Will the selection of CIC and CVC finally be a bad joke on transparency?
After nine months of creating a high drama to select the CIC, the apparent choice seems to be an anti-climax. As for the CVC, questions are being raised over his alleged involvement in corruption
 
Senior most Information Commissioner, Vijai Sharma is tippled to be the new Chief Information Commissioner (CCIC) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act while KV Chowdary, former chief of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is all set to be the new Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), say media reports. If both these reports are true, then it is quite clear that the Modi government is making a mockery of democracy and of the high drama it created for nine months – publishing advertisements for the post of the CIC, forming a Committee to shortlist the applicants and so on.
 
According to reports, these names are understood to have been cleared at meetings that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Monday with Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attended the meeting on selection of a CIC, Home Minister Rajnath Singh attended the one on selection of a CVC. Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh was present at the meetings, the reports say.
 
At the end of it, if Vijai Sharma does become the CIC, then it is a bad joke on the transparency movement of this country considering that he has only 179 days left to serve before retiring on 1 December 2015 and by the way, that includes weekends and holidays. Considering the CIC’s tenure is for five years, why is the union government is trying to appoint a near-retiree and carrying out this exercise of selection process once again after barely six months? What about transparency on the short listed candidates and reasons for their rejection? Why is the government hell bent on being opaque? If anyway the senior most IC was to be selected as CIC, why then this inordinate delay?
 
“This means the government must start looking for next CIC from now itself,” says Commodore Lokesh Batra. “This move by the government may be possible to open doors for making Basant Seth as the next CIC – Sushma Swaraj’s preferred candidate, who had come in from the back door during shortlisting of candidates for Information Commissioners in 2012. However, if this happens, there would be a huge controversy,’’ the RTI activist added.
 
According to Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar during the selection of information commissioners for Maharashtra, no officer, who would retire in three and a half years, was considered for the post. He said, “Besides, it would take around six to seven months for a CCIC to get his bearing in the office, by which time, if it is Vijai Sharma, it would be time for him to retire. I feel there is a hidden agenda which the government is not sharing with the public and that does not augur well for the RTI movement in India.”
 
As for the selection of former CBDT Chief KV Chowdary as Central Vigilance Commissioner, his image is dented due to his alleged connection with the Ranjit Sinha, the controversial former director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Last October, the Narendra Modi government appointed Chowdary as an advisor to the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing the black money cases.
 
Prashant Bhushan, in his capacity as co-founder of Swaraj Abhiyan, has issued a press statement comprising details of his letter to Prime Minister Modi, opposing appointment of Chowdary. Following are his objections:
 
* Mr Choudhry’s name figures four times in the list of persons who visited former CBI Director Mr Ranjit Sinha at his official residence. The Supreme Court on 14 May 2015 has said that Mr. Sinha’s meetings and the impact of those meetings on cases being dealt by the CBI, needs to be investigated
 
* During the tenure of former CBI Director Mr Ranjit Sinha, Chowdary’s role was investigated by the CBI in ‘stock guru’ scam.
 
* Mr Chowdary, who was chairman and member (investigation) of Income Tax, was apparently investigating hawala dealer Mr Moin Qureshi, who repeatedly visited Mr. Sinha
 
* Mr Chowdary was the then DGIT, Delhi when the Radia tapes were intercepted and did not take any action on evidence available with him. It was the Supreme Court, which had to intervene and order the CBI to investigate.
 
* As in charge of 2G scam investigation in income tax, Mr Chowdary failed to make any headway in the case, unlike the other agencies like the CBI or the Enforcement Directorate (ED)
 
* Mr Chowdary was also in-charge of investigating HSBC account holders for almost three years. Until Supreme Court appointed the SIT, there were almost no progress in the Income Tax investigation under Mr Chowdary. At the time, when SIT was formed the income tax department had not filed even a single prosecution case against HSBC account holders.
 
*Serious adverse remarks have been made in Mr Chowdary’s performance appraisal reports by three senior officers of CBDT
 
*Mr Chowdary wrongfully reduced the ‘undeclared wealth’ of M/s Flora and Fauna, a company of Ponty Chadha by over Rs200 crore. One of the HSBC account holders so protected was Ponty Chaddha's son-in-law Gurjit Singh Kochar.
 
Bhushan says, “The Supreme Court on 13 May 2015 lifted the stay on the appointment of CVC and Vigilance Commissioners (VCs), after the Attorney General appearing for the government assured the Court that the government would appoint the best person after following a credible transparent selection process.”
 
“The selection of such persons in secrecy and without any transparency by a Committee consisting of the PM, HM and the Leader of opposition shows that there is indeed a bipartisan consensus on corruption and that both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) want persons of doubtful integrity, who will be weak and pliable and who have shown a willingness to protect powerful persons, to man such watchdog institutions,” he added.
 
(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

    Anurag

    4 years ago

    Well, the joke actually played out as expected. A soon to retire bureaucrat is now the CIC but very soon the chair will be empty and will remain so for a long time once again which will result in impeding the functioning of the Chief Information Commission. A very clever move by the Government of India and the Presidents Office, I should say.

    Gracy Abreo

    4 years ago

    Were the CIC and CVC Commissioners elected in a free and transparent manner, if yes, then it is not a joke.

    Names for CVC, CIC finalised, sent to president
    There has been an agreement on the names to fill the vacant posts of the chief information commissioner (CIC) and central vigilance commissioner (CVC) at meetings held on Monday, official sources said.
     
    They said that the agreement came after two meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge which were also attended by union ministers.
     
    The sources said that Home Minister Rajnath Singh attended the meeting on CVC and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attended the meeting concerning the CIC.
     
    They said that the recommendations have been sent to President Pranab Mukerjee for his assent. The president is presently on a visit to Sweden and Belarus.
     
    Meetings to select the CVC and CIC were also held last month but remained inconclusive.
     
    The Congress has attacked the government over the "delay" in the appointments of CIC, CVC and Lokpal.
     
    The party has said that the post of CIC has been lying vacant for the last eight months and that of CVC since September last year. 
  • User

    7 Things a PIO is supposed to do for you under RTI
    There are clear guidelines from the CIC for the PIO. So, the next time a PIO dilly-dallies over the information you have sought use this
     
    While the RTI Act does empower the citizen to procure information from public authorities, it is sometimes intimidating for him, when the Public Information Officer (PIO) to who he submits the application, does not reciprocate as per his duties, laid out in the Act.
     
    Did your PIO ignore the information you sought even after the mandatory 30 days? Did he provide vague or insufficient answers? Did he not forward your application to the relevant PIO in case the information that you asked for, did not fall under his jurisdictions? For these and any other deficiency in giving you information, there is no need to throw up your hands (the government would just love if this happens). The Central Information Commission has spelt out the role of a PIO, in detail, and it is important that you, as a RTI applicant should be aware of it.
     
    Time and again, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has issued circulars and guidelines to PIOs to be sensitive to the information sought. It has also repeatedly directed all public authorities to strictly abide by the Section suo motu disclosures. (check this out: http://persmin.gov.in/DOPT/RTICorner/Compendium/COMPENDIUM_Final.pdf). However, defiance to such directives continues but it would help, if the citizen is aware of what the PIO SHOULD do for him.
     
    Here are some pearls of wisdom uploaded in CIC online at the website http://rti.india.gov.in/ which need to reiterated considering the common complaints of unfriendly PIOs
     
    1. PIO must know the RTI Act fully: The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of a public authority plays a pivotal role in making the right of a citizen to information a reality. The casts specific duties on him and makes him liable for penalty in case of default. It is, therefore, essential for a CPIO to study the Act carefully and understand its provisions correctly. Following aspects should particularly be kept in view while dealing with the applications under the Act
     
    2. The PIO MUST give you information in any of these formats: A citizen has a right to seek such information from a public authority which is held by the public authority or which is held under its control. This right includes inspection of work, documents and records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; and taking certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority
     
    3. Your PIO should know that you can seek information that a MP has access to: The Act gives the citizens a right to information at par with the Members of Parliament and the Members of States Legislatures. According to the Act, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature, shall not be denied to any person.
     
    4. The PIO should give you information in the format you want: The information to the applicant should ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought. However, if the supply of information sought in a particular form would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or may cause harm to the safety or preservation of the records, supply of information in that form may be denied.
     
    5. PIO is duty bound to assist you: The Central Public Information Officer has a duty to render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking information. As per provisions of the Act, a persons, who desires to obtain any information is required to make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. If a person seeking information is not able to make such request in writing, the Central Public Information Officer Should render reasonable assistance to him to reduce the same in writing. Where access to a record is required to be provided to a sensorial disabled person, the Central Public Information Officer should provide assistance to such person to enable him to access the information. He should also provide such assistance to the person as may be appropriate for the inspection of records where such inspection is involved.
     
    6. You can insist that the PIO follows Section 4 suo motu disclosures: The Act makes it obligatory for every public authority to make suo motu disclosure in respect of the particulars of its organisation, functions, duties and other matters, as provided in section 3 of the Act. The information so published, according to sub-section (3) of section 3, should be easily accessible with the CPIO in electronic format. The CPIO should, therefore, make concerned efforts to ensure that the requirements of the Section 3 are met and maximum information in respect of the authority is made available on the internet. It would help him in two ways. First, the number of applications under the Act would be reduced and secondly, it would facilitate his work of providing information inasmuch as most of the information would be available to him at one place.
     
    7. The PIO has no right to ask you, the reason for your seeking information: An applicant making request for information is not required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. Also, the Act of the Rules does not prescribe any format of application for seeking information. Therefore, the applicant should not be asked to give justification for seeking information or to give details of his job etc. or to submit application in any particular form.
     

     

     
    (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

    Sankarsan Behera

    1 year ago

    If an applicant ask some voluminous information , then can we ask him for record verification to get his information?

    allzwell

    4 years ago

    Look at this case. A CIC order was passed on Dec 30, 2015.

    ===================================
    Relevant extracts :

    The matter was heard by the Commission. The appellant stated that the CPIO, NCW vide letter dated 26.6.2014 that too after seven months had not provided information on Point 5(a) & (e), stating that the copy of NCW Inquiry Committee order dated 26.10.2012 was available with Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) as all records were kept in custody of MSCW. The
    appellant requested the Commission to initiate penalty proceedings u/s 20(1) of the RTI Act against the CPIO. The respondents stated that the file relating to the case
    was in the custody of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women. Therespondents regretted for the delay in responding. The respondents further stated
    that the matter in the Bombay High Court had been concluded and they will call their file back from Maharashtra State Commission for Women and provide information on
    Point 5(a) & (b) to the appellant.
    5. In view of above submissions of the respondent, the Commission directs the CPIO, NCW to get the file back from Maharashtra State Commission for Women
    and provide information with reference to Point 5(a) and 5(e) to the appellant within
    one month of receipt of this order. The Commission warns the CPIO for the delay in providing information to the appellant and advises him to ensure timely disposal of the RTI applications in future. The appeal is disposed of.
    ===================================
    After 30 days, the reply received is that Files are missing and that they would write to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Till date nothing is done. Aother RTI filed on March 28, 2015 with the WCD Ministry that governs NCW, seeking action taken report. WCD sends it to NCW on April 1, 2015 It is now June 1, 2015 but there is no reply from the PIO of NCW. This is after the warning by CIC In earlier order. So, why would the PIO fear anything ? Let the RTI applicant be harassed.

    allzwell

    4 years ago

    I think most PIOs are well informed but choose to delay as they can get away. How many cases are there since inception of RTI where the CIC has levied a penalty on the PIO ? It would interesting to have some statistics on this.

    Rajesh Premani null

    4 years ago

    One of the commonest weapon used by the PIO of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, when not desiring to give information is by replying, that "You can take inspect the files and take photocopies of the information sought by you, chargeable at the rate of Rs. 2 per copy, during 9am to 6pm." Now, paying is not an issue, but the issue is, that the information sought is not strictly included in the reply, in black and white. Also to add to the hardship, when the query has been posted in English,the revert is purposely given in Marathi or Hindi, to cause inconvenience to the respondent. How does one tackle this?

    Lokesh Batra

    4 years ago

    There is typographic error.

    In case the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight (48) hours of the receipt of the request.

    Ramesh B Mhadlekar

    4 years ago

    The CPIO of RBI should take lessons from Madam vinita Deshmukh,because it rejects every information under Sec 7 (9)The information being spread over various files and not available in compiled form and would disproportionately divert the resources of the Bank or "No information is available" specifically to those information which it should normally be holding.In one of the recent Private and secretive recruitment of class IV employee contrary to SC decisions and Indian constitution's Art 14 & 16,it does not know how many of the recruited employees are posted in Mumbai ,how many of them are posted out of Mumbai, when Written test was conducted,when inter view was conducted,the age criteria followed,whether advertisement was given in newspaper etc. etc. etc a long list,but yet RBI is functioning without any information inits record -Satya Mev Jayte.

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