CON­CERN AMONG IN­fOR­MA­TION COM­MIS­SION­ERS OVER PEN­SION

The Sunday Guardian - - Covert -

The Cen­tral and State In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion­ers (not from civil ser­vices) are greatly up­set over the is­sue of their pen­sions. The Right to In­for­ma­tion Act 2005 man­dates ap­point­ment of In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion­ers from var­i­ous fields of em­i­nence. If a per­son of em­i­nence is ap­pointed from a civil ser­vice, he will get back-up pen­sion to be added to pen­sion ac­crued dur­ing ser­vice as an IC. But when a per­son ap­pointed as IC is not from a reg­u­lar civil ser­vice, but from a field of ac­tiv­ity which was not sup­ported by any pen­sion ben­e­fit, his or her monthly pen­sion would be dras­ti­cally less than the other col­leagues in the Com­mis­sion. For in­stance, Prof (Dr) Mad­ab­hushanam Srid­har Acharyulu, for­mer pro­fes­sor of law at Na­tional Academy of Le­gal Stud­ies and Re­search (NALSAR) Univer­sity of Law at Hy­der­abad, who is now an IC in New Delhi, Prof M.M. An­sari, and Shailesh Gandhi, who re­tired as ICs, were se­lected from their own fields of em­i­nence. As they are not sup­ported by any pen­sion in their fields of ac­tiv­ity, they end up get­ting pen­sion be­tween Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 only per month, whereas other ICs com­ing from civil ser­vices will get more monthly pen­sion. The pen­sion is a fi­nan­cial sup­port to per­sons who worked as In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion­ers to help them to lead a dig­ni­fied life af­ter re­tire­ment. Over a decade-long ex­pe­ri­ence of the RTI Act has not as yet put in place any con­crete plan to­wards the pen­sions of ICs and State ICs. It is per­haps the most per­ti­nent ques­tion, as af­ter the five-year ten­ure, a CIC or SIC would end up with a pen­sion of around Rs 6,00008,000 per month, which amounts to vir­tu­ally noth­ing in to­day’s in­fla­tion sce­nario. The Par­lia­ment has made per­sons of “em­i­nence” the se­lec­tion cri­te­ria, which comes af­ter a “life-long” ser­vice to­wards law, science and tech­nol­ogy, so­cial ser­vice, man­age­ment, jour­nal­ism, mass me­dia, or ad­min­is­tra­tion and gov­er­nance. Those who come from law or so­cial ser­vice or jour­nal­ism back­grounds are the worst suf­fer­ers as their pro­fes­sion does not of­fer pen­sion. There is in­ter­state dis­par­ity also, for ex­am­ple, be­tween Kar­nataka and Ut­tar Pradesh. About 3,000 cases are reg­is­tered anew every month in UP. While a re­tired SIC in UP gets Rs 6,000 as monthly pen­sion, in Kar­nataka the pen­sion is Rs 40,000 per month. A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion had arisen for pen­sions of some Supreme Court and high court judges. Em­i­nent lawyers who are se­lected straight from bar are both at the apex court and the high courts, were bereft of any pen­sion as they were not in any ear­lier ser­vice linked with a pen­sion. This, how­ever, was changed af­ter pe­ti­tions from the “suf­fers” with an amend­ment to the law in 2016 that pre­sumes that every such judge to have 10 years in ser­vice, and thus, their pen­sion will be cal­cu­lated ac­cord­ingly. This now puts their pen­sion at par with judges from the ju­di­cial ser­vices. The CICs and SICs have also been ac­corded the sta­tus of quasi­ju­di­cial bod­ies in the wake of a Supreme Court or­der (Namit Sharma v Union of India, Case No 210 of 2012). The same yard­stick de­serves to be ap­plied to CICs and SICs who do not come from pen­sion-linked ser­vices. Prof Srid­har Acharyulu has filed a rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment through proper chan­nel of the CIC in the De­part­ment of Per­son­nel and Train­ing to seek jus­tice. He says that when a CIC is equal to an EC, who is equal to a Supreme Court judge, a sim­i­lar as­sump­tion of 10 years’ ser­vice can be adopted for in­for­ma­tion com­mis­sion­ers ap­pointed from a field of em­i­nence, with­out hav­ing ser­vice or pen­sion sup­port. “As there is no sep­a­rate en­act­ment of salary and other terms of ser­vice for the in­for­ma­tion com­mis­sion­ers, the in­equal­ity is a vi­o­la­tion of Ar­ti­cles 14 and 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, and can be done away with by pro­mul­gat­ing the Rules of Pen­sion for In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion­ers at the Cen­tral level,” says Acharyulu.

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