Considering the current state of affairs, the Supreme Court may have to do more than just force governments to publicise vacancies in information commissions across the country.
A right to information request on the last round of appointments to the Central Information Commission indicated that though the government publicised the vacancies and received 214 applications, there was no laid-down criterion for selecting the nine candidates considered by the Prime Minister-chaired panel.
Three retired civil servants, including career spook Rajiv Mathur, were eventually appointed as central information commissioners on the recommendation of this high-powered panel.
Retired commodore Lokesh Batra - who had filed the RTI request - said the response from the government suggested that the cabinet secretariat enjoyed absolute discretion while shortlisting the nine candidates. "What is the use of publicising vacancies if there is no criterion for shortlisting those who apply?" he asked.
The Department of Personnel and Training told Batra that a search committee was formed under the cabinet secretary to empanel eligible candidates, and it followed "its own modalities". These modalities were being handled by the cabinet secretary, and were not available with the department.
The cabinet secretariat, on the other hand, contended that it did submit the panel of candidates to the committee headed by the Prime Minister, but did not have this particular information.