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SC to Centre, States: File status report on filling up vacancies in information panels

Press Trust of India New Delhi | Updated on November 06, 2019 Published on November 06, 2019

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre and nine States to file a status report on filling up of vacancies in the central and state information commissions in compliance with its earlier orders.

A bench headed by Justice SA Bobde gave the directions after RTI activists Anjali Bhardwaj and others submitted that the earlier orders of the apex court have not been complied with.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Bhardwaj and others, said the Centre and State governments had not put the names of selected and short listed candidates on their website as directed by it.

He said the vacancies in the Central (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) are yet to be filled.

The Apex Court had in February passed a slew of directions on filling up the vacancies and said the process of appointments must start one to two months before a post falls vacant.

The court had said the post of Chief Information Commissioner is on a higher pedestal and the appointment process for a CIC should be on the “same terms” that of a chief election commissioner.

Taking note of the provisions in the RTI Act, it had said besides bureaucrats, eminent citizens from diverse walks of lives should also be considered for the post of information commissioners in the CIC.

The plea by Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired) and Amrita Johri claimed that over 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC as posts of information commissioners are vacant.

The Apex court had earlier asked the Centre and States to maintain transparency in appointments of CICs and information commissioners and upload details of search committees and applicants on the website.

In July last year, it had expressed concern over vacancies and had directed the Centre and seven States — Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka — to file an affidavit giving a time schedule for filling up the posts.

The petitioners have said that several information commissions as in Gujarat and Maharashtra were functioning without the a CIC.

The plea has claimed that the Centre and State governments have “attempted to stifle” the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointments in a timely manner.

Published on November 06, 2019
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