Right to Information
Now, PIOs may not be able to send flimsy replies under RTI
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 usrti-dopt@nic.in (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”.)

User

COMMENTS

Rajesh Kothari

3 years ago

Babus have mastered the art of giving even tangential replies:

For Example:

1. RTI application to Income Tax dept for Interest on Income Tax refund query was replied by different PIO i.e., officer other than the one who was supposed to answe.

And he referred to a judgement of a case related to maps of development plan of Delhi, saying information can't be provided in the format applicant has requested viz., interest calculation of income tax refund. So, applicant should make visit the office and go through the files and find the details himself. He conveniently forgot that apart from interest query, there were ten more queries which PIO could have answered.

2. Once PIO did not give reply. Upon appeal First Appellate Authority (FAA) ordered RTI applicant to make fresh application to the officer (who was PIO) and officer was asked to give reply to this fresh application. That means fresh application would be outside the purview of RTI Act. How ingenious!

Mr Jitendra

3 years ago

Dear Madam, The government website http://pgportal.gov.in is also involved in giving very short or flimsy replies to any grievance that is filed. You write a grievance of two or three para giving details of the problem and in return we get a reply of six to ten words which are irrelevant. Name, designation and email and phone of the official who replied are not displayed. The grievance gets closed without taking your feedback. If you are unhappy you raise another grievance and the fun continues. I was expecting things will improve in new NDA government but they have not.

Fadnavis sitting on ministers' assets details: RTI activist
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is yet to take a decision on making public his cabinet members' declarations of their assets and liabilities,117 days after his government took office, an RTI activist said here on Wednesday.
 
"Transparency and clean governance were the two prime agenda on which the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government was formed in the state. However, nearly four months after assuming office, the twin agenda is being flouted by Fadnavis himself," said RTI activist Anil Galgali.
 
According to Galgali, information on the cabinet members' assets-liabilities was sought under Right to Information Act from General Administration Department under-Secretary D.K. Naik, who declined to provide the details on grounds of "non-availability".
 
"Since the same practice is followed at the Centre by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also in Bihar, I again wrote to the state government demanding that the assets/liabilities details be posted online in public domain. Till date, there is no response from the government in the matter," Galgali told IANS.
 
Naik replied that Galgali's RTI query was lying with the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) in Mantralaya and would be made available only after Fadnavis' decision in the matter.
 
Galgali said all the current 18 cabinet ministers and 12 ministers of state, including the chief minister, have to declare their assets-liabilities to Governor C.V. Rao.
 
"My letter on November 14, 2014, and a reminder on March 9, 2015, to Fadnavis is pending in CMO since November 27, 2014. This is clearly a violation of the Citizens Charter and Right to Service Act," Galgali said.
 
Interestingly, he pointed out how he had pursued the same issue with the previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime headed by then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
 
"Only the names of the ministers came in the public domain, not details of assets-liabilities as Chavan was against making it public. The new BJP-SS government elected on the plank of transparency and clean governance seems to have continued the same policy," he said.

User

CIC bows before ‘stubborn’ political parties

Once again the audacity and brazenness of six major political parties in not appearing before the CIC hearing on 16th March came to light 

 

When the wrong doers remain stubborn about not following laws, should they get away by the concerned authority throwing up its hands although it has the right to put them in place? Well, the jury of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has exactly done that with the six major political parties, who refused to be declared as public authorities and be embedded in the Right to Information (RTI) Act as per its 2013 order, being let off.
 
In a shocking decision on 16th March, on Monday, the Commission observed in its order that the RTI Act does not provide the CIC with ample powers to deal with the cases of contempt and non-compliance. The jury comprising information commissioners - Manjula Prasher, Sharat Sabharwal and Vijai Sharma has sent a copy to the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) asking it to check out the way to overcome the problem of political parties not legally bound to CIC decision as they are not government department and also that, they cannot be penalised. (see Box for the verbatim extract of the CIC decision).  
 
The CIC did not take any action against the political parties – Indian National Congress (Congress), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI (M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). It has merely reminded in its order that its 3 June 2013 order which declared political parties as public authorities and therefore bound by the RTI Act is “legally correct, and final.”
 
CIC also recommends that “complainants are at liberty, in view of the facts and circumstances of this case, to approach the higher courts for appropriate relief and redressal.”

RTI activist Subhash Agrawal and the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) had persistently followed up the issue through RTI documents and thorough investigations of how the major political parties are majorly funded by the government. They had gone into second appeal to the CIC which has time and again called the political parties for hearings but they have unanimously stayed or remained absent.
 
ADR in a release said that it would file a petition in the court. The statement says, “ADR is going to file a petition in the Court asking for action against these six National Political Parties for non-compliance and contempt of the 3 June 2013 order as well as its implementation; CIC’s decision that law is silent on non-compliance is not correct. CIC should go by the spirit of the law and not the letter; Preamble of the RTI act as well the Sections 18, 19 and 20 gives ample powers to CIC to take action on non-compliance by the way of levying fine and awarding compensation, CIC therefore through this order is only abrogating its own power and authority. CIC is not a court of law. It is only a quasi-judicial body. Therefore, it should not go into the technicalities of the law.’’
 
Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and member of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) opines that the CIC has shown spinelessness through its decision and it is a big blow to the transparency. In a note put up in public view, he states, “The CIC's decision unwittingly or otherwise ends up creating an impression that it lacks the power (or 'mettle' or 'spunk' or 'spine' whichever expression you prefer) to ensure compliance with its orders.’’
 
Nayak says this is not the first instance where the CIC was faced with a situation of non-compliance. In 2009 when the CIC faced a similar situation where the DoPT persistently refused to comply with its order regarding providing access to "file notings", in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act. Nayak says “the CIC issued notice about launching criminal action against the DoPT under the following provisions of the Indian Penal Code: Section 166 - Public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person; Section 187 - Omission to assist public servant when bound by law to give assistance; and; Section 188 - Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant. These offences invite fines and a prison term from two months to one year. When threatened with legal action, the DoPT fell in line. Incidentally, the RTI applicant in this case is also a complainant in the current political parties' non-compliance case. Strangely, the CIC does not seem to have adopted such a course of action in the current case.’’
 
 
 

CIC decision of 16th March

 
The following is decided:
(a) the respondents are not in compliance with the Commission's order of 03.06.2013 and the RTI Act. The respondents, as public authorities, have not implemented the directions contained in the Commission's order and there is no evidence of any intention to do so;

(b) the submissions made by the complainants for the imposition of penalty and the award of compensation are not allowed in view of legal considerations;

(c) the prayer for making recommendations to public authorities, reference para 68(6), above, is not allowed;
(d) a copy of this order be sent to the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, for taking action as deemed appropriate for addressing the legal gaps and issues that have come to light during the hearings, including those mentioned in para 68(7) above, with a view to ensuring compliance of this Commission's orders;

(e) the complainants are at liberty, in view of the facts and circumstances of this case, to approach the higher courts for appropriate relief and redressal. It is ordered that an authenticated copy of this order be sent to the parties through registered post. With this order of the Commission, the case is closed.
 
 
 

(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”.)

 

User

COMMENTS

Parimal Shah

3 years ago

The more the political parties try to hide the more their slip shows.

Ajay Chaudhary

3 years ago

There is no mention of AAM AADMI PARTY in the article then where is the need to show them in the photo. Is this deliberately done to show AAP in a poor light. We expect better and unbiased journalistic standards from Moneylife.

Ajay Chaudhary

3 years ago

There is no mention of AAM AADMI PARTY in the article then where is the need to show them in the photo. Is this deliberately done to show AAP in a poor light. We expect better and unbiased journalistic standards from Moneylife.

SuchindranathAiyerS

3 years ago

The first perk of joining India's acronymous (IAS/IPS/MLA/MP/SC/ST/LLB/MBBS etc) ruling scum is being above the law.

Dr V S Prasanna Rajan

3 years ago

Submission of some suggestions with regard to the recent order of CIC conceding to the non-compliance of its order by the Political Parties

With reference to the suggestions mentioned above and I hereby submit some of my suggestions for a way out of the non-compliance of the order of the CIC by the political parties.

An appeal u/s 19(9) of the RTI act, 2005 can be filed by the complainants, before the CIC , to review its recent order conceding to the non-compliance of its order by the political parties along the following lines-

1. Sections 19(7), 19(8)(a), read with section 22 of the RTI Act, 2005, permits the Central Information Commission to take appropriate legal steps to ensure the compliance of its order issued within the scheme of the RTI act.

2. Section 14 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, empowers the CIC, to use such legal provisions as per the facts and circumstances of the case, to ensure the compliance of its orders, which
has attained finality in law.

3. It has been held by the Honorable Supreme court in Sakiri Vasu vs State of UP in paras.18-22 that -

" 18. It is well-settled that when a power is given to an authority to do something it includes such incidental or implied powers which would ensure the proper doing of that thing. In other words, when any power is expressly granted by the statute, there is impliedly included in the grant, even without special mention, every power and every control the denial of which would render the grant itself ineffective. Thus where an Act confers jurisdiction it impliedly also grants the power of doing all such acts or employ such means as are essentially necessary to its execution.

19. The reason for the rule (doctrine of implied power) is quite apparent. Many matters of minor details are omitted from legislation. As Crawford observes in his Statutory Construction (3rd edn. page 267):-

If these details could not be inserted by implication, the drafting of legislation would be an indeterminable process and the legislative intent would likely be defeated by a most insignificant omission .

20. In ascertaining a necessary implication, the Court simply determines the legislative will and makes it effective. What is necessarily implied is as much part of the statute as if it were specifically written therein.

21. An express grant of statutory powers carries with it by necessary implication the authority to use all reasonable means to make such grant effective. Thus in ITO, Cannanore vs. M.K. Mohammad Kunhi, AIR 1969 SC 430, this Court held that the income tax appellate tribunal has implied powers to grant stay, although no such power has been expressly granted to it by the Income Tax Act.

22. Similar examples where this Court has affirmed the doctrine of implied powers are Union of India vs. Paras Laminates AIR 1991 SC 696, Reserve Bank of India vs. Peerless General Finance and Investment Company Ltd AIR 1996 SC 646 (at p. 656), Chief Executive Officer & Vice Chairman Gujarat Maritime Board vs. Haji Daud Haji Harun Abu 1996 (11) SCC 23, J.K. Synthetics Ltd. vs. Collector of Central Excise, AIR 1996 SC 3527, State of Karnataka vs. Vishwabharati House Building Co-op Society 2003 (2) SCC 412 (at p.432) etc."


4. Sections 166,174 of the IPC empowers the CIC to invoke such provisions to ensure the attendance of the respondents in compliance with its summons as well as to make the delinquent respondents accountable for the non-compliance of its orders.

5. Moreover, the CIC, did not invoke the powers conferred u./s 195(1)(a)(1) CrPC to file a compliant through its secretary / registrar to the jurisdictional magistrate court for the offences u/ss 166,174,188 IPC committed by the delinquent respondents.

6. Hence, the aforementioned facts can be highlighted in the appeal u/s 19(9) of the RTI act, 2005 before the CIC, to review its recent order conceding to the non-compliance of its order by the political parties.

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Online Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine)