Choose other than former bureaucrats in CIC: Acharyulu

Acharyulu, who retired in November last year from the CIC, also demanded that the government should publicise material examined for appointment in the transparency body as well as government institutions like the CBI, where the recent sacking of Alok Verma as Director had triggered a controversy. DH File Photo

Former Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has shot off a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind against the government stacking the Central Information Commission (CIC) with former bureaucrats by "ignoring" people from other walks of life for the post.

Acharyulu, who retired in November last year from the CIC, also demanded that the government should publicise material examined for appointment in the transparency body as well as government institutions like the CBI, where the recent sacking of Alok Verma as the director had triggered a controversy.

The government is in the process of appointing four Information Commissioners in the CIC, and has issued an advertisement, which activists said were not in keeping with the RTI Act as they did not specify the salaries, allowances, other conditions of service and tenure of information commissioners, as provided for in the law. It had recently appointed four Information Commissioners, all former bureaucrats.

"Most of the times the commissioners are selected only from one field — administration —ignoring all other walks of social life mentioned in the RTI Act, which I have advocated in my earlier letters. Kindly ensure that this government selects suitable persons from all those areas without confining only to former bureaucrats," Acharyulu said in his letter.

However, he said he "did not mean anything against" the selected eminent personalities.

At present, the CIC has a chief and six Information Commissioners, all of whom are former bureaucrats. Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava was Social Justice and Development Secretary while Information Commissioners Bimal Jhulka was Director in Commerce Ministry and D P Sinha was an IPS officer.

Other Information Commissioners Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, a former IFS officer, is a former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, while Vanaja N Sarna was the Chairperson of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). N K Gupta was the Secretary in Finance Ministry while another member Suresh Chandra is a former Law Secretary.

"I am compelled to seek repeatedly your Excellency’s intervention to ensure transparency in the process of appointing the guardians of transparency — the Central Information Commissioners and ask the government to select only those eminent persons from all the fields, who had credibility and commitment proven by their acts for transparency and good governance in their field of activity," Acharyulu said.

Referring to the sacking of Verma as the CBI Director, he said one of the Selection Committee members Mallikarjun Kharge had demanded "complete information", including all reports, for taking a decision.

"Undoubtedly the Committee has the power to remove the director as confirmed by the bench of Supreme Court, but is it not necessary to disclose all material reports considered for removal to be made available to the public in general and members of the committee including Kharge in particular?" he said.

Citing the Section of the RTI Act which mandates voluntary disclosure of all appointments, he asked, "why is the government leaving the people with serious dearth of information about happenings in CBI and appointments in CIC?"

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Choose other than former bureaucrats in CIC: Acharyulu

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