India: RTI activist appointed central information commissioner


Sixty-one-year-old Shailesh Gandhi, who was awarded the Nani Palkhiwala Award for civil liberties this year, is widely known for using the RTI Act effectively for better governance and accountability in public life
The recent appointment of Mumbai-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi as one of four central information commissioners has been widely hailed as a boost to civil society.
Other newly-appointed central information commissioners are Satyananda Mishra, presently secretary with the department of personnel and training, M L Sharma, special CBI director, and Annapurna Dixit, widow of veteran diplomat and former national security adviser J N Dixit.
Being the only RTI activist among the appointees, the new posting is expected to be a real challenge for Gandhi. “I see this as a good challenge and accept it. Normally we just keep criticising the information commissioners for delays in clearing files and giving judgments. Now that I am in the hot seat, I will either prove that the work can be done efficiently or fail completely,” Gandhi said.
Five years ago, Gandhi sold his successful plastic manufacturing company that he had run for 23 years so that he could spend the rest of his life doing social work. “I felt I had got everything in life, a good education, a successful career, and good family life. The time had come to give something back to society,” he said.
The 61-year-old former IIT alumnus, who was awarded the Nani Palkhiwala Award for civil liberties this year, is widely known for using the RTI Act effectively for better governance and accountability in public life.
Gandhi was among four other names proposed last month by civil society leaders Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar, Arvind Kejriwal [comment: Kejriwal won the Magsaysay Award and gave a brownbag presentation at ADB on 29 August 2006] and Sandeep Pandey as part of a strategy to put pressure on the government to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats whilst selecting information commissioners.
His appointment is also seen as a balancing act by the government at the Centre that chose him instead of an IPS officer who blew the whistle on the Narendra Modi government during the Gujarat riots in 2002.
According to media reports, it was because of pressure from L K Advani, who is part of the selection committee in his capacity as leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, that the government agreed to Gandhi in place of former police officer R B Shreekumar from Gujarat.
The police lobby still has something to cheer about, however, in the appointment of special CBI director Sharma. The 1972-batch IPS officer of the Rajasthan cadre will be the first information commissioner-cum-police officer. He has been on leave since he was overlooked for the top post in the CBI around a month ago.
The most controversial appointment is of personnel secretary Satyananda Mishra who heads the very department that administers the RTI. Since the existing five members of the Central Information Commission (CIC) already include his predecessor A N Tiwari, Mishra’s appointment has set a pattern of coveted postings being cornered by successive personnel secretaries.
Another reason why Mishra’s appointment has raised eyebrows is his record of defying the direction of CIC to drop a claim made by his department on its website that file notings of bureaucrats and ministers could not be accessed under the RTI.
The appointment of Annapurna Dixit, widow of former national security adviser J N Dixit, has come as a surprise as her credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals against various central departments are as yet unknown.
Gandhi’s appointment will create a piquant situation for the three others as he claims he will function as an information commissioner for a token salary of Re 1, and not take the bungalow and other perks.
Gandhi decided to take up the post because the pendency of appeals at the CIC had touched an all-time high of over 8,000. On average, an information commissioner disposes of 15-200 appeals every month. “This is cause for worry. My commitment is that I will dispose of 350-400 appeals every month,” Gandhi said.
He added that he would try to keep the pendency to a minimum of three months. “I categorically state that no file will remain with me for more than 90 days. I want to ensure that there is correct interpretation of the right to information and the laws related to it so that there are fewer disputes. Also, I want to bring about more transparency in the disbursal system.”
The strength of the CIC, presently comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, and Central Information Commissioners A N Tiwari, M M Ansari, O P Kejariwal and Padma Balasubramaniam will go up to nine after the fresh appointments.
Balasubramaniam is retiring in November this year and Kejariwal is due to retire next year. The total number of commissioners at the CIC is fixed at 11, under the RTI Act.
Source: DNA, September 7, 2008
PTI, September 7, 2008
DNA, September 6, 2008




Filed under Development, India

4 responses to “India: RTI activist appointed central information commissioner

  1. Ravnish

    Its sad that highly cunning and shrewd Shailesh Gandhi is appointed as Information commissioner . It is unfortunate that he has been made a commissioner .

  2. ravisuvarna

    Sub:Police Inaction in the case of house grabbing by Deepak Niranjanath Pandit
    Superitendant of Customs,Air Cargo Complex,Mumbai,brother of producer/Director Ashok Pandith by misusing official power /and connection at high places

    We, Mr&Mrs.K.Gopal Rao aged 75 years and 65 years are the Legal owners of flat no 803 Brookhill Tower,Andheri(w),Mumbai.Mr and Mrs. Deepak Pandit are known to us through Ravi Suvarna who is also Superirendant of Customs ,
    approached to us for temperory shelter for a period of 2-3 months,since in the society in which they stay do not have lift and Mrs Arushi D.Pandit was undergoing a major heart surgery in Leela Hospital and need one bedroom in our flat.Hence,we allowed Mr. Deepak Pandit to stay in our flat with his wife and son(One son is away in angalore),by providing one bed room and allowed them to use common hall and kitchen
    on humanitarian and medical ground with out charging a single rupee.

    In Sept 2007, we visited our native place in Karnataka,and locked other 3 bedrooms apart from which has been used byDeepak Pandit and his wife Arushi Pandit by showing blind faith
    and trust and handed over the keys of main entrance.When we came back from our native place,we found our other two bed rooms locks were broken and the bedrooms have been used
    by Mr.Deepak Pandit and Mrs.Arushi D. Pandit.When we asked about this mischief,Mr Deepak Pandit very rudely replied that we people should vacate the flat along with our belongings.We were
    shocked and surprised after this incident.
    Then we immediatly contacted Ravi Suvarna and Ravi Suvarna contacted Deepak Pandit about vacating the flat.He bluntlydenied to vacate the flat and also threatened with dire consequences and that his brother Mr Ashok Pandit is a very influential political person,and Deepak pandit himself is a Custom Officer and by virtue of his position/post he will grab our flat.
    Further we approached to one/two reputed persons in the society and narrated the things which have been going on and requested them to mediate the dispute.He refused to meet the
    persons and asked us to pay Rs 10 lakh otherwise he will not vacate the flat .At the same time he mentioned that we will see how he will grab our flat.

    Recently we have come to know that other than his house in
    Juhu (no 214)juhu Shantivan co-operative Housing Society,bldg
    no 13,gulmohar cross road no 6,Andheri(w),he has got one house
    at Takur Complex, kandivili(E),and one at Andheri(E). He has rented
    out all these houses and took shelter at our place on sympathetic/humanitarian grounds.

    We have approached the oshiwara police and lodged written complaints dtd 4/10/07 and 28/02/08 but to no avail.Police have threatened to arrest our grand daughter if she doesn’t vacate the house and she was forced to leave the house at 0400 AM on 05/10/07(By SI Gaikwad,Kadam on the instruction of the PI Sonawane of Oshiwada Police Station).As we are old
    aged and can not run from pillar to post,I kindly request yourgoodselves to Publish this issue on your Paper because this kind of acts by people by misusing the legal provisions to their advantage and grabbing only shelter of senior citizens by taking the help of police and security staffof the building.This is nothing but breach of trust and they know that if it goes to court it will take years together.These kind of issues should be debated and people should be educated about this kind of offences/crimes(misuse of legal provisions) which were probably made to safeguard poor tenants

    We kindly request your goodselves to take up the matter so that people will get educated about such kind of abuse of legal provisions and also wrong people who misuse the provisions of law to their advantage which were made to safeguard the weeker sections by using official power and connection at high places.As we are old aged and can not run from pillar to post,We kindly request you to publish in your paper after investigating the case and being convinced as an issue(House grabbing).He has made an extra(double) door in our absence and now he is not allowing us to enter the house with the help of Oshiwada police.If a public servant can behave like a goon and grab only house of senior citizens then we are in the same age old tradition of slavery.(We are ready to produce any kind od evidence reg the fact that he is forcefully/illegally stying in our house).He has not got any papers/reciepts

    Yours sincerely,

    Mr.&Mrs. K.Gopal Rao.
    76/41,14th cross,PadmanabhaNagar,
    Cell No 09343952727
    So many people have suffered or lost their houses due to this kind of planned tactics(Khabja). If you publish the article/News,it will definately help people who go to help people innocently and get trapped.I hope there should be amendments in the legal provisions to safeguard genuine cases.As the legal process takes years together and culprits enjoy the possession merrily.Here the system(Law and order/police and legal system has also to be blamed).If things like this continues people will lose humanity and stop helping even in genuine cases.Please help us atleast in educating(legalities) people about this Khabja



      • Aseem

        Hello. Dear Mr and Mrs Rao, please communicate to me the current status of your flat. Have you managed to get any help so far?

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