RTI Act is sufficiently effective but lack of will power is making its ineffective. The lack of will power is at the end of both, the Information Commission and the Govt. particularly DoPT. We have the best RTI Act in comparison to that existed in over 65 countries. I remember that even some other countries, have gone through our Act before framing their own. Social activists including Aruna Rai have participated in drafting our Act.
It has been provided in the Act that the penaltty ‘shall’ be imposed, but the Information Commissions have changed this ‘shall, to ‘may’ in a gradual manner and in practice to ‘rare’. Imposing of penalty is the only deterrent against the refusal by the Public Authorities. At least, in cases of the deliberate and worst wilful violation without any compelling reason, penalty must be imposed. If the Commission imposes penalty in one case, other 100 CPIO’s will get alert message by not daring to harass the applicants or refuse to furnish the information.
In cases of repeated violations by the CPIO’s, Public Authorities, responsibility should be fixed and disciplinary action under the service rules should be taken.
Now, some cases of victimization at the hands of PA of its staff, such as transfer or removal of temporary staff, have also taken place but no effective remedy has surfaced against this except lengthy Court proceedings. Recently, two appeals against All India Radio for such action (removal) have been filed by me before the CIC.
Till recently, even the Hon’ble Delhi High Court had deviated from the provisions of the Act by framing its own rules that were different from the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 which was duly passed by the Parliament. Till now, the DHC had made it mandatory that the applicant should be an ‘affected party’ and also the RTI fee was Rs. 500/- instead of Rs. 10/-. Now, on the advise of CIC, DHC had removed the clause of ‘affected party’ and brought down the fee to Rs. 50/-. Even now, this fee is five times higher that the Act provided.
Why only penalty should be imposed on the CPIO alone? If the FAA has also rejected the, he is equally liable in refusing the information which the CIC or SCIC later found that the same should be provided.
Situations should be created that the CPIOs or FAAs work independently and the Public Authorities should not be able to pressurize these officers for refusing the information.
The record keeping system should be changed in meet the requirements of the RTI Act.