Monday, December 29, 2008

Report Card for 2008 of Shailesh Gandhi - CIC

My conviction that Right To Information is the most potent change agent to make India a truly participatory Democracy continues to dominate my life. In the first quarter of 2008, RTI was able to uncover the fact that the Maharashtra Chief Minister's relief fund is used for Gazal programs, Foreign trips, making films; building the gym in the Governor's residence, and also the toilets in the Press Club of India at Delhi. In many other cases Citizens are using RTI to empower themselves to get the governance they want.

In August Arvind Kejriwal discovered that the Central Government had decided to appoint four Central Information Commissioners in an arbitrary and opaque manner. He suggested that we should challenge this, and also suggest some alternate names. A few names,-including mine,- were suggested to the Selection Committee comprising of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and the DOPT minister. My name was selected by this Committee;-I have no idea why,- and I was offered the post of a Central Information Commissioner. Though I believe that the process by which I was selected was flawed, I accepted. I saw an opportunity to deliver what we were demanding from Information Commissioners.


The backlog of cases has been building up at the Information Commissions at the States and the Centre. Commissioners across the Country are individually disposing 70 to 1500 cases each year, leading to mounting pendencies; whereas they should dispose over 4000. Most Commissions,- like the judiciary,- have rendered most laws meaningless, by allowing huge backlogs to develop. This has resulted in the common Citizen being deprived of the rule of law. Denial of Justice by delaying, has become the norm in India. I saw a similar fate for the Right to Information act at the hands of the Information Commissions. When shifting to Delhi to take up this position, I made a Public commitment that I would ensure that the pendency of cases before me would not be more than 90 days by April, 2009.


I took charge on 18 September and discovered that there was almost no office or staff available. I was given 11 departments including Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi Government and HRD with a total pendency of about 1650 cases. In October, -when I started my hearings and disposals,- my staff was of 5 people. The task looked daunting. I then started finding staff for my office, who have to be hired through a Contractor. The Government offered to give me some (Computer) illiterate staff1, which I have refused. By November, I had a total of 12 people with me, but was told that only 8 people would be paid by the Government. Therefore I have four interns who are not paid by the Government. The Government will provide me more than 8 people, only if I am prepared to take (computer) illiterate staff.


However, there is an immense feeling of satisfaction, since I have been able to dispose over 450 cases in December itself. In October-November I had disposed 333 cases. By April 2009, I will be able deliver on my promise of having a pendency of less than 90 days. I see no problem in disposing over 4500 cases in a year. The Central Information Commission presently gets about 14000 cases in a year and has one Chief Information Commissioner and seven other Commissioners. If each Commissioner disposes atleast 3000 cases2 per year, there need not be any backlog. Citizens will insist on accountability of a minimum disposal from Commissioners, and a fixation of norms. If the Government appoints Information Commissioners without norms3 of a minimum performance, it would only be a burden on the Public exchequer, without any benefit for the Right to Information.


My New Year Promise for 2009

I shall ensure that over 95%

of the appeals and complaints before me will be disposed in

less than 60 days by September 2009.


A Very Happy and Informative Year for all of us.

Shailesh Gandhi

Mera Bharat Mahaan.. Nahi Hai,
Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.

1. For a Government which claims to be moving to egovernance, a very significant number,-perhaps over 50%,- of Government officers are (computer) illiterate.

2. The average disposal of a Bombay High Court judge in 2006 was 2530 per judge.

3. Section 4 (iv) of RTI act





Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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