The Hindu: Bhopal: Friday, December 13, 2013.
A division bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered Madhya Pradesh to appoint a Chief Information Commissioner for the State before January 31. Chief Justice Ajay Khanvilkar and Justice K.K. Lahoti gave the verdict on the petition by Bhopal-based RTI activist Ajay Dubey to release the inquiry report into the 2006 tragedy at the Ratangarh Temple in Datia.
The temple was in the news in October when a stampede on the approach bridge killed at least 115 people. In 2006, 57 pilgrims were washed away by flash floods on the River Sindh, caused by the sudden release of water from the Madikheda Dam in the neighbouring Shivpuri district. The S.K. Pandey Commission which probed the incident submitted its report the following year. The report has still not been made public.
Mr. Dubey was refused a copy of the report despite a ruling in his favour by the State’s then Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) P.P. Tiwari, in 2010. In 2012, the government replied that it was not mandated to release the report before it is tabled in the assembly following approval from the Cabinet.
The post of CIC has remained vacant since December, 2012, which has hung several RTI appeals in constitutional limbo. Last month, the High Court had asked the State to appoint a CIC by December 10. The State’s counsel replied on Thursday that this had not been done as the General Administration Department (GAD), which is the competent authority in this regard, was occupied with elections.
The bench not only directed the GAD to make the appointment before February, 2014, it has also directed that the future CIC take action on Mr. Dubey’s appeal within six weeks of the appointment. The verdict said the principal secretary of the GAD, who is currently K. Suresh, would be held responsible for implementation of the same.
Mr. Dubey told The Hindu that the delay was an attempt by the State to protect influential bureaucrats whose criminal negligence killed 57 people. “The appointment of the CIC will bring about more accountability, and we hope the government follows the verdict seriously and with impartiality,” he said.