Despite the serious concern raised by the Supreme Court of India over the vacancies of Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Modi government is in no mood to fill up the vacancies at the earliest. In response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by noted RTI activists Anjali Bhardawaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd.) and Amrita Johri — seeking appointments of the Information Commissioners at CIC and State Information Commissions (SICs) — the Union of India has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, insofar as appointments at CIC are concerned, stating that advertisement published on July 27, 2018 by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) inviting applications to fill vacancies in CIC is only for four existing vacancies and not the four more vacancies including Chief Commissioner’s, which will arise by the end of November 2018.
Furthermore, the Government of India has not committed any specific timeframe within which all the vacancies should be filled. It says the appointment process is “comprehensive” that is undertaken at the highest level.
The affidavit has also revealed that Modi Government has been intending to amend the RTI Act, 2005 since 2016 itself to change the very nature of the post of Information Commissioners. This has come to light in response to a direction issued by the Supreme Court on July 27, 2018 asking the government to inform it as to why did it not make the appointment in pursuance of advertisement it issued on September 2, 2016, when a total of 225 applicants applied for the posts of Information Commissioners.
The government has also stated that it has not been in the practice of disclosing the names of short-listed candidates prior to completion of the selection process or to seek inputs from the public. Hence, Modi government does not intend to follow greater transparency in the selection process.
Presently, CIC is suffering from the huge pendency of complainants/appeals which are needed to be decided by the Commission under its mandate under the RTI Act. However, vacancies of Information Commissioners are hindering efficiency of the Commission.