Maharashtra Govt Fights Shy of Explaining Sudden Transfers of 14 IAS Officers as RTI Activists Demand Answers
As per the government resolution (GR) issued by the general administration department (GAD) of Maharashtra government on 20 July 2020,  the reasons given for the sudden transfer of 14 Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers in various parts of the State, between 11th July and 14th July - that is within four days flat -  are 'administrative’ and `for public good’! And these two reasons have become convenient, vague and mechanical ways of addressing the so-called transparency in the matter of transfers of government officers by the chief secretary’s office. This office has been bowing to the whims and fancies of its political masters even though the 2013 Supreme Court judgment had directed it to give 'specific reasons’!
 
We’ve seen that even during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with Maharashtra as one of the hottest spots in the country, sudden transfers of three municipal commissioners and 10 deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) (which were later revoked) met with similar excuses  - 'administrative’ and 'for the public good'.
 
Disgusted at this continuous stonewalling of the truth, a group of citizen activists across Maharashtra have sent a letter to Sanjay Kumar, chief secretary, on 22nd July, to demand transparency in appointments and transfers of civil services and all government officers by implementing the Supreme Court Order of 31 October 2013, and also by abiding by the Maharashtra Government Servants' Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005 and making it accessible to citizens under the RTI (Right to Information) Act.
 
The letter states: "Despite the Supreme Court Order of 31 October 2013, which mandates that the reason/reasons for transfer of a government official should be put on the record and be made available in the public domain by the state government, the directives are not being followed. It is also a violation of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) which recognizes the right of the citizen to secure access to information under the control of a public authority, in order to promote transparency. This opaque approach is contempt of court and gross violation of the RTI Act, leading to suspicion amongst citizens of political interference in such transfers, which have been condemned by the Supreme Court."
 
The activists have request Mr Kumar to put up on the website, "`all the official documents and official correspondence pertaining to the transfer of all officers who have been transferred from 1 January 2020 until 15 July 2020 with immediate effect. The urgency is because Maharashtra is the hot spot of the COVID-19   pandemic and during such a sensitive period, transfer of officers holding crucial positions are being done at frequent intervals."
 
Quoting from the Supreme Court’s order of 31st October, the citizens have brought to the notice of Mr Kumar, the following directives which he must adhere to fully or else it would imply contempt of court: 
 
Officers of the IAS, other all India services and other civil servants are not bound to follow oral directives of political leaders or others, as they "undermine the credibility"
 
Establishment of a civil services board (CSB), headed by the cabinet secretary at the national level and chief secretaries at the state level, to recommend transfers and postings of all India services (the Indian administrative service, the Indian foreign service and the Indian police service) officers.  Group 'B' officers would be transferred by heads of departments. 
 
No interference of ministers, other than the chief minister, in transfers or postings of civil servants at the state level.
 
The letter also cited the complaint registered with the Maharashtra State Information Commissioner (SIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad in 2013 by RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, founder of Surajya Sangharsh Samiti, regarding the sudden transfer of Dr Shrikar Pardeshi, the honest and dynamic municipal commissioner of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) as inspector general of the registrations and controller of stamps. He had stated in his complaint that the State government is required to communicate to the public at large the reason for the untimely transfer of IAS officers. However, there is no information available on the website.
 
The then CIC, Ratnakar Gaikwad had issued a notice of hearing of the complaint to the chief secretary and ordered an inquiry into the transfer case as per Section 18(2) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. He had also directed that the reasons for each transfer be put in the public domain as per the  regulation of transfers and prevention of delay in discharge of official  duties act, 2005 as and as per proactive disclosure under Section 4 of the RTI Act within 15 days of the order. The CS complied but the reasons of transfer given were `administrative reason’ and `public interest’ which  are vague and irrelevant replies as the SCIC in his order had stated that `specific’ reasons which elaborate the cause of such sudden transfers, be given and uploaded in the public domain.
 
The letter also mentions stalwart social reformer, Anna Hazare’s campaign because of which the Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005 was passed which mandates that an officer cannot be transferred no sooner and no later than three years, except in an emergency or in exceptional circumstances but "your office continues to disregard this vital law which would bring down transparency and accountability."
 
The citizen activists have demanded that in view of the clear legal position and repeated judicial directions, chief secretary Mr Kumar should immediately publish on Maharashtra government’s official website the following information for all the transfers effected from 1 January 2020 to 15 July 2020:
 
1. Office File Notings of all transfers orders
 
2. Minutes of meetings of all civil service boards concerning those transfers.
 
3. Copies of all transfer orders, all orders issued to stay execution, cancelled orders, changes made in orders already issued.
 
4.  All copies of letters recommending/requesting transfers and postings of officers during the above period received from political executives, representatives of people and citizens  in  respect of alltransfers effected during above period.
 
5. Copies of compliance made in terms directions contained in para 4(iii) of the High Court of Bombay order in the aforesaid writ petition No. 8987 of 2018.
 
The activists are hoping that by making transfers transparent and available on public domain, the Maharashtra government will become a role model of transparency by publishing all required information within 15 days of receipt of the letter and will not compel them to knock the doors of transparency watchdog and courts for such vital information of public interest.
The letter is signed by Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner,  
 
Mahesh Zagade, IAS (Retd), former principal secretary, GAD, Maharashtra, 
 
Vijay Kumbhar, founder RTI Katta, Vinita Deshmukh, senior journalist, Vivek Velankar, Sajag Nagrik Manch, S.K. Nangia , RTI activist, Bhaskar Prabhu, convenor, Mahiti Adhikar Manch, Jugal Rathi, Sajag Nagrik Manch and Mohammad Afzal, RTI activist.
 
(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)
 
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User 

    COMMENTS

    shirish.s

    2 weeks ago

    For transferring IAS Officers during COVID-19 pandemic, there is no logic or reason for the transfer.

    Dr Srikar Paradeshi's transfer from Commissioner of Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation to the Inspector General of the Registrations and Controller of Stamps, Pune, I can understand as both officers are close to each other, and said IAS Officer need not shift his residence.

    For Co-operative Societies, whose five-year term of the elected body gets over in March 2020, was initially given extension till September 2020, now this extension is extended up to March 2021.

    If the government is really concerned with the existing situation of COVID-19, then why responsible IAS officers are suddenly transferred in mass?

    Citizen RTI Campaign Demands Disposal of 2nd Appeals within 45 Days, Quoting Earlier Judgements
    With disposal of second appeals and complaints to information commissioners (ICs) taking more than a year or two, frustrating citizen’s effort to procure their rightful information in good time, a group of RTI activists have slammed a legal notice on Maharashtra’s state chief information commissioner, Sumit Mullick, last week, asking him to dispose of second appeal hearings within 45 days, quoting various judicial interpretations to justify their request. 
     
    The core of their argument is that when the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 was enacted, the Parliament intended that the citizens of India should get information in a time bound manner within 30 days of making an application under Section 6(1) of the Act. If the information did not come by this deadline, then the Parliament had prescribed a penalty of Rs250 per day up to a maximum of Rs25,000. Similarly, when a citizen files a first appeal to the first appellate authority (FAA), if he or she does not get information within 30 days, then the time line for the FAA to provide information is maximum 45 days from the date of filing.
     
    The RTI applicant takes recourse to second appeal, when the public information officer (PIO) and the FAA fail to provide him with the information when already 75 days have passed. However, he or she is made to wait for more than a year, sometimes even two years. Thus, the legal notice sent by leading RTI activists and former bureaucrats – Shailesh Gandhi, Mahesh Zagade, Pralhad Kachare, Vijay Kumbhar –to name a few, argues that, "when the second appeal is not heard and disposed of for an unreasonable period and in fact some for even more than a year then this entire time bound scheme of the Act is abruptly lost in the wilderness and makes it go totally adrift resulting in a grave miscarriage of justice and undermines the faith of the people of India in the participatory democracy which requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information."
     
    To qualify that second appeals should be disposed of within 45 days, the activists in their legal notice, have referred to the following judicial orders:
     
    The decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta in W.P. No. 11933 (W) of 2010 Akhil Kumar Roy v/s. The West Bengal Information Commission & Ors. The relevant excerpt from this decision is reproduced below (emphasis added):
     
    “A second appeal arises from a decision in a first appeal under section.19(1), and a first appeal arises from a decision or a failure to give a decision under Section.7. The sparkle of a strong strand of speed woven through the sections of the Act is abruptly lost in the second appeal that has been allowed to run wild. This open ended second appeal scheme is bound to make the Section.6 request go totally adrift generating a multi-tier avoidable and unwanted offshoot court proceedings such as this case.
     
    In my opinion, keeping in mind the respective maximum periods fixed for deciding a first appeal under s.19(1) and disposal of a request for obtaining information under section 7, the second appellate authority should have decided the second appeal within 45 days from the date of filing thereof. In view of the scheme of the statute, I think this period should be considered as reasonable period for deciding on a second appeal. I am of the view that this petition should be disposed of directing the authority to decide the appeal.
     
    For these reasons, I dispose of the petition ordering that the second appellate authority shall decide the petitioner’s second appeal within 45 days from the date of communication of this order.”
     
    Para 5 & 6 of the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in Writ Petition 28310 of 2015 Jayaprakash Reddy v/s. Central Information Commission & Union of India represented by the Secretary, Ministry of Law & Justice, Parliament House, New Delhi 110 001.
     
    “Para 5:
     
    The learned senior advocate would point out that though sub-section (6) of Section 19 of the RTI Act does provide for a time within which a first appeal is to be decided, namely not exceeding 45 days from the date of filing, there is no such time prescribed for deciding a second appeal. The first respondent has indefinitely postponed the hearing and is not deciding the second appeal, therefore the present petition.
     
    It is indeed to be noticed that no time limit is prescribed to decide a second appeal. Therefore, it would have to be interpreted that when no time is prescribed, it would follow that it ought to be decided within a reasonable time. Since there is a time limit prescribed for deciding a first appeal, it would be safe to conclude that a similar period would apply insofar as deciding the second appeal, for otherwise, it would lead to a situation where the object of the Act is not achieved if the authority should indefinitely postpone the hearing and decision of a second appeal.
     
    Para 6:
     
    Consequently, it would be deemed that the second appeal would also have to be decided within a period of 45 days if not earlier, from the date of filing. Since the second appeal filed by the petitioner is pending before the first respondent since October, 2014, and more than a year has elapsed, it would be in the fitness of things to direct the respondent to expedite the consideration of the appeal and pass appropriate order within a period of four weeks if not earlier, from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.”
     
    Para 21 and 22 of the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Appeal (Civil) 9159 of 2003 M/S. Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd vs Union of India And Anr. 
     
    “Para 21:
     
    When a parliamentary legislation receives the assent of the President of India and is published in an official gazette, unless specifically excluded, will apply to the entire territory of India. If passing of a legislation gives rise to a cause of action, a writ petition questioning the constitutionality thereof can be filed in any High Court of the country. It is not done because a cause of action will arise only when the provisions of the Act or some of them which were implemented shall give rise to civil or evil consequences to the petitioner. 
     
    Para 22:
     
    The court must have the requisite territorial jurisdiction. An order passed on writ petition questioning the constitutionality of a Parliamentary Act, whether interim or final, keeping in view the provisions contained in Clause (2) of Article 226 of the Constitution of India, will have effect throughout the territory of India subject of course to the applicability of the Act.”
     
    The activists in their legal notice also state that the Supreme Court has ruled that "If the High Court has decided upon that Constitutional question on the provisions of a Parliamentary Act or some of them, then the effect of such a decision of a High Court would be that, this decision shall be uniformly applicable throughout the entire territory of India.
     
    “Thus, in view of the ratio laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the decision (supra) read in conjunction with the ratio laid down by both the High Courts, namely Calcutta High Court and Karnataka High Court, my clients humbly submit that, the Maharashtra State Information Commission is obliged to dispose of the second appeal filed before it within 45 days from the date of filing thereof."
     
    The activists therefore have sought detailed roadmap from Maharashtra’s SCIC complying with the High Court judgments which order that second appeals under the RTI Act must be disposed of by information commissioners of Maharashtra within 45 days. The activists would seek legal remedies in case the SCIC fails to inform them of his road map within four weeks which is end of July 2020.
     
    Let’s hope this citizen pressure works, for the efficacy of the RTI Act and for the rights of the citizens to get information within good time!
     
    (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)
     
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User 

    As CBI Books Top Brass of Mumbai Airport for Fraud, CIC’s Volte Face Shields Them on Accountability
    Last week, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked the chairman of the GVK group of companies, GVK Reddy and his son, Sanjay Reddy, managing director of the Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) for financial fraud to the tune of Rs705 crore, in the running of the airport, thus emphasising that such public-private partnerships must be transparent in their functioning, as they get 'substantial' aid or collaboration from the government and are answerable to the public under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
     
    Ironically, a sustained RTI campaign by Pune-based RTI activist Sanjay Shirodkar, since April 2008, to bring MIAL as a public authority under the Act, bore fruit in 2011 when chief information commissioner (CIC) Sushma Singh ordered that MIAL is a public authority under the RTI Act. MIAL is in joint venture with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for upgradation and maintenance of the Mumbai airport.
     
    Curiously though, nine years later, on 18 May 2020, CIC Suresh Chandra reversed Ms Singh’s order stating that it is NOT a public authority. It is interesting to recall that, after the 2011 CIC order, MIAL went to the Delhi High Court to contest the claim that it is a public authority under the RTI Act. However, Delhi High Court sent the petition back to the CIC in 2019. Nine years later, after the CIC order, on 18 May 2020, CIC Mr Chandra orders that it is a private entity! Now, if this is not a rude joke on the public, then what is?
     
    Mr Shirodkar, who is frustrated with the alleged nexus between government authorities and private parties, reeking in his view, of 'crony capitalism’, states, "it is so discouraging and shocking that information commissioners are so far apart in their connotation of what constitutes a `public authority’? How can a CIC, nine years later overturn an order which is clear as crystal on why his colleague previously declared it as a public authority? Now, with the CBI raid, it becomes even more crucial that we need RTI to demand transparency and accountability from MIAL. Instead, I have been slapped with tarikh pe tarikh for nine years and the CIC in May 2020 slams the door on my face."
     
    Shirodkar had requested the following information under the RTI Act:
    • As per Airports Authority of India notification (File No. AAA/PERS/EDPA/Reg/2002) who is the “Competent Authority” at CSIA-Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai-400099.
    • As per notification (File No. AAA/PERS/EDPA/Reg/2002)and mentioned in Section 18 of it, please provide a copy of policy guideline/government resolution/notification regarding parking or waiting of any vehicle of carriage within the airports and civil enclaves at CSIA-Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai-400099.
    • Policy guideline/government resolution/notification, if any exemption given under Section 18 of Airports Authority of India notification (File No. AAA/PERS/EDPA/Reg/2002) to any one by the 'Competent Authority' at CSIA-Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai-400099.
     
    The MIAL official replied that it was not a public authority and that the RTI Act was not applicable to that organisation. Mr Shirodkar filed several RTI applications since 2008 and finally filed a second appeal. The CIC order by Sushma Singh in her order of 30 May 2011 ordered that: "we find no hesitancy in declaring MIAL as a public authority under clauses (d) and (i) respectively, of section 2(h) of the RTI Act. MIAL shall appoint a CPIO and FAA within 30 days of the receipt of this order and shall also fulfil the mandate of section 4(1) disclosure as mandated under the RTI Act, within 2 months of the receipt of this order.”
     
    Aggrieved by the order, MIAL filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court. The Delhi High Court in its order of 17 May 2019 observed that: "…impugned order is set aside and the matter is remanded back to the CIC for a fresh consideration of the issue whether MIAL is a public authority within the meaning of section 2(h) of the Act. While doing so, CIC shall hear the respondent herein as well. The issue being of importance, it shall be appropriate that the same is decided as expeditiously as possible, but within a period of three months as an outer limit. It is made clear that this court has not expressed itself on the merit of the issue, which shall be considered by the CIC.”
     
    Mr Shirodkar had argued that,
    • 50% of shareholding by the MIAL constitutes substantial funding;
    • Stamp duty worth Rs250 crore waived off by the government of Maharashtra along with land and infrastructure of 2000 acres worth more than Rs80,000 crore in Mumbai given on Rs100 per year (lease premium), amounted to 'substantial funding';
    • AAI being the 26% of active partner in this JV had shirked the responsibility answering to public questions under the RTI Act; that for many years, AAI claiming to be the owner of Mumbai Airport property always passed the buck to its lessee i.e., MIAL on questions asked pertaining to owner’s land and infrastructure under RTI Act;
    • That the MIAL was an agent or instrumentality of the state and therefore, 'State' within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India; that the statutory functions performed by the AAI were enumerated in section 12 of the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994;
    • That the monies payable by the lessee, i.e., MIAL to AAI, were public monies and public funds; that MIAL was performing public functions in public interest; that the MIAL was a part and parcel of the ministry of civil aviation and all the details pertaining to the JV of AAI and MIAL should have been in the public domain i.e., in the website of the ministry of civil aviation in compliance with Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act.
     
    The MIAL, though, insisted that it was incorporated under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 in the year 2006 as a special purpose vehicle to undertake the operation, management and development of the Mumbai airport. Private participants own 74% of the equity share capital and majority management rights in MIAL and the rest 26% of the equity share capital is held by the Airport Authority of India.
     
    Surprisingly, CIC Suresh Chandra in his 18 May 2020 order stated that MIAL is not a 'public authority’ and Mr Shirodkar should try and get information from the Airport Authority of India (AAI) or from the ministry of civil aviation.  The CIC blamed the delay on the COVID-19 crisis as one of the reasons!
     
    CIC Chandra’ order states: "The Commission, after studying the facts and circumstances of the case, hearing both parties and perusal of records, feels that MIAL is not a ‘public authority ‘under S. 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. We are also of the view that it may be open to the complainant to seek information through public authority for MIAL i.e. AAI or the ministry of civil aviation as the case may be. That being so, the complaint of the complainant is unfounded and the same is rejected. The Commission puts it on record that it could not meet the timelines provided by the Hon’ble High Court due to the reasons including Constitution of Bench, nonappearance of parties and COVID-19 which were procedural and beyond the Commission’s powers."
     
    So, clearly, the vested interests of industry lobbies who collaborate with the government and make a good deal out of public funds and infrastructure are protected while the common citizen is pushed against the wall, for demanding transparency of a public project!
     
    (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
     
  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User 

    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Popat

    4 weeks ago

    OMG! Great by VD!

    m.prabhu.shankar

    4 weeks ago

    Theives in the disguise of private entrepreneurs / Companies.

    jjain782

    4 weeks ago

    This shows that justice has not been delayed only it has been clearly denied
    Question is what todo many of us can't wait for another 12 years so surrender

    glnprasad52

    4 weeks ago

    Sorry, without a large nexus, such issues can not be performed by a few individuals. Abuse of power is common in India. This is just a tip of the iceberg and who knows as to what emerges after a decade investigation by CBI? They can make and unmake anything as they like.

    S.SuchindranathAiyer

    1 month ago

    As I have long maintained, the Nehruvian Construct of “Ceasar’s wife” which excuses those in Government employ from all accountability, exemplified by the so called “Judiciary” and down to the recent Modi “Anti Corruption” Law which criminalizes the victims of extortion (the so called “bribe Giver”) rather than the extortionist who abuses State Power for personal pelf, pleasure, and perversions has created a Government sans Governance which sells India and Indians to anybody who is inclined and willing to pay,

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 3 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)
    FREE: Your Complete Family Record Book
    Keep all the Personal and Financial Details of You & Your Family. In One Place So That`s Its Easy for Anyone to Find Anytime
    We promise not to share your email id with anyone