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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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Delhi leads in RTI applications; Goa last in filing

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Delhi leads in RTI applications; Goa last in filing

 

As Reported in Zee News

 

New Delhi, June 22: The national capital leads the country in terms of applications moved under the Right To Information (RTI), with an overwhelming 35,250 petitions being made in Delhi in the last three years.

 

On the other extreme is Goa, where only 811 RTI applications have been made in the same period, according to official statistics.

 

As many as 10,887 RTI applications were filed in Karnataka while Kerala recorded 6,895 petitions and Orissa 4,187.

Uttar Pradesh witnessed 4,105 applications being made, while 2,255 RTI

pleas were submitted in Tamil Nadu.

 

In Maharashtra, 1,993 RTI applications were filed while 1,288 in Rajasthan, 1,223 in Puducherry and 897 in Uttarakhand, showing that the landmark law is still to reach the grassroots level due to lack of awareness.

 

The statistics were made available in a reply to an RTI application.

"We had filed RTI applications with different departments in different states as we wanted to know to what extent RTI Act has been exercised in each state and were people aware of it?" said Neeraj Kumar, a member of Kabir, an NGO.

 

He complained that various departments in many states were reluctant to reply to the RTI application and they have now moved the same request with the first appellate authority -the Public Information Officer of the department concerned.

 

In many cases applicants have approached the State Information Commission or the second appellate authority.

 

Bureau Report

 

Zee News - RTI applications

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karira

As reported by NT Network in navhindtimes.com on 3 July 2008:

Navhind Times on the Web: Goa

Information commission refutes NGO claims on RTI applications

 

PANAJI — The State Information Commission on Wednesday strongly refuted the recent observation made by Kabir, a non-government organisation, in its survey that Goa should be placed last in the list of states which have been sought information under Right to Information Act as only 811 RTI applications have been made to various departments and autonomous bodies in Goa during last three years.

 

The survey had also observed that various departments in many states, including Goa, were reluctant to reply to the RTI applications. It further observed that the national capital leads the country in terms of applications moved under the RTI with an overwhelming 35,250 petitions being made in Delhi in the last three years.

 

The State Information Commission maintained that altogether 3,877 applications have been received by 53 government departments as well as autonomous bodies during the year 2006-2007, out of which 3,529 applications have been cleared and only 188 rejected. In all, 300 public authorities and 370 public information officers are taking care of the RTI Act in the state.

 

The Commission further informed that these 3,877 applications do not include the applications made to various courts and police departments as the rules for information sought from courts and police have not been published in the official gazette.

 

The applications received under the RTI Act during the year 2007-2008 are still under compilation.

 

The State Information Commissioner, Mr Gurudas Kambli told ‘The Navhind Times’, on Wednesday evening that the number of RTI applications received during the year 2007-2008 would be definitely more than those received during the year 2006-2007. He also observed, “Taking into consideration the size of Goa, one can safely say that the state is generating lot of interest in the RTI Act.” The statistics for the year 2006-2007 informs that the directorate of panchayats received maximum applications numbering 1,705 under the RTI Act, while 1,589 of them were cleared.

 

Altogether 204 applicants sought information from the public works department out of which 105 applications were cleared during the period.

 

The transport department received 216 application and cleared 193, while North Goa collectorate received 174 applications and cleared 158. The electricity department and the health department received 183 and 77 applications, and cleared 145 and 58, respectively.

 

The department of town and country planning, the vigilance department, the department of science, technology and environment, the agriculture department, and the department of archives and archaeology received 80, 57, 67, 33 and 38 applications seeking information under the RTI Act, respectively.

 

No information was sought from Raj Bhavan during the year, even though public authority and public information officer have been appointed for the residence of the Governor.

 

Speaking further, Mr Kambli said that in rare cases the complaints come to the State Information Commission, besides the appeals.

 

“During the year 2006-2007,” he stated, “70 complaints were filed before the Commission, out of which 54 were cleared, while 102 appeals were made before the Commission, out of which 82 were cleared.”

 

It was also informed that if the government departments or autonomous bodies do not provide information to the applicants under the Act and are found to have caused them inconvenience, then the Commission orders compensation to be paid to such applicants by the respective department or body.

 

During the year 2006-2007, there were 13 cases of compensation being paid to the applicants. They include Rs 5,000 paid by the principal chief engineer of the PWD, and Rs 2,000 each paid by the secretary of the village panchayat of Assolna, superintendent of police, South Goa, Margao as well as the Mapusa municipal council, besides other nine cases.

 

Though the RTI Act came into force in the country from October 12, 2005 its implementation in Goa started around April 2006.

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