Surendera M. Bhanot (CEO) 27 October 2012
Tajobsindia (Senior Partner ) 27 October 2012
He questioned the constitutional validity of sub-Sections (5) and (6) of Section 12 and sub-Sections (5) and (6) of Section 15 of the Right to Information Act of 2005.
He achieved following directions as prospectively;
1. The writ petition was partly allowed.
2. The provisions of Sections 12(5) and 15(5) of the Act of 2005 are held to be constitutionally valid, but with the rider that, to give it a meaningful and purposive interpretation, it is necessary for the Court to ‘read into’ these provisions some aspects without which these provisions are bound to offend the doctrine of equality. Thus, we hold and declare that the expression ‘knowledge and experience’ appearing in these provisions would mean and include a basic degree in the respective field and the experience gained thereafter. Further, without any peradventure and veritably, we state that appointments of legally qualified, judicially trained and experienced persons would certainly manifest in more effective serving of the ends of justice as well as ensuring better administration of justice by the Commission. It would render the adjudicatory process which involves critical legal questions and nuances of law, more adherent to justice and shall enhance the public confidence in the working of the Commission. This is the obvious interpretation of the language of these provisions and, in fact, is the essence thereof.
3. As opposed to declaring the provisions of Section 12(6) and 15(6) unconstitutional, we would prefer to read these provisions as having effect ‘post-appointment’. In other words, cessation/termination of holding of office of profit, pursuing any profession or carrying any business is a condition precedent to the appointment of a person as Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioner at the Centre or State levels.
4. There is an absolute necessity for the legislature to reword or amend the provisions of Section 12(5), 12(6) and 15(5), 15(6) of the Act. We observe and hope that these provisions would be amended at the earliest by the legislature to avoid any ambiguity or impracticability and to make it in consonance with the constitutional mandates.
5. We also direct that the Central Government and/or the competent authority shall frame all practice and procedure related rules to make working of the Information Commissions effective and in consonance with the basic rule of law. Such rules should be framed with particular reference to Section 27 and 28 of the Act within a period of six months from today.
6. We are of the considered view that it is an unquestionable proposition of law that the Commission is a ‘judicial tribunal’ performing functions of ‘judicial’ as well as ‘quasi-judicial’ nature and having the trappings of a Court. It is an important cog and is part of the court attached system of administration of justice, unlike a ministerial tribunal which is more influenced and controlled and performs functions akin to the machinery of administration.
7. It will be just, fair and proper that the first appellate authority (i.e. the senior officers to be nominated in terms of Section 5 of the Act of 2005) preferably should be the persons possessing a degree in law or having adequate knowledge and experience in the field of law.
8. The Information Commissions at the respective levels shall henceforth work in Benches of two members each. One of them being a ‘judicial member’, while the other an ‘expert member’. The judicial member should be a person possessing a degree in law, having a judicially trained mind and experience in performing judicial functions. A law officer or a lawyer may also be eligible provided he is a person who has practiced lawat least for a period of twenty years as on the date of the advertisement. Such lawyer should also have experience in social work. We are of the considered view that the competent authority should prefer a person who is or has been a Judge of the High Court for appointment as Information Commissioners. 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
9. The appointment of the judicial members to any of these posts shall be made ‘in consultation’ with the Chief Justice of
10. The appointment of the Information Commissioners at both levels should be made from amongst the persons empanelled by the DoPT in the case of Centre and the concerned Ministry in the case of a State. The panel has to be prepared upon due advertisement and on a rational basis as afore-recorded.
11. The panel so prepared by the DoPT or the concerned Ministry ought to be placed before the High-powered Committee in terms of Section 12(3), for final recommendation to the President of India. Needless to repeat that the High Powered Committee at the Centre and the State levels is expected to adopt a fair and transparent method of recommending the names for appointment to the competent authority.
12. The selection process should be commenced at least three months prior to the occurrence of vacancy.
13. This judgment shall have effect only prospectively.
14. Under the scheme of the Act of 2005, it is clear that the orders of the Commissions are subject to judicial review before the High Court and then before the Supreme Court of
attention to the doctrine of precedence and shall not overlook the judgments of the courts dealing with the subject and principles applicable, in a given case.