At 15, RTI Act crippled by rising backlog

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Fifteen years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act got here into pressure, greater than 2.2 lakh circumstances are pending on the Central and State Information Commissions, that are the ultimate courts of attraction below the transparency legislation.

The growing backlog is exacerbated by the truth that most Commissions are performing at decreased capability, together with the Central Information Commission (CIC) which has been headless since August.

Also learn: Objective of RTI Act is getting defeated, activist tells HC

A report card introduced out by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies to mark the anniversary on Monday discovered that Maharashtra had the best variety of pending appeals, with over 59,000 circumstances, adopted by Uttar Pradesh (47,923) and the CIC (35,653).

At the present fee of disposal, the Odisha Commission would take greater than seven years to eliminate all pending complaints, whereas the CIC would take greater than two years, the report stated.

Also learn: Coronavirus | PM CARES just isn’t a public authority below RTI Act: PMO

Odisha is functioning with simply 4 commissioners, whereas Rajasthan has solely three. Jharkhand and Tripura haven’t any commissioners in any respect, and have been defunct for months. The CIC has no chief, and solely 5 commissioners.

Under the legislation, each fee ought to have a chief and as much as 10 commissioners.

The evaluation additionally discovered that authorities officers face hardly any punishment for violating the legislation. Analysing knowledge from 16 commissions in 2019-20, report discovered that penalties had been imposed in solely 2.2% of circumstances that had been disposed of, regardless of earlier evaluation displaying a fee of about 59% violations which ought to have triggered the method of penalty imposition.

Also learn: PMO denies RTI plea looking for data on PM-CARES

“Non-imposition of penalties in deserving cases by commissions sends a signal to public authorities that violating the law will not invite any serious consequences. This destroys the basic framework of incentives built into the RTI law and promotes a culture of impunity,” stated the report.

Out of just about 90,000 circumstances disposed of by the 16 commissions between April 2019 to July 2020, present trigger notices had been issued in additional than 15,700 circumstances, and penalties imposed in 1,995 circumstances. Gujarat accounted for greater than 9,000 present trigger notices, however solely 163 penalties. Overall, fines imposed amounted to ₹2.53 crore.

“The need to scrutinise the functioning of information commissions now is perhaps greater than ever before, given the unprecedented crisis gripping the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the report, noting that aid and welfare programmes funded via public cash are the only real lifeline for tens of millions who’ve abruptly misplaced income-earning alternatives after the lockdown was imposed to include the unfold of the illness.

“If the poor and marginalised affected by the public health emergency are to have any hope of obtaining the benefits of government schemes, they must have access to relevant information,” the report famous.

“At a time when incentives for secrecy are great, and the scope for discretionary actions wide, the role of information commissions is crucial to ensure that people can obtain information on healthcare facilities, social security programs and delivery of essential goods and services meant for those in distress,” the report underlined.

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