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Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and transparency activist Aruna Roy disagreed with the apex court that persons from judicial background or lawyers with experience of 20 years would better serve as information commissioners as the job requires balancing act
New Delhi: Votaries of transparency law on Friday told the Supreme Court that its direction for appointing people from judicial background as members of the Central and state information commissions was "legally not correct" and would lead to "frustrating" the whole objective of the Right to Information Act (RTI), reports PTI.
Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and transparency activist Aruna Roy disagreed with the apex court that persons from judicial background or lawyers with experience of 20 years would better serve as information commissioners as the job requires balancing act.
"That balance does not mean that there has to be lawyers and judges in the panel. The only thing required is transparent and rational method of selection of information commissioners," their counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted before a bench of justices AK Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar.
He further submitted that there was no surety that lawyers and judges would always perform a balancing act in answering queries as "there are lawyers who are quacks and there are judges who are quacks who do not know law."
The bench said it was emphasising on the balancing aspect because there have been several orders in the recent past which were "chaotic".
"Some of these orders are chaotic. There is no balance and they are absolutely chaotic," the bench said.
Bhushan said he along with Gandhi and Roy were actively involved in the drafting of the RTI Act and they are of the view that implementing this particular direction in the 13th September judgement would "frustrate" the purpose of the law.
He said under the RTI Act there can only be 10 bench and if each bench would comprise of two members it will become half and badly affect the functioning of the Central Information Commission in view of the backlog.
"This will frustrate the whole objective of the Act," he said, adding that "this part of judgement (appointment of lawyers or persons with judicial background as members of information panel) is legally not correct," he said.
An NGO, Commonwealth of Human Rights Initiative, through senior advocate MS Ganesh, submitted that information panels cannot be treated as quasi-judicial forums requiring the members to be from the judicial background.
He said the information panels are like administrative panels and people from all backgrounds can be considered.
The Court was hearing the Centre's plea seeking review of its judgement ruling that people from judicial background should also be appointed as members of Central and state information commissions and only sitting or retired chief justices of high courts or a Supreme Court judge can head them.
The Centre had on Thursday contested the view that only loyal bureaucrats are appointed.
Attorney General GE Vahanwati had said no such criteria is followed for these appointments and referred the case of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India Vinod Rai, who was earlier a bureaucrat.
He further submitted that the apex court verdict was wrong as it cannot rewrite a law which is a function of legislative body.
In its 13th September verdict, the apex court had also directed the Centre to amend the RTI Act.
"Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre or state level shall only be a person who is or has been a chief justice of the high court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India," the court had said.
The bench, however, had refused to quash the sections but asked the government to modify it so that people from judicial background are also preferred for the post.
Currently, none of the eight members of the Central Information Commission (CIC), including the Chief Information Commissioner, are from judicial background.
The CIC comprises one Chief Information Commissioner and 10 information commissioners.
When MIAL decided to unilaterally increase parking charges, fifty times higher than the usual hourly rate on the general aviation aircrafts in Mumbai, aircraft owners complained to the regulator and got relief
Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal (AERAAT) on Friday stayed penal parking charges imposed by the Mumbai International Airport Private Ltd (MIAL) for general aviation aircrafts in Mumbai. The Business Aircrafts Operators Association (BAOA) had filed an application before the Appellate Tribunal seeking interim relief from parking charges levied by MIAL on general aircrafts.
“In the absence of any road-map to address the growing concerns on infrastructure and other facilities for the general aviation industry, the MIAL decided to unilaterally increase and impose parking charges, fifty times higher than the usual hourly parking charges on the general aviation aircrafts in Mumbai. The dispute arose when MIAL unilaterally decided to levy and impose exorbitant parking charges since 1 July 2012, without seeking any approval and sanction from the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA),” BAOA said in a release.
BAOA said it made a detailed representation before the airports regulator challenging the levy of parking charges by MIAL and also held several meetings. However, with MIAL continuing to levy penal parking charges, the Association said, it then filed an application before the AERAAT for seeking urgent intervention and interim relief.
BAOA argued that the parking charges form part of aeronautical services and any increase in tariff to be charged for aeronautical services falls within the jurisdiction of the AERA and the MIAL has imposed the penal charges without taking any approval from the regulator.
After hearing both sides, the AERAAT directed to maintain status quo on parking charges and asked MIAL to levy parking charges for general aircrafts at Mumbai Airport as approved by the AERA. The matter is posted for hearing on 4 January 2013.
“This has come as a big relief for the general aviation which is already struggling in these tough economic conditions”, said Rohit Kapur, president of the BAOA. He, however, refused to make any further comments to the media, citing that the matter is sub-judice.