Why Narendra Modi shouldn't ignore Sonia Gandhi's intervention on RTI conundrum
news Thursday, May 07, 2015 - 05:30
On Wednesday, Congress President Sonia Gandhi attempted to move an Adjournment Motion in Parliament and attacked the government on its "U-turn'"on the promise of transparency. At the heart of Sonia Gandhi's argument was the issue of the government not appointing the Chief Information Commissioner along with other officers in the election commission and the vigilance commission. The role of the CIC under the Right to Information Act is to look into RTI appeals filed and respond to them. The position of the CIC has been lying vacant since August 2014, since Rajiv Mathur retired from the post. RTI appeals have been piling up with 37, 935 unresolved cases pending before the commission as stated by MoS Jitender Singh before Parliament in February. Latest data indicates that over 39,000 cases are pending before the Central Information Commission. The Times of India in its report says that an applicant must wait for at least 18 months to two years before getting a hearing. Though the number of pending appeals have been increasing gradually even during the UPA period, the absence of a CIC has compounded the problem. Seeking to help RTI applicants as the backlog on impending queries would dissuade them, the Delhi High Court earlier this month said that in the absence of a CIC the senior most commissioner could take on the said responsibility. The stop-gap measure has not convinced RTI activist Rakesh Dubbudu, who says that â€śthis government is least interested in transparencyâ€ť. Dubbudu says that â€śone of the major reasons that the BJP government came into power was the RTIâ€ť and the number of irregularities by the UPA that came to the fore as a result of the Act. Dubbudu also mentions a pattern that could be seen with respect to the government stifling transparency, citing the debate on Lokpal and saying that the introduction of a â€śbasket of measuresâ€ť had been discussed back then to aid accountability. He also mentions that the Lokpal wasnâ€™t operational yet and that the Whistleblower Bill, although passed by both houses of Parliament, still awaits the Presidential nod. Dubbudu says that the general feeling among RTI activists was that the government was taking it easy on the accountability front. â€śThey could start with small measures to reaffirm the trust in people that the government was working towards assuring more transparency,â€ť he adds.