We hope, that in future, the persons of eminence will be drawn from these walks of life also, the court said.
Noting that all the chief information commissioners appointed were former chief secretaries, the Uttarakhand High Court has observed that there is no such requirement that a former Chief Secretary can only be appointed as State Chief Information Commissioner.
A division bench of Justice UC Dhyani, and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia made this observation while dismissing a challenge against the appointment of State Chief Information Commissioner. The petitioner had contended before the court that the office of the State Chief Information Commissioner has become the 'dumping ground' for retired bureaucrats, who are rewarded for their loyalty to the state government. When the appointment itself is a reward for loyalty, then the fairness and credibility of such appointee itself becomes doubtful, he contended before the court.
He also submitted before the court that qualification for the post of State Chief Information Commissioner is provided under Section 15(5) of the RTI Act, which nowhere requires the appointment of a retired bureaucrat, rather it prescribes that he shall be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.
Agreeing with this submission, the bench observed that in the matter of appointments to higher echelons, fairness should be the hallmark of selection and in the past, all the Chief Information Commissioners, in the state, were former Chief Secretaries. “There are innumerable statutes where it is provided that a designated officer can only be appointed to a top post. In Right to Information Act, 2005, there is no such requirement that a former Chief Secretary can only be appointed as State Chief Information Commissioner. No person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism or mass media has been appointed as State Chief Information Commissioner so far. We hope, that in future, the persons of eminence will be drawn from these walks of life also,” it said.
However, the bench rejected the challenge against the former chief secretary appointed by the government as State Chief information commissioner, observing that it cannot sit into judgment over the wisdom of the government in the choice of the persons to be appointed so long as the person chosen possesses prescribed qualifications and is otherwise eligible for appointment. “Even though, evaluation of comparative merit of the candidates would not be gone into in a PIL, yet on a bare reading of the qualifications and merits of the candidates, who were considered for the post of State Chief Information Commissioner, we do not find anything wrong in the selection of respondent no. 4, as State Chief Information Commissioner,” the bench said.