New Delhi: Even as the Centre appointed Heeralal Samariya as new Chief Information Commissioner, the Opposition member in the Prime Minister-headed high-powered selection committee, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to President Droupadi Murmu, alleging that all democratic norms were thrown out of wind and he was kept in the dark on selection of the CIC and Information Commissioners (ICs).
In a letter to the President on Monday, Chowdhury said, “It is with extreme sadness and a heavy heart that I bring to your notice that all democratic norms, customs and procedures were thrown to the wind in the matter of selection of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners.”
He said that the Right to Information Act, 2005, in consonance with our democratic norms and traditions envisages that the voice of the Opposition too is heard in the process of selection of CIC or ICs.
“To meet this democratic end, the Leader of the Largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha serves as a Member of the Selection Committee which is chaired by the Prime Minister, with the Home Minister being the other Member. I, despite being a Member of the Selection Committee in my capacity as the Leader of the largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha was totally kept in the dark about the selection of the CIC/ICs, at the Meeting that was held at the residence of the Prime Minister at on November 3, 2023,” he said.
He said that the fact that within hours of the meeting in which only the Prime Minister and the Home Minister were present and the “face of the opposition”, that is, me, as a bona-fide member of the Selection Committee was not present, the names of the selected candidates were announced, notified and also sworn into Office, only indicates that the “entire selection exercise was predetermined”.
He said that “you will appreciate the fact that the process, as it unfolded within a short span, is not conducive for your democratic ethos and norms.
“I, as a Member representing the largest Opposition Party in the Selection Committee to these all-important Posts under the landmark RTI Act was extremely keen and enthusiastic to partake in the selection process by attending the meeting, had it been convened at a time that would have been suitable to all the Members,” he pointed.
“Unfortunately, while the scheduled time of the Selection Meeting at 6.00 PM on 3 November, 2023 suited the Prime Minister and the Home Minister despite their hectic electioneering schedules, my plea for rescheduling the Meeting, to be held in the morning on the same day i.e. 3 November,2023 was totally disregarded, and all my sincere efforts to attend the Meeting failed,” he said.
He also said that more blatant was the fact that he was not even informed of the outcome of the meeting.
“And even more glaringly, apart from being deprived of the opportunity to be a part of the meeting called in connection with the Selection Process, I received an invitation this morning for attending the swearing in ceremony of the newly selected candidates for the Posts of CIC/ICs,” he said.
“Given the facts pertaining to the entire selection process as brought out above, I would urge upon you to take every possible measure for ensuring that our democratic traditions and ethos do not continue to get diluted by not giving the opposition its rightful and legitimate place to be heard,” Chowdhury added.
Information Commissioner Heeralal Samariya was on Monday sworn in as the chief of the Central Information Commission (CIC) by President Droupadi Murmu here at a ceremony.
The President administered the oath of office to Samariya as CIC at a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ceremony was also attended by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh among other senior dignitaries.
Samariya took over the post after the retirement of former CIC, Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha on October 3.