The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought the Election Commission’s approval for appointing two more Information Commissioners to cope with the growing pressure of clearing appeals under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The government has zeroed in on Omita Paul, an Indian Information Service Officer and wife of former Delhi Police Commissioner K.K. Paul, and Manish Sisodia, an RTI activist.
Under the RTI law, there can be 10 commissioners and one Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in the Central Information Commission, which now has four positions vacant.
According to a government source, junior minister in the Personnel Ministry Prithviraj Chavan had approved four persons — three retired bureaucrats and Sisodia in February — a week before the election schedule was announced.
But the PMO selected Paul and Sisodia. However, since the government has not yet set the efficiency norms for information commissioners, the annual rate of clearing appeals per state commissioner is just 600 nationally.
The CIC is performing better, with each commissioner clearing about 1,500 appeals a year. Till January, there were more than 10,000 cases pending with the CIC.
“If we count the number of pending appeals with the state commissions, the figure will be more than one lakh,” said a CIC official.
“It (speeding up of clearing appeals) will not happen without setting efficiency norms,” said an information commissioner, who was not willing to be quoted. An information commissioner costs Rs 25 lakh to the government, but there is no way to assess his/her performance.
The commissioners, however, blame inadequate staff and infrastructure for the situation.