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Centre, 3 States Fail to Fill Up Info Panel Slots 8 MONTHS AFTER SC ORDER

October 10, 2019 05:16 AM


CIC, with 32,964 appeals pending, currently has 7 information commissioners including its chief, leaving 4 vacancies The SC had also asked the Centre & states to bring transparency into hiring process New Delhi: The Centre and three states are still to appoint information commissioners eight months after the Supreme Court asked them to do so and set the Right to Information (RTI) machinery in order, prompting rights activists to seek the court’s intervention. The top court had on February 15 directed the Centre and governments of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha to fill the vacancies in Central Information Commission (CIC) and state information commissions (SICs), and put in public domain details of search committee, names of applicants and the criteria for selection. However, there have been no appointments even as the backlog of pending cases has spiked significantly in the last eight months, people aware of the matter said. “The governments have not followed the directives of Supreme Court,” said Anjali Bhardwaj of National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case. “We have now sought intervention of the Supreme Court once again to ensure its decision is implemented.” CIC, which has 32,964 complaints and appeals pending, currently has only seven information commissioners (ICs) including its chief, leaving four vacancies. The Supreme Court had directed the Centre that the process of filling up vacancies should be started 1-2 months before they arise. While three vacancies came up in CIC in November and December 2018, one more arose in January when senior-most IC Sudhir Bhargava took over as the chief. Though the Centre had come out with an advertisement for the posts in January, before the Supreme Court order, no appointments have been made. The Supreme Court had also given specific directions to Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra to fill the vacancies in the state information commissions. Andhra Pradesh had formed a commission in 2017, but it remained defunct for two years until a Supreme Court directive led to the appointment of three information commissioners in December 2018. The commission still had eight vacancies, including that of a chief. In February, the top court gave the state three months to make the appointments. No appointments have been made and an IC has taken additional charge as the chief. Maharashtra has five ICs and a backlog of 48,000 cases while Odisha has two ICs and a chief. The SC in February gave Odisha two months till April to fill four vacancies. The SC had also asked the Centre and states to bring transparency into the process of appointments by making public the names of members of search committee, names of applicants, names of shortlisted candidates and the criteria for selection. NCPRI had filed an RTI application to find out the progress made towards filling up vacancies in central and state information commissions. However, “despite an order from CIC, DoPT (personnel and training department) has not made this public”, Bhardwaj said. “Only the advertisement has been put on the website.

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