If the government accepts Central Information Commission’s proposal to have a cell dedicated for Right To Information (RTI) in each ministry, getting a response might become easier.
Instead of having one Public Information Officer (PIOs), ministries have designated PIOs for each section, thereby making filing an application under Right To Information a tedious process.
To overcome this problem, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had proposed a model, where each ministry will have a cell committed to deal with all matters relating to RTI. The model will also suggest ways to improve efficiency of RTI cells already working in ministries such an Environment and Forests.
“All RTI applications will have to be filed with the cell, which will then be forward to the Public Information Officers concerned and will even send them reminders about by when the information has to be provided,” Habibullah told HT.
The cell will also act as an appellate authority for all RTI applications in the ministry.
The transparency watchdog’s proposed model would be similar to the one in United Kingdom, where a dedicated freedom of information office ensures that timely reply is given to each application. The office also decides what information can be put in public domain.
In India, the clog of secrecy is still maintained in a bid to retain bureaucratic power. Even four years after implementing the law, most government ministries have not voluntarily disclosed information as per the RTI law’s Section 4.
“Even simple information regarding procedures have not been disclosed,” said an information commissioner.
Habibullah believes that the RTI cell, whose structure
is yet to be finalised, can improve the government’s record on transparency.
“We will have to see how the cell works in practice. But, the idea is to make seeking information easier for the citizens,” he said.
The proposed RTI cell will be first be set up in ministries of Home Affairs, Finance, Railways, Human Resource Development, State Bank of India and the Delhi Development Authority.