Saturday, March 7, 2009

“Jai Ho Ram Kumarji….”

By Dilip Awasthi
Between the proverbial cup and the lip, this story seeks to become the slip for state government’s intention of demolishing another institution of public trust. If it doesn’t, the all-important position of the state Chief Information Commission (CIC) may be served on a platter to one of the most controversial bureaucrats. The retired official’s sole claim to fame is that he is the only IAS officer in UP’s history, whose services were terminated for corruption and possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income.

Both chief minister Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would share the honours for the contentious appointment. Mayawati has short listed the name of 1976 batch IAS officer Ram Kumar, once her most trusted lieutenant and Mulayam Singh has absented himself from the high-power committee meeting on February 20, which finalized the official’s name for the coveted post. The CIC is the custodian of the Right to Information Act (RTI), which aims to ensure transparency and accountability in working of all public authority including the state government.

According to highly placed sources, Ram Kumar’s name was short-listed from a panel of five including two former bureaucrats and an existing information commissioner. In absence of Mulayam Singh, the committee sent its recommendation to the Governor the same evening. Ram Kumar, who retired last year, was appointment secretary between June and October 1995 during Mayawati’s first term as CM. He became controversial as his own colleagues including some PCS officials leveled charges of corruption against him. Some of them even submitted in writing and alleged that he had accepted grafts for doling out plum postings. The Kalyan Singh government placed him under suspension in June 1998, which continued till December the same year.

A series of inquiries including Vigilance proceedings were initiated against Ram Kumar. In 2000, the state government under BJP’s Ram Prakash Gupta took up a tirade against corrupt public servants and short-listed 277 officials against whom charges had been substantiated. In this list Ram Kumar, then a director with the state planning institute, was the only official against whom the state government sought central government permission for dismissal of services under the Rule 16(3) of All India Administrative Services Rules 1958. Ram Kumar was found involved in 16 cases of corruption by various inquiries.

On July 12, 2000, chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta himself ordereed Ram Kumar’s dismissal. The compliance of the dismissal notice was done the same evening by the additional district magistrate by pasting the notice at his A-5, Dilkusha Colony residence. However the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) reinstated him in 2003. He retired as principal secretary, rural engineering services last year. Says Ram Kumar, “None of the charges could be substantiated against me in the court. I was a victim of political vendetta”.

The decision to appoint him as the state CIC now rests with Governor TV Rajeswar as he is the appointing authority. According to Section 15 (3) of the RTI Act, the recommendation for the appointment has to be made by a three-member committee comprising the CM who is the chairperson of the committee, the leader of opposition in the Legislature Assembly in this case Mulayam Singh Yadav and a cabinet minister to be nominated by the CM in this case Panchayati Raj minister Babu Singh Kushwaha.

The obvious intention of the act is to get the CIC or for that matter any state Information Commissioners appointed on merit and with consensus. Whereas two members of the committee represent the government, one member represents the entire opposition lobby. The Governor now has to take a call on the issue that in the absence of the leader of opposition should the recommendation of the committee hold? The act is silent on this aspect.

The RTI Act has been an eyesore for the state government and its officials, who have been wanting to castrate this institution, which promises at least some justice for the common man. Nonetheless there could be no better salute to UP government’s penchant for backing the wrong horses than Rehman’s Oscar wining ‘’Jai Ho’’ more aptly “Jai Ho Ram Kumarji”….


Anonymous said...

If Such corrupt bureaucrats will be made custodians of the Right to Information Act in U.P., God only help the commen man....!--Samrat Dwivedi

Anonymous said...

It should be "Jai Ho Mayawatiji..." - Smita

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