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Some happy developments on the RTI front

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Governance

Your access to information will get a tad easier with the state planning to bring in a law for proper maintenance of all public records. Based on a recommendation by the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), the state will rope in Karnataka Public Records Act to make public information more accessible to the 'aam aadmi'.

Disclosing this at an event organised here to mark five years of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, former state chief information commissioner K K Mishra said the draft of the proposed bill was ready and will be tabled in the assembly for approval.

Stating that improper maintenance of records was coming in the way of implementation of the RTI Act, Mishra said the commission, in a number of cases, had recommended digitisation of all major public documents. "The Administrative Training Institute in Mysore has prepared a model format for suo motu disclosure under Section 4(1)(b) of the Act. This could be used by all deputy commissioners, tahsildars and assistant commissioners to uniformly disclose information about their offices," he said.

On the ever-rising number of appeals and complaints before the KIC, the former chief secretary said that the "scenario was very pessimistic as the Act is being used for purposes other than for what it was drafted". "Today, our own analysis at the Commission shows that around 60-70 per cent applications are for grievance redressal and not for seeking information," he said.

Information commissioner K A Thippeswamy urged the civil society and non-government organisations to launch a dedicated website and a helpline for RTI. Bangalore-based Mahithi Hakku Adhyayana Kendra and Active Citizens Network released a guide book on effective use of the Act.

For the full report in the TOI, click here

My appeals before the KIC are all kind of linked, and in specific pertain to
1) Right to response in English (detailed
here)
2) the contention of the Traffic Police that it's not their job to enforce the M V Act in respect of the number plates (made out only in Kannada), but the job of the Transport Dept (detailed
here);
3) the Registrar of Societies contention that they have the mandate to carry out all their proceedings in Kannada, and Kannada alone (detailed
here).

All three of them I would classify as deliberate distortion of facts on the part of the officials concerned, perhaps out of fear of chauvinistic pursuits of a section of the polity - untenable, whatever. I expect these also fall into the 'grievance redressal' classification that Mr Mishra has made.

The IC's request to the civil society and NGO's to launch a dedicated website and a helpline for RTI, is interesting. Perhaps PRAJA can play a role?

Muralidhar Rao
 

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murali772's picture

In a first, IAS officer is slapped penalty

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Sending a strong message to babus who deny your right to know, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has slapped the maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 on an Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) for deliberately withholding information which was sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
    
V B Patil, an IAS officer and Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC) secretary, has been asked to cough up Rs 25,000 for “intentionally and deliberately” refusing to make public the application form and reservation certificates of four candidates submitted during the recruitment process of assistant executive engineers for the state public works department. This is the first time a senior official in the state has been slapped with the highest penalty under the five-yearold RTI Act by the KIC.

The landmark order by information commissioner J S Virupakshiah rules that documents submitted by candidates during recruitment by KPSC can be made public under the RTI act. Henceforth, application forms and certificates submitted by

candidates in competitive exams can be disclosed to anyone under the RTI act, and cannot be treated as third party information. The exemption clauses under section 8 (1) of the act cannot be applied in such cases, KIC has ruled.
    
For the full report in the TOI, click here

I wonder if this is going to make a difference in the officials' approach to the RTI.

 

Muralidhar Rao
silkboard's picture

Why should ..

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NGOs be asked to do IC's job?

Information commissioner K A Thippeswamy urged the civil society and non-government organisations to launch a dedicated website and a helpline for RTI. Bangalore-based Mahithi Hakku Adhyayana Kendra and Active Citizens Network released a guide book on effective use of the Act.

Why can't the office IC itself do the job!? There are plenty of websites with help on how to write RTIs. Usage of the law is low because we don't get the right replies, and on time. Everything gets misued (like this website by spammers), that can't be the excuse for anything. Even there, if you read this:

"... the Act is being used for purposes other than for what it was drafted". "Today, our own analysis at the Commission shows that around 60-70 per cent applications are for grievance redressal and not for seeking information," he said.

It only tells us about the other bigger problem - there are no proper places to go complain. People need help, not information. Working with Lokayukta may be more worth it than working with Information Comissioner, seriously.

Is the draft of this proposed public records maintenance act available anywhere? If it is what it should be, then there should be huge e-governance and IT implications for govt departments in there. Otherwise, we may only see a flood of scanned pdfs of minutes of meetings.

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