A two-member committee appointed to look into compliance of section 4 of the RTI Act
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had set up a task force in 2011 for comprehensive implementation of pro-active disclosure under Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and detailed guidelines were issued through an official memorandum of 15 April 2013, to public authorities in this regard. The DoPT also issued Office Memorandum (OM) subsequently to all the public authorities like 10th December, 2013 and a reminder again on 4th September, 2014, asking them to comply with the guidelines on suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act. In the reminder, the DoPT asked for an Action Taken Report on the compliance while referring to its letter dated 15th April, 2013, “each Ministry and Public Authority shall ensure that the guidelines for suo motu disclosure under RTI are fully operationalised within a period of 6 months from the date of their issuance i.e. 15.04.2013. It was also mentioned that the Action Taken Report on the compliance of guidelines should be sent, alongwith the URL link, to the DoPT and the Central lnformation Commission soon after the expiry of the initial period of the 6 months. It has been noticed that most of the Ministries/Departments/Public Authorities have not sent the compliance report or Action Taken Report to this Department and Central lnformation Commission ……….. each Ministry/Public Authority should get its proactive disclosure package audited by a third party every year and such an audit should be communicated to the CIC through publication on their own website.”
Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which calls for pro-active disclosure and has often been termed as the heart of the RTI Act, is yet to be implemented by the various government departments even though many circulars and orders have been issued. The poor performance on the front of ‘pro-active disclosure’ lead to the formation of a task force comprising several experts and NGOs to help the Central Information Commission come up with a way forward. Their recommendation has showed the way for the formation of a two member committee comprising of AN Tiwari, former Chief Information Commissioner and Professor MM Ansari, former Information Commissioner, who have been appointed last month for a three month period. The task force was been set up with the mandate, “for developing detailed guidelines and methodology for monitoring the implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act, including conducting audit of selected Ministries and Public Authorities, etc.’’
The two member committee is expected to develop basic parameters of disclosure as per Section 4 of the RTI Act and also for audit. The Committee shall prepare guidelines for test-check for third party audits in terms of compliance and adequacy of the disclosure in terms of section 4 and shall also suggest mechanisms for improving the content and quality of the disclosures. The Committee shall also conduct sample test audit for few Public Authorities and suggesting a mechanism for identifying agencies for carrying out audit and make recommendations for a long term framework for methodology for conducting such audits and identify critical areas which require special focus to give impetus to Section 4 disclosure.