The Pune bench of the State Information Commission, as on March 3, has around 7,000 second appeals pending to be heard. This might well be the highest pendency in the state.
The post of Pune State Information Commissioner is lying vacant for the past three months as the incumbent SIC M H Shah has been hospitalised. Only last month, the additional charge for Pune bench was given to D B Deshpande, SIC Aurangabad bench. Deshpande, till today, also had the charge of the Konkan bench.
Second appeals are filed with the SIC benches by people who are not satisfied with the decision given by the first appellate authority. The SICs issue notices to both parties and conduct hearings. The RTI Act gives power to the SIC to levy fines against errant officials also. The Pune bench handles second appeals from the districts of Pune, Solapur, Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli.
On an average, the Pune bench receives more than 200 second appeals from various parts of the divisions. According to commission officials, this has been one of the major reasons for the pile-up. Also, since its inception, the Pune bench has either been vacant or the commissioner has to handle more than one charge, which has led to long pendency.
Officials of the Pune bench as well as RTI activists point out that the pendency will take years to clear. Some point out how the RTI Act allows for a maximum of 10 commissioners to be appointed and that the state government should appoint new commissioners to get over this.
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said the state has refused to look into the problem seriously. “The pendency in Pune bench is due to the sudden illness of the commissioner. The government should increase the number of commissioners and give the charge of Pune bench to someone else. Pune’s workload is too much to be looked after by a part-time commissioner.”