NEW DELHI: 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 of Justices S A Bobde, S Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari asked the Centre and the nine states to file the status report in four weeks.
"In the meantime, the Union of India and the states shall submit a status report regarding filling up of the vacancies in question and a compliance report with regard to the directions given by this court vide judgment dated February 15, 2019 be also filed," the bench said in its order.
The top court's direction came after RTI activists Anjali Bhardwaj and others submitted that the earlier apex court orders on filling up of vacancies have not been complied with by the Centre and the nine states -- Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha, Karnataka, West Bengal and Nagaland.
The top court issued a notice to the Centre and the nine states on the fresh application filed by Bhardwaj and listed the matter for further hearing on December 16.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Bhardwaj and others, said the Centre and the state governments had not put the names of selected and short-listed candidates on their website as was directed by the Supreme Court.
He said the vacancies are yet to be filled by the Centre and states in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs).
Bhushan said that at present the CIC has around four vacancies of members and more seats are likely to fall vacant in coming months due to the retirement of some existing members.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that a search committee has been constituted and efforts are being made for filling up of the vacancies in the CIC.
The apex court had in February passed a slew of directions on filling up vacancies in the CIC and the SICs and said the process of appointments must start one to two months before a post falls vacant.
The court had said the post of the chief information commissioner is on a higher pedestal and the appointment process for a CIC should be on the "same terms" as in the process of a chief election commissioner.
Taking note of the provisions in the RTI Act, it had said besides bureaucrats, eminent citizens from other walks of life should also be considered for the post of information commissioners in the CIC.
The plea by Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired) and Amrita Johri have claimed that around 33,000 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC at present as posts of information commissioners are lying vacant.
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of chief information commissioner and information commissioners and upload details of search committees and applicants on the website.
In July last year, the top court had expressed concern over vacancies at the chief information commission and state information commissions and had directed the Centre and the nine states to file an affidavit giving a time schedule for filling up the posts.
The court had asked the nine states to apprise it about the time frame for filling up the posts.
The petitioners have said that several information commissions like in Gujarat and Maharashtra were functioning without the chief information commissioner, even though the RTI Act envisages a crucial role for this post on which the administration and superintendence of commission is vested.
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.