11,000 queries are pending with SIC; many questions are rejected without valid reason

Hyderabad: The quasi-judicial body which oversees the implementation of the Right to Information Act in Telangana as well as deals with appeals in case government departments refuse to part with information, is neck deep in petitions. The Telangana State Information Commission which came into existence in 2017 now has a pendency of a staggering 10,814 cases of appeals.

The backbreaking pendency of cases is since 2017, and has been increasing year-on-year since its formation.

Interestingly, it was an RTI query filed by S Q Masood at the Commission which reveals the state of affairs.

Masood who has been working towards more transparency, and a quick but appropriate disposal of cases rued that the Commission needs to do more to take up hearing of appeals.

“As of now, there are six state information commissioners. One of them, Buddha Murali, is the Chief Information Commissioner of Telangana. According to the information which they have provided me, the total number of appeals which were filed in 2020 is 5,117, and the pendency 10,815 which is a 50% backlog,” Masood, who is an RTI activist, said.

According to the RTI document, a total of 1,812 cases and complaints were filed at the Commission in 2017, out of which 6,804 were pending.  When 7,065 cases were filed, there was a pendency of 8,617 cases. The pendency increased to 9,091 in 2019 before peaking at 10,814 last year.

“There is a need to have a better system in place. The focus should be to look at the grievances of the appellants and avoid backlogs. There are several cases in which the appeals are coming up for hearing for a year, and sometimes longer,” Masood said.

Explaining an important aspect, another RTI activist, who did not wish to be identified, rued that several departments have been frequently rejecting RTI petitions on various grounds as compared to previous years.

“We are seeing that RTI queries are being wrongly rejected. Some cases have come up in which Section 8 of the RTI Act has been used to deny information. This section deals with various aspects such as cabinet papers, and other provisions like parliamentary and legislature privilege. It is my understanding that such sections should not be invoked needlessly to deny information.”