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Supreme Court procedure 'not followed' in selecting chief of India's RTI watchdog

Anjali Bhardwaj (right) during a protest in defence of RTI
By Our Representative
A civil rights organization has protested against the February 18 selection of the chief of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and one information commissioner of CIC, saying, the procedure followed for selecting them go against the directions of the Supreme Court order of February 2019.
On February 18, 2020, the PM-led selection committee reportedly finalised the selection of the chief information commissioner and one information commissioner of the CIC. Bimal Julka, a serving information commissioner, was selected as the chief and Anita Pandove as an information commissioner. Four posts of information commissioners continue to remain vacant.
A statement by right to information (RTI) activists Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri on behalf of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan, said, "The court in February 2019 had directed that the particulars of applicants, the list of short-listed candidates, the composition of the search and selection committees, and the criteria for shortlisting candidates must be made public."
However, it regretted, "A perusal of the Department of Personnel and Training website shows that information about the particulars of applicants, names of short-listed candidates and the criteria for short-listing are not available publicly. Only the composition of the Search Committee has been put up on the website. This appears to be a violation of the Supreme Court directions."
Further, the statement said, "The names of candidates recommended by the Search Committee were not shared with the leader of opposition, who is a member of the selection panel, prior to the meeting of the selection committee. This raises serious concerns about the robustness of the deliberative process in the appointment of the chief and the information commissioner."
Pointing out that the post of the chief of India's top RTI watchdog is vacant for nearly 40 days, while four other posts of information commissioners are vacant for more than two years (since January 2018), the statement said, "The current backlog of appeals/complaints in the CIC is 34,897", adding, "The selections have been made pursuant to a December 2019 Supreme Court order wherein the Court had directed the Central government to complete the process of appointment of commissioners within 3 months."
A petition related to the non-appointment of information commissioners, filed by Bhardwaj and others, is pending in the Supreme Court since 2018.

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