Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 24:
All is not well in the Odisha Information Commission (OIC). While the post of chief information commissioner (CIC) is lying vacant for about one and half month, the lone commissioner who is holding charge of the CIC will retire on 27th of this month.
Even as 4,000 cases are pending adjudication at the commission. the incumbent commissioner does not appear too keen to take up cases because of his imminent retirement. As a result, cases are piling up with each passing day and the commission has literally become defunct for all practical purposes.
Sources in the Information and Public Relations (I & PR) department said though the state government has already embarked on the process for appointing a CIC and another information commissioner, it’s yet to make up its mind on whom to appoint as the CIC. The selection process is stuck halfway, the sources added.
According to the I & PR department, the government had invited applications for the post of CIC and another commissioner. A committee with the development commissioner (DC) UN Behera as its chairman was supposed to examine the applications. But the committee is yet to meet since Behera is on foreign tour, departmental sources said.
Moreover, rules prescribe that an independent committee chaired by the Chief Minister is to take a call on the final selection. The I & PR department is unable to make a firm commitment on when this committee is going to meet. The committee will have the Leader of the Opposition and a Cabinet minister as its members. It remains to be decided which Cabinet minister is to be included as a member in the committee.
Highly placed sources said the government is not very happy with the incumbent chief secretary GC Pati and intends to relieve him of his current responsibilities and place him as the CIC. The government is in a dilemma and is apprehensive that replacing Pati at this juncture with the Nabakalebara process on could send a wrong message and may cause a problem. Moreover, the talk in the corridors of the state secretariat is that Pati is himself not very keen on the post.
Sources revealed that the state government had contacted retired Union secretary rank officer Suresh Chandra Panda for appointing him in the commission. But Panda apparently made it clear that he would be interested to join the commission only if he is appointed CIC. There is pressure on the government to appoint someone from the fields of journalism or social service as a member in the commission.
Under the existing rules, the state government can appoint ten commissioners including the CIC but it has started the process for appointing only two commissioners, including the CIC.
Unless the government calls for a meeting of the committee and appoints someone as a commissioner in the commission within a day or two, it would be rendered defunct with the retirement of the incumbent commissioner Pramod Kumar Mohanty on April 27.
It may be mentioned here that the outgoing CIC Tarunkanti Mishra had informed Governor SC Jamir of his resignation from the post on March 4 well in advance on January 5. Mishra’s term would have ended on August 1 in the normal course.