The Supreme Court has directed the Centre as well as States to disclose information pertaining to shortlisted candidates and the criteria being following for appointments to the Central Information Commission as well as the State Information Commissions, on their respective websites.
A bench comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice R. Subhash Reddy ordered, “The respondents shall put on the website the names of the Search Committee, the names of the candidates who have been shortlisted as well as the criteria which is followed for selection.
“We may again record the statement of learned Additional Solicitor General that the selection criteria is prescribed in the RTI Act itself which is being followed. Still, that can be put on the website.”
Central Information Commission appointments
The Central government had, on December 12, filed on affidavit mentioning the status of appointments to the post of Chief Information Commissioner as well as Information Commissioners.
During the hearing the next day, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand submitted that for the post of Chief Information Commissioner, 64 applications have been received. As for the post of Information Commissioners, 4 posts were advertised, for which 280 applications were received.
The court was further informed that the recommendation for the Chief’s post has, in fact, been finalised and that the appointment would be made soon.
Noting that three more posts of Information Commissioners are lying vacant, the court observed that it would be “appropriate to initiate the process of filling up these posts as well by issuing an advertisement at the earliest”.
Terms and conditions of appointment
Representing the petitioner, Advocate Prashant Bhushan also submitted that the CIC advertisement does not mention the salary, allowances and other terms of the appointments, despite the fact that the RTI Act stipulates these conditions expressly. The court agreed to consider this aspect on the next date of hearing.
The court also considered affidavits filed by the States of Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Gujarat and Kerala.
For the State of Karnataka, it was informed that one vacancy for the post of State Information Commissioner (SIO) has been advertised.
For Maharashtra, it was informed that the process of filling up two vacant posts of State Information Commissioners (SICs) will be initiated within four weeks.
As for the State of West Bengal, the court ordered the authorities to disclose the number of SICs required, directing, “The information shall also be provided in respect of the applications under the RTI Act which are being filed, the applications which are pending as well as the appeals which are pending before the SICs and for how long they are pending. The pendency shall also be disclosed. An affidavit in this behalf shall be filed within two weeks.”
The government of Andhra Pradesh was given directions similar to those given to the government of West Bengal. Further, SIC Mr. M. Ravi Kumar was appointed as In-charge Chief of the State Commission, with a direction to appoint a Chief within one month.
A similar direction for disclosure of information, as was given to West Bengal, was issued to the State of Telangana. The court ordered, “In the affidavit to be filed not only it would be indicated as to how many SICs are functioning, the affidavit shall also disclose the steps which are taken to fill up the posts and how many posts are required to be filled. In case the State of Telangana has taken a decision not to fill ten posts of SIO, justification thereof shall be provided in the form of an affidavit by disclosing the information in the same manner in which it has been directed in respect of State of West Bengal.”
The State of Odisha was also ordered to file a similar affidavit. Further, the government of Gujarat was directed to complete the selection process for SICs and the Chief at the earliest, preferably before the next date of hearing.
The matter will next be heard on January 22, 2019.