The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central government to fill up the vacant posts in the Central Information Commission (CIC) within three months. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde passed the order on a petition filed by RTI activists seeking directions to the Centre to fill the vacancies in both the Central and State Information Commissions in a "transparent and time-bound manner".
The Apex court also asked the authorities to put on the government website the names of members of the search committee for appointment of Central Information Commissioners within two weeks. It raised concerns over the need to have a "filter" for people filing RTI who seek information but have nothing to do with the concerned issue.
"We can understand somebody asking information about Electoral Bonds, but asking information about tender of business... Why would someone without any interest want to get information?" said CJI Bobde. The Chief Justice of India added, "People who are in no way connected to an issue seek information. It sometimes amounts to criminal intimidation, which is a nice word for blackmail. We are not against RTI. We are not against the flow of information. We have to have some guidelines."
During previous hearings, the court had asked the Centre to file a status and compliance report on the appoint of ICs with respect to February 15 judgment in which it had held that adequate functioning of information commissions with a sufficient number of commissioners was crucial for the implementation of the RTI Act. In the Feb 15 judgment, the court had directed Centre to fill up all the vacancies of ICs within six months. It had further directed Centre to pre-empt the vacancies and told it to initiate the process to appoint information Commissioners in Chief Information Commission (CIC) two months before a vacancy arises. The bench also had made it clear about the possible occupants of the office of ICs indicating a preference for eminent citizens besides retired bureaucrats for the posts of ICs. More than 12 lakh RTI applications were made in 2017/18, of which 96 per cent were answered.
(With agency inputs)