The huge number of vacancies in the Central as well as state information commissions is leading to a humongous backlog of appeals and complaints.
ON Monday, the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure at the inaction of the Union and state governments to fill vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and the state Information Commissions (SICs).
A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra observed that the delay in appointments of the information commissioners, the very purpose of theRight to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 is defeated and the law will become a ‘dead letter’ if vacancies are not filled.
The Bench directed the Union and state governments to take immediate steps to fill vacancies in the CIC and SICs respectively.
The Bench was hearing an application filed by transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj seeking to fill vacancies in the information commissions.
At present, the CIC is headless and functioning with only four commissioners, all of whom are set to retire by November 6, 2023, following which the CIC will become defunct.
The Maharashtra State Information Commission is without a chief information commissioner and functioning with only four commissioners even though more than 115,000 appeals and complaints are pending.
The Jharkhand State Information Commission has been completely defunct since May 2020 and the SICs of Telangana and Tripura are also non-functional.
The Karnataka SIC is functioning with five commissioners and six posts are lying vacant. More than 40,000 appeals and complaints are pending before the commission.
In the case of West Bengal SIC, it is functioning with three commissioners with around 12,000 appeals and complaints pending. The Odisha SIC is functioning with three commissioners while more than 16,000 appeals and complaints are pending and the Bihar SIC is functioning with two commissioners while more than 8,000 appeals and complaints are pending.
A recentreport by Satark Nagrik Sangatham, a citizen-led initiative that aims to promote transparency and accountability in government, also highlights defunct, vacant and understaffed information commissions as one of the key reasons impeding the proper implementation of the RTI Act.