State Information Commission missing for 14 months in Jharkhand, governed by Congress

State Information Commission missing for 14 months in Jharkhand, governed by Congress

Chandramohan Paswan, a resident of the Hazaribag district in Jharkhand, was in Ranchi for work this week. He took the time to visit the Jharkhand State Information Commission office on Wednesday to inquire about the status of the appeal he filed seeking information related to the adjudication of a gas agency in the city of Bermo in the district of Bokaro.

To Paswan’s surprise, the administrative staff of the commission told him that the next hearing date in his case had not yet been set, as the state government has not yet appointed an information commissioner.

“It’s been so long that I don’t even remember the exact date I looked for information at the Bokaro SDM office. It was probably in 2017. So I filed my second appeal here. Every time I come to Ranchi, I visit the office to check the status, but the situation remains the same, ”Paswan said.

As a result, Paswan is not the only applicant facing such difficulties. Information commission officials said about 12,000 appeals are waiting to be resolved. The state information commission has been missing since information commissioner Himanshu Shekhar Chaudhary retired after completing his term on May 8, 2020. The state has a provision of six commissioners, including a chief information commissioner. However, all six positions have been vacant since May last year.

“There were about 8,000 appeals in process when the last commissioner retired. Since May of last year, we have received around 4,000 new appeals. We make file entries for all applications. Beyond that, only commissioners accept a call, whether they reject or admit the appeal for an additional hearing, ”said a commission staff member, who was not willing to be named.

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Not only the commissioners, but the secretary position is also vacant now, which has a direct relationship with more than a dozen of the contract staff working on the commission, who have a deserted appearance as their main job has stalled.

“Our salary has been withheld for the last two months when Abhishek Tiwary, who was the secretary, was transferred. He had the power to disburse the salaries of the contracted personnel. We are eagerly waiting for someone to be sent here, ”said a local guard on duty at the commission.

The bureau has 10 house guards working on contract, plus half a dozen employees in the project’s monitoring unit at the commission, members of bureau staff said.

In January last year, the Rajbhasa and Personnel Administrative Reforms department of the tripartite coalition government led by Hemant Soren, where Congress is the second largest ally other than RJD, invited applications to fill the position of commissioners. Authorities said about 300 requests were received against the ad. However, there has been no progress on the issue of appointments since the invitation to submit applications.

Vandana Dadel, the department’s chief secretary, declined to comment on the matter. “I would not like to comment on the matter now,” he said when asked if something had moved on that front.

The congressional party takes credit for enacting the Right to Information Act, but Jharkhand unit chairman and finance minister Rameshwar Oraon could not give a final date for when the appointments would be made.

“We had started the process, but the mandatory provision for the Opposition Leader to be on the three-member selection committee delayed the process as the LoP issue is being heard in the assembly spokespersons court. We have taken a legal opinion and it has been concluded that the highest ranking member of the main opposition party could be incorporated. The process is under way. We hope it will be done soon, ”said Oraon.

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The BJP, the main opposition, appointed Babulal Marandi as their party leader in the legislature after he merged his JVM (P) party with the BJP a few months after the 2019 assembly elections. Two of his lawmakers from the JVM (P) joined Congress. The president of the assembly has not granted LoP status to Marandi to date, as the split and merger of the JVM (P) is now being heard in his court under the anti-defection law.

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