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

Missed call drive for VVPAT verification follows online plea to "pressure" poll panel

By Our Representative
Several political activists have begun a new campaign, asking concerned citizens to give a missed call on 9667655855 to “support the demand that 2019 Loksabha elections must be declared only after verification of 50% electronic voting machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) receipts.” The effort, supported by civil society networks across India, is meant to "further pressure" India's election machinery to ensure that the poll outcome becomes more transparent.

Now, top Gujarat "litterateur" close to Modi says: Godse was patriot, so was Gandhi

By Rajiv Shah
A little over a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a patriot saying he would never forgive her for the remark, a top Sangh Parivar ideologue, known to close to Modi in Gujarat, has supported her, saying her statement should be seen “within a context.” Thakur won from Bhopal by more than 3.5 lakh votes defeating her nearest rival, veteran Congressman and ex-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh.

Opposition refuses to legally challenge EVMs amidst plans of "back to ballot" protest

Counterview Desk
Even as opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly to rig polls is growing, a group of prominent citizens who have come together to form the EVM Virodhi Rashtriya Jan Andolan has controversially called for a national protest against EVMs on May 30, demanding future elections should be held only on ballot paper.

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.

It's now official: Akshay Kumar has not been conferred honorary Canadian citizenship

By Our Representative
It is now official. Super-star Akshay Kumar has not been conferred any honorary citizenship by Canadian authorities, as claimed by him ahead of the 2019 elections. In reply to a query by Roshan Shah, who is a Canadian citizen living in Waterloo, Ontario, and belongs to Ahmedabad, the country’s authorities dealing with issues related with immigration, refugees and citizenship in Canada have said that only six persons have so far been granted honorary citizenship.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad "declared support" to two-nation theory in 1937, followed by Jinnah three years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

If EC's credibility is under question, shouldn't one "assume" EVMs might be tampered?

Counterview Desk
Gauhar Raza, scientist, documentary film maker and poet; senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); military veteran Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury (retd); and Sucheta De and Sandeep Saurav of the All India Students' Association (AISA), have asked “individuals, organisations and people's movements” to send their endorsement to an appeal they have prepared on Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

Govt of India overestimated GDP by 2.5%, must restore reputational damage: Ex-CEA

By Rajiv Shah
Top economist Arvind Subramanian has said that changes brought about by the Government of India in data sources and methodology for estimating the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) since 2011-12 “has led to a significant overestimation of growth”. While official estimates place annual average GDP growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 at about 7 percent, the actual growth may have been 4½ percent, ranging from 3 ½ to 5 ½ percent during the period, he adds.

Common thread of Modi, political Hinduism, nationalism? 'Contest' of ideas isn't over

By Salman Khurshid*
Losing the 2019 election and that too in a somewhat extreme manner has confronted us with unexpected challenges: Our leadership has naturally taken it very hard and to heart but with suggested options that we cannot imagine or contemplate. Hopefully the emotions will settle soon and give us the direction to pick up the pieces and march again.

Will minorities in India be 2nd class citizens? Wake up call: Be a 'communicating' Church

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
India today is at a defining moment of her history. There is so much that has taken place in the past five years (and particularly in the last ten days)- that several citizens of the country are genuinely concerned about the future of the country! Will democracy survive? Will key elements of the Constitution be changed?