With two key posts in the State Information Commission lying vacant, the number of pending RTI appeals in the state have been increasing manifold.
More than 15,800 appeals are pending in the eight information commission offices across the state. Of these, the highest number of appeals — 5,054 — are pending in the Konkan office, while Mumbai stands second, with 3,856 pending appeals.
The State’s chief information commissioner (CIC), Vilas Patil, had retired last month, while State information commissioner (Mumbai) Ramanand Tiwari was suspended in March 2011, following his alleged involvement in the Adarsh housing society scam. The Konkan division information commissioner, Navin Kumar, will also be retiring on August 12, which would leave a third important post vacant. The additional charge of the state CIC is being given to Pune SIC Vijay Kuvalekar.
However, the Pune division too has 2,745 appeals pending. Criticising this, Opposition leader Eknath Khadse said, “Giving the additional charge to an already burdened authority will not serve the purpose, as he won’t be able to do justice to any of the divisions. I suggest the government appoint a CIC immediately.”
About the post left empty by Tiwari’s suspension, Khadse said, “Tiwari’s post cannot be filled till he resigns. He has refused to do so, till now. Besides, removing him from the post requires complicated procedures, like appointing a bench. Therefore, the Mumbai division will be filled once Tiwari’s tenure is over.” Khadse also assured that he would raise the issue of the SIC’s appointment in the ongoing assembly session.
Vihar Durve, a Pune-based RTI activist said, “The mere appointment of an SIC is not helpful. Instead, a transparent process should be followed for appointing the authority.” Krishnaraj Rao, an activist from Borivli said, “Both the CIC and the SIC must be appointed soon, if the government is serious about hearing appeals in the Mumbai division.”