With the Central Information Commission headless for past seven months leading to an unprecedented backlog of 37,731 cases, the Delhi high court on Thursday asked the Centre to expedite the process appointment of Chief Information Commissioner, CIC, at the earliest.
A division bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice Deepa Sharma said it will monitor the issue and asked the central government to file a report on the progress made by May 11, the next date of hearing, even as it sought 12 weeks to finalise the appointments.
After the last CIC Rajiv Mathur’s tenure ended on August 22, 2014, the post has been lying vacant. This is the first time that the post has been headless for so long since the RTI Act came into force on October 12, 2005.
The posts of three information commissioners have also been vacant for almost one year. At present, the CIC has seven Information Commissioners.
The government have till now received 203 applications for the post of CIC and 535 for Information Commissioners.
"All these applications need to be sent before the search committee which will further put this before the selection committee after which CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and IB (Intelligence Bureau) will have to give vigilance clearance," additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain said.
Currently the CIC has 7,413 pending complaints and 30,318 pending appeals.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by RTI activists RK Jain, Lokesh Batra, and Subhash Chandra Agarwal.
During the hearing, advocates Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for RTI activists, sought directions to the central government to urgently shortlist candidates for the vacant posts in a time-bound manner.
The proper functioning of the CIC is essential for the proper implementation of the RTI Act, the petition said, adding that the government has attempted to stifle the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to do its statutory duty -- to appoint chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the CIC.