CIC rebukes PMO for sloppy handling of RTI queries

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ticked off the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) over the way applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 are being handled and has said the practice is "unbecoming" of the PMO.

The functioning of PMO officials came under the scanner of the CIC in two successive RTI cases last week. The CIC found that first appellate authority was passing uniform orders written in a set pattern in all the cases. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah admonished first appellate authority Usmani and said that his orders seemed to have been passed "without application of mind".

A similar observation has been made in Habibullah's two orders. As per CIC records, Usmani's orders follow a uniform pattern in which only the date is changed. His uniform orders say: "After due consideration of the matter in terms of the relevant provisions of the Act, it is observed that the Central Public Information Officer of the PMO has followed the statutory provisions and taken action as appropriate in response to your application dated (specific date given)."

In the first case, applicant Ashok Kumar, a resident of Deoria, Uttar Pradesh, had applied for information regarding 13 different Ministries. These were forwarded to the respective Ministries by the PMO. However, the applicant was dissatisfied and pointed out that in some cases the PMO had forwarded his request to the wrong Ministry.

When he went in for appeal to the first appellate he received a uniform order - a practice which was repeated in case of Kuldeep Sharma of Kamla Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad.

Habibullah has said that this practice is "undesirable" and "unbecoming" of the PMO. He has directed Usmani to stop this practice. In his order he has said that these are not the only cases but such practice has been observed in the past as well.

In his order, the Chief Information Commissioner has said: "It is noticed that the order of first appellate authority Jawed Usmani is similar to a number of orders that the first appellate authority has given in its first appeal before him in the PMO, leading to the suspicion that this is a standard order issued without application of mind. In this case, as in the other examples cited, the orders are not speaking orders... The appellate authority PMO is directed to discontinue any such practice in disposing of appeals under the RTI Act 2005."

The CIC again said: "The practice of the first appellate authority in PMO, Jawed Usmani, appears to be to give a standard response to first appeals, which is undesirable."

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