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Filing an RTI query? Be prepared to wait


karira

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karira

As reported by Viju B of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 22 August 2008:

Filing an RTI query? Be prepared to wait -Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India

 

Filing an RTI query? Be prepared to wait

 

MUMBAI: The UPA government last week proposed an initiative to convert a phone call into an RTI application in order to spread the movement across the country. Ironically, the state where the RTI movement has been a runaway success may soon be rendered ineffective as the number of pending appeals has reached an all-time high.

 

The six information commissions across Maharashtra have a whopping 16,866 appeals pending till June this year. While the information commissions had received a total 26,870 appeals, the commissions had disposed of 9,914 appeals till June this year.

 

An applicant is often forced to file a second appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC) after both the RTI query and the first appeal fail to provide the exact information the applicant had sought. Last year, over 3 lakh RTI queries were filed across the state, but the number of appeals mounted as months progressed. Mumbai alone has 4,818 appeals pending till June this year.

 

RTI activists said all six information commissioners should dispose of appeals at a faster pace if the Act has to survive in the long run. "Appeals that have been filed one-and-a-half-years ago are still pending with the commission. At this rate, by the end of 2009, the pendency will be over three years old,'' said RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi.

 

In 2007, the commissioners had disposed of 3,600 appeals and complaints and, on an average, disposed of about 900 appeals per commissioner per year. "The pendency can be reduced effectively by reducing the inflow of second appeals and complaints, and secondly by increasing the rate disposals,'' Gandhi said. A comparison with the disposal of cases with the Bombay high court judges and the information commissioners show that while each high court judge disposed of on an average 2,530 cases annually, the information commissioner on an average disposed of 899 appeals last year. Activists said the commissions could reduce the number of appeals considerably if they were more severe on penalties. "The public information office (PIO) and appellate authority today do not care to provide information as they know that they will not be pulled up,'' said Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahaadikar . Meanwhile, officials at the SIC said they are heavily understaffed and till date, their pleas to appoint a law officer and registrar have not been considered. "Many appeals could have been cleared at the level of the appellate authority, but they refuse to provide information on frivolous grounds,'' the SIC official said. On Friday, a group of RTI activists are planning to submit a memorandum to the SIC and request the commission to reduce the pendency of cases to 90 days.

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Unless CIC/SICs start penalising PIO & FAA for not properly discharging their obligations under the act, they will continue to dodge the public and second appeals/complaints will continue to pile up, and soon the applicants will have to wait for 8-10 years, as is hapening in courts. RTI is being made ineffective by ICs themselves due to soft corner for PIO/FAA.

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karira

As reported by Viju B of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 23 August 2008:

Activists seek plan to reduce RTI delays -Mumbai-Cities-The Times of India

 

Activists seek plan to reduce RTI delays

 

Mumbai: The state's information commissioners on Friday agreed to reduce the pendency of RTI appeals after a group of activists met them and expressed concern over the survival of the act.

 

The information commissioners also suggested measures like the presence of RTI activists and volunteers for the hearings and came up with strategies to reduce the delay.

 

TOI on Friday reported how the huge pendency of appeals was slowly rendering the RTI Act ineffective in the long run. The six information commissions across Maharashtra had a whopping 16,866 appeals pending till June this year. The information commissions had received a total 26,870 appeals but had disposed of only 9,914 in that period.

 

More than a dozen RTI activists from around the city, led by Shailesh Gandhi, met state information commissioner Suresh Joshi at his chamber on Friday.

 

The activists not only voiced concern over the growing backlog but also demanded a concrete action plan to bring the situation under control within a few months.

 

Joshi said the commission was experimenting with various measures to expedite the disposal of cases at various levels, especially at the firstappeal state. "This will yield visible results within two months,'' Joshi assured.

 

One of the issues highlighted during the discussion was the need to impose stringent penalties on public information officers (PIOs) who did not provide the details sought or gave misleading information . "The State Information Commission's reluctance to levy penalties lets PIOs flout rules with abandon. This will defeat the purpose of the sunshine act, which gives citizens access to timely and useful information,'' Gandhi said.

 

A comparison with the disposal of cases by the Bombay high court and information commissioners shows up things in true light.

 

Each high court judge disposed of, on an average, 2,530 cases annually. On the other hand, every information commissioner disposed of only 899 appeals last year.

 

RTI activists now plan to keep regular tabs on the appeals . "We plan to go to the SIC's office on a weekly basis to ensure that the waiting period for appeals before the commission does not exceed 90 days,'' Gandhi said.

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