Politics

RTI Enquiries Remain Pending at the Central Information Commission

An RTI activist has alleged that cases received by the commission after September have been mostly left unscrutinised and have not been filed.

The Central Information Commission has a huge backlog of pending cases. Representational image. Credit: Zachary Korb/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The Central Information Commission has a huge backlog of pending cases. Representational image. Credit: Zachary Korb/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

The Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority to which applicants turn to for accessing their right to information, has disappointed them once again by not being able to seriously take up all their cases on time.

An RTI activist, Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra, has charged that of the cases received by the commission after September 2016, most are yet to be scrutinised for registration and given file numbers.

He said he was left surprised and shocked when during his visit to the commission on December 28 he “learnt that the central registry (CR) is struggling to register cases (both appeals and complaints) received from the Dak Section in September 2016” and this has created a huge backlog.

Batra said that this is not the first time that the commission has disappointed the applicants by not taking up their cases promptly. “The history of 2015 is still fresh in the minds of people, about how a large number of cases were returned after July 2015 and how 10,000 envelopes were found lying unopened at the commission till the matter got exposed in mid-November 2015.”

Incidentally, it was widely reported last year. The body that is meant to uphold transparency had not even opened envelopes of about 10,000 RTI cases sent to it by aggrieved applicants over two months. The media had also questioned if the year-end incident reflected an attempt to show lower pendency of cases.

Batra lamented that this year has been no different and just like last year, even the cases received by the commission after September 2016 were still pending.

He said an analytical study of data posted on the CIC website has revealed that when it came to return or rejection of cases in a month, the monthly data on such appeals and complaints during November 2016 had shown an 82.16 % upsurge.

Similarly, he said, the processing of Dak in the CR had gone down from an average of 4,207 cases per month to 1,118 cases between September 1 and December 30, 2016.

It was also observed that there was a 79% drop in the efficiency of the CR in processing the Dak since September 2016.

The RTI activist said the commission which is supposed to safeguard the rights of the information seekers is also saddled with a website which does not even provide the monthly record of total cases received in the CR from Dak Section.

But, he said, it was not always that the CIC has suffered from such shortcomings. Only in early 2016, he said, the registration of cases was being done with full efficiency but then “somewhere down the line the situation started getting bad”.

In September, Batra said, the registry seemed to have come to a complete standstill or was just about “crawling”.

“So far, information commissioners were being blamed for tardily heard cases and for not putting extra effort”, but now, he said, another blow has been dealt to the functioning of the commission as the CR “has almost crumbled again”.

“It is a big blow to transparency. For creating this mess, someone in commission has to be made accountable for larger public interest. If appellants are harassed like this by the watchdog, where will they go?” he demanded.