The number of pending cases at the Central Information Commission (CIC) has been increasing over the years with more than 13,000 cases pending till September this year compared to 7,000 in 2009.
Of these, around 300 cases are pending for more than a year. What’s more, most of the cases are pending due to the retirement of former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah.
In reply to a query filed under Right to Information (RTI) by chartered accountant Rakesh Gupta, the CIC has said it has 13,668 cases pending till September. There are 7,495 cases that are pending for three months; 4,970 for three to six months; 904 cases for more than six months and 299 for more than a year.
The number has only increased over the years. In March, the Hindustan Times had reported that there were 7,068 cases pending during January to December 2009. Incidentally, the transparency watchdog’s own website has not updated these figures.
The CIC reply also revealed that around 270 cases of the total 299 pending for more than a year were those handled by Habibullah before his retirement. “Habibullah handled all important departments such as Supreme Court, high courts, PM’s Office, Central Vigilance Commission etc. Naturally, these pending cases become a cause of worry,” Gupta said.
The CIC has now embarked on a drive to clear these cases. Chief information commissioner AN Tiwari said, “We have distributed about a 1,000 cases each among all the information commissioners (ICs). Each IC will conduct special hearings for these cases apart from their regular hearings. We plan to clear the cases in six months.”
“A message will go to the public information officers if a heavy fine is imposed for not complying with RTI provisions. Only then can pending cases reduce at the CIC,” said Manish Sisodia of Kabir, an NGO working in the field of increasing RTI awareness.
Commenting on Habibullah’s cases, Tiwari said, “It cannot be called as ‘his’ pending cases. Several of these were transferred to him after the ICs retired.”