Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on Monday lashed out at the Centre for allegedly rendering the Right to Information (RTI) Act “dysfunctional” by taking retrogressive steps.
In an open letter written to a section of the media, Gandhi said, “the present Prime Minister has taken preemptive action by not appointing a Chief Information Commissioner at all to render it dysfunctional.”
Gandhi, a noted RTI activist from Mumbai, was appointed to the Central Information Commission in 2008 where he served till retirement in 2012, after giving numerous landmark judgements.
The former CIC also hit out at the bureaucracy saying it was “hardening” its stand and in most cases has realised that the Commissioners are “not committed” to transparency.
Stating that “reluctance” of the Commission in imposing penalties is slowly making it difficult to get sensitive information, Gandhi’s letter further read, “In the Central Information Commission, six Commissioners had disposed 22,351 cases in 2011, whereas in 2014 seven Commissioners disposed only 16,006 cases.”
In the write-up titled “The RTI Act-Present Status” Gandhi has also referred to two “biggest dangers” to RTI, first one from the government itself which thinks that “transparency is a hindrance” to good governance and the second – a selection of Information Commissioners that has become a part of “political patronage”.
“Their (commissioners’) orders are often biased against transparency and in many places a huge backlog is being built up as a consequence of their inability to cope,” the letter said.
He also made scathing remarks on the commitment of the commissioners, and said, “Consequently a law which seeks to ensure giving information to citizens in 30 days on pain of penalty gets stuck for over a year at the Commissions. Most of these Commissioners do not work to deliver results in a time-bound manner and lose all moral authority to penalise PIOs who do not work in a time-bound manner.”