The government on Tuesday handed over a status report to the Supreme Court on the progress in the process of appointment to the Central Information Commission (CIC) even as PIL petitioners alleged that the procedure followed was arbitrary.
A three-judge Bench, led by Justice A.K. Sikri, took the status report on record and ordered that a copy be handed over to RTI activists-petitioners Anjali Bhardwaj, Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri, represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva. They have agreed to file a response to the report in three days.
The government may file a rejoinder to the petitioners’ reply by January 28. The court scheduled the next hearing for January 29.
During the hearing, the petitioners submitted that the appointment process of Information Commissioners to the Central Information Commission happened in an “arbitrary manner as the search committee, had in violation of its mandate, short-listed persons who had not even applied for the post in response to advertisements.”
‘No rational criteria’
They argued, through Mr. Bhushan, that the “minutes of the search committee revealed that no rational criteria were adopted on the basis of which the short-listing was done.” Further, the minutes showed “the completely ad hoc manner of functioning of the search committee,” they said.
People who were appointed members of the committee, also applied for the post and had to be subsequently replaced, they submitted. One of the persons who has been appointed, Suresh Chandra, had not even applied for the post, they argued.
The petitioners also alleged that the government has “once again issued a defective advertisement on January 4, 2019 for the remaining four vacant posts in the CIC.” “The advertisement/notification did not specify the salaries and tenure of information commissioners, even though these are defined in the RTI Act,” Ms. Bhardwaj said.
The government’s status report said the names of the members of the search committee, the names of the shortlisted candidates, the criteria followed for selection, files of the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners have been uploaded on the DoPT website in compliance with a December 13, 2018 order of the Supreme Court.