The RTI movement in Pune has been dealt a blow by the inability of the Pune division of the State Information Commission (SIC) to clear pending cases. By the end of May, there were 7,045 second appeals to be disposed of by the Pune bench of the Commission that covers Pune, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and Ahmednagar.
This number, 7,045, is the highest second appeals pending in any SIC bench in Maharashtra. Amravati SIC bench has the second highest second appeals pending, 5,096, followed by 4,706 of the Brihanmumbai bench. The lowest appeals pending are at Mumbai bench (SIC headquarters) headed by Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad an RTI query by the Express reveals.
Officials at Pune bench of SIC cite two major reasons for the pending cases. Raviraj Phalle, deputy secretary, said after Vijay Kuvlekar retired in February 2012 as State Information Commissioner, no one was appointed for the next six months. “After Kuvlekar, M B Shah was appointed SIC. After his tenure ended in December 2013, for the next four months, there was no State Information Commissioner in Pune,” he said.
Ravindra Jadhav was appointed SIC in April 2014. He had been given additional charge of Pune bench as he was serving as SIC of Amravati bench. Interestingly, both Pune and Amravati SIC benches have highest pendency of second appeals. Jadhav’s appointment has come under flak from RTI activists in Pune. Vijay Kumbhar of the Surajya Sangharsh Samiti said, “If Jadhav has not been able to dispose of cases faster in Amravati, what was the point in appointing him in Pune where pendency of second appeals is the highest? Now, he has been saddled with over 10,000 pending appeals,” said Kumbhar. “State Information Commissioner of Navi Mumbai would have been the ideal choice since Navi Mumbai is just two-and-a-half-hours from Pune,” says Kumbhar. “State Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, with mimiuma cases pending, should have taken over Pune bench,” added Kumbhar.
Every month, Pune SIC bench gets around 350 second appeals. And officials say the case of Amravati is no different. Pune bench SIC Ravindra Jadhav works for one week in Amravati and another week in Pune. “I have been alternating between Pune and Amravati,” Jadhav said last week.
Kumbhar said Jadhav disposes of 10-15 cases per day while Kuvlekar disposed of 25-30 cases a day. “Obviously, Jadhav is a tired man having to flit between Amravati and Pune. It is not easy to travel 14 hours from Amravati to reach Pune and then go back…I am sure he does not even get a weekly off,” said Kumbhar. Jadhav on other hand said he will soon start working for a fortnight in Pune and another fortnight in Amravati. Jadhav said he disposes of 15-20 cases a day.