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

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.