The Central Information Commission has admitted fewer and fewer cases every month this year, under the Right to Information Act, data show, and RTI activists have asked for greater transparency in the process of turning down requests.
Cases come before the CIC in two ways: if an applicant is not satisfied with the response to his or her request for information from a Central government authority, and with the verdict of the first appeal made to the authority concerned, he or she can approach the CIC for the second appeal.
Additionally, if a citizen has a complaint — his or her request was not taken or wrong information was given or he or she has faced threats — he or she can come directly before the CIC.
Data from the CIC’s website show that from September last to June this year, the CIC admitted between 2,500 and 3,500 cases every month. However, since June, the number of cases the CIC admits has crashed precipitously, falling to just 119 last month.
While it is likely that this means a larger number of applicants are having their requests turned down, there is no data for this, said RTI activist Lokesh Batra.
In response to his RTI question whether the CIC maintained a record of all cases received by it and those returned, the CIC said it did not.
As a result, the high volume of pending cases before the CIC — 34,382 as of Tuesday — has begun to shrink, but for reasons that undermine the Act’s objectives, activists say.
The CIC says it is not rejecting requests but is “returning” them for “technical deficiencies, including lack of proper identification.” However, it has not made public details of these requests being returned, nor why the need to return requests has suddenly arisen.
RTI activists who met Central Information Commissioner Vijai Sharma on Tuesday asked for a searchable database of all requests for information, along with reasons for rejection or return, Anjali Bhardwaj of the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information said.
“Moreover, the persons whose requests are getting turned down for technical deficiencies are likely to be the poorest with the least voice,” she said.