The Department of Personnel (DoPT) has uploaded the minutes of a meeting held in September with the Secretaries of its counterparts in the States (1st attachment). 20 States were represented by the Secretaries of their Personnel or General Administration Departments. Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura were not represented at this meeting according to the list of participants annexed to these minutes.
The gist of the speeches made by the Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and the Secretary DoPT emphasised the need for greater transparency in the working of all Governments. The Hon'ble Mininster is said to have highlighted the need for transparent, responsive, objective and responsible administration. The Secretary DoPT is said to have stated that draft rules and policies should not only be put up on websites for comments of the 'users', their suggestions should be incorporated wherever possible. This appears to be the first instance where the DoPT has raised the importance of adopting a pre-legislative consultation policy in a meeting with his counterparts in the States. Readers may recollect that the Committee of Secretaries approved such a policy to be adopted by all ministries and departments of the Government of India in January this year (2nd attachment). States are yet to adopt similar policies within their jurisdiction. The Secretary, DARPG is also said to have emphasised the need for transparent and citizen-centric governance.
Despite the emphasis on increasing transparency in the decision-making process in these initial speeches, none of the 10 Agenda Items of this meeting pertained to ways and means of implementing such a consultative policy. Instead all the agenda items were about matters relating to the the regulation and management of the All India Services (IAS, IPS and IFoS) - more about house-keeping issues and less about increased engagement with citizens. E-governance initiatives in Odisha and other States were merely showcased with no indication about discussions for their replication or adoption in other States.
Opportunities for RTI Interventions
Agenda Item Nos. 2 and 7 would be of interest to readers for the purpose of planning RTI interventions. After the Hon'ble Supreme Court directed (3rd attachment) that security of tenure be ensured for IAS, IPS and IFS officers in their posting in the matter of TSR Subramainain & Ors vs Union of India and Ors [JT2013(14)SC124], the DoPT has started seeking quarterly reports on the implementation of these directions in the States. Readers might like to seek information about compliance with these directions by sending RTI applications to the DoPT or the Personnel or General Administration Departments in the States.
Agenda Item No. 7 refers to quarterly vigilance reports that are submitted by State Governments to the DoPT. Karnataka, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir were reminded about their pending reports. I am not sure what information these reports contain and which level of the State administration they cover. Readers might like to submit RTI applications seeking copies of such quarterly reports sent by the State Governments to the DoPT. These documents, if disclosed may help in demanding greater accountability from the State Governments in some respects. Readers might also seek information from their State Governments about action taken for putting in place a pre-legislative consultation policy even though the minutes of the September meeting did not mention this as an action point.
I leave it to the interested readers to draft the RTI applications for seeking access to copies of such documents because it is best to be creative in one's efforts instead of copying somebody's draft.