Do Officers Blackmail the Chief Minister to Bag Post-Retirement Posts?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Former Vigilance SP Debadatta Patnaik recently attracted Assembly attention because of the suspicion that his service has been extended after retirement to keep him pleased not to reveal what he really knows about the person due to whose patronization mines scam has engulfed Orissa.

Debadatta is not the only Officer who has been rewarded with re-employment after their retirement.

Very recently, Dhobei Charan Sahoo has been re-employed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the department of General Administration. Before retirement, he was Additional Secretary in the same department in charge of the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. And it is known that the CMRF distributes several crores of Rupees under discretion of the CM. The fund is not audited and discrepancies galore as no uniform yardsticks for allocation are followed.

Just before Sahoo, the Officer who was rewarded with post-employment posting is B.S. Deo. He is a rare Officer who could be cited as an example of niceness in administration. He is efficiency, honesty, impartiality and probity personified. He has been appointed as a member of Orissa Public Service Commission. He is the first from OAS officers to have this appointment. It is not that there is no precedence. Decades ago, Hemant Kumar Das of Orissa Financial Service (OFS) had also been appointed as member of OPSC. So Deo’s appointment as member of OPSC is absolutely perfect. Yet, it needs be noted that before being appointed as member of OPSC, he was special Secretary to the Chief Minister and in that capacity was privy to the CM’s many decisions.

The OPSC seems to be a sanctuary for Officers that were close to the CM before their retirement from government service. Because, besides Deo, two other Officers, viz. Manoranjan Sharan and Krushna Chandra Mohapatra, close to the CM in their respective times in his Secretariat were rewarded with post-retirement posting as member of the OPSC.

The other Officer to have been thus rewarded because of being privy to the CM’s deals is Pramod Kumar Mohanty who was his Special Secretary and despite heading the Parliamentary Affairs department, was continuing as such till retirement on superannuation. Even before he was to hand over charges on retirement, he was appointed as member of Orissa Information Commission.

The Information Commission is now being headed by Tarun Kanti Mishra, who retired as the Chief Secretary of Orissa. Another retired Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy has been appointed as the State Election Commission. As former Chief Secretaries, both of them were certainly privy to CM’s deals in matter of the Tatas, Vedanta , Posco and the likes.

This unprecedented rise of re-employment of retired Officers who, during their respective times in Government, were privy to deals of the CM, in the context of words uttered in Orissa Assembly about Vigilance SP Debadatta Patnaik’s continuance in job after retirement, prods one to ask: do they blackmail the CM to bag post-retirement postings like this? The question seems more pertinent; because, no Officer from outside the CM’s Secretariat is found to have bagged post-retirement appointments to such top positions in such spirituous speed.

How Does the Chief Information Commissioner Function? See an Instance

- Pradip Pradhan*

If you seek information on liquor trade, you may be thrashed by excise officials and smashed by Information Commissions. See an instance.

On 21.10.08, Mr. Himanshu Tripathy, a journalist based at Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district had applied to the PIO, Office of Superintendent of Excise, Bhawanipatna for information on liquor shops as well as production and consumption etc. of liquor, in Junagarh area of Kalahandi district. Getting no information, Mr. Tripathy filed a complaint petition before Orissa Information Commission on 1 February 2009. It took around nine months to be heard!

On 20 October 2009, the case was heard by Mr. D. N. Padhi, State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC).

During the hearing, the PIO submitted that he had supplied the information in two installments on 19 and 25 November 2008 consecutively.

The complainant alleged that the PIO had given a wrong statement inasmuch as he had not supplied the information as requisitioned in his application, and the so-called information provided to him were false and fabricated. After hearing the case, the Commission directed the PIO to allow the complainant to verify and inspect the documents and records available in his office and provide him the requisite information by 15 November 2009 free of cost.

As per the direction of the Commission, the complainant visited the office of Superintendent of Excise, Bhawanipatna on 27 October 2009. He was shown some files which were not at all relevant. As he objected, the PIO and his staff hurled obnoxious language and manhandled him. They also threatened him with more brute action if he does not desist from insisting upon the information. After he returned empty handed, the PIO sent a constable to his residence in the night around 11 PM obviously to intimidate him.

In the second hearing held on 14 December 2009, the complainant explained in detail the humiliating incident that took place in the office of the Superintendent of Excise on 27 October 2009.

Mr. D.N. Padhi , SCIC hearing the case ordered the PIO to provide the information on the spot.

The PIO agreed to give him information after the hearing is over. The SCIC decided to close the case. But the complainant made a request to the Commission not to close the case as the PIO used repeatedly to serve false and misleading information. The complainant also demanded penalty against the PIO under Section 20 of the Act as he had made a long delay in providing the information over and above the acts of intimidation he has committed. The Commission fixed 2nd March 2010 as the next and final hearing of the case.

But, the complainant was smashed by the Commission as he was served with an order telling him of the disposal of the case on 14 December 2009. Neither the Complainant, Mr. Tripathy got the information applied for nor was the PIO penalized for his defiance of RTI Act and use of muscles and other means of intimidation against the RTI applicant.

This is how Orissa’s Chief Information Commissioner, who is paid approximately a sum of 1, 30,000 INR per month is delivering justice in RTI-Cases.

* Sri Pradhan is a prominent RTI Activist of Orissa.

RTI ACTIVISTS UNITE AGAINST ORISSA INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS

Orissa Information Commission was scanned in a recent conference of RTI activists at Bhubaneswar, where a resolution was passed calling upon the Governor of the State to ensure a time-bound schedule for enquiry and action in respect of every complaint over acts of omission and commission of the Commissioners under Section 17 of RTI Act.

The participants have even decided to stage a ‘Sit-in Demonstration’ (Dharana) in front of the Governor’s House demanding action on the complaints already lodged against the Information Commissioners of Orissa.

Presided over by Karunakar Pattanayak, a retired IAS officer, the conference held in the Red Cross Bhawan auditorium on February23 was attended to by a hundred of activists, senior citizens and complainants who expressed how severely they are injured by deliberate delay at the level of the Commissioners.

On an average, most of them alleged, the disposal of a case by the Commission takes 2 to 3 years, rendering the crux of the issue irrelevant.

Mr. Madan Chandra Mishra a Complainant citing his Complaint Case No. 481/2006 said that it was heard as many as 12 times spanning 3 years. And in the end, neither he got the complete information nor was the defaulter PIO penalized by the Commission.

Another complainant Mr.N.A.Shah Ansari, who is also an eminent RTI Activist, referring to his Complaint Case No. 967/ 2007 elaborately described his sorrowful experience as to how the Commission, without imposing any penalty on the defaulter PIO of Dept. of Youth Affairs and Sports, exonerated him in the name of Natural Justice.

Mr.Harishankar Panigrahi from Sambalpur describing his experience of hearings held in the Commission’s office. He said that on one occasion he was not allowed to speak when, on the contrary, Mr. Jagadanand, SIC threatened him to put him behind the bars. He further divulged that he has filed 11 complaint cases in the Commission, most of which related to life and liberty. The Commission without hearing his case remanded it to the 1st Appellate Authority, ADM of Sambalpur. The Ist Appellate Authority disposed of the case without ordering the supply of any information. Then the Commission abruptly dismissed the case in endorsing the decision of the 1st Appellate Authority and without imposing any penalty against the defaulting PIO.

Gopabandhu Chhatria and Kedar Nanda of Bolangir, Rabindra Das of Puri and Kedar Nath Sahoo of Boudh presented their testimonies as to how they were harassed by the Commission and how the Commission exonerated the concerned PIOs from penalty in their respective cases. They also demanded immediate enquiry into such kind of partisan behavior of Orissa Commissioners against the complainants and appellants, which favoured the guilty PIOs and shielded the conniving Appellate Officers.

To Lalit Mishra, when Orissa Information Commissioners themselves don’t disclose their property list, it is simply ridiculous on their part to ask the Govt. to disclose the property list of IAS officers in the state.

The conference was organized by Right to Food Campaign, Orissa, NAMASKAR Forum and Orissa State Vigilance Council, Cuttack.

Initiating the proceedings, Pradip Pradhan, Convener, Right to Food Campaign, Orissa, made a data-based presentation about how inefficiency and misfeasance on the part of the Commission has ruined the spirit of the RTI Act in Orissa. Referring to the dismal rate of disposal by both the Commissioners, Pradhan said, in the year 2008 State Chief Information Commissioner disposed only 42 cases per month while Mr. Jagadanand, State Information Commissioner only 36 cases per month. But their counterpart in Central Information Commission Mr. Shailesh Gandhi was found to have disposed of as many as 267 cases and Mr. Babu Rao Burge, Maharastra Information Commissioner 386 cases per month during the said year. It is distressing to know that the Commissioners of Orissa who enjoyed more or less the same status, salary and privileges as entitled to the rest of the Commissioners across the country, have fared so low leading to generation of a massive backlog of more than 5000 cases in the Commission’s office.

Whether the State Information Commissioners are above answerability is the question that kept participants agitated throughout.

Now it is time for the Government and the Governor to act.

Information Obstructed On Wrongful Claim Of Cost

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Public Information Officer of Orissa Information Commission is alleged to have contravened the Right to Information Act by obstructing information under wrongful claim of cost thereof whereas the Chief Information Commission has not yet granted any relief on the complaint filed against the PIO.

Raising this allegation, Pradip Pradhan, an eminent RTI activist, has cited an instance that shows how an applicant has been asked to deposit fees for the information required even though he being a person below the poverty line is exempted from paying any such fee.

According to Pradhan, “On 23.3.09 and 25.3.09, Mr. Kunja Bihari Patra, a BPL person of Nayagarh district submitted two RTI Applications to Orissa Information Commission seeking some information about its functioning. In his replies dated 21.4.09 (letter no. 4260/OIC) and (letter no. 4265/OIC) the PIO of the Commission asked Mr.Patra to deposit Rs.78/- and Rs.48/- respectively towards cost of information. The shocked applicant has filed a complaint case against arbitrary orders of PIO of the Commission before the Chief Information Commissioner under Section 18 of RTI Act with a prayer for getting the requested information free of cost and for severe penalty against PIO
under Section 20 of RTI Act.”

Section 7(5) of the Act stipulates that the “fee prescribed under sub-section (1)
of section 6 ( application fee) and sub-section (1) ( cost of information) and (5) ( cost of information in printed or any electronic format) of section 7 shall be reasonable and no such fee shall be charged from the persons who are below poverty line as
determined by the appropriate Govt.”

Patra’s complaint is yet to obtain a decision.

Heads of Orissa Information Commission Hide Their Properties!

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

RTI activist Pradip Pradhan has raised serious allegations against Orissa’s Chief Information Commissioner D.N.Padhi as well as the Member of the Commission Jagadanand Mohanty. “They have not provided the required information on their movable assets……. lest the disproportionate wealth they might have amassed during different phases of their public career would be leaked”, he has said.

He narrates:

“On 31.8.09, I had applied to the Public Information Officers in the offices of both Orissa Information Commission and Information and Public Relations Department, Orissa, seeking information about the property list of State Chief Information Commissioner ( Mr. D.N. Padhi), State Information Commissioner (Mr. Jagadananda Mohanty) and former State Information Commissioner (Prof. Radhamohan) which they might have submitted to Govt in compliance of their respective Service Rules. As is well known, the status of Mr. D.N. Padhi is equivalent in rank to that of Election Commissioner of India and that of Mr. Jagadanand Mohanty to that of Chief Secretary of State. It is further well known that as per both All India and State Service Rules, the concerned Officers are required to submit the property list to the Govt. under whom they are presently posted.

“Strangely enough, the PIO, Dept. of I and PR rejected my RTI Application without any rhyme or reason.

“Then I made the 1st Appeal before the Appellate Authority, Dept. of I and PR, who on hearing my appeal directed the PIO to forward the application to the PIO, Office of Orissa Information Commission under Section 6 (3) of RTI Act for providing me the required information.

But then the PIO, office of OIC, supplied me incomplete information.

As is well known, as per the Service Rules, the property list means both movable assets (Bank Balance, LIC, Insurance and jewelry etc.) and immovable assets ( land, building etc. ).
But the PIO simply supplied me list of immovable assets of the Commissioners.

On receiving incomplete information, I made 1st appeal to the 1st Appellate Officer of the Commission with request to supply me complete information.

On 27.11.09, the 1st Appellate Officer heard my case. During the hearing, the PIO explained that he could not supply the complete information to me as the information on movable assets has not been submitted by any Commissioner. He further observed that State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioner have supplied only the information relating to immovable assets, and that too in a prescribed proforma.

The 1st Appellate Authority dismissed my case pronouncing that the PIO has provided me the information as available with him from the source of both the Commissioners.

Not satisfied with the decision of the 1st Appellate Officer, I have made 2nd appeal to Orissa Information Commission on 12.1.2010, pleading for supply of complete information to me and take punitive action against the PIO as required under Section 20 of RTI Act”.

Informing that he is waiting with baited breath to know how Orissa Information Commission hears and decides the case when the Commissioners themselves have not provided the required information on their movable assets to the PIO as required under the existing Service Rules, Pradhan has viewed the phenomenon in the following term:

“It is crystal clear that both the Commissioners who have not disclosed the complete information about their respective property list including movable assets to the Office of Commission have violated the Service Rules applicable to them and deserve therefore to be censured and punished by the Governor, who has sworn them into the office. Secondly, both Commissioners, who have deliberately kept their own office in dark about their ‘movable assets’ are patently guilty of ‘moral turpitude’ and therefore deserve to be dismissed by the Governor forthwith under Section 17 of RTI Act.

It seems, they have carefully hid such information from the public view, lest the disproportionate wealth they might have amassed during different phases of their public career would be leaked out and thereby invite fresh scandals to rage against them”.

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