ASG: Appointments to CIC to be done in twelve weeks
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding the appointments at the Central Information Commission, the Delhi High Court has asked the central government yesterday to expeditiously appoint the chief information commissioner and three information commissioners, adding that it will ‘monitor the issue’. Earlier, the Court had asked for the status of the appointment at the CIC [Please refer to the article: Delhi High Court seeks the status of appointment at the CIC - Read more at: http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/delhi-high-court-seeks-status-appointment-cic#.VSar-tyUe1U
In response to the query of the court, the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain informed that the government is in the process of filling up vacancies and steps have already been taken. He particularly informed that the candidates have been shortlisted and IB and CBI reports are necessary for the shortlisted candidates. He added that the government is expeditiously filling up vacancies and needs twelve weeks to complete the process of the appointments. A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Deepa Sharma said that it would not dispose of the PIL filed by Right to Information (RTI) activists R.K. Jain, Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra and Subhash Chandra Agarwal and fixed the next date of hearing for May 11 when it would review the report on the progress made by the central government. The court said that the “Past experience shows unless courts don’t interfere, the government doesn’t fill up vacancies…… The ASG assured the court it is expeditiously filling up the vacancies of chief information commissioner and information commissioners. It's necessary for this court to monitor the case. Let the government file a report by next date of hearing on the progress it made."
The UPA government had earlier initiated the process of filling up the vacancies at CIC which was re-started by the NDA government. With the rise in pendency of cases at CIC, it is time that the process of appointment be taken to its logical end quickly.
The affidavit by the government is reproduced below:
IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI, NEW DELHI
WP(C) NO.3386 OF 2015
IN THE MATTER OF:
MR. R.K. JAIN& ORS. .... PETITIONERS
UNION OF INDIA ... RESPONDENT
AFFIDAVITON BELHALF OF THE RESPONDENT- UNION OF INDIA
I, R. K. Girdhar s/o Late Shri Ratan Lai, aged 54 years, Under Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training, North Block, New Delhi, do hereby solemnly affirm and state as follows:
1. That I am working as Under Secretary., Department of Personnel & Training and as such am well conversant with the facts and records of the case and hence competent to swear this affidavit.
2. I have read and understood the contents of the Writ Petition particularly the statements made in the Synopsis and List of Dates and the Writ Petition. At the outset I deny each and every averments, statements and submissions contained in the Synopsis and list of dates and in the Writ Petition. No part of are admitted except to the extent expressly admitted by me in this affidavit.
3. I say that the answering respondent is not filing the parawise reply of the petition as the present petition does not involve any question of law much less any substantial question of law for consideration by this Hon'ble Court. The petition is devoid of merit and is liable to be dismissed at threshold. However, the answering respondent reserve its right to file detailed counter affidavit as when the ocassion arise and adviced to do so.
4. It is humbly submitted that the present Writ Petition has been filed against the Union of India through Cabinet Secretary on delay in appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission (ln short CIC).
5. As per section 12 (2) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, (herein called the Act) the Central Information Commission shall consist of the Chief Information Commissioner and such number of Central Information Commissioners, not exceeding ten, as may be deemed necessary.
As per Section 12(5) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in "law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance."
6. Appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the CIC is a continuous process.
The appointment to the post of Information Commissioners is made as per the necessity, in consonance with the provisions of Law. The Right to Information Act, 2005 came into force on 12th October, 2005 and since then the number of Information Commissioners in the CIC has varied from three to nine, apart from the Chief Information Commissioner. At no point of time, since the establishment of CIC, there had been 10 Information Commissioners. At present, the CIC has Seven Information Commissioners. There is no Chief Information Commissioner posted since the completion of tenure of last incumbent on 22ndAugust, 2014.
7. The Union of India has already started the process to appoint the Chief Information Commissioner and three Information Commissioners in the CIC.
8. The procedure being followed by the Central Government at present for the appointment of Information Commissioners in the CIC is enumerated below:
(i) Advertisement is published in the newspapers and also on the website of Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT).
(ii) Shortlisting of applicants is done by a Search Committee, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.
(iii) IB/CBI inputs and other Vigilance Clearance of the shortlisted candidates are obtained by DOPT.
(iv) Selection of Information Commissioners by the Selection Committee as per Section 12(3) of the RTI Act, 2005.
(v) Appointment is made by the President on the recommendations of the said Selection Committee.
9. From the above, it is beyond doubt that the selection of Information Commissioners in the CIC is done in a fair and transparent manner.
10. It is further mentioned that the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in its decision dated 03.09.2013 in the Review Petition no. 2309/2012 in the case of Namit Sharma Vs. Union of India are also being followed in letter and spirit. Relevant directions of the judgment are as under:
(i) We further direct that persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in all the fields mentioned in Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act, namely, law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance, be considered by the Committees under Sections 12(3) and 15(3) of the Act for appointment as Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioners.
(ii) We further direct that the Committees under Sections 12(3) and 15(3) of the Act while making recommendations to the President or to the Governor, as the case may be, for appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners must mention against the name of each candidate recommended, the facts to indicate his eminence in public life, his knowledge in the particular field and his experience in the particular field and these facts must be accessible to the citizens as part of their right to information under the Act after the appointment is made.
Copy of the operative part of the judgment dated 3.9.2013 in the matter of Namit Sharma Vs. Union of India is annexed herewith as Annexure-Rl.
11. In February 2014, the Government of India decided to fill up two posts of Information Commissioners in the CIC. At that time, the CIC had one Chief Information Commissioner and 8 (Eight) Information Commissioners.
12. A circular inviting particulars of interested persons for the post of Information Commissioners in the CIC was posted on the website of DOPT on 25.02.2014 and an advertisement was also published in 2 English newspapers (The Times of India and The Hindu) and one Hindi newspaper (Dainik Bhashkar). The last date for receipt of applications was 25.03.2014. A total number of 293 applications were received. Copies of the advertisements published are annexed herewith as Annexure-R2 (collectively).
13. The applications were placed before the Search Committee, which met on 21.04.2014 and recommended panels for consideration of the Selection Committee constituted under Section 12(3) of the RTI Act, 2005. The meeting of the Selection Committee, however, could not take place.
14. In the meanwhile, with the elevation of Sh Rajiv Mathur (the then Information Commissioner) to the post of Chief Information Commissioner on 22nd May, 2014, the strength of the Information Commissioners in Central Information Commission was reduced to 7 (Seven). It was then decided by the Government of India, that the process of filling up all the three posts of Information Commissioners in the CIC be initiated afresh.
15. Accordingly, a circular was posted on the website of DOPT on 16/07/2014 seeking particulars of the interested persons for the post of Information Commissioners. It was mentioned in the circular that those who had applied against the earlier circular dated 25/02/2014 need not- apply afresh. An advertisement was also published in the 2 English newspapers (Times of India and The Hindu) and in one Hindi newspaper (Dainik Bhasker). Copies of the advertisements published are annexed herewith as Annexure-R3 (collectively).
16. A total number of 260 fresh applications for the post of Information Commissioners in CIC have been received by the last date i.e. 19/08/2014, thereby making the total applications to 293 + 260 = 553.
17. Subsequent to the completion of tenure of Shri Rajiv Mathur, the then Chief Information Commissioner, on 22.08.2014, it was decided by the Government of India to advertise the post of the Chief Information Commissioner and to adopt the same procedure as being adopted for the appointment of Information Commissioners in CIC.
18. Accordingly, a circular was posted on the website of DoPT inviting applications for the post of the Chief Information Commissioner on 24.10.2014. The post was also advertised in two English leading newspapers (The Times of India and The Hindu) and one Hindi newspaper (Dainik Bhashkar). Copies of the advertisements published are annexed herewith as Annexure-R4 (collectively).The last date of receipt of applications was 24.11.2014. A total number of 203 applications for the post of Chief Information Commissioner were received.
19. In order to shortlist the applicants for the post(s) of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the CIC, the Search Committee has already met twice on 16.01.2015 and 06.02.2015 respectively. The date for the next meeting of the Search Committee is yet to be finalized.
20. After shortlisting of the applicants for the posts of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission by the Search Committee, IB/CBI inputs and other Vigilance Clearances of the shortlisted candidates would be obtained by DOPT. The selection would then be made by the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister as per section 12(3) of the Act. The Hon'ble Court may appreciate that the selection process as mentioned above is a time consuming process.
21. It is, therefore, respectfully submitted that since the Government has already initiated process to fill up the post of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission, the Hon'ble Court may graciously be pleased to dismiss the instant Writ Petition of the Petitioner at threshold in the interest of justice.
I the deponent above named do hereby verify that the contents of the above status note from para 1 to 21 are true and correct to my knowledge based on the record of the case and nothing material has been concealed therefrom.
Verified at New Delhi on this 9th day of April, 2015.