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India's information commissions "riddled" with up to 10 years delay in hearing RTI pleas, Delhi public hearing told

By Our Representative
Even as releasing its new report highlighting concerns regarding the performance of information commissions in India, including the Central Information Commission (CIC), a public hearing in Delhi organized by advocacy groups, Satark Nagrik Sangathan and National Campaign for People's Right to Information, has confirmed its key findings -- delays, skewed composition of information commissioners, vacancies, lack of penalty imposition and transparency in their functioning.
The report, ‘Report Card of Information Commissions in India’, was released in the presence of RK Mathur, India's chief information commissioner and Haryana information commissioners, and right to information (RTI) users and activists from 14 states -- Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Bihar.
The hearing was told, while people have understood the value of the RTI Act and are using it vibrantly for a variety of issues -- from demanding accountability in basic entitlements to questioning the highest officers -- the functioning of information commissions is a major bottleneck in the effective implementation of the RTI law.
RK Mathur
Chakradhar, an RTI activist from Andhra Pradesh, testified that the state has no functional state information commission for the past 11 months. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the state information commission (SIC) of Andhra Pradesh continued to function as the information commission for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. However, SIC became defunct in May 2017 when the serving commissioners retired. No new commissioners have been appointed.
Abey George from Kerala highlighted that the SIC is functioning with only one commissioner even though nearly 14,000 appeals/complaints are pending with the commission and it takes several years for a matter to come up for disposal.
Reena testified that despite passage of more than 16 months since she had filed a second appeal with CIC, the matter has yet to come up for hearing. A single mother from Dakshinpuri, Delhi, she applied for scheduled caste (SC) certificates for her children but was told by the revenue department that she needed to produce the caste certificate of the father of her children as a mother’s caste certificate would not suffice.
Reena filed an RTI request in June 2016 seeking information about the documents required for applying for a caste certificate for her children and the procedure to be followed in case a single mother is not in possession of father’s caste certificate. She filed a second appeal with CIC on November 30, 2016. However, till date her matter has not been taken up by CIC.
Amitava Chowdhury from West Bengal said, he filed an application under the RTI Act on March 28, 2008 seeking information on the names and designations of persons connected with appointment-related activities of the West Bengal College Service Commission. However, no information was provided. Hence, he filed a complaint before SIC on February 25, 2009. The complaint was finally heard on March 7, 2018 -- more than nine years after it was filed!
Kusumlata, a resident of Moti Lal Nehru slum in Delhi, said, she filed an RTI application seeking information on her pension which was suddenly denied, without informing her. She was provided incomplete information, which was also confirmed by the first appellate authority. Despite non-compliance with the orders of the first appellate authority, CIC refused to impose penalty.
Shankar, a resident of Lal Gumbad, sought certified copy of his application for SC certificate and copy of verification report of his certificate from the revenue department though RTI on July 28, 2015. No reply was received. Therefore, he filed first appeal on September 8, 2015. During the hearing on October 13, 2015, a direction was issued to provide information within seven days. As there was no compliance, he approached CIC. While CIC issued a show case notice, till date there is no follow-up.

Comments

Uma said…
In the early days, when Shailesh Gandhi was in charge, two queries raised by me resulted in action in a week's time. After he resigned, I haven't had occasion to raise any queries but I have been reading the "horror" stories in the papers and on the 'net. No government in India will ever bring about change in the sorry state the best act is in today
Anonymous said…
Very soon CIC and SICs would become like SC and HCs.... with pendency running into lacs of cases.....

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