By Sumit Saxena
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved the judgment on a petition challenging the nature of appointments in the Central Information Commissions and State Information Commissions across the country.
The petition challenged the appointment of bureaucrats in Central Information Commission (CIC) and state commissions and cited that it is not mandatory to have them on board; instead the RTI Act proposes induction of people from various fields. As per the RTI Act, candidates for the appointment in CIC must be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science & technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration in governance. The petitioner said that this practice is defeating the purpose of a transparent Act, as candidates having experience in administration (specifically in governance) are only selected.
Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand vehemently argued that the system in place is absolutely working fine. The bench comprising Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer told the ASG that it is apparent apart from bureaucrats, the centre was unable find anybody else. Justice Sikri probed the ASG on the process of clearance of candidates, and mentioned about the involvement of the Department of Personnel and Training.
Justice A.K. Sikri has made 12 appointments for various central commissions and forums; two have been for National Consumer Commission. As per sources, the concerned files are untraceable in the associated government departments.
The ASG said that search committee has shortlisted 14 people, one is retired judge and rest are bureaucrats, as per the due process. Justice Sikri said that the petitioner is not challenging the appointment; instead it is questioning the nature of the process of appointment. Justice Sikri cited the functioning of various tribunals. He said that only bureaucrats are found complaint with the eligibility norms, and therefore, considered best candidates for administrative tribunals. He told the ASG that it was his personal experience.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted a chart detailing the status of vacancies in information commission in the country. The counsel submitted that vacancies are vacant and the government is not taking effective measures to address this issue. The petitioner informed the court that out of 8 vacancies only four have been appointed. The centre sought four weeks to file a status report. Justice Sikri pulled up the centre’s counsel and directed it to file the status report in a week. The bench has reserved the judgment on the petition.