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'Loyal' bureaucrats being made information commissioners: SC

New Delhi, Dec 6, 2012, (PTI):

"Loyal" bureaucrats are being appointed as information commissioners at the Centre and State transparency panels, the Supreme Court observed today, saying it's order for judicial members in the Commissions would make them independent and free from government influence.

"The Right to Information Act has no doubt done good work but due to infirmities in it, a lot of damage has been done. It has to be rectified," a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said.

They were referring to the provision of the Act pertaining to the eligibility criteria for a person to be appointed as Information Commissioner.

"It would be good if independent person with legal background is appointed in the commission and not only the retired bureaucrats who are loyal to the government," the bench said.

The Court was hearing Centre's plea seeking review of its judgement ruling that people from judicial background should also be appointed as members of the Central and state information commissions and only sitting or retired chief justices of high courts or a Supreme Court judge can head the commissions.

The Centre, however, contested the view that only loyal bureaucrats are appointed. The Attorney General G E Vahanwati said no such criteria is followed for these appointments and referred the case of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India Vinod Rai, who was earlier a bureaucrat.

He further submitted that the apex court verdict is wrong as it can not rewrite a law which is a function of legislative body.

In its September 13 verdict, the apex court had also directed the Centre to amend RTI Act.

"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," the court had said.

The bench, however, had 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, is from judicial background.

The CIC comprises one Chief Information Commissioner and 10 information commissioners.


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