Thursday, August 16, 2012

HC orders ad hoc appointment of information officers

The Gujarat high court on Tuesday directed the state government to fill two vacant posts of information commissioner in the state in two months, on an ad-hoc basis, till the backlog of appeals before the commission is cleared.

Acting on a PIL filed by a senior citizen Prafull Desai, a bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala has ordered to appoint the commissioners , so the State Information Commission can deal with the large volume of appeals filed under theRight to Information Act, 2005.

The petitioner, Desai, had filed the PIL seeking the high court's direction to the state government to fill up all posts of information commissioners to make quick disposal of appeals possible, and so the information law can be implemented in its true spirit.

Desai moved the court after the information commission held a Lok Adalat in Vadodara earlier this year, though there is no provision for such a settlement in information laws.

Citing a news report, Desai told the court that information officers pressurized applicants to sign settlement documents. To this, the judges inquired if there is a provision for settlements in the Act. When the reply was in the negative, the court sought an explanation from the government on conducting Lok Adalats to settle appeals under RTI laws.

The court ordered for ad hoc appointments at this stage, after the government pleader Prakash Jani submitted that appointment of information commissioner requires constitution of a committee headed by the chief minister. This committee selects and finalizes names and then recommends them to the governor for her confirmation .

At present, the commission has three information commissioners including the chief information commissioner , and two posts are vacant.

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