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    20,000 RTI queries stonewalled: Report


    As reported by TNN in Times Of India, Mumbai Edition on 23 April 2008:
    Welcome

    20,000 RTI queries stonewalled: Report

    Document Tabled On Tuesday Shows Upward Trend In Rejection Of Applications Made Under RTI Act

    Mumbai: Two years since the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence in Maharashtra, as many as 20,142 applications were denied information by the various state departments, government undertakings and civic corporations, reveals the second annual report of the State Information Commission (SIC).

    The 35-page document tabled in the state legislature on Tuesday clearly points to an upward trend in rejecting applications made under the RTI Act during 2007, as compared to responses by the administrative machinery in 2006.

    Statistics reveal that during 2007, 12,892 applicants were told outright that the information would not be made available to them. However, the number of applications denied information from October 2005 to December 2006 was just 7,250. Under the RTI Act, information specified under the Official Secrets Act and which amounts to contempt of court or sharing of cabinet papers is not to be provided to an applicant.

    The pace of disposal of RTI queries seems to be a major cause for concern as the report indicates that 79,519 pleas were pending disposal till the end of December last year.

    State information commissioner Suresh Joshi blames the state administration for the tardy disposal rate, arguing that the senior bureaucracy has delegated the job to the subordinate staff.

    “Increasingly, the trend is to delegate to junior officials the job of the public information officer and appeals officer. In many instances, the appeals officer fails to take cognisance of the application before him. All this leads to a increase in the number of appeals before the information commissioners,’’ Joshi has said in the report.

    For the torch-bearers of the RTI Act, though, there is some good news as the number of people filing applications under the law has more than tripled in the last two years.

    From 1.23 lakh in 2006, the number of RTI applications has swelled to 3.85 lakh in 2007. A close look at the departments getting the maximum applications during 2007 reveals that the urban development department is the top favourite having received 1.17 lakh queries, followed by 60,000 made to the revenue department.

    The other departments getting a large number of queries are home (36,536), housing (34,464), rural development (30,303), law and judiciary (15,764) and PWD (12,273).

    For the state government, the act could be a boon as well, or so it seems, as revenue collected from sharing the information has more than tripled in the last two years.

    In 2007, the state earned Rs 70.5 lakh from applicants as against Rs 21.82 lakh collected in 2005-06.




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  2. #2
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    State officials fined over Rs 17 lakh for denying information


    As reported by TNN in Times Of India, Mumbai Edition on 23 April 2008:
    Welcome

    State officials fined over Rs 17 lakh for denying information


    Mumbai: Unbelievable but true. Around Rs 17.52 lakh has been collected as fine from officials at various levels for unlawful denial of information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, reveals the second annual report of the state information commission tabled in the state legislature on Tuesday.

    The information commissioners are empowered to impose a fine on an official who has either delayed the information asked for under the RTI Act, denied the information or rejected the application for malafide reasons.

    The highest defaulters of the RTI Act that aims to usher in transparency and accountability seem to be officials from Aurangabad division who have been collectively fined Rs 11.14 lakh by the information commissioner during ‘07.

    The fine amount is to be recovered from the salary of the officials declared guilty of violating the provisions of the law.

    In the Aurangabad divisio,n as many as 38 officials from various departments including Agriculture, revenue, PWD, irrigation, school education and forests, among others, have been fined the highest Rs 25,000 fine for denying the RTI applicant his rightful information under the law.

    Officials in the orange country of Nagpur division rank number two position in the state for making the state exchequer earn Rs 2.68 lakh from fines imposed on them by the information commissioner.

    Pune division officials have been collectively fined Rs 1.94 lakh by the information commissioner with as many as 19 officials directed to pay the amount for violation of the RTI Act.

    In Konkan division, which includes Mumbai, the fine amount on errant officials totals up to Rs 1.76 lakh. However, there are two instances where the information commissioner has directed departmental inquiry against the officials for blatant violation of the rules.

    In one case, a junior engineer working with the BMC’s building proposal department has been faulted for dereliction of duty with the information commissioner ordering a departmental probe against him.

    In another case, a public information officer with the women and child development department has been found guilty of denying information. The information commissioner has ordered a departmental inquiry against him.

    Twitter: @cjkarira



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