Times of India Report on 25th:
NEW DELHI: In just one year of implementation of Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, your right is already in trouble.
An examination of appeals pending with Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate body for RTI Act, reveals that on an average an applicant has to wait at least seven months to be heard. And experts predict that at this rate within two months, this waiting time is all set to increase to two years.
If this is shocking, then wait till you see how CIC has been disposing these cases. According to a survey conducted by Parivartan, an NGO, of 568 appeals before CIC, 309 cases were disposed of without even being heard.
Neither the applicant nor the public information officer (PIO) was called in these cases. This means that over 54% of the applicant were not even heard.
According to RTI Rules 2005, it is upto the appellant to decide whether he wants to heard in person or in writing or not heard at all. The appeal rules lay down that it is the duty of CIC to give them an opportunity to be heard.
CIC, however, says that it is not possible to call all appellants. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said: "The Commission cannot call everyone.
If we start calling each appellant, we would not be able to dispose of appeals. We call people when we see the need for it." Legal experts, however, say that this is against the principle of natural justice.
RTI expert and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal said: "Their job is not to dispose appeals but to dispense justice. What would happen if Supreme Court starts saying this?" The disposal system is slowing down.
The number of appeals are increasing at a very fast pace. On September 4 this year, CIC received 89 appeals in a single day. In the last one year till September 8, 2006, CIC had received 3,059 applications.
Out of this number, it has disposed only 1,531 cases. The waiting period of applicants varies. While R P Jain, a Delhi resident, had to wait 195 days before his case was disposed, Piyush Mahapatra had to wait for 72 days.
Habibullah said: "We set ourselves a two month target to dispose one case. I agree, this wait is much longer in many cases. But we are trying to improve our system. We have engaged data entry operators to get a system in order. As soon as a case comes to us, we would feed it in our system.
We are trying to make some changes." Kejriwal, however, disagrees. "There is a need to impose penalties. Since CIC is not willing to impose penalties, the government officers are not scared to deny information and every case goes to CIC.
At this rate, the waiting period of each appeal would increase manifold in just two months." Of the 1,531 cases disposed so far, CIC has given two orders issuing penalties against officers.
While it has already withdrawn one order, it is in the process of withdrawing the second one as well.
I agree with the views expressed. The appointment of Information Commissioners should be from Public figures and not retired bureaucrats as they tend to watch the interest of colleagues / sub-ordinates in service rather than the applicants. They donot have judicial experience and more over a decision given by one Commissioner in any state on some merits does not become a precedent for the other Commissioner while deciding another case on similar merits.Rather a Commissioner in one state doesnot know what decision his own colleague Commissioner in the same state has given--- to be followed as precedent.
No case should be decided while giving a chance of personal hearing to the applicants. All such cases decided in absentia be reopened.
These anomolies need to be immediately removed in Commission's working.