The government put on hold the appointment of new chief of Central Information Commission (CIC) on Friday due to the absence of the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the selection committee leaving the transparency watchdog headless for the first time since its inception in 2005.
Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur relinquished his charge on Friday. A former chief of Intelligence Bureau (IB), he had taken over as sixth Chief Information Commissioner on May 22, this year.
The appointment of the CIC head has to be done by President Pranab Mukherjee on the recommendation of a three-member selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising LoP and a Union cabinet minister to be nominated by Modi.
The appointment of the new chief of the CIC has not been done as there is no Leader of the Opposition, official sources said.
The CIC will function without its chief as there is no provision in the Right to Information (RTI) Act about handing over the charge to any Information Commissioner, they said.
As per the RTI Act, if "the Leader of Opposition in the House of the People has not been recognised as such, the leader of the single largest group in opposition of the Government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition".
According to the act, CIC is appointed either for a maximum of five-year term or till 65 years of age, whichever is earlier. Mathur retired after completion of 65 years of age. He had in March 2012 joined as Information Commissioner in the CIC.
In a related development, the Supreme Court today decided to go into the issue of interpreting the provision of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha in the matter of selection of statutory bodies when there is no recognised LoP.
Asking the government to make its stand clear within two weeks, a bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha emphasised the importance of the post saying Leader of Opposition conveys the voice of representation different from government in the House.