SC retracts: Only judges in RTI panels a mistake

Court says it ‘encroached on legislation’,hopes govt will tap those with wide experience in law

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: September 4, 2013 2:37:53 am

Admitting a “mistake of law” and an “encroachment in the field of legislation”,the Supreme Court Tuesday recalled its earlier order which said that “only” serving and retired judges of the apex court and chief justices of high courts can head the central and state information commissions.

Related: Judges’ postings under RTI? SC decides to decide

Allowing the Centre’s review petition,a bench of Justices A K Patnaik and A K Sikri maintained that any direction for appointment of judges as information commissioners would amount to “encroachment in the field of legislation”.

“As the judgment under review suffers from mistake of law,we allow the review petitions,recall the directions and declarations in the judgment under review,” said the bench,also allowing other review petitions tagged along with the government’s appeal.

Related: Only SC judges,HC CJs can head info panels,rules apex court

On September 13,2012,a bench comprising Justice Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar,who has since retired,had ruled that information commissions are “judicial tribunals” and need to be manned by a person with “judicial mind,expertise and experience”. The bench had directed the government to amend the RTI Act accordingly.

Related: New heads possible for info panels

The government filed a review petition,asserting that the court cannot issue directions to the legislature to amend an Act or rules.

The court on Tuesday admitted that information commissioners perform only administrative functions,not judicial functions,since they merely decide whether or not to allow any information to be made public.

“Once the court is clear that information commissions do not exercise judicial powers and actually discharge administrative functions,the court cannot rely on the constitutional principles of separation of powers and independence of judiciary to direct that information commissions must be manned by persons with judicial training,experience and acumen or former judges of the high courts or Supreme Court,” it said.

The court,however,expressed its “hope” that the government would appoint persons with wide knowledge and experience in law.

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