Create an online register in every office which has a public information officer
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) welcomes the landmark order passed by Chief Information Commissioner, Maharashtra that could greatly empower RTI users, Heads of Departments, and the Commissions to track and monitor every Public Information Officers (PIO) response to every RTI application across the state of Maharashtra. The order was passed in response to a complaint filed by the former Central Information Commissioner, Shri Shailesh Gandhi complaint under section 18 of the RTI Act that pointed out that citizens were unable to know their status of their RTI application, once it was submitted
In its order dated 16.04.2017, the commission has directed the Chief Secretary, Government of Maharashtra to “create an online register in every office which has a public information officer (PIO) and put on a single platform all the RTI applications filed in every office at every level where RTI applications are submitted and filed and also upload this information on the websites of public Authorities so that citizens can also access this vital information. The format to be used for the RTI register is as suggested by the complainant in Annexure 1`. This platform would facilitate the compilation and tracking of RTI applications filed offline, as well as those that might be filed online with Departments. This order should be implemented by 15th June 2017.” (Order and format attached)
The Commission cites as a precedent the fact that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) vide OM No.1/6/2011-IR dated 15.04.2013 also mandates that “All Public Authorities shall proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses, on the websites maintained by Public Authorities with search facility based on key words”
- This order will enable citizens in general and RTI applicants in particular, to track the RTI application with every PIO from the date of filing till the date of disposal.
- It will also enable the supervisory authorities including the Head of Department to monitor the status of disposal of RTI applications by respective PIOs.
- The mechanism would greatly facilitate the Information Commission to put together the report for the state legislature as per the provisions of the RTI Act in a more timely and accurate fashion.
- Properly followed, this format and order would allow the people and policy makers to know with far greater accuracy, the number of applications filed each year, the time taken to answer them, and some of the essential processes and timelines followed by the PIO in answering the RTI applications.
- Finally it would greatly enable the Commission to better analyze (in terms of departments and geographical areas) many aspects related to the status of implementation of the RTI Act in the State.
The NCPRI welcomes this order, and requests the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra to implement it as soon as possible.
Based on this order, the NCPRI would also like to urge the DoPT to pass an Office Memorandum so that this landmark decision is made applicable across the country. Finally, we also urge the DoPT to incorporate this decision and format as part of the RTI Draft rules 2017 that have been put up for discussion on the web site.
The NCPRI will continue to work with RTI users and activists to ensure that similar complaints are placed before State information Commissions, and State Governments are urged to bring similar provisions in force.
By treating this order as establishing a good practice, and a precedent, Public Authorities and Information Commissions could easily ensure that these provisions become orders across the country; thereby strengthening the RTI regime everywhere.
Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Venkatesh Nayak, Bhaskar Prabhu, Rakesh Dubuddu, Joy Kumar, Dr Sheikh
(On behalf of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information)