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Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India

According to a “Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India” prepared by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES), transparency is a key to promoting peoples’ trust in public institutions. The assessment found that several ICs were non-functional or were functioning at reduced capacity, despite large backlogs, as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner (CIC), were vacant during the period under review. In many cases, the appointments of information commissioners were found to be set aside by courts due to lack of transparency in the process of appointment and for being in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act and directions of the Supreme Court.
In addition, the Report, says, “By failing to disclose information on their functioning, ICs continue to evade real accountability to the people of the country whom they are supposed to serve. The legal requirement for the central and state information commissions to submit annual reports every year to Parliament and state legislatures respectively, is to make, among other things, their activities transparent and available for public scrutiny. However, very few ICs fulfil this obligation, and even fewer do it in time”. 
As part of the assessment, and in order to access information about the functioning of information commissions, both SNS and CES filed RTI applications with the 28 state information commissions (SIC) and the Central Information Commission (CIC). A total of 169 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 information commissions. The RTI applications were tracked to assess how each information commission performed as a public authority, in terms of maintaining and disclosing information. Three information commissions from Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu did not respond to, or even acknowledge, the RTI applications filed within stipulated time.
"Several ICs, like from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh rejected requests for information invoking provisions seemingly in violation of the RTI Act. In all these cases, an appeal was filed against the denial of information. However, till the time of publication of this report, the requisite information had not been disclosed," the report says.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, three State Information Commissions (SICs), Odisha, Sikkim and Kerala returned the RTI applications citing procedural deficiencies.
Only 13 out of 29 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment. Of the 107 chief information commissioners for whom data was obtained, the overwhelming majority (84%) were retired government servants including 67% retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and another 17% from other services. Of the remainder, 10% had a background in law (5% former judges and 5% lawyers or judicial officers).
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Resistance from banks in revealing Loan details to corporate entities

The RTI query, sent to the Ministry of Finance, sought details on individual exposure of various PSBs to corporate borrowers. The questions that were asked in the RTI query sought information on the loans given to the Reliance Industries, Adani Group, GVK Group, GMR and Jaypee Group. The RTI was first directed to the Finance Ministry, which then forwarded the RTI request to various banks asking them to provide the information. The RTI had questions on the money loaned to big industrial houses by government-run banks. However, all public sector banks except Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have refused to divulge information citing either the 'personal nature' of questions or how they don't fit under the provisions of the RTI Act. 
In their reply to the RTI query, the banks have said that the information available with banks under "fiduciary relationship" is exempted from disclosure.
Read about: Fiduciary Relationship under RTI
While Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have disclosed the loans given to big corporates, all other lenders refused to do so. Banks which did not disclose any detail in their reply to the RTI query include State Bank of India (SBI), Bank of Maharashtra, Corporation Bank, Indian Bank, Canara Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of India and Syndicate Bank. Earlier this month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha that loans worth Rs 81,683 crore were written-off by public sector banks (PSBs) in 2016-17.
Country's largest public sector lender, the SBI, said, "The information sought by you under point number three to eight is the third party personal information held by the bank in a fiduciary capacity, the disclosure of which is not warranted for any larger public interest and as such is exempted from disclosure."
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Upper limit of Rs 50 imposed on RTI Fee by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court fixed on Tuesday an upper limit of Rs 50 as application fee that government authorities can charge those seeking information under the right to information (RTI) act, the country’s transparency law.
Also, a bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said public authorities cannot ask for more than Rs 5 for each page as photocopying charge, and an applicant need not mention the “motive” while filling out the application form.
The order came on petitions challenging high fees set by different public bodies, including high courts and state assemblies.
The decision can be downloaded from here:
 
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43 years for RTI case finalisation in West Bengal- study

A biennial study conducted by Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies has revealed a grim picture of RTI Act implementation with waiting time at information commissions running in years and commissions in several states becoming non-functional owing to unfilled vacancies. The study has found that if an RTI appeal were to be filed in West Bengal state information commission on November 1, 2017, it would be disposed of in 2060 – after 43 years. In Kerala, it would take six years six months and Odisha 5 years 3 months. The main reason for such a long waiting time is the reduced number of information commissioners that commissions are working with. 
The report has brought out, what it calls a “concerning trend”. The information commissions, which are the last resort for the common man to complain against wrongful denial of information, are increasingly returning cases. The highest number of cases have been returned by CIC, followed by Gujarat, Assam and Uttarakhand.
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  • 0
jeevan

Can I directly approach the CIC for relief?

Question

jeevan

What is the procedure to approach CIC directly for relief. I don't want to wait for PIO to respond.

Can somebody suggest me.

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Shrawan

Hello Jeevan,

You cannot approach CIC directly to get relief of your matter without first exausting normal channels.

Unless these are complaints where specific relief has been sought, all such appeals whose contents are not as per rule 3 of Central Information Commission (Appeal Procedures) Rules, 2005 or whose documents have not been properly indexed and self attested as per Rule 4 of the Central Information Commission (Appeal Procedures) Rules, 2005, these will be returned after obtaining the orders of the senior most officer attached to the unit of the Information Commissioner.

 

You can read the circular issued by CIC in this regard here.

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jeevan

Oh! that's nice.

Thank you for the info. I thought I could approach directly ;)

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maneesh

Dear Jeevan,

You will appreciate that CIC is not having all the information of all the public authorities. The role of CIC is just to ensure that the applicant bonafide request is address by the CPIOs.

In no judgement of CIC, information is provided only direction to CPIOs for providing information within a precribed time perios is provided.

It will also not make any economic sense of collecting and aggrgating information at one place with CIC. The information is always with the Public authorities which in turn dissemenated it.

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Raj Kashyap

Dear Sir,

 

I want to know if no reply is received from CPIO, can we directly write to Central Chief information commission, complaining the facts of non receipt of reply within the stipulated time.

 

Regards

 

Raj

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Raj Kashyap

Dear Sir,

 

Please do inform as to whether we can we directly approach the CIC, if no reply is received from the CPIO concerned on expiry of the stipulated time. If so whether it should be in the form of a complaint on the concerned CPIO or an appeal Please clalrify.

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colnrkurup

Yes. You may complain. Please read Sections 18(b) and 7(2) of the Right to Information Act 2005. However it is advisable to prefer a first appeal under Section 19(1) of the Act before preferring a complaint. After all you are loosing only one more month whereas it might take more than 6 months for the CIC to respond.

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prbhat_gen

i think one can approach the CIC directly.

 

e.g. 1; in case any PA has not appionted the PIO nor he has appointed any AA then in such a case, the CIC can be approached.

 

e.g. 2; in case one has filed his RTI application and he does not want to wait for 30 days, he can approach the CIC directly after 48 hours (if in case he sucessfully proves that his demand for information relates to his life or libertly or both)

 

and there can be n no. of situations where we can approach the CIC directly

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jps50

It is advisable to approach First Appellate Authority and then appeal/complain to CIC. If FAA is bypassed, CIC normally orders appellant to first approach FAA. Avoid going to CIC/SICs except as a last resort only, as U may not get justice or get it delayed by 10-12 months. Performance of CIC and most of SICs is much less than desirable. They are killing RTI spirit. People will be forced to "manage" to get the info as they were doing in pre-RTI times. U may visit my blogs on complaint and also how to file complaint/second appeal with CIC

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virendra gupta

i want to know that if second appeal (state) will also not able to provide the information than what is the next step.

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virendra gupta

can i apply to cic delhi if first appeal will not provide an information or we should go to the second appeal only if first appeal will not provide me an information

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