Central Information Commission

(GS paper-2, Quasi-judicial bodies, Transparency, and Accountability)

Source- The Hindu

Context-

The Apex court has directed the Union of India and all States to file status reports on the latest developments regarding vacancies and pendency in the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs).

Key Points

  • About Central Information Commission (CIC):

    • Establishment: The CIC was established by the Central Government in 2005, under the provisions of the Right to Information Act (2005). It is not a constitutional body.

    • Members: It consists of a Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten Information Commissioners in the body.

    • Appointment: They are appointed by the President on the recommendation of a committee which consists of the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.

    • Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of the Commission extends over all Central Public Authorities of the country.

    • Tenure: The Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier according to the rule.They are not eligible for reappointment in the body.

Power and Functions of CIC:

      • To receive and inquire into a complaint from any person regarding information requested under RTI Act, 2005.

      • It can order an inquiry into any matter if there are reasonable grounds present (suo-moto power).

      • While inquiring, the Commission has the powers of a civil court in respect of summoning, requiring, and investigating documents, etc.

  • State Information Commission:

    • It is constituted by the State Government of India.

    • It has one State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and not more than 10 State Information Commissioners (SIC) to be appointed by the Governor on the recommendation of the Appointments Committee headed by the Chief Minister of states.

  • Issues:

    • Delays and Backlogs:

      • On average, the CIC takes 388 days (more than one year) to dispose of or to solve an appeal/complaint from the date it was filed before the commission.
      • A report released last year has shown that more than 2.2 lakh Right to information cases are pending at the Central and State Information Commissions (ICs).
    • No Penalties:

      • The report found that the Government officials hardly face any kind of punishment for violating the law.
      • Penalties were imposed in only 2.2% of cases that were disposed of, despite previous analysis showing a rate of about 59% violations which should have triggered and alarmed the process of penalty imposition

 

    • Vacancy:

      • Despite repeated directions from the court, there are still three vacancies in the CIC government of India

 

    • Lack of Transparency:


      • The criteria of selection, etc, nothing has been placed on government record.

Right to Information Act

  • The genesis of RTI law started in 1986, through judgment of Supreme Court in Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case, in which it directed that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly states Right to Information, as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens

  • It has been implemented and enacted in order to see that the Indian citizens are enabled to exercise their rights to ask some pertinent questions to the Government and different public utility service providers in a practical and utilized way.

  • The RTI Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002.

  • The objective of this act was to aid the citizens’ avail of quicker services from the government agencies since the act enables them to ask questions like why a particular application or an official proceeding gets delayed.

  • Mainly the act aims at achieving a corruption-free and transparent India.

Information that can be sought-

  • Any Indian citizen is free to seek answers from the  Government Authority like applying and giving for a delayed IT refund, driving license or passport, or details of a repair or infrastructure project completed or going on.
  • Information sought can also be associated with the funds allotted under the different kinds of relief funds in the country.
  • The act enables youths to get copies of answer sheets from the universities under this act.

Way Forward-

  • According to Abraham Lincoln Democracy is all about the governance of the people, by the people, and for the people. In order to achieve the third paradigm, the state needs to start acknowledging and accepting the importance of an informed public and the role that it plays in the country’s development and growth as a nation. In this context, underlying and problematic issues related to RTI Act should be resolved, so that it can serve the information needs of society in the country.

  • The role of information commissions is crucial especially during Covid Pandemic to ensure and ascertain that people can obtain information on healthcare facilities, social security programs, and delivery of essential goods and services meant for those in distress.

  • By its 2019 order and mandate, the supreme court had passed a slew of directions to the Central and State governments to fill vacancies across Central and State Information Commissions in a transparent, accountable and timely manner.

  • Urgent digitization of records and proper record management is important and mandatory as lack of remote access to records in the lockdown has been widely and rapidly cited as the reason for not being able to conduct hearings of appeals and complaints by commissions.

Download Plutus IAS Daily Current Affairs of 9th July 2021