The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to disclose the process of appointment of the members of the Central Information Commission, including details on applicants and search committees, reported The Hindu. The court asked the government to maintain transparency in the process.
The Commission, set up under the Right to Information Act, does not have a chief information commissioner currently, and has three information commissioners. The Act provides for up to 10 information commissioners. The authority deals with grievances related to RTI requests, and has jurisdiction over all central public authorities.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that a search committee has shortlisted names for the post of chief information commissioner and a final decision will be taken soon, PTI reported. The government said it had got 65 applications for the post of chief information commissioner and 280 for the post of four information commissioners.
A bench of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and R Subhash Reddy also directed states to fill up vacancies in the State Information Commissions in order to reduce the pendency of RTI appeals. It also asked the Centre to upload details of search committees for commissioners on its website. The matter was posted to January for further hearing.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj who alleged that the central and state governments had “attempted to stifle the functioning of the Right to Information Act” by failing to appoint commissioners at the central and state levels.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Bhardwaj, said the government has not specified the tenure of the chief information commissioner in its notification, contrary to the RTI Act, which says the tenure should be for five years.
The Supreme Court bench said people were not filing RTI applications out of fear.
On July 27, the top court had directed the Centre and seven states to file an affidavit giving a time frame on filling up vacancies in the Central and State Information Commissions. It had said “strict view” would be taken if the Centre or states failed to file the affidavit within four weeks.
Earlier this month, former Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu had alleged that the government was intimidating the Central Information Commission by threats of litigation. Acharyulu made the allegation in a letter he wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind to seek his intervention.