The information commissioners in the country not only failed citizens in getting requisite information, they also caused a loss of around Rs86 crore to the Centre by not imposing penalties as stipulated under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, a study released on Thursday said.
The RTI Act empowers information commissioners to impose Rs 250 penalty for each day an information is delayed.
This was one of the major finding of a pan-India study of 76,813 orders passed by 87 information commissioners during 2009-10 around the country, except Uttar Pradesh. “It is a conservative figure as we did not consider seven more grounds under which penalties can be imposed,” said Magsasay award winner RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who heads Public Cause Research Foundation, which did the study.
The study also found that penalties were imposed only in 3.17 % of the total order, a marginal improvement from 2.4 % in 2008-09. As many as 26 information commissioners did not impose penalty even in a single case they heard.
Prime reason for information commissioners ensuring that people get minimum information was that majority of them were retired bureaucrats, trained to withhold information.
In Maharashtra, a retired bureaucrat Naveen Kumar, appointed as an information commissioner, remanded back over 90 % of appeals he received to the public information officers (PIOs), who had failed to provide information within the stipulated 30 days.
In Jharkhand, there were allegations of corruption against the information commissioners for not imposing penalty on the PIOs.