The Supreme Court's controversial judgment making it mandatory for judges to be appointed to information commissions has botched up the centre's plan to bring more retired bureaucrats into the Central Information Commission.
The Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) had prepared a panel of nine individuals including four retired IAS officers
as far back as May 2012, to be put before high-powered selection panel, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The Prime Minister's Office, (PMO) however, asked DoPT to hold on to the list, pending a decision on some cases in court.
This month, the apex court pulled the rug from under babudom's feet when it held that a bench of the information commission should comprise a judge too.
The judgment has since then been criticised by many RTI activists but others, particularly in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have welcomed the verdict in the hope that it would end the near monopoly of the bureaucracy over the commission's posts.
Documents received under the Right to Information Act, however, indicate that it would be difficult to break the stranglehold of the bureaucracy over the posts of information commissioners.
For one, it reveals that the government did not intend to again call for applications for filling up vacancies in the central information commission.
Instead, it will ask the PM-chaired selection committee to select information commissioners out of a list of nine candidates.
This includes seven names shortlisted for the previous round of appointments. The other two are — retired IAS officer Raghu Menon and social activist Ranjana Kumari — nominated by the leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj.
The government had landed in trouble after Swaraj — a member of the selection panel — objected to PJ Thomas' appointment as the Central Vigilance Commissioner in 2010, leading to a controversy that ended with the Supreme Court quashing the appointment.
The government has since then learnt its lesson well and accommodates requests from Swaraj.
Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra said the principle of involving the leader of opposition was started to ensure that the selected candidates had bipartisan support. This does not seem to be happening any longer.