RTI appeal rejection: Model Gujarat's information commission "competes" with Centre amidst PMO indifference

By Our Representative
"Model" Gujarat's State Information Commissions (SIC), the official Right to Information (RTI) watchdog, appears to be competing with India's Central Information Commission (CIC) for "returning" appeals and complaints filed under the powerful transparency law, RTI Act, claimed to be the brainchild of ex-Congress presiding Sonia Gandhi.
Following CIC "returning" 27,558 appeals/complaints out of 47,756 registered during January 2016 to October 2017, Gujarat's SIC comes next. It "returned" 9,854 cases as against 15,071 cases registered. The SICs of other states which have been "returning" high number of appeals filed under SIC are Assam and Uttarakhand.
Revealing this, a just-released report has said that the trend of a large number of appeals/complaints being returned began in 2015, when there was a sudden surge in the number of cases being returned.
"Several RTI activists wrote to the then Chief Information Commissioner of the CIC urging that the commission proactively and publicly disclose information on the number of appeals/complaints being returned and also the reason for the return," it adds.
Complaints/appeals with CIC
While subsequently deficiency memos, which record the reason for returning an appeal/complaint began being made public on-line, subsequently "these memos, have again been made inaccessible to the public and can be accessed only if the appeal/complaint number is known."
A major reason of the alleged indifference towards RTI appeals/complaints, the report suggests, is refusal to fill up vacant posts in SICs and CIC, with majority of commissioners being former government servants.
Giving the example of indifference at the highest level towards filling up vacant posts, the report says, "The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) wrote to the Prime Minister on June 5, 2017 regarding two posts of information commissioners lying vacant in the CIC. However, no response or acknowledgment was received."
It adds, "In response to an application under the RTI Act seeking information on the action taken on the representation made to the PM, the reply received stated that the representation was treated as a public grievance and registered on the online public grievance portal of the central government."
However, "Upon tracking the grievance, it was found that the online status was 'Case closed', even though the field ‘Details’ stated that 'The matter is under consideration'."
Details of information was sought under the RTI Act from 29 ICs about the background of all commissioners, including the chief information commissioners, appointed since the inception of the RTI Act, shows, according the report, that the commissioners are being appointed in violation of the RTI law which wants they should be "from diverse backgrounds and fields".
Thus, of the 303 commissioners for whom background information was available, 59% were retired government officials, while 14% had a legal or judicial background (11% were advocates or from the judicial service and 3% were retired judges); 8% commissioners had a background in journalism, 6% were educationists and just 3% were social activists or workers.
Then, of the the 107 chief information commissioners for whom data was obtained, the overwhelming majority (84%) were retired government servants,￾including 67% retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and another 17% from other services. Of the remainder, 10% had a background in law (5% former judges and 5% lawyers or judicial officers).
The result of this, contends the report, is, the number of appeals and complaints pending on December 31, 2016 in the 23 information commissions, from which data was obtained, stood at an alarming figure of 1,81,852, and the pendency increased to about two lakh cases (1,99,186) at the end of October 2017.
As of October 31, 2017, the maximum number of appeals/complaints were pending in Uttar Pradesh (41,561) followed by Maharashtra (41,178) and Karnataka (32,992). The CIC with 23,944 pending appeals and complaints came in at number four, the report adds.

Comments

Pankti Jog said…
👍 thanks for highlighting this.... Much needed