For much of the last year and a half, RTI activists have complained that the process of selecting and appointing Information Commissioners, both at the Central level and in the States, is itself too secretive. This, they say, is particularly bad since it concerns the appointment of the very people who are supposed to facilitate transparency to the public in the functioning of government.
There were also complaints in two separate instances that the Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, who is responsible for forwarding the names of shortlisted candidates to the selection committee headed by the Prime Minister, had - in breach of government guidelines - added his own name to the shortlist! Both A N Tiwari, who was Chief Information Commissioner briefly in late 2011, and the current CIC Satyendar Mishra, earlier held the post of Secretary, DoPT. RTI activists also complained that in the process, they eliminated the names of many suitable candidates from the shortlist, reducing the selection committee to a mere rubber stamp.
RTI campaigners fought these moves through a series of applications seeking information about the process of appointment, including the minutes of meetings held at various stages to finalise the appointments. The DoPT and PMO found themselves in a fix, unable to produce the appropriate documentation to demonstrate that the appointments process had adhered to the letter of the law and the guidelines for the selection committee's work.
"This circular is a great victory for the RTI activists' community," says RTI campaigner Krishnaraj Rao.
Now, the DoPT appears to have finally thrown in the towel, and conceded the demands. With a number of Central Information Commissioners due to retire soon, the department has called for applications from interested and eligible candidates for the post of Information Commissioners.
The text of the notice, as well the format in which the applications are to be submitted are accessible at this link.
RTI campaigner Krishnaraj Rao, commenting on this development, had this to say to his peers, "This circular is a great victory for the RTI activists. community. It has come after many activists filed PILs and writ petitions challenging non-transparent selections, held meetings with officials, and actively campaigned for this important right of civil society."
He went on to urge many citizens to apply for the open posts, saying "Friends, this is our chance to participate in the governance of this country. Please submit your application. Don't make excuses such as "I have no time," or "I can't leave my business/job/city of residence". You MUST become a Central Information Commissioner and change the way RTI is implemented in many government departments. If you don.t apply, political cronies who have no understanding of the common man.s problems and no love for the RTI Act 2005 will end up getting appointed as CICs. and they will choke the citizen.s Right to Information for the next five years."
Rao has also created a digital application form for those wanting to submit their candidacies, and it is available at this link.