- A good 17 years after India got the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the transparency regime in the country remains a mirage with nearly 3.15 lakh complaints and appeals pending with 26 information commissions across India.
- According to a report by SatarkNagrikSangathan, backlog of appeals or complaints is increasing in commissions every year.
- The number of appeals and complaints pending in 2019, from data obtained from 26 information commissions was 2,18,347. In 2020, the number climbed up to 2,33,384 with data obtained from 23 information commissions, in 2021 the number was 2,86,325 with data from 26 commissions and in 2022, it was 3,14,323.
- The highest number of pending cases was in Maharashtra at 99,722, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 44,482, Karnataka at 30,358, the Central Information Commission at 26,724 and Bihar at 21,346.
Commissions in trouble
- The report says two information commissions—Jharkhand and Tripura—out of 29 across the country have been completely defunct for 29 months and 15 months respectively.
- Manipur, Telangana, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are without chiefs at the moment.
- Only 5% of the all positions in commissions are being occupied by women.
- Also, several information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are working at reduced capacity with less than the stipulated number of members being in office.
- Under RTI law, information commissions are the final appellate authority and are mandated to safeguard and facilitate people’s right to information.
- The right to information gained power when Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 providing everyone the right to seek, receive, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights 1966 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
- According to Thomas Jefferson “Information is the currency of democracy,” and critical to the emergence and development of a vibrant civil society. However, with a view to set out a practical regime for the citizens to secure information as a matter of right, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- Genesis of RTI law started in 1986, through judgement of Supreme Court in Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case, in which it directed that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right to Information, as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB