05 November 2020 ~ 0 Comments

CIC sans chief, only 10 of 28 panels worked during lockdown

Fifteen years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into force, does the nation have more transparency or less? The story is quite sombre. More than 2.2 lakh cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions. Nine out of 29 information commissions are functioning without a chief, one-fourth of information commissioner posts are vacant and the state commissions in Jharkhand and Tripura are defunct. No new commissioners have been appointed.

Even the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has “refused to disclose details on the PM CARES Fund stating that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act!

The absence of a commissioner has serious ramifications for the effective functioning of the information commissions. But even the Central Information Commissioner, which hears second appeals against all central government departments and UTs, has been without a chief since August this year. Bimal Julka, who headed the CIC for barely six months, demitted office in August, upon reaching the age limit stipulated in the Act.

During the Covid pandemic, only 10 of the 28 information commissions worked and even these hardly heard any appeals.

Yet, it is not just the transparency law that has suffered. There are other vacancies in key organizations that indicate a drift not usually associated with the Modi sarkar. Sources say that the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PSEB) has been headless for more than a month after Rajiv Kumar, a former finance secretary, demitted office at the end of August and was appointed Election Commissioner in place of Ashok Lavasa. Similarly, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal has been headless for more than seven months, among others. 

Apparently, as many as six ministries and departments are awaiting regular secretaries. Some estimate that dozens of board-level positions in several central

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