Only sitting or retired HC & SC judge to head of Info panel:SC

NewDelhi:The Supreme Court today held that only sitting or retired Chief Justices of High Courts or a Supreme Court judge can head the Central and State Information Commissions and asked the government to amend RTI Act for it.

The apex court also said that like other quasi judicial bodies, people from judicial background be also appointed as members of the Central and State Commissions which is to be done after consulting with CJI and Chief Justice of the respective High Courts.

“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,” a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said.
The bench further said that the governemnt should prefer “a person who is or has been a Judge of the High Court for appointment as Information Commissioners” and the Commisson should sit in benches comprising of a judicial member and an expert member to decide any case under the transparency law.
The bench passed the order on a PIL challenging section 12 and 15 of the Right to Information 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 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.

“The Information Commissions at the respective levels shall henceforth work in Benches of two members each. One of them being a judicial member, while the other an expert member. The judicial member should be a person possessing a degree in law, having a judicially trained mind and experience in performing judicial functions.

“A law officer or a lawyer may also be eligible provided he is a person who has practiced law at least for a period of twenty years as on the date of the advertisement. Such lawyer should also have experience in social work. We are of the considered view that the competent authority should prefer a person who is or has been a Judge of the High Court for appointment as Information Commissioners,” the bench said.