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SC to form norms for appointing info bosses

Court criticises selection of candidates by govts without making vacancies known to the public. Bhadra Sinha reports.

delhi Updated: Apr 21, 2012 02:37 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times

Amid rising criticism over lack of transparency in the appointment of information commissioners in the central and state information commissions, the Supreme Court on Friday said it would examine the issue to lay down guidelines to ensure it did not become “property of a political set-up”.

A bench of justice GS Singhvi and justice SJ Mukopadhaya took strong exception to the manner in which candidates were being hand-picked by governments without making vacancies for appointment of information commissioners under the RTI Act known to the public.

The bench wondered if the selection or appointment of state information commissioners (SICs), without making the availability of vacancy known to those suitable for the post or the selection, would be treated as a private affair of a particular political set-up. "There is no half-way about it. We are going to lay down the law," it said.

The court also took a dig at retired bureaucrats and judges who espoused their cause in the “corridors of secretariat” for post-retirement jobs. As senior advocate P Narasimhan contented that the executive was empowered to make such appointments, the bench noted: “All appointments were subject to Article 14 (right to equality) under the constitution.”

The bench observed that posts in various commissions and even universities had become a private property of the political party governing the state. “Whoever is appointed is at the mercy of chief ministers. Ordinarily he would not have the courage to act in a balanced way. After all, they are servants of the people,” the bench observed.

The court’s severe comments came while it was hearing an appeal by those whose appointment as commissioners to the Tamil Nadu information commission was set aside by the state high court.

Acting on a petition, the HC had on November 25, 2011, declared that the appointments of three information commissioners by the erstwhile DMK government were bad in law for lack of transparency. The court also took note of the fact that the then opposition leader Jayalalithaa wasn’t part of the decision making process.