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Jan 28, 2009

RTI Needs Adequate Powers For State

It has become imperative to fine-tune the Right to Information Act (RTI) by bringing in amendments, besides giving more powers to State Information Commissions. While Speaking Coimbatore Consumer Cause secretary Kathir Mathiyon said the RTI Act introduced in 2005, a path-breaking initiative by the Congress-led government, had failed to achieve its purpose. Lack of adequate powers for State Information Commissions to take penal action against the official concerned for either delay or denial of information is the reason for the sorry state of affairs, he said.

There is no denying the fact that a majority of the government departments to whom the applications are sent for seeking certain information under RTI Act, seldom respond to the applicants queries within the stipulated time limit. What is irking is that even the directives of the State Information Commission werent being adhered to by the officials, Kathir alleged.No doubt the Centres intention was to bring in transparency in the administration and increase the efficiency and reduce corruption by implementing the RTI Act. To ones chagrin, the provisions of the RTI Act were not very stringent with government department officials adopting delaying tactics in providing information to applicants.


Hence, the Central Government should explore the possibilities of amending the RTI Act and extend more powers to State Information Commissions (SIC). Citing the RTI Bill introduced in Parliament on May 11, 2005, Kathir said the Prime Minister in his speech pointed out the removal of penalty of imprisonment to officials for declining to provide information, with the hope that civil servants would see RTI Act in a positive angle. In this connection, Kathir Mathiyon also urged the Centre to include the provision of penalty of imprisonment while amending the RTI Act.


Even the Appellate Authority, to whom the first appeal is sent, should not be spared from penal action, since Public Information Officers (PIOs) who fail to provide information within the specified time are punished under Section 20 of the RTI Act. Regarding government departments declining to provide the Government Orders (GO) directly connected to the public, he said the Central Government should make it mandatory for all government departments to provide GOs to applicants.


Another hardship faced by applicants while remitting the prescribed fees for seeking information from Central Government departments is that they have to take demand drafts along with the commission in different names for different offices. This is not only a laborious task, but a costly affair for the applicants, Kathir said, adding that in the event of any return of DDs, the cancellation commission was higher. To remove the anomalies, the Centre should come out with a common head for all departments for payment through banks, as in the case of State Governments, he added.

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