Justice Rajiv Shakdher of the Delhi High Court has directed that the senior-most Information Commissioner can hear a case in the absence of the Chief Information Commissioner.
The Court observed, "I am of the view that the present arrangement would lead to a backlog in the disposal of the matters filed before the Central Information Commission. This arrangement will, broadly, jeopardize the interest of those querists who seek information pertaining to defence matters. Therefore, the writ petition is disposed with a direction that the petitioner's pending appeal would be taken up for adjudication by the senior-most information commissioner. The information commissioner will attempt to dispose of the appeal as expeditiously as possible, though, not later than 10 weeks from today.”
The Court was hearing a Writ Petition filed by Sushila Kumari, who was waiting for her case to be heard by the CIC. CIC had contended that under Section 12(4) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, only the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) can categorize the matters and direct the placement of matters before a particular bench.
The Court however directed the senior-most Information Commissioner to take up the Petitioner’s pending appeal and dispose it within ten weeks.
CIC's post has been vacant since Rajiv Mathur retired last August. All the matters, including RTI applications relating to PMO, defence ministry and HRD ministry have been pending since then with the number of pending appeals and complaints mounting to 14,000.
Read the Judgment here.