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Habibullah stays as CIC, tells Omar can't take RTI post

Monday, February 15, 2010 12:38:23 PM, Mayank Aggarwal, IANS

Why is Habibullah still information chief, ask RTI activists: A group of Right to Information (RTI) activists has served a legal notice on the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) over Wajahat Habibullah continuing as chief information commissioner .....Read Full

New Delhi: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah, who resigned last year to head the Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission (JKSIC), says he will continue in his present post and has met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to convey the decision.


In a decision that has disappointed many rights activists in Jammu and Kashmir, Habibullah told Abdullah that the central government had been unable to "relieve" him and asked to him to appoint information commissioners for the state's newly set up Right to Information (RTI) commission.


Confirming the development, Habibullah told IANS: "Yes, I will be continuing at CIC only. I met Chief Minister Omar Abdullah yesterday (Sunday) and informed him about this decision."


Habibullah, who became the first chief of CIC in 2005, resigned from the post in October last year to head the JKSIC following Abdullah's request for properly implementing the RTI Act passed by his government.


Though nearly four months have passed since he submitted his resignation to President Pratibha Patil, the central government had been unable to find a "right successor".


"I told him that as the centre has not been able to relieve me, he should look for other information commissioners for Jammu and Kashmir's State Information Commission where the new RTI act is suspended in the absence of information commissioners," said Habibullah.


"According to the RTI act, whether I am here or there, I have to retire at the age of 65. And even if the central government relieves me now, I would have got only seven months at JKSIC which would not have been enough to set things properly," he explained.


"Initially, when I had resigned in October, I had one year to set things at Jammu and Kashmir but now a lot of time has passed."


A 1986 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official, Habibullah has served in Kashmir in several capacities. He was divisional commissioner of nine districts in the state between 1991 and 1993.

The assignment was abruptly terminated by a near fatal road accident while negotiating with militants occupying the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar in October 1993.


The news that Habibullah would not be joining the JKSIC has come as a disappointment to many RTI activists.


"I am receiving calls since morning about this. Habibullah Sahab not coming to Jammu and Kashmir is our bad luck. Both the common people and activists wanted him to come here," Srinagar based RTI activist Sheikh Ghulam Rasool told IANS.


"His decisions at CIC like declaring the office of the chief justice of India a public authority are commendable," Rasool said.


Activist Muzaffar Bhatt, also based in Srinagar, added: "We are very sad as Habibullah is not coming. He has given a lot of good decisions and is a strong person... The chief of the JKSIC should be one who does not bow to political pressure and takes good and bold decisions."


"Now the search will start again and the government will take time in selecting someone with a proven track record. It may take another few months. Meanwhile, appeals are piling up here," Bhatt told IANS.

The CIC is appointed by a committee comprising the prime minister, leader of the opposition of the Lok Sabha and a cabinet minister.

One such meeting took place last year between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party's L.K. Advani and Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily.


However, it remained inconclusive as Advani expressed reservations about the selection process of the new CIC chief. The decision was deferred after that.







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