India

Why no experts on RTI panels, asks Supreme Court

Justice A.K. Sikri. File

Justice A.K. Sikri. File

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked why Right to Information bodies, especially the apex forum of Central Information Commission (CIC), were almost completely manned by bureaucrats.

Justice A.K. Sikri, who led a Bench comprising Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, pointed out that the Right to Information Act of 2005 mandates that people with a range of experience and from various fields should serve as information commissioners.

“A range of people could be appointed to the Information Commissions, but only retired bureaucrats are appointed,” Justice Sikri addressed Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand for the government.

Justice Sikri pointed out that out of 280 applications received for the post of information commissioners at the CIC recently, 14 were shortlisted, and they were almost all bureaucrats.

“We are not blaming the appointments. But there were names who were not bureaucrats, but not one of them were appointed,” Justice Sikri pointed out, agreeing with advocate Pranav Sachdeva, representing the petitioner, Anjali Bhardwaj.

Justice Sikri said may be even the search committee shortlisting the eligible candidates was made up of bureaucrats. “The psyche is that they feel the only class eligible for such posts is this one (bureaucrats),” the judge commented orally.

Justice Sikri said bureaucrats could be considered for appointments if they were good, but the Act also mandates people from other fields of work too.

Ms. Anand said the appointments to the CIC were not done in a hurry and those appointed were “eminently suitable people”. She said the appointments process is an “ongoing process”.

Non-applicants

Mr. Sachdeva argued that the minutes of the search committee showed that out of the five short-listed candidates for the post of Chief Information Commissioner, four had never even applied.

Of the 14 short-listed candidates for the post of Information Commissioners, two had not applied. He urged the court to usher in transparency in the appointments process.

Ms. Bhardwaj alleged that the Centre and the State governments “have attempted to stifle the functioning of the Right to Information Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions in a timely manner”.

“This is despite huge backlogs of appeals and complaints in many information commissions across the country. Due to non-appointment of information commissioners, several information commissions take many months, and in some cases even years, to decide appeals and complaints due to accumulation of pending appeals/complaints, thus defeating the entire object of the RTI Act,” the petition said.

The court reserved the case for judgment.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 5, 2022 6:31:53 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lack-of-experts-on-rti-panels-irks-sc/article26122802.ece