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RTI pleas pile up at information commissions

  • Published
    12th Oct, 2022
Context

Vacant posts and inadequate members are taking a toll on the transparency regime, and it is resulting in pendency in the resolution of RTI pleas.

Details:

  • As per the latest update-
    • About 3.15 lakh complaints or appeals are pending with 26 information commissions across India.
    • The highest number of pending cases was in Maharashtra at 99,722 followed by Uttar Pradesh at 44,482.

Some statistics: More than 4.2 crore RTIs have been filed and 26 lakh second appeals are there before the commissions. States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu State information commissions are getting more appeals than the Central government CIC.

Defunct Information Commissions:

  • Two out of 29 information commissions across the country are completely defunct.
  • Three information commissions were found to be non-functional for varying lengths of time for the period under review.
  • Four of them are headless at the moment.
  • Only 5% of the positions are occupied by women.
  • Jharkhand and Tripura have been completely defunct for 29 months and 15 months respectively.
  • Several information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are working at reduced capacity with less than the stipulated number of members being in office.

Central Information Commission:

  • The Central Information Commission was established by the Central Government in 2005, under the provisions of the Right to Information Act (2005).
  • It is not a constitutional body.
  • The Commission consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information Commissioners.
  • While inquiring, the Commission has the powers of a civil court in respect of summoning, requiring documents, etc.

Right to Information (RTI) Right to Information (RTI) means that any Indian citizen, can request any information (which is supposed to be public knowledge) from the offices, departments of the state or central governments. The RTI Act, 2005 mandates that the said offices and departments must process such requests in a timely manner. Under this Act, access to information from a public agency has become a statutory right of every citizen. It is a fundamental right flowing from Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.

Problem Areas:

  • Not Imposing penalties: Commissions did not impose penalties in 95% of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable.
  • Large Backlog of cases: The large backlog of cases has built up, resulting in a long waiting time for disposal, as governments have failed to make appointments of information commissioners in a timely manner.
  • Tardy disposal rates: In several commissions, there is a lack of transparency in their functioning which is resulting in a tardy disposal rate.
  • Vacant Posts: Out of a total of 165 posts of information commissioners, 41 are vacant, including two chief State information commissioners.
  • Women’s Representation: There are only 5% (only 8) of women information commissioners in the country.

Way Forward:

  • Doing away with casual attitude: Commissions are becoming parking lots for retired bureaucrats and the casual attitude by PIO/First Appellate Authority.
  • Digitization of process: The entire system needs digitization. Only 11 information commissions out of 29 provide e-filing facilities for RTI applications or appeals, but only five are functional.
  • Digital RTI portal: The digital RTI portal (website or mobile app) can deliver more efficient and citizen-friendly services, which are not possible through conventional mode. This will be beneficial for both transparency seekers and the government.

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