CIC appointments shrouded in secrecy: activists to PM

CIC appointments shrouded in secrecy: activists to PM

Transparency activists have been demanding that the government should immediately fill vacancies in the CIC. Reuters file photo.

Finding fault with the government's exercise to appoint Information Commissioners in Central Information Commission (CIC), a group of transparency activists have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that the procedure of short-listing candidates has been "shrouded in secrecy".

The letter said the advertisements and the accompanying notifications issued by the government inviting applications for vacant posts in the CIC were not in keeping with the RTI Act as they did not specify the salaries, allowances and other conditions of service and tenure of information commissioners.

"We are writing to express our strong reservations about the process of inviting applications and shortlisting candidates followed by the government, which we believe has compromised the appointment procedure," said the letter signed by former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj among others.

The letter also signed by activists Shekhar Singh, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Venkatesh Nayak, Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog, Pradip Pradhan, Amrita Johri and Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra said that the notification not mentioning tenure and salaries would have dissuaded many people of eminence from applying.

"As a result, the selection committee will not have the benefit on selecting from a comprehensive pool of candidates," the letter, also copied to Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge who is also a CIC selection committee member, said.

Accusing the government of stonewalling transparency, the activists said even basic information about applications received in response to the advertisements and details about the functioning of the search committee, being denied under the RTI Act.

"Lack of transparency in the appointment process of information commissioners in the CIC would erode public trust in the institution, which plays a pivotal role in the implementation of the RTI Act. We, therefore, urge you to ensure that all vacancies in the Central Information Commission are filled in a transparent, time-bound manner as per the provisions of the RTI Act," they said.

At present, the CIC functions with just three Information Commissioners after the chief retired late last month. The CIC is composed of a Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President.

Transparency activists have been demanding that the government should immediately fill vacancies in the CIC. They had said that the government knew about the impending vacancies but did not take measures to fill it when the members retired.