No transparency in selection of information commissioners: RTI activists

Names received by DoPT do not make it to the selection committee

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Danish Raza | June 30, 2010



The applications received by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) for the post of information commissioners (ICs) do not make it to the selection committee comprising of the prime minister, leader of the opposition and a cabinet minister.

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. Noted RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal obtained this information through RTI applications filed in the PMO and 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.

In 2008, DoPT received three applications for four posts of ICs which were lying vacant. These included the application of Ravi Shankar Singh, senior journalist with The Tribune newspaper. Singh’s candidature was recommended by Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Union minister of state Kumari Selja.

In 2009, 14 candidates had applied for the post of ICs. Nine had the recommendation of Wajahat Habibullah, the current chief of the central information commission. Only Sushma Singh’s name was considered and then cleared by the selection committee.

“There are two questions here. One, on what basis these names were rejected and two, who gave the names which finally reached the selection committee?” said Kejriwal.

“What emerges is that the DoPT has become de facto selection or rejection committee. It rejects the names of all those who apply and then prepares its own list of names. Also, the selection committee has been reduced to an endorsement committee of DoPT,” added he.

According to the RTI Act, 2005, the ICs are appointed through a selection committee comprising of 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. As many as 22 ICs across the country are due to retire in the next few months. This includes 11 chief information commissioners.

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