ON thursday RTI will be one year old. Has it performed as was expected?
"more of a disappointment than a weapon of mass empowerment"
I read in Hindustan Times:
Even members of the Central Information Commission including chief information commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah and information commissioner O.P. Kejriwal admit that it has been “partially successful”. “We may not have been able to tap the potential of the Act,” Kejriwal said.
Let's not the feeling prevail that Information Commissioner will protect the Government Servants rather than punish them.
- The RTI Act allows appointment of 10 commissioners. Most of the 19 states in which the survey was conducted by CMS have only two information commissioners housed in temporary offices with very little fund and manpower. States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra have only one information commissioner. How can we expect the Act to work with so less Information Commissioners.
- The survey says appointment of retired government officials as information commissioners has been the rea son behind the failure of the law. In Assam, a retired IPS officer heads the commission whereas a retired judge is at the helm in Uttar Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh is the only exception where the three commissioners are from different professions. I agree with this, there should be plural involvement.
- There is the high processing fee charged by some states in violation of the Act, which stipulates Rs 10 for an application. States like Haryana and Tamil Nadu charge Rs 50, whereas Maharashtra and Orissa charge Rs 25 for an appeal. Andhra Pradesh scores as it charges no fee at the village level. The mandals and the district-level organizations charge a slightly higher amount. How can at a village level this high fee motivate people to ask for information.
- Information commissioners’ reluctance to use the penalty clause against officials providing wrong or no information, is another big deterrant factor. If there is no penality, how would the Act which at one end motivating citizens to ask but at other end providing a sword will act if this is not implimented. Offcourse indiscriminate use of the clause might led to the collapse of the administrative machinery, but on deserving cases it should be used. The CMS survey had this mentioned:no states, barring Goa and Karnataka, have invoked the clause. In Delhi, the CIC invoked the clause in two cases and later withdrew the penalty in one case.
Even though I think it was really not successful, but I still am optimistic that one day it will surely catch up and do some real good to society.