Should the officials be convicted for denying information under the RTI Act?
According to the documents released by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) relating to the details of formulation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it has come to light that National Advisory Council had proposed possible jail terms for violations of the RTI Act in specific situations. The documents were released on an order by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on an appeal filed under Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The draft act envisaged that the information commissions would have the power to file complaints against officials who persistently fail to provide information or deny information with mala fide with a judicial magistrate. The judicial magistrate had the authority to order their imprisonment along with imposing a fine of Rs 20,000/-.
The empowered Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the then Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee approved it and then on May 4, 2005 the cabinet too, approved the said draft. However, two days later, the DoPT pointed the jail provision to the PM and with a request to reconsider it. The DoPT note read “It may, however, be submitted that most of the advanced democracies in the world have not considered it appropriate to prescribe ‘imprisonment’ as a penalty”. On May 7, 2005 the PMO dropped the provision.
As per information provided under the RTI Act in a separate application, the CIC has penalised 853 officials till December 2012.