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HindustanTimes Mon,14 Jul 2014

Directive on info panels to keep it independent: SC

PTI  New Delhi, December 04, 2012
First Published: 19:08 IST(4/12/2012) | Last Updated: 19:10 IST(4/12/2012)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said its directive for appointment of people from judicial background in information panels was with the aim to keep them "independent" and free from "political or other patronage".

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The apex court also said the appointment of a person with judicial background is an "additional requirement" as that member in the panel would be consulted as an expert for protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens.

"In the tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies, appointments of members are made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India or Chief Justices of High Courts. This is done to maintain the independence of the panel and there is no political patronage or other patronage. It is also to protect the integrity of such bodies," a bench comprising justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar said.

"For everything can there be a political patronage," the bench said and added that otherwise people would not hesitate to come out with remarks like "apna admi lagaya hai (you have put your own people)".

It said appointment of people with judicial background would help in protecting the fundamental rights of right to privacy and freedom to practice any profession under Article 21 and 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution.

"We are harping on Article 21 and Article 19 (1)(g). The right to information has to be balanced with Article 21 and Article 19 (1)(g) and other rights," the bench said when advocate Manish Singhvi, appearing for Rajasthan Government, was arguing that right to information cannot be brought under the civil dispute requiring adjudication.

The counsel was making the submission that right to information was a fundamental right and there was no need of a member with judicial requirements as his role would be akin to an adjudicator.

The apex court said there was need to go into the depth of its September 13 judgement as it was concerned with the right of privacy under Article 21 and if that right is violated it can even strike down the Parliamentary Act.

"Instead of striking down, we want maintain the balance," the bench said and added that "we don't have to work with mental blockade".

The bench also agreed with the counsel that its directives were "pro tem measure till legislatures amend the law".

It described the transparency law as a "valuable Act" which was required and implemented through experienced hands.

"It is a valuable Act. We don't want to strike it. It is a very good Act. We need persons of experience for it," it said.

However, the bench complained that it was not getting the type of assistance it needed to raise the level of debate in dealing with the review petitions.

"We are not getting the type of assistance we need. Let us get the level of debate up which I have been saying since yesterday," the bench said.

The court had on Monday ticked off the Centre saying it may "throw out" its review plea against the verdict for appointment of people from judicial background in information panels for not answering its posers properly.

"You are not answering the court's questions. Either you answer the questions intellectually or if you argue this way, we will throw out your review petition," the bench had told additional solicitor general Amarjit Singh Chandiok, amid sharp exchanges between them.

During an earlier hearing, the court had said its verdict for appointment of people from judicial background in info panels was not aimed at rehabilitating judges but to make the panels independent of government's influence.


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