Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Erred in RTI panel head decision: SC

 Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted it had erred by directing the government to appoint only retired apex court judges and HC chief justices as heads of information commissions at central and state levels. 
    Restoring the position provided under the Right To Information Act for appointment of chiefs of information commissions, a bench of Justices A K Patnaik and A K Sikri erased the court’s September 13, 2012 judgment which directed that ‘the chief information commissioner at the Centre or state level shall only be a person who is or has been a chief justice of the HC or a judge of the Supreme Court’. 
    Allowing the Centre’s review petition filed in the wake of widespread protests against the SC judgment, the bench said, “As Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act do not provide for appointment of judicial members in the information commissions, this direction was an apparent error. Parliament will consider whether appointment of judicial members in information commissions will improve their functioning.” 
    The bench, however, lamented that an unfortunate experience had emerged over the years where information commissions were not able to harmonize the right to information under the Act and the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. 
    This inability to harmonize two important yet conflicting interests could be because of two reasons: first, persons appointed as CIC or information commissioners did not meet the qualification prescribed under the Act, or second, “they do not have the required mind to balance the interests indicated in the Act and restrain themselves from acting beyond the provisions of the Act”. 
    Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Patnaik said, “This experience of the functioning of the information commissions prompted this court to issue the directions in the judgment under review to appoint judicial members in the information commissions.”

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