SC recalls judgment on RTI

Wed 04 Sep 2013


The Supreme Court on Tuesday recalled its judgment on the Right to Information Act holding that only retired judges or those having law qualification could be appointed as Information Commissioners at the Central Information Commission and at the State level commissions.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and A.K. Sikri said, “As the judgment under review suffers from mistake of law, we allow the review petitions, recall the directions and declarations in the judgment under review.”

On September 13, 2012, the Bench held that for effectively performing the functions and exercising the powers of the Information Commission, “there is a requirement of a judicial mind and, therefore, persons eligible for appointment should preferably have judicial background and possess judicial acumen and experience.”

Writing the judgment recalling last year’s order, Justice Patnaik said: “It is for Parliament to consider whether appointment of judicial members in the Information Commissions will improve their functioning and as Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the RTI Act do not provide for appointment of judicial members in the Information Commissions, this direction was an apparent error. Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act, however, provide for appointment of persons with wide knowledge and experience in law. We hope that persons with wide knowledge and experience in law will be appointed in the Information Commissions.”

“Administrative, not judicial function”

The Bench said: “While deciding whether a citizen should or should not get a particular information ‘which is held by or under the control of any public authority,’ the Information Commission does not decide a dispute between two or more parties concerning their legal rights but their right to get information in the possession of a public authority. This function obviously is not a judicial function, but an administrative function conferred by the Act on the Information Commissions.”

The Bench gave the following declarations and directions. “We declare that Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act are not ultra vires the Constitution. We declare that Sections 12(6) and 15(6) do not debar a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory, as the case may be, or a person holding any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession from being considered for appointment as Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioners, but after such appointment, he has to discontinue as MP or MLA, or discontinue to hold any other office of profit or remain connected with any political party or carry on any business or pursue any profession.”

The Bench said: “We direct that only persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in the fields mentioned in Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act be considered for appointment as Information Commissioner and Chief Information Commissioner. We further direct that persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in all the fields mentioned in Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act, namely, law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance, be considered by the Committees under Sections 12(3) and 15(3) of the Act for such appointment.”

The Bench said, “The committees concerned while making recommendations to the President or to the Governor, as the case may be, for appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners must mention against the name of each candidate recommended the facts to indicate his eminence in public life and his knowledge and experience in the particular field. These facts must be accessible to the citizens as part of their right to information under the Act after the appointment is made.”

[source:TheHindu]

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