Shrinking Transparency: Why? An Open Letter To MoS. Dr Jitendra Singh By Commodore Lokesh Batra
02 September 2017
For: Dr Jitendra Singh, Hon’ble MoS (PMO & PP),
Cc: Shri Ajay Mittal, Secretary (P),
Sub : Shrinking Transparency: Why?
Respected Hon’ble Minister,
1. Sir, today it is exactly one year since Government invited applications for the “Appointment of two Information Commissioners (ICs)” in the ‘Central Information Commission (CIC)’, vide DoPT reference(s) F.No.4/3/2016-IR dated 02.09.2016, as two of the ICs were due to complete their tenure on 31.12.2016 and 17.02.2017 respectively.
2. Sadly, even after one year of advertising the two posts of ICs in CIC, the Government has failed to select and fill these posts while an RTI revealed that 225 persons have applied for these two posts.
3. As you are aware; the Hon’ble Delhi HC in its Order of April, 09 2015, in PIL Case : No. W.P.(C) 3386/2015 in connection with delay in appointments ‘Chief Information Commissioner’ and 3 Information Commissioners in CIC, had made observations that :
“xxx, we are of the view that it is necessary for the court to monitor the steps that are being taken (by government) for filling up the vacancies in question so as to ensure that all the vacancies are filled up within timeframe”
Huge Pendency in CIC :
4. The pendency in CIC still stands at 24,338 cases….and that too when commission has been returning back about 35-40% Cases due to faulty documentation. Moreover, since June 2017, the data of cases being returned by the commission is not showing on CIC’s Website.
5. It is not only frustrating but also defeating the objectives of “Transparency Law” where law makers had made provision for furnishing information within 30 days of RTI request.
6. Unlike past many years; when information on ‘Appointment of Information Commissioners’, was easily shared with Citizens’ under the RTI Act, the DoPT has suddenly decided to become opaque, calling this information as ‘Cabinet Papers’ by overturning its own ‘First Appellate Authority’ (FAA) past Order and even ignoring CIC order of 21.12.2012.
7. I have also observed that information on DoPT Website under ‘Proactive Disclosures (RTI)’ is not being updated on regular basis in respect of many items. For instance information on ‘Directory of its officers and employees’ and ‘Tours undertaken by Hon’ble Minister and Officials of DoPT’, urgently require updating. The date(s) when the information last updated on website, is also not being mentioned in many cases. The IR Division, the nerve center for ‘implementation of RTI Act’, has lost its effectiveness… may be because Director (IR) office is located in Lok Nayak Bhavan (near Khan Market) and the rest of the officials of IR Division are operating from north Block, New Delhi.
8. Sir, when ‘Transparency’ starts ‘Shrinking’, in the DoPT; the nodal agency for the effective implementation of the RTI Act..….it is worrisome…… sending wrong signals across the nation.
My Plea :
9. I humbly appeal to the Hon’ble Minister for his kind intervention in preventing the slide and ensuring robust ‘Transparency Regime’.
10. My communication is in public domain.
Attachment : One
Commodore Lokesh K. Batra (Retd.) IN-1967