A circular of 17th March 2015 issued by the Department of Personnel & Training-DoPT aims to make Public Information Officers accountable for their replies under the RTI
Most users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act invariably face the problem of Public Information Officers (PIOs) sending inadequate and sloppy replies or a standard tersely formatted reply. Now, the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT)’s circular issued on 17 March 2015 aims to make PIOs accountable by asking them to provide adequate details in their replies.
A Committee comprising representatives of DoPT, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Central Information Commission (CIC), recommended elaborate reasoning for denying information by quoting specific sections from the RTI Act for such denial; asking them to providing specific information of their own contacts (PIO’s); comprehensive details of the First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) and making it mandatory for PIOs to endorse every document that they provide to the applicant.
The DoPT has stated that different PIOs provide information to RTI applicants in different formats. Though there cannot be a standard format for providing information, the committee has recommended the reply should essentially contain the following information:
• The name, designation, official telephone number and email ID of the PIO or Central PIO (CPIO).
• In case the information requested for is denied, detailed reasons for denial quoting the relevant sections of the RTI Act should be clearly mentioned.
• In case the information pertains to any other pubic authority and the application is transferred under Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, details of the public authority to whom the application is transferred should be given.
• In the concluding para of the reply, it should be clearly mentioned that the first appeal if any, against the reply of the CPIO may made to the FAA within 30 days from receipt of reply of CPIO.
• The name, designation, address, official telephone number and email ID of the FAA should also be clearly mentioned
• In addition, wherever the applicant has requested for ‘certified copies’ of the documents on records, the CPIO should endorse on the document `True copy of the document/ record’, sign the document with date above a seal containing name of the officer, CPIO (in place of designation) and name of public authority
The DoPT has sought suggestions from the public and the deadline is 16 April 2015. The circular states, “It has been decided to invite views and suggestions from the citizens on the draft guidelines. The views/ suggestions, preferably not exceeding more than one page, may be sent latest by 16th April through email only to RK Girdhar, US (RTI), North Block at email id firstname.lastname@example.org
(Sandeep Jain, Director, (IR), 011 23092755.”
RTI activist Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd) has welcomed the format and also submitted his suggestions. He said, in the recommendations over information of a different public authority (in case the applicant has sent it to the wrong public authority), it should be added that “as far as possible, CPIO transferring application to another CPIO under Section 6(3) should also include the Email ID and Phone number of the CPIO to whom the application is being transferred. This is in keeping with government vision of Digital India.”
Citizens should take this opportunity to make suggestions within the 16th April deadline.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of
Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”