An application has been filed by activist Anjali Bharadwaj through Advocate Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court seeking urgent listing of the case regarding filling of vacancies at the Central Information Commission (CIC).
The application states that there are six vacancies at the Commission and as on October 15, 2020, the number of appeals/complaints pending before the CIC is more than 36,600.
"With the retirement of the Chief on 26.08.2020 and another commissioner demitting office in the end of September, 2020, currently 6 posts, including that of the Chief are lying vacant and the pendency of the appeals/complaints has risen to over 36,600", Application states.
The Application also refers to the non-compliance by the Central Government of the Order of February 2019, in the main petition filed by Bharadwaj in which the Supreme Court issued various directions to the Central and state governments to fill vacancies across the Central and State Information Commissions in a transparent and timely manner.
Further it refers to the non-compliance of the Order dated 16th December, 2019 by the Central Government, wherein the Supreme Court had given three months to the Centre to fill the vacancies that existed in the CIC and directed for the matter to be listed before the Court on 25th March, 2020.
It is also stated in the Application that after Bimal Julka Chief Information Commissioner retired in August this year the number of vacancies has increased to 6, thereby frustrating the order of the Supreme Court as well as the citizens' fundamental right to information. It is also stated that the Centre is resorting to issuing fresh advertisements instead of filling all the advertised vacant posts, thereby causing undue delay in the appointments.
"It appears the UOI is resorting to issuing fresh advertisements instead of filling all the advertised vacant posts in a bid to cause undue delay in the appointments thereby frustrating peoples' right to information."
“No reasons have been furnished by the Respondents as to why 4 vacancies were not filled pursuant to the advertisement dated 12.12.2019 and the order of this Hon'ble Court dated 16.12.2019 and instead after filling only one vacancy now this new advertisement dated 12.07.2020 has been put out."
At the state level, the application states that such appointments are yet to be made.
For Maharashtra, the application notes that the State Commission works with only five Commissioners and that there is a backlog of almost 60,000 appeals / complaints as of 31 July 2020.
In the same way, the Odisha State Information Commission works with four Commissioners while having a huge pendency of almost 15,000 appeals and complaints.
In light of the above, the Application seeks for urgent hearing of the matter.