Two years after the Parliament passed a landmark Right to Information (RTI) law giving ordinary citizens the power to obtain information about government dealings, three divisions in Maharashtra — Konakan, Nasik and Amravati — still do not have information commissioners.
The vacancies mean the law meant to help citizens cut through red tape is itself mired in delays. Commissioners, under the RTI law, are watchdogs of the RTI Act and the final arbitrators of complaints.
Three of the four existing commissioners hold the additional charge of the three divisions without commissioners. Each of the four commissioners has between 1,000-2,000 appeals pending (See box) since last year. This means that even though the law mandates releasing information within a month, people have to wait for several months.
The General Administration Department (GAD), headed by Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, is responsible for appointing Chief Information Commissioners (CIC). Last December, it named three bureaucrats — Maharashtra Public Services Commission Chairman VN Deshmukh, Urban Development Secretary Ramanand Tiwari and Navin Kumar — as Commissioners for the three divisions.
But the state has not filled any of the posts after Governor SM Krishna’s office questioned VN Deshmukh’s eligibility for the post. A deputy secretary from GAD, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We are still waiting for information from various departments about Mr VN Deshmukh’s case in response to constitutional queries from the Governor’s office."
State Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi said he has written several times to the Chief Secretary to appoint more commissioners as soon as possible. "The government says it is working on it."