Secrecy over selection process irks RTI activists

Not only has the NDA government not appointed a Chief Information Commissioner for the last seven months, but has also said it cannot share any information about the selection process, Right To Information activists revealed on Monday.

In response to a request for the minutes of the search committee’s meeting, the Personnel Ministry has confirmed that two meetings were held this year, but claimed that no minutes of the meeting were maintained.

Taking serious objection to this, leading RTI campaigner Aruna Roy called it “the most closed government I have ever seen” and said that “sidestepping accountability by denying access to the public about the process of decision-making is completely undemocratic.”

Maintaining a paper trail was the hallmark of a transparent government and the only way to get accountability, she added.

“If we do not know what is happening inside, we are entering the most dangerous time of our lives,” Ms. Roy said.

By not appointing a Chief Information Commissioner to replace Rajiv Mathur, who retired in August 2014, the number of pending appeals has shot up at the Central Information Commission (CIC), according to Anjali Bhardwaj of the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information. There are now 37,800 appeals pending before the CIC, of which 13,318 are before the missing Chief Information Commissioner’s bench, and relate chiefly to the Ministry of Defence, the Human Resource Development ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office, she added.

“We are increasingly convinced that the delay is not procedural but deliberate,” Ms. Roy said.

The activists also criticised the recent CIC ruling on political parties in which it expressed its inability to get the parties to comply with its order.

“It is absolutely the CIC’s responsibility to get its orders enforced. When I headed it, I often worked with other bodies like the Auditor General’s office to get my orders enforced,” former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

The NCPRI is considering moving court against the order and will write to the CIC asking it to recall its order, Nikhil Dey of the NCPRI said. The NCPRI also criticised the government’s proposed amendments to the Lokpal Bill and the rumoured amendments to the Whistleblower’s Bill, which it said would dilute the two laws.

“If we do not know what is happening inside, we are entering the most dangerous time of our lives”

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