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The Supreme Court Monday stayed the operation of a Delhi High Court order striking down the provision under which the chief information commissioner constitutes different benches of the transparency law panel to hear appeals.

The high court by its May 21 order quashed the Central Information Commission (Management) Regulations, 2007. The high court also held that the chief information commissioner had no powers to constitute other benches.

An apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan stayed the operation of the high court order after Attorney General G. Vahanvati told the court that it (high court order) had impacted the functioning of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The attorney general also said that the chief information commissioner was unable to constitute benches to hear the cases.

The section 12(4) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act says that the general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs of the Central Information Commission shall vest in the chief information commissioner, who shall be assisted by the information commissioners.

The provision says that the chief information commissioner may exercise all such powers and do all such acts and things which may be exercised or done by the CIC autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this act.

In the instant case, the CIC in an application filed by Sarbjeet Roy directed the constitution of a committee to inquire into the compliance of Section 4 of the RTI Act by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The CIC direction was issued Sep 22, 2009.

The Section 4 of the RTI Act mandates all public authorities to maintain records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this act.

The DDA challenged CIC’s order of Sep 22, 2009 and the high court while deciding the DDA’s plea declared that the regulation framed by the CIC in pursuance of its power under Section 12(4) of the RTI Act were ultra vires (beyond the legal powers of CIC).

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