Huge backlog of cases due to vacancies in the information commission2 Feb, 2014
- Non-filling of 5 posts of Information Commissioners and 108 vacancies of the subordinate staff (out of a total strength of 160 posts), was adversely effecting the functioning of CIC. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL-W.P. No. 8688 of 2011), was filed by R.K. Jain and Ors., before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court seeking directions for filling up the said posts. The Hon’ble High Court by its order dated 15-02-2012 and 20-03-2012 directed the UOI to frame the recruitment rules within one month and desired the Search Committee to make recommendation for the appointment of Information Commissioners within one month. As a sequel to these directions, the CIC was given the autonomy in the matter of recruitment and appointment of staff. Recruitment Rules were notified by DoPT and three ICs S/Shri Rajiv Mathur, Vijai Sharma and Basant Seth were appointed but the remaining two posts of ICs were not filled. The Government neither appealed against the aforesaid order of the Delhi High Court nor fully implemented the same.
- R. K. Jain filed a Contempt Petition for non-compliance of the order of the Hon'ble High Court. Upon hearing the High Court issued a Notice to the Secretary DoPT, asking him to file an Affidavit/Status Report about the compliance of the orders of the High Court and to remain present in the court if any part of the High Court order is not complied with.
- The UOI subsequently filed a SLP No. 25719/2012, before Supreme Court questioning the jurisdiction of Delhi High Court to issue directions for appointment of 10 ICs in the CIC. In view of this SLP, the Contempt Petition was not pressed and was disposed off as matter was carried to the Hon'ble Supreme Court.
- In the SLP before the Supreme Court, the Government has taken a stand that under RTI Act, maximum 10 ICs can be appointed and it is the prerogative of the Government to decide as to how many ICs are required to be appointed and in view of the decline in RTI Applications in recent years, the Government has decided to appoint only 8 ICs in the CIC and the High Court had no jurisdiction to issue direction in the matter.
- In response to the aforesaid SLP, a short counter-Affidavit (copy attached) was filed by R.K. Jain, justifying the order of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, in view of the timelines provided under the RTI Act, for dissemination of information in a time bound manner.
- In between it came to the notice that officials of DoPT in April 2013, took a stand that in view of the pendency and intake of cases before the CIC, it would take nearly 3 years for CIC to clear the backlog. Therefore, the full strength of 10 ICs and the Chief Information Commissioner should be appointed (10+1). However, the Government by recent appointments, raised the strength of IC / CIC from 8+1 to 9+1. Such contradictory stand of the DoPT has been brought to the notice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court by filing the additional documents (file attached) showing the need for appointment of full strength of ICs as well as filling up the vacancies of the ICs without any delay(as and when they arise) so that the cases may be decided by the CIC within a reasonable period of 3-4 months.
- The SLP is likely to come up for hearing during February 2014 and Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate is representing R.K. Jain.