Need to focus on infrastructure apart from making appointments of Presiding Officers: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court today, while adjourning plea seeking filling up of vacancies at Information Commissions, remarked that the applicants are only focussing on Presiding Officers and not Infrastructure. The bench said, “What will the Presiding Officers do when there is no adequate infrastructure?”

A Division Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari, adjourned the matter for Wednesday and directed to complete the service of pleadings in the meantime.

The bench was likely to hear Centre’s response on vacancies, existing and prospective, at Central Information Commission.

Vacancies and criteria of shortlisting candidates, were the two issues highlighted by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for the applicant.

Ld. ASG Madhavi Divan appeared for the Union. It was informed that the compliance report has already been filed.

On the contention by Ms. Divan that no counter-affidavit has been filed by the applicant, Adv. Bhushan submitted, “I don’t need to file any affidavit – Their affidavit itself shows that they are in gross contempt.”  

Brief Background

The present PIL seeks to ensure filling up of vacancies at Central Information Commission as well as the various State Information Commissions, on the ground that RTI is a time-bound legislation and prescribes statutory timelines for providing information – In such a case, the authorities not running in full strength jeopardizes the interest of Citizens, thereby infringing their Right to Information, a facet to Article 19 & 21.

It has also been alleged by the Petitioners that there is lack of transparency in appointment of Information Commissioners in as there is no defined procedure or transparency, in shortlisting, selection and appointment of Information Commissioners.

By judgment dated February 15, 2019, the Top Court laid the following three aspects, for the respondents to answer:

(a) Timely filling up of the vacancies to ensure that the work of the Information Commissioners does not suffer.

(b) Transparency in the mode of appointments.

(c) Terms and conditions on which these appointments are to be made should be clearly stated.

Also Read: Supreme Court slams Maha Govt. for keeping Information Commissions vacant, all states to file fresh status reports in 3 weeks

Case Title: Anjali Bhardwaj v. Union of India