Bad choice

First Edit

The appointment of Central Information Commissioner A N Tiwary as the Chief Information Commissioner after the expiry of the five-year term of Wajahat Habibullah was highly inappropriate. The choice of Tiwary for the important position was bad not only because it is a stop-gap arrangement but also because his credentials for it are not the best. The CIC’s position is not a promotion post to be made available to information commissioners. Tiwary’s appointment as a commissioner about five years ago was also not proper because at that time he was the secretary in the department of personnel and training which is responsible for the selection of commissioners. There are only three months left in his term as CIC and so there was no good reason to elevate him to the position.

The stop-gap arrangement was made because the government was unable to find a successor to Habibullah. This only shows the casual attitude of the government about filling a crucial position. The fact of Habibullah’s retirement was known  for months and the government had all the time to look for the right person. Appointing a bureaucrat in that position (even as commissioners) is wrong and undesirable because it has an antithetical relationship with the bureaucracy. The RTI Act enables the citizen to penetrate the opaque culture of the bureaucracy and question its wrong acts. To make the bureaucrats themselves preside over the information commission is therefore patently wrong. There are complaints that they delay their decisions or otherwise act to help their former colleagues. This makes a strong case against using these crucial offices as sinecures for retired bureaucrats. Unfortunately the practice is spreading and growing stronger. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu recently appointed retired chief secretaries as chief information commissioners, ignoring protests by RTI activists.

Activists all over the country have also criticised the appointment of Tiwary. It has also been pointed out that some decisions he took as information commissioner did not inspire confidence in his commitment to the spirit of the RTI Act. The Act envisages selection as information commissioners eminent persons with knowledge and experience of work in fields as diverse as law, journalism, education, science and technology, management, etc. But governments select only bureaucrats while they should be the last to be considered. It is again a case of the politician-bureaucrat nexus asserting itself against public interest.

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