Three lakh and counting: RTI pleas pile up at information commissions

Vacant posts, inadequate members take a toll on the transparency regime

Updated - October 12, 2022 07:27 am IST

Published - October 11, 2022 09:01 pm IST - New Delhi



A good 17 years after India got the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the transparency regime in the country remains a mirage with nearly 3.15 lakh complaints or appeals pending with 26 information commissions across India.

According to a report by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan, the backlog of appeals or complaints is steadily increasing in commissions every year.

The number of appeals and complaints pending in 2019, from data obtained from 26 information commissions was 2,18,347. In 2020, the number climbed up to 2,33,384 with data obtained from 23 information commissions, in 2021 the number was 2,86,325 with data from 26 commissions and in 2022, it was 3,14,323.  

The highest number of pending cases were in Maharashtra at 99,722 followed by Uttar Pradesh at 44,482, Karnataka at 30,358, the Central Information Commission at 26,724 and Bihar at 21,346.

2 completely defunct

The report says two out of 29 information commissions across the country are completely defunct, four of them headless at the moment and only 5% of the positions being occupied by women.

Three information commissions were found to be non-functional for varying lengths of time for the period under review as all posts of commissioners were vacant while two commissions were found to be completely defunct at the time of compilation of the report by the Sangathan.

Jharkhand and Tripura have been completely defunct for 29 months and 15 months respectively. Manipur, Telangana, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh are without chiefs. Also, several information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are working at reduced capacity with less than the stipulated number of members being in office.

Under the RTI law, information commissions are the final appellate authority and are mandated to safeguard and facilitate people’s fundamental right to information.

Imposing of penalties

An analysis of penalties imposed shows that the commissions did not impose penalties in 95% of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable.

“Proper functioning of information commissions is crucial for people to realise their right to information. The report shows that in several commissions a large backlog of cases has built up, resulting in a long waiting time for disposal, as governments have failed to make appointments of information commissioners in a timely manner. The report also flags concerns regarding tardy disposal rates in several commissions and the lack of transparency in their functioning. There is an urgent need for the transparency watchdogs to function in a more effective and transparent manner,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of Satark Nagarik Sangathan.

According to a separate report by the Transparency International, one-fourth information commissioner posts are vacant and there are only 5% (only 8) women information commissioners in the country. Out of total 165 posts of information commissioners, 42 are vacant, including two chief State information commissioners.

The report says that till now more than 4.2 crore RTIs have been filed and 26 lakh second appeals are there before the commissions.

What is interesting is that States like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu State information commissions are getting more appeals than the Central government CIC.

Maximum number

The top information commissions receiving maximum number of RTIs were Central government 1.19 crore, Maharashtra 86.06 lakh,  Tamil Nadu 36.99 lakh and Kerala 32.82 lakh.

Currently, 41 out of 165 posts of Chief Information Commissioner and information commissioners are vacant as compared to 36 last year in 2021.

“From an average waiting of two years at information commissions due to huge pendency of appeals/complaints, one-fourth posts of information commissioners are vacant. Commissions are becoming parking lots for retired bureaucrats and the casual attitude by PIO/First Appellate Authority while rejecting RTI applications are major challenges in the 17-year journey of RTI in India,” Rama Nath Jha, Director of Transparency International India, said.

The entire system was also in need of digitisation. Only 11 information commissions out of 29 provide e-filing facility for RTI applications or appeals, but only five are functional.   

“The digital RTI portal (website or mobile app) can deliver more efficient and citizen-friendly services which are not possible through conventional mode. This will be beneficial for both transparency seekers and the government,” Prof. Madhu Bhalla, Chairperson, Transparency International India, observed.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.