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In an unprecedented move, the central government has for the first time sought applications from the general public for the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), the post of which is lying vacant since August 22.
The excuse provided by the government for not appointing a CIC is the lack of an opposition leader in the Parliament (one of the three who appoints a CIC), although it is clearly stated in Section 12 of the RTI Act that. ``For the purposes of removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that where the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People has not been recognised as such, the Leader of the single largest group in opposition of the Government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition.’’ It almost seemed as if deliberately the BJP government indulging in delay tactics.
In fact, it is the alert RTI activists from across the country who made a hue and cry about the absence of the appointment of the CIC and campaigned vociferously against the complacency of the Modi government, that now the Department of Personnel and Training has advertised widely through newspapers as well as online, inviting applications for the CIC post.
RTI activists led by Anjali Bharadwaj and Amrita Johri had initiated an online petition besides an official communication to the PM, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), had filed RTI applications to the PMO, seeking information on the status of the appointment of the CIC. In a reply, the CPIO had stated that the file is with the PMO and under consideration since August 1, 2014. Batra had also successfully conducted inspection of files under Section 4 of the RTI Act regarding this issue, wherein file notings were not shown to him.
It was the tremendous pressure from RTI activists and media that made the government finally relent. However, let us see the response and impact of this advertisement.
Recently, when the DoPT had advertised for the post of information commissioners, there were 553 applications and hold your breath, 233 of the applicants were government officers and 98 were lawyers. If the advertisement for recruiting the CIC from among the public is truly for bringing in a person of stature, who would not have the baggage of having served in the bureaucracy, then it is great news for RTI in the country.
Otherwise, we would be back to square one. Batra has provided the following breakup of the 553 applicants, profession wise, who had applied for the post of information commissioners:
The Category-wise breakdown of 553 APPLICANTS is :
As per section 12 of the RTI Act, ``the chief information commissioner and information commissioner shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of (i) the Prime Minister who shall be the chairperson of the committee; (ii) the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha; and (iii) a union cabinet minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.
Let us wait and watch this interesting experiment and finally who ends up occupying the “Transparency Chair?”
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