Supreme Court Mandates Hybrid Hearing Facilities for State Information Commissions Under RTI Act

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: October 9, 2023 at 15:03 IST

The Supreme Court of India has directed all State Information Commissions (SICs) to establish a hybrid system for hearing complaints and appeals under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act).

This pivotal decision grants parties the option to choose hybrid hearings and mandates the sharing of video links on the cause list.

The Supreme Court emphasized the need for efficient and accessible electronic filing for all litigants, underscoring that access to justice is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and an integral part of freedom of speech.

The bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra also stressed that technology is no longer a choice but a necessity in the pursuit of justice. The court observed that the Central Information Commission (CIC) already conducts its proceedings in a hybrid manner, facilitating easier access for citizens.

As part of the directive, the Supreme Court ordered all State and Central Ministries to compile email addresses of Central and State Public Information Officers (PIOs) within a month.

These addresses will be provided to all SICs and the CIC. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has been tasked with convening a meeting of all State and Central Information Commissioners to establish a timeline for implementing this directive.

The court also emphasized that funds should be provided by the states wherever necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the order.

The ruling stemmed from a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) aimed at enhancing the functioning of SICs. The PIL sought several remedies, including the provision of both physical and virtual hearings for complaints and appeals, the establishment of updated and self-contained portals for RTI requests, displaying the status of pending and resolved cases, deciding on second appeals within a four-month timeframe, and preparing annual reports on RTI Act provisions.

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