In a trendsetting example, the Prime Minister’s office conducted hearing for a right to information (RTI) first appeal by an applicant from Bhopal on telephone to ensure that the appeal was disposed at earliest.
The telephonic conference for first appeal hearing was conducted between Syed Ikram Rizwi, director and first appellate authority of PMO and Bhopal-based RTI applicant Ajay Dubey on October 12. The first appeal order in the case was issued on October 16 and received recently by Dubey.
Dubey had filed an RTI application with the PMO on June 24, 2016, seeking information and related documents regarding the progress on a complaint memorandum submitted by former CM Digvijaya Singh to the PMO on Vyapam scam.
Singh had submitted his memorandum seeking intervention of the PM on the irregularities related to the Vyapam admission and recruitment tests on March 18, 2015.
In the same application, Dubey also sought copies of correspondence between the chief minister and the PM from January 1, 2015 onwards.
The central public information officer (CPIO) of the PMO had refused both the information, saying the resources of PM office would be disproportionately used to give the information, forcing Dubey to file the first appeal (on September 1, received by PMO on September 9).
However, Rizwi, after perusing the PIO’s reply and the telephonic conference with Dubey, ordered the PIO to provide relevant information on both the points to the applicant.
Dubey said,“This is an example of making best efforts for providing information under RTI to ensure transparency in governance. Here in MP, applicants are not even informed about first appeal hearings in 90% of the cases,” he said.
Many RTI first appeals (to be heard by designated heads of various government departments) in Madhya Pradesh are heard several months or even years after they are filed, although local activists say the first appeals, according to RTI norms, should be disposed within a month of being filed (with 15 days grace period if reason specified).
State chief information commissioner, KD Khan said telephonic conference by first appellate authorities could be considered an option but with a rider that demands a way to verify the identity of the applicant before such a hearing.