A column by Dilip Cherian in The Deccan Chronicle on 3 February 2008: Columnists
Babus misuse RTI Act
Nowadays the Central Information Commission (CIC) is busy playing "agony aunt" to a score of babus whining over various promotional and compensation matters. That seems to be the big new bugbear of the CIC. The trend in babudom, insiders share, is that many bureaucrats are now actually using the RTI Act for their own personal vested interest. Ranging from scrutinising file details when superseded, to petty complaints on out-of-turn allotment of houses, these applications make up an alarming 40 per cent of the ones received by the CIC.
No wonder then that Wajahat Habibullah, chief information commissioner, is worried about the backlog, as it is already dealing with a huge one of more than 12,000 second appeals by citizens. A tribesman like Anil Kumar from the Department of Telecom may think that the CIC is just the "perfect" way to vent his professional frustration, however, most such pleas are not being entertained by the commissioner, who prefers to spend time on issues that involve a degree of "public interest." Kumar alleged that R.P. Sinha superseded him "unjustly" as the managing director of MTNL. Even senior IFS officer Veena Sikri’s disgruntlement did not yield any "fruitful" result. Sikri went to the extent of demanding access to Cabinet files through the CIC, when she was superseded by Shivshankar Menon as foreign secretary.
The CIC has also become the only way out for even the serious complainers. The nature of such complaints is usually pension grievances of retired babus that are never entertained by their serving officers. A viable solution to the problem, babu watchers feel, would be for the Centre to invest in making information on official ranks, pension schemes, grades and related entitlements accessible on the Internet to bureaucrats. Maybe it would help if the Centre were to push for the much delayed national e-governance plan and included petty babu details in it.
It’s a win-win proposition then for all, the disgruntled babudom and the overworked CIC. And Habibullah wishes that such an initiative by the Centre may come through as soon as possible and save him some avoidable burdens.
The suggestion to " invest in making information on official ranks, pension schemes, grades and related entitlements accessible on the Internet to bureaucrats" is a good suggestion. It needs to be worked out in detail to ensure availability of authentic information and also within reasonable cost. After all the public coffers are already overburdened with a bloated bureaucracy, which should not be further burdened unduly. Otherwise CIC can devise simpler ways to deal with all such service matters, may be with more assistance from NGOs/activists for preliminary scrutiny of such requests/appeals before they are put up to the CIC for hearing. This may reduce the backlog.
One suggestion I would like to share with you all sir,
All the information (Other than exempted) available with the Companies, Govt. Departments etc., which come under RTI area should be kept on their respective websites.
These information which is kept on websites definately solve the very purpose of transparent functioning of Government, semi-govt, public sector etc., and definately a move towards making bright India and can see transparent working.
It is so because getting personal grievaance redressed through RTI forum is one the cheapest method. Presently getting justice through C.A.T. is one of the costiliest means and judgment of C.A.T. are more biased
Strange but very interesting.Can you imagine a could be/would be foreign secretary indulging in petty files inspection to find out why he/she was superseded .You dont have to be a genius to know it.You didnt make it because you simply tagged along in life and reached a level of Peter's Principle. Similarly many others,even after retirement trying to find out what their pension should be? And imagine these are/were officers,and most of them very senior; creme-de-menthe,who took decisions/signed on documents on dotted lines ,affecting lives of millions.
Infact ,I whole heartedly empathise with CIC's predicament.I strongly recommend that except for rare of rarest cases,no individual affecting/affected case should be allowed to reach CIC,seniority and bureaurocratic/political weightage be damned.Only cases genuinely affecting society/public at large be heard by the CIC.That is the only way to ensure timely justice-a birth right of every human being in a democratic setup.Otherwise we will suffer crying for Information "till death do us part".