[dropcap]S[/dropcap]upreme Court of India has come down heavily on the Union of India for its inaction in filling up the vacancies for the posts of Information Commissioners within the Central Information Commission. A bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that the huge number of “vacancies have become a phenomenon in every institution in this country” and asked Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand who was present in the court to look into the matter.
Advocate Kamini Jaiswal, assisted by Advocate Pranav Sachdeva, submitted before the court that more than 40,000 appeals/complaints were pending for adjudication in the Information Commissions, which they said was frustrating the very object of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Currently, there are four vacancies in the Central Information Commission, even as more than 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending. Further, it is averred that Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission has become dysfunctional since no information commissioner has been appointed there.
The PIL jointly filed by noted RTI activists- Anjali Bhardawaj, Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri- further alleged that “the State Information Commission (SIC) of Maharashtra which has a backlog of more than 40,000 appeals and complaints, has four vacancies. The SIC of Kerala is functioning with only a single commissioner and has more than 14,000 pending appeals and complaints. Similarly, there are 6 vacancies in the SIC of Karnataka even though nearly 33,000 appeals and complaints are pending. Odisha is functioning with only 3 commissioners and Telangana with 2 commissioners and their backlogs are more than 10,000 and 15,000 appeals/complaints respectively. The SIC of West Bengal is functioning with only two commissioners and is today hearing appeals/complaints which were filed 10 years ago. Further, several information commissions like that of Gujarat, Nagaland and Maharashtra are functioning without the Chief Information Commissioner, even though the RTI Act envisages a crucial role for the chief commissioner, with the administration and superintendence of the commission vesting with the Chief”.
The petition also highlighted lack of transparency in the appointment of information commissioners, and the violation of directions of the Supreme Court regarding the procedure for appointment of information commissioners, which, it alleges, is undermining the institution of the information commission. In several cases, courts have set aside the appointment of commissioners due to deficiencies in the selection process.
Court proceeded to issue notice to the central government and eight state governments which have not appointed Information Commissioners in their respective State Information Commissions. While issuing the notice court told the ASG that things could not go on the way they have been going on.