Centre for Transparency and Accountability in Governance
NATIONAL WORKSHOP ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
April 6, 2013
Centre for Transparency & Accountability in Governance, National Law University, Delhi in collaboration with Central Information Commission & National Campaign for People’s Right to Information
We recognize that there are increasing incidents of violence against RTI applicants and that there is an urgent need for a specific legislation relating to the protection of RTI applicants,
We urge the Central Government to provide for a specific legislation relating to the protection of RTI applicants from victimization.
We recognize that public authorities under the RTI Act are not fulfilling their obligations with respect to publication of information as provided under Section 4(1)(b) and (c) read with Section 4(3). The CIC too is cognizant of this issue.
We urge these public authorities to give effect to Section 4(b) and (c) in letter and spirit and publish the information as required under the Act.
We urge the appropriate government to provide for penalty in case of violation of Section 4 of the Act.
We recognize that unlike the provision for a specific fee for providing information there is no specific procedure for inspection of works, documents and records under the Right to Information Rules, 2012.
We urge the appropriate government to lay down a specified procedure for inspection of works, documents and records as part of its rule-making capacity under Section 27 of the Act.
We recognize that there is a lack of awareness about the provisions of the RTI Act amongst the citizenry, especially in the villages. The objective of the Act itself is being defeated.
We urge that the Information Commissions in collaboration with the appropriate Governments conduct sensitization campaigns across the country.
We recognize that awareness about the provisions of the RTI Act amongst PIOs and FAA is poor. The appropriate governments have a statutory duty under the RTI Act to train officers for implementing the Act in letter and spirit. But the training efforts undertaken so far are far from satisfactory.
We urge governments to take urgent steps to properly sensitise and train Public Information officers and FAA, at all levels to deal with information requests and give effect to the provisions of the Act.
We recognize the redundancy of filing complaint before the Information Commission since the Commission has no jurisdiction to pass an order providing for access to the information under Section 18 of the Act.
We urge the Central Government to cause an amendment in the Act to ensure effective filing of complaints before the Information Commission.
We recognize that for the realization of any effective role of the Commissions, the Commissions must have power to punish for their respective contempt.
We urge the Central Government to cause an amendment in the Act to ensure that the Commissions have the power to punish for their respective contempt.
We recognize the growing role of private entities in performing public functions. In this regard, it is essential that the RTI Act must apply to such private entities discharging public function.
We urge the Central Government to cause an amendment in the Act to bring under its ambit private entities discharging public functions.
We recognize that presently penalties are not noted in the Public Information Officer’s (PIO) service record. It is felt that such a measure, if provided in the rules, would make the PIOs more responsible and forthcoming.
We urge the appropriate governments to provide for rules to the effect of including any penalties to be noted in the PIO’s service record.
We recognize that the fee structure in relation to the application fee and other fees in lieu of obtaining information, such as fees for photocopying of information, is not uniform. Different State Governments have prescribed different arbitrary application fees. Such fee is not only against the spirit of the RTI Act, but also defeats the basic purpose of the Act.
We urge the appropriate governments to ensure uniformity in fee structure keeping in mind the basic objective of the Act.
We recognise that many differently-abled amongst us find it difficult to access voluntarily disclosed information on the websites of Government Departments. It is noted that their right to information is at par with all citizens.
We urge the appropriate governments to consider seriously and effectively execute the access to information for the differently abled amongst us.
We recognise that there is undue delay in deciding appeals by CIC/SIC since the commission has been constituted for speedy and economical dissemination of information.
We urge that there should be some reasonable time limit to conclude appeal by the commission.
We recognise that large number of cases is pending before SIC/CIC, which is a matter of great concern for all of us and there is urgent need to reduce it.
We recommend that Ad- hoc information commissioners (preferably retd.) may be appointed to reduce the pendency of appeals.
Dr. Jeet Singh Mann
Centre for Transparency & Accountability in Governance,
National Law University, Delhi