We must cry foul and blow the whistle! The composition of Central Information Commission shows that the current method of selection completely biased in favour of those residing in Delhi / North India and having central government jobs, especially jobs related to DOPT, PMO and Information Commission. Such biased appointments are inherently unlawful and unconstitutional. Go to CIC website http://cic.gov.in/ and click on the individual CICs to read their professional and educational backgrounds. Below are some significant facts excerpted from there:
· Wajahat Habibullah: formerly Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, and Secretary, Ministry of Textiles Government of India. Education: Senior Cambridge: The Doon School, Dehra Dun. Bachelor of Arts (Honours)-History: St Stephens' College, Delhi, India. Master of Arts (History) University of Delhi.
· A N Tiwari: formerly Secretary, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (DoPT) and Secretary, Department of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation. Master of Arts (MA) in Politics from Allahabad University.
· M M Ansari: Formerly Professor & Director, Hamdard University, 2004-05; and Director of Distance Education Council, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. Holds a Ph.D degree in Economics, PG Diploma in Public Finance, M.A. Economics, from the Universities of Buckingham (England) and also Aligarh.
· Annapurna Dixit: Physics (Hons), Masters and M. Phil Degrees in Education; all from Delhi University. (Professional credentials are vague, but…) she is wife of J N Dixit, former National Security Advisor to Govt of India.
· Satyendra Mishra: Worked two stints in Government of India in the Ministry of Personnel (i.e. DoPT) for more than two years. M Phil in Public Administration (Punjab), besides other qualifications.
· M L Sharma: IPS, Rajasthan Cadre. MA in Economics from Delhi School of Economics.
· Mrs Deepak Sandhu: Former Media Advisor to the Prime Minister, and Principal Director General (Media & Communications), Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Educated largely in Delhi, Chandigarh and Mussourie.
· Mrs Sushma Singh: formerly Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and also Panchayati Raj, Govt of India.
· The only exception seems to be Shailesh Gandhi, Former Mumbai-based entrepreneur and B.Tech from IIT Bombay. Even he is a North Indian (well, sort of, because he is a Gujarati), and he had a crucial pending RTI application about Prime Minister’s Fund, which he later “renounced”… but there the similarities end.
The post of Information Commissioner, unlike the post of Governor, cannot be given as a reward for past performance. It is not an “ornamental” or “figurehead” post for an eminent person to cut ribbons and address five-star gatherings. The post of Information Commissioner is that of a watchdog. It demands daily exercise of mind to procuring justice and information for scores of citizens, and consistently high year-round performance. Current method of appointments of CIC and SIC (based on insider-information, political godfathers and their horse-trading, instead of advertizing and inviting applications openly) violates Section 12 of RTI Act 2005.
Section 12(5) states: “The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.” To give all such eligible persons a fair chance to apply for the post of Information Commissioner, the government must cast its net far and wide, all over India and in all walks of life. It must attract a good number of candidates and select the best with proper screening procedures. Section 12 clearly intends that a wide range of eminent and knowledgeable citizens should be considered. Hand-picking people from a small inner circle of Central Govt Secretaries etc at DoPT, PMO, defeats the spirit of this section, nurtures nepotism and protects vested interests within the administration.
The current method of appointing CIC and SIC also violates Article 16 of the Constitution, specifically sub-section 1 and 2.
Now refer to the Constitution of India:
Article 16. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
Current Method of appointing CICs is against the spirit of Article 38 of the Constitution.
Article 38: State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.
[(1)] The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.
[(2) The State shall, in particular, strive to minimise the inequalities in income, and endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations.]
Methods of selection currently being followed are not in keeping with the high constitutional ideals cited above. They are bad and unjustifiable procedures that subvert the role of the CIC as a watchdog that protects the right of citizens to the information that rightfully belongs to them.
The current practices deprive all of us of our right to be considered for the post of Information Commissioners. If we are tested according to various objective criteria and found wanting, and therefore not considered for the post, fair enough. But if we all are ab initio believed to be unfit for the job, and therefore not even informed -- not invited to apply -- we will definitely cry foul!