New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the Centre and eight states on a plea for direction to immediately fill up vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs).
A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan asked Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand as to why the appointments were not being made despite a backlog in the CIC.
There are four vacancies in the CIC, even as more than 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending.
The court issued notices to the Centre as well as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, and Telengana on a PIL filed by rights activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh K. Batra and Amrita Johri.
Kamini Jaiswal appeared for all three petitioners.
“The government of India and the state governments have attempted to stifle the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to perform their statutory duty of ensuring the appointment of commissioners in the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions in a timely manner,” the PIL said.
The government were not filling the vacancies of the information commissions both at the Centre and in the States despite huge backlogs of appeals and complaints pending before them across the country.
It said as a consequence, several information commissions take many months and even years in some cases to decide appeals and complaints which are accumulating.
Pointing out that the CIC and the SICs were set up to decide appeals and complaints against public authorities for non-compliance of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the petitioners contended that the “proper functioning of these institutions was essential for effective implementation of the RTI Act”.
While the Andhra Pradesh SIC is non-functional in the absence of any Information Commissioner, Maharashtra SIC has four vacancies and a backlog of 40,000 appeals and complaints.
In case of Kerala, there are 14,000 pending appeals and complaints. There is just one Information Commissioner and six vacancies.
Karnataka has a backlog of 33,000 appeals and complaints.
Odisha is functioning with only three Information Commissioners while Telangana has two Information Commissioners. They have backlogs of more than 10,000 and 15,000 appeals/complaints respectively.
The West Bengal SIC is functioning with only two Commissioners and is hearing appeals/complaints filed 10 years ago, the PIL said.
The petitioners said that the Information Commissions in Gujarat, Nagaland, and Maharashtra are functioning without their respective heads, even though under the RTI Act they have a crucial role in the administration and superintendence of the commissions.