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Maharashtra Creates Post Of Deputy State Information Commissioner !!!

2 May 2012 No Comment

Maharashtra Creates Post Of Deputy State Information Commissioner

2 May, 2012, Mumbai: A path-breaking change is happening in the implementation of Right to Information Act. Vide a Government Resolution (GR), Govt of Maharashtra has created a new post for a second line of authority to the State Information Commissioner. See this GR —  http://tinyurl.com/Maha-GR-post-of-Addl-SIC


Using its powers under Section 16(6) of RTI Act, it has created this new post to help the Information Commissioner fulfill his duties, and clear the pendencies. Section 16(6) states: “The State Government shall provide the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners with such officers and employees as may be necessary for the efficient performance of their functions under this Act, and the salaries and allowances payable to and the terms and conditions of service of the officers and other employees appointed for the purpose of this Act shall be such as may be prescribed.”


Judging from the salary grade of Rs 80,000 as compared to Rs 90,000 for the State Information Commissioner, it seems that the Additional/Deputy Information Commissioner will have an authority similar to the State Information Commissioner. See the present staffing pattern and salary details on page 9 of this file —  http://sic.maharashtra.gov.in/files/pdf/section4.pdf

This GR makes wonderful administrative sense. Every other kind of Commissioner has a second and a third line of authority, e.g. Joint / additional / Deputy Police Commissioner, Joint / Additional / Assistant / Deputy Municipal Commissioners etc. But it is a strange and sad anomaly that State and Central Information Commissioners have no second-in-command. Therefore, whenever the post of an Information Commissioner falls vacant, there is no one to step into his shoes until fresh selections happen.


The new GR will probably put an end to this anomaly in Maharashtra. Hopefully, this is set to become the norm in all states and in the Centre.


Besides creating a fallback arrangement for the Information Commissioner, having a second line of command also makes it easier to train suitable candidates for the post of Information Commissioner. Otherwise, as it is currently happening, the freshly selected Information Commissioner wastes time struggling to learn the ropes after he is appointed for his 5-year term, but has no one to pass his learning and experience to before he retires. This creates abrupt changes in the State or Central Information Commission, and difficulties for the staff as well as appellants.


In our recent meeting with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on April 5, he had briefly mentioned this lacuna. At that time, however, it was not very clear what he meant when he said that “Maharashtra needs more information commissioners to clear the pendencies, but we will have to pass a fresh GR for that”. Now, on hindsight, things are more clear. God Bless him!


HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE AN AREA OF CONCERN: The GR does not clearly state by what process the additional State Information Commissioner will be selected. Will he be selected like the State Information Commissioner, by the Chief Minister’s selection panel as per Section 15? Will it be open to civil society members? Or will the post be open to only bureaucrats?

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