Poor disposal of complaints and appeals affecting the implementation of RTI Act
On the occasion of the 9th Anniversary of the RTI Act, 2005 a report, ‘People’s Monitoring of the RTI Regime in India 2011-13’ was released by the Raag and NCPRI. The study was based on over 800 RTI applications to various information commissioners, inspections, interviews and group discussions. The researchers found that several information commissions had not published mandatory annual reports on RTI implementation since over five years. The study points to the delay in the disposal of second appeals and complaints at the level of information commissions and makes certain starking observations.
The study calculated that given existing backlog and the rate of disposal of cases in some information commissions and the vacancy position in the commissions. It was deduced that if an application is filed at the Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission which had disposed only 6 per cent cases it had received disposed in the study period, the same is expected to come up for hearing in about 60 years. In case of West Bengal, the period was calculated at 18 years.
Though the country has one Right to Information (RTI) Act, but there are a set of at least 118 separate sets of rules formulated independently by states, courts, information commissioners, Parliament and state assemblies which are a cause of confusion for the common man. These rules define the procedure of filing of RTI application, the mode of manner of fees required to be paid, any restriction on the number of words, requirement of identity proof etc.
The study found that the majority of information seekers were male (92 %). On examination of the kind of questions being asked by the applicants, the researchers found that nearly two thirds of the RTI applications in the sample were seeking information that should have been proactively disclosed by the public authority under Section 4 of the RTI Act. As per the study, 7 % of the RTI applications pertained to the cases where an individual had a grievance and was seeking a redressal and only about 1 % could be termed as vexatious.