Shroud of secrecy over how information officers were chosen

January 1, 2019 || The Telegraph 

Information commissioner Sudhir Bhargava will be sworn in as the chief information commissioner by President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday... However, transparency advocates are upset because the entire selection and appointment process was shrouded in secrecy.

Concerned at the secrecy, Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator of the Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, told this newspaper that the new appointees had a duty to make public the terms and conditions on which they had accepted their posts.

The advertisement for the vacancies had said the “salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of service… shall be as may be specified at the time of appointment of the selected candidate’’.

This runs contrary to the RTI Act, which says “the salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners shall be the same as (those) of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners, respectively’’.

The government had wanted to amend this provision and had circulated the amendment for introduction in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year. But it deferred the matter in the face of stiff opposition within and outside the House.

Nayak also argued that the government’s decision to pack the info panel with bureaucrats went against the letter and spirit of a Supreme Court judgment, which said that people of expertise and eminence from various fields, and “not just from one field’’, should be considered for appointment. Read the full story here.