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Tardy disposal of RTI cases, vacancies: Backlog in 26 commissions reach 2.55 lakh

By Our Representative 

Marking the 16th anniversary of the implementation of the top transparency law Right to Information (RTI) Act, the civil rights organisation, the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) has said in a comprehensive report on the functioning of the information commissions across India that while three out of 29 information commissions (ICs) – in Jharkhand, Tripura and Meghalaya – are “completely defunct” as no new commissioners have been appointed upon the incumbents demitting office, three other commissions, Nagaland, Manipur and Telangana, are headless.
Titled "Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India, 2021”, the report points out that as many as “13 commissions have an estimated waiting time of one year or more to dispose a matter”. Giving details, the report says, the Odisha State SIC would take six years and eight months to dispose a matter. “A matter filed on July 1, 2021 would be disposed in the year 2028 at the current monthly rate of disposal”, it adds.
Next is Goa, whose IC “would take five years and 11 months”, followed by Kerala, four years and 10 months, West Bengal four years and seven months, and for Maharashtra three years six months. “The estimated time required for disposal of an appeal/complaint in the Central Information Commission (CIC), which is the transparency watchdog of the Government of India, was one year and 11 months”.
Compiled on the basis of information received under the RTI Act, the report examines the performance of all 29 commissions in India in terms of the number of appeals and complaints registered and disposed by them, number of pending cases, estimated waiting time for the disposal of an appeal/complaint filed in each commission, frequency of violations penalised by commissions and transparency in their working.
The report says, “The long delays in disposal of cases can be attributed largely to two factors: vacancies in commissions and tardy rate of disposal by commissioners. While some commissions have fixed annual norms for disposal for themselves (the CIC has set a norm of 3,200 cases per commissioner annually), most information commissions have not adopted any norms regarding the number of cases a commissioner should deal with in a year.”
The report says, three posts of commissioners in CIC are vacant, even as the backlog of “appeals/complaints has been steadily increasing and currently stands at nearly 36,800 cases.” Among states, the SIC of Maharashtra tops the list. It has been functioning with just four information commissioners, including the chief, for the past several months, as a result of which “the number of pending appeals/complaints has risen from 46,000 in 2019 to 63,000 in December 2020 and 75,000 in May 2021.
According to the report, “The number of appeals and complaints pending on June 30, 2021 in the 26 information commissions, from which data was obtained, stood at 2,55,602. The backlog of appeals/complaints is steadily increasing in commissions. The 2019 assessment had found that as of March 31, 2019, a total of 2,18,347 appeals/complaints were pending in the 26 information commissions from which data was obtained.”

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