Not only babus but people from other fields be also appointed as Information Commissioners: SC

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New Delhi, Feb 15: Questioning the governments for appointing only bureaucrats as Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and states to select eminent people from other fields also for the posts.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer said any person of eminence in public life is qualified to be appointed as Information Commissioner in Central and State Information Commissions and held that selection of only government officials for the posts shows “official bias in favour of its own class”. It asked the Search Committee to consider people from other fields also as “any person 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 is qualified to become Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioner”.
“The Legislature in its wisdom widened the area of consideration by not limiting it to the serving or retired government employees alone. Persons of eminence in public life are made eligible. Field of knowledge and experience is also very much broadened as it can be either in law or science and technology or social service or management or journalism or mass media or administration and governance. The Parliament, thus, intended that persons of eminence in public life should be taken as Chief Information Commissioner as well Information Commissioners,” the bench said.
The court noted that many persons from other fields apply for the post on fulfilling the criteria fixed under RTI Act but the governments do not select them. “A strange phenomenon which we observe is that all those persons who have been selected belong to only one category, namely, public service, i.e., they are the government employees. It is difficult to fathom that persons belonging to one category only are always be found to be more competent and more suitable than persons belonging to other categories. In fact, even the Search Committee which short-lists the persons consist of bureaucrats only. For these reasons, official bias in favour of its own class is writ large in the selection process,” it said.
The Court also asked the governments to bring more transparency in selection process by making public the criteria for short-listing candidates. “We would also like to impress upon the respondents to fill up vacancies, in future, without any delay. For this purpose, it would be apposite that the process for filling up of a particular vacancy is initiated 1 to 2 months before the date on which the vacancy is likely to occur so that there is not much time lag between the occurrence of vacancy and filling up of the said vacancy,” it said.