Maharashtra: Bombay High Court Directs State Information Commission To Set Time Limits For RTI Appeals

Maharashtra: Bombay High Court Directs State Information Commission To Set Time Limits For RTI Appeals

The court also asked the government to ensure that all vacancies, including the post of the chief information commissioner, is filled up by the first week of February 2024.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 09:38 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the State Information Commission (SIC) to chalk out a roadmap fixing a “reasonable time limit” for early disposal of second appeals and complaints filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The court also asked the government to ensure that all vacancies, including the post of the chief information commissioner, is filled up by the first week of February 2024.

In its order, the court noted that while the statutory provisions say that first appeals have to be heard within a period of 45 days of filing, there was no such prescription for disposal of second appeals/complaints.

Dispose second appeals in 'appropriate time frame'

However, there cannot be any doubt that even in absence of any such statutory prescription, the commission is expected to dispose of second appeals in an “appropriate time frame”, the court said.

“Efficient functioning of the commission and desirability of early disposal of second appeals and complaints being brought before the commission cannot be disputed,” a division bench of Chief Justice D K Upadhyaya and Justice Arif Doctor said.

The directions were passed while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by former chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and some Right to Information (RTI) activists raising concerns over the efficient functioning of the commission. The plea contended that the disposal of second appeals filed before the commission takes a long time, which ultimately frustrates the information seeker.

During the hearing, additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan informed the court that all vacancies in the SIC including the office of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be filled by the first week of February.

Bench expresses hope and trust in state

Accepting the statement, the bench expressed hope and trust that the state abides by its word.

“Once the commission starts functioning with full powers it would be appropriate for the commission to evolve and work out certain norms for more efficient and better working and functioning of the commission which will include chalking out some reasonable time limit to hear and decide second appeals,” the bench noted.

The HC has kept the matter for further hearing on March 6, 2024.

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