Who will be India’s next Central Chief Information Commissioner under RTI?
After nearly six months of keeping the post of Central CIC’s post vacant and with 203 applicants responding to DoPT’s advertisement for this post, the screening committee is finally meeting on 16th January to decide a name
 
So, who will be India’s next Central Chief Information Commissioner? 
 
The Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has invited the search committee members comprising cabinet secretary, Rashtrapati Bhavan (chairman); Additional Principal Secretary to PM; Secretary, DoPT; Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs; Secretary, Dept of Expenditure and Professor Ram Chand, National Centre for Agricultural Economics & Policy. They are scheduled to meet at the cabinet secretariat of Rahtrapati Bhavan on 16th January. On the same day, another meeting to draw a panel for information commissioners will also take place.
 
The Agenda note for the meeting states that the 203 applications received for the CIC post have been divided into seven categories to facilitate shortlisting of candidate. The Agenda note procured by Moneylife states: “(the) Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed that for the sake of consistency and uniformity in approach, the procedure for selection of information commissioner, which includes amongst other things, advertising the post and short listing by a search committee may be adopted for appointment to the post of Chief Information Commissioner as well. Such short listed panel may then be placed before the selection committee for its consideration.”
 
“Accordingly, a circular was posted on the website of DoPT inviting applications to the post of Chief Information Commissioner on 24.10.2014. The post was also advertised in three leading newspapers (two in English and one in Hindi) as was done for appointment to the posts of information commissioners. The last date of receipt of applications is 24.11.2014. A total number of 203 applications for the post of Chief Information Commissioner in CIC were received. Applications received after the cut-off date of 24.11.2014 are not being considered.”
 
“As per Section 12 (5) of the RTI Act 2005, the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in `law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.”
 
“Accordingly, all these 203 applications have been broadly categorized into seven categories of knowledge and experience as mentioned above. Few applications which do not fall within these seven categories have been mentioned as ‘other’ categories. However, for the sake of categorization, only the main field of knowledge and experience, if any, have not been indicated. 
 
Law: 37
 
Science & Technology: 21
 
Social Service: 09
 
Management: 28
 
Journalism: 03
 
Mass Media: 05
 
Administration and Governance: 89
 
Others: 11
 
Total: 203
 
Here is the list of these 203 candidates…
 

 
“It is pertinent to mention that in a Review Petition filed by Union of India against Hon’ble Supreme Court judgment dated 13.09.2012 in Namit Sharma case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court vie the judgment dated 03.09.2013, inter-alia, gave  the following direction:
 
1. We direct that only persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in the fields mentioned…..be considered for appointment as information commissioner and Chief Information Commissioner.’’
 
The Search Committee would be seeking reports from Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of the shortlisted persons and would ask DoPT to obtain reports from Intelligence Bureau (IB).
 
So, finally it seems the crucial vacancy that had earned ire from activists from across the country is well on its way to be filled up. However, India needs to thank Delhi-based RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) who has been pursuing this issue through RTI applications. Batra says, “Though there is a huge delay in filling up the above posts, I am of the opinion that this time the process of shortlisting is going to be more transparent.’’
 
 
 
Here is the chronology of his efforts as timeline by him:
 
07.09.2014 : Filed RTI in DoPT (No. 1-Attachment)
 
07.10.2014 : CPIO, DoPT sent response and intimated that both the Files are under submission i.e. (i) File No.4/4/2014-IR concerning processing the appointment of Information Commissioners in CIC and (ii) File No.4/7/2014-IR concerning processing of appointment of Chief Information Commissioner" in CIC.
 
29.10.2014, I inspected File No.4/7/2014-IR : concerning appointment of Chief Information Commissioner after it was returned by PMO and collected certified copies of Notings Side from Page NOs 15 to 31 (last page). I also collected relevant 10 pages from Correspondence side.
 
DoPT File No.4/7.2014 : Appointment of Chief Information Commissioner in CIC 2014
 
• PMO after holding the file for over two and half months (from 01.08.2014)..... returned the file to DoPT vide PMO ID dated 17 October 2014. In its note of 17 October 2014, PMO stated that : Quote : "Prime Minister has desired that for the sake of consistency and uniformity in approach, the procedure for selection of Information Commissioners which includes, among other things, advertising the post and short listing by a Search Committee, may be adopted for appointment to the post of Central Information Commissioner as well. Such short-listed panel may then be placed before the Selection Committee for its consideration." Unquote
 
12 June 2014 : DoPT sought clarification from Lok Sabha Secretariat :
"xxx whether any leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha has been recognised. If the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha has not been recognised as such, it is requested to kindly intimate the name of the leader of the single largest group in opposition of Government in the Lok Sabha, for the purpose of selection of Information Commissioners as per the RTI Act."
 
19 June 2014 : Lok Sabha Secretariat responded to DoPT's above clarification and stated : Quote "As on date, there is no Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha. Indian National Congress with a strength of 44 members is, however, the single largest party in opposition to the Government in Lok Sabha. As per information received from the party, Mallikaarjun Kharge is the Leader of Indian National Congress in Lok Sabha" Unquote
 
08 July 2014: DoPT sought the advice of Department of Legal Affairs (DOLA) as to whether the Leader of single largest party in opposition can be considered as Leader of the single largest group in opposition, in Lok Sabha, for the sake of section 12(3) of RTI Act.
 
15 July 2014: Pending Clarification from DOLA..... DoPT submitted file with brief to PMO for kind consideration of Hon'ble Prime Minister on 'Appointment of Chief Information Commissioner' in Central Information Commission for :-

 

(i) Nomination of a Union Cabinet Minister for the Selection Committee u/s of the RTI act.

(ii) A convenient date for holding of the meeting of the Selection Committee.

 
21 July 2014: V. Sheshadri, Director, PMO in its note to Secretary, DoPT conveyed that the Prime Minister has nominated Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence, as the Member of the Selection Committee under of Section 12(3) of the RTI Act. The PMO note goes on to say "The undersigned is directed to convey that the matter shall be resubmitted for a decision on date of meeting of Selection Committee, after the issue raised in para 6 of the aforesaid note is decided."
 
17 July 2014: DOPT received clarification from DOLA. DOLA confirmed on DoPT query in affirmative with a rider that "We, however, clarify that this answer is only for the limited purpose of the RTI Act [explanation below section 12(3)] and not for any other purpose"
 
31 July 2014: File was again submitted to PMO. In this note name of Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of Indian National Congress in Lok Sabha was included as Member of the Selection Committee and Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance, Corporate Affairs and Defence as Member of the Selection Committee.
 
17 October 2014: PMO after holding the file for over two and half months (from 01.08.2014)..... returned the file to DoPT vide PMO ID dated 17 October 2014
 
24 October 2014 : DoPT uploaded a circular on the website of DoPT advertising post of Chief Information Commissioner and later also advertised in English and Hindi Newspapers
 
 
(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”.)
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    COMMENTS

    vswami

    5 years ago

    S(sss)o much said but still far to realize, what exactly is the real life problem clouding all about or behind (rather the right, center and left of)the long (or short!)talks widely being indulged in ! To be precise,the poser coming to sharp focus is, - whither 'governance' (let alone 'GOOD governance'), 'Responsibility','Answer-ability' so on. No knowing who or whom to question, to try and elicit an answer; if not the valuable "INFORMATION" the RTI Actis meant for/stands to guarantee.

    Not long before, one remembers to have read about the most crucial and important similar functionary, under the 'Securities' Act, namely,the Appellate Tribunal left to remain without the 'HEAD'- 'President' for quite long.

    RTI applicants are not consumers, rules NCDRC

    An RTI applicant cannot approach Consumer Forum seeking compensation for deficiency in services rendered by public authorities

     

    The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has said that Right to Information (RTI) applicants seeking information from public authorities are not consumers as per the Consumer Act. In addition, all RTI applications and redressal or grievances, if any, have to be dealt as per the RTI Act only, the NCDRC said.
     
    In an judgement given on 8 January 2015, the three member bench of NCDRC declared that no RTI applicant can file a complaint before a Consumer Forum seeking redressal in case of any deficiency services rendered by a Public Information Officer (PIO) or Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) in any public authority.
     
    This decision would help clear the confusion regarding whether an RTI applicant can be treated as a consumer, as she pays certain fees while filing an application. The Bench said, “…because the RTI Act was set up as a special statute, which also articulates a procedure for  grievance redressal, allowing RTI applicants to approach the Consumer Forum would beat the ‘legislative intent’ of the RTI Act.” 
     
    Under the Act, the State or Central Information Commission is empowered to impose a penalty upon the PIO/CPIO in question and also recommend disciplinary action against them. Moreover, under Sub Section (6) of Section 18, they can also direct the concerned PIO/CPIO to pay a suitable compensation to the aggrieved RTI applicant, the Bench said. 
     
    According to the judgement, allowing RTI applicants to be treated as “consumers” and hence letting them approach Consumer Forums in order to seek compensation would “open two parallel machineries, for enforcement of the same rights created by a special statute”. Furthermore, “The ambit of RTI Act is confined to one service i.e. supply of information, whereas the Consumer Protection Act deals with deficiencies in a wide variety of services rendered for consideration,” the judgement reads. 
     
    The judgement also states, “Consumer fora are ‘courts’ for the purpose of Section 23 of the RTI Act, which is significant, because Section 23 of the RTI Act bars the jurisdiction of courts. As explained in the judgement, the very purpose of doing this was ‘to exclude invocation of a redressal mechanism’ other than that provided under the special Act.”
     
    This would avoid any confusions or disputes with respect to the grievance redressal mechanism for any RTI applicant in future. The judgement clearly articulates that no RTI applicant can be considered a “consumer”, and that the Consumer Forum is barred from intervening in any matters pertaining to the provisions under the RTI Act. 
     
  • User

    Here's what you need to know about eIPO for online RTI applications

    CM Devendra Fadnavis' push will mean RTI applications will soon go online, the next step is for the applicant to know how to pay RTI fees online using eIPO.

     

    In a welcome move to enhance transparency, Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, has announced that citizens would be able to file their Right To Information (RTI) applications online from January 2015 onwards. For filing RTI applications at the click of the mouse, it is important to know how to pay the Rs10 RTI fees online, which will also now become easy.


    Thanks to the single-handed and untiring efforts of Delhi based RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd.), the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has directed all Chief Secretaries of states to consider using eIPO facilities for the payment of RTI fees.

     

    While it is imperative that the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra would have to implement the eIPO facility along with the facility to file an RTI online, it is important for RTI users to understand the mechanism of online payment. Presently, around 2,500 central public authorities and 176 missions abroad have applied this facility for citizens.


    The DoPT letter dated 12th August, 2014 to all the state chief secretaries states that, ``A service called eIPO (Electronic Indian Postal Order), was launched on 22 March 2013 for purchasing Indian Postal Order online through the e-post office portal for paying RTI fee to access information under RTI Act from central public authorities. The facility which was started initially for Indian citizens abroad was extended to Indian citizens residing in India from 13 February 2014. DOP (Department of Posts) has now proposed that the feasibility of extending this facility to the state governments also, where IPO is one of the modes of payment for RTI applications may be explored. I therefore request you to explore the feasibility of introduction of eIPO facility for state public authorities to make the RTI regime more citizen friendly.’’


    Lokesh Batra, who has filed 101 RTI applications online and paid through the eIPO route urges every RTI applicant to use this facility if available, because he says ``if we do not use it, it does not remain viable for the Department of Posts (DOP) to maintain this facility.” The other fact being that the physical form of IPO costs Rs36.40 for the tax payer, says Batra, and much public expenditure could be avoided with the eIPO, the cost of which is negligible.

    In order to purchase an eIPO, you need to register with the post office portal at  https://www.epostoffice.gov.in. Select the Ministry and Department from the displayed list, then select the payment mode and Bank name. Click on Payment button to book the eIPO. It will lead to the bank's payment gateway, where users can make the payment online.


    Let's hope the Maharashtra government, which has been quite sloppy in many areas of RTI governance, picks up speed under Fadnavis by making it RTI-user friendly.

     

     

    FAQs published by DOP to guide citizens on how to use eIPO facility


    1. What is eIPO?
    eIPO or Electronic Indian Postal Order is a facility to purchase an Indian Postal Order
    electronically by paying the fee online.

     

    2. How eIPO can be purchased?
    eIPO can be purchased by registering once on the portal https://www.epostoffice.gov.in
    under eIPO Service.

     

    3.What is the cost of eIPO?
    The minimum cost of eIPO is Rs10/-

     

    4. Is eIPO expensive?
    eIPO tariff has been kept same as an ordinary IPO (Indian Postal Order), though
    electronic transmission has been introduced.

     

    5.Whether eIPO can be purchased from any corner of the world?
    Yes, eIPO can be purchased from anywhere in the world.

     

    6.Where eIPO can be used?
    eIPO can be used only for RTI applications in Central Public Authorities in India and
    Indian Missions/Posts.

     

    7.Whether eIPO can be sent through email/post?
    eIPO can be sent through email/post with the required RTI application.

     

    8. Is the payment made online?
    Yes, the payment is to be made online.

     

    9. What can be presented as a proof of identity by the Indian Citizen Living abroad?
    Indian Citizens living abroad have to submit their passport number and expiry date, while registering on the site.

     

    10. What makes eIPO special?
    It is fast service –It can be sent through e-mail to the Govt. of India-Ministry for obtaining requisite information.
    It is safe – It cannot be used for multiple transactions.

    It is reliable – Since it uses e-mail to send it to the relevant Government of India Ministry, it can get the response easily too.

     

    11. Is it required for the user to register everytime in order to purchase eIPO?
    No, the user has to register only once on the portal in order to purchase eIPO.

     

    12.How can user register for eIPO?
    User can register for paying through eIPO, on this portal- https://www.epostoffice.gov.in

     

    13. What are the initial requirements for creating new user in eIPO?
    Creation of account for eIPO service with the DOP website mentioned above
    For Indian citizen living in Abroad, the user needs to have a valid email id
    For Indian Citizen living in India, the user needs to have a valid email id and mobile number

     

    14. Where does the user get the eCode and mCode?
    The Indian Citizen living abroad will get the eCode and mCode on the email ID mentioned during the registration and an Indian Citizen living in India will get the eCode on the email ID and mCode on the submitted mobile number.

     

    15. Is there any time limit for user verification?
    No, there is no time limit for user verification. User can perform verification by going to the link ‘New User Verification’.

     

    16. While registering, if captcha image is not clear or not shown?
    If captcha image is not clear or not shown, it is advisable to use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome browser.

     

    17. Is email id mandatory?
    Yes it is mandatory for all.

     

    18. Is mobile number mandatory?
    It is mandatory for Indian Citizens living in India and it is optional for Indian Citizens living abroad.

     

    19. What is the format of mobile number?
    Simple 10 digit Indian mobile number in the format 98XXXXXXXX.

     

    20. If the user does not get codes, what should be done?
    If after a little time he/she is unable to receive the codes. The user can go to part 2 of the registration and resend the codes. 

     

    21.Can successful registration be done if security code image is not visible?
    No, successful registration cannot be done without entering security code.

     

    22. If user is unable to perform successful transaction?
    The user should check that whether he is able to reach the bank site. If so, then should
    check the internet connection because failed transactions may occur due to poor connectivity.

     

    23. Can the user cancel a purchased eIPO?
    eIPO once purchased cannot be cancelled.

     

    24. Can single eIPO be used multiple times?
    One eIPO cannot be used for multiple transactions.

     

    25. If user forgets his password, how to get a new password?
    User has to select Forgot Password link on home page and provide his username,
    registered email id and captcha code.The link is mailed on the email id. On clicking the
    link a form opens where user can reset the password.

     

    eIPO HELP DESK

     

    email id : [email protected]

     

     

    (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”.)

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