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Appoint non-bureaucrats also as information commissioners: SC


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said information commissioners, both at the Centre and in states, under the Right to Information Act should also be appointed from other streams of society and not limited to serving or retired bureaucrats.

A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer said it is expected that information commissioners are appointed from streams with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. They should not be limited to "serving or retired government employees."

The entire appointment process must be transparent with terms and conditions of appointment specified in the advertisement inviting applications, it said.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sikri said, "This (RTI) Act is enacted not only to sub-serve and ensure freedom of speech. On proper implementation, it has the potential to bring about good governance which is an integral part of any vibrant democracy. Attaining good governance is also one of the visions of the Constitution. It also has vital connection with the development."

Pointing to the "definite link between right to information and good governance", the court said good governance requires greater transparency in functioning of public authorities, informed citizenry, improvement in accountability and performance of the government; and reduction in corruption in government departments.

Underlining the link between right to information and good governance, the court said well before RTI Act was enacted in 2005, the top court had repeatedly emphasised the people's right to information to be a facet of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution that guarantees right to speech and Article 21 guaranteeing right to life and liberty.

The court also referred to its judgments declaring that "transparency was the key to functioning of a healthy democracy."

Justice Sikri said the Selection Committee on Information Commissioners should have a criteria for the short-listing of the candidates.

It would be appropriate for the Search Committee to make the criteria for shortlisting the candidates so that it is ensured that the process is done on the basis of objective and rational criteria, the court said.

Pointing to its impact on good governance, the court directed that all the vacancies both at the level of Central Information Commission and the state information commissions be filled within six months.

It said tat where the process of appointment was already on, it should be completed in a month or two.

To stem any time lag in the filling of future vacancies, the court said that the process of filling the future vacancies should commence two months before an incumbent information commissioner is to retire.

The verdict came on a PIL by an information rights activist, Anjili Bharadwaj, seeking directions for the effective implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2005 so that fundamental rights of citizens to access information from public authorities are secured.

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