Govt denies info on Chief Information Commissioner applicants


The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has received 139 applications for the post of Chief Information Commissioner, which has been vacant for almost two months. However, it has denied a Right to Information (RTI) request seeking further details about the candidates, the search committee members and the short-listing criteria, despite a Supreme Court order directing the government to make such information public.

The Central Information Commission is the highest appellate authority under the RTI Act, and consists of a chief and up to 10 Commissioners. It has been headless since the last chief retired in August, and has been functioning at half strength, with only five Commissioners, even as its backlog crossed 35,000 cases.

Applications invited in July

In July, the DoPT invited applications for the Chief Information Commissioner post. RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj subsequently filed a request for information on the number, names and particulars of the applicants. If a search committee had been set up, she asked for the order for its constitution; the names and designations of its members; dates, agenda and minutes of its meetings; the criteria adopted by it for shortlisting candidates; other documents and files regarding the appointment process; and current status of the process.

In its reply, the DoPT said it received 139 applications within the prescribed time. However, it declined to give out any other information, holding that information relating to particulars of applicants is exempted under section 8(1)(j) for RTI Act, 2005, which aims to protect individual privacy unless the larger public interest is involved.

“As the process of selection is yet to be completed, it would not be conducive to furnish such information in the manner it is sought. No such practice is followed in any other equivalent high level appointments of government,” it said.

In its February 2019 order, the Supreme Ccourt directed that to ensure transparency of Information Commissioner appointments, the Central and State governments should put up “all necessary information” on their website, including particulars of the applicants and composition of the selection committee. “It would also be appropriate for the Search Committee to make the criteria for shortlisting the candidates, public, so that it is ensured that shortlisting is done on the basis of objective and rational criteria,” it stated.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 9:13:48 PM |

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