Stepping beyond his powers, state CIC appoints Pratibha Patil’s secretary as Pune IC
A State CIC has no powers to even sanction a 'casual leave' of any Information commissioner. However, Maharashtra SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad issued a transfer order to make Rajendra Jadhav, full time IC of Pune. Jadhav was the secretary to former president Pratibha Patil
Rajendra Jadhav was appointed by the Maharashtra Governor and has taken oath as Amravati’s Information Commissioner (IC) on 1 March 2014. First he was arbitrarily given additional charge as Pune’s Information Commissioner and now suddenly on 2nd July he has been appointed as Pune’s full time Information Commissioner by State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad. All this when the SCIC does not have the authority to even sanction a 'casual leave' for any IC, as the authority rests with the Governor.
Jadhav, who was secretary of former President of India Pratibha Patil, while she was serving in the highest constitutional post, seems to be curiously following her like a shadow, with the state government machinery 'illegally' supporting the cause.
How else would you explain the audacity of SCIC Gaikwad to appoint Jadhav as Pune’s Information Commissioner, under the garb of Section 15 (4) of the RTI Act? This rule states that the SCIC has the power to exercise his authority 'autonomously'.
Right to Information (RTI) activist, Vijay Kumbhar, who has taken up this issue with the Governor’s office by writing a formal complaint to him, with copies of the complaint also sent to the President of India and Prime Minister, explains that “the SCIC does not have to consult any other law enforcing or public authority to issue an order pertaining to the RTI Act, but when it comes to the appointment of Information Commissioners, Governor is the final authority. The SCIC has no authority to sanction even a casual leave of any IC; it is the Governor’s prerogative. Therefore, Gaikwad has no authority to merely send a 'CC' of his order to the Governor which he has done in the case of Jadhav.” (see box for the Section 15 (4) rule)
It is shocking that earlier complaints by Kumbhar to the Governor regarding such 'illegal' transfers by SCIC Gaikwad have been met with stoic silence.
Girish Bapat, senior leader of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Pune has also expressed shock at Gaikwad’s 'style of functioning'. When Moneylife contacted him for this issue, he stated, “Earlier too I had formally complained to the Chief Secretary as well as to the Chief Minister. I have strong reservations regarding Gaikwad’s style of functioning. I am pursuing this recent case of Rajendra Jadhav with the highest authorities of the state.”
In fact, RTI activist Anil Galgali has also taken up the same 'transfer’ issue by Gaikwad in March this year. Since the post of IC is not transferrable, a high powered committee was set up, which made recommendations to the Governor. Thereafter, the Governor and not the SCIC made the (re) appointments. Galgali was quoted in a Moneylife article stating: "the RTI Act 2005, has no provision for transfer of State ICs (SIC). The power to appoint, or remove SICs are vested the Governor. During 2007, Vilas Patil, the then SIC at Nagpur sought transfer to Nashik. A High Power Committee headed by the state Chief Minister (CM), with the deputy CM and leader of opposition as its members, recommended to the Governor the transfer of the SIC. The Governor sought opinion from the Ministry of Law and Advocate General of Maharashtra (AG). The AG pointed out that as per Section 15 of RTI Act, the Governor can appoint an SIC on recommendations from the High Power Committee.
"After the AG's opinion, Vilas Patil first resigned as SIC at Nagpur, then the Committee recommended his name for appointment as SIC at Nashik. The Governor accepted the recommendation and issued order to appoint Vilas Patil as SIC at Nashik," Galgali said. (read Maharashtra SCIC illegally transferred three SICs?
Also shocking is the fact that Jadhav has taken over the reigns as Information Commissioner, Pune Division, without even taking an official oath, which makes his appointment doubly illegal and dubious. His official oath, as per official record is that of being appointed as Amravati’s Information Commissioner. With a single order, Gaikwad has also transferred Pune’s Information Commissioner MB Shah to take over as Amravati’s Information Commissioner, when he resumes after his illness.
Kumbhar, in his strongly worded letter to the Governor has demanded the following:
1. Cancellation of all orders of SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad wherein he has encroached on the Governor's authority
2. To ask Ravindra Jadhav. who was appointed Amravati Information Commissioner on oath and has broken that oath by accepting to be Pune’s Information Commissioner on SCIC’s orders, to resign
3. To cancel Ratnakar Gaikwad’s order of appointing Ravindra Jadhav as Pune’s Information Commissioner as it is null and void
4. Once an information commissioner has been appointed, he cannot be re-appointed, hence Jadhav should not be appointed as Information Commissioner of Pune.
Moneylife had, on Wednesday, published the shocking article of how Rajendra Jadhav was sanctioned an official bungalow in a premier residential neighborhood of Pune Cantonment, despite his being Amravati’s Information Commissioner
. Several deserving officers who are posted in Pune in various state government departments have to wait for a year or two before getting accommodation, but Jadhav has got an exclusive bungalow in a jiffy.
Kumbhar states in his letter to the Governor: “-you had appointed Rajendra Jadhav as the Information Commissioner of Amravati on 1 March 2014. However, after a while, SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad has cancelled that appointment and appointed him as the Information Commissioner of Pune. This action is not only illegal but is an encroachment on your authority. I wish to bring to your notice that even a minor issue like `casual leave' cannot be sanctioned without your consent as per your own circular.”
“On 26th June, you had appointed Mr Vasant Patil as the Information Commissioner of Nagpur but on 2nd July, Ratnakar Gaikwad has given him the additional charge as Amravati's Information Commissioner. Also, Gaikwad gave additional charge of Pune's Information Commissioner to Jadhav and has now appointed him as Pune's Information Commissioner. Please remember a special committee was appointed by you in order to appoint Jadhav as Information Commissioner of Amravati and hence, SCIC has no authority to re-appoint him elsewhere,” the letter added.
As per Section 15 (4) of the RTI Act -
The general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs of the State Information Commission shall vest in the State Chief Information Commissioner who shall be assisted by the State Information Commissioners and may exercise all such powers and do all such acts and things which may be exercised or done by the State Information Commission autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this Act.
is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)