Uttar Pradesh information commissioner’s suspension: Experts warn of precedent

July 14th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Suspension of Uttar Pradesh’s chief information commissioner Justice (retd) M.A. Khan has been hailed by many Right to Information (RTI) activists but some of them warn against setting up a precedent. “We need to be very careful as it should not set a precedent for others to be removed. It could be politically motivated also,” RTI activist Aruna Roy told IANS.

Khan was suspended by Uttar Pradesh Governor T.V. Rajeswar July 9 who recommended to the Supreme Court of India to initiate an inquiry against the information commissioner.

Khan was accused of misconduct and lack of capability to perform his duties.

Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information promoting transparency and accountability in the system.

“Allegations levelled against someone may or may not be true. But one has to be very cautious and every case should be decided on its merit,” Roy said.

However, Magsaysay award winner and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal couldn’t hide his happiness over Khan’s suspension.

“Basically, this kind of incident highlights that right kind of people are not appointed as information commissioners and RTI activists all across the country have been facing problem due to it,” Kejriwal said.

“This case proves that there is seriously something wrong with them. If governments are serious about the RTI they should demonstrate by appointing good people in a transparent manner,” Kejriwal added.

A Noida-based RTI activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra said it was due to happen but politics should not be played around it.

“It was a very sad day for the RTI. However, there have been numerous complains to the Uttar Pradesh governor against (Khan) in implementation of the RTI act in its true spirit,” Batra said.

“They were not even giving information pertaining to the Uttar Pradesh state information commission itself. I had only asked for details of the commission’s budget but they simply stated that it cannot be provided making a mockery of the act,” Batra added.

But unlike RTI activists, commissioners of the Central Information Commission (CIC), which is the apex body under the RTI act, chose not to comment on the issue.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah refused to comment.

Information Commissioner M. M. Ansari said: “As far as procedural aspect of the law is concerned, this matter had to go to the Supreme Court. It is in fully accordance with the RTI law.”

“I don’t know about the case but hope that the case would be decided fairly and objectively,” Ansari added.

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