Saturday, June 03, 2017

SIC reprimands PSC for not taking RTI applications on selection process seriously

Daily Excelsior: Jammu: Saturday, June 03, 2017.
State Information Commission (SIC) has reprimanded the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission for not taking seriously applications under Right to Information Act seeking details of selection process and issued a number of directions for ensuring transparency in the functioning of major recruiting agency of the State.
The Public Service Commission has been scolded by the Information Commission at a time when the recruiting agency is already in the dock for ‘biased’ approach in the recruitments for various posts in Government departments.
According to the case before the State Information Commission, an application was filed under Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 before the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Public Service Commission seeking information vis-à-vis criteria laid down for conducting interview for the post of Assistant Professor (Industrial Chemistry) in the Higher Education Department and weightage in respect of marks to academic qualification/merit, interview and experience etc.
As per Section 7(1) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009, the PIO was supposed to dispose of the application within a period of 30 days after the receipt of the same. However, he provided some information belatedly prompting the applicant to file 1st appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA) of the Public Service Commission, who happens to be the Secretary of the Commission.
Even the First Appellate Authority failed to dispose of the appeal in terms of Section 16(7)–within 30 days or within the extended period of 45 days from the date of filing of the appeal compelling the applicant to knock the doors of the Information Commission with 2nd appeal.
“Both the authorities-PIO and FAA of the PSC are in violation of the provisions of the J&K RTI Act”, observed Chief Information Commiss-ioner Khurshid A Ganai in the order passed in the 2nd appeal, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR, adding “they should have disposed of the application and the 1st appeal within the stipulated time period which has unfortunately not been done”.
Although during the proceedings before the Information Commission, the PIO of PSC referred to Section 11 relating to ‘third party’ information but no record was provided to show that ‘third party’ proceedings were initiated in this case by him or that Section 11 was at all applicable in this case.
“In this particular case the issue of third party doesn’t arise as the appellant has sought information about the general criteria laid down for conducting the interview, break-up of marks obtained and weightage. Moreover, the appellant has not sought copies of answer scripts of the selected candidate which may have invoked the third party reference in terms of Section 11 of the RTI Act”, the CIC said.
While asking the PSC to dispose of the original application by providing information requested for within a period of 15 days, the Chief Information Commissioner has further observed, “making public the criteria and break up of marks obtained by the candidates after the examination is over and results announced will only add to the transparency of the selection process”.
“Failure to dispose of the RTI application in terms of Section 7(1) which lays down specified time period of 30 days for disposal by the PIO and on the grounds of delay, the PIO is fit to be proceeded under Section 17 of the Act”, the Chief Information Commissioner said.
The Information Commission has provided to the PIO an opportunity of being heard as to why the penalty at the rate of Rs 250 per day for every day of delay is not imposed in terms of Section 17(1) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009. Moreover, the Information Commission has asked the PIO to explain as to why disciplinary proceedings under the service rules applicable may not be recommended to the competent authority in terms of Section 17(2) of the J&K RTI Act, 2009.
The Chief Information Commissioner has asked the Secretary of the PSC, who is First Appellate Authority to ensure timely disposal of 1st appeals in future. “As the incharge of administration in the office of J&K PSC the Secretary must take appropriate steps to streamline the functioning of RTI Cell within the PSC so that RTI applicants don’t have to face difficulties in pursuing their applications”, the CIC said, adding “the Secretary may seek certain orders from the Chairman of PSC so that RTI Cell in the Commission is strengthened on a permanent basis and problems of instant nature don’t recur”.
The Chief Information Commissioner has also asked the Secretary of PSC to apprise Information Commission about the steps taken as soon as possible so as to ensure complete transparency in the functioning of recruiting agency.