the guardians of transparency, the apparent ad hoc manner in which they are selected has been pointed out on numerous occasions. In the past, activist Anna Hazare had asked for a selection committee which would invite and scrutinise applications for selections of SIC.

Activist Vijay Kumbhar, who had in the past pointed out the apparent irregularities in the process, said that the method adopted by the government was illegal.

“The process smacks of nepotism and even after the change of government, nothing much has changed,” he said.

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