Activists criticise Tiwari's selection

Speak in one voice against the appointment of the former DoPT secretary as the CIC chief

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Danish Raza | September 30, 2010



The selection of A N Tiwari as the Central Information Commission (CIC) chief has not gone down well with RTI activists across the country.


One of the senior-most Information Commissioners (IC),Tiwari took over as the chief information commissioner on Thursday.


He has replaced Wajahat Habillah who has joined the World Bank as a member of its first appeal board.


Activists have been alleging that in 2005, Tiwari, then a DoPT secretary, selected himself for the post of IC.

“A former DoPT secretary heading the Commission sets a wrong precedent. It is a deliberate attempt of the government to subvert the RTI Act. On one hand it has given us the Act and on the other, it is taking the Act away by appointing such inappropriate people as Information Commissioners,” said Arvind Kejriwal.


“What is the government’s concern? Is the right of A.N. Tiwari to be the Information Commission’s chief because of his seniority or the right of the citizens to have suitable people in the Commission?” added he.


The CIC chief is appointed through a selection committee comprising the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition and a cabinet minister. DoPT acts as a secretariat to the committee. However, the act does not talk about any guidelines or screening procedure in the selection.


Activists have been demanding that the procedure to select the Information Commissioners be made transparent.


“The press and public were kept in the dark about the date and time of the meeting of the Prime Minister’s selection committee when Mr Tiwari was selected for this post. This is definitely a slap on the face of civil society, and we need to think about the implications of this bad precedent,” said Krishna Raj Rao, Mumbai based RTI activist.


Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI said that the process of appointment has been as flawed as always. “It is most opaque. It does not go well with the RTI regime in country.”


Another reason why activists are not happy about the selection is Tiwari’s performance as IC. “His record (as an IC) has not been good. It will be foolish to expect him to work in favour of the Act,” said Manish Sisodia, founder, Kabir. 


Tiwari is due to retire on 26th December 2010.


In June, RTI activists including Arvind Kejriwal highlighted the flaws in selection of ICs.


Information obtained through RTI applications has revealed that applications received by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) for the posts of ICs do not make it to the selection committee.


This, despite the fact that majority of the names received by the DoPT are duly recommended by the chief ministers, cabinet ministers and MPs. The names for selection are put before the selection committee through an agenda note prepared by the DoPT.


According to the information, as many as 15 candidates had applied for the post of ICs in 2005. However, none of these names found mention in the agenda note which was presented to the selection committee.
 

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