The Centre has appointed Sudhir Bhargava the new chief information commissioner, PTI reported on Sunday. Bhargava was an information commissioner in the Central Information Commission. The government has also appointed four new information commissioners.
President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the appointment of former bureaucrats Yashwardhan Kumar Sinha, Vanaja N Sarna, Neeraj Kumar Gupta and Suresh Chandra as the new information commissioners, according to a government order accessed by the news agency.
Sinha is a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer who is a former high commissioner of India in the United Kingdom. Sarna, a 1980-batch Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Excise) officer, is currently the only woman in the commission. Gupta is a 1982-batch IAS officer, while Chandra is an Indian Legal Service officer who retired as the Union law secretary this year.
The appointments came weeks after the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to disclose the process of appointment of the members of the Central Information Commission, including details on applicants and search committees. The court had asked the government to maintain transparency in the process.
The Commission, set up under the Right to Information Act, did not have a chief information commissioner at the time, and only had three information commissioners. The Act provides for up to 10 information commissioners. The authority deals with grievances related to RTI requests, and has jurisdiction over all central public authorities.
Commodore Lokesh Batra, one of the petitioners in the case, said the government has not yet complied with the Supreme Court’s directions. “As my gut feeling said, the government did not comply with the Supreme Court directions viz transparency as it did not post details on its website,” Batra was quoted as saying.
Earlier this month, former Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu had alleged that the government was intimidating the Central Information Commission by threats of litigation. Acharyulu made the allegation in a letter he wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind to seek his intervention.