Govt Wards Off RTI Query on New CBI Directors Appointment
There should be transparency in the appointment process, to enable public scrutiny
The term of the current director of the Central Bureau of Investigation ends on January 31, 2019. The media reports that the government initiated the process of selecting the next CBI chief in December 2018.
The selection committee for the appointment of the CBI director comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition, and the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by them.
But there is a complete lack of transparency in the process of appointing the CBI director. The government has not provided information sought under the Right to Information Act about the details of the ongoing selection process.
Information was sought under the RTI Act about the meetings of the selection committee, including the dates of meetings, a copy of their agendas and minutes, and details of the persons who attended each meeting.
All Indian Police Service officers of the four senior most batches in service must be considered for the CBI director’s post. Information was sought under the RTI Act about: the process adopted by the government to shortlist candidates for consideration by the selection committee, a copy of any shortlist prepared, and details of any committees set up to prepare such a shortlist.
The central government’s Department of Personnel and Training responded to each of these RTI applications with the same summary response:
“It is informed that as per this Department’s Executive Order No. 230/14/99-DPSE dated 08.07.2004 issued in pursuance of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s directions dated 20.04.2004 given in CA No. 4303/2002, amongst all the IPS officers of the senior most 4 batches in service on the date of retirement of the (incumbent) Director, CBI are needed to be considered for filling up the post of new Director, CBI. The process of selection of new Director in CBI has not attained finality…”
This is clearly an attempt to obfuscate and withhold information about the appointment process. The DoPT provided no details about the selection committee meetings or the process of shortlisting candidates.
In December 2016, when the previous CBI director retired, the government failed to convene a meeting of the selection committee to appoint his successor, and named Rakesh Asthana as Interim Director instead.
After a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court, Alok Verma was selected and appointed as Director.
In order to ensure public trust in an institution as important as the CBI, it is crucial that the appointment of its director be made in a timely manner.
There should be transparency in the process of appointment, to enable public scrutiny.
The RTI application and responses from DoPT can be read here.
Anjali Bharadwaj is co-convener of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information.