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karira

Only 27% RTI applicants get info sought

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karira

As reported by Abhinav Garg of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 22 October 2009:

Only 27% RTI applicants get info sought - India - The Times of India

 

Only 27% RTI applicants get info sought

 

 

NEW DELHI: Four years after the pioneering Right to Information regime came into force in India, many hurdles remain in the way of a citizen accessing information. Just 27 people out of 100 get the information they ask for. And, even if an information commission rules in your favour, there is a 61% chance you won't get the information because the rulings are not complied with.

 

These are some of the many interesting findings of the largest study conducted to assess the performance of Information Commissioners across India. Overturning many commonly held notions, the project led by RTI campaigner Arvind Kejariwal has ranked an unheard of information commissioner from Kerala, P Faziluddin, as the best in the country in terms of public satisfaction. Karnataka was found to have the best Information Commission.

 

The most public face of the Central Information Commission, its CIC Wajahat Habibullah, is placed fourth on the list in terms of public satisfaction while two IC's from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra bring up the bottom. Former CBI officer M L Sharma was found to be the least popular among CIC commissioners on the same count.

 

Apart from analyzing public satisfaction, the ranking also took into account 'effectiveness' (whether information was made available or not), 'deterrent impact' (imposing penalties for non-disclosures) and 'pro-disclosure factor' (which looked at whether the order was in favour of the applicant or not).

 

The study throws up other interesting results. Violence-racked regions like Assam and Chattisgarh are blazing new trails in ushering in transparency with Information Commissions of the two states passing 98% pro-disclosure rulings. IC Anil Joshi from Chattisgarh has ruled 100% in favour of transparency, the study, that browsed through more than 50,000 rulings, discloses.

 

And, despite the much reviled system of appointing retired bureaucrats as information commissioners, Kejariwal's Public Cause Research Trust found all the best performing commissioners were retired babus. The only commissioner with a background in activism, Shailesh Gandhi, was ranked at the bottom of the rung on each of the four parameters.

 

While releasing the findings, Kejariwal said the rankings may change once more feedback starts flowing in from all parts of the country. "We are asking just one question: Did you finally get satisfactory information after approaching the Information Commission?" Kejariwal said, explaining how his team of researchers wrote to each applicant who got a favourable order to find out what they thought of the interface with information commissioners.

 

"These findings are just the beginning of a process. The hope is citizens will constantly assess the performance of high public officials as an integral part of an effective democracy," the RTI campaigner hoped.

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karira

As reported in thehindu.com on 22 October 2009:

The Hindu : New Delhi News : ‘Some States doing well on RTI front’

‘Some States doing well on RTI front’

 

 

Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab performing very well

 

Performance of CIC leaves a lot to be desired

 

NEW DELHI: While the Information Commissions of Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab are performing exceedingly well in various aspects of implementing the much talked about Right to Information (RTI) Act, the performance of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has left a lot to be desired, Public Cause Research Foundation founder trustee and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal said here on Wednesday.

 

Revealing the findings of a study to evaluate the performance of State Information Commissions and Information Commissioners, Mr. Kejriwal said Maharashtra and West Bengal were the other States at the bottom of the chart.

 

“If a hundred people file for information under the Right to Information Act, only 27 people gain access to the information. Even if the Information Commission approves an RTI application there is only a 39 per cent chance that the desired information will be given.” Mr. Kejriwal said

 

Outlining the basis of the study, Mr. Kejriwal said: “Orders passed in 51,128 cases by Information Commissioners in 2008 were analysed of which disclosure of information was ordered in 34, 980 cases. We wrote to the individuals involved in the pro-disclosure cases. The responses of the 6,000 people who replied partially form the basis of the study. While there is an Information Commission for each of the 28 States and one at the Centre, U.P., Tamil Nadu and Sikkim could not be included in the analysis because of non-availability of required documents.”

 

The criteria for evaluation included overall public satisfaction, effectiveness, deterrent impact and pro-disclosure. In overall public satisfaction, Karnataka topped the list, while West Bengal and the CIC figured at the bottom and fifth from the bottom respectively.

 

Karnataka and Kerala also took top honours for effectiveness of the Information Commissions in getting their orders implemented, with West Bengal at the bottom and the CIC third from bottom.

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karira

As reported in thehindu.com on 22 October 2009:

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : T.N. Information Commission disqualified in survey

 

T.N. Information Commission disqualified in survey

 

51,000 orders passed in 2008 analysed nationwide

 

“It claimed to have disposed about 40,402 cases”

 

Effectiveness, deterrent impact among parameters

 

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Information Commission is one of the three Commissions that have been disqualified in a nationwide survey on the grounds that there is discrepancy in the data on disclosure.

 

This is a first-of-its kind ranking of the Commissions since the Right to Information Act came into force in October 2005. The result of the interim survey covering 28 Information Commissions by the Delhi-based National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-governmental initiative, was released here on Wednesday.

 

Over 51,000 orders passed in 2008 by the Information Commissioners were analysed by the Secretariat, on the basis of which U.P., Sikkim and Tamil Nadu were disqualified as they failed on different grounds.

 

“The Tamil Nadu Commission, for example, claimed to have disposed about 40,402 cases, whereas the commission’s website has an official count of only 900 orders. That’s the reason why it was disqualified,” said Ossie Fernandez, part of the core group of Tamil Nadu RTI Campaign.

 

Karnataka Information Commission topped by scoring 55 per cent on the overall public satisfaction (OPS) parameter, while West Bengal was at the bottom. Other parameters considered were effectiveness, deterrent impact and pro-disclosure factor.

 

. “In a majority of the cases in Tamil Nadu, a direction was issued without any hearing and based on the appeal received by the Commission. Under the norms, every case must get a hearing, as done in many other States,” said Madhav Vishnubhatta, a member.

 

The campaign groups hope more RTI users, who have received orders from the State or Central Commissions in 2008, send their feedback by visiting National RTI Awards | Welcome or by calling 09711222577.

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karira

As reported in thestatesman.net on 22 October 2009:

The Statesman

 

Bengal at bottom of RTI satisfaction table

 

NEW DELHI, 21 OCT: West Bengal ranks at the bottom of the table in overall public satisfaction over implementation of the Right to Information Act with only six per cent of applicants getting access to the information they seek.

 

“This means if 100 people approach the West Bengal Information Commission, only 6 finally get information or in other words there are only 6 per cent chances that you will get information,” said Mr Arvind Kejriwal, trustee of the Public Cause Research Foundation, which conducted an extensive nationwide survey on the feedback on RTI implementation.

 

Mr Kejriwal said with 55 per cent overall satisfaction rate Karnataka tops the list of performing states followed by Left-ruled Kerala at 52 per cent, Punjab (47 per cent), Orissa and Assam (each 37 per cent).

 

The performance of the West Bengal information commissioner, Mr Arun Kumar Bhattacharya, was also found to be far from satisfactory at a mere 6 per cent. The "bottom five commissions" include the Central Information Commissioner’s office under the government of India with only 19 per cent satisfaction rate.

 

Among the commissioners, Mr P Fazliuddin from Kerala is at the top with an overall performance satisfaction rate of 67 per cent. Among the individual commissioners, bottom five commissioners include C D Arha (Andhra), Naveen Kumar (Maharashtra) both at 4 per cent. On the overall scenario of RTI implementation, Mr Kejriwal said there is only 27 per cent chance of each applicant getting the information he/she deserves. He added, “even if commissioner orders passing of the desired information, it was found that only 39 per cent of the pro-disclosures orders were complied with. This means that despite a favourable order, as many as 61 per cent people still do not get satisfactory information”.

 

Under the RTI Act, he pointed out that a direct penalty can be imposed and deducted from the salaries of officials who violate the Act and do not provide information to the citizens.

 

On the parameter of imposing penalties, the study by the group revealed that Mizoram created the maximum deterrent by imposing penalties in 25 per cent of the cases, followed by Nagaland at 22 per cent while on the other hand, Tripura and Manipur have imposed no penalties at all.

 

Among the states, Mr Kejriwal said UP did not provide copies of their orders and information for analysis despite several phone calls and two visits by the Foundation activists to Lucknow.

 

The Foundation would announce awards in three categories, citizens, information officers and information commissioners after further survey on the performance and implementation in RTI. The awards to be given away on 1 December would be decided by a jury of eminent personalities including Aamir Khan, Narayana Murthy, J M Lyngdoh, Prannoy Roy and Madhu Trehan.

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karira

As reported in expressbuzz.com on 21 October 2009:

State ranks top in providing info under RTI

 

State ranks top in providing info under RTI

 

CHENNAI: National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-governmental initiative which has undertaken independent ranking of Information Commissions in the country, has ranked Karnataka Information Commission at the top with a score of 55 per cent of Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS), arrived at after analysing different parameters.

 

Madhav Vishnubhatta, speaking on behalf of Tamil Nadu Right to Information Campaign, a collective of various organisations working in the spehere of RTI, said the study was based on the feedback of 6,000 of nearly 35,000 respondents and analysing decisions of various Information Commissions.

 

More than 51,000 orders passed by Information Commissioners in 2008 were analysed but that did not include Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, he told reporters here.

 

"Uttar Pradesh did not provide copies of their orders saying they dont have them while Tamil Nadu which claimed to have passed more than 40,000 orders, provided us with copies of only 900 orders. Sikkim did not furnish the list of address of all appellants," he said.

 

Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Orissa and Assam were the top states with maximum OPS ranging between 37 and 55 per cent, according to the report.

 

The ranking was done based on Effectiveness- whether information was made available or not, Deterrent Impact imposing penalty and Pro-Disclosure factor, which determines whether the order was in favour of the applicant or not.

 

The Secretariat found fault with the functioning of Tamil Nadu Information Commission, charging it with "ineffectivess" in facilitating citizen's access to information.

 

"Tamil Nadu follows a unique procedure of passing directions without any (proper) hearing based on appeal received by the Commission," he said.

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karira

As reported by TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 22 October 2009:

RTI Act: TN commission not facilitating access to info, say NGOs - Chennai - City - The Times of India

RTI Act: TN commission not facilitating access to info, say NGOs

 

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Right To Information Campaign (TNRTIC), a group of NGOs working in the area of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, on Wednesday criticised the State Information Commission for giving false information pertaining to the availability of order copies.

 

Releasing a report here on a national-level study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a Delhi-based NGO, on the functioning of 28 information commissions from across the country, TNRTIC coordinator Ossie Fernandes said that the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission was not included in the study since it had given false information to an RTI application filed by the National RTI Awards Secretariat in June this year.

 

In its reply, the commission said that it had disposed off 40,400 complaints and appeals during 2008 and that all orders were uploaded on its website, while earlier it had uploaded only 900 orders, the TNRTIC coordinator pointed out. "The discrepancy between the disposal of 40,400 cases and the availability of only 900 orders lies at the crux of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission's ineffectiveness in facilitating citizens' access to information,'' he added.

 

Stating that the Tamil Nadu commission was passing orders without conducting hearings in 90% of the cases, Nithyanand Jayaraman, one of the coordinators, said that no other commission in the country followed such a procedure.

 

"We urge the commission to conduct hearings whenever there is a prima facie case of delaying, refusing or providing incomplete or wrong information. In the absence of a hearing, public information officers will not take the commission's order seriously,'' Jayaraman said.

 

"Although 70% of the orders of the commissions in the country are in favour of disclosure of information, many public authorities don't abide by it. The study revealed that RTI appellants before the information commissions have only 27% chance to get information; it did not beyond 40% even if the commission concerned ordered for it (disclosure),'' said V Madhav, another TNRTIC coordinator.

 

The study parameters included overall public satisfaction, effectiveness, deterrent impact and pro-disclosure. It analysed 51,000 orders passed by the commissions and responses from about 6,000 appellants from across the country. The Karnataka State Information Commission topped in terms of overall public satisfaction, while the West Bengal State Information Commission was placed at the bottom.

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karira

As reported in dailypioneer.com on 22 October 2009:

The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> RTI reality 61 still donâ??t get required info

 

RTI reality: 61% still don’t get required info

 

Four years after the enactment of Right to Information Act, 61% of the people still do not get required information. Shocked? There’s more. Even if a babu is found guilty of withholding information from the common man, Commissions are reluctant to impose monetary penalties on him. Only two per cent errant bureaucrats have been penalised so far.

 

These startling revelations emerged from an exhaustive study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-Governmental initiative. The Secretariat examined 51,128 RTI cases taken by 28 Information Commissions and Central Information Commission (CIC) during 2008. Letters were written to all applicants asking them whether they received the desired information and what was the attitude of information commissions. The study, which ranks information commissions on basis of overall public satisfaction and other criteria, is based on replies received from 6,000 respondents.

 

The study has found that in 70% of the cases, the order was in favour of disclosure of information to applicant. However, despite these pro-disclosure orders, the information commissions were not very effective in implementation. According to the study, 61% of the people still did not get satisfactory information.

 

Despite this, the commissions have been reluctant in punishing errant officers. RTI activist and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal said, “Under the RTI Act, a direct penalty can be imposed and deducted from the salaries of the officials who violate the Act.

 

Out of those cases in which pro-disclosure orders were passed, which means that a violation of RTI Act was established, only 2% were penalised! Is this a sufficient deterrent? Not at all.”

 

The north-eastern States have been the most forthcoming in imposing penalty with Mizoram finishing at the top, followed by Nagaland, Arunchal Pradesh, Orissa and Goa. However, other North-eastern States of Manipur and Tripura have a dismal record of not imposing even a single penalty.

 

According to the survey, Kerala, Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat and Orissa are the most effective information commissions in that they have got maximum compliance. Some commissions like Punjab and Karnataka follow an interesting practice. They do not close a case and keep having repeated hearings till the appellant reports satisfaction, which perhaps is one of the reasons for their high rankings on this parameter.

 

The study, however, does not include commissions of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim. Kejriwal said, “Tamil Nadu claims to have passed 40,402 orders during calendar year 2008 but provided us with copies of only 900 orders. Sikkim did not provide the list of addresses of all appellants. Despite repeated efforts, an RTI application, several phone calls and two visits to Lucknow did not provide copies of their orders saying that they do not have them. So these States had to be kept out.”

 

The Secretariat, however, is calling this report an “interim” one. Kejriwal said, “People will finalise the report. We are just asking one question — Did you finally get satisfactory information after approaching Information Commission? Though today’s findings are based on feedback from 6,000 people, beginning today, we invite feedbacks from more people. Therefore, the rankings of the commissions and commissioners presented today may completely alter in the next few days.”

 

(If an order was passed by any Information Commission in your favour during 2008, did you finally get information? Give your feedback at 09711222577 or at National RTI Awards | Welcome. Your feedback would decide this year's Best Information Commissioner)

 

An all-India study conducted on the functioning of 28 Information Commissions, including Central Information Commission (CIC), and 94 commissioners reveals that even after four years of implementation of RTI Act, people find it difficult to get information. Findings of the draft report:

 

 

* Overall public satisfaction: 61% of the people do not get information despite orders of Information Commissions

 

 

* Effectiveness: Commissions are struggling to get their own orders implemented. Punjab and Karnataka commissions are following an interesting practice — no case is closed till applicant reports satisfaction

 

 

* Deterrent impact: Even when babus are proven guilty of wrongfully withholding information, a mere 2% are penalised

 

 

* CIC, the final appellate authority for RTI Act, rates quite low on all above-mentioned counts

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Samir S

As reported by Business Standard

 

Only two of every 100 RTI Act violations get penalised: Study

 

Government officers in the country who ignore the mandate to disclose under the Right to Information (RTI) Act don’t stand to lose anything. A survey has found only two of every 100 violations of the Act by officials get penalised.

 

And, only 39 per cent of all applications seeking information finally lead to any information being provided.

 

The survey, done by the National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-government initiative, which has undertaken independent ranking of Information Commissions in the country, has put its finger on the main problem. Which is that orders of RTI commissioners are not implemented.

 

Arvind Kejriwal, who partnered the survey, said in 61 per cent of cases where an RTI commissioner passed an order to provide information, just no one obeyed. The overall imposition of penalty was so low that it was losing its deterrent value, he told Business Standard.

 

“The question is, what is the incentive or disincentive for an officer in this country, riddled with corruption, to provide information?” he asked.

 

He said of the 94 Chief Information Commissioners (ICs)in the country, Orissa's D N Padhi scored the highest points, by imposing penalty in 11 per cent cases of violation of the Act by government officials.

 

But state-wise, Meghalaya scored higher as a whole, by imposing penalties in 25 per cent of all such cases. And, Karnataka’s Information Commission stood at the top, with a score of 55 per cent in Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS).

 

More than 51,000 orders passed by ICs in 2008 were analysed but that did not include Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim, he told reporters in Chennai.

 

“Uttar Pradesh did not provide copies of their orders, saying it didn’t have them. While Tamil Nadu, which claimed to have passed more than 40,000 orders, provided us with copies of only 900 orders. Sikkim did not furnish the list of address of all appellants,” he said. Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Orissa and Assam were the top states, with OPS ranging between 37 and 55 per cent, according to the report.

 

The ranking was done based on effectiveness, imposition of penalties and pro-disclosure factor, which determines whether the order was in favour of the applicant or not.

 

Kejriwal said the solution was not to amend the Act but to take steps to implement the law as effectively as possible.

 

Source: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/only-twoevery-100-rti-act-violations-get-penalised-study/373962/

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karira

As reported by TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 22 October 2009:

RTI Act: TN commission not facilitating access to info, say NGOs - Chennai - City - The Times of India

 

RTI Act: TN commission not facilitating access to info, say NGOs

 

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Right To Information Campaign (TNRTIC), a group of NGOs working in the area of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, on Wednesday criticised the State Information Commission for giving false information pertaining to the availability of order copies.

 

Releasing a report here on a national-level study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a Delhi-based NGO, on the functioning of 28 information commissions from across the country, TNRTIC coordinator Ossie Fernandes said that the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission was not included in the study since it had given false information to an RTI application filed by the National RTI Awards Secretariat in June this year.

 

In its reply, the commission said that it had disposed off 40,400 complaints and appeals during 2008 and that all orders were uploaded on its website, while earlier it had uploaded only 900 orders, the TNRTIC coordinator pointed out. "The discrepancy between the disposal of 40,400 cases and the availability of only 900 orders lies at the crux of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission's ineffectiveness in facilitating citizens' access to information,'' he added.

 

Stating that the Tamil Nadu commission was passing orders without conducting hearings in 90% of the cases, Nithyanand Jayaraman, one of the coordinators, said that no other commission in the country followed such a procedure.

 

"We urge the commission to conduct hearings whenever there is a prima facie case of delaying, refusing or providing incomplete or wrong information. In the absence of a hearing, public information officers will not take the commission's order seriously,'' Jayaraman said.

 

"Although 70% of the orders of the commissions in the country are in favour of disclosure of information, many public authorities don't abide by it. The study revealed that RTI appellants before the information commissions have only 27% chance to get information; it did not beyond 40% even if the commission concerned ordered for it (disclosure),'' said V Madhav, another TNRTIC coordinator.

 

The study parameters included overall public satisfaction, effectiveness, deterrent impact and pro-disclosure. It analysed 51,000 orders passed by the commissions and responses from about 6,000 appellants from across the country. The Karnataka State Information Commission topped in terms of overall public satisfaction, while the West Bengal State Information Commission was placed at the bottom.

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karira

To read the details of the full study, here are the links to some interesting parts:

 

Information Commission / Commissioner Rankings:

National RTI Awards | Release of First Round of data on RTI

 

State of Records at Information Commissions:

National RTI Awards | State of records at Information Commissions

 

Download State wise data:

National RTI Awards | Welcome

 

BE CAUTIOUS WHILE VIEWING AND INTERPRETING THE DATA:

As I discovered for Andhra Pradesh, the data available for AP is not correct.

I am comparing it to the information received from the PIO in reply to my RTI Applications. However, it is too late for me to file a First Appeal for incorrect information (by citing this report) and there is no point in filing a Complaint under Sec 18, since the APSIC does not accept any such Complaints.

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karira

As reported by TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 23 October 2009:

Bihar ranks 10th on RTI parameters - Patna - City - The Times of India

 

Bihar ranks 10th on RTI parameters

 

PATNA: Although Bihar has earned laurels at the national level for taking the initiative to provide information under the RTI Act besides

establishing Jankari call centre, the state is placed tenth in the country with regard to RTI parameters. There are 28 informtion commmissions in the states and one at the Centre with altogether 94 information commissioners.

 

Bihar is far behind Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Orissa, Assam and four other states but ahead of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states. This has been revealed in a survey conducted by the National RTI Awards Secretariat to assess the performance of information commissions across the country for National RTI Awards 2009. It is based on the feedback from 6,000 people.

 

As far as overall public satisfaction with the commssions is concerned, Bihar has been given 31% compared to 55% to Karnataka and 52% to Kerala. The finding said the national average of getting information under RTI is 27%.

 

These findings were released on Thursday by the Bihar Right to Information Manch.

 

The Secretariat also analyzed 51,128 orders passed by the information commissioners. Of the cases in which orders were passed, only two per cent of the officials were penalized.

 

"If an officer does not provide information under the RTI Act, despite an order from the information commission, there is two per cent chance that he would be penalized," the finding said.

 

There are 23 commissioners who have virtually never imposed any penalty for non-disclosure.

 

Bihar's two information commissioners Shakeel Ahmad and P N Narayanan have been placed at 30th and 33rd position respectively on effectiveness parametre and the same ranking in imposing penalties.

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karira

An editorial in hindustantimes.com on 23 October 2009:

Little right to information- Hindustan Times

Little right to information

 

Indian officialdom’s ability to keep things to itself could put the redoubtable Gestapo to shame if it had been around. So, it should not surprise us too much that a study by the National Right to Information Awards Secretariat has found that a person has only a 39 per cent chance of getting information sought under the much-hyped Right to Information (RTI) Act. Among the reasons often cited for not giving out information are inadequate staff, low budgets and poor infrastructure. And the fact that over 60 per cent of public information officers have had no training in RTI. Granted that all these are valid.

 

But a more inherent problem is that of a mai-baap sarkar’s unwillingness to give away even the most irrelevant piece of information to the people. The officers who do not provide information, even though constitutionally bound to, are rarely penalised. The RTI was meant to sweep the cobwebs away from India’s notoriously opaque structures of governance. But the custodians of information are not about to give up without a fight. In a country known for its chronic corruption, it is necessary that the government and its various arms are seen to function in an open manner. True, information that could have implications on national security cannot be bandied about freely. But, surely on issues like postings and transfers, utilisation of public money and the track record of those in power, the public has a right to know. Hiding perfectly legitimate, even harmless, information from people erodes the credibility of the government and suggests that it has something to hide.

 

The argument that the RTI will be misused to pursue frivolous queries or conduct personal vendettas is baseless. These can be screened and dismissed by competent officials. Mechanisms like RTI could be immensely beneficial in the case of land records, it could be a vital tool for those who do not have the ‘right’ connections to gain information. But, so far, our officials seem wary of telling people what time of day it is if they can help it. At a time when good governance has come to dominate our political discourse, we cannot continue with this outdated opacity. It goes against the very grain of democracy to restrict information from people it is meant to empower. The government must realise that it will eventually have no option but to keep people in the know of things.

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karira

As reported by Nidhi Sharma in dailypioneer.com on 26 October 2009:

The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> 61 applicants awaiting info despite valid orders

61% applicants awaiting info despite valid orders

 

It has been eight months since Information Commissioner MM Ansari ordered BSNL to let Prakash Raghunath, a resident of Pune, inspect the files related to his complaint in the SC/ST Cell. Two reminders and several letters later, Raghunath is still waiting for his right to information to be honoured.

 

Hari Dev Goyal sought information from DDA regarding allotment of flats to 23 persons. The Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, ordered the agency to provide the applicant with requisite information. After over a year and three complaint letters to the CIC, the building authority has not bothered to part with the information.

 

These are just two of the 21,000 persons in India who are waiting for rightful information despite favourable orders being passed by the Information Commissions across the country. A recent research conducted by the National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-Government initiative, reveals that despite the Information Commissions passing pro-disclosure orders, the applicants are not getting the information sought. The research study, which examined orders passed by the CIC and 28 Information Commissions, pegs this percentage at 61.

 

Prakash Raghunath says, “Why would BSNL part with the information? The CIC should have mentioned a target date to BSNL in its order. The Information Commissioner should write specifically that the applicant should be allowed file inspection by an exact date. I have sent two reminders to BSNL and they have still not given me an appointment for this. What has made BSNL more brazen is that no penalty has been levied against it; so it is taking advantage.”

 

Raghunath has put a finger on the main reason for the babus dishonouring the Information Commission’s orders - reluctance to slap penalties. The study reveals that on a mere 2 per cent of the pro-disclosure orders has the commissions levied a penalty. The most dismal is the record of North-Eastern States of Manipur and Tripura, where not a single penalty was slapped against errant Government officials for withholding information.

 

RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal says, “If the Information Commissions do not slap a penalty, there will be no fear among Government officers to implement the orders. There has to be a follow-up mechanism also, where the Information Commissions should see that their orders have been implemented.”

 

State Information Commissions in Punjab and Karnataka have a follow-up mechanism. Unlike other Information Commissions, they do not close the case till the applicant confirms that he has received information and is satisfied. Kejriwal feels that this practice has its own fallout. “The commissions tire you out with hearings. They have multiple hearings and if the applicant does not turn up once for a hearing, they pass the order that ‘prima facie it seems the applicant is satisfied with the information as he has not appeared before the commission’. So they close the case. This is not an effective way of following up on a case,” says Kejriwal.

 

The solution to this problem effectively lies in a strong enforcement mechanism. This, says Kejriwal, is possible only if penalties are imposed on errant Government servants. “Follow-up hearings should take place but should not inconvenience the applicants. As far as possible, it should be done through video-conferencing,” says Kejriwal.

 

The implementing agencies have made the enforcement of orders weak. The CIC, the final appellate authority for the RTI Act, is itself not very effective in getting its orders implemented. Of the 66 Information Commissioners ranked by the study, three commissioners from CIC are among the bottom 10 — M L Sharma, Shailesh Gandhi and MM Ansari.

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karira

As reported in telegraphindia.com on 26 October 2009:

The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Bengal | State info laggard

 

State info laggard

 

New Delhi, Oct. 25: Bengal has the highest rate of non-compliance under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with nine in 10 applicants denied information ordered to be released, a survey has suggested.

 

The survey by the Public Cause Research Foundation, a Delhi-based non-government agency campaigning for transparency, has shown that only 39 per cent disclosure orders by information commissioners were complied with nationwide.

 

Bengal’s compliance rate was only 8 per cent.

 

The survey found that among 6,000 RTI appellants from across the country who had received orders in favour of disclosure from information officers during 2008, about 61 per cent did not receive satisfactory information.

 

“We see a major problem of non-compliance of orders,” said Arvind Kejriwal, an RTI activist and managing trustee of the foundation.

 

“(Government) officials have all the incentives not to release information — penalties for non-compliance are rarely imposed.”

 

The RTI Act has several provisions for its effective implementation. Information commissioners are empowered to penalise officials for not releasing information. Their salary can be cut and they can even be arrested.

 

The survey, which analysed over 34,000 orders that had favoured release of information sought by appellants, also found that in cases on non-compliance, only 2 per cent of officials had been penalised.

 

“Information commissioners have powers to punish violators, but they are not invoking them,” Kejriwal said. The survey did not cover Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim for various reasons.

 

Karnataka and Kerala had the highest rate of compliance — 60 per cent. This may reflect their mode of operations — information commissioners in both states do not close a case and have repeated hearings until an appellant reports satisfaction.

 

Mizoram had the highest deterrence rate with penalties imposed on 25 per cent of violations of RTI orders, followed by Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

 

Over the past three years, tens of thousands of people have filed RTI applications demanding information across a range of topics — from office promotions and policy decisions on genetically-modified crops to irregularities in IIT entrance tests.

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As reported in thehindu.com on 26 October 2009:

The Hindu : Kerala / Kochi News : Awards a boost to State’s RTI movement

Awards a boost to State’s RTI movement

 

KOCHI: The right to information (RTI) movement in Kerala and the State Information Commission (SIC) have received a moral boost with the Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) choosing the Kerala commission as the second best in the country after Karnataka’s.

 

At the National RTI Awards announced by the PCRF, an NGO, over the weekend, P. Faziluddin, who served the commission during 2006-08, has been adjudged the best commissioner from among the 94 commissioners in the country in 2008. Palat Mohandas, Kerala’s Chief Information Commissioner, came second on two judging criteria.

 

The PCRF was founded by Arvind Kejirwal, a key RTI activist at the national level, who won the Magsaysay award for his contributions to the RTI movement in the country. Mr. Kejirwal used his prize money for creating the PCRF. The PCRF, after surveying thousands of people, based their rankings on four criteria: overall public satisfaction, effectiveness, deterrent impact and pro-disclosure impact.

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As reported by Nidhi Sharma in dailypioneer.com on 27 October 2009:

The Pioneer > Online Edition : >> Applicants made to go round in circles

 

Applicants made to go round in circles

 

Maharashtra State panel worst of the lot; almost at bottom on overall public satisfaction criteria

 

Anil Shivaji Bhovad, a resident of Vasai in Thane district, had applied for information to his area’s deputy superintendent of police. When he did not get it, he appealed to the Maharashtra State Information Commission. After waiting for over a year, he was asked to go back to the same police officer who had withheld information from him.

 

The application of Prabhakar Ashok Gothoskar, a resident of Kudal taluka in Maharashtra, to the State information commission also met a similar fate. Gothoskar had applied to the panchayat gram sewak for information. After repeated hearings for over a year, the information commission remanded the case back to those who had refused to part with the information in the first place.

 

These are just two cases which reflect what information commissions are increasingly doing - remanding the case back to the same public authority that rejected it. That too without any reason, and after making the applicant wait for over a year. In this matter, the Maharashtra Information Commission seems to be the worst of the lot. The commissioners have got into the habit of passing bulk orders without providing an opportunity for personal hearing to the applicant. Take, for instance, the case of Information Commissioner Navin Kumar. Of the 2,996 orders passed by him in 2008, he sent back 50 per cent of the cases without giving a personal hearing and rejected 1,004 cases citing minor issues like applicant signatures not being present on the form, etc.

 

He also passed orders in bulk in a similar fashion. According to a recent study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-Government initiative, Navin Kumar passed 28 orders on December 2, 2008, reading, “Much time has passed since the original application was made and, therefore, it would be necessary to know the current status of the case. I, therefore, remand this case to the first appellate authority for inviting and giving a hearing to the appellant for examining the points raised by him in his appeal with a view to providing maximum information, if due, under the Act and give appellant better satisfaction by issuing a reasonable order.”

 

It is not surprising then that the State information commission ranks 14th among the 17 commissions gauged on overall public satisfaction criteria. What makes the functioning of the commission even more appalling is that its commissioners occupy the end of a list of 65 information commissioners ranked on the basis of applicant feedback.

 

There are other information commissioners who are following the same practice. Vijay Baburao Borge remanded back 80 per cent of the cases that came to him. Similarly, Vilas Patil remanded back 1,008 of his 1,875 cases.

 

Magsaysay award winner and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal says, “Our research has thrown up several such cases. The applicants are being made to wait one or two years before their cases are sent back to the same officer who had rejected it. There has to be speedy disposal and people must be given a right to personal hearing. These are the basics of the RTI Act.”

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As reported in telegraphindia.com on 29 October 2009:

http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/newreply.php?do=postreply&t=33407

 

Meghalaya top data provider

 

Shillong, Oct. 29: Meghalaya has topped the list of states and the Centre in providing information through the Right to Information Act, according to information commissioner G.P. Wahlang. He launched the Meghalaya Right to Information website today.

 

Wahlang quoted the major findings on the implementation of the RTI Act, 2008, presented during the national convention held in New Delhi in mid-October.

 

The Central Information Commission organised the convention.

 

Wahlang said here today that Meghalaya, with a success rate of 82 per cent, ranked first in providing information, followed by the Centre with 81 per cent.

 

The success rates decreased to nearly 29 per cent in the case of Karnataka and 23 per cent in Assam.

 

While Maharashtra has 16,000 pending cases, the Central Information Commission has 7,000.

 

Meghalaya, however, had only three pending cases. According to Wahlang, the penalty imposed in cases deposed by the Commissions was as high as 83.3 per cent in case of Nagaland, 28.1 per cent in Arunachal Pradesh and in Meghalaya, it stood at 4.4 per cent.

 

Among the success stories is one where the residents of Katarshnong near Cherrapunjee used the RTI Act to find whether the schemes meant for them were properly implemented.

 

The use of RTI was at its peak prior to the Assembly elections to probe the misuse of funds for projects by the legislators.

 

The residents of Nongstoin in West Khasi Hills also used the RTI Act effectively.

 

Wahlang cited several cases where punishment was meted out to RTI officials who refused to provide information within 30 days.

 

The penalised officials had to pay a fine of Rs 250 per day.

 

An executive engineer of the PHE department in the Garo hills paid more than Rs 15,000 for rejecting an RTI query by a group of contractors who failed to get their dues for work done for the department.

 

The official went to the extent of asking the applicants to withdraw the RTI application.

 

The official eventually had to pay a fine of Rs 15,000.

 

After the starting of Meghalaya Information Commission in 2006, there were 300 requests to provide information.

 

In 2007, there were 48 complaints regarding the delay in providing information and of these, fines were imposed on two officials who refused to co-operate.

 

From 2008 to this day, seven officials were penalised for not providing information in time.

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As reported in thehindu.com on 04 November 2009:

The Hindu : Andhra Pradesh / Guntur News : ‘RTI Act implementation dismal in State’

‘RTI Act implementation dismal in State’

 

GUNTUR: Andhra Pradesh is ranked second from the bottom in the list of State Commissionerates of Right To Information based on their performance.

 

A study conducted on the performance of these commissions vis-À-vis implementation of the Right To Information (RTI) Act showed that if someone filed an appeal with a commission, there was a 27 per cent chance that he/she would get the information. If there was a favourable order from the commission, there was still only a 39 per cent chance that one would get the information.

 

These were some of the interesting findings of the largest ever study conducted by the Public Cause Research Foundation to assess the performance of the Information Commissions across the country.

 

Out of the 100 people who approached Information Commissions, only 27 finally received information, which showed the level of implementation of an Act that was in vogue for the past four years. For the purpose of analysis, this unit of performance parameter related to RTI was christened Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS).

 

Based on the data received from all the State Commissions and Commissioners, the PCRF ranked on this parameter, said Guntur District United Forum On RTI Campaign chairman P.C. Sai Babu.

 

It was found that Karnataka toped the list with 55 per cent OPS and West Bengal was at the bottom with 6 per cent OPS. Andhra Pradesh, with 10 per cent compliance rate, was a bit better, which meant out of 100 people only 10 finally got information compared to the national average of 27 persons going satisfied.

 

The top five commissions were (ranked on OPS): Karnataka (55 p.c.); Kerala (52); Punjab (47); Orissa (37); and Assam (37). The five from the last were: West Bengal (6 p.c.); Andhra Pradesh (10); Uttarakhand (13); Maharashtra (14); Chief Information Commissioner (19).

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As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal in indianexpress.com on 20 November 2009:

We aren’t schoolkids, won’t accept demeaning RTI awards: Wajahat

We aren’t schoolkids, won’t accept demeaning RTI awards: Wajahat

 

Calling it “demeaning,” Central Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has said that information commissioners will not accept “RTI awards” to be announced by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) founded by Magsaysay Award winner and activist Arvind Kejriwal.

 

Kejriwal, incidentally, is also behind the campaign to push for Kiran Bedi as Habibullah’s replacement.

 

“We have called a weekly meeting of information commissioners and decided not to accept awards. We have already told the organizers. Information Commissioners are not in competition with each other. Giving awards to information commissioners is shamely de-meaning us, we are not schoolchildren. The Information Commissions work as a unified whole,” Habibullah said. Habibullah has resigned to take up his new assignment in J&K.

 

The current seniormost Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari — a likely contender for the top job — has questioned the activists’ credentials to evaluate the work of information commissioners in an award ceremony called the ‘National RTI Awards 2009.’

 

Ansari claims that the exercise — it will name the “best five” and the “worst five” — is nothing more than “eyewash...deliberately promoting some at the cost of others.”

 

When contacted, Kejriwal said: “This is an attempt to bring the functioning of authorites under public scrutiny. People have the right to assess the performance of public authorities. We, as citizens, are performing our duties as envisaged in a democracy and celebrating the performance of some.”

 

The jury will announce the rankings on November 27. The awards ceremony is on December 1. N R Narayana Murthy and the Tata Trust have sponsored the research and the awards ceremony is sponsored by NDTV and ONGC, said Kejriwal.

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“We have called a weekly meeting of information commissioners and decided not to accept awards.

 

Sir,

 

How many times do you want to call weekly meetings on the same subject ?

 

In the weekly meeting held on 03 March 2009 you and you fellow IC's had already agreed not to accept any awards:

 

http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Minutes/Minutes03032009.pdf

 

Agenda 2:- An email by IC (SG) regarding the RTI awards

Commission opined that institution of “RTI award” by some NGO/Civil Society is welcome, but the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners agreed that will not accept any awards in reference to their work as ICs.

 

There are several other decisions taken more than a year ago in your weekly meetings regarding administration of the CIC, improvement in record keeping, improvement in work flow procedure in CIC, improvement in the inward section, etc etc etc etc.....but, just like in the above case, ALL have been forgotten.

 

Please also see: http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/16905-information-commissioners-central-information-commission-will-not-accept-right-information-awards.html

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The current seniormost Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari — a likely contender for the top job — has questioned the activists’ credentials to evaluate the work of information commissioners in an award ceremony called the ‘National RTI Awards 2009.’

Ansari claims that the exercise — it will name the “best five” and the “worst five” — is nothing more than “eyewash...deliberately promoting some at the cost of others.”

 

A critique by IC M M Ansari is appended below.

 

POSTERS NOTE: This has been circulated in many emails and RTI groups but I have no means of verifying whether IC M M Ansari is truly the author of this critique or not.

 

 

AN ANALYSIS OF THE REPORT OF PCRF

(AUTHORS OF RTI AWARDS) ¾ FLAWED LOGIC AND SPECIOUS CONCLUSIONS

 

Lately, the Media was flooded with stories about the functioning of Information Commissioners all over the country based upon analysis done by a group going by the name and style “Public Cause Research Foundation”. The chief protagonists of this group are Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Shri Manish Sisodia and Shri Abhinandan Sekhri. Media has lapped up these stories without pausing to critically assess whether these were worth reporting, or rather, whether these were at-all true. The following analysis would show that the Report presented by the above group as authentic and scientific analysis of the performance of the Commissioners was nothing more than ‘eye-wash’ for purposefully and deliberately promoting some at the cost of others. The Report is so flawed that it is not worth even the paper on which it was written and the following analysis would show how it was so:-

 

I. Wrong projection about success rate of RTI-petitions:

 

This Study gives an impression ¾ quite erroneously and perhaps, deliberately ¾ as if the appeals decided by the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are all that is there to RTI disclosure. It notes ¾ rather hides ¾ that the Central Information Commission receives only 4-5% of all cases filed before the central public authorities. According to the statistics compiled by the Central Information Commission for 2007-2008, 2,63,261 RTI-petitions were filed before all CPIOs in the 1597 central public authorities. Out of these, only 11,261 were taken to second-appeal / complaint before the Central Information Commission. This constitutes only a minuscule 4.27% percent of all RTI-applications filed. In other words, it would be safe to assume, that in more than 95% of the applications filed, all requested information was disclosed to the applicants. Out of the balance 11,261 cases, which ended up being second-appeals or complaints, a very large number were decided in favour of the appellants / complainants and those in which appeals / complaints were rejected, grounds for rejection were clearly spelt-out. Several of these were challenged before High Courts and the decisions of the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions were upheld in most cases. This shows that all the rejections by the Central Information Commission were within the four-corners-of-law. In fact, giving out information when the law clearly prohibited it, would have been illegal and would have invited strictures from superior courts.

 

The statistics projected by the Public Cause Research Foundation (organizers of RTI Awards) makes it appear as if disclosure of information was a ‘necessary good’, whereas non-disclosure was a ‘necessary evil’. This presumption is not only flawed, it is misleading and designed deliberately to present a wrong picture about the work of the Commissioners.

 

One would have understood, if on an examination of the orders of the Commissioners, the organization which conducted this Study would have faulted, or critiqued, it on grounds of the legal position expounded in those orders. They should have also examined whether those orders were in conformity with the decisions made by High Courts all over the country.

 

Far from it, they have chosen to malign and indict the Commissioners on the basis of false statistics, erroneous facts and fallacious conclusions. There appears to be a deep-seated design to make the institution appear to be a failed one.

 

II. Credentials of the organizers conducting the Study:

 

According to what has been put out on their website, it is seen that the authors of this widely-publicized Report are Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Shri Manish Sisodia and Shri Abhinandan Sekhri. It is unclear as to who these authors are, what their research background is, what methodology they have followed and what were the limitations of the Study they have conducted.

 

While their website leaves no one any wiser about the background and the credentials of the authors of the Report, most surprisingly and perhaps quite cunningly, these authors have not informed the public as to what were the limitations of their Study. For example, the ‘sample sizes’ which have been taken, either to commend or to denigrate the work of Commissioners, vary widely. In fairness, the authors ought to have acknowledged that if a larger sample size was taken for all Commissioners or more or less identical sample sizes were taken for each Commissioner, the conclusions would have been radically different.

 

It is important to note that this Report was driven by an urge to commend few and denigrate many.

III. Flawed methodology:

 

We have been informed that the Commissioners have been evaluated by the authors of the Report against four parameters, which were:-

 

A. Overall Public Satisfaction:

 

The authors of the Report claim that the Overall Public Satisfaction has been measured by examining and evaluating over 6000 responses from those who approached various Commissions including the Central Information Commission.

 

B. Effectiveness:

 

The above yardstick has also been used for measuring Effectiveness.

 

C. Deterrent Impact:

 

This has been measured on the basis of a study of the number of penalties imposed on officers of the public authority by various Commissioners.

 

D. Pro-disclosure Factor:

 

This has been measured on the basis of affirmative orders by the Commissioners in favour of appellants. In other words, pro-disclosure factor is high when a Commissioner allows a large number of appeals.

 

Now let us look at how they have gone about their task.

 

Take for instance the methodology for evaluating parameters A and B, viz. Overall Public Satisfaction and Effectiveness. According to the authors, these two traits have been measured on the basis of the public response received by them from 6000 persons whose cases came up before the various Commissions. It has been stated that 39% of these 6,000 addressees expressed satisfaction in favour of the Commissioners.

 

Now consider this: How these 6,000 cases were distributed Commissioner-wise for the 94 Commissioners across the country has neither been presented nor explained by the authors.

An aggregate figure of 6,000 cases cannot become the basis for deciding the performance against these two parameters of individual Commissioners. This is a grave methodological error which the authors have committed.

 

Second, in presenting the Commissioner-wise statistics of Overall Public Satisfaction and Effectiveness, these 6,000 cases have been conveniently forgotten. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that the total number of cases which have been used for grading Effectiveness and Overall Public Satisfaction for each Commissioner is at variance with the 6,000 which the authors have used to elicit public response.

 

Third, authors have quite simplistically and, equally erroneously, gone by affirmative orders in favour of appellants as an index of a Commissioner’s effectiveness and public satisfaction in regard to his work.

 

It is quite obvious that the valuation of Commissioners against these two parameters has been done by adopting what can best be described as voodoo statistics and methods which will not stand scientific scrutiny even for a moment.

 

What emerges from it is as follows:-

 

A. By taking only 6,000 cases out of over 54,000 decided by CIC and the State Information Commissions, the sponsors and the authors of the Study have only taken about 10% of cases as their basis for commenting on public satisfaction and effectiveness of Commissioners. This number, i.e. 6000 is far too small a sample for the entire country ¾ one Central Information Commission and 27 State Information Commissions ¾ and for 94 Commissioners. Do the authors want us to believe that on the basis of 6,000 case studies, or rather telephonic responses received by them, they can draw any fair conclusion about the effectiveness of Commissioners?

 

The authors state that all these 6,000 cases were those who were authorized to receive information by the Commissions, but many of them did not receive it.

 

Two observations need to be made:-

 

(a) Once a Commissioner passes an order for disclosing an information and if that information remains undisclosed, the appellants usually approach the Commission in complaint for denial of information (or against non-compliance of Commission’s order) by public authority. The Commission makes a decision, thereafter, about whether the information was denied or it was disclosed based upon submissions from both sides. Quite frequently, and in fact in a majority of cases, it is the appellant who turned out to be the one who was presenting facts wrongly and not the CPIO or the public authority. If such petitioners tell the authors of the RTI Award that they were unhappy with the information disclosed, it was required of the authors to make a critical scrutiny about what these appellant had asked for and what they had received, rather than draw a facile conclusion that if somebody said that he has not received information, he was bound to be right.

 

(b) In our experience, the cases where information was not disclosed after an order of the Commissioner were far and few between and not as enormous as the authors of this Report (RTI Awards) have attempted to demonstrate.

 

B. It is too simplistic to say that effectiveness of the Commissioner is the function of how many appeals he allows in favour of appellants. In fact, true effectiveness of a Commissioner is to be evaluated on the basis of whether he has contributed to the opening-up of the public authority’s systems and ushering in transparency where there was none earlier.

 

C. In some cases, not giving information is more in harmony with the avowed objective of the RTI Act than giving out information. As per the Preamble of the RTI Act, it is the purpose of this legislation to combat corruption and to improve efficiency in governance. A large number of cases which come before the Central Information Commission as well as the State Commissions are brought by public employees facing disciplinary cases, vigilance enquiries, anti-corruption actions and criminal prosecutions. These use the RTI Act as a tool to delay or defeat the extant process which seeks to make them answerable for their acts of omission and commission. Central Information Commission and the State Commissions in most such cases favour denial of information than disclosure, principally under Section 8(1) of RTI Act.

 

It is for the informed public to ask itself whether by judging a Commissioner on the basis of bland statistic of how many cases he decides in favour of appellant and how many cases he decides against him, can be a fair evaluation of the functioning of the Commissioner.

The authors of this Report have been not only unfair, they have been downright cussed and negligent in performing the task they had set out for.

 

Further, the following also need some reflection and show how lopsided this Study has been.

 

According to the authors of the study, out of the total number of cases they evaluated, in as many as 70%, the decisions were in favour of complete disclosure of information. It follows from it that only in 30% of the cases the Commissions directed

non-disclosure. These latter cases also include decisions authorizing part-disclosure. It defies understanding as to how part-disclosure and non-disclosure can be one and the same. This is one glaring instance of the authors’ lopsided technique.

 

Again, according to the authors, all non-disclosures are such a bad thing that it must cast a stigma on the Commissioners. These authors should be asked the question if every single appeal were to be allowed by the Commissioners, then why have Commissions at-all. Further, they also need to be asked as to what is the meaning and implication of Section 8(1) and Section 9 of the RTI Act, which clearly spell-out the conditions under which an information can be denied to an applicant. Is it the case of the authors that even when a Commission decided that a certain information came within the scope of the exemption-Sections, the information should have been disclosed if for nothing else for elevating the merit of the Commissioner in the eyes of the flawed authors of this flawed report.

Another glaring instance of the authors’ inscrutable ways is the manner in which they have evaluated Commissioners to be ranked as best five or the worst five. One example would suffice.

 

Mr.V.V. Bhorge has disposed of 4593 second-appeals, out of which in 989 cases, he had issued affirmative orders in favour of the appellants. He had imposed 126 penalties on errant public officials. Mr.Bhorge has been ranked as one of the five worst Commissioners.

 

Now contrast this with the indulgence with which the authors have treated Mr.D.N. Padhi of Orissa. Mr.Padhi has decided 423 cases, out of which in 361 cases, he has decided the appeal in favour of the appellant. He has imposed 40 penalties. Mr.Padhi has been ranked as one of the best five Commissioners.

 

Now contrast Mr.Padhi’s performance with the performance of Mr.Bhorge and you will find how lopsided and erratic have been the self-appointed evaluators of the performance of the Commissioners. Mr.Bhorge has decided a much larger number of cases than Mr.Padhi. He has imposed a far larger number of penalties than Mr.Padhi and the number of cases in which he has decided in favour of the appellants are about as many as Mr.Padhi’s own. And yet in the estimation of the authors, Mr.Padhi is one of the five best Commissioners and Mr.Bhorge is one of the five worst under Pro-disclosure category and Overall Public Satisfaction category.

 

Mr.P.Faziluddin, Information Commissioner of Kerala has been rated as best among all Commissioners, and he has decided only 148 cases in the whole year ¾ which works out to roughly one case every two days. Did not the absurdity of this determination made by the authors strike them? There are Commissioners who have decided more than 1500 cases in a year and the total number of ‘yes’ factor of those cases far exceeds the total number of cases decided by Mr.Faziluddin, but the latter category figures nowhere in the appreciation of the authors.

 

Certain other relevant points about the absurd nature of the Report are as follows:-

 

1. Award has been given to RTI-applicants for creating avenues for significant disclosures and transparency. But no credit has been given to the Commissioner or Commissioners who authorized such disclosure. Example ¾ Subhash Agarwal is given a prize for active RTI-applicant citing examples of cases brought by him before the Commission but denying to the Commissioner or Commissioners the credit for having given those orders which made Shri Subhash Agarwal’s efforts prize-worthy.

 

2. No credit has been given to the Commissioners for awarding compensation under Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act. The deterrent effect of compensation is no less than that of penalties. Disproportionate onus has been put on penalties to evaluate effectiveness and deterrent effect of the Commissioners’ orders.

 

3. It is seen that under the category Pro-disclosure, the least pro-disclosure-oriented Commissioners figure at Sl.Nos.87 to 91. For the category Effectiveness, the least effective five Commissioners are listed at Sl.Nos.59 to 62. Considering the fact that the total number of Commissioners is 94, it is entirely unexplained as to how the least effective in one category shall be at Sl.Nos.87 to 91, while in another category they shall not go below Sl.No.62.

 

This shows that the authors have not adopted any uniform criterion but have picked and chosen those whom they wish to hurt the most. Their mala-fide is more than manifest.

 

4. The Goa Information Commissioner, Shri A. Venkatratnam, who disposed of only 40 cases in the entire year and imposed 2 penalties, was rated one of the Top 5 Commissioners under the ‘Deterrent’ category. There are a large number of Commissioners who imposed more than 2 penalties in the year under reference. Yet, they were nowhere in the ranking from any account.

 

5. Out of 6 Top Commissioners under the category Overall Public Satisfaction, at least 4 disposed of less than 500 cases. In contrast, there are at least 3 Commissioners out of 6 who are rated as Worst Performing Commissioners who disposed of more than 1000 cases in the year under reference.

 

The examples cited at Sl.Nos.4 and 5 above show how the authors have totally disregarded a key variant, i.e. the number of cases decided by Commissioners. For them, if a Commissioner decides 20 cases in a year and imposes 20 penalties, and gives 20 affirmative orders in favour of appellants, he shall be rated better than another Commissioner who decides 500 cases, imposes 100 penalties and gives 100 affirmative orders.

Sample-size, in authors’ convoluted logic, does not matter. Can anything be more absurd than this?

 

IV. About Remanding of cases:

 

The authors have, with characteristic carelessness, described remanding of cases by the Commissioners to the First Appellate Authorities as a negative point against the Commissioners. They could not have been more wrong and ill-informed about the procedures under the RTI Act and the quasi-judicial bodies which the Commissioners are.

 

Most of the remand orders were in cases where the petitioners either did not approach the First Appellate Authority, or approached the First Appellate Authority in first-appeal and simultaneously came before the Commission in complaint proceeding. To save multiple proceedings in the same matter at the same time and, to avoid contradictory orders being passed, cases were remanded to the First Appellate Authority with a direction that after the AA decided the matter, the appellant would be free to approach the Commission in second-appeal as well as complaint, if any. In fact, not remanding such cases would be blatantly illegal and would amount to virtually abolishing the very vital tier of RTI, viz. the First Appellate Authority.

 

Cases were also remanded with specific direction to the First Appellate Authority that he, being the officer closest to where the information is held, should study the records and make a determination about whether the information could be disclosed. Commissions had no other alternative, but to remit such cases to the First Appellate Authority to save time and effort, which otherwise would be involved in carrying voluminous records to the Commission’s office for it examine whether the information requested was extant / held.

 

Several remands were given on the appellants’ own requests. Since they would have filed similar first-appeals before the same First Appellate Authority, remanding of the instant case before the Commission to the First Appellate Authority would enable the latter to examine and take the matter (which may be germane to the multiple RTI-applications and first-appeals of the appellants) to its logical conclusion.

 

Now, for the authors, these reasons for remand did not matter. According to them, all remands were bad because that was what they thought and knew about remand. As in all their inferences, they are wrong here too and, one can dare say, that they are poorly informed about the nuances of the Act.

 

It can be said, on the basis of above, that the authors of RTI Awards were seeking nothing more than sensationalism. Their purpose was to extol few ¾ and that too wrongly ¾ and denigrate many. With full help from the Media, they appear to have succeeded. Now is the time that people should be made to know how they have been taken for a ride by this nefarious group in the name of RTI-activism.

Prof. M.M. Ansari, Ph.D.

Central Information Commissioner

Website: www.cic.gov.in Email: mm.ansari.at.nic.in

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Just posting for the benefit of members/guests:

 

http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Minutes/CodeOfEthics.pdf

 

1. The behavior and conduct of members of the CIC must reaffirm the

people’s faith in the impartiality of the Commission. Accordingly any act of

a Central Information Commissioner whether in official or personal

capacity, which erodes the credibility of this perception, has to be avoided.

3. An Information Commissioner should practice a degree of discretion in

public dealing consistent with the dignity of his office.

 

6. An Information Commissioner is expected to let his/her Decisions speak

for themselves. He shall not give interview to the media on the subject of

Decisions made.

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karira

Posters Note: It seems that the material in post Nr. 22 above is indeed from IC M M Ansari.

 

The following is the reply from Mr Kejariwal of PCRF:

 

Dear friends and fellow-activists,

 

Thank you for your responses to our draft report evaluating the performance

of Information Commissioners. The large number of bouquets and brickbats

that we have received show that there is enormous public interest. We salute

your refusal to accept our opinion blindly; healthy dissent and debate is

not only inevitable, but essential for a healthy participatory democracy.

 

The biggest question that everybody seems to be asking is – why did we place such and such Information Commissioner above or below another one in

ranking? Our answer is: My colleagues and I at PCRF exercised no control

over the ranking of any information commissioner. The ranking was done on an objective basis based on the available data and statistics, my colleagues

and I were hands-off in this process. Commissioners were ranked by

autonomous teams of researchers, based on the statistics generated by the

orders of various Information Commissioners and public feedback. After

assigning the work and the system parameters to the researchers, my

colleagues and I stood back from the entire process, and let the process do

its work without any interference. Rest assured, neither the primary data

collected nor the statistics generated from this data was “cooked”. As a

result, this study was quite an eye opener for all of us at PCRF, because

our own beliefs about some Commissioners known to us were proved wrong. If

you find some of the conclusions disturbing and startling, please believe us

when we say that so do we!

 

*Let me briefly describe the process of conducting this study: *

 

* *

 

- Around 52,000 orders passed by various Information Commissions across

the country were collected. Some orders were on their websites, but others,

we collected by filing RTI applications and sometimes making many trips to

the concerned SICs. By and large, we got cooperation from all SICs, but

there were some exceptions. For instance, we were unsuccessful in persuading

Lucknow bench of UPSIC to give us copies of their orders.

- Each order collected was read and analyzed by a team of 12 persons over

a six-month period.

- Around 34,000 orders were classified as pro-disclosure. So, we wrote

letters to each of the appellants, asking whether they had received complete

and satisfactory information. A team of 25 persons worked for three months

to write letters and get replies.

- We received written responses from around 6000 people. According to

statisticians, this was a reasonably good sample.

- However, this was not uniformly distributed over all commissioners.

Response in some cases was inadequate. To rectify this, we contacted these

commissioners and asked for phone numbers of appellants from their appeal

files. Most commissioners agreed to provide this information.

- Our teams visited Guwahati, Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and many SICs

to collect appellants’ phone numbers. In the case of Arunachal Pradesh, the

phone numbers did not work due to bad connectivity. So, our team personally

met as many appellants as possible in Arunachal Pradesh to get their

feedback.

- Thus, we tried to ensure that we had feedback from at least 20% of the

appellants in whose cases pro-disclosure orders were passed. In the case of

a few commissioners, we could not reach 20%. In some other cases, we got

more than 40% feedback. With the help of a statistician, we are now working

out the error margin in the case of each commissioner with the available

sample size and population size.

 

*The five parameters for our study are:*

 

- Two parameters of our study viz. Pro-disclosure Factor and Deterrent

Impact, came straight from analysis of orders, and not from appellants’

feedback.

- The other two parameters viz. Overall Public Satisfaction and

Effectiveness came from public feedback.

- Pendency and disposals is a fifth parameter, which we have added

belatedly.

 

 

How does one interpret these parameters to evaluate a particular

commissioner? One has to look at all parameters together to get a meaningful

picture. For instance, if a commissioner issues a large number of

pro-disclosure orders, but cannot get his orders implemented (low

effectiveness), there is an overall failure on his part in procuring

information for the citizen.

 

All our raw data has been put up on our website National RTI Awards | Welcome . We urge

you to understand and cross-check our data and analysis, and point out

mistakes so that we can correct them. Also give us more feedback on

Information Commissioners’ performance.

 

Activists in many states totally accepted the findings, including Bihar, MP,

AP, WB, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. Some of these activists independently

released it to media, taking ownership of the report findings.

 

Activists of some states like Orissa and Kerala disputed our findings. Some

Information Commissioners such as R S Tolia and Prof M M Ansari sent us a

written response. A few others let us know their views on phone. Their

letters and our response thereto are on our website.

 

We are grateful to Pradeep Pradhan from Orissa and Mr C J Karira from AP for

pointing out specific mistakes. We have either already corrected them or

will do so before finalizing this report. We are also grateful to Major

Ravindran and Col Kurup from Kerala for giving us important feedback and

inputs on the performance of Kerala commissioners. Some mistakes in Himachal

Pradesh sheets have also been detected. We are correcting all these

mistakes.

 

We do realize that our methodology and parameters need further refining. The

study has indeed left out some key aspects of the functioning of Information

Commissioners, which we shall include next year. Please bear in mind that

this is just the beginning of an important process, which must be carried

out year after year in order to empower citizens with data, and give

meaningful feedback to Information Commissioners to enable them to reflect

upon and improve their own performance.

 

*Some interesting findings:*

 

- Not a single penalty has been imposed by 25 Information Commissioners

and 4 state commissions!

- A large number of show cause notices remain pending for years. Over 90%

show cause notices remained pending for long periods in many commissions!

- Nationally, just two percent of recorded violations were penalized! And

a commissioner who imposes just 11% penalties is the top-ranking

commissioner according to this parameter!

- Some commissioners remand back a large proportion of orders to first

appellate authorities, or reject them outright. Some commissioners in

Maharashtra remand back as many as 50% cases.

- A number of appeals are rejected on completely frivolous grounds (such

as the absence of appellant’s signature on each page of the appeal). More

than 30% cases in AP are rejected like this.

- State Information Commisssion of Arunachal Pradesh is making relatively

better use its civil-court-like powers conferred by Section18 of RTI Act,

sometimes even issuing arrest warrants! We personally visited Arunachal

Pradesh and met many appellants in Itanagar, the capital city. Appellants

are overwhelmingly praising their commission. The public authorities are

quite scared of appeals going to commission as they result in stringent

penalties, and therefore they do their best to sort it out at their level.

As a consequence, compliance with RTI Act is relatively high.

- One of the front-runners for the post of Chief Central Information

Commissioner, Prof M M Ansari, ranked very poorly on all the parameters.

This has publicly put a big question-mark on his candidature. With what face

would the government appoint him as Chief CIC when he has been publicly

found wanting?

 

The big picture that emerges from such aggregated data enables us to engage

with the individual commissioners and state commissioners, discuss the

shortcomings in their work and find solutions. For instance, after the

release of this data, the activists and media in West Bengal repeatedly and

publicly questioned the Commissioner, and he was forced to admit, for the

first time, that the performance of the SIC was unsatisfactory.

 

Some friends feel that no awards should be given. As the overall data was

not very encouraging, we too felt that the jury may decide not to give any

award this year. However, we are upbeat about the strict approach taken by

Arunachal Pradesh. Let us see what the jury has to say.

 

We are in the process of preparing our final report. The interim findings

and worksheets have been on our site for more than a month now. Please send

us your inputs at the earliest. If your inputs can be incorporated, even at

this late stage, we assure you they shall be, so that together, we can say

that this study belongs to all of us.

 

We are building up this mechanism for citizens and activists everywhere to

oversee the Information Commissioners. It is your mechanism. Please improve

it and use it; don’t tear it down with destructive criticism. Make efforts

to remove its shortcomings and see that this fledgling initiative survives

and thrives. Help it to emerge as a strong voice of oppressed RTI applicants

and appellants in all corners of the country, who were until now helpless

and voiceless.

 

 

With Warm Regards

 

Arvind Kejriwal

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karira

http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Minutes/Minutes24112009.pdf

 

1. The Commission has taken note of the media reports regarding an exercise being

conducted by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) to evaluate the performance

of the Information Commissions and Information Commissioners. It is also learnt

that the said organization has plans to award certain Commissioners on the basis of

certain evaluation parameters. That being so, there appears to have been a concerted

effort to denigrate the performance of many Commissions and Commissioners,

including the Central Information Commissioners, on the basis of an unscientific and

untested methodology.

2. The Commission has also taken note of the critical analysis of the above exercise

made by Prof. M. M. Ansari, Central Information Commissioner, as well as members

of the public, wherein the flawed nature of this exercise has been highlighted. The

Commission has on the other hand appreciated the comprehensive and scientific study

of the functioning of the RTI regime until 2008 by the NCPRI & RaaG.

3. The Central Information Commission always welcomes critical evaluation that is

bonafide, scientific and objective. The PCRF exercise is however, suspect.

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