4 Days Ago
How to appoint a CIC even if there is no Leader of the Opposition
A Committee comprising PM and the Leader of Opposition, recommends CICs names. Since, at present there is no Leader of Opposition, a recently-retired CIC has not been replaced. How to get around it?
The replacement for the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), who retired last week cannot be appointed since the Leader of Opposition (LoP) is missing. This is a matter of concern since no Central Information Commissioner can be appointed unless there is a Leader of Opposition. If the LoP is installed, then the Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and one other minister, could be set up and the statutory requirement could be met. It is hoped that the Lok Sabha Speaker will ultimately decide to nominate the Leader of Opposition, instead of only trying to repay the Congress in its coin.
However, it may be useful to consider the calibre of Commissioners appointed by this process and question it. The present Commissioners are not delivering and they are usually selected as a reward in dispensation of patronage. The average disposal per Commissioner is less than 2,300 cases annually, though its website states that there is a norm of clearing 3,200 cases by each Commissioner. There is a need to set up a transparent rational process for selecting commissioners and getting them to be accountable. We should also demand that at least 30% of the commissioners should be well recognised Right to Information (RTI) activists so that the citizens perspective remains in the commission. The writer suggests following process for the selection:
1. The Government should advertise openings to appoint Information Commissioners depending on the need, at least six months in advance. Some proper criteria must be developed for this. Eminent individuals could apply or be nominated by others.
2. A pre-selection committee consisting of (possibly) two members of Parliament (MPs), Chief Information Commissioner, one Vice Chancellor, one Supreme Court judge and two RTI activists could be formed to shortlist a panel which could be three times the number of Commissioners to be selected. These could be announced with the minutes of the meeting at which the short listing is done.
3. An interview should be conducted by the search committee in public view, to give citizens and media the opportunity to hear the views of the prospective candidates. Citizens could give feedback and views to the pre-selection committee. Subsequently, the committee could present its recommendation for twice the number of Commissioners to be appointed. Based on these inputs, the final decision to select the Commissioners could be taken by the Committee as per the Act consisting of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and one Minister. (A similar process could be adopted for State Commissions with members of Legislative AssemblyĖ MLAs instead of MPs and High Court judge instead of Supreme Court judge).
(Shailesh Gandhi served as Central Information Commissioner under the RTI Act, 2005, during 18 September 2008 to 6 July 2012. He is a graduate in Civil Engineering from IIT-Bombay. Before becoming a full time RTI activist in 2003, he sold his packaging business. In 2008, he was conferred the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Award for civil liberties.)