Choose Information Commissioners with judicial background, says Supreme Court
New Delhi, Sep 13 (ANI): The Supreme Court today asked the government to appoint people with judicial background as Chief Information Commissioners and Information commissioners at the Central and State levels as the Commissions perform quasi-judicial functions.
"We are of the considered view that it is an unquestionable proposition of law that the Commission is a 'judicial tribunal' performing functions of 'judicial' as well as 'quasi-judicial' nature and having the trappings of a court. It is an important cog and is part of the court attached system of administration of justice, unlike a ministerial tribunal which is more influenced and controlled and performs functions akin to the machinery of administration," said an apex court bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar while pronouncing its order today.
The Supreme Court passed the order on a PIL challenging section 12 and 15 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 enumerating the qualifications needed for the appointment of members to the commissions.
"It will be just, fair and proper that the first appellate authority (i.e. the senior officers to be nominated in terms of Section 5 of the Act of 2005) preferably should be the persons possessing a degree in law or having adequate knowledge and experience in the field of law," said the apex court bench.
The Supreme Court also lifted the stay on appointment of Information Commissioners.
"We are of the considered view that the competent authority should prefer a person who is or has been a Judge of the High Court for appointments as Information Commissioners. Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre or the State shall only be a person who is or has been a Chief Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court of India," the apex court bench said.
"The appointment of judicial members to any of these posts shall be made 'in consultation' with the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justices of the High Courts of the respective states, as the case may be," the apex court bench added.
The bench, however, refused to quash the sections, but asked the government to modify it so that people from judicial background are preferred for the post.
"There is an absolute necessity for the legislatures to reword or amend the provisions of Section 12 (5), 12 (6) and 15 (5), 15 (6) of the Act. We observe and hope that these provisions would be amended at the earliest by the legislature to avoid any ambiguity or impracticability and to make it in consonance with the constitutional mandates," said the apex court bench.
"We also direct the Central Government and/or the competent authority shall frame all practice and procedure related rules to make workings of the Information Commissioners effective and in consonance with the basic rule of law. Such rules should be framed with particular reference to Section 27 and 28 of the Act within a period of six months from today," the apex court bench added.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) comprises one Chief Information Commissioner and 10 Information Commissioners.
None of the eight members of the Central Information Commission (CIC), including the Chief Information Commissioner have judicial background at present.
Three posts of Information Commissioners are presently vacant in the Central Information Commission.
One Namit Sharma had filed the petition contending that since the Central Information Commission's work under the RTI Act is mainly connected with the law, the members in the panel should have judicial background.
The government had, however, opposed the petition, while contending that it could not be made mandatory that the members should have judicial background. (ANI)
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