Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court A P Shah highlights the issues raised by the judgement of the honourable court:
First, equating the information commissions with a "judicial tribunal" is clearly erroneous. The only issue to be decided before the commission is whether information, which is already available with the autho-rities, should be disclosed or not. The commission does not therefore dispense justice (like a court), it merely deals with disclosure of information.
Second, the Act already provides certain qualifications for appointments to the post of information commissioners ("persons of eminence" and "knowledge and experience" in particular fields). However, the court has completely rewritten the provisions of the Act by insisting on qualifications that go beyond what has been prescribed by the Act, and further, by specifically laying down the requirement of two-person benches, having at least one judicial member. This is a clear case of judicial overreach where the court has virtually legislated provisions of law.
More importantly, there are important practical concerns that flow from this judgment, and which the court has unfortunately glossed over. A huge fallout by way of immediate effect of this judgment would be the cessation of the activities of all the information commissions until members with judicial background are appointed. The position of the current incumbents to the post of CICs becomes precarious as they cannot continue to work as per the SC decision. It is completely unclear whether they would resign or be removed — and if so, under what provision?
The RTI Act is one of the biggest triumphs of Indian democracy, an instrument of empowerment that does more for accountability of government than most other measures in that direction. It is, perhaps, a more valuable tool for fighting corruption than the proposed Lok Pal. It is important that nothing comes in the way of the working of this majestic Act. The government has been quick to move a review petition before the SC and one hopes that the SC will provide suitable redress.