The Central Information Commission (CIC) was instituted by the Central Government in 2005, in accordance with the provisions outlined in the Right to Information Act (2005).
While not a constitutional body, the CIC plays a pivotal role in promoting transparency and accountability in governance.
Issues Associated with Functioning of CIC:
Delays and Backlogs:
On average, disposal of appeals/complaints by the CIC takes around 388 days, leading to prolonged waiting periods for information seekers.
Over 2.2 lakh RTI cases are pending before both Central and State Information Commissions, causing a considerable backlog.
Lack of Penalties:
Government officials violating RTI provisions often escape penalties, undermining the deterrent effect of the law.
Merely 2.2% of disposed cases saw penalties imposed, even though previous assessments indicated violations at a rate of approximately 59%, warranting penalties.
Despite court orders, three vacancies remain unfilled within the CIC, hindering its efficiency and functioning.
Lack of Transparency:
Selection criteria for CIC members remain undisclosed, compromising the transparency of the appointment process.
Dilution of Status and Power:
Central government’s control over determining salaries and service conditions weakens the independence and authority of CICs.
- Addressing underlying issues related to the RTI Act is crucial to enhance its efficacy in serving society’s information needs.
- The apex court’s 2019 directives to governments, urging transparent and timely filling of vacancies, should be diligently followed.
- Urgent digitization of records and efficient record management are imperative to expedite the information retrieval process.
- The proactive disclosure of information under Section 4 of the RTI Act should be standard practice, reducing the need for repetitive queries.
- A deliberation on granting constitutional status to CICs is worth considering to safeguard their autonomy.
The essence of democracy lies in the citizens’ right to question and seek accountability. Any assault on the RTI law, which has empowered individuals to question authority, ultimately undermines the very foundations of our democratic republic.
Upholding and fortifying the functionality of the Central Information Commission is essential to ensuring transparency, responsiveness, and participatory governance in India.