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Directive for disposal of Appeals A Welcome News from CIC of India




MUMBAI: This Central Information Commission (CIC) directive will go a long way in reducing the huge pendency of appeals and complaints filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.


Taking note of the increasing pendency of RTI appeals and complaints, the CIC has told each information commissioner to dispose of around 3,200 appeals and complaints every year. The decision to increase the disposal rate comes at a time when the national average of disposal of appeals hovers around 1,000 RTI appeals per year.


The CIC, which has six information commissioners, has a pendency of around 15,000 appeals and the disposal rate is below 3,000 per commissioner. In 2007, the rate was 1,714 per commissioner, but by 2010 it went up by 2,741. "Commissioners like Shailesh Gandhi and Annapurna Dixit had better disposal rates that went above 3,500 per year,'' a CIC official said.


Gandhi disposed of 4,599 appeals last year, while Dixit disposed of 3,965. But officials admitted that there were very few commissioners whose disposal rates were over 3,000 cases per year. "Most state information commissions are reluctant to fix norms by which their work can be judged in terms of quantity. Due to this, the pendency has been rising year after year and final appeals come up for hearing after almost a year or two,'' the official said.


RTI activists hope the decision will set a precedent for Maharashtra, which has a pendency of around 13,000 RTI appeals.


"We have been urging state commissioners to increase disposal rates. RTI applicants have been waiting for over two years for cases to come up. In many cases, by the time the appeal comes up for hearing, the relevance of the information sought becomes insignificant,'' said Bhaskar Prabhu, convener of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch, an NGO fighting for faster disposal of cases.


Activists said shortage of staff was a major reason for slow disposal. "In our survey, we found there is a shortage of stenographers, peons and clerks, due to which files do not move in many state commissions,'' RTI activist Krishnaraj Rao said. He said that around 35% posts need to be filled. "Out of 144 posts in all eight information commissions, around 50 posts are to be filled,'' Rao said


RTI activist Mohmmed Afzal said the commissions were also starved of funds. "The state has sanctioned only Rs 4.6 crore, instead of the Rs 6.1 crore required for basic infrastructure. During a survey, staff told us that they sometimes get stationery from home and they do not even get sufficient postage stamps to send notices,'' Afzal said.




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