The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to file an affidavit within four weeks with a time schedule for filling up positions in the Central Information Commission. It also ordered the governments of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha, and Karnataka to do the same for vacanices in the State Information Commissions, PTI reported.

A bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, expressing concern, asked the Centre to explain why posts in the Central Information Commission remain vacant even after an advertisement for job vacancies was issued in 2016. Currently, there are four vacancies in the panel. Radha Krishna Mathur, the commissioner, will retire by December, and three more vacancies will also be created.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand said positions could not be filled even after another advertisement was issued. The bench asked her to list in the affidavit the reasons for the failure to fill up posts.

The court added that it will take a “strict view” if the Centre or states do not file the affidavits within a month.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Right to Information activist Anjali Bhardwaj, criticised the government’s approach and said it issued the second advertisement on the day of the hearing. “Don’t worry, we will ensure that all the posts are filled up,” the bench said.

The petition by RTI activists Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retired), and Amrita Johri says that over 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending with the Central Information Commission. It alleged that the Centre and state governments have “attempted to stifle” the functioning of the RTI Act by failing to appoint commissioners in the central and state panels on time.

Citing instances, the plea said the Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission was “completely non-functional”. It said that no information commissioner had been appointed so far in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The petition said that the West Bengal panel was functioning with only two commissioners and hearing complaints filed a decade ago.