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- shows RTI
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Video conferencing for outstation RTI applicants [of Maharastra]
AS reported by Aneesh Phadnis, Economic Times, TNN
Right To Information applicants in the state have reason to cheer. From next month the state information commission will use video conferencing facilities to hear RTI appeals filed by those based outside Mumbai.
The state's chief information commissioner , Suresh Joshi, confirmed the move and said it will result in saving travel cost and time. "Both the applicant and information officer will not have to leave their city. In Mumbai we can use the video conferencing facilities in Mantralaya or the new administrative building. The applicant need not travel to Mumbai, but will have to visit his area's divisional commissioners' office which has video conferencing facilities. As usual, we will issue notices of the hearing to all parties," Joshi said.
The Central Information Commission , which is based in New Delhi and is the appellate authority for issues relating to the central government, hears cases using video conferencing. Joshi said he tried introducing video conferencing about two 1months ago, but came across some problem in the system. "I have spoken to the IT department regarding the issue," he added.
The information commission, which was constituted three years ago, has commissioners in Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad, besides Mumbai . Till date, 27,000 appeals have been filed with the commission. Of these, about 15,000 are pending, the most being 3,500 applications from Pune.
Joshi has also proposed a second post of an information commissioner in Pune. However, Joshi has so far been unable to get the posts of information commissioners appointed in Nashik and Amravati.
The government sanctioned these two posts a year and half ago, but has not even selected candidates for the post. The government had shortlisted V N Deshmukh, former chairperson of MPSC, for the post in Amravati, but he was reluctant to accept. There was also a move to depute the information commissioner from Nagpur to Nashik but that too got shelved. RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi welcomed the move to use video conferencing for appeals, but cautioned that it was a peripheral issue. "The real issue before the state information commission is to clear its pendency and it should focus on it rather than sidetracking it," he said.
Video conferencing for outstation RTI applicants-Quickies -Features-The Economic Times
Video conferencing way to clear backlog: RTI chief
as appeared in Yahoo! News, Sun, Oct 5
New Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) Decentralising the Central Information Commission (CIC) is not the way to clear the pending backlog of appeals and complaints, says India's Right to Information (RTI) chief.
'I don't think decentralizing is the answer. Video conferencing is a better option and will work far better,' Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah told IANS.
'If we decentralize, we will have to set up offices, arrange accommodation and other facilities like transport for the information commissioners and for that also a huge amount of money will have to be spent,' he added.
The Right To Information Act was passed by parliament in 2005 for promoting transparency and accountability in the system.
According to Habibullah, 'decentralization would also lead to breakdown of coordination between Public Information officers.'
'The RTI Act emphasises the use of electronic means, and video conferencing is a revolutionary system of information technology. For RTI, the next step at CIC is the introduction of video conferencing, which is inexpensive and quite efficient,' he said.
'Earlier we were using the video conferencing facility at the National Informatics Centre. But it was not always available due to which a lot of our hearings were cancelled,' Habibullah explained.
He said that video conferencing facility was available now at one of the CIC offices.
'We have divided time between all information commissioners at the office to use that facility. I am slowly looking towards all information commissioners having their own video conferencing facility so that they don't even have to use it by turn,' Habibullah added.
He further stated that whenever there is a huge backlog of cases at a particular place, the information commissioners travel to those places for a few days and hold hearings.
'Chandigarh and Puducherry are just some of the examples,' Habibullah added.
'The future step could be installation of video conferencing at all ministry offices so that they don't even have to come to the office and instead they can attend the hearing while sitting in their offices.'
'In fact, the commission has already recommended to the government to provide video conferencing facility to all secretaries in their ministries which would save both time and resources,' another CIC official said.
Asked about applicants coming from faraway places to attend a hearing at the CIC office here, Habibullah said: 'We have also taken care of that and asked them to attend hearings through video conferencing available at the district level'.
Agreeing with Habibullah's views, Magsaysay award winner and RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal said: 'I agree with Habibullah's view about using technology for RTI in the country. However, video conferencing would still have its limitations, as infrastructure would be needed.
'Instead audio conferencing will ensure that public money is saved and it would also be easier for the appellants. Information commissioners like O.P. Kejriwal have started using audio conferencing.'
'In the case of video conferencing, applicants still have to travel to the nearby district headquarters. However, in case of audio conferencing they will have to just go to the nearby telephone booth,' Arvind Kejriwal said.
However, some RTI activists still feel that decentralization of CIC will help.
Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar told IANS: 'Definitely, decentralisation will help. There is a lot of problems in video conferencing, as rural areas don't have any such facility.'
Asked about the financial burden on the government in opening CIC offices at other places in the country, Kumbhar said: 'I don't think that there would be any financial burden on the government.'
Video conferencing way to clear backlog: RTI chief - Yahoo! India News