RTI – AN EFFECTIVE TOOL OR HURDLE

M K Gupta

According to Shri Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner, the Supreme Court in a RTI judgement on August 9, 2011 said, “The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. The threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of a public authorities prioritising information furnishing, at the cost of their normal and regular duties.”

The observations, it seems that the RTI work is not official work and is not that useful. Before getting many RTI replies, I found that my legitimate work which should have been carried-out long back, were carried out after I filed the RTI application by the time I received the reply. Because of RTI application, the Central Bank refunded to thousands of NOIDA applicants their overdue amount. I got my Income Tax refund which was stuck for many years, my son got refund from the DDA and NOIDA which was not possible without RTI. There are many more common and individual work that were carried out after after filiing of RTI applications. No body was listening to ordinary letters and reminders and they all were fell on deaf ears. In fact, this is the fear of penalty that the officers listen to and without the power of imposing penalties, the RTI Act will become a paper tiger like many other Acts, that to not have a deterrent. Many big and unthinkable corruption cases including 2G, CWG scams have come to light because of RTI and now officers think twich before indulging in corrupt or unethical practices. If in some office, 75% of the staff spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnihing information to applicants, it will be because that such public authority is not listening to the citizens and is being run in an authoration manner, therefore, citizens are compelled to file so many applications. Many citizens may put Delhi Development Authority and Municipal Corporation of Delhi in that category.

The RTI Act has been duly passed by the Parliament and if something has gone wrong, the Parliament should take a su-motu call on that and the Hon’ble SC can also recommend to Parliament for that. The Apex Court has recently recommended that the Parliament should enact a law that the maximum period to take a decision on seeking permission to prosecute a public servant should not be more than four months. However, legally speaking, Hon’ble SC has all the power to quash an Act enacted by the Parliament..

SC should not treat the RTI related work i.e. collection and furnishing the information as non-official work and it should expenge these comments from the decision. One may wonder that why such an effective act (RTI) was not introduced earlier to bring good Governance.

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