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Atul Patankar

PIOs asked to consult ICs in case of doubts regarding RTI

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Atul Patankar

As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 31 May 2009

 

LUCKNOW: It is mostly lack of information on part of Public Information Officers (PIOs) that lands them in trouble. State Information Commission (SIC) slaps a fine on erring PIOs when they fail to meet the deadline of providing the required information.

 

But, PIOs had a common question, whom to turn to for help when they face a problem understanding RTI Act or when they fail to decide what to do with RTI applications. There problem, however, met with an instant solution when chief information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma said that PIOs caught in confusion could call up the information commissioners for help.

 

But, in no way they should delay release of information beyond 30 days. Many PIOs complained that most of the times they were not in possession of the information sought by the applicant. The information concerns the officials higher to them or is with them.

 

If PIOs do not want the fine to be imposed on them in such a situation they should mention that information was with higher official who would then be treated as deemed PIO for the case and further responsibility would rest on him.

 

Imposing of a fine does not relieve information officer of the responsibility of providing the information. Repeated failures to provide information sought to the applicant even after slapping of the fine can invite disciplinary action against the errant PIO.

 

But, PIOs need not answer the PIAs (Perennial Information Applicants). If an applicant seeks same information over and over again through separate applications, PIOs have all the right to refuse providing the information again but not without stating that when and through what document they had provided the information to the applicant earlier.

 

All the information present in government records is accessible by the public. The PIOs have to provide all except what is prohibited under Section 8(j) of the Act.

 

In cases, where information demanded has been weeded out, PIOs will have to state that in the reply issued to the applicant(s). Whatever be the reason behind not providing the information has to be given to the applicant in writing if the concerned PIO does not want a fine to be imposed on him.

 

The PIOs from many government departments had gathered to get tips on the Act and disposal of applications filed under it at a training workshop organised by Lucknow Management Association (LMA) and Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative on Saturday.

 

The programme was attended by Gyanendra Sharma, chief information commissioner, UP, KK Sinha, principal secretary, administrative reforms department and Justice SC Verma.

 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/PIOs-asked-to-consult-ICs-in-case-of-doubts-regarding-RTI/articleshow/4599338.cms

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Atul Patankar

But, PIOs need not answer the PIAs (Perennial Information vbglossarlink.gif Applicants). If an applicant seeks same information vbglossarlink.gif over and over again through separate applications, PIOs have all the right to refuse providing the information vbglossarlink.gif again

 

A new term coined by UP SIC - Perennial information Applicants! And the SIC is coming loud and clear stating that PIOs need not provide information to such queries. So, what ever is the correct legal position, PIOs now know what he can get away with.

 

Actually, if the same information is asked more than once, many PAs provide different informtion.

 

One more doubt - if PIOs can actually ask for help when in doubt about an application, and act on SICs advice, can the SIC later on hear appeal against such decision? And impose penalty?

 

A smart PIO will add a line 'as per guidance received from SIC, ' and eradicate any chance of appeal!

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karira

But, PIOs had a common question, whom to turn to for help when they face a problem understanding RTI Act or when they fail to decide what to do with RTI applications. There problem, however, met with an instant solution when chief information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma said that PIOs caught in confusion could call up the information commissioners for help.

 

SCIC Sharma should know that CIC/SIC's are quasi-judicial bodies and are not some free consultancy service to clear PIO's doubts.

Will he clear the citizens/appellants/complainants doubts also ?

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jps50

Let some PIO officially ask advice of IC and then see the reaction of IC. It is easily said than done.

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chanda_s

he should.

 

.

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