Defunct SICs, headless CIC, 3.21L pending appeals: Dismal picture of Information Commissions in India

The report raised concern over the reduced capacity of Information Commissioners at a time the appeals and complaints are steadily increasing.
hemin Joy
Last Updated : 11 October 2023, 11:30 IST
Last Updated : 11 October 2023, 11:30 IST

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Three State Information Commissions are defunct, six including the Central Information Commission (CIC) are headless and 3.21 lakh complaints and appeals are pending – this is the status of transparency regime in the country which on Thursday is completing 18 years of its existence.

The 'Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India 2022-23' by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) provides a dismal picture as the number of states with defunct Information Commissions doubling, pendency rising by around 7,000 and headless commissions rising by 50 per cent.

The analysis of a period between July 2022 and June 2023 showed that  Information Commissions are "completely defunct" in Jharkhand (37 months), Tripura (27 months), Telangana (7 months) and Mizoram (ten days) as on June 30. Incidentally, a Chief Information Commissioner and a Commissioner took over in Mizoram on October 5, according to its website.

The CIC and Information Commissions in five states – Manipur (56 months), Chhattisgarh (since December 2022), Maharashtra (since April), Bihar (since May) and Punjab (since September) – are headless.

The report raised concern over the reduced capacity of Information Commissioners at a time the appeals and complaints are steadily increasing. It said the "non-appointment of commissioners in a timely manner" leads to "a large build up of pending appeals and complaints".

Computing the time Commissions would take to dispose of an appeal taking into account average monthly disposal rate, it said West Bengal with a pendency of 11,871 cases would take around 24 years and one month to dispose of an appeal filed on July 1 this year. This is slightly better than last year's rate by two months.

In comparison, Uttar Pradesh which has 27,163 pending cases may take seven months to clear an appeal and Karnataka with 41,047 pending cases may take one year and 11 months. Maharastra with the highest pendency of 1.11 lakh cases may take four years to deal with a complaint filed on July 1.

A comparison with the previous report showed improvement in Maharashtra's performance in clearing pending cases as it was reported that it would take five years and three months to clear a case.

"One of the primary reasons for the backlogs is the failure of central and state governments to take timely action to appoint information commissions to the Central Information Commission and state information commissions, respectively," it said.

The report also noted that Information Commissions did not impose penalties in 91 per cent of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable. In terms of penalty imposition, of the 23 commissions which provided relevant information, penalty was imposed in a total of 8,074 cases. Penalty amounting to Rs 15.37 crore was imposed by 23 commissions during the period under review. 

The UP SIC disposed of the highest number of cases (48,607), followed by the CIC (27,452) and Karnataka (21,516). The SIC of Maharashtra registered the highest number of appeals and complaints (30,479) even though this data pertains only to 6 months and not the whole period under review as data for January to June 2023 was not provided by the SIC. 

The SIC of Karnataka registered 30,207 appeals and complaints, while Uttar Pradesh registered 29,637 and the CIC registered 20,083 appeals/complaints. 

Published 11 October 2023, 11:30 IST

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