'30k 2nd appeals pending before Information Commission'

30,000 second appeals pending before Information Commission: RTI reply

An official in the commission said many of the information commissioners have a poor clearance rate

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

As many as 30,000 RTI (second) appeal cases are pending before the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), with more than half of them older than 2020.

While the lockdown in 2020 has slowed down the clearance rate, the old problem of staff shortage and lack of accountability among the commissioners has been cited as the main reason for many cases pending for more than four years.

As per the information obained under RTI by activist B H Veeresh, as many as 16,659 of the total 29,205 cases pending before the commission were appeals filed between 2015 and 2019. As many as 92 cases date back to 2015 while more than 350 are from 2016.

An official in the commission said many of the information commissioners have a poor clearance rate.

“An independent audit should be conducted to assess the competency of the commissioners. Some of them do not even turn up to work at the right time,” he said.

To a question, Chief Information Commissioner N C Srinivasa said he has provided all facilities for conducting hearing in the middle of the pandemic. “We have adopted a hybrid model in all courts, which facilitates speedy clearance of cases by helping officials in remote places attend the hearing with a click rather than travel all the way to Bengaluru,” he said, and added that he could not comment on tardy clearance by commissioners.

Veeresh said there were several loopholes in the system. “From appointment to preparation of cause list, there is no transparency and accountability. After an automatic system of case allotment was implemented, the commissioners pick and chose the case that goes to the cause list. Old cases and partly heard cases have been ignored,” he said.

Srinivasa acknowledged the problem but noted that he is chief only in the administrative domain as all commissioners are equal when it comes to hearing.

“It is true that providing information years later may defeat the purpose of filing an RTI application. It is left to discretion of each commissioner to clear the pending cases,” he added.

He also said that lack of staffers has led to poor work flow in the KIC. “Of the 100 staffers, 96 are outsourced persons without the required qualification or skills. For example, a stenographer who takes the commissioner’s orders doesn’t know shorthand which leads to delay in issuing orders,” he added.