A petition was filed on 15th September by an RTI Activist, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, and others to sought directions to the Maharashtra State Information Commission, the respondents to issue guidelines to all the public authorities in the State of Maharashtra to adopt an appropriate online video conferencing platform for conducting hearings pertaining to proceedings under the diverse statutes applicable to such public authorities as well as for conducting hearing of First Appeals under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The court requested Ms.Shastri, learned Additional Government Pleader for the State to take instructions on the issue as raised in this PIL petition. On 26th September Ms. Shastri submitted a letter dated 22nd September issued from the office of the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra, and the court upon reading the letter said that
“the Government of Maharashtra is inclined to adopt appropriate online video conferencing platform for conducting hearing of quasi-judicial/administrative proceedings; however, the procedure may take some time as a meeting will have to be convened with the concerned Departments including the Finance Department and that necessary guidelines and directions would be issued to all the public authorities thereafter. It also appears that some of the authorities are already conducting the hearing through video conferencing.”
The court remarked that “We are surprised that during the period of six months after lock-down was announced, the State did not consider it appropriate to provide for hearing through the virtual platform and is still praying for some more time to make the system operational.” The court while adjourning the hearing said that “Quite reluctantly, we adjourn the hearing of this PIIL petition for three weeks, as prayed for by Ms.Shastri, expressing hope and trust that on the returnable date, she would apprise us regarding the steps taken by the Government and thereby not leave any room for the complaint to be voiced by the petitioner.” The matter is next posted for hearing on 15th October 2020.