Skip to main content

Govt of India "deliberately" undermining selection of information commissioners

Counterview Desk
Protesting against Government of India issuing a second advertisement for the appointment of four information commissioners (ICs) in the Central Information Commission (CIC), several concerned citizens*, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have said, the ad, as also the accompanying notification, suffers from the same defect which existed in the earlier one – it does not mention the salary and tenure of ICs, as specified in the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
This has been done, states the letter, despite the fact that, in December 2018, the concerned citizens had brought to the notice of the selection committee, headed by the Prime Minister, and responsible for recommending names of Central Information Commissioners, that the ad that was issued by the Government of India for appointing the Chief and four ICs, was “defective” on similar grounds.
Pointing out that, even then, four ICs were appointed, and an existing Chief was elevated, the letter regrets, the second advertisement has made “a complete mockery of the appointment process”, adding, “In order to ensure that people of eminence, who work independently without fear or favour, are appointed to the information commission, the RTI Act guarantees an exalted status and fixed tenure to information commissioners.”
Copies of the letter have been sent to two other members of the selection committee – Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Text of the letter:

We are writing to express our strong reservations about the process followed by the government for inviting applications and short listing candidates for the position of information commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC).
In 2018, when the government advertised for the post of the Chief and information commissioners of the CIC, the advertisements and the accompanying notifications inviting applications for the posts, were not in keeping with the RTI Act as they did not specify the salaries, allowances, other conditions of service and tenure of information commissioners, as provided for in the law.
We had written a letter dated December 10, 2018 to bring this defect to your notice. However, despite our letter pointing out the serious flaws, the selection of four information commissioners and the Chief was finalised without any corrective action being taken.
We are shocked to note that, once again, the advertisement and accompanying notifications issued by the government on January 4, 2019, for the remaining four vacant posts in the CIC are flawed and defective.
The notification (no. F. NO. 4/16/2018-IR) in point 5 states: 
“5. The salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Information Commissioner shall be as may be specified at the time of appointment of the selected candidate.” This makes a complete mockery of the appointment process. Empowered and independent institutions such as the Information Commissions play a crucial role in safeguarding and furthering fundamental rights of citizens of the country. In order to ensure that people of eminence, who work independently without fear or favour, are appointed to the information commission, the RTI Act guarantees an exalted status and fixed tenure to information commissioners.
The vagueness of the advertisement appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the selection process. It would be unreasonable to expect people of eminence to apply for a post without the knowing the terms and conditions of service.
In fact, in an on-going case, the Supreme Court took serious note of the subversion of the appointment process resulting from issuing of flawed advertisements and complete lack of transparency in the process of selection. In its order dated December 13, 2018, the Court directed the Central government to put on the website names of the search committee members, names of the candidates shortlisted and the criteria followed for selection.
It is a matter of grave concern that the aforementioned directions were not complied with by the government for almost a month. The information was uploaded on the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) website only after the appointment of the Chief and four commissioners was already made.
Opacity and vagueness in the process of appointments seriously erodes public trust in institutions. We urge the committee to take immediate steps to ensure that the government suitably rectifies and re-issues the advertisement for the post of four information commissioners, in compliance with the RTI Act, so that the committee may have the benefit of selecting from a comprehensive list of appropriate and eminent candidates.
Further, the directions of the Supreme Court regarding transparency must be complied with, in letter and spirit, for all appointments of information commissioners. We hope the committee will urgently take note of the issues highlighted above and take appropriate action.
---
*Anjali Bhardwaj, Aruna Roy, Wajahat Habibullah, Shekhar Singh, Shailesh Gandhi, Nikhil Dey, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Venkatesh Nayak, Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog, Pradip Pradhan, Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd), and Amrita Johri

Comments

TRENDING

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.