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Most Information Commissions Fail Transparency Test
Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Source Date: Monday, July 14, 2014
Created: Jul 15, 2014

Information commissions — watchdogs for the transparency regime under the RTI Act — are some of the most opaque organizations according to an independent report.

Of the 29 commissions in the country, only 17% have the facility of online filing of appeals and complaints, 42% do not display information on the cases that will be heard that day or that week, 58% do not display the updated status of pending appeals and complaints while 35% do not have a system of making their orders public within a reasonable timeframe.

The report prepared by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) also revealed that there was a steady increase in the number of RTI queries in 2012 as compared to the previous year. While Gujarat and Odisha saw a 46% increase in applications, Karnataka witnessed 29% increase. There was a 19% increase in RTI appeals with the Central Information Commission (CIC).

More than three-fourths of the commissions do not have a website in the local language. The CIC and state information commissions of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have local language websites.

Only 17% of information commissions provide online facilities for submitting appeals or complaints or both. While the CIC, Gujarat and Tripura commissions accept online filing of both appeals and complaints, their counterpart in Bihar provides this facility for filing second appeals only.

About 42% of information commissions do not display cause lists on their websites that will help the public know what cases are likely to be heard by the commission. These include commissions in Assam, Bihar, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim that continue to resist the idea of displaying cause lists on their websites, the report said.

About 58% of commissions including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal do not provide data on disposal of cases and pendency of appeals and complaints.

Nineteen of the 29 commissions have made their orders public but the commissions of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh do not have updated information for the last 2-4 years. Incidentally, this comes at a time when there has been a sharp increase in RTI applications. Gujarat and Odisha have seen a 46% increase in applications while Karnataka has recorded 29% increase. At 26%, Chhattisgarh witnessed the third highest increase in the number of RTI applications received in 2012 followed by Mizoram at 20%.

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