With all eyes on appointment of new ICs, government sources said the PM-led selection committee has already met on the issue.
Friday was the last working day for IC Suresh Chandra as he demits office on Sunday. The tenure of the remaining three commissioners — Heeralal Samariya, Uday Mahurkar and Saroj Punhani— will end on Monday.
As per the RTI Act 2005, the CIC consists of the chief information commissioner and a maximum of 10 central information commissioners as may be deemed necessary.
According to sources, the selection committee has met and new appointments are likely to be made soon. Sources said that Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, who is a member of the committee was intimated about the meeting that was scheduled for Friday but he expressed his inability to attend due to prior commitments and asked for alternative dates to which the government did not agree. The post of CIC chief has fallen vacant six times for varied durations over the last 10 years. But if fresh appointment of ICs are not made by the government by Monday, the commission runs the risk of becoming defunct as there will be no commissioners on the panel from Tuesday.
On October 30, the Supreme Court had said that the RTI Act is fast becoming a “dead letter law” after finding that the CIC and state information commissions were plagued with vacancies and were unable to decide public complaints. The court has sought from the Centre information related to sanctioned posts, existing vacancies and anticipated vacancies by March 31 next year and the number of complaints and appeals pending before these bodies. The case is scheduled to come up for hearing later this month.
In February 2019, the Supreme Court, in its judgment on a PIL regarding non-appointment of information commissioners, ruled that the proper functioning of commissions with adequate number of commissioners is vital for effective implementation of the RTI Act. The RTI law provides that the chief and information commissioners in CIC are to be appointed by the President on the recommendations of a committee which has the PM as its chairperson, a Union cabinet minister nominated by the PM and the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha. The commissioners have a three-year term.
The law states that the chief information commissioner and ICs must be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. Also they should not be an MP, MLA and not hold any other office of profit. They should also not be connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.