THE BOMBAY High Court on Saturday asked the State Information Commission (SIC) to fill up the three vacant posts for information commissioners at Pune, Nagpur and Nashik. It also directed the state government to commence quasi-judicial hearings of all departments at the earliest.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni issued the directives while hearing a PIL filed by former chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and some Right to Information (RTI) activists, through advocate Sunil Ahya, expressing concern over pendency of RTI cases in view of the pandemic and seeking video-conference hearings on pleas by all public authorities in Maharashtra. The PIL also sought that first appeal hearing proceedings be conducted under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Ahya submitted the issue of pendency would be addressed if all the public authorities in Maharashtra started hearing pleas through video-conference. The PIL also stated, “Access to justice is fundamental to preserve the rule of law in the democracy envisaged by the Constitution of India. The challenges occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19 have to be addressed while preserving the constitutional commitment to ensuring the delivery of and access to justice…”
Advocate Seema Chopda, appearing for the SIC, submitted it was working with limited staff which caused difficulty for hearings. She informed the court posts of three commissioners out of eight at Pune, Nashik and Nagpur were vacant and sought time from the court to respond to the PIL.
After hearing the submissions, the court said the authorities should fill up the three vacant posts and asked Gandhi to add the state’s General Administration Department as a party to the case. The court also asked the SIC and state authorities to file responses within three weeks and posted the PIL for further hearing after four weeks.
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