Prime Edition

Raveen Thukral
State of Affairs

RTI, RTS being used to empower loyal babus

For public faith in these institutions, probity must be maintained while selecting the right people.

hile Acts like Right to Information (RTI) and Right to Services (RTS) were enacted to empower the aam aadmi, they have ended up empowering retired and pliable bureaucrats in the real sense, thanks to our politicians who have reduced these statutory bodies to sinecures for their blue-eyed babus.

There is widespread evidence that such statutory bodies, across the country, have an overwhelming presence of retired bureaucrats, depriving them of the much needed diversity and representation required to realise the real potential of these Acts. In fact, with babus dominating such commissions, one of the major arguments in support of the Act that "in our present democratic framework, free flow of information for the citizens and non-Government institutions suffers from several existing legal inadequacies, lack of infrastructure at the grassroot levels and an attitude of secrecy within the Civil Service as a result of the old framework of rules" stands defeated.

According to a 2012 survey, 66% of the 83 Information Commissioners (including CICs) at the Central and State levels were retired civil servants. The report also states that 90% of the then serving CICs were retired civil servants. Nowhere across the country eminent citizens with expertise and experience in other fields had been appointed to head these commissions.

So on the face of it, the controversy presently raging in Haryana over the appointment of loyal babus to RTI and RTS Commissions by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, may not be much different from what has been happening in other states too. But the manner in which these appointments were made last week, making sheer mockery of the laid down procedures, raises serious questions on the credibility of these institutions.

In gross violation of rules and regulations, Hooda administered oath of office to two RTI and three RTS commissioners despite secretary of the state Administrative Reforms Department, Pradeep Kasni, raising objections to it. Kasni clearly wrote on the file that the appointment letters couldn't be issued to the new appointees as they were holding offices of profit on the date of the meeting of the statutory committee that recommended their names.

Dubbing the appointments as wrong, Kasni recommended that the file be sent for reconsideration to the new Governor. However, Hooda went ahead with the appointments and administered oath to the appointees himself, a task usually done by the Governor.

These controversial appointments also raise serious questions on the entire selection process of the members for the commissions as it turns out that two of Haryana's top bureaucrats recommended each other's appointments to the RTS Commission. Chief Secretary S.C. Choudhary recommended that Additional Chief Secretary Sarban Singh be appointed member of the commission and in turn a committee headed by the latter recommended that the former be made the commission's chairperson. A perfect case of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

While Sarban Singh has already taken oath as RTS commissioner, Choudhary, who retired on 31 July, is slated to be sworn in as its chairperson soon.

Hooda's new appointees include Shiv Raman Gaur and Dr Rekha Rani as information commissioners and Sarban Singh, Dr Amar Singh and Sunil Katyal as RTSC commissioners. While Gaur, a former bureaucrat, is a known Hooda loyalist, Rekha Rani, who is said to be unqualified for the post, is the wife of the CM's political adviser, Virender Singh.

Dr Amar Singh is the husband of a judge in the Punjab and Haryana High court and media reports indicate that several cases against Hooda's government, including multiple allocation of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) plots under reserved categories, are pending in her court. Katyal, a former Haryana additional advocate general, is an old friend of Hooda and his proximity to the CM is well known.

Willy-nilly, these controversial appointments clearly show that merit wasn't the real criteria for the selection. Proximity and loyalty to the CM was what actually worked in the favour of these new appointees.

While one would not like to comment on the professional capabilities of these appointees, the fact that these appointments lack transparency puts the credibility of these very institutions at stake. For the public to have complete faith in these institutions, it's essential that high standards of probity be maintained while selecting the right people for it. Else, these institutions defeat the very purpose of their existence.

 
Newer | Older

Creative-for-SG


iTv Network : newsX India News Media Academy aaj Samaaj  
  Powered by : Star Infranet