Maintain transparency in appointments of CIC, Information Commissioners: SC to Centre, States
The bench also directed the states to fill up vacancies in the State Information Commissions (SICs) to reduce the pendency of cases. It asked the state government to file the affidavit indicating the pendency of cases before the State Information Commission.
The Supreme Court on December 13, 2018 asked the Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC).
It asked the government to disclose the process for appointment of Commissioners, including the names of candidates who applied and who were short-listed.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and R Subhash Reddy asked the Centre to put the details of search committees for CIC and ICs on the website.
The Centre told the apex court, in reply, that the search committee has shortlisted names for the post of CIC and a final decision will be taken soon. A total of 65 applications have come up for the post CIC and 280 applications have been received for the post of four ICs in the Central Information Commission.
Once these posts are filled up, notification will be issued for inviting applications for remaining posts of ICs.
Vacancies in the State Information Commissions
The bench also directed the states to fill up vacancies in the State Information Commissions (SICs) to reduce the pendency of cases.
It asked the state government to file the affidavit indicating the pendency of cases before the State Information Commission and give reasons why the state does not need more information commissioners.
July 2018 ruling of Supreme Court
The apex court in its July 2018 ruling expressed concern over vacancies at the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions. It directed the Centre and seven states to file an affidavit giving a time schedule for filling up the positions.
These seven states are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka.
It also warned that a “strict view” will be taken if Centre or states default in filing the affidavit within four weeks.
Plea filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj
The ruling came on a plea filed by the RTI activists Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) and Amrita Johri, who claimed that over 23500 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC.
They also said the SIC of Andhra Pradesh was “completely non-functional” as not a single information commissioner has been appointed to the panel. On the other hand, the West Bengal SIC was functioning with only two commissioners and was hearing appeals and complaints filed 10 years ago.
The plea stated that several information commissions like that of Gujarat and Maharashtra were functioning without the chief information commissioner, even though the RTI Act envisages a crucial role for this post.