Thursday, February 18, 2010

Diluting RTI

Looks as though the government is determined to dilute the provisions of RTI. Amendments to this effect are being contemplated, Outlook reports:
The DOPT proposed seven amendments, including the addition of a clause that would define some applications as “frivolous and vexatious requests”. If introduced, this will give the public information officer liberty to reject applications. This, crucially, would increase the workload of the commissions, where final appeals are heard. The other worrying proposal is to have a bench of two commissioners for every appeal. With commissioners struggling with the present workload, this will ensure further delay. Barring two information commisisoners, all rejected these amendments outright.
You can be pretty sure that information officers will use every opportunity to dub applications as "frivolous and vexatious". The applicant will have to appeal to the CIC, which involves a fair bit of work and, these days, a long wait. This would be the bureacracy's way of denying justice- delaying justice to a point where the appellant simply gives up.

Yes, we could have a provision for "frivolous and vexatious" requests provided that the CIC is empowered to impose punitive fines where the contention is rejected. The penalties for non-compliance with the RTI provisions today- Rs 250 per day subject to a maximum of Rs 25,000- are too trivial to have any bite. Even these small penalties are challenged by large organisations in courts of law- after all, the legal expenses are borne by the shareholder, not management.

The RTI is one of the great initiatives in our post-independent history and it has the potential to transform Indian democracy for the better. Here are some suggestions to make the RTI Act more effective:

  • Increase the penalties to levels where they become a deterrent- there could graded penalties in the range of Rs 1000- Rs 10,000 per day
  • Impose compensation where the appellant has suffered on account of non-provision of information and also get the institution to reimburse costs of travel when it loses the case
  • Make it mandatory for management of organisations to report violations and rulings against it to the Board or to the appropriate higher authority.
  • Where an organisation accumulates more than a certain number of rulings against it in a specified period, impose substantial penalty

1 comment:

treuemax said...

i did'nt really understood this post
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