Five new bureaucrats were appointed to the Central Information Commission on Sunday, including new chief Sudhir Bhargava. He was serving as an Information Commissioner in the CIC right before the central government handpicked him for the top role.
This comes a day after the CIC directed the Home Secretary to depute an official to find out the status of 13 inquiry commission reports on communal riots since 1961, which Home Ministry officials claimed the MHA did not have.
Joining Bhargava are four information officers (ICs) including former IFS officer Yashwardhan Kumar Sinha, ex-IRS officer Vanaja N Sarna, former IAS Neeraj Kumar Gupta, and former law secretary Suresh Chandra.
According to a government order, President Ram Nath Kovind approved the appointments of all these retired bureaucrats to the CIC this weekend, although critics claim the selections have not been entirely in line with the letter and spirit of the transparency law.
How were the officers appointed?
The panel was previously comprised of only three members, against the sanctioned strength of 11. Following the recent departures of Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur and Information Commissioners Yashovardhan Azad, Sridhar Acharyulu and Amitava Bhattacharyya, the strength went down further, drawing further criticism from information activists. They subsequently approached the Supreme Court to direct the government to fill the vacancies with immediate effect.
A top court bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer
According to PTI, the
Meet the new vanguards of information
Bhargava who has served as Information Commissioner before will take over the highest adjudicating authority in RTI matters, meaning all issues concerning the Right To Information in the country will be decided by them.
Among the new ICs are Sinha, an Indian Foreign Service officer, who has served as the High Commissioner of India in the UK in the past. He had also held several key portfolios in the Ministry of External Affairs including the crucial Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division, where he served as an additional secretary as four years.
Sarna, an erstwhile Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Excise) officer who served as the chief of
Gupta, an IAS officer, was the secretary in the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, while Chandra served as the private secretary to the law minister between 2002 and 2004, in the Vajpayee government. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley headed the Law Ministry at the time. Chandra is an Indian Legal Service officer, who retired as Union law secretary this year.
What about rest of the posts?
As controversy over the appointment to the CIC entered the top court, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, clarified before the court that a total of 65 applications were received for the CIC post and 280 applications for the post of four ICs in the Central Information Commission.
She also added that the regulatory body would invite more applications for the remaining
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.