Right to Information: A review

APPLICATION PROCESSING AND FEES
The  RTI Act provides for charging of the fees under three sections: section 6(1), section 7(1) and section 7(5). I am surprised that till date the government has not laid down any rules for the collection of fees u/s 7(1) — this is not the same as initial application fees of Rs 10 charged u/s 6(1). Of course, the fees charged under the RTI Act is ludicurous: A single communication to an applicant leaves the government short. Further, I have serious problems with the payment of initial application fees of Rs 10. It just doesn’t serve any purpose except for creating bureaucratic hurdles and wasting time. Much better would be to accept the RTI requests via e-mail or directly on the websites sans any initial fees and to ask for the processing fees u/s 7(1) later on if the application is found worth processing. This intimation about processing or non-processing of the applications can be sent to the applicants via e-mails and SMSs and can also be put up on the websites within a week’s time or lesser. Of course, at the same time, a person can be given a choice to file the initial application offline along with an adequately stamped self-addressed envelope.   

PIO
The PIO has been projected as a friend under the RTI Act, i.e. Sec 5(3), but that is precisely what he has not emerged as; he has rather emerged more as an adversary, and that’s the reality! I think those PIOs who fail to understand their responsibilities under the RTI Act should be given harsh punishments at the instance of the applicants, but I am sorry to say that the faulty CIC proceedings endorsed by the higher judiciary has turned the CIC into a cozy club of senior bureaucrats protecting their junior counterparts: How can the CIC conduct penalty proceedings u/s 20 all of its own without presence of the applicants!

APPEALS 
The first appeal is a farce, and it just wastes time: No FAA ever overturns the decision of the PIO; in fact, in many offices (like in DP), the PIOs themselves prepare the FAAs’ orders, and the FAAs sign them as routine bureaucratic exercises. First appeals are BS. Period!
Second appeals are very slow; I fail to understand when a time limit has been fixed up for the disposal of the first appeals, then why not a time limit for the second appeals as well? When will they understand that delay is the deadliest form of denial! It takes six months to get the first listing in the CIC in the normal course, which is ridiculous, and still there is no provision for urgent hearing except for the senior citizens. I think the normal judiciary works far more efficiently than the CIC: At least they grant urgent interim orders.

ORDERS 
The CIC don’t understand evidence. I have read many orders of the CIC and have found many of them wanting in following the fine rules of evidence and NJ. At times they go overboard, but, at others, they falter badly. For example, in the recent decision of the CIC on political parties, the CIC unnecessarily issued notices to the L&D department when they could have just asked them to produce the necessary documents; however, at the same time, they made an arbitrary generalized assumption that the political parties receive substantial amount of funding from the government and, in consequence, put up the onus on the NCP to prove that the subsidized land and the other concessions they got from the government did not form a substantial part of their funding. When the matter goes before the HC, this one procedural irregularity may lead to an unnecessary advantage to the political parties in an otherwise pro-people order. The CIC could have easily asked the political parties to render accounts, with or without an application for the same on behalf of the applicants, and that would have made the proceedings regular. Surely, there is a strong need for the inclusion of judicial members in the CIC.

© 2013 Ankur Mutreja

About the Author

Ankur Mutreja
Ankur Mutreja is an advocate-cum-writer, and his blogs are amongst his modes of expression. He has also authored six books: "Kerala Hugged"; "Light: Philosophy"; "Flare: Opinions"; "Sparks: Satire and Reviews"; "Writings @ Ankur Mutreja"; and "Nine Poems"; which can be downloaded free from the links on the top menu.

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