The top court issues show cause notice to Anil Masih.
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central and the State governments to take steps to fill vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs) before the Right to Information Act becomes a dead letter.
Directing the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to collect information from all States on the sanctioned strength of SICs, vacancies and the total number of pending cases, a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra observed that the 2005 law on Right to Information (RTI) will become a “dead letter” if vacancies are not immediately filled.
Noting the submission by advocate Prashant Bhushan that SICs in States like Jharkhand, Tripura and Telangana have become defunct, Chief Justice Chandrachud granted the Centre and States three weeks’ time to furnish the information.
The top court direction came in the course of the hearing of a plea by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj stating that the directions by the top court by its 2019 judgment including timely filling up of vacancies in the CIC and SICs have not been complied both by the Centre and the States.
Bhushan informed the bench that at present the CIC is headless and functioning with only four Commissioners, all of whom are set to retire by November 6, 2023 following which the CIC will become defunct.
The Maharashtra SIC is without a Chief Information Commissioner and functioning with only four Commissioners even though more than 1,15,000 appeals/complaints are pending, the petitioner said.
Jharkhand SIC is completely defunct since May 2020 and the SICs of Telangana and Tripura are also non-functional, the top court was informed.
By its 2019 order, the top court had passed a slew of directions to the Central and State governments to fill vacancies in their respective Information Commissions in a timely and transparent manner. In its order the court had given three months to the Centre to fill the vacancies that then existed in the CIC.
The top court had also directed the authorities concerned to put on the website the names of members of the search committee meant for selection and appointment of CIC’s information commissioners (ICs), within two weeks.