CONCERN AMONG INfORMATION COMMISSIONERS OVER PENSION
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.