The Right to Information Act was supposed to bring transparency and accountability in all government transactions, but that has not happened. Apart from a few satisfied customers, a majority of residents are still waiting for their applications to be processed. As of November 2006, the state Information Commission (IC) had 4,551 pending complaints and appeals.
Activist Shailesh Gandhi contends that state IC has refused to share their hit rate with the public. “It has refused to display their performance,’’ he says. “I have been pursuing the state IC and the Centre to share information about the number of secondary appeals and complaints filed every month and the number successfully disposed under Section 4 of the Act.’’
The Central Information Commission is the only agency to have displayed its report card. According to Gandhi, all states are “guilty of not disposing matters within the 60-day stipulated deadline”.
Gandhi’s research found that many commissions had kept poor records of their transactions and tended “to lose” papers.
The state IC and its Central counterpart disposed around 70 complaints and appeals per month while the Kerala IC disposed just 3 per month. The only IC that settles a reasonable number of complaints and appeals is Tamil Nadu, which disposes about 300 cases per month.
Maharashtra appointed two additional information commissioners and authorised the appointment of four more. Gandhi says that as each commissioner, staff and infrastructure costs about Rs1.5 crore annually, “if they dispose of less than 1,000 cases each year, the cost per decision is about Rs15,000”.
“If they do not issue orders within 60 days, they lack the moral authority to discipline junior officials like the PIO or the first appellate authority if cases are not decided in time. If they were to dispose off 300 per month, there would be no backlog in 2008.’’
An IC official said they receive applications on diverse issues. “Just as the courts take ages to mete out justice, we too need to assess each case on its merit,” he says. “That takes time. It is not fair to blame the authorities".
Departments have been working in close secret, and all babus and officers have been trained to do that. As the fact of the matter, it is been trained to remain aloof and away from public so that decisions can be made impartial. But that system also breeds corruption. I guess with the inertia of RTI and the backdrop of bureaucracy, one day the balance would evolve, till them there would be strife and turmoil in the Government.
I sincerely hope this Act should always remain, the asset for citizens and not become as what one said "This act is becoming the tool for ego satisfaction of aroused citizens".