The Centre on Friday appointed former Indian Administrative Service officer Bimal Julka as the new chief information commissioner, PTI reported. President Ram Nath Kovind administered the oath of office to Julka at a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in the national Capital.
The office of the chief information commissioner had been lying vacant for almost two months after its former chief Sudhir Bhargava retired on January 11. A high-power committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to appoint Julka in February.
The panel had also chosen Sanjay Kothari, who is currently secretary to the president of India, as the Central Information Commission’s chief vigilance commissioner, The Hindu reported. However, his appointment is yet to be notified.
The Congress has objected to Kothari’s appointment, claiming that it violates procedure. The party is also considering taking possible legal action against the appointment, according to the newspaper.
In a letter to the prime minister, senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary in February had raised fresh objections to the appointment of Kothari, calling it a conflict of interest. “Gross violation of power and misutilisation of opportunity has been observed in getting self-appointment of CVC by the Secretary to the Honourable President of India,” he wrote. “The self-appointment, therefore, seems to be highly irregular, immoral and unjustified.”
The Central Information Commission, which is a transparency watchdog and the final appeal body under the Right to Information Act, has been chronically understaffed. The body has five pending vacancies out of which, four have not been filled in more than two years, as against the sanctioned strength of eleven members. In the absence of commissioners, the process of clearing Right to Information complaints and appeals has been hampered.