The RTI Act, 2005, may be one of the most widely used Acts in India but certainly not the most implemented one, if the status of second appeals pending at the information commissions is to go by.
A study by a city-based RTI activist, Sunil Ahya, shows that the waiting period of second appeals at the 26 state information commissions (SICs) is well over the time period in which a person should ideally be given information.
As per the Act, a person should be given information suo moto by a public authority or in 30 days of an RTI application being made. If this isn’t done, reasons given in the Act should be cited for denying the information. An applicant can then go in for a first appeal, followed by a second appeal if he does not get satisfactory information at the first appeal stage.
As per the study, there are commissions where the maximum waiting period for second appeals has been up to five years. In some commissions, no hearing has been held for the past one and a half years. Those that are non-functional include Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Manipur SICs.
There are four SICs, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, where the maximum waiting period is between one and two years. Maharashtra receives the most applications.
Ahya said, “The state can’t get away by saying it gets the most number of applications, because there aren’t as many commissioners. If the state has the required number of commissioners as per law and still there are pending appeals, then its argument that the government can’t do anything can be considered.”
When called, Satish Lait, public relations officer of CM Prithviraj Chavan, said he would get back later as Chavan was busy in a meeting.