India's transparency regime? 1.88 lakh cases pending before 16 state information commissions, no end in sight

A file noting
By Our Representative
A fresh study on the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2006, has said that the collective backlog in the disposal of appeals and complaints in 16 information commissions (ICs), for which data was available, was alarming as 1,87,974 cases were pending on December 31, 2015.
Suggesting that the huge backlog in the disposal of appeals and complaints by the commissions is “one of the most serious problems being faced by the transparency regime in India”, the study, titled
“Tilting the Balance of Power: Adjudicating the RTI Act”, insists, a maximum time should be fixed “within which appeals and complaints should ordinarily be dealt with – hopefully not more than 45 days.”
The study has been carried by a research coordinated by Amrita Johri, Anjali Bhardwaj and Shekhar Singh, and published jointly by Research, assessment, & analysis Group (RaaG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS).
Given the current pendency rate, estimates the study, the time to be taken before new appeal is heard (as of January 1, 2016) in Assam would be 30 years, in West Bengal it would be 11 years and 3 months, in Kerala 11 years and 4 months, in Odisha 2 years and 9 months, in Rajasthan 2 years and 3 months, in Karnataka 1 year and 8 months, and in UP 1 year and 2 months.
Insisting that this would require strength of each of the commissions to be assessed on an annual basis, the study says, this is crucial as ICs have a “high stature, extensive powers, including the power to impose penalties on officials, and are the final appellate authority under the RTI law.”
Pending appeals/ complaints
Giving the example of the ICs which have remained non-functional, the study says, the Assam IC was “without a chief from January 1, 2012 till December 2014. In fact, the commission did not have a single commissioner from March 2014 to December 2014 and therefore no appeals or complaints were heard in this period”.
Then, the Manipur SIC was “non-functional for more than a year from March 2013 to May 2014 as there was no commissioner”, and without a chief for “more than four years- from 2011 till 2015”, the study says.
Further, it says, “The IC of Goa was defunct for most of 2015 as after the retirement of the sole commissioner in January 2015, no new appointments were made till January 2016. In Rajasthan, the information commission was not functioning for almost 13 months, from January 2012 to December 2013, while the Madhya Pradesh IC was not functioning for over a year between 2013 and 2014.”
In fact, the study notes, “The Central Information Commission was without a chief for almost nine months and it was only on the intervention of the Delhi HC on a petition by RTI activists, that the chief was appointed in June 2015.”
Study finds that 8 of the 26 IC websites did not provide information on the number of appeals and complaints received and disposed in 2014 and 2015 -- of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, MP, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
It further finds that 10 IC websites did not provide information on the number of appeals/complaints pending at the end of 2014 or 2015 -- of Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, MP, Manipur, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
And, it finds that on 7 of the 26 IC websites, the decisions and orders of the commission could not be "directly accessed" -- of Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, UP and Chhattisgarh.
Interestingly, Rajasthan’s IC was found to have put up a “disclaimer” tgat its contents are for "public information only”, and “neither the Rajasthan IC nor RajCOMP Info Services Ltd (RISL) or Department of Information Technology & Communication, Rajasthan, is responsible for any damages arising from the use of the content of this site.”


C J Karira said…
This report is as of 31 Dec 2015 !
Why write a article about it in January 2017 - a year later ?
Jag Jivan said…
If the report is of Dec 2015, how come the data up to Dec 31 were analysed?
C J Karira said…
Yes - 31 Dec 2015 data has been analysed in the article.
Check the headings on the table and the contents of the main article body.
Jag Jivan said…
Available data are always a year or more old, nothing unusual. Census 2011 figures are figures are quoted even today to prove issues