Parliamentary panel seeks probe as Central Information Commission outsources majority of posts

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With a majority of posts within the Central Information Commission outsourced to contractual staffers, a parliamentary committee has now called for a probe into the matter. The Staff Selection Commission has been look into the reasons hindering direct recruitment in the transparency watchdog.

According to officials, the CIC has filled 100 out of 160 sanctioned posts in such a manner. The government body however said that it had been grappling with the non-availability of suitable candidates.

Since its formation under the Right to Information Act in 2005, the CIC has seen a steady growth in applications and data requests. According to reports however, the transparency watchdog remains plagued by defunct and understaffed information commissions and heavy backlog of pending RTI appeals and complaints.

Apart from the Central Information Commission, India also has 28 state-level Information Commissions – some of which have now become obsolete. As per the Satark Nagrik Sangathan report published in 2022, two of these state commissions (Jharkhand and Tripura) are now defunct. Four were functioning without a Chief Information Commissioner (as of October 2022) while four more states had seen the top post remain vacant for months in the recent past.

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According to the Parliamentary Committee, contractual staff can supplement the regular workforce but cannot be a substitute for it. The committee also noted that as per Section 25 of the Right to Information Act, there is a statutory requirement for public authorities to submit quarterly returns to the CIC.

“However, it is observed that during 2021-22, only 95% of public authorities submitted all four quarterly returns during the reporting year.”

The committee recommended that the CIC should impress upon all ministries and independent departments to take steps to ensure 100% compliance.

(With inputs from agencies)

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