How Central Information Commission is stonewalling the implementation of the RTI Act
Right to Information Act, 2005, more popularly known as RTI Act, was introduced to provide the information available with any notified public authority to any citizen of India.
Unfortunately, most of the public authorities are government departments and it is almost impossible to extract any information from these departments. People were of the opinion that once the RTI Act gets implemented, this problem will be solved and the information will be easily available to them in a time bound manner. But the authorities, and more particularly the Central Information Commission, is ensuring that people do not get the information they deserve under the RTI Act.
Things are not happening from government departments and up to the level of CIC, as per the provisions of the RTI Act. Government departments are either not providing the information or providing the incomplete, irrelevant or misleading information. When first appeal is made against the departments for not providing the desired information, then also the same incomplete and misleading information is repeated.
There is a provision under the RTI Act that if the desired information is not provided even after making the first appeal, then the RTI applicant can make a second appeal to the Central Information Commission. But RTI Act is silent on the situations, where the Central Information Commission itself acts in contravention of the provisions of RTI Act and tries to stonewall the RTI process.
I will explain with the help of an example, how CIC is stonewalling the RTI process. I have submitted an online RTI application to a Central government ministry on 13th September 2018 asking for certain information. Misleading and incomplete information was provided to me on 25th September 2018. I made the first appeal against this “Misleading and Incomplete” information on 25th September itself and got a response on 5th October 2018 from the First Appellate Authority that nothing more details or information can be provided except whatever information has already been provided.
As I was still not satisfied with the misleading and incomplete information, I submitted a second appeal to the Central Information Commission on 5th October 2018 itself vide Diary Number 633030. I was shocked when this appeal was returned by the CIC with the strange remarks that the “documents attached with the appeal are not readable”. RTI applications are filed online and all the documents are required to be submitted in PDF format. This false excuse of “documents are not readable” can be accepted when documents are filed in physical mode. When PDF documents are submitted, how far this excuse is valid, only CIC can tell.
On 11th October 2018, I again submitted the second appeal online along with all the Documents in PDF vide Diary Number 633343. As usual, CIC again returned the Appeal on 15th October 2018. This time the excuse was different-“No Documents are submitted with the appeal.” This excuse does not hold good in view of the fact that it is impossible to submit the online appeals without submitting the mandatory documents. I have again submitted the appeal on 15th October 2018 along with all the PDF documents vide Diary Number 633622. But I am sure, this appeal will also be returned definitely with some other strange excuse. This is how RTI Act, 2005 is being implemented in India. Interestingly, there is no provision under the RTI Act that CIC can return the Appeals of the Applicants on such flimsy pretexts and still, the Appeals are being returned by CIC with a view to help the unwilling and inefficient government departments.
Chartered Accountant,Blogger,Writer and Political Analyst. Author of the Book- इस दशक के नेता : नरेंद्र मोदी.