Sudhir Bhargava new CIC, government appoints four information commissioners
The government has appointed Sudhir Bhargava as new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) along with four new Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission. The body had been functioning with just three of them as against a sanctioned strength of 11, including the CIC. Highly placed sources said Bhargava, who's currently the Information Commissioner, has been appointed as new chief of the panel.
President approves appointment of the four new Information Commissioners
President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the appointment of former IFS officer Yashwardhan Kumar Sinha, former IRS officer Vanaja N Sarna, former IAS Neeraj Kumar Gupta, and former Law Secretary Suresh Chandra as Information Commissioners (IC) in the Central Information Commission, a government order said.
Sinha was earlier India's High Commissioner in the UK
Sinha is a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer who was the High Commissioner of India in the United Kingdom. An alumnus of St Michael's High School in Patna and St Stephen's College in Delhi, Sinha had served a number of important postings in the Ministry of External Affairs including the crucial Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division, which he headed for four years as Additional Secretary.
Vanaja N Sarna is the only woman in the organization
The only woman in the organization, Vanaja N Sarna, a 1980-batch Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Excise) officer, who was the Chief of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). Suresh Chandra, an Indian Legal Service officer, retired as Union law secretary this year, and also was the private secretary to the then Law Minister Arun Jaitley between 2002 and 2004.
All bureaucrats, appointed by the government, have retired this year
Neeraj Kumar Gupta, a 1982-batch IAS officer, was Secretary in the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management. All the bureaucrats appointed by the government have retired this year. After recent retirements of Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur and Information Commissioners Yashovardhan Azad, Sridhar Acharyulu and Amitava Bhattacharyya, the Commission, the highest adjudicating authority in RTI matters, was left with three Information Commissioners.
SC had directed Center to maintain transparency in Commission appointments
The retirement of the commissioners prompted activists to approach Supreme Court on the issue of vacancies. The SC had asked the Center and states to maintain transparency in appointments of CIC and Information Commissioners, and upload the details of search committees and applicants on website.
Petitioners allege government hasn't complied with the SC order
Commenting on the appointment process, Commodore Lokesh Batra, one of the petitioners in the case, said the government has failed to comply with the Supreme Court directions of posting the details on the website. During the hearing, the Center had told the top court that the search committee has shortlisted names for the post of CIC, and a final decision will be taken soon.
65 applications for CIC and 280 for ICs received: Government
A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer, and R Subhash Reddy asked the Center to put on the website details of the search committee for CIC and ICs. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for Center, had informed the court that a total of 65 applications were received for the CIC post, and 280 for the post of four ICs.
Notification to be issued after posts get filled up: ASG
Anand had said after these posts are filled up, notification will be issued for inviting applications for remaining posts of ICs. The Center seems to have ignored the plea of former Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu who had called for adequate representation of non-bureaucrats in the Commission in accordance with the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He had also written to the President regarding this.
Appointing only former bureaucrats breaches transparency law: Acharyulu
Citing Section 12 (5) of the RTI Act, Acharyulu had written that the Act provides for selecting people of eminence, having experience in law, science, and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media and governance. If the government selects more number of former bureaucrats for these posts, it will be a breach of the letter and spirit of the transparency law, he argued.
Section 12(5) states CIC, ICs should be prominent public figure
Acharyulu further argued that appointments of only bureaucrats will be a breach of particularly that of Section 12(5) of the RTI Act, which may not stand the scrutiny by the judiciary. Section 12(5) states that CIC, ICs shall be persons from eminence in public life.