90% of Information Commissioners are civil servants
Recently and at last, Maharashtra has appointed a Chief Information Commissioner under the Right to Informaation (RTI) Act, and it is no surprise that he happens to be a former bureaucrat.  Sumit Mallik, who just retired as Chief Secretary, takes over the chair, which was lying vacant since the last several months.
 
The trend of appointing civil servants for the posts of CICs and Informaction Commissioners (ICs) has continued ever since the implementation of the RTI Act in 2005. This is in sharp defiance of Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Central RTI Act, which comprise a list of fields of experience and expertise from which candidates – men and women – may be chosen for filling up the posts . Section 12(5) of the Jammu & Kashmir RTI Act also contains a similar list for the guidance of the J&K State Government. 
 
Besides, the appointment of Mallik is seen as contempt of the Supreme Court order in Namit Sharma Vs Union of India case in 2013. Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who is contemplating legal intervention in this matter says, “The Supreme Court Order clearly states that the procedure of appointment of CIC should start three months before the retirement of the incumbent CIC. Also, eminence record of the candidate must be thoroughly scrutinised and the procedure should be transparent. Despite this, in a reversal mode, the Maharashtra government has defied the SC by flouting all these directives. It almost seems as if the state government was waiting for Mallik to retire and so kept the vacany pending for several months.”
 
Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar of RTI and coordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), says, “It appears that the Governments’ trend of preferring retired civil servants to head Information Commissions has only strengthened over the years. However, the number of retired officers from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) appointed to these posts has not come down despite the Supreme Court advising the Governments to look beyond this catchment area of candidates in 2013.”
 
The fields of expertise mentioned in both laws for appointing as IC are- law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media and administration and governance.
 
The recent `Rapid Survey’ conducted by the CHRI reveals that 90% of ICs across the country are former  civil servants of various departments. Out of these nearly 55 % who are seated as CICs hail from the IAS fraternity.  Gender imbalance manifests in only one woman having been appointed as CIC in Tamilnadu This too post 2015 – 10 years after the RTI Act was implemented.
 
The main findings of the Rapid Review study about the background of Chief Information Commissioners are interesting and as below: 
 
  • Almost 90% of the Information Commissions (25 of 28) six are headed by retired civil servants. \

 

  • More than half (53.6%) of the Chief Information Commissioners are retired IAS officers. In 2015, 3/4ths of these posts were held by retired IAS officers.

 

  • Currently three Chief Information Commissioners are retired IPS officers while one is from the State Civil Services and another is from an engineering background.

 

  • The newly appointed State Chief Information Commissioner in Telangana was the Secretary of the State Legislature earlier. 

 

  • Only one Information Commission namely, that of Tamil Nadu is headed by a woman SCIC. All other Information Commissions are currently headed by men. 

 

  • There was no woman SCIC in 2015 anywhere across India when we published our Rapid Study The SCICs of Madhya Pradesh and Goa have a law background. While the former retired as Principal Law Secretary to the Government, the latter was President of an administrative tribunal earlier.

 

  • The SCIC of Karnataka is reported to have a background in journalism and is also an educationist.

 

  • While Gujarat SIC does not have any Commissioner, the SIC of Andhra Pradesh remains to be constituted.

 

  • It appears that the Governments’ trend of preferring retired civil servants to head Information Commissions has only strengthened over the years. However, the number of retired IAS officers appointed to these posts has not come down despite the Supreme Court advising the Governments to look beyond this catchment area of candidates in 2013 

 

  • No retired High Court judge or persons with specialisation in science and technology or management are currently serving as Chief Information Commissioners anywhere across India. 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh 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”.)
Comments
GOKUL
3 years ago
As the Civil Servants (Rtd) are already getting pension, this would be economical to the Govt.
Vinod Garg
3 years ago
Really every efforts are out to killed the RTI act by this Govt.
Praveen Sakhuja
3 years ago
I am surprised that every time any commissioner is appointed there is hue and cry citing different reasons and sections of RTI Act. What has been achieved till date? Can any one answer to it. I am sure NONE. Some government officials openly claim the achievements of government few in low voice. It is the bureaucracy which is backbone of the country, which is now suffering from Spondylosis, causing hunchback. Every appointed commissioner is puppet in the hands of government , this is visible from different publications at regular intervals, now even those publications are now facing censor, so that public cannot smell the illegal activities of these puppets. One who does not the line of government is made to suffer for the period left of his/her assignment. I remember, although should not disclose, but circumstances are forcing me to come out, during my meeting with Mathur on his appointment as CIC, he requested not to quote, I have to obey government directions for which I am appointed. So BOLO Mera Bharat Mahan
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