The Centre has appointed Sudhir Bhargava as the new Chief Information Commissioner(CIC), a government order said on Sunday.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) is sanctioned strength of 11. But, the RTI body was left with just three Information Commissioners after the Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur and Information Commissioners Yashovardhan Azad, Sridhar Acharyulu and Amitava Bhattacharyya retired from the commission.
Four new Information Commissioners namely Former IFS officer Yashwardhan Kumar Sinha, Former IRS officer Vanaja N Sarna, Former IAS Neeraj Kumar Gupta and Former Law Secretary Suresh Chandra have also been appointed by the government after the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind. The four bureaucrats appointed in the commission have retired this year only.
Sinha is a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer who served as the High Commissioner of India in the United Kingdom. Sinha has served a number of important postings in the Ministry of External Affairs. He headed the sensitive Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran Division as Additional Secretary for four years.
Sarna is a 1980-batch IRS Officer. She served as the Chief of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). Now, she will be the only woman in CIC.
Gupta is a 1982-batch IAS officer and served as the Secretary in the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management.
Chandra is an Indian Legal Service officer who retired as Union Law Secretary this year and also served as the Private Secretary to the then Law Minister Arun Jaitley from 2002 to 2004.
The move came after several activists approached the Supreme Court on the issue of vacancies in the commission after the CIC and information commissioners resigned. The top court, then, asked the Centre and states to appoint the Chief Information Commissioner and other Information Commissioners in a transparent manner. A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and R SubhReddy ordered the Centre to upload the details of search committees and the applicants on the website.
An important petitioner in the case, Commodore Lokesh Batra claimed that the government has not complied with the apex court’s order to post the details on the website, thereby violating the transparency.
Lawyer Pinky Anand, who is Additional Solicitor General, appeared for the Centre and told the court that 65 applications were received for the CIC post and 280 applications for the post of four information commissioners in the Central Information Commission. She assured that after soon after these posts are filled up, a notification for inviting applications for the remaining posts of ICs will be issued.