Activists and members of civil society have called on the government to hold public consultations for appointing commissioners to the State Information Commission (SIC) in a transparent manner.

In a letter to the State Chief Secretary and the Public and Administrative Reforms Secretary, the signatories noted that the Chief Information Commissioner was scheduled to retire in August this year and another commissioner would retire in October. Another commissioner had retired from service in 2009.

Though there was no specified number of commissioners to be appointed, the workload of the SIC had prompted the government earlier to appoint four commissioners in 2008 in addition to the three commissioners appointed in 2006. Hence it could be expected that new commissioners would be appointed, the activists said.

The signatories include Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan; Henri Tiphagne of People’s Watch; V. Vasanthi Devi, former vice-chancellor, Manonmaniam Sundaranar University; Ossie Fernandes of Human Rights Advocacy and Research Foundation; L. M. Menezes of Transparency International India; advocates, activists and professors.

“The existing procedure is arbitrary, narrow and does not have any element of public participation,” the letter noted. With all seven commissioners appointed until now being associated with the government, the letter said the provision to select people from the fields of “law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media,” specified in Section 15(5) of the Right to Information Act, had not been utilised.

Calling on the government to take the opportunity to be a precedent-setter in creating a transparent process of appointing Information Commissioners, the letter called for public consultations to evolve a fair methodology for the appointment process.

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