The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed its direction that only sitting or retired chief justices of High Courts or an apex court judge can head the Central and State Information Commissions.
A bench of justices A. K. Patnaik and A.K. Sikri also directed “that wherever a Chief Information Commissioner is of the opinion that intricate questions of law have to be decided in a matter…, he will ensure the matter is heard by a Bench of which at least one member has knowledge and experience in the field of law.”
The Bench however, made it clear that during pendency of the pleas challenging its judgment, authorities could continue to fill up the vacant positions in the Information Commissions in accordance with the Right to Information (RTI) Act and its verdict, except the portion which had been stayed.
The apex court passed the interim order, saying it would be subject to the outcome of the petitions filed by the Centre and others seeking review of its verdict on appointment of information commissioners.
“We make it clear that subject to orders that may be finally passed after hearing the review petitions, the competent authority will continue to fill up the vacant posts of information commissioners in accordance with the Act and in accordance with the judgement … except sub-paras which we have stayed.”
“This is to ensure that functioning of the Information Commissioners in accordance with the Act and the judgment is not affected during the pendency of the review petitions,” according to it.
The stayed sub-paras of the apex court’s September 13, 2012 ruling stipulated that the Information Commissions should work in Benches of two members and each Bench should comprise a legally trained member, who is to be appointed in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justices of the High Courts of States concerned.
The Bench also clarified in its order that “the Chief Commissioners already functioning will continue to function until the disposal of the review petitions.”