The Central Information Commission (CIC) reportedly provided misleading information about the number of appeals and complaints pending before it on its website, say the findings of a report card on the performance of Information Commissions in India.
The assessment was carried out by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES).
"In response to an application filed under the RTI Act, the CIC stated that as of December 31, 2016, the total number of appeals and complaints pending with it were 28,502. However, the CIC website shows that only 364 cases were pending with the commission as on January 1, 2017," said the study.
"It is inexplicable how overnight the pendency figure reduced from 28,502 to 364."
To the query on the number of pending cases as of October 31, 2017, the CIC, in its initial reply, said 21,097 appeals and 3,533 complaints were pending.
"However, in a subsequent reply, the CIC stated that 20,484 appeals and 3,460 complaints were pending as of October 31, 2017. No explanation was given for providing a different set of pendency figures for the same time period," it said.
According to the report card, the number of appeals and complaints pending on December 31, 2016 in the 23 information commissions stood at 1,81,852. The pendency increased to 1,99,186 at the end of October 2017.
"As of October 31, 2017, the maximum number of appeals/complaints were pending in Uttar Pradesh (41,561) followed by Maharashtra (41,178) and Karnataka (32,992). The CIC with 23,944 pending appeals and complaints came in at number four. There were no backlogs in the SICs of Mizoram and Sikkim as of October 31, 2017," it added.
The huge backlog in the disposal of appeals and complaints by the commissions is one of the most serious problems being faced by the transparency regime in India, it said.
The high levels of pendency are often a result of non-appointment of commissioners in the IC and/or the tardy functioning of existing commissioners, the report card said, adding that it result in applicants having to wait for many months, even years, for their appeals and complaints to be heard.
The analysis of the IC websites revealed that many of the commissions had not posted their annual reports on the website of the respective Information Commissions, it said.
"As the information was sought from the commissions in November 2017, it would be reasonable to expect that annual reports up to 2016 would be available. Yet 18 out of 29 ICs (62 per cent) had not published their annual report for 2016 on their website.
"Punjab SIC has not published its annual report after 2012, while Jharkhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have not published annual reports after 2013. While Uttar Pradesh IC stated in response to an RTI application that the annual report for 2016-17 had been published, the same was not available on its website," it added.
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