Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has taken a dig at the government for the way commissioners are appointed and his own organization --- the Central Information Commission --- for slow disposal of cases.
Gandhi an IIT Mumbai Alumuni and the only non-bureaucrat in the CIC will retire on July 6. In his five years in the CIC, Gandhi had taken several initiatives in the commission including prescribing minimum limit of 3,500 for each commissioner to dispose cases in a year and citizen charter.
Before parting ways, Gandhi had questioned the way government appoints commissioners in commissions including CIC are appointed and parameters to evaluate their performance. “The way commissioners are appointed is totally arbitrary, politically motivated and non productive,” he told Hindustan Times in an interview.
While there is a process to appoint lower rank officials in these commissions, there is no such system for commissioners. “If there is no accountability these commissions will fail the citizens,” he said.
It truly holds for the CIC, which is mandated to ensure that citizens get information from the government in time. But, Gandhi feels that the present pace of disposal of cases the information commissions will fail to meet expectations of citizens.
“As per my calculation, there will be a backlog of around 80,000 cases in next four to five years. It will mean an appeal is heard after three years and by that time the information would have lost value for the citizen. There is a need to ensure that the citizen gets information fast or else the RTI will die,” he said.
To prevent death of the transparency law, Gandhi suggested that an information commissioner should dispose off 6,000 cases a year --- as compared to existing CIC criteria of 3,200 per year ---- and have people interested in their job to be appointed as commissioners.
He, however, refused to blame retired bureaucrats in the information commissions for slow pace of disposal of cases. “Even journalists in many states have a poor track record,” he said, that information commissions having journalists in Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh is taking years to dispose off the cases.