The Supreme Court on Friday put the government in the dock over long-pending vacancies in the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions, adjudicatory bodies under the Right to Information Act.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan asked the Centre and seven States to file affidavits with a deadline by which they would fill the vacancies. The affidavits have to be filed in four weeks.

The court asked why four positions were still vacant in the CIC despite a government advertisement issued in 2016.

Additional Solicitor-General Pinky Anand said an advertisement for filling the four had been issued again. Expressing concern over pendency of cases in the SICs, the Bench asked Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka to respond with a timeline for filling vacancies.

The plea by the RTI activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra and Amrita Johri has said that over 23,500 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC.

The petitioners said the Centre and the State governments had “attempted to stifle” the RTI Act by failing to appoint commissioners. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for Ms. Bhardwaj, submitted that after 2016, the new advertisement was only published by the government on Friday, just hours before the hearing in the Supreme Court.

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