In a sign that the government wants to go for a fresh face to head the transparency watchdog, the Modi government on Friday evening called for applications from eligible aspirants for the next hief information commissioner’s (CIC) post.
The move is a departure from the convention of appointing the senior-most information commissioner at the transparency watchdog as the chief. But the previous UPA government too never laid down the seniority principle on paper to give itself the flexibility of selecting its nominee.
Sources attribute the new selection process to some discomfort within the Modi government at prospect of being stuck with commissioners appointed by the previous UPA regime for the next CIC.
“This must be why the Prime Minister’s Office held on to file for so long,” said RTI activist Lokesh Batra. The department of personnel & training (DoPT) told Batra, a retired naval officer, this week that the CIC appointment file had been pending at the PMO since August 1.
Rajiv Mathur had stepped down from the CIC’s post three weeks later, on August 22, and the commission has been headless since then.
RTI activists have been critical of the government for leaving the CIC’s chair vacant for so long, complaining that it had increased the commission’s dependence on the government for financial approvals and delayed hearing of appeals.
In its unsigned office memo inviting applications,
The new selection process implies the new CIC can, at the earliest, be appointed only in December. The DoPT’s unsigned office memorandum placed on its website set a November 24 deadline for receiving applications from eminent people in fields such as law, science, social service and administration.
The government had received 553 applications for the information commissioners’ post earlier this year, nearly half of them from retired civil servants. A meeting of the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister was slated for October 16 but was deferred.