Maharashtra SIC seeks police action for not maintaining records as per RTI Act
The annual report of the Maharashtra State Information Commission (SIC) has come out with some interesting statistics and made some hard hitting statements. A brief preview of the report is given below:
- There were 6.5 lakh RTI applications in 2011 which is an increase of about 1 lakh over last year.
- Out of these, 6.1 lakh RTI applications were replied to.
- The RTI application fee collection for 2011 was nearly Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 1,43,09,738 to be exact).
- 80% of Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) are ignorant of their duties under the RTI Act. As per the SIC report, the reasons for the pending appeals in the SIC include the unsatisfactory performance by PIOs and FAAs.
Regarding the public authorities, the SIC has made some observations in its annual report.
- The SIC report has criticised the trend of public authorities to deliberately appoint junior officers as PIOs and FAAs, thus shrugging off their responsibility of proper implementation of the RTI Act which it calls as very worrisome.
- It calls for all public authorities to preserve records in a proper manner through classification of files as per official norms and condemned the public authorities for “poor record keeping” which is leading to delay or denial of information under RTI.
- The report seeks strict action against those who do not maintain documents as per the rules and has even recommended police action against such officers.
- The report raises the issue of the poor implementation of pro-active disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act by the Public Authorities and directs the public authorities to suo motu upload information on their respective websites.
Regarding the RTI applicants, the SIC report says that sometimes:
- Too many issues are addressed in a single RTI application;
- A single individual sometimes files too many RTI applications; and
- Misuse of BPL facility of free information through improvisation.
The report points that in some cases:
- Citizens ask queries which are not related to RTI;
- Instead of seeking copies of documents, applicants expect action from the officers;
- A single RTI application sometimes ask for voluminous information from across the state which becomes cumbersome for the PIO;
- Some applicants seek additional information in the first and second appeal, which is over and above their original RTI application;
- Some applicants continuously seeking information on the same issue; and
- Filing of RTI application is without attaching the mandatory fee along with the application.
The SIC report includes a self laudatory note for disposing off 16,211 second appeals from the total 22,339 appeals received which it attributes to shortage of Information Commissioners. The report points to the fact that only 65% of the staff appointments are filled up. The report has recommended that 81,369 PIOs, 54,327 APIOs and 23,161 FAAs are required for full capacity working of RTI.
Unless the Public Information Officers and First Appellate Authorities are properly trained, the objective of transparency would remain a dream. Our site remains dedicated to achieving this goal.