Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 13
As India celebrates 14 years of the Right to Information Act on Friday, a report prepared by NGOs on the functioning of Central and state information commissions has indicted the Centre and state governments for their failure to timely fill vacancies of information commissioners.
Jointly prepared by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies, “Report Card of Information Commissions in India 2018-19” said several information commissions were either non-functional or functioning at reduced strength as posts of information commissioners remained vacant.
“At the time of report publication, there was no functional State Information Commission (SIC) in Tripura (since May 2019), while the Andhra Pradesh SIC was not functional for 17 months (from May 2017 to October 2018). The SICs of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan were functioning without a chief,” the report released to the media on Saturday stated.
The Central Information Commission, which was in December 2018 functioning with just three information commissioners with eight vacant posts, including that of the chief, currently has four vacancies even as the pendency has risen to 33,000, it said.
The report examined the performance of all 29 commissions in India in terms of the number of appeals and complaints registered and disposed, pending cases, estimated waiting time for the disposal of an appeal/complaint, frequency of violations penalised by commissions and transparency in their working.
According to the report, the SIC of Maharashtra has been functioning with just five information commissioners since early 2019 with nearly 46,000 appeals and complaints pending as of March 31, 2019. Similarly, there were only three commissioners in SIC of Odisha where more than 11,500 appeals and complaints were pending as of March 31, 2019.
The number of appeals and complaints pending on March 31, 2019, in the 26 information commissions—from which data was obtained—stood at 2,18,347 with Uttar Pradesh (52,326) topping the list followed by Maharashtra (45,796) and CIC (29,995).
The comparative data for these three commissions showed the number of cases pending increased 20 per cent between March 31, 2018, and March 31, 2019. The information commissions of Bihar, Karnataka and Uttarakhand did not provide requisite information on the backlog of appeals and complaints under the RTI Act. The information was also not available on their websites.
Going by the present rate of disposal, an RTI applicant would have to wait for 18 years to get the information sought in Andhra Pradesh if the matter was heard by the state information commission, the report stated.
Similarly, in West Bengal, it could be heard in seven years and five months, while for Odisha the waiting period would be four years and three months and two years and three months in Kerala, the report stated.
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