New Delhi: The search committee for selection of Chief Information Commissioner did not short-list two senior Information Commissioners who had applied for the position and brought in four others who did not show interest in the post, documents made public by the government show. The search committee led by the Cabinet Secretary had finalised five names to be put before the selection panel, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
The six-member search committee was headed by the Cabinet Secretary and included the Secretaries of the Department of Personnel and Training, Expenditure Department, Information and Broadcasting Department, and Additional Secretary to the Prime Minister. The Director of the Institute of Economic Growth was the independent member.
Interestingly, the Secretary of the Department of Expenditure declared that he had applied for the post of Information Commissioner but after consultations with the PMO, he was retained on the search committee, the records show. The government issued the advertisement calling for applications for the position of the Chief Information Commissioner on October 23, 2018 on the DoPT website.
All the three Commissioners in the Central Information Commission — Sudhir Bhargava, Bimal Julka and Divya Prakash Sinha — were among 68 applicants for the post. The panel led by the Cabinet Secretary did not consider the names of Julka and Sinha to be put in the list of five short-listed candidates, the documents show.
It short-listed five retired IAS officers – Sudhir Bhargava, former MSME secretary Madhav Lal, former Additional Chief Secretary of Gujarat S K Nanda, former Secretary of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances Alok Rawat and former Expenditure Secretary R P Watal — to be placed before the panel led by the Prime Minister. Lal, Nanda, Rawat and Watal did not apply for the position but their names were considered by the search committee, the records show. The search committee is empowered to short-list any eligible candidate for the post.
The panel led by the Prime Minister, however, considered all the applicants along with names short-listed by the search committee for the position and picked Bhargava for the post. Bhargava was appointed Chief Information Commissioner earlier this month. “One of the women applicants had recently retired as the Chief Secretary of the Government of Karnataka.
How her candidature was given lesser weightage than that of the former Additional Chief Secretary of Gujarat who had not even put in his application in the first place, is a mystery. The minutes of the Search Committee meeting are silent on this issue,” said activist Venkatesh Nayak.
The records have been made public on the relentless pursuit by activists Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.) and Anjali Bhargava who had approached the SC on the disclosure of files related to the appointment of the CIC. Further, how the claims of the two serving Information Commissioners were undervalued in comparison to the three short-listed retired bureaucrats who had no previous experience of adjudicating RTI disputes in any Information Commission is also a mystery that needs to be cleared,” he Nayak. Batra said it was somewhat a relief that all four information commissioners and the Chief Information Commissioner have been appointed in accordance with provisions of the Right to Information Act.
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