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The Central Information Commission (CIC) continues to function normally despite the Supreme Court's order last week that only serving and retired judges of the apex court and chief justices of high courts can head information commissions. But the order has begun to affect commissions in some states and the Centre is concerned about the fallout of the order.
Some state governments, to avoid being in contempt of the apex court, have stopped the process of filling vacancies that exist at the Information Commissioner (SIC) and Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) level. For instance, the Madhya Pradesh Information Commission is functioning with only SCIC Iqbal Ahmed. Assam has only one SIC in Mohan Chand Malakar. Jharkhand is making do with just an SCIC, Justice Dileep Sinha. So also Rajasthan (T Srinivasan) and Sikkim (Nari Tshering).
There is just one SIC in both Tripura and Manipur while Goa has neither an SIC nor an SCIC. Uttar Pradesh has an SCIC and two SICs but many candidates are eyeing the vacancies for commissioners. Haryana managed to appoint four SICs barely a week before the Supreme Court order. Appellants have been visiting many of these state commissions for their cases only to get new dates for hearings.
The government fears the court order could also create problems for the Citizens' Charter Bill. The bill was introduced in Parliament last December and the Standing Committee report on the bill was tabled on August 28. The bill, which seeks to ensure time-bound delivery of goods and services to people and allows redressal of their grievances, has a provision to form state and central public grievance redressal commissions made of chief commissioners and other commissioners.
In fact, the citizens' charter has been in existence for the last few years in more than a dozen states and they also have a provision for a second appellate authority on the lines of information commissions. There is a fear that appointments to these appellate authorities could also be affected if the Supreme Court is petitioned citing its RTI order. In the light of these concerns, the Centre is likely to ask the Supreme Court to review its order. And RTI appellants are expected to suffer delays until the court rules on such a review.
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