Friday, July 28, 2017

State RTI body stays crippled

Times of India: Kochi: Friday, July 28, 2017.
Despite a huge backlog of RTI appeals, the state government is yet to fill vacancies of five information commissioners in the office of the state information commission (SIC). As of now, the entire show is being run by chief information commissioner.
The UDF government had zeroed in on five information commissioners in early 2016. But the Kerala high court stayed the appointments after a person who was denied the commissioner post challenged it. The stay was vacated later.
When the government recommendation for their appointment reached the governnor's office, the latter gave his nod for appointing the chief information commissioner only. The appointment of five commissioners were rejected by the governor. The commissioner designates then moved high court which held that the governor has no right to reject the recommendation. The court asked the state government to appoint them within a month.
The LDF government then approached the division bench and obtained a stay against the order.According to RTI activists, at least 15,000 cases are pending before the commission. "The number of pending cases is going up day by day. So, the government should approach the court seeking it to expedite the hearing," said D B Binu, RTI activist who impleaded in the case. Binu's contention is that there should be transparency in appointing commissioners.
"Whenever there is a change of guard in the government, those in power appoint their men as commissioners. This would affect the functioning of the commission," he said.
If the government has a will, there are other options to break the deadlock. "As per the norms, the state governments can appoint up to 10 commissioners and a chief information commissioner. Given the fact that it would take some time for appointing five commissioners whose postings are challenged, the state government can appoint two or three more commissioners taking the total number to seven or eight. This would help solve the current stalemate," Binu said.