STATE CHIEF Information Commissioner T N Shrivastav has expressed the need to publicise Right to Information Act 2005, especially among rural masses, to draw maximum benefits from it.
Speaking as chief guest at a workshop on the Act organised on Sunday by Centre for Right to Information, a local organisation of retired IAS officers and experts, he said that media has not played an effective role in publicising the Act either.
Elaborating on its role, he said State Information Commission was a judicial body whose responsibility is not to enforce the provisions of the Act, but to ensure that information sought within Act framework is given to the applicant. “Its not a grievance redressal cell,” Shrivastav, who is retiring this week, remarked. The Commission, he said, had disposed of 325 appeals in last one year.
Pointing out drawbacks, he said the Act has no provision to take disciplinary action against public authority (institutions receiving government aid of more than Rs 50,000) if they fail to provide information nor is there any limit on number of queries put to Public Information Officer (PIO). “I have received cases from Indore where applicants sought information on 140 points in single application.
Now that’s a bit difficult to answer and takes time,” the Commissioner said and informed that PIO was not entitled to answer queries on policy-related issued or questions like why a certain pit was dug on the road.
Speaking on the occasion, Divisional Commissioner Ashok Das said that the Act would help weed out corruption and bring in transparency in the government machinery. Pithampur Audyogik Sangathan president Gautam Kothari ruled out that the Act could be used as a tool to blackmail officials.
Expressing his views, former Indore Akashwani director B N Bose complained that the replies given by PIOs were difficult to comprehend and remotely concerned with what was asked.
Centre organiser K S Parmar proposed the vote of thanks. A Hindi book on the Act penned by Khargone District Collector S K Pal was also released at the workshop.