Congress alleges violations in Central Information Commission selection
Congress’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleged that transparency was not followed in the selection process and the apex court guidelines were violated by the government by not making public the names of the shortlisted candidates and the criteria for their selection.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, gave a dissent note earlier this month over the process of selection in the Central Information Commission (CIC), alleging that the government violated Supreme Court guidelines in the appointment process, people familiar with the matter said.
Chowdhury did not object to the name of Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha on the panel, but questioned the inclusion of journalist Uday Mahurkar in the list of probable candidates for the information commissioner’s post.
Sinha, 62, a former high commissioner to the United Kingdom, is slated to be the new CIC chairperson. He will succeed Bimal Jhulka who retired in August this year.
Chowdhury raised objections to Mahurkar’s name, saying he had not even applied for the post, the people quoted above said.
The meeting of the three-member selection committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met twice this month – October 7 and 24 -- to discuss and finalise the name of the CIC chairperson and information commissioners. Union home minister Amit Shah and Chowdhury are the other two members. Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) minister Jitendra Singh was also present in the meetings.
As per the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the appointment of commissioners in the CIC is made by a committee, headed by the Prime Minister, and comprising a cabinet minister and the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. In states, the appointments are made by the chief minister, a cabinet minister and the leader of the opposition in the assembly.
In his dissent note, according to the people quoted above, Chowdhury cited the Supreme Court guidelines in a case filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj last year. He alleged that transparency was not followed in the selection process and the apex court guidelines were violated by the government by not making public the names of the shortlisted candidates and the criteria for their selection.
In all, seven candidates were shortlisted for information commissioners.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court had asked the search committee to make public the names of shortlisted candidates and the criteria adopted for shortlisting such people.
The top court had also observed that retired bureaucrats were primarily being appointed as commissioners, and said it is difficult to fathom that only persons belonging to public service are found more competent and suitable than those belonging to other categories.
“Chowdhury’s objections were not on the name of the CIC chairperson but to the non-transparent procedure adopted in the selection process in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines on the matter,” said the people quoted above.