In a letter that echoes views of activists and citizens, the state chief information commissioner (SCIC) has written to the governor highlighting the need for more information commissioners.
The lack of them is creating resentment in information seekers over long-pending second appeals at the commission concerned, SCIC Ratnakar Gaikwad wrote.
The letter was sent on January 15, the day dna’s report on the rising number of second appeals making implementation of the RTI Act difficult was published.
As of now, Maharashtra has the highest number of second appeals pending since the commission was set up. Some are as old as two years and above. In his letter to K Sankaranarayanan, Gaikwad has sought his intervention in filling up the vacancies.
Similar letters were written to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and former chief secretary Jayant Banthia last November and July, respectively.
Gaikwad wrote: “For period ranging up to two to three years, four posts of information commissioners of Greater Mumbai, Konkan, Nagpur and Amravati are vacant with the result at present 29,052 second appeals and 3,338 complaints are pending with the commission (sic).”
As per the Act, a commission can have one SCIC and 10 information commissioners.
Maharashtra created seven benches apart from the chief’s. However, till date, only three benches have information commissioners presiding over them, including that of the state chief.
Work at the Pune bench, where second appeals are the highest, has come to a halt because its commissioner MH Shaha is undergoing medical treatment. The post of commissioner of Greater Mumbai bench, with the second-highest number of appeals pending, fell vacant when Ramanand Tiwari was suspended due to his alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam. This leaves five out of the seven posts vacant.
“There is a lot of resentment of information seekers in the state for such unacceptable delays by the commission in dealing with appeals / complaints in the state (sic),” Gaikwad added in his letter.
The onus of appointing information commissioner/s, as per the RTI Act, is on the chief minister mainly. He has to appoint commissioners in consultation with the leader of opposition and a senior cabinet minister. Calls and SMSes to Chavan went unanswered, while the leader of opposition and the governor’s office said they will get back but didn’t till the time of going to press.
Former CIC Shailesh Gandhi said, “Despite the large load of applications, Maharashtra has been performing well. And yet, pendency is building up because, unfortunately, commissioners are not appointed.”
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Around 72,000 ceremonial bullets were used for by the state police from 1992 onwards. These were used while observing the demise of state leaders and police personnel, and during demonstrations and police parades. Most of the bullets were 303 block ammunition. The figure was made available after an RTI application was filed by activist Chetan Kothari. The non-exhaustive details provided to Kothari do not include details of the ceremonial bullets used in the Mumbai region.