Commissions seek clarification on the apex court order
Jasleen Kaur | September 27, 2012
The State Information Commissions (SIC) of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan which halted work after the Supreme Court’s order on appointment of commissioners, are still not functioning. There are a total of 28 state commissions.
These commissions decided to stop working either on their own or upon the advice of the Advocate General of the State or of the State’s Law Department. The supreme court in the Namit Sharma judgement on September 12 had directed that all second appeals and complaints under the RTI act will be heard by a bench of not less than two members and this bench will be presided over by an Information Commissioner who has a law background and judicial training. SICs hearing RTI Act appeals await clarifications on their future course of action.
Many states reported unfilled information commissioner vacancies and some said it would take time to implement the changes ordered by the SC.
However, in Kerala the Advocate General has advised the SIC to continue working and the Central Information Commission continues to hear cases as before.
Also, work in all SICs in southern India continues as before. The Information Commissions of Chhattisgarh continues to work while awaiting clarifications from the state government about their future course of action.
In Jharkhand six vacancies in the Information Commission are to be filled up. Despite the availability of a member with judicial training who also meets the direction of the Apex Court that all Information Commissions must be headed by serving or retired judges, work has been halted in Jharkhand. While the concern in many other State Information Commissions seems to be about the non-availability of a member with judicial training, in Jharkhand the concern seems to be about non-availability of non-judicial experts
Goa is in a unique position of not having to make a decision about continuing or stopping work as there is no serving member on the Information Commission
Even more surprising is that most of the SICs that have halted work have publicly announced it. Haryana SIC has posted an announcement on its website about the stopping of hearings.
The apex court’s judgement also directed that persons with law background and judicial training must be preferred for appointment as first appellate authorities to dispose of first appeals. According to reports in media the government of India is planning to approach the Supreme Court about difficulties with implementing the directions of the apex court.
The information has been compiled by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
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