New Commissioner Plans Steps to Cut India’s Backlog

25 June 2015

Vijai Sharma, India’s new Chief Information Commissioner, says he plans mass hearings, consolidating cases and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to reduce the backlog of 40,000 pending cases.

Sharma made his comments in an interview with Nidhi Sharma of The Economic Times published June 19.

“Some experimentation will have to be done,” he said, “Some new ground will have to be broken. But the commission’s biggest worry is that most applications and appeals coming to CIC could have been disposed at the government department’s or first appellate authority’s levels.”

Sharma said:

We are planning to bunch up cases. Since technology is available, we are going through the lists of cases and identifying where multiple RTI appeals have been done by the same applicant. We will bunch them up and hear them together. Then we will identify cases of one department where similar information has been sought. We will bunch them up and have a hearing of multiple applicants on the same day.

He said the commissioners plan to approach ministries running behind, explaining, These will be redistributed among ourselves – other information commissioners apart from me will get some of these ministries and we will start hearing the cases from next month.”

To reduce the caseload, he said, “the government needs to strengthen its proactive disclosure mechanism” and the first appellate authority mechanism. He said: “We are thinking very deeply about this. If an applicant’s problem is addressed by a senior officer who is in the department, it will reduce our load manifold.”

The Information Commission will soon be consolidated in a new office complex Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh has announced, as described in a Statesman article. He said the Narendra Modi government is committed to bringing “in maximum transparency” and facilitating easy and conducive functioning of the office of the CIC was a step in that direction.

Singh said, “The very fact that the RTI applications are increasing day by day is also a tribute to healthy democratic functioning and the readiness of the government to respond to every request for information to be placed in public domain,” he said.

Sharma told The Hindu that the Defense Ministry tops the list of government departments with a case backlog, with 4,182 cases. “Over 15,000 RTI queries had piled up before the Commissioner’s bench during the long gap between the retirement of the previous Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur in August last and the appointment of Mr. Sharma this month.”

The Hindu said Sharma would not comment on budget cuts at the commission. According to the paper:

“Sources within the Central Information Commission (CIC) requesting anonymity told The Hindu that following 40 per cent budget cuts in 2015 and the DoPT’s refusal to pay anything more than the minimum wage to the support staff, the day-to-day functioning of the Commission has been crippled.”

Other News

In other Indian news:

  • A study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, The Economic Times reported, reveals 25 of the 29 information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are headed by retired civil servants. Information commissions in Goa, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand are without chiefs.
  • The Central Information Commission came down heavily on RTI applicant for filing several frivolous and repeated applications with the goal of harassing his wife, RTI India reported.
  • The government is seeking more transparency about foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations, according to an article by Venkatesh Nayek,
  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has welcomed moves toward more transparency by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
  • The 10th anniversary of enactment of the RTI Act will be celebrated on Oct. 12 this year.
Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: What's New