RTI activist Sunil Ahya has written to Chief Justice of India and the Centre that a recent Supreme Court (SC) judgment pertaining to appointment of members and heads of information commissions was inconsistent with the principles laid down in Constitution.
A bench of Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar had directed on September 23 that information commissions should work in benches of two,one a judicial member and the other an expert member. It said the state and central chief information commissioners should be retired chief justices of high courts or SC judges.
Justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar noted RTI Act provided for exclusion of jurisdiction of courts in such matters,but said the extraordinary jurisdiction of Supreme Court and high courts could not be taken away. SC also said orders passed by information commissions would undoubtedly be subject to judicial review.
Ahya said in a letter dated October 1,If the said Supreme Court judgment were to be implemented,retired high court and Supreme Court judges would be working for quasi-judicial bodies whose decisions would be subject to scrutiny before sitting judges of high courts and Supreme Court.
Given the rising popularity of Right to Information Act,2005,quite a few decisions of information commissions may be subjected to review before judicial courts. This can create an embarrassing situation.
He told Newsline,The judiciary has several times stressed the point that perception of bias is a factor that needs to be taken note of,even if there might not be evidence of bias in a particular case. This perception of bias would be present if the system laid down by Supreme Court is implemented.
Striking a similar note,Bombay High Court lawyer Ahmed Abdi,said,I believe the government should go for a review of the order. Unfortunately,this order has crippled the system of Right to Information as serving information commissioners feel they would be in contempt of the SC order if they continue working.
He also pointed out that the age of retirement of Supreme Court judges as well as central information commissioners was 65 years.