SC stays own order on the working of information panels

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday stayed a part of its judgment which had said that the information commissions would comprise benches of two members with one of the two being a judicial member and the other being an expert member.

The court also permitted the filling up the vacant position of the information commissioners.

A bench of Justice A.K.Patnaik and Justice A.K.Sikri partly stayed the operation of its Sep 13, 2012 order.

“We make it clear that subject to orders that may be finally passed after hearing the review petitions, the competent authority will continue to fill up the vacant posts of information commissioners in accordance with the (Right to Information) Act,” and in accordance with its judgment except for the portion that had been stayed, the court said.

“This is to ensure that functioning of the information commissioners in accordance with the Act and the judgment is not affected during the pendency of the review petitions,” the court said.

“We further make it clear that the chief commissioners already functioning will continue to function until the disposal of the review petitions,” the court order said.

The Sep 13 judgment was passed by a bench of Justice A.K.Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar. The latter has since retired and is presently heading the National Green Tribunal.

The stayed portion of the judgement had also set the qualification of the judicial member, as one who is a “person possessing a degree in law, having a judicially trained mind and experience in performing judicial functions”.

The court had said that a “law officer or a lawyer may also be eligible provided he is a person who has practiced law at least for a period of twenty years as on the date of the advertisement. Such lawyer should also have experience in social work”.

On the appointment of the information commissioners and the chief information commissioners, both at the central and the state level, the court by its stayed verdict had said that preference be given to the persons “who is or has been a judge of the high court”.

“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,” the court had said by its Sep 13 order.

The apex court had further said that the “appointment of the judicial members to any of these posts shall 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”.

The apex court Tuesday order partly staying the operation of its own judgment came in the course of the hearing of a petition by the government seeking the review of the Sep 13 verdict.

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