Right to Information (RTI) rules changed by the central government last year has delayed the appointments of three Information Commissioners (ICs). This has led to a rise in pendency of appeals and complaints: totalling 56,195 at the end of December. All three posts of IC have been vacant for more than a year.
The General Administration Department (GAD) had invited applications from candidates in June last year for the three posts in Nashik, Pune and Nagpur bench of State Information Commission (SIC). While the post in Nashik has been vacant since February 2019, Pune has not had an information commissioner since November 2018. The post in Nagpur has been vacant since June 2018.
An official said applications were received in July last year. “The Union government brought changes in RTI rules pertaining to appointment of central and state Information Commissioners, their term of office, salaries… So, it delayed the process of shortlisting the names of candidates by the search committee,” an official said.
The official further said these changes need to be brought to the notice of the candidates and public in general. “Now, we have published these changes on the government website. The search committee will shortlist the names, which will be sent to the chief minister-led committee for their appointments as per norms,” the official added.
Data from SIC reveals a total of 56,195 cases, which includes 49,385 appeals and 6,810 complaints, are pending in its seven benches at the end of December. The highest number of appeals, at 12,687, are pending with the Pune bench. Sources in the government claimed this is perhaps the highest number of pendencies of appeals at the SIC in recent past.
RTI activists have slammed the government for delaying the appointments. “The notification could have been brought to the notice of candidates immediately and it could have asked whether anybody wants to opt out of the process due to the changes in rules. The delay… is murdering the RTI Act…” said Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner.
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