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Above: A grab of CIC website  

PIL claims a backlog of over 23,500 appeals and complaints pending before CIC; functioning of state commissions paralysed due to vacancies

The Supreme Court, on Monday (July 2), issued notices to the Centre and eight state governments over a delay in appointing top officials who are expected to oversee requests filed under the Right to Information Act.

The public interest litigation filed by three RTI activists claims that the vacancies in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and its state-level counterparts have created a huge backlog in RTI responses while the governments concerned were dragging their feet in clearing appointments for these offices.

The bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan told Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, that the enormous number of vacancies in information commissions – at the Centre and in these States – was a “very serious issue” and that “this is the situation in all institutions in the country.”

The petitioners –National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) co-convenor Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd) and NCPRI member Amrita Johri – were represented by senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal.

“Why are appointments are not made despite huge backlog” the Supreme Court asked, in response to the claim by the petitioners that there is a “backlog of more than 23,500 appeals and complaints” pending before the CIC. The petitioners have also contended that even according to the CIC’s official website appeals and complaints filed in 2016 were still awaiting disposal.

The transparency campaigners have claimed that the functioning of the state information commissions as well as the CIC had been paralysed due to the unfilled vacancies. The petition seeks directions to the Centre and the states – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Odisha, and Telengana – to immediately fill up all vacant posts in a transparent and time-bound manner.

The matter has been listed for next hearing after three weeks.

—India Legal Bureau

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