Should the post of the PIO and FAA under the RTI Act be reserved for the seniors?
It has been alleged that the senior bureaucrats are avoiding being designated as the Public Information Officers (PIO) and First Appellate Authorities (FAA). The hesitation is on count of the fear of penal liability under the RTI Act. Apart from financial penalty, the RTI Act has a provision for disciplinary action and an adverse entry in the service record. Lack of the knowledge of the provisions of the RTI Act, strict time period for disposal of application and desire of not disclosing the sensitive information which may hurt the establishment are other reasons of avoiding the responsibility.
The reluctance of the seniors to take up the mantle has led to the juniors being designated as the PIO / FAA. This has dilution of the Act and has affected its effectiveness as many juniors are not aware of the nuances of the Act. It leads to incomplete or incorrect replies thereby leading to more appeals with the Information Commission.
The Information Commissioner of the Tamilnadu State Information Commission Mr. M N Gunavardhanan has agreed with view. On the request of the SIC to look into the matter, the Chief Secretary K Jayakumar sent a circular to all departments to take up the matter and appoint appropriate public information officers. However, no result of the same is apparent so far.