The State Information Commission (SIC) Pune bench has started hearing second appeals via video-conferencing. Raviraj Phalle, deputy secretary of the bench, said that since last month as many as 500 appeals from the districts of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur had been heard via video-conferencing.
The SIC bench in Pune, with its jurisdiction over the districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur, is one of the busiest benches in the state. With more than 6,000 second appeals pending, the State Information Commissioner at Pune bench, Ravindra Jadhav, has been hearing 25 appeals per day. According to the norms, the Public Information Officer (PIO), Appellate Authority (AA) and the applicant is supposed to be present during the course of hearing. Hearing appeals via video-conferencing saves manpower and time for government officials and expenditure for applicants.
The idea of using video-conferencing was mooted by all the SIC benches in order to help applicants and also increase the disposal rate. “Offices of the district collector in all the districts of Maharashtra have video-conferencing facility. All we had to do is book slots for second appeal hearings,” said Phalle.
As the video-conferencing facilities are housed in the district collector’s office at the district level, travelling for both government officials and applicants are substantially reduced. Phalle went on to add that when the video-conference is scheduled, the PIO, the AA and the applicant have to come to the video-conferencing room in the district collector’s office and the SIC Pune would conduct the hearing via the link in his office in Pune. He said that as the SIC’s office block knows the time well in advance chances of cancellation are minimum.
Another advantage of the system is that it allows for more number of cases to be heard every day. “On an average, the SIC hears 32 cases per day,” he said.
As prior to hearing all documents are sent to the SIC bench by the PIOs, AAs and the applicants, it allows the commissioner to take a decision then and there.
For appeals related to Pune offices, the SIC has reserved Thursday for hearings.