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Information commission has a huge backlog of cases in Karnataka

With eight information commissioners, including a chief information commissioner, handling 30-50 cases each per day, getting a case resolved is no easy task for RTI applicants

, ET Bureau|
Feb 13, 2019, 11.57 AM IST
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Information commission has a huge backlog of cases in Karnataka
L Krishnamurthy, Karnataka Chief Information Commissioner
BENGALURU: With about 19,000 applications before the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) waiting to be disposed of, the effectiveness of Right to Information (RTI) is in question in the state.

The latest data (as on January 18) shared by the KIC shows a majority of the pending applications (13,884) were filed in 2018. There were already 4,000 pending cases from before 2018. As many as 900 cases have been filed so far this year.

Of the 19,289 pending appeals, about 12,000 are being heard, 4,000 have been allotted for hearing (hearing is yet to commence), while about 3,000 are yet to be allotted for hearing.

Humungous as this sounds, the situation is said to be far better than 2-3 years ago when over 30,000 applications were pending before the commission.

With eight information commissioners, including a chief information commissioner, handling 30-50 cases each per day, getting a case resolved is no easy task for RTI applicants.

RTI activists see lethargy of public information officers (PIO) as one of the reasons for the delay in disposing of cases. This is apparent especially in Bengaluru-related civic agencies like the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).

“Often, PIOs do not turn up for hearings even after the information commission has issued notices 3-4 times. They blatantly ignore the personal appearance orders,” said BH Veeresh, convenor, Karnataka RTI Activists State Committee.

Two senior officers of the BBMP, one PIO at the admin level and a first appellate authority in the accounts section have over 100 appeal cases against them before the KIC. “These appeals were filed against them either for their failure to share the required information or for not hearing the first appeal,” Veeresh said, adding the leniency shown by a few information commissioners in imposing penalty has led to this situation.

RTI activists also urge information commissioners to take up more cases every day. “Commissioners take up hearings only for two hours a day. Case-hearing time should be extended to ensure fast-tracking of cases,” said Vikram Simha, an RTI activist.

Annual performance appraisals for information commissioners would ensure better compliance, Simha said. “The appraisal should be done preferably by a judicial officer of the high court.”

Officials at the information commission, however, argue that the system is streamlined and the processing of applications has quickened. “Streamlining of applications and deletion of cases registered twice have helped us bring down the pendency to a large extent. With every information commissioner (eight of them) hearing 30-50 cases per day, the disposal will happen at a faster pace,” L Krishnamurthy, state chief information commissioner, said.
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