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GoI 'violating' Supreme Court directions: Information commissioners' appointment

By Our Representative
Well-known right to information (RTI) activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri have alleged that the Government of India (GoI) is continuing to violate Supreme Court directions on appointment of information commissioners to the Central Information Commission (CIC), India’s RTI watchdog.
Referring to the status report dated April 24, 2020 filed by the GoI in the ongoing Supreme Court case regarding non-appointment of information commissioners and lack of transparency in the appointment process, they said, in the last hearing on December 16, 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the GoI to complete the process of appointment of information commissioners to the CIC within a period of three months.
“Even though the time limit set by the Supreme Court expired on March 16, 2020, the Central government has failed to fill the vacant posts”, the activists, who filed a petition in the Supreme Court for transparent appointment of information commissions, said in a statement.
“As of today (April 29, 2020), four posts of information commissioners continue to be vacant even as the backlog of appeals/complaints has risen to nearly 36,000 up from 33,701 at the time of the last hearing in December 2019”, they said.
Pointing out that in December 2019, the CIC was functioning with seven commissioners, including the chief, and four posts of information commissioners were vacant, the activists said, “On January 11, 2020, the then chief information commissioner retired. Till March 5, 2020, the CIC was functioning without a chief and with only six commissioners.”
“On March 6, a serving information commissioner, Bimal Julka, was appointed as the Chief while Amita Pandove was appointed as an information commissioner. Therefore, four posts continue to be vacant despite the directions of the Supreme Court”, they added.
Other than names of members of search committee and advertisement, no other details have been placed in public domain
“Further”, the activists said, “The Supreme Court had directed the government to ensure transparency in the process of appointment by putting up the names of the members of the Search Committee and complying with the earlier directions regarding timely and transparency appointments to the CIC given in its February 15, 2019 judgment.”
“The judgment inter-alia required disclosure of the agenda and minutes of search and selection committee meetings, criteria adopted by the search committee for shortlisting candidates, the advertisement issued for the vacancies, the list of applicants, notification of appointments, file notings and correspondence related to appointments”, they added.
According to the activists, “It is pertinent to note that other than the names of the members of the search committee and the advertisement, no other details have been placed in the public domain in violation of the directions of the Supreme Court.”
The activists commented, “Despite the blatant violation of the order in terms of four vacancies still remaining, point 5 of the status report of the Central government states that ‘the process of appointment in respect of Information Commissioners in Central Information Commission has been completed within three months as directed by this Court in its Order dated December 16, 2019.”

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