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Govt of India, state govts "stifling" RTI Act: Supreme Court told

By Our Representative
Arguing before a Supreme Court bench on controversial appointment of information commissioners, petitioners Anjali Bhardwaj, Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri have argued that the “Government of India and state governments have attempted to stifle the functioning of the Right to Information (RTI) Act by failing to do their statutory duty of ensuring appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions, in a timely manner”.
Represented through senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, Pranav Sachdeva and Rahul Gupta, the petitioners underlined the need for transparency in the appointment of commissioners, insisting, “Lack of transparency in the appointment of information commissioners, and the violation of directions of the Supreme Court regarding the procedure for appointment of information commissioners, is undermining the institution of the information commission”.
Heard by the apex court bench consisting of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah, the petitioners pointed that the appointment process of information commissioners to the Central Information Commission had happened in an arbitrary manner, as the search committee had, in violation of its mandate, short-listed persons who had not even applied for the post in response to advertisements.
The petition further said, the minutes of the search committee revealed that no rational criteria was adopted on the basis of which the short-listing was done. Also, the minutes showed the completely ad-hoc manner of functioning of the search committee, wherein people who were appointed members of the committee, also applied for the post and had to be subsequently replaced and were finally even short-listed. One of the persons who has been appointed, Suresh Chandra, had not even applied for the post.
The petitioners said, the government had once again issued a defective advertisement on January 4, 2019 for the remaining 4 vacant posts in the CIC. The advertisement/notification did not specify the salaries and tenure of information commissioners, even though these are defined in the RTI Act.
The court directed that the petitioner should file a reply and the government should also file a report on all the issues and listed the matter for January 29, 2019. All the states were also directed to file their reports before the hearing.

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