Protect CIC From Vacancies & Appointment Of Former Bureaucrats: Former CIC Prof. Sridhar Acharyulu To President
Former Central Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu has written a letter to President of India Ram Nath Kovind, demanding that the Central Information Commission (CIC) be protected from being diluted through vacancies and increased appointment of former bureaucrats.
The letter states, “Your Excellency, the nation looks up to you with a fond hope to strengthen the Right to Information Act by appointing right persons to the CIC from fields prescribed in that statute, besides protecting the Right to Information Act from the attempts to dilute it by undesirable amendment and also from tactics like starving by non-appointment or filling it with majority of former bureaucrats.”
The letters brings to the attention of the President the fact that Chief Information Commissioner Mr. Radha Krishna Mathur, and three Commissioners – Prof. Acharyulu, Mr. Yashovardhan Azad and Mr. A Bhattacharyya retired in the last week of November 2018. This increased the vacancies in CIC, leaving it to work with a bare minimum three commissioners against a sanctioned strength of 11.
Prof. Acharyulu then asserts that the vacancies should be addressed as soon as possible, stating, “The Government of India should have completed process of appointing the Chief Information Commissioner before the retirement of Shri Radha Krishna Mathur to be ready to take over the administration of the Commission without any gap, because the RTI Act has not envisaged any vacancy in that high position at any point of the time. The Commission has experienced absence of administration for several months as the Government did not appoint Chief Information Commissioner, three years ago, after retirement of the then Chief.
“Unfortunately now also that position is left vacant since 22nd November 2018. Similarly leaving seven positions of CICs also will lead to increase in the pendency of second appeals/complaints. The delay in information amounts to denial of information and delay in information justice also means its denial.”
The letter acknowledges that the government is planning to convene a meeting of the Selection Committee on December 11. Prof. Acharyulu then calls on the President to consider the following:
- Appointment of an eminent person from a field other than administration. In case a retired bureaucrat is appointed nevertheless, it suggests that the government should ensure that the appointee has “credentials of integrity, commitment towards transparency and has never supported or promoted any kind of secrecy in administration”.
- Appointment of another former bureaucrat for these posts would be “breach of letter and spirit of transparency law and more particularly that of Section 12(5) of RTI Act, which may not stand the scrutiny by the Judiciary”.
- Complete independence of new Commissioners, as regards term, status and salary, so that their term, status and salary is not “as prescribed” by the Central government.
- Absence of government interference in the functioning of the Central Information Commission.
- Shelving of RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
- Prompt filing of vacancies, so that there is no gap between retirement and appointment.
As per reports, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and civil society activists Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Shekhar Singh and Amrita Johri and others have also written letters to the selection committee and the President against the delay in appointments and the “lack of transparency” in the appointment process.