Consider starting e-hearings for RTI in all departments: Bombay HC to Maharashtra govt

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Published on Sep 26, 2020 11:49 PM IST
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ByK A Y Dodhiya, Mumbai

The Bombay high court (HC) has asked the state information commission to fill up three vacant posts of information commissioners at Pune, Nagpur and Nashik and directed the state government to commence quasi-judicial hearings of all departments at the earliest via video-conferencing. It also directed the petitioners to make the general administration department of the Maharashtra government a party to the case.

A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish S Kulkarni, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former chief information commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi and other RTI activists, was informed by advocate Sunil Ahya that there was a pendency of cases under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as hearings had been suspended due to the pandemic.

The PIL sought directions to the state information commission and Maharashtra government to conduct proceedings of all quasi-judicial or administrative hearings and initiate measures to continue them through video-conferencing during pandemic. Ahya submitted that the issue of pendency would be addressed if all the public authorities in Maharashtra started video conference hearings of pleas. The PIL stated that first appeals under the RTI Act could also be taken up through the same method.

Advocate Seema Chopda for the state information commission submitted that it was difficult to conduct hearings due to the limited staff and the posts of three commissioners at Pune, Nashik and Nagpur remaining vacant, and sought time to respond to the PIL.

After hearing the submissions, the court said the authorities should fill up the three vacant posts at the earliest and also asked Gandhi to add the state general administration department as party to the case so that their response to the grievances raised in the PIL could also be heard and to check if they can make arrangements for e-hearings.

The court asked the information commission and state authorities to file responses to the plea within three weeks and posted the PIL for hearing after four weeks.

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