RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj on Monday applied to the Supreme Court for an “urgent” hearing of a petition that seeks the immediate filling of all the vacancies at the Central Information Commission, where six of the 11 posts are currently unoccupied.
The vacant posts include that of the chief information commissioner, the application underscored, adding that the commission faced a backlog of over 36,000 complaints and appeals filed under the Right to Information Act.
It accused the Centre of not just deliberately failing to fill the vacancies but of having misled the apex court in April by saying it had complied with its December 2019 order to fill all the vacant posts. It alleged that some of the vacancies had persisted for the past two years.
The application for urgent hearing, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, is expected to be heard only next week after the Dussehra vacation ends on October 25.
“With the retirement of the chief (information commissioner) on 26.8.2020 and another commissioner demitting office (at) the end of September, 2020, currently 6 posts... are lying vacant and the pendency of appeals/ complaints has risen to over 36,600,” the application said.
It alleged the Centre had on April 24 falsely claimed to have complied with the apex court’s December 16, 2019, directive — which came on a petition from Bharadwaj — to fill within three months all the four posts that were vacant then.
“It is submitted that this assertion is patently false and misleading as the respondent was to fill all the vacancies which were advertised on 12.12.2019,” the application said.
What the Centre did, the application alleged, was to fill just one of the four posts and elevate an existing commissioner as the chief information commissioner. By April 24, when the Centre filed its affidavit, one more post had fallen vacant, restoring the number of vacancies to four, it added.
“The affidavit notes that 250 applications were received pursuant to the advertisement for 4 posts of information commissioners. However, no reason is given as to why only one vacant post was filled,” the application said.
It alleged that “it appears the (Centre) is resorting to issuing fresh advertisements instead of filling all the advertised vacant posts in a bid to cause undue delay in the appointments, thereby frustrating people’s right to information”.