CIC JUDICIAL BODY OR ADMINISTRATION WING?

Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under RTI (Right to Information) Act, 2005 is an authorized body to provide information to the individuals, by acting on the complaints from them who hasn’t received the information from the public authority.  There has been a Quaeitur (Question raised) that whether this authorized body is a judicial body or administrative. It was a perplexing stage for the Supreme Court once when SC expressed diversified views in two cases and reversing its own judgment.

In 2013, Supreme Court held that the “functions of Information Commissions are administrative, not the Judicial functions, because a person has a right to information and commission ensures that the information sought from public authority is not denied to them and their right is being forefended, unless the information is exempted under the provisions of the RTI Act.” Information Commission does not decide a dispute between the two parties concerning their legal rights, rather it decides whether a citizen should get particular information or not. Commission has to ensure and effectuate that Right to Information recognized under Art. 19 of the Constitution and under RTI Act is been provided to them vis-a-vis protections embodied under Art.21 of the Constitution.  

In the first case (Namit Sharma v. Union of India, 2012) SC held that Information Commission was a judicial tribunal so commissioners having legal minds will be appointed. In this case, Supreme Court scrutinized the character of IC as: “Information Commission is vested with dual jurisdiction. It is an Appellate authority, while additionally, it is also a supervisory and investigative authority under Sec. 18 of the RTI Act, 2005 where IC is accredited to hear complaints on the grounds defined in Sec18(1) of the Act. Central and State Information Commissions also have the authority to impose the penalty (Under Sec. 20 of the act) and recommend disciplinary actions against the PIOs (Public Information Officers) who have committed any act which is unreasonable under this section.

The Court further stated that these above provisions manifest the functioning of the IC as not administrative but quasi-judicial in nature. It empowers the functions and powers as adjudicatory in character and legal in nature. The various provisions of the RTI Act are clear indicators that Commission is a Judicial Tribunal and not a ministerial tribunal which is more influenced and performs functions similar to that of the machinery of administration.” This decision of Supreme Court was criticised because it has almost redrafted the provisions of the RTI Act, regarding the qualifications of IC. SC said there is an absolute need to amend the provisions of Sec. 12(5), 12(6), 15(5) and 15(6) of the Act. SC further stated that it is an indubitable proposition of law to state that Commission is a ‘Judicial Tribunal’ performing functions of both Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Nature. It is also a part of a system of Administration of Justice.

Within a year in 2013, this case was later reviewed in Union of India v. Namit Sharma where all those errors which arose were removed and restored the original intent. In this case decided by Judges A K Sikri and A K Patnaik, they reviewed and reversed the conclusions which were laid down in an earlier case. They directed the committees that while making recommendations to the President or Governor for an appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners under Sec 12(3) and 15(3) of the Act; they must ensure that the recommended candidates have knowledge and experience in the particular field.

In second case in 2013 (an year after first case), SC held that “the functions of the Information Commissions are administrative not the Judicial functions as they are limited to ensuring that a person is not denied the information who wants to sought it from any Public Authority, until or unless it is exempted from the provisions of the RTI Act. Information Commissioners are not like Judges who have done training or have judicial experience, they are required to act in a fair, just and reasonable manner as per the provisions of the act. They are not appointed to decide a dispute between parties concerning their legal rights other than the right to get information.”

It is still to be a mystery and is non-constant that whether IC is a quasi-judicial body or not because the SC had not taken the note of other function of IC in the second case, id est (i.e) imposing penalty. While interpreting the provisions of the act it needs to be taken note of that IC decides ‘dispute’, dispute of whether to provide information or not, claim against penalty between public authority and information seeking person. Since the functions of IC are both judicial and administrative nature, so IC should be considered to be as a “quasi-judicial body”.

 

 

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