The Delhi High Court, asking the central government on Thursday to expeditiously appoint the chief information commissioner and three information commissioners, posts lying vacant for nearly a year, said it will "monitor the issue".
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Deepa Sharma said it will monitor the issue and asked the central government to file a report on the progress made before May 11, the next date of hearing.
The court said it will not dispose of the case Thursday as once it is disposed of, "they (government) may or may not do it (appointment)".
"Past experience shows unless courts don’t interfere, the government doesn’t fill up vacancies," the bench observed.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court that the government is in the process of filling up vacancies and steps have already been taken in this regard. He sought twelve-week time to complete the process of the appointments.
"The candidates have been shortlisted and IB and CBI reports are necessary for the shortlisted candidates. We are expeditiously filling up vacancies and for it we need twelve weeks," the ASG told the court.
The bench said: "The ASG assured the court it is expeditiously filling up the vacancies of chief information commissioner and information commissioners. It’s necessary for this court to monitor the case. Let the government file a report by next date of hearing on the progress it made."
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Right to Information (RTI) activists R.K. Jain, Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra, and Subhash Chandra Agarwal.
The plea said under the RTI Act, 2005, the central information commission (CIC) was created as a statutory body to decide appeals and complaints against public authorities for non-compliance of the act.
The proper functioning of the CIC is essential for the proper implementation of the RTI Act, the plea said, adding that the government has attempted to stifle the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do its statutory duty — to appoint chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the CIC.
The post of chief information commissioner is vacant since August 23, 2014, and the posts of three information commissioners have also been vacant for almost one year, it said.
"Thus, the CIC has been kept headless and there are four vacancies in the CIC. There are only seven information commissioners functioning, as of now," said advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva appearing for RTI activists.
The plea sought directions to the central government to urgently shortlist candidates for the posts of the chief information commissioner and three information commissioners in transparent manner for the final selection and appointment to be concluded in a time-bound manner.
"Because of the non-appointment of the chief information commissioner and the three information commissioners, the pendency at CIC has shot up to a whopping 37,650 appeals/complaints," the PIL said.
"About 13,615 appeals and complaints are pending for disposal before the bench of CIC, which includes cases of important authorities," the petition said.