The Right to Information Act has virtually proved the transparency it promised after a reserved category candidate in Chhattisgarh extensively used it to expose chinks in state Public Service Commission examinations.
Information gathered by Varsha Dongre, who appeared in the 2003 state civil services examination conducted by the PSC, led to registration of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and also suspension of PSC Chairman Ashok Darbari, a former director general of police.
Subsequently, the bureau, which probed into the complaint lodged by Dongre, found irregularities in the scaling process and recommended cancellation of appointments to 20 posts, including four posts of deputy collectors.
"The General Administration Department and Law Department are examining the ACB recommendations and suitable action will be taken in due course," Chief Minister Raman Singh told newspersons few days ago.
Dongre felt that recent developments in the Chhattisgarh PSC were sufficient to counter any attempt by public service commissions to insulate themselves from public scrutiny.
"The RTI Act is a silver-lining," she told UNI adding, that it was only on the information and documents secured from PSC under the act that such irregularities could be brought to the public domain.
Her problems began when the PSC declared the results in 2005. She was shocked to learn that despite scoring 1290.41 marks out of a possible 2250, her name did not figure in the selection list.
"As I was surfing the PSC Web site, I came to know that another scheduled caste candidate, who got 1276 marks, had been selected for the post of Excise sub-inspector. Then I decided to use the RTI Act to seek the detailed list and the grounds on which I did not figure in the selection list," she said.
Dongre said the PSC refused to part with information sought under the provisions of the RTI Act forcing her to approach the State Information Commission.
After Chief Information Commissioner A K Vijayvargiya ordered to supply the relevant details, the PSC provided the 'information' stating that she had not filled the option for an excise sub-inspector.
However, Dongre claimed that in her application she had also opted for the post of Excise sub-inspector and asked a copy of it under the RTI Act. This led to another battle with the PSC and once again it was resolved with the intervention of the State Information Commission.
As Dongre's case came to light, a number of candidates who had appeared in the 2003 examinations too went in for securing copies of their respective application forms and other relevant documents under the RTI Act. The affected candidates also formed a state level body, PSC Candidates' Sangharsh Morcha, which is now fighting for justice.
As the agitation against the PSC spilled into the streets, former Member of Parliament and senior BJP leader Chandra Shekhar Sahu resigned as member PSC, demanding a detailed inquiry into the affairs of the state PSC claiming that there was 'sufficient material' in the information secured by the candidates under the RTI Act to order such a probe.
Subsequently, the then PSC chairman Ashok Darbari, a former DGP, was suspended from the post, pending an inquiry into the matter, and senior member Khelan Ram Jangade was entrusted with the charge of PSC chairman.
Meanwhile, Dongre also filed complaints against the PSC and its officials and the state Anti-Corruption Bureau had registered a case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act.
PSC candidates Sangharsh Morcha president Ravindra Singh told UNI that documents secured under the RTI Act have revealed that PSC officials had misused their official position and selected candidates of lower merit.
"We have moved the high court mainly on the strength of the documents secured under the RTI Act," Singh said adding, that the hearing was in an advanced stage and a decision was expected soon.
State Public Service Commission, on the other hand, felt that increase in number of applications under the RTI Act, investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and other related controversies were affecting the normal functioning of the commission.