Rajeshwar Thackeray, Loksatta
Nagpur : It is as if the state government has disregarded the Right to Information Act, which came to strengthen democracy and prevent corruption by sharing the details of the matters happening in the government and administration with the common citizens. With thousands of cases pending, the state government is not ready to release the list of recommended eligible candidates for the post of Information Commissioner. Therefore, the posts of four information commissioners in the state are vacant.
There are posts of State Information Commissioner in Pune, Brinhamumbai, Nashik, Amravati, Konkan, Aurangabad and Nagpur. A public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court as the government was making moves in filling these posts. Then the government of the then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis advertised to fill the vacant posts. On 2020, three posts of State Commissioners of Nashik, Konkan and Aurangabad again fell vacant. During March 2020, advertisement was given to fill those posts.
The application received was scrutinized by a committee of Allahabad High Court, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, Secretary of Law and Justice Department, Chief Commissioner of State, Secretary of General Department. This committee evaluates and recommends three candidates for a post. A three-member committee chaired by the Chief Minister has to make the final selection in this name. 12 candidates were recommended in this case. But, the meeting could not be held during the tenure of the then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Now Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is also delaying the selection of the state commissioner by holding a committee meeting. This is in violation of the affidavit submitted by the state government in the Supreme Court. The state government submitted the advertisement to the court stating that the process of filling the post of State Information Commissioner has started. But the Chief Minister’s Committee is not ready to decide on the applications received after that advertisement and the candidates recommended by the Scrutiny Committee. Now the post of State Information Commissioner of Amravati Division is falling vacant on 31st October. An advertisement has been issued for it.
86 thousand cases are pending
About 86 thousand cases are pending with the Information Commission in the state. Pune division has the highest number of cases of more than 20 thousand. The second number is Aurangabad Division. More than 17,000 cases are pending here and under that, more than 13,000 cases are pending in the Mumbai division, the RTI said.
A ploy to cancel the process itself?
The State Government informed the Supreme Court that the State Information Commissioner selection process has started. Also the advertisement in that regard was submitted to the court. But now some in the Shinde-Fadnavis government are thinking of canceling that process. If this happens, the Supreme Court will be in contempt. Also, it will take at least another one and a half to two years to fill the post by taking out a new advertisement. This means that these posts will remain vacant and the pile of pending cases will increase. People will have to stay away from RTI for a few more days, opines RTI activist T. H. Naidu expressed.