New Delhi, May 6:
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday slammed the government for failing to fill the post of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), saying it was trying to “shield” itself from scrutiny.
The government denied the charge, leading to dissatisfied Congress members walking out of the Lok Sabha.
“I bring to attention the deplorable lapse of the government in appointing a Chief Information Commissioner,” Gandhi said, raising the issue in the Lok Sabha during zero hour.
“This post has been lying vacant for the last eight months. The posts of the three information commissioners of the Central Information Commission have also been lying vacant,” she said.
The combative Congress president, who had moved an adjournment motion over the issue in the morning, said: “The (Congress-led) UPA had ensured that the position of the CIC never lies vacant.
“The prime minister had made many promises to the people on transparency and good governance and continues to do so.”
Gandhi said this Narendra Modi government had not filled up the Central Information Commissioner’s post “so that the Prime Minister’s Office, the Supreme Court and the defence ministry are not accountable for violations under the Right to Information Act and are protected from public scrutiny”.
Gandhi went on: “The government is brutally weakening the RTI Act and shielding itself.
“A Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) has not been appointed since September 2014, and there are vacancies in the posts of Election Commissioner. These delays in appointment are subverting the transparency and accountability of the government to the people,” she said.
The government rejected the charges.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, said the CVC’s post was vacant as the Supreme Court was overseeing the matter.
A search committee was close to shortlisting candidates for the CIC’s post, he added.
Dissatisfied with the reply, Congress members walked out of the house as Singh insisted that posts of information commissioners had remained vacant even during the UPA’s term.
After the house assembled in the morning, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected the adjournment motion moved by Sonia Gandhi, seeking suspension of question hour to discuss the delay in appointment to top posts in various commissions. But she allowed her to raise the issue during zero hour.
The speaker also rejected pleas to move adjournment motions on other issues by Aam Aadmi Party’s Bhagwant Maan and Communist Party of India-Marxist’s P. Karunakaran and M.B. Rajesh.