Wednesday, June 28, 2017

39,000 appeals pending with SIC benches

Times of India: Aurangabad: Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
All hopes that a full strength at the State Information Commission (SIC) and its seven benches would expedite the hearing of second-appeals have been dashed with the pendency remaining stagnant for around five months.
The number of pending second-appeals was at an all time high at 39,494 when the government made three full-time appointments of information commissioners on vacant benches on January 6.
The long-pending move allegedly failed to deliver as 39,455 applicants were still awaiting a hearing before SIC and its benches as of May 2017.
Senior journalist Dilip Dharurkar (Nagpur bench), former IPS official K L Bishnoi (Nashik bench) and ex-tribal department commissioner Sambhaji Sarkunde (Amravati bench) were appointed as new commissioners by the state governor using powers vested under the RTI Act 2005, early this year. They had joined the league of Ajitkumar Jain (Greater Mumbai bench), T F Thekkekara (Konkan bench), Ravindra Jadhav (Pune bench) and Vasant Patil (Aurangabad) along with chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad (Mumbai).
No marked decrease in pendency of second-appeals made under the RTI Act has prompted activists to train their guns at individuals holding chairs and their way of functioning.
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said the stagnant pendency of second appeals despite additional appointments was detrimental to the transparency of the legislation.
"The pendency should have gone down. It raises serious doubts over the slow disposal rates, which is affecting hundreds of applicants," he said.
As per the procedure followed in the appeals and complaints under RTI Act, the Information Commission receives second appeals against the orders of appellate officers under Section 19 of the Act. The Information Commissioner disposes of second appeals. The applicant, the public information officer or assistant public information officer and appellate officer (where required) are called for hearing of the second appeal and their say is considered by the information commissioner while deciding the case.
RTI activist Vivek Velankar said accountability of each information commissioner had to be fixed in terms of minimum disposal per month.
The SIC and its benches had almost a month long summer vacation from May 8 to June 4, but the disposal rate was allegedly poor during the working months of the current year.
Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi stressed the need for improving disposal rate of second appeals by each information commissioner. "Given the current pendency, applicants will have to wait to for at least a few years for the hearing. Also, the mounting pendency will not have a check on Public Information Officers and Appellate Officers," he said.
"The section (4) of the RTI Act mandates fixing such responsibility, but it is an irony that the SIC is not only paying heed to it. A section of information commissioners has been dealing with pending cases in their own defied ways, instead of following any common procedure. The self-styled functioning is taking a toll on the implementation of the RTI Act," he said.
Three of SIC benches did not have full-time information commissioners for long till January this year. V D Patil, information commissioner for Nagpur bench of SIC was given additional charge of Aurangabad and Amravati divisions. Similarly, R J Jadhav, information commissioner with Pune bench, was looking after Nashik division as an additional work.
Chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad could not be reached for his comments on high pendency.