Are we witnessing the death of a fundamental right under RTI?
Moneylife Digital Team 14 September 2012

According to former CIC Shailesh Gandhi citizens need to question the Supreme Court judgement and ask for a review by a larger bench, if they want RTI to remain relevant

The Supreme Court has given a judgement in Namit Sharma vs. Union of India on 13 September, 2012 in WP(C) 210 of 2012. The Court has given directions that all Information Commissions shall work in Benches of two members, and one member should be a ‘judicial member’. Thus 50% of the Commissioners will now be retired judges. "Effectively the disposal of pending cases will drop to about 50% of the current disposals. This will lead to Commissions deciding cases after five years or more in the next few years," says Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

 

He said, "Citizens should question this judgement and ask for a review by a larger bench, if they want RTI to remain relevant. I believe there are adequate legal grounds to challenge this judgement."

 

On Thursday, the apex court, while lifting the stay on appointment of information commissioners under the RTI Act, said the government should give preference to people from judicial background while appointing such Commissioners.

 

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal said the verdict by the Supreme Court on appointment of Information Commissioners is a classic example of judicial overreach. "If not reviewed, it would induce practical problems thus making the Act, which was drafted by civil society members with an aim for simplicity and practicability while maintaining transparency and accountability, a toothless law."

 

The bench of justices AK Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar passed the order on a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging Section 12 and 15 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, enumerating the qualifications needed for the appointment of members to the commissions.

 

The bench, however, refused to quash the Sections but asked the government to modify it so that people from the judicial background are also preferred for the post.

 

“..without any peradventure and veritably, we state that appointments of legally qualified, judicially trained and experienced persons would certainly manifest in more effective serving of the ends of justice as well as ensuring better administration of  justice by the Commission. It would render the adjudicatory process which involves critical legal questions and nuances of law, more adherent to justice and shall enhance the public confidence in the working of the Commission,” the apex court said in its judgement.

 

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. Presently, three posts of Information Commissioners are vacant in the CIC.

 

"At present Central Information Commission has eight Information Commissioners out of total sanctioned strength of eleven, with none of them having judicial background. To constitute double-bench with compulsion to have a member with judicial background, there is a need to appoint eight more members, which I don't think is possible with the current setup at the Commission," Mr Agrawal pointed out.

 

Here is a copy of the Supreme Court judgement...

 

Comments
Rajinder
9 years ago
What expertise is carried by judicial members. Why they should be appointed. They only have experience of delaying delivery of justice.
Consumer protection Act requires that a case should be decided in 60 or 90 days (I do not remember exactly. There is no discretion given to extend the dead line. But 99% cases are decided after 1 year.
Recently I filed 2 cases against insurance cos. Since in these cases there was no dispute with the insurance cos on facts, I requested that case may be disposed off without any replication, evidence by way of evidence or written arguments (I included my written arguments in the complaint itself).
I also wrote in the complaint (first 3-4 paras) that in case my suggestions regarding replication etc are not acceptable then an appealable order may please be passed.
The result - no one read first 3-4 paras of the complaint.
When I referred to them I was told that my complaint will be dismissed.
I requested for dismissal of my complaint. At this point date was given for evidence by the OP. I reminded the judicial member that there is no dispute on the facts of the case and if there is dispute on facts I will drop my dispute.
I was told that I am misbehaving. I requested for an explanation about the part which is misbehaviour. I did not raise my voice at all. Is raising legal issues is misbehaiour.
After this point the next date was fixed for arguments.
That is the expertise carried by judicial members. And this is not a stray case. For last 8 years I have been facing this threat of dismissal of my case by different judicial members when I try to remind them that there is no dispute on facts of the case. They refer to some non existent court rules and given a lost expression.
The judges are not willing to learn.
Dipak Chatterjee
9 years ago
REGARDING SUPREME COURT DECISION ON RTI, CIC(CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSIONER) IS RIDICULOUS, OVERREACHING AND ENCROACHING THE JUDICIAL POWER, IT WILL DESTROY THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF COMMON CITIZEN, IT MUST BE APPEAL TO THE REVIEW BENCH OF SUPREME COURT.
DR. DIPAK CHATTERJEE
MOHAN
9 years ago
Supreme Court is right. Individuals with judicial back ground must be the Information commissioners.In Kerala none of the members have judicial back ground and many of their decisions are ludicrous.
Rajinder
Replied to MOHAN comment 9 years ago
What expertise is carried by judicial members. Why they should be appointed. They only have experience of delaying delivery of justice.
Consumer protection Act requires that a case should be decided in 60 or 90 days (I do not remember exactly. There is no discretion given to extend the dead line. But 99% cases are decided after 1 year.
Recently I filed 2 cases against insurance cos. Since in these cases there was no dispute with the insurance cos on facts, I requested that case may be disposed off without any replication, evidence by way of evidence or written arguments (I included my written arguments in the complaint itself).
I also wrote in the complaint (first 3-4 paras) that in case my suggestions regarding replication etc are not acceptable then an appealable order may please be passed.
The result - no one read first 3-4 paras of the complaint.
When I referred to them I was told that my complaint will be dismissed.
I requested for dismissal of my complaint. At this point date was given for evidence by the OP. I reminded the judicial member that there is no dispute on the facts of the case and if there is dispute on facts I will drop my dispute.
I was told that I am misbehaving. I requested for an explanation about the part which is misbehaviour. I did not raise my voice at all. Is raising legal issues is misbehaiour.
After this point the next date was fixed for arguments.
That is the expertise carried by judicial members. And this is not a stray case. For last 8 years I have been facing this threat of dismissal of my case by different judicial members when I try to remind them that there is no dispute on facts of the case. They refer to some non existent court rules and given a lost expression.
The judges are not willing to learn.
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