Bihar among top 5 states in country to receive most complaints under RTI
Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka are the top three states receiving the maximum number of second appeals and complaints at their respective information commissions. This has led to growing public perception that the bureaucracy is reluctant to act unless it feels threatened of sanction.patna Updated: Oct 23, 2017 08:38 IST
If data on the number of second appeals and complaints filed at information commissions is anything to go by, Bihar is among the top three states where response to information in first appeal either does not come or is unsatisfactory. This has led to growing public perception that the bureaucracy is reluctant to act unless it feels threatened of sanction.
The other two states topping the list of second appeals at information panels are Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are also the top five Indian states to receive maximum average number of applications annually under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The findings are based on analysis of replies to RTI applications, filed by the Transparency International India (TII), a non-government anti-corruption organisation of India, to infer about compliance under the RTI Act.
A TII communique said that against around 2.44 crore RTI applications received by all public authorities in India, Bihar received 8.64 lakh requests for information since May 8, 2006 to March 3, 2015.
Maharashtra, which received 54.95 lakh RTI applications, topped among states, while the central government received 57.43 lakh applications during 2005-06 to 2015-16. Interestingly, Maharashtra, on an average, received more RTI applications (5.49 lakh) annually as compared to the central government (5.22 lakh), said the communique.
Ever since its inception on May 8, 2006, the Bihar State Information Commission (BSIC) had received 1.58 lakh second appeals and complaints. From receiving 586 second appeals in 2006-07, the number of applications at the BSIC had gone up to 24,882 in 2014-15. Of the 1.44 lakh complaints received till 2014-15, the BSIC had disposed of 1.07 lakh.
However, the average annual RTI applications and also second appeals received by the Maharashtra State Information Commission was more than any other state, leaving even the Central Information Commission behind, it added.
“The high number of second appeals is a sad commentary on government officers, who either do not act or do a perfunctory job unless they feel threatened of having to face disciplinary action,” said Binod Kumar Poddar, a former employee of the Bihar State Human Rights Commission, and an RTI activist.
Bihar chief information commissioner Ashok Kumar Sinha, a former chief secretary, however, does not agree.
“This (that officers are laggard) is a presumption. The reason for high number of RTI applications and second appeals is because people in Bihar are more conscious and smart. They expect us to get their work done. We cannot order for action on a pending work. The government already has in place a public grievance redressal forum for that purpose. Our mandate is to only ensure that information sought is provided to the applicant,” Sinha told HT.
Under the 12-year-old central transparency Act, information commissions can impose penalty of Rs 250 per day, with the total penalty not exceeding Rs 25,000. It can also recommend disciplinary action against the public information officer if s/he, without any reasonable cause, refuses to receive an application; does not furnish information within time limits; denies the request with malafide intent; knowingly gives incorrect, incomplete or misleading information; destroys information subject to a request; or obstructs the process.