New Delhi: Bureaucrats are blocking RTI and they are not even being penalized for it.
There are files that have remained shut for years and will remain shut in the RTI office, because the ***** don't want to give access to people with queries, despite the much hyped Right to Information Act. What is worse is that the Central Information Commission is not even penalizing them for it, ironically.
Documents available with CNN-IBN show it is the CIC, which is letting ***** off the hook. The CIC is supposed to fine bureaucrats for failing to give information on legitimate RTI queries.
RTI Activist Shekher Singh, speaks on the issue, " There is a well known case of a particular information commissioner, who didn’t impose penalty on a particular department because they said this was their first time, but when looked at all the records, one will find that there were seven orders that we gave to the same department, and each time it was quoted as their first time."
The documents that have been received through the RTI application show that in the last two years, the CIC has ordered various government departments to provide information in nearly 7,000 cases but only 92 public information officers have been fined.
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, says, " if the commissioner comes to the conclusion that there is no reasonable cause, then in that case he may not impose the penalty."
RTI Activist, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya says, "As per the act it is totally illegal, because no where is it mentioned in the act that CIC has been given any discretionary power to not impose the penalty, in those cases where CIC issues the award.”
The debatable issue is how much powers can the Central Information Commission exercise?
What seems to be is that the debate that will continue in time to come, but the fact remains that the ***** in our country will wake up to the harsh realities of your Right to Information only when penalties will be imposed on them on a regular basis.
IT MAY be difficult getting information out of ***** sitting on top of government files. The Central Information Commission may tell you it is harder to get them to pay penalties for infringing the transparency law. The right to information watchdog has been able to recover just one-fifth of the penalties imposed on government servants over the last two years.
According to information released on a RTI request by Delhi citizen, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, the Central Information Commission gave a list of 70 cases where it imposed penalties totalling Rs 10 lakh over the last two years. It has, however, been able to recover only Rs 1.81 lakh from the secretive *****. "The officials concerned have approached the high court in a few cases, deposited the penalty in about two dozen cases. But in the vast majority of the cases, the commission has not been able to recover the penalties," said Bhattacharya.
Officials at the commission said an audit had recently arrived at a similar conclusion but point out that a tight staffing position did not make matters any better. "Yes, the monitoring of recovery of penalties has to be improved," a senior commission functionary said. In an effort to improve compliance, the commission asked department heads of the office concerned to deduct the penalty from the salary of the delinquent official and deposit it with the commission rather than require the official to do it on his own.
Chief Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah, however, suggested the commission wasn't doing too badly. Not if one were to consider, he said, that most of the penalties had been levied during the past year when he decided against leniency towards ******* on the plea that they were getting used to the law and cracked the whip. There is some time lag between the imposition of the penalty and its recovery, Habibullah said.
The chief information commissioner, however, acknowledged that the growing list of pending cases had him concerned. The commission, that had just about 1600 pending cases in October last year, saw the figure jump to 4,000. And nearly 100-200 cases get added up to this list every month. The commission has last month requested the central government to give them another commissioner. The Right to Information Act empowers the government to appoint 10 commissioners. The commission started with half this number two years ago; all of them retired government officials.