maintain a e-register for all PIOs in which all details of RTI applications would be displayed
Section 4 of the RTI Act requires all government departments to suo moto give most of the information held by them to the citizens. Commissions usually complain that thought they realise that a proper Section 4 compliance is very important, they are powerless. Section 18 (1) (f) of the RTI Act empowers the Information Commission to act on a complaint “in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.” These provisions if used in combination could ensure implementation of Section 4 and citizens getting a lot of important information. A few days back the Maharashtra CIC Mr. Ratnakar Gaikwad gave a very good order asking all government departments to display information regarding all welfare schemes on the website in a easy to understand format.
I saw a letter from the Kerala CIC regarding a RTI register, and decided to take it further. On a complaint by me Mr. Gaikwad has given an order to maintain a e-register for all PIOs in which all details of RTI applications would be displayed and this could also be used by citizens, Heads of Department and Commissioners to monitor the working of each PIO, and department. This will also make it easy for the Commission to give its annual report to legislature. Activists should try and persuade various State Commissions and the Central Information Commission to issue similar orders.
I am attaching this landmark order. This may be a game changer for RTI.
Complaint under Section 18 (1) (f) of the RTI Act
The Chief Information Commissioner,
Today, all RTI applications submitted by citizens are being entered in a physical register maintained by the PIO/APIO in every office where the RTI applications are filed. As a result, while the PIO knows of the number and status of the RTI applications in his/her office, there is no mechanism by which senior officers and Heads of Departments can track the status of such applications. Even an applicant/citizen is currently forced to keep contacting the concerned office to find out the status of the application. Most importantly, the Commission is mandated under the RTI Act to present an Annual Report under Sections 25 (1) (2) (3) and (4) (Annexe 2) to the State Government to be presented to the State Assembly on the status of RTI in the State. Despite the government and the departments also being mandated to provide this information to the Commission, one of the biggest challenges in properly preparing such a report, is the lack of timely and reliable information from Departments/Field Offices about the number of RTI applications and the efficiency with which they are being processed. If such information were to be available online in real time basis, it would allow all the concerned people to track applications as well as allow the Government to monitor their disposal. 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. It would also give the position of RTI applications received and disposed and be very useful.
I am suggesting a format in which each PIO would enter the data and the paper registers could be dispensed with. A simple software could automatically update the data in a real time basis and would be available to citizens and all officers, ensuring transparency.
Finally, such an online digital platform would help comply with the provisions of pro-active disclosure under Section 4(1)(a)(b) of the RTI Act (Annexe 4) . It would also help comply with the mandate under section 4 (2) which is as follows –
It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.
I would be very happy to assist in developing this template and software.
MAHARASHTRA STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION, MUMBAI
Complaint under Section 18 of RTI Act, 2005
Shailesh Gandhi Vs Chief Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra
Complainant Shri Shailesh Gandhi has filed Complaint (by email) under Section 18 (1) (f) of the Act on 16th April, 2017 with the Commission in which he has mentioned following points --
1)It is fairly difficult for Heads of Departments( HODs), and Information Commission to review the overall performance of individual PIOs and FAAs on real time basis and to take corrective actions in an ongoing basis in real time.
2) Software can easily be developed so that a dashboard showing each PIOs performance and of the public authority would be transparent for everyone to see.
3) This will also facilitate preparation of the annual report and be a very useful tool for monitoring individual PIOs and public authorities continuously.
Complainant has therefore approached the Commission with a request to treat this as a complaint under Section 18 (1) (f) of RTI Act ,with a request to issue directives to all public authorities to arrange to publish details of the RTI applications and their disposals in the format enclosed by him.
Commission appreciates excellent suggestion made by Shri Shailesh Gandhi and treats his request as Complaint under section 18 of RTI Act, 2005. During last over 11 years, Commission has noted almost total lack of review of the performance of PIOs and FAAs by their superiors with the result that Public Authorities are not only required to pay huge Compensation to the Information seekers from public exchequer but Govt is also responsible for ineffective implementation of such a revolutionary Act which directly relates to Citizens exercising Fundamental Right of "Right to expression" enshrined in the Constitution.
It is pertinent to note that DOPT also vide Deptt.'s O.M. No.1/6/2011-IR dated 15.04.2013 has directed 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. RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed, as they do not serve any public interest."
Commission therefore in exercise of powers vested in it under Section 19(8)(a) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to require the public authority to take any such steps as may be necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act, including (i) by providing access to information, if so requested, in a particular form; (ii) by appointing a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be; (iii) by publishing certain information or categories of information; (iv) by making necessary changes to its practices in relation to the maintenance, management and destruction of records; (v) by enhancing the provision of training on the right to information for its officials; (vi) by providing it with an annual report in compliance with clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 4; of RTI Act,2005, order that Chief Secretary, Govt of Maharashtra should create an online RTI register in every office which has a Public Information Officer 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 Complainant in Annexe 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 and detailed compliance should be reported to Commission by 15th June, 2015 positively.
Chief Information Commissioner, Maharashtra