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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

RTI: Right to ignore

Vimal Chander Joshi, Hindustan Times  Gurgaon, July 16, 2011
First Published: 00:59 IST(16/7/2011) | Last Updated: 01:04 IST(16/7/2011)

Most of the applications filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act at various government departments bring disappointment instead of the desired information even though the authorities are slapped fines for violation of rules.

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Raman Sharma, who has filed 274 RTI queries before the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda), pollution control board and other government agencies, said most of the time he has been discouraged by officials concerned.

“They normally don't reply within 30 days, forcing you to knock doors of the first appellate authority. There too, RTI pleas are taken very casually. Eventually, the only resort you are left with is to approach the state information commissioner,” he said.

According to Sharma, the first appellate authority usually doesn't respond to appeals and even if the hearing is cancelled, the applicant is not informed.

BK Aggarwal, resident of Park View City-1, shared his similar experiences, saying that getting a reply in 30 days from government departments such as Huda is wishful thinking.

“Initially they don't reply. But if they do, they try to beat around the bush. They hide information which can expose their nexus with the builders. All departments are literally on the payrolls of private developers,” Aggarwal rued. 

Due to such lax attitude of government bodies, the number of RTI applications is spiralling at the office of the state information commissioner (SIC).

In 2006, 154 applications were received whereas the number increased to 417 in 2009.

The figure reached 450 last year and this year till May, more than 220 applications have been sent to the SIC. At the SIC office, the state public information officer (SPIO) of the department concerned doesn't turn up, thus botching up the case even further.

When an official doesn't share the information asked under the RTI, s/he is imposed a penalty at the rate of R250 per day. In the last five years, the amount of penalty has jumped from R3,550 to R6.77 lakh. This year till May 31, the amount imposed as penalty on various SPIOs in the state has already touched Rs. 1.24 lakh.

Haryana SIC Asha Sharma refused to comment on the rising pending cases.


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