SC judgment stalls appointment of 8 info commissioners in UP

Sources in the government said that the panel of names that was sent to Raj Bhavan last month will now first be scrutinised by the Governor in the light of the Supreme Court judgment.

Written by Maulshree Seth | Lucknow | Published: September 18, 2012 1:55 am

The process of appointment of eight information commissioners in UP has been stalled following last week’s Supreme Court judgment which says that preference should be given to former high court judges,and that information commissions work with benches of two members each,one of whom should be a “judicial member” and another an “expert member”. Further,the court has said lawyers can be appointed “judicial members”,but they should have experience of 20 years of practice.

Sources in the government said that the panel of names that was sent to Raj Bhavan last month will now first be scrutinised by the Governor in the light of the Supreme Court judgment. After the names were sent to the Governor,he had first sought detailed background of each candidate before taking any decision.

At present,the state information commissioners are appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of a committee chaired by the chief minister and including the leader of opposition in the legislative Assembly and a cabinet minister nominated by the chief minister.

When the committee met,the criteria for appointment of the state chief information commissioner and state information commissioners was that they should be persons of “eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law,science and technology,social service,management,journalism,mass media or administration and governance”.

However,in its judgment on September 13,the Supreme Court’s bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar directed that the “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 India”.

Since the judgment is applicable “prospectively”,the state government can at least relax in case of Chief Information Commissioner Ranjit Singh Pankaj,who is a retired IAS officer and still has two years of his term left.

But the order of the Supreme Court will apply to the appointments to fill eight vacancies of information commissioners. The court ruled,“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.”

It added,“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.”

The court added,“A law officer or a lawyer may also be eligible provided he is a person who has practised law at least for a period of 20 years as on the date of the advertisement. Such lawyer should also have experience in social work.” Also,the appointment of “judicial members” would have to be “be made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justices of the high courts of the respective states,as the case may be.”

Though the state government has been secretive about the panel of names it sent to the Governor,sources said they included many “non-judicial” persons. Moreover,it needed to be checked whether persons from judicial background included in the panel have the experience of “20 years of practice”,as laid down by the high court.

At present,the Uttar Pradesh Information Commission has,besides the Chief Information Commissioner,only two information commissioners. Information Commissioner Gyan Prakash Maurya is a lawyer,but with less than 20 years of experience,while information commissioner Khadijatul Kubra has the background of social work and mass media.

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