Oppose the colonial practice of taking the luxury leave by the Odisha Information Commission
Odisha Information Commissioners have arbitrarily taken Summer Vacation leave of 18 days flouting the law of the land.
On 1.6.2012, I had been to the office of Odisha Information Commission to submit 14 Complaint cases against some Public Authorities. But I found that the hearing of the cases by the Information Commissioners has been suspended up to 17th June ,2012 due to the so-called Summer vacation. In my pursuit to know the facts, I met the Registrar of the Commission who confirmed that the court of the Commission would remain was closed upto 17th June. I got terribly disappointed having heard this news and wondered how could the Information Commissioners take such a long summer vacation leave when pendency of thousands of cases is staring in its face. It needs to be mentioned here that due to inefficiency of Information Commissioners and their unacceptable practice of prolonged hearing over certain cases, more than 10,000 cases are pending in the office of the Commission as of today.
Another question haunted me, is there any legal provision or precedent for a quasi-judicial body like Odisha Information Commission to take summer vacation leave. Immediately, I dialed to Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner to know about summer vacation leave if any taken by Central Information Commission. On my query, he laughed and said that he had never heard a word like "Vacation" in the Commission. He further explained that the High Court and Supreme Court do of course take the Summer Vacation leave, but that is not allowed to any quasi-judicial body like Information Commission. The Information Commissioners are entitled to take leave on their own. But there is no such mass leave like summer vacation, he said.
As regards the practice followed by other quasi-judicial bodies of Odisha, I rushed to the office of Odisha Human Rights Commission and then to State Commission for Women which are located close to the office of Odisha Information Commission. When enquired as to whether the Commissioners have ever gone on summer vacation leave, the staffs of both OHRC and SCW replied that there is no such summer vacation leave in their offices. They however admitted that they used to take a few days leave during the Raja festival, which is also a local festival in coastal Odisha.
Since formation of OIC in 2005, the information Commissioners have been functioning arbitrarily and adopting anti-RTI procedures in several ways i.e, disposing the cases without hearing, not-imposing penalty on defaulting PIOs, maintaining dubious nexus with corrupt officials, using red light car ( it was dropped due to protest), making correspondence with the semi-literate persons in English, filing defamation case against the RTI activists, misappropriating huge money allotted for awareness programme and above all overglorifying the quasi-judicial Commission as a Court.
Summer Vacation leave is nowhere in practice in any office of a Quasi-Judicial Body. As a matter of fact, it is a colonial practice on the part of the Odisha Information Commission to enjoy holidaying at the cost of the state exchequer. Civil Society Groups and RTI Activists in Odisha have been demanding for the Commission to afford more time for quick disposal of the cases. But, instead of increasing their working hours to this end, the Information Commissioners have taken an arbitrary leave for 18 days in the month of June. Further worrisome is the fact that they would draw full month's salary, though they would work only for 12 days in the month. Such an act of summer vacation leave goes against the 'principle of no work, no pay'.
If the salary and allowances against the 18 days leave is calculated , all the three Commissioners have together eaten away a huge sum of money i.e. Rs.2,88,000/- from the state exchequer. The calculation has been made as follows-
Mr. Tarun Kanti Mishra
Chief Information Commissioner
Rs. 6,000 per day approx. x 18 days
State Information Commissioner
Rs. 5,000 x 18 days
Mr. Pramod Kumar Mohanty,
Rs. 5,000 x 18
It needs to be mentioned here that the Information Commissioners have been following a queer practice of suspending hearing on every Saturday, which is not followed anywhere in India. Under the circumstances, in order to do justice to the State exchequer the above amount of money should be deducted from the monthly salary and allowances due to the Commissioners for June 2012. The question rises, why should the Information Commissioners illegally grab such huge sum of money without giving any service to the State nd its people. It needs to be further mentioned here that the Information Commissioners are maintaining a pompous life style, each taking around Rs. 2 lakh per month towards their salary and various allowances. In defense, they may refer to to the provision of the RTI Act, but the question arises, where does the Act authorize them to grab salary and allowances from taxpayer's money without rendering commensurate service for 18 days at a stretch?
Last but not least, I appeal to Civil Society Groups and Media persons to stoutly protest against the nefarious, self-aggrandising and illegal practice of the Commission which would further degrade the RTI regime in the state.