RTI Act yet to make an impact in Kolkata
Twenty-six years after he paid for a flat, 76-year-old SK Khettry is nowhere close to gaining possession of the apartment.
Since June last year, he has sent 35 applications to different Public Information Officer (PIO), including the Department of Cooperation.
Khettry is seeking a copy of the legal opinion from the legal adviser of the Department of Cooperation in connection with his flat.
But he did not receive a single response.
In desperation, Khettry filed 13 complaints before the West Bengal State Information Commission. But even there he drew a blank.
According to Section 20 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Information Commission can impose a fine of Rs 250 per day on an SPIO for every single day of delay in providing information after the 31st day of filing the application.
But the State Information Commission has taken no such action against the PIO.
''The commission is hesitant to impose penalty on anybody. But the Act clearly says that if you do not furnish information within 30 days, it is deemed that you have refused to give information and that amounts to violation of the Act,'' said Khettry.
Interpreting the Act
The State Information Commission, which was set up in December 2005, would rather interpret the Act than implement it.
''About Section 20, the Commission has an open mind. Definitely if there is malafide intention to withhold information, then the penalty will be imposed,'' said Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, State Information Commissioner.
Moreover, a faulty record of documents at the office of the State Information Commission has shaken Khettry's faith in the efficacy of the RTI Act in West Bengal.
''These are the 13 appeals filed by me and one by my friend Banerjee. According to my records, 14 appeals are pending and they are saying only five appeals are pending. If this is what the commission is doing, we have nowhere to go,'' said Khettry.
A recent survey on the accessibility of information under RTI by the National Commission of People's Right to Information lists the performance in Kolkata at a dismal 7 per cent compared to Gujarat's 69 per cent.