'RTI not used effectively for public interest'

  • Naresh K Thakur, Hindustan Times, Dharamsala
  • Updated: Nov 28, 2014 19:35 IST

The Right to Information Act (RTI), though considered a tool to bring transparency in governance and eradicate corruption, is not being used effectively by people in the hill state as most of the applicants seek information involving personal matters.

"Most of the applications filed with various public authorities in Himachal pertain to personal matters and people take least interest in using this tool in public interest," asserted Himachal Pradesh chief information commissioner (CIC) Bhim Sen.

The CIC, however, said there was no set mechanism to segregate the application filed in two categories and neither any study has been done on the ratio of the application seeking information in personal matters and in public interest.

"Still, I would say that 60 to 70% applications filed with various authorities relate to personal matters," said Sen, adding that sometimes people also file the RTI application to settle grudge against opponents.

The CIC also expressed concern over poor implementation of suo motu information that is mandatory to be put in public domain by any public authority under Section 4 of the Act.

"The Section 4 of the RTI Act provides for, some suo motu information like structure of a department and the budget, will be put in public domain," said Sen, adding that the information should be updated time to time.

He said, the implementation, however, was very poor and most of the departments do not update the information as required and the public, too, is not aware about this clause. However, while it comes to their rights, the people seem very aware and use the Section 6, which relates to seeking information about personal matters.

The CIC stresses that the people should also be aware of Section 2(f) of the Act, which defines information as any material in form of records, documents, and data in electronic form which could be accessed by public.

"People if aware of functioning of the government department and Section 2(f), the public information officers (PIOs) could not misguide them denying giving information citing the clause," said Sen. He told that the Himachal Pradesh government has made it mandatory for functionaries to mention date, their full name and designation, whenever making a file noting.

The CIC further told that Rule 6 of HP RTI Rules- 2006 make it mandatory for the first appellate authority to inform the appellant about the decision taken on his appeal.

"We have seen that sometimes the appellant files another RTI to seek information of decision given by the first appellate authority," said Sen. He told that the 1st appellate authority also could not reject the appeal if appellant is not present and give decision on merit.

In seven years, 2.5 lakh queries under RTI Act. A total of 267318 queries under the RTI Act have been filed in Himachal Pradesh since the implementation
of the Act till 2013.

Starting with the nominal 2,654 RTI applications in the first one-and-half year, the number has now crossed over 50,000 per year. The maximum 72,191 applications were filed in 2011-12. Of the total, 4040 were rejected by PIOs while 5372 went into 1st appeal. An amount of Rs 7566636 was collected in form of the fee.

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