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

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

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.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

Top academic claims he warned farmer leaders of Hindutva plot on Jan 26 morning

By Shamsul Islam* The photographs here show a Hindutva protagonist, Deep Sidhu, with his real masters. He is said to be the culprit who tried to derail the historic farmers' struggle by putting up a religious flag at Red Fort on January 26, with no Delhi police which works under the Indian home minister Amit Shah, a senior RSS cadre who is often described 'Iron Man' by Hindutva camp-followers. 

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.