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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Centre pips state in RTI disposal race

Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date: Feb 7, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 2

Viju B I TNN

Mumbai: An audit of the performance of the state’s six information commissioners reveals that they have been dealing with an average of just five Right to Information (RTI) appeals and complaints per day. The figures show that on an average, each of the six commissioners disposed a little less than 150 appeals and complaints every month, during 2008.

“All the commissioners have abysmal disposal rates. If they do not hear more cases on a daily basis, people will lose faith in the RTI Act. Already, people have to wait for over a year for their appeals to come up for hearing,’’ said RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, who filed an RTI query on this issue.

While the information commissioner of Nagpur, Vilas Patil, topped with 2,003 disposals, the state chief information commissioner, Suresh Joshi, came second with 1,983 disposals last year. At the bottom of the list were Navin Kumar, information commissioner of Navi Mumbai with 1,298 cases and V Kuvlekar, information commissioner of Pune, who dealt with 1,728 appeals. The total number of pending appeals till December 2008 was 15,026.

According to activists, ideally, an information commissioner can deal with about 250-300 cases per month. The Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Shailesh Gandhi, for instance, has heard 670 appeals in January 2009, and his colleague, Annapurna Dixit, disposed of 330 appeals in the same period. “We hope that the state information commissioners take a cue from this and increase their disposal rates,’’ Prabhu said.

Meanwhile, Joshi told TOI that the steep rise in pendency was due to the fact that for t h e initial period of one year and six months, the state had only one commissioner. “But now, we have improved our disposal rate and are slightly better than the CIC. We have disposed appeals and complaints that have been pending up to October last year. This year, we hope to reduce the gap even further,’’ Joshi said.

RTI activists said the state information commissions should not include appeals that have been returned (without hearing) in the total number of appeals that have been heard. “The CIC does not include the appeals returned along with appeals heard,’’ a senior CIC official confirmed.

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