15 May, 2012: There is good news. Documents procured by activists Girish Mittal and Lokesh Batra under RTI indicate that the latest batch of Central Information Commissioners (Rajiv Mathur, Vijai Sharma and Basant Seth) were selected by a more transparent process than earlier. The central government has definitely mended its ways and set a good precedent for state governments. By calling for applications and having applications screened by a Search Committee, the government has yielded two long-standing demands of RTI activists.
However, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj short-circuited the process. She put up two names that were not selected by the Search Committee, and one of them became a CIC. New CICs Rajiv Mathur and Vijai Sharma were on a shortlist of nine persons after a screening process for 214 contenders. But new CIC Basant Seth was eliminated by the Search Committee, and re-entered the shortlist as Sushma Swaraj’s candidate, it appears from the documents cited below. (Remember, the whole point about transparent selections is that becoming CIC should depend on objective criteria and an impartial process. It should not depend on being recommended by influential and powerful people.)
THE PROCESS FOLLOWED THIS TIME:
3) The Search Committee seemingly evaluated 214 applicants “on the basis of width, diversity, relevance and length of experience of the applicants, with some preference for legal background and strategic exposure”. Also, inputs were sought from Intelligence Bureau and Central Vigilance Commission. All this is stated in the minutes of the Selection Committee meeting on 23 February 2012: http://tinyurl.com/MOM-PMs-Selection-Cmte-Feb2012
IT WILL BE WORTH GETTING THESE DETAILS UNDER RTI:
a) Copies of all correspondence between DOPT and PMO about constituting Search Committee, defining its terms of reference, etc.
b) Copies of documents showing the criteria and procedure used by the Search Committee for screening the 214 names and arriving at the shortlist of nine names.
c) What inputs were solicited and received by the PMO, Selection Committee and/or Screening Committee from IB and CVC? Copies of all correspondence, reports received etc.
d) Copies of all correspondence by Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj with PMO, Search Committee, Selection Committee and candidates for the CIC’s post.
WHAT IS A SEARCH COMMITTEE?
IMPROVEMENT OVER EARLIER SELECTIONS:
• Notwithstanding possible deficiencies of the process followed in this round of selections, it is far better than earlier selections when A N Tiwari (now retired) and Satyananda Mishra (now the Chief CIC), who were both DoPT Secretaries, selected themselves for the post of Information Commissioner. Tiwari and Mishra disregarded dozens of applications addressed to them and made the shortlist list so short that it reduced the Prime Minister’s Selection Committee into a mere rubber stamp. Girish Mittal’s RTI findings revealed this shocking abuse of position: http://tinyurl.com/ANT-SM-Self-Selection
Posted in Activism, Governance & Administration, RTI Act 2005, Right to Information.
– May 15, 2012