Cloud over CIC post

Transparent selection demanded for information commissioners

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Thursday 31 December 2009

DownToEarthas the Centre scans through curriculum vitae of retired bureaucrats to select the new chief information commissioner (cic), a group of rti activists have sent a legal notice to the government seeking transparency in the selection process. They have asked the government not to appoint the new cic till rules for the selection are in place. They are also demanding that government should consider non-bureaucrats for the posts of cic and information commissioners.

At present, retired bureaucrats generally hold the posts of information commissioners. The Right to Information Act (rti) of 2005 does not talk of advertising and shortlisting candidates before appointment.At the central level, the selection committee for the post of cic comprises the prime minister, the leader of opposition and the Union law minister. Hence, under the rti Act, the authorities are obliged to publish relevant facts associated with the selection procedure, stated the legal notice. We want the government to comply with its own mandatory disclosure provision as per the rti A ct and frame rules for transparent selection, said Krishnaraj Rao, an rti activist from Mumbai. The rules should have been framed within 120 days of the enactment of the rti law, he added.

The activists issued the legal notice after the Delhi High Court dismissed their petition on November 18 saying it cannot give any directions to the government to change its procedure for appointment. But the judges encouraged the activists to keep the pressure on the government by mobilizing public opinion. Activists now plan to approach the court as the government failed to respond to the legal notice within the stipulated one weeks time.

Ad hoc appointments

With applications piling up for the post of the Maharashtra information commissioner, RTI activists allege a politician-bureaucrat nexus is at work to kill the spirit of the RTI Act. A government reply to an RTI query filed by activist Vihar Dhurve shows 24 of the 60 applicants are retired bureaucrats. Some applications came with recommendations from ministers and opposition leaders. The chief ministers office demands such recommendations, said Dhurve. For instance, applicant Rajendra Chaturvedi, who served as the director general of police in Madhya Pradesh, was recommended by the former Union human resource development minister Arjun Singh. Applicant Bhagwat R Patil was recommended by former state minister Swarup Singh Naik who was convicted in a forest scam case in 2006.

Applications by J S Kharat bore recommendation letters from former state minister Balasaheb Thorat and former Union minister Oscar Fernandes, and Rama Das who was with the Central Administrative Tribunal was recommended by former opposition leader in the state Ramdas Kadam. RTI activists alleged that appointments are made arbitrarily. The posts are never advertised. Hence general public is unaware of the vacancies and never gets to apply. Bureaucrats inform each other and select a retired bureaucrat, said Dhurve. He has filed another RTI application with the chief ministers office asking what action the minister has taken on these applications and the details of the public consultation process for the selection.

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