Raaj Mangal Prasad, a Delhi-based child rights activist of Pratidhi, an NGO, found through a series of Right to Information applications that the PMO appointed in 2007 two clearly unqualified people as members, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a statutory body. Appointed a member of NCPCR as an expert in disability, Sandhya Bajaj, had no desired qualification except being a lawyer and a Congress worker from Haryana. Deepa Dixit, the other member, who was supposedly an expert in child-related laws, was actually a corporate lawyer with expertise in mergers and acquisitions.
Another RTI application by Prasad found that acting on the recommendation of the Union ministry of women and child development, PMO hastily approved the appointment of four more persons as members of NCPCR before the elections for 15th Lok Sabha. The four appointments were sought to be pushed in a non-transparent manner, without any clarity on how the candidates were selected. The decision eventually ran up against the election code of conduct and has since remained unimplemented.
However, another appointment was carried through in spite of the election code of conduct — Omita Paul’s dubious appointment as Central Information Commissioner. It is clearly documented how her lightning-fast selection and appointment happened side-by-side with the elections. Documents dug out from DOPT (Ministry of Personnel & Grievances) by Mumbai activist Girish Mittal show various instances of abuse of trust and unconstitutional behaviour.
A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra — both DoPT Secretaries – were asked by PMO to forward a panel of names to the PM’s selecting committee for Central Information Commissioners. So, acting in pure self-interest, they put their own names on a tiny short list, ruthlessly disregarding the applications of many other qualified contenders. These acts were then concealed by PMO and DoPT officials who hid these papers from RTI applicants. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah defended such concealment of documents with strange reasoning and self-contradictory statements. The contradictions are now out in the open. Thanks to Girish Mittal, there is a wealth of documentary evidence.
The selecting committee consisting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Leader of Opposition L K Advani and former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, smiled upon these malpractices. Mr Tiwari and Mr Mishra were made Information Commissioners.
According to government sources, DoPT Secretary Shantanu Consul, who turns 60 on 5th October 2010, will be the next to perform this great deed – this act of treason, of placing self-interest above national interest. Mr Consul is thought likely to become the Chief Information Commissioner this month. If he does not, then he is almost certain to become an Information Commissioner in October after superannuation.
Are such arbitrary and unlawful selections to Information Commissions and other national commissions happening because of absence of norms? Until now, large numbers of activists believed that this was the case.
But no, these things are done in spite of clear norms and procedures for search and selection of candidates. Read these two well-known DoPT circulars:
1. Search Committees guidelines 1994: http://www.box.net/shared/jtbzsfhji3
2. Search Committee guidelines ‘07: http://www.box.net/shared/v46ppyhhn9
DoPT has laid out these guidelines for Central Government departments. So why can’t it practice what it preaches? Because, my friends, power corrupts. DoPT is virtually an extension of PMO; of what use is such closeness to the power-seat of India if you can’t bend and break the rules to suit your own sweet will?