Kerala: No reply yet on 13,000 RTI pleas

Five SIC posts vacant despite HC order.

Kochi: A reply under the Right to Information Act reveals that 13,050 RTI appeals are pending before the State Information Commission. The huge number of pending requests points to the official apathy in not appointing sufficient number of information commissioners. It is known that five posts of information commissioners are still lying vacant. The delay is affecting the disposal rate of RTI applications as well. The information was brought to light in a State Information Commission reply to Kochi-based RTI activist M.R. Raju Vazhakkala. Even amidst the trouble the state commission managed to fine Rs 26.46 lakh from the erring government officials handling the RTI act.

The commission reported four vacancies in 2015 and one in 2016, but the state is yet to make appointments to the posts. Interestingly the previous government invited applications and selected five candidates, but owing to controversial nature of the selection process, the Governor returned the list. At present there are five members and a Chief Information Commissioner in the SIC. Interestingly the High Court on September 9, 2016 had asked the government to take steps to approve the earlier list of the information commissioners. The court had given one-month time for the same.

The government however opted to challenge the same before a division bench and obtained a stay on the judgment. A single bench of High Court on November 23, 2015, had observed that the information commissioner post is an important functionary to fulfill the objectives of the RTI Act enacted by Parliament. On account of non-appointment and non-functioning of the said office, prejudice is caused to the rights of the public in general, court had observed. As per the RTI Act, state can have ten Information Commissioners and a Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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