SEVEN RTI activists have sent a legal notice to the office of Maharashtra State Information Commissioner (MSIC), alleging delay in disposing of appeals leading to a backlog of cases. The MSIC chief, however, said there had always been a backlog, and that they had started online appeals to reduce the load since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Activist Shailesh Gandhi said, “RTI in Maharashtra is suffering since appeals and complaints are languishing in the Information Commissions for over a year and more. The law meant to give information in 30 days is derailed at the Information Commissions, which adhere to no timelines and are not displaying a sense of responsibility to ensure time-bound delivery of information.”
The activists said over 58,000 cases were pending and there was no sense of urgency displayed by the commission.
The notice issued through advocate Sunil Ahya states, “When the second appeal is not heard and disposed for an unreasonable period and, in fact, some for even more than a year, then this entire time-bound scheme of the Act is abruptly lost and makes it go adrift resulting in grave miscarriage of justice and undermines the faith of the people of India in the participatory democracy, which requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information.”
Chief Information Commissioner Sumit Mullick said they were holding online hearings of appeals since June 15.
“There has always been pendency as the inflow of appeals is much more as compared to staff available. Due to the pandemic, only some of the staff manages to come to work. Also, in some cases, the complaints are against the BMC and police officials, who are also involved in Covid duties. So we have to maintain a balance,” Mullick added.
The notice stated that if there was no response within four weeks, they would “seek appropriate legal remedies in the court of law”.
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