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RTI Activist’s expose Corruption :Government trying to Curb them

31 January 2011 No Comment

RTI Activist’s have exposed Corruption so the Politicians & bureaucrats are trying to complicate the processes and curb the RTI Act before it spreads across as a Movement now and gains its roots in the Common Man

Even as it claims that the Central Information Commission is not equivalent to a court, the DoPT has, on the other hand, put in place proposals to structure the commission like a court. Words like ‘Registrar’ and ‘Registry’ have been added in context of the commission to the proposed rules. At present, the secretary to the CIC is designated as the registrar, whereas under the proposed rules, he/she has been upgraded to chief executive officer and registrar-general to the CIC, a clever cadre up gradation.

Activists say that since the officer would be an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, this would lead to a clear conflict of interest.

In government offices the ‘Registry’ is a Central Cell/Section of the office/department/ organisation where in and out mails of the office/section are received, diarized and forwarded/dispatched as applicable. In context of courts, the Registry consists of Registrars who are from judicial background and a few officials and staff for administrative roles.

Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra, a noted RTI and social activist has questioned.“Do we need such a rigid organisational structure that will make life difficult for people by enforcing rigid procedures under the pretext of legal jargon?”

DoPT, the nodal agency that handles RTI in India, came out with a new set of rules on December 10, and asked for views and suggestions of various RTI users. A NAC’s sub-group on transparency and accountability, headed by social activist Aruna Roy, had then sent a strong critique of the rules to the department, terming them against the spirit of the RTI Act. The department, in its 13-page reply to the council on its observations on the rules, has shot down the apprehensions raised regarding whether the poor and the illiterate would not be able to frame an application, saying, “Apprehension that people who are not well educated may not be able to write an application within 250 words is without any basis inasmuch as long applications are made by the people who are well educated and who try to seek explanation, etc., instead of seeking information as defined in the Act.

The Act provides that if a person is not able to make a request, the public information officer would render him assistance in making the request. This provision takes care of the people who are not well educated.”Whereas even here there can be a flaw purposely created in the RTI Application itself by the PIO.

The new rules, which have received a lot of support from bureaucrats, however fails to take into account the fact that a person from a rural background cannot travel long distances to ask for assistance to word the application appropriately and stick to such a tight word limit. This is bound to put off many people from filing an RTI application. “Invariably, the applicants need to write the background with reference to which information is being sought as a prefix to queries or attach a document as a reference. At time the information requested is interlinked with more than one subject,” Batra said. The DoPT has also suggested that the petitioner should pay for the “the actual amount spent by a public authority on hiring a machine or any other equipment, if any, to supply the information.” Activists say that this would leave the petitioner open to harassment from the PIO, since he can demand that the applicant pay huge amounts on the pretext of obtaining the documents from a distant place.

The proposed changes to Rule 11(2) and (3) on the ‘Admission of Appeals’. This lays down that the CIC will have the power to accept or reject appeals if it feels that the RTI petitioner has availed of all the “remedies available to him.” Under the current rules, all the rejected RTI applicants can get a hearing from the CIC – allowing babus to not have their decisions bypassed and requests sent directly before the commission.

Some other “grave” sections include sections 13-15, which talk about allowing the appellant to withdraw an application on “prayer” and not allowing assistance of somebody else to file an application. “will leave the appellant with no choice but to lay himself open to harassment from people who do not want the information divulged, Batra alleges, pointing out that the proposals instead allow the commission to appoint people who will assist the appellants, leaving the door open to hiding of information. “The commission cannot be fair to the appellants and bring in transparency when such widespread abuse is going to be allowed of the basic provisions of the Act,” Batra said.

Another suggestion of the council that stands rejected includes abatement of an RTI appeal or complaint. Rule 16 of the draft rules says, “The proceedings pending before the commission shall abate on the death of the appellant.” The NAC had demanded that this provision should be deleted because this could encourage or result in the murder of the appellant.

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