NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and State governments to file the latest compliance report within a period of four weeks regarding the timely and transparent appointment of Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission (CIC) under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
"The Union of India and all the other state governments are directed to file the latest compliance report within a period of four weeks from today. Petitioner is also permitted to file an additional affidavit," the Bench stated in its order while posting the matter for hearing after four weeks.
A bench headed by Justice Abdul Nazeer granted four weeks to the governments on a plea seeking directions to the government authorities for implementing the top court's directions in the 2019 judgment. The court in the order also directed the governments to file the updated report stating the present status of vacancies.
By its 2019 order, the apex court had passed a slew of directions to the Central and State governments to fill vacancies across Central and State Information Commissions in a transparent and timely manner. In its order, the court had given three months to the Centre to fill the vacancies that existed in the CIC.
The top court had also directed the authorities concerned to put on the website the names of members of the search committee, meant for selection and appointment of CIC's information commissioners (ICs), within two weeks.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner activist Anjali Bhardwaj submitted that despite repeated directions from the court there are still three vacancies and the government ought to have put a present status on record. Their criteria of selection, etc, nothing has been placed on record, he added.
Bhushan contended that more than 300 people had applied for the vacancies and they shortlisted seven people but details of others weren't on record at all. Criteria for selecting people for the search committee should be made public but it was not given to the leader of opposition too, he argued.
Bhushan further told the Bench that posts are vacant and pendency is going.
Bhushan claimed, "RTI Act was brought in accordance with several judgements to effectuate Right to Information, but the whole RTI Act is being destroyed. Either the posts are vacant or they fill them up with party supporters who can shield their acts,"
Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan appearing for the Centre submitted that a compliance affidavit was filed in April 2020.
"Their grievance was that persons had not been appointed. That process was carried and appointments were made in March 2020," said Divan.
ASG Divan clarified that there are seven members in CIC now apart from the Chairperson.
Bhardwaj had filed the application in an already pending PIL on filling up of vacancies in CIC and the State Information Commissions (SICs), in view of the top court's December 16, 2019 order.