Tamil Nadu information commission worst performing in RTI responsiveness, says study

The State Information Commission of Tamil Nadu has been the worst performing as far as responsiveness under the RTI Act is concerned, furnishing only 14% of the information sought. Maharashtra was second-worst, sharing 23% of the information asked for, according to a report card on the performance of Information Commissions (ICs) in India for 2021-22 by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan.

Only 10 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment. These included Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand and northeastern States of Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura.

The organisation said that as part of the assessment, in order to access information about the functioning of ICs, it filed RTI applications with the 28 State Information Commissions (SICs) and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

“A total of 145 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 ICs. The RTI applications were tracked to assess how each IC performed as a public authority, in terms of maintaining and disclosing information”.

“The SIC of Tamil Nadu was the worst performing as it denied most of the information sought, including regarding the number of appeals and complaints dealt with by the IC, details of penalty imposed and compensation awarded stating that the information could be provided only ‘after getting the approval of State Legislative Assembly’,” though no such provision exists in the RTI Act.

The SIC of Chhattisgarh denied information on several points stating that under the prevailing State rules, in one application information on only one topic could be sought while the SIC of Bihar which had failed to provide any information under the RTI Act for the assessments published in 2020 and 2021, significantly improved its performance and furnished 67% of the information sought.

The report card further said that a large number of ICs across the country were returning cases without passing orders.

Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh returned around 40% of the appeals or complaints received by them.

Of the 18 Information Commissioners who provided relevant information, the assessment found that 11 had returned appeals or complaints without passing any orders.

The CIC and the SICs of U.P., Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala returned a large number of appeals/complaints without passing any orders during the period July 2021 to June 30, 2022. The SIC of U.P. returned nearly 20,000 appeals or complaints while it registered about 35,000 during the period under review.

The SIC of Gujarat returned 7,267 appeals or complaints while it registered 14,966. The SIC of Andhra Pradesh returned 4,856 cases without passing any orders, while it registered 6,044 appeals or complaints and the SIC of Kerala returned 1,558 appeals or complaints while it registered 2,929.

The CIC returned nearly 12,000 appeals or complaints while it registered 19,822 during the period under review.

The report card also found that several ICs have an extremely low rate of disposal per commissioner. For instance, the SIC of West Bengal had an annual average disposal rate of 222 cases per commissioner – each commissioner effectively disposing less than one case a day – even though more than 10,000 cases were pending.

Of all the 29 ICs, only the CIC has adopted a norm regarding the number of appeals or complaints to be disposed by each commissioner in one year.

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