The state information commission has an unlikely petitioner — Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
Bengal’s first citizen has sought a report from the panel on how the Right to Information (RTI) Act is helping people get the desired data.
The governor has made it clear in the letter what had prompted him to seek such a report — a flurry of complaints from citizens over the commission’s “failure” to supply information.
“The governor has sought a report on the performance of the commission. We have sent it,” said Arun Bhattacharyya, state information commissioner, refusing to disclose details of the “confidential report”.
But sources reveal that the crux of the four-page report is the commission’s candid confession that non-cooperation by government departments is coming in the way of the implementation of the RTI Act, 2005.
“The report states the commission is not even aware of the names of the principal information officers in various departments and assistant public information officers in the districts,” said a senior government official. These officers are supposed to act as nodal officers in providing information to petitioners.
“Most public authorities have not maintained their office proceedings and records and so cannot give information… And the panel is getting dragged into unwarranted litigation,” added the official.
A forum of Right to Information activists, however, has slammed the commission for its failure in implementing the act. The activists met commission officials on Thursday. “Till last year, the commission had received 148 complaints and 23 appeals. Only 61 cases have been resolved and eight orders passed in the past six months,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the West Bengal RTI Manch.
While the RTI Act was passed in October 2005, the state commission has been functioning since June 2006. “It means the commission heard only one case per month. This, indeed, is poor performance,” said A. Biswas, another member of the Manch.