<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="98%" align=center border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=overviewfont colSpan=2>According to RTI activists, a critical issue hampering information flow to the public is a lack of awareness on the Act, both at the public and official levels.</TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD class=ArticleContentFont>
In the Bangalore context, questions asked under the RTI Act could invariably be blunted with the customary administrative shrug: the Right To Ignore. Still grappling with the scope and limitations of the Act, many Public Information Officers resort to functional, bookish replies, at times dodging the questions’ crux.
According to RTI activists, a critical issue hampering information flow to the public is a lack of awareness on the Act, both at the public and official levels. The hierarchical model of functioning in government departments is also reflected in the way questions under RTI are addressed.
In the initial days, getting the PIO concerned on the phone itself was tough because not everyone in the department was likely to know who the PIO was. Things have improved since, but only just. Questions on a wide range of information, from assets of MLAs to environment assessment reports of infrastructure projects, continue to be asked by the public under RTI.
While the promptness and adequacy of the responses are debatable, the justice delivered is also, at times, tangled in postponed hearings at the State Information Commission.
The positive change that RTI has brought in is reflected in a host of examples. But the potential the landmark Act holds is far from realised, due to limited awareness and administrative lapses. There’s also the standard excuse of inability to divulge “classified information” that douse the questions.
There have been cases where even after repeated applications, the information sought did not surface, forcing the applicant to approach the appellate authority. While some give up, the never-say-die walk the extra mile and approach the Information Commission to bring the erring PIOs to justice. On the other side of the RTI feel-good, there are people who tap the possibilities of this Act for personal gains.
Sources in the real estate industry say that there are groups of people who put on the activists’ garb, get damning information — details on building violations and flawed ownership documents — and seek money from builders to cover up the information. A simplified mode of application could lend more teeth to RTI, feel the activists.
At least in Kerala I attribute the reasons for dismal performance of the SIC on our Leaders. They have appoointed the State's Chief Secretary as its State Information Commissioner effective from the second day of his reirement. The very aim of theRTIAct isto change the bureaucrate's present approach. By appointing a retired Chief Secretary as its SIC, the state is allowing continuance of the existing system of bureaucratic functions An IAS Officer just cannot change his mind set at his post-retirement age. As a result he deals with each case exactly the same way he used to do while in service as Chief Secretary when an SIC has to do only following:
(a) Is the information sought fall under the defenition as given in the Act ?
(b) Is the information held by the PA
(c) Is the information falll under any of the excemptions
(d) Reasons advanced justifying the denial
He has to do nothing other than examining the above and order/refuce the information
In its place it delays the appeal for more than 17 months as used to in his own days without even any response, proble in depth into the merrit of the case, study the enire case from the beginning. He even accept the replies fromPIO/AA that the information sought for has been furnished one year before the application or even before enactment of the Act; based on the misleading replies furnished by thePIO and ignorant replies by AAs. He even accept the replies of PIOs that the appellant has been in the habit of asking such informations earlier also and replies has been furnished with no reference to theRTI Act. I donot know how to retrive the cituation
Last edited by colnrkurup; 26-08-07 at 05:06 PM.