Petitioners seeking timely and transparent appointment of information commissioners to the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions on Monday filed an application in the Supreme Court for urgent listing of the matter, Live Law reported. The commission was set up under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and functions as an appellate body.

The application noted that as many as six posts, including that of the chief information commissioner, are lying vacant since September and that the number of pending appeals and complaints with the body have risen to 36,600.

The petitioners, Anjali Bhardwaj and others, represented by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan had first filed a writ petition in the top court in 2018 regarding the backlog in disposal of complaints due to delay in appointment of the commissioners.

The petitioners said that Supreme Court had, in its judgement on February 15, 2019, issued various directions to the Central and state governments to fill vacancies across Central and State Information Commissions.

However since the directions were not complied to, the petitioners filed an interlocutory application on the matter.

In December 2019, the Supreme Court gave three months to the Centre to fill the four vacancies that then existed in the Central Information Commission.

Following this, on January 11, 2020, the then chief information commissioner retired, and the total number of vacancies went up to five. On March 6, the appointment of a new information commissioner and selection of an existing commissioner - Bimal Julka - as the chief, was notified, the number of vacancies thus still remaining at four.

However, the Centre failed to complete the appointment of the new commissioner and Julka retired from the post of chief on August 26. Currently, six posts, including that of the chief are lying vacant, the petitioners said.

It was further submitted that it appears that the Centre is resorting to issuing fresh advertisements instead of filling all the advertised vacant posts in a bid to cause undue delay in the appointments.

Lakhs of pending cases under Right to Information

Last week, as the Right to Information entered its 16th year, an analysis showed that over 2.21 lakh appeals and complaints are pending in central and state information commissions, nine bodies are functioning without a chief. The analysis by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies also showed that the State Information Commissions in Jharkhand and Tripura are completely defunct with no members.