The Central Information Commission (CIC) is struggling to deal with the workload in the absence of a full complement of information commissioners. Since 2016 four information commissioners have retired, reducing the strength of the transparency regulator to seven, including chief information commissioner. Despite advertising the vacancies and inviting applications, the government has not filled the posts. Sources say that the panel will be down to just three information commissioners in December if the Centre does not fill the vacant positions. Further, even the post of secretary to the commission has fallen vacant after Anjali Anand was posted out.
According to sources, the panel has now escalated the issue to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), indicating the seriousness of the issue.
Functioning with depleted strength, the CIC now has a growing backlog of work to handle, with the average waiting time between two months to three years! What’s holding back the government? So far it has not chosen to comment on the situation. But time may be running out.
New cadre allocation policy
The Centre had been toying with the idea of a new policy for cadre allocation in case of IAS and IPS officers for “national integration” in the country’s top bureaucracy. Officers of all-India services — the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service (IFS) — will have to choose cadres from a set of zones instead of states.
Presently, officers of the three services are allocated a cadre state or a set of states to work in. They may be posted on Central deputation during their service after fulfilling certain eligibility conditions. The existing 26 cadres have been divided into five zones in the new policy proposed by the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions.
Zone-I has seven cadres — AGMUT (also known as Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories), J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. Zone-II consists of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, and Zone-III comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland constitute Zone-IV. The last zone has Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
The new policy will seek to ensure that officers from Uttar Pradesh, for instance, will get to work in southern and north-eastern states, which may not be their preferred cadres.
Kerala cops split over decision
The IPS association of Kerala has constituted a five-member committee to consider restructuring of this association and suggest its registration process. The IPS officers have taken a cue from the IAS Association, which is registered under the Society Act.
The Kerala chapter of the IPS Association is part of the national association of IPS officers but it does not have a formal registration. The newly-formed committee members include inspector-general Balram Kumar Upadhyay, deputy inspector-general Anup Kuruvilla John and superintendents of police Rahul R. Nair, Hari Sankar and Merin Joseph. The panel will study and give recommendation whether the association needs a formal registration. In case they need registration, they will also suggest the criteria for electing the office bearers.
According to sources, some IPS officers are not in favour of a formal association with elected office bearers. They argue that the IPS cadre is more disciplined, and the election of a junior officer may create a problem. In the present structure, the senior-most officer taking part in the association meeting on the day presides over it (excepting state police chief who does not participate), while a permanent secretary is nominated by consensus.