'Hire information officials in transparent manner'

The govt has failed to comply with SC order: Activist

RTI activist Lokesh K Batra (retd) shot off a letter to department of personnel and training, ministry of personnel, public grievances and pension, urging it to make the appointment process of information commissioners transparent and in with the Supreme Court order.

On July 18, the department issued guidelines on spreading awareness and capacity building components of the centrally sponsored scheme on improving transparency and accountability in government through effective implementation of Right to Information (RTI) Act for the year 2013-14 to 2015-16.

While welcoming the new guidelines, RTI activist Batra  said in his letter, “We are aware that the process of appointment of ICs in Central Information Commission (CIC) is going on. As far as ‘transparency’ aspect in appointment of ICs is concerned, I am afraid that government has failed to comply with the directions of Supreme Court order in Namit Sharma Vs Union of India case (2012).”

On 16 April 2013, the apex court in its order had declined to stay the operation of the entire judgement for a review petition and given directions on maintaining transparency in the appointment of information commissioners (ICs).

“In the case of appointment of members to the respective commissions from other specified fields, the DoPT in the Centre and the concerned ministry in the states should prepare a panel, after due publicity, empanelling the names proposed at least three
times the number of vacancies existing in the commission,” the court said in its order.

“Such panel should be prepared on a rational basis, and should inevitably form part of the records. The names so empanelled, with the relevant record should be placed before the said high powered committee,” said the court.

It stated that appointment process should be carried on the basis of a rational criteria and the reason for selecting candidates should be recorded. The advertisement issued for appointments should not be restricted to any particular class of persons, the court had said.

“Complete information, material and comparative data of the empanelled persons should be made available to the high powered committee. Needless to mention that the high powered committee itself has to adopt a fair and transparent process for consideration of the empanelled persons for its final recommendation,” the order said.

Apart from urging the department concerned to start the process of transparent appointments, Batra suggested the government to suo-motu place information such as name of the applicants who have applied for the post of IC, sequence of procedure and criterion being followed for shortlisting candidates etc.

He said details of members of the search or screening committee constituted should also be made public and measures should be taken to ensure that candidates recommended by any person other than the search or screening committee are not considered in public domain.

“There have been instances in the past where selected candidates have been recommended by persons other than search or screening committee,” he said.

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