Mains Paper 2: Polity | Statutory, regulatory & various quasi-judicial bodies
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: CIC, SIC
Mains level: Implementation of the RTI Act
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions, the country’s apex bodies entrusted to uphold the citizen’s right to information, have been bastions of government employees and their retired counterparts.
- The apex court has found that “official bias” in favour of bureaucrats and government employees was evident from the very beginning of the process for their appointment.
Getting ‘Eminent Persons’ onboard
- The court raised concerns over how government employees or retired ones had consistently been found “more competent and more suitable” than eminent persons from other walks of life.
- The Right to Information Act of 2005 law was enacted to ensure accountability in governance.
- The act itself requires people from varied domains to man the Commissions.
- The apex court directed the government to look beyond bureaucrats and appoint professionals from “all walks of life,” including eminent persons with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism as Information Commissioners.
Preventing Official bias
- Parliament intended that persons of eminence in public life should be taken as Chief Information Commissioner as well Information Commissioners.
- Many persons who fit the criteria have been applying for these posts.
- However, 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.
- In fact, the selection committee, which shortlists candidates for appointment, is itself composed of government employees.
- Official bias in favour of its own class is writ large in the selection process.
Other issues with RTI Mechanism
- The Supreme Court concluded that the entire RTI mechanism has been choked by rising pendency and growing number of vacancies of Information Commissioners.
- Now, the Supreme Court has, for the first time, put the government on a deadline as far as filling vacancies in the Commissions.
- The court directed that the process of appointment should commence at least one or two months before the retirement is due.
Central Information Commission (CIC)
- The Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act is the authorized quasi judicial body, established in 2005.
- It acts upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective Officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
- The Commission includes 1 Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and not more than 10 Information Commissioners (IC) who are appointed by the President of India.
- CIC and members are appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a committee consisting of—Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; a Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.