The Supreme Court made a scathing statement saying that governments had rendered the Right to Information Act “a dead letter law” by failing to fill vacancies in information commissioners.
This underscores the grimness of the data offered by the petitioners in the case. Examples include Telangana, which has not had a SIC since February 2023; Tripura, which has not had a SIC since July 2021, and Jharkhand, which has not had a SIC since May 2020; and the Central Information Commission (CIC), where 7 of the 11 information commissioner posts are vacant and the body will become defunct if replacements for the four incumbent commissioners due to retire in November are not put in place in time.
Judgement and first Appearance
It’s worth noting that this is not the case’s first appearance before the Supreme Court. Its 2019 judgement instructed governments to “fill up vacancies, in future, without any delay”. It stipulated that the procedure for filling up vacancies be commenced 1-2 months before the date on which they are expected to occur.
Governments keep saying the ‘correct’ things about the significance of the RTI Act to democracy, yet the vacancies persist. The Ministry of Strategy and Public Complaints According to Jitendra Singh, the law is an integral aspect of building confidence between the government and its people. Those who signed the petition strongly agree.
We should have been debating ways to fortify information commissions in the years leading up to the law’s 20th anniversary. Fundamental liberties and access to crucial services have both benefited from RTI. It has helped uncover Adarsh, Commonwealth Games, Vyapam and other big-ticket frauds. But RTI’s pillars are the information commissions it has set up.
We are not even sure if many commissions will continue to operate, let alone if that will make them more open to sharing information. The implementation of RTI followed a popular uprising. The governments sabotaging it must stop.