The office of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) has once again fallen vacant with Bimal Julka’s term ending last week. The important position is paramount to ensure transparency in governance and therefore needs to be immediately filled up. Although Bimal served as the CIC for only six months, he had infused energy in the body that streamlined its overall functioning. Ideally speaking there should be 11 members in the Commission but over the years, its strength has been depleting with the government failing to fill up vacancies. To make matters worse, the Information Commissions in at least half a dozen states are also not operational since state governments have paid little heed in finding suitable candidates to be its members. Although, the Information Commissions have been viewed as the parking lot for accommodating retired bureaucrats, yet there have been some like Bimal who have taken the job seriously so that they could make a difference.
It is vital that the Centre does not allow the position to remain headless for too long as it could affect its overall credibility. Bimal was able to make the mark since he understood how the civil administration functions, having served in key positions during his eventful tenure in the IAS. A 1979 batch officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, he caught the attention of political bosses when he was the Collector of Guna. What impressed leaders cutting across party lines was the objectivity and neutrality with which he dealt with sensitive matters. His hallmark while doing field postings has been that he was accessible and able to diffuse tension without ever imposing prohibitory orders. He was considered close to Madhavrao Scindia but when Digvijai Singh took over as the Chief Minister, he did not hesitate in appointing Bimal as the director of Public Relations in Bhopal, keeping in view his impartial way of looking at things.
The hallmark of any successful babu is when he is able to carry out his task without ruffling feathers. Bimal precisely did that and in recognition of his capacity to deliver, the Manmohan Singh government appointed him as the secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, an assignment in which he continued with the NDA dispensation, post 2014 victory, asking him to remain in his position. The late Arun Jaitley, who had immense trust in the officer, regularly took his advice on how to deal with contentious issues. It was Arun Jaitley again, who inducted him in the CIC as an Information Commissioner when Bimal superannuated in 2015. Subsequently, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah handpicked him for being made the CIC, when the vacancy occurred, given his administrative acumen and prowess.
Bimal was amongst the academically accomplished students of the psychology department and achieved several distinctions while being a student of the Zakir Hussain Delhi College and the Delhi University psychology department. He will be missed in the CIC as also by his colleagues in the bureaucracy.