LUCKNOW : The Right to Information Act (RTI) is a powerful tool in the hands of a common man provided he is aware of it. But that does not seems to be the case at present. So opined the delegates who had assembled at a workshop on "RTI and Good Governance" organised by the Institute of Cooperative and Corporate Management Research and Training (ICCMRT) in association with the Lucknow Management Association (LMA) here in the state capital on Saturday(24.03.2007).
The delegates which included former chief secretary R Ramani, former Lokayukt Justice SC Verma observed that a government department would be forced to provide "good governance" if the RTI was used properly. In the day-long discussion the two, along with director ICCMRT Naval Kishore, answered some of the following questions:
Q. Does a department is required to provide information sought by a person irrespective of the fact that the information has moved into the "weeding-out period" of the department? That is a person wants information pertaining to a development say five years back, but the department dumps files after four years.
A. Justice Verma: Yes. If the file is not yet destroyed a government official is required to provide that information, irrespective of the weeding-out time.
Q. But what if a government official says that records have been lost?
A. Justice Verma: This indicates that the officer might be hiding something. But then with the RTI in place a government official is required to inform his head of the department (HOD) about the missing information so that he can lodge an FIR. Having done that, responsibility would be fixed on the official concerned and he would be brought to book.
Q. Can a contractor ask a government official the reason for rejection of his tender?
A. Justice Verma: The department would only provide the information. But then its a quasi-judicial matter and one can seek redressal in court of law as well.
Q. Should file notings be disclosed or not?
A. R Ramani: Notings are the most crucial part of the functioning of a government department. If right to see notings is gone, there remains nothing. Justice Verma recalled a case where in a district magistrate (DM) was transferred after a politician complained to the chief minister about his closeness to other party candidates. When the officer approached the high court, the transfer order was cancelled as the court couldn't found a single substantial reason for his transfer.
Q. Can a person seek information on expenditure of funds like MP local area development (MPLAD) fund?
A. Justice Verma: Yes. This, would stop its misuse. He cited the example of Delhi where in an MP diverted funds for development of parks and fountains, instead of allocating them for installation of drinking water facilities.
Delegates present in the seminar opined that the RTI Act more than a tool to seek information would also work as "vigilance instrument". Thus putting a stop on corruption.
You are right about one thing...only if the common man is aware of it. Believe it or not the RTI may be a simplified task and the booklets issued freely but the content is not easy for a very simple Indian to understand the proceedure or even who is the PIO, appelate authority, etc.
More than the proceedure i feel who all are in charge and of what is of prime importance because this gives a window for the govt officers to send everyone from pillar to post, only to get the information. RTI book of dummy is very much needed, even the educated ones (specially me) are dumb in all this