RTI activist Anil Galgali Friday petitioned Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh accusing the Maharashtra government of neglecting
the State Information Commission (SIC) by not filling various key
"Despite our repeated requests, vacancies to various key posts are
not filled by efficient officers, which has severely handicapped
the SIC work," Galgali told IANS.
He said that the posts of three out of seven information
commissioners, one secretary and over 40 percent of other SIC
posts are lying vacant for over six months. These include the
crucial posts of information commissioners for Mumbai, Konkan and
"The consequence of this is that peoples' RTI applications are
suffering undue delays and we do not get replies for months and
even up to two years. The very purpose of RTI, so proudly espoused
by the Congress government at the centre and the state, has been
defeated," said another RTI activist, Krushnaraj Rao.
According to RTI activist Bhimrao Rathod of Yavatmal, the biggest
hindrance to the success of the SIC are the public information
officers (PIOs) in various government offices in the state.
"A large majority, up to 75 percent applications, are not given
replies, compelling the applicant to approach the higher level,
the first appellate authority. The appellate authority, barring
stray cases, keeps matters pending for months, forcing us to go in
for second appeal with the information commissioners (ICs),"
With a time lag of nearly 18-24 months for the second appeal to
come up for hearing, Rathod pointed out that "the whole purpose of
RTI is defeated and people have to resort to filing court cases".
Thane-based RTI activist Pushkar Damle said that these delay
tactics at various levels -- from the stage the first RTI
application is submitted till the pending appeals with the first
appellate authority and the information commissioners -- have
resulted in a backlog of over 21,000 applications in the state.
"A majority of these pending 21,000 applications are bound to end
up in courts of law. While on one hand, the courts are struggling
to clear their own backlog, the Maharashtra government appears
bent on increasing it," Damle said.
Galgali has also requested the state government to install
franking machines in all the eight state information commission
offices to reduce delays and costs when sending notices of hearing
to PIOs, first appellate authority and the appellants.
Rathod and Damle urged that unless the applications are treated
seriously at the lower levels by the concerned departmental PIOs,
the appeals will continue to grow and bring down the credibility
of the whole RTI exercise.
The SIC was formed in 2005.