On July 7, the Supreme Court asked the Union and the states to file a status report in regards to its 2019 verdict for filling up the positions of Chief Information Commission(CIC) and the State Information Commissions (SICs) posts under the Right to Information Act.
Justice S. Abdul Nazeer has stated that both the centre and the state will be provided a four-week period to file the details of vacancies about the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and the State Information Commissioners (SICs). The court has also urged the governments to present the measures taken to fill the positions.
The plea was filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj in connection to the implementation of the 2019 verdict of the court for the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and State Information Commissioner (SICs).
The RTI activist has sought measures from the government on the appointment of the information commissioners. The activist urged that the appointments should be conducted within a stipulated period of time and in transparency.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared in the apex court for the petitioners. He stated that there are 3 vacancies available and claimed that the selection criteria or the name of candidates were not disclosed.
Around 300 people had applied for the positions. However, only seven were shortlisted. Additionally, he alleged that the position filled was by journalists who favoured the centre and termed the selection as ‘bogus’.
He alleged that the position was filled with the central party supporters to favour the union.
He stated that the pendency to fill the vacancy has disrupted the functioning of the Right to Information Act (RTI).
Madhavi Divan, Solicitor General, appearing for the Union, stated that the compliance process was carried out in March 2020. The affidavit regarding the process was filed on April 24 2020. Bhushan claimed that since the affidavit was filed a year ago, subsequent changes of criteria and shortlisted people would have been disclosed.
However, Divan responded by stating that the affidavit was filed in compliance with the directives issued in Paragraph 30 of the order by the Supreme Court in December 2019 and was following rules stated by the apex court.
Divan also addressed the allegations of bogus journalists as erroneous and stated the members selected counted to seven and the ideal maximum strength is ten.
The court ruled out that it wants to be equipped with the latest information and has provided a grant of four weeks to file the latest update. After reviewing the updates, the court will make a judgement.
The bench issued directives on a 2018 plea filed by Right to Information (RTI) activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh K. Batra and Amrita Johri. The plea was filed as per the Right to Information Act of 2015 seeking the filling of the vacancies for Information Commissioner under the Central Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioner.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) directive stated that around twenty thousand cases were pending before the Chief Compliance Commissioner. The reason for the same was quoted as a vacancy in the post of the Information Commission.
The situation was brought to light again in October 2020, when the petitioners alleged that the Respondents failed to comply with the Supreme Court directives and asked for an urgent listing of the matter. They further claimed that the affidavit, filed on April 24, 2020, was misleading.
The petition also argued that the 300 applications filed went in vain as only one post was filled. The application stated that the Union of India has issued a fresh application advertisement. It stated that the union’s move to advertise rather than reviewing the application caused a delay in filling the vacancy and weakened the RTI.