The Leaflet

| @theleaflet_in | April 26,2019

IN a yet another setback to transparency, the Central Government has refused to disclose information on the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Lokpal under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005.

Paras Nath Singh, the RTI applicant, had sought the following information from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT):

 

  • Certified copy of the appointment order of Justice P C Ghose (Retd.) as the chairperson of the Lokpal
  • Certified copy of the appointment order of members both judicial and non-judicial of the Lokpal
  • Names recommended by the search committee headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd) to the Selection Committee for the appointment of the chairperson of the Lokpal
  • Names recommended by the search committee headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd) to the Selection Committee for the appointment of judicial members and non-judicial members of the Lokpal
  • Name of participants who took part in the Selection Committee wherein recommendation to appoint Justice P C Ghose (retd.) as the chairperson of the Lokpal was made
  • Certified copy of the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister wherein recommendation to appoint Justice P C Ghose (retd.) as the chairperson of the Lokpal was made. Also provide me the minutes of meeting pertaining to the recommendations for the appointment of judicial and non-judicial members in the Lokpal
  • Address of the the Lokpal’s office.
  • Certified copy of the warrant(s) of appointment of Justice P C Ghose as the chairperson of the Lokpal. Also provide me copies of warrant of appointments of members of the Lokpal.
  • List of candidates applied for the post of chairperson of the Lokpal and its members including judicial and non-judicial to the Search Committee.

 

No bar on disclosure

 

Replying to the RTI application on April 22, 2019, the CPIO of the DoPT provided a copy of the appointments of the chairperson of the Lokpal and its members, but refused information on the names recommended by the search committee to the Selection Committee for the appointments,  a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister where the decision to appoint Justice P C Ghose (Retd.) as its Chairperson was made as also  the appointments of other members of the Lokpal and a list of candidates who applied to the search committee for the post of Chairperson of the Lokpal and its members, including judicial and non-judicial.

While denying the information above, the CPIO has not cited any exemption clauses under the RTI Act, 2005. He has merely relied on the order of the Supreme Court dated March 7, 2019 in Contempt Petition (C) No.714 of 2018 in which Prashant Bhushan, counsel for the petitioner Common Cause had requested the court to place in the public domain the names enlisted by the search committee. At this, the Apex Court had noted “…for putting the names recommended by the Search Committee in the public domain is concerned, we have considered the provisions of Section 4(4) of the Act and it is our considered view that no direction from the court should be issued in this regard…”.

 

 

 

 

With regard to the disclosure of minutes of the Selection Committee meeting held on March 15, 2019, the CPIO in addition to the Supreme Court’s order said that the minutes had been shared as secret documents and thus could not be provided.

Pertinently, the order of the Apex Court as referred by the CPIO to deny the information, does not bar the disclosure of the information under the RTI Act, 2005. The CPIO ought to have taken an independent decision in terms of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.

Numerous decisions of the Central Information Commission (CIC) as well as of high courts and the Supreme Court, have held that under the RTI Act, 2005, information can only be denied under exemption clauses cited in section 8 of the Act.

It is noteworthy to highlight that in the contempt petition under which the order as referred by the CPIO came to be passed, the RTI Act, 2005 was not the  subject matter of the petition.

 

Background to the RTI Application

 

After dragging its feet for five years, the Central Government had on March 27, 2019 constituted the “Lokpal” under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.

The President of India, upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, a nominee of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice S A Bobde, and eminent jurist Mukul Rohtagi, had appointed a former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first chairperson of the Lokpal.

 

 

 

 

The President has also appointed a total of eight members to the Lokpal. Of them, four are judicial members, and the remaining are non-judicial members in the following order:

Judicial Members:

  1. Justice Dilip B. Bhosale
  2. Justice Pradip Kumar Mohanty
  3. Justice Abhilasha Kumari
  4. Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi

 

Non-judicial members:

  1. Dinesh Kumar Jain
  2. Archana Ramasundaram
  3. Mahender Singh
  4. Indrajeet Prasad Gautam

Justices Dilip B. Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Justice Abhilasha Kumari are former Chief Justices of the Allahabad High Court, Jharkhand High Court and Manipur High Court respectively. Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi is the present Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court. Justice Bhonsale is the son of a former chief minister of Maharashtra, Babasaheb Bhonsale, while Justice Abhilasha Kumari is the daughter of former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

 

 

 

 

Retd. IAS officer D K Jain is the former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra. Retired IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram is former Sashastra Seema Bal Chief.

The Lokpal Act provides that out of a maximum eight members, half will be from the judiciary. A minimum 50 per cent of the members will be from SC/ST/OBC/Minorities and women. The judicial member of the Lokpal should be either a former or sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a former of sitting Chief Justice of a high court. The non-judicial member should be an eminent person with impeccable integrity and outstanding ability, having special knowledge and expertise of a minimum 25 years in matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance, including insurance and banking, law and management.

 

Read the reply of the CPIO

 

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