The state government has laid time-bound rules for information officers and appeal authorities designated to give replies to Right To Information (RTI) applications.
A government resolution (GR) issued on Monday lays down the rules to be followed by information officers to dispose off applications filed under the RTI Act of 2005, failing which stringent action will be taken against them.
As per the provisions of the Act, those who are reluctant to reply to the queries will face disciplinary action or fine between Rs 250 and Rs 25,000. The action will also be mentioned in the service record of the official concerned and may affect his or her chances of promotion.
The GR was issued following a letter by state Chief Information Officer Suresh Joshi to Chief Secretary Johny Joseph in February. Joshi had asked Joseph to initiate action against those information officers who do not abide by time-bound practices — like replying to RTI queries in a proper manner and disposing off appeals against state departments.
“In the past three years, Maharashtra has seen over eight lakh RTI applications sent to authorities, which shows the relevance of the act in our system. It is necessary for the authorities to look at answering applications in time,” the letter read.
“Following Joshi’s letter, we have issued certain guidelines as mentioned in the RTI Act to ensure time-bound process. Every department will issue circulars for their staff,” said Principal Secretary Thanksy Thekkekara, who is in charge of RTI affairs.
On July 27, Hindustan Times had reported that by August 31, all state public authorities will have to voluntarily make information like details of budgets, concessions, reservations, permits, details of internal meetings open to the public as per the RTI Act. Monday’s GR is a further step towards making RTI rules more stringent.
The GR specifies that if a RTI application is not clear on the question asked, the information officer should call up the appellant within five days of receiving it for clarification.
If the application has been sent to the wrong department, then within five days, it should be passed on to the information officer of the other department after informing the appellant.
If an officer cannot give reply to a question, he or she is expected to tell the applicant in detail why he cannot do so.
Every application should be answered with the full name, address and telephone number of both the information officer and appeal authority. In case of any violation of the Act, the appellate authority would have to mention it in its judgment.