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Andhra RTI users complain: State Information Commission not functioning for 18 months

By Our Representative
A public hearing in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, saw participants from across the state highlight problems faced by people, as the state information commission (SIC) is not functional for the last 18 months. Co-organised by the United Forum for RTI, Andhra Pradesh, and the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), those who heard people's testimonies included EAS Sarma, former IAS officer, Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convener, NCPRI, and B Ramakrishna Raju, national convenor, National Alliance for Peoples' Movements (NAPM).
After the bifurcation of the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the SIC of Andhra Pradesh continued to function as the information commission for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The commission became defunct in May 2017 after the serving informational commissioners retired. Since then, the commission has been non-functional, it was pointed out. RTI activists, meanwhile, have filed cases in the Hyderabad High Court and the Supreme Court regarding people's fundamental right to information being "frustrated" due to absence of the commission.
The Andhra Pradesh government issued an order regarding the constitution of the SIC of Andhra Pradesh in August 2017, and has now appointed three commissioners in October 2018. However, no chief information commissioner has been appointed and the commission remains non-functional. No appeals and complaints regarding violations of the RTI Act are being heard.
A participant from Vijaynagram said that he had sought a copy of the report of the SIT set up by the government to look into a land scam. His RTI application has been denied and in the absence of the state information commission, he is unable to appeal against the denial. Another RTI user pointed out, his RTI application seeking details of foreign trips by the chief minister and his son was denied and he too is unable to take the matter forward as the commission has not been constituted. Yet another RTI activist added, his appeal to the commission has been pending since 2010.

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