It will be an important day for the RTI movement in Goa. The Committee comprising of the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Chief Minister will meet on July 29th to select Goa’s Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and State Information Commissioner (SIC). The committee must ensure that only the best and the brightest are selected.
If the Goa government is serious on Special status for Goa, it should ensure that only Goans are appointed to both these positions. There should be no reservation whatsoever on the basis of sex, caste or creed and merit alone should be the sole guiding factor in the selections to these two crucial posts. The committee must review all the applications and select outstanding Goans while not entertaining any lobbying or fixing whatsoever.
To ensure proper implementation of the Right to Information Act, the State Information Commission should comprise of independent minded persons who would not succumb to the pressures and pulls of the politicians in power.
The reported move by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to unnecessarily appoint an extra State Information Commissioner is deplorable. Is this needless extra appointment a means to create a plumb post to accommodate at the cost of the State exchequer a politically well connected person.
The Goa State information Commission is currently officially notified as comprising of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and one State Information Commissioner (SIC). A post for an extra State Information Commissioner has to be duly notified after following the due process of law.
The advertisement issued on 4th May have been for the post of CIC and one SIC, the government now cannot travel beyond in trying to high handedly appoint one extra SIC and that too with a vested interest.
Even this week, the Advocate General of Goa Atmaram Nadkarni has rightly argued in the High Court, that with an advertisement for one post, two appointments could not be made and that such an exercise was a fraud.
Information Commission of big states like Maharashtra and Karnataka have only four and five State Information commissioners respectively. The Goa State Information Commission can be ably managed with a CIC and one SIC. If very competent persons are appointed as the CIC and SIC of Goa, the backlog of pending cases could be cleared in about three months. It is an irony that this government after having allowed the State Information Commission to be dysfunctional for over a year, now eagerly wants to appoint one extra Information Commissioner.
The salary and benefits of the State Information Commissioner are on par with the Chief Secretary. By appointing an extra Information Commissioner the government would unnecessary incur a huge financial burden for five years as the process to remove an Information Commissioner is very cumbersome.
The short listing of National Congress Party (NCP) leader Nagesh Colvalkar for the post of Goa’s Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and State Information Commissioner (SIC) has to be strongly objected. Section 15 (6) of the Right to Information Act clearly mandates that the CIC and SIC should not be a person connected with any political party. Mr. Colvalkar has been associated with the National Congress Party (NCP) for many years, addressed its public meetings and has even headed the NCP’s legal cell.
The three member committee headed by the Chief Secretary which has short listed Colvalkar for the post of CIC as well as SIC has not done its home work. It is shocking to see that the committee recommended the name of a politician.
The committee by considering the name of Nagesh Colvalkar had committed a blatant violation of the mandatory injunction of the statute which clearly bars persons connected with any political party from being considered for the post of Information commissioner.
It is lamentable that the infrastructure by way of premises of the Goa State Information Commission is very pathetic and in shambles unable to even accommodate the CIC and one SIC. Why did the government not during the last one year take steps to acquire a proper office premises to house the State Information Commission.
The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) holds office for a term of five years or till attaining the age of 65, whichever is earlier.
So, if the Goa Government succumbs to the lobbying and appoints Leena Mehendale who was born on 31st January 1950, the government besides sadly opting for a non Goan, would effectively have her for a very short a tenure of just over a year. Which means that the Goa Government would have to commence right away the process of finding her successor. This, given the long time the government is taking to find a person to head the State Information Commission.
Leena Mehendale who hails from Jalgaon District in Maharashtra if appointed as Goa’s Chief Information Commissioner may not even complete learning Konkani during her brief sojourn in Goa.
Besides, the government which for over five years has been unable to find a proper and decent premises to house the State Information Commission, will now have to run helter- skelter to find a residential accommodation for Leena Mehendale as the Chief Information Commissioner enjoys the rank and status on par with Election Commissioner of India.
Hopefully, the high level committee headed by the Chief Minister as its meeting tomorrow will take all these factors into consideration. Surprisingly all these vital facts skipped the attention of the screening committee headed by the Chief Secretary which shortlisted Leena Mehendale’s name for the CIC’s post.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has to ensure that the selection of the CIC and SIC is strictly in accordance with law so that the Pandurang Nadkarni and Pradeep Padwal fiasco is not repeated.