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The Delhi High Court has asked the senior most Information Commissioner of Central Information Commission (CIC) to hear case in the absence of its chief, saying any backlog will jeopardise the interest of RTI applicants.

A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher has come to the rescue of RTI applicant Sushila Kumari, who is waiting to be heard at the CIC since August 22, 2014 as the Chief Information Commissioner’s post is vacant.

The court said the senior most Information Commissioner be deputed to dispose of the petitioner’s case.

“…I am of the view that the present arrangement (absence of the Chief) would lead to a backlog in the disposal of the matters filed before the CIC. This arrangement will, broadly, jeopardise the interest of those querists who seek information pertaining to defence matters.

“Therefore, the writ petition is disposed of with a direction that the petitioner’s (Sushila) pending appeal would be taken up for adjudication by the senior most Information Commissioner(IC). The IC will attempt to dispose of the appeal as, expeditiously as possible, though, not later than ten weeks…,” the court said.

It further said, “In the meanwhile, if Chief Information Commissioner is appointed, appropriate orders will be taken in this behalf”.

The post is lying vacant since the retirement of Rajiv Mathur in August last year.

The court’s order came on a plea filed by Sushila, who had moved the high court seeking direction to the CIC to hear her case, which is related to Ministry of Defence.

She had said in her plea that 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.

The CIC, which was represented by Advocate Mrinalini Sen, had opposed Kumari’s plea, saying “Under Section 12(4) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, only the Chief Information Commissioner can categorise the matters and direct the placement of matters before a particular bench.”

During hearing of a PIL filed by RTI activist, the high court had already asked the Centre to expedite the process of appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and ICs at CIC and inform it by May 11 about the progress as the vacancies have led to massive backlog of cases.

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