The government will now have to disclose the specific reasons for appointing senior bureaucrats in different ministries and departments and the basis of reaching such a conclusion.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has been disclosing minutes of the meeting where the decision to post bureaucrats in senior positions were taken but had refused to divulge
the file notings and other documents related to the appointment.
The department had said that file notings and other information cannot be provided under the Right To Information Act as it impinged privacy of the official, who has been appointed. The Central Information Commission, however, overruled the view saying once the Union Cabinet decides on appointment of a particular person, the process is complete and the information has to be provided.
The DoPT had cited section 8 (1) (i) of the RTI Act to deny information on appointments. “The clause has been wrongly applied,” chief information commissioner Satyanandra Misha said, while disposing off an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal. Mishra was DoPT secretary, the department which denied information, before joining the CIC. He sought information on sudden transfer of officials in law ministry but the DoPT refused to give him the file notings giving reasons for their transfer.
The CIC also said that the exemption clauses of the RTI Act stipulated under section 8 cannot be made applicable for denying information related to any appointment once the process is complete. In this particular case the process was complete as the Union Cabinet had decided to appoint the officials in the new departments.
The file notings and other documents related to appointment in the government are key as each official gets validation on honesty from the Chief Vigilance Commission, which is reconfirmed by the intelligence agencies. Also, the entire background of the official is checked by different law enforcing agencies before the person is appointed as a secretary in government of India or any other regulatory body.
The same process was supposedly followed in case of appointment of Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas, whose appointment was quashed by the SC.
In that case also, the government provided minutes of the meeting where a decision to appoint him was taken but refused to provide background note on why he should be appointed instead of two others officials in the panel.
Now, the CIC has made the law clear by saying that documents must be provided under RTI to bring in transparency in appointments at the senior level in the government.
In the past, the CIC has asked government to provide information regarding even the information commissioners, which had raised several eyebrows over the appointment process.