Saturday, May 15, 2010

Use these formats to pinpoint your Information Commissioner’s failures & misdoings


RTI Act 2005 is a simple law, which does not require the reading and interpretation of any other law or statute. It is a simple contract between the citizen and the administration, requiring the administration to furnish information within a tight time-frame to the citizen who requests it. The intent of the Act is made clear by its preamble: “Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed…”

The duties and powers of Central & State Information Commissioners (CICs & SICs) are clearly defined in Section 18, 19 and 20. Section 19(5) and Section 20(1) mandate that they should demand justification from the PIO for denying the requested information.

Acceptable justifications are listed in Sections 8, 9 and 11. Sections 2(f), 2(h) or 2(j) may also be used as grounds for denial, if the RTI application asks for something that are not defined as “information” or “record” by the RTI Act, or if information is requested from a body that is not a “public authority”.

Other than the above specified reasons, RTI Act does not allow denial of information. But, as we all know, CICs and SICs are lenient to the administration, largely because so many of them are selected from among retired bureaucrats who wield undue influence or owe undue favours.

Maharashtra & Mumbai RTI activists, please fill up your details in the new easy-to-fill form, and email it to us. (How to fill up? Download the forms and write according to sample shown in red):

1) RTI compliance of Chief SIC Dr Suresh Joshi:

2) RTI compliance of SIC Ramanand Tiwari:

The above forms are designed to pinpoint common misdoings & failures of Information Commissioners, namely:
a) Undue delay between date of filing second appeal/complaint and actual hearing
b) Undue delay between date of hearing and passing of order
c) Jumping-the-queue and arbitrariness i.e. Some appellants get very quick hearing and order, while others wait months or even years.
d) PIO is not asked for justification as per Sec 19(5). Information Commissioner makes excuses on behalf of PIO and public authority.
e) PIO’s justifications are accepted even if they are not as per any provision of RTI Act e.g. Sec 8, 9 and 11.
f) Information Commissioners pass orders supposedly in favour of appellant, asking PIO to furnish information within X number of days, but without imposing any penalty on PIO or awarding compensation to appellant. This defeats the time-bound nature of the Act.
g) After passing such loose orders, Information Commissioners fail to secure compliance, so that the appellant fails to get information. This renders the RTI application completely fruitless and destroys the faith of citizens in the RTI Act.

Please email your filled-up forms to activist G R Vora who is leading this initiative. The information that you give will be useful for compiling statistics, making representations to the government (especially the Governor), and submitting reports to higher judiciary and media.

For queries, contact:
G R Vora
98691 95785
grvora AT

Report by:
Krishnaraj Rao

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