SC to hear on Sept 1 plea seeking compliance of 2019 verdict on filling up of posts in CIC & SICs

New Delhi, August 25 (PTI): The Supreme Court Wednesday said it would hear on September 1 a plea seeking compliance of its 2019 verdict on time-bound filling up of posts of information commissioners at the CIC and state panels under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

In an important verdict on the transparency law, the apex court had come out with a slew of directions on February 15, 2019 and ordered that the selection process to fill vacancies at the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) should begin two months before they arise and the search committee should select people of eminence from various fields and not be limited to bureaucrats.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of justices S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Madhavi Divan told the bench that as per apex court’s earlier direction, the Centre has filed a compliance affidavit. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj who has sought implementation of the 2019 verdict, claimed that the government has not complied with the directions.

“Mr Bhushan, you are only concerned about the vacancies but there are issues of infrastructure as well,” said the bench and posted the matter for hearing on September 1.

The top court had last week directed the states to file status reports giving details of the numbers of vacancies and pending pleas in the SICs under the Act.

The apex court had on July 7 sought report from the Centre and states on the compliance with its 2019 verdict asking them to ensure time-bound filling up of posts of information commissioners at CIC and state panels under the transparency law.

Earlier, the court had noted that the Centre’s last status report on compliance was filed over a year ago and had asked the ASG to file a fresh one on the status of vacancies, the steps taken to fill them and observance of other directions.

Bhushan had earlier told the apex court that the application has been filed for filling up of vacancies in CIC and SICs.

He had said there have been vacancies in SICs in states like Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka and West Bengal and there was a need to implement the directions of this court in entirety.

He had alleged that around 75,000 and 36,000 cases under RTI are pending adjudication in Maharashtra SIC and the CIC respectively and the efforts have been made to render the RTI legislation ineffective.

The apex court, in 2019, had said selection of information officers for the CIC and SICs should include people of eminence from various fields and not be limited to bureaucrats, a ”bias” which is ”writ large” in the current selection process.

It had said Parliament intended persons of eminence in public life be taken as CIC as well information commissioners but a ”strange phenomenon is happening”, that those persons who have been selected belong to only one category which is public service.

It had also said that to bring transparency in selection of information commissioners, states should adopt the Centre’s process in which it uploads on the website the names of the Search Committee, the names of the candidates who have been shortlisted as well as the criteria followed for selection.

The top court had then directed the Centre and eight states — West Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka — to fill up the vacancies without any delay within a period of one to six months.

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Source: PTI