Manmohan Singh, Advani to choose new information chief Friday

New Delhi, Nov 20 (Inditop.com) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily are expected to meet Friday evening to finalise who India’s new chief information commissioner will be.

Present information commissioner M.M. Ansari and Right to Information (RTI) activist Shekhar Singh are the frontrunners for the post.

“The meeting is expected to take place today (Friday) evening as the prime minister has to leave for his trip to the US Saturday,” a government official said.

The post of CIC fell vacant nearly a month ago when Wajahat Habibullah resigned to head the Information Commission of Jammu and Kashmir on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s request.

The meeting is under a strict watch of Right to Information (RTI) activists from across the country who have been demanding that the next CIC be appointed through a transparent, inclusive and participatory process.

The activists have also asked the government to make public the shortlisted candidates and how they were shortlisted.

According to a senior official of the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training), the nodal government department to handle RTI: “Present information commissioner M.M. Ansari and RTI activist Shekhar Singh are the frontrunners.”

Till a couple of days ago, Shekhar Singh was the favourite, but officials stated that at present the scale is heavily tilted in favour of Ansari.

“Ansari’s name is almost finalised,” an official added.

Shekhar Singh, an environmentalist, has been campaigning for several years for the RTI act and played a very important role in drafting of the RTI bill in 2004-05.

Ansari has been severely criticised by activists for being soft on bureaucrats and not levying penalty on erring officials.

The meeting was to take place last month but was deferred for unexplained reasons.

The activists had written to Advani, Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to finalise the procedure and rules for the selection of new CIC chief.

The RTI Act 2005 specifies the composition of the selection committee but does not talk of process like advertising and shortlisting for finalising the name.