LUCKNOW: Basant Yadav had approached State Information Commission (SIC) for redressal of his grievances but the commission's dependence on normal postal services increased his woes.
Yadav had registered a complaint with the SIC against the Block Development Officer (BDO) of Sakaldiha, Varanasi. "My hearing was fixed for April 3 but the notice, sent by commission through normal post, reached me on April 2 only," said Yadav. Consequently, he could not make to the hearing and the matter was thus deferred.
The functioning of the commission is in gross violation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which clearly entails, 'the appellant or the complainant, as the case may be, shall in every case be informed of the date of hearing at least seven clear days before that date.'
"This rule has never been followed. I have come across at least 30 per cent of such cases where notice regarding date of hearing has not reached the applicant on time", said RTI activist Izhar Ahmad.
The method of sending notices through normal post that SIC uses to inform complainants/appellants about their due dates of hearing do not find mention in the rules of the Act, which prescribes that the commission can ask either complainants/applicants themselves to get notices issued by the commission, received by the other party involved in argument or notices can also be delivered by hand or through registered post. The head of office or department against which the appeal/complaint has been filed can also deliver the notice.
Though Public Information Officer (PIO) of the SIC, Mata Prasad, could not be contacted despite more than an hour-long wait at his office, staff in the commission said that it has always been depending on normal post for delivery of notices.
"It has happened to me a lot of times that I have not been informed of the dates on time. It was only when I reached the Commission or some other source informed me that I got to know of the date of my hearing", said another applicant Shailendra Singh.
In most of such instances, the cases are either disposed off or cancelled. "The Commission seems to take a view that the appellant/complainant was not sincere or has got the needed information", added Singh.
This when the Act allows appellant/complainant the option to keep away from the hearing on his/her discretion. It also states that commission can accord appellant/complainant another hearing if it is convinced of the circumstances that prevented him/her from attending the hearing of the commission.
When six to ten months is the normal period for disposal of appeals/complaints lodged with the SIC, the deferral of hearings due to reasons like late delivery of notices cost RTI applicants dearly.
"I had questioned the SIC as to why it did not maintain a website, as provided by the act, to avoid this and they cited lack of staff and funds as the reason for not having one", added Singh.