Monday, April 24, 2017

The fate of Information Commission hangs in balance : Rahul Devulapalli

The Hindu: Hyderabad: Monday, April 24, 2017.
SC nullifies appointment of 4 information commissioners.
The fate of the AP State Information Commission hangs in the balance after a recent Supreme Court ruling declaring the appointment of four information commissioners invalid.
Currently, only one information commissioner, Vijaya Babu, is active and he too will demit office next month. Legal experts are concerned that the information commission is heading to be a defunct body unless both state governments take a decision soon.
“The law does not provide for absence of information commissioners,” said a reputed lawyer well versed with the RTI Act. “A commission without a chief information commissioner is almost equal to a court without a judge. There are no alternatives mentioned in the act as no caretaker or incharge chief commissioners are allowed to run the show.” However, he said that the orders passed by the information commissioners whose appointments were struck down were still legal. RTI activists want to put pressure on both state governments to appoint the right candidates.
“We have written to AP and Telangana governments to fill up the posts of state information commissioners,” said Padmanabha Reddy, Secretary of Forum for Good Governance. “In case both state government decide to constitute their own information commissions, the process might take a few months as appointment of search committee and other procedures have to be followed.” Mr. Reddy said that if the state governments failed to act then they would approach governor and also consider legal course of action.
Meanwhile, RTI applicants and activists are worried that pendency rate would increase if the situation continued. “The public information officers in various state government officers are not taking the RTI applications. The reason is that they know that the commission’s functioning has become weak. This is not good for the transparency of the system,” said G. Srinivas Rao, an RTI activist from the city.