New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that the appointment of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) and information commissioners at the central and state levels need not be confined to bureaucrats and should be completed within six months.
The directions issued by a bench comprising justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer are expected to ensure transparency in the process.
The move is significant because the landmark Right To Information (RTI) Act was put into effect after years of a citizens’ movement for a tough transparency law.
A long-standing demand by several transparency activists has been that the appointment to the information commissions should be more diverse, particularly with respect to the non-bureaucratic appointments to the top posts.
The Central Information Commission and the state information commissions (SICs) oversee the implementation of the RTI Act, including hearing appeals.
The process should start two months before vacancies come up and if the process for pending vacancies has already started, it should be completed in two or three months, the Supreme Court held.
The apex court said that the process of shortlisting and appointing candidates for information commissioners should be made public on the website to ensure transparency.
The top court observed that talent and experience from varied fields should be considered while appointing the information commissioners and that the appointments should not be restricted to retired bureaucrats.
The Supreme Court was responding to a public interest litigation by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj seeking directions for transparency in the process of appointments of CICs and information commissioners.
In July, the Supreme Court had directed the central government to file an affidavit indicating the number of posts that it proposes to fill, and the timeline for doing this.
The central government was also asked to reveal the reason for not having made any appointments to the CIC pursuant to a 2016 advertisement.