RTI Act hits roadblock as SIC withholds details on action taken
Activists learn that instead of promoting transparency, State Information Commission is withholding details on action taken
In a twist of irony, the very authority that is supposed to promote transparency and uphold the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has instead been withholding information from the public. Activist Jeetendra Ghadge revealed that since 2015, the State Information Commission (SIC) has stopped uploading a list of actions taken against government officers who do flout the RTI Act. This was revealed after Ghadge filed an RTI application to find out how much fine had been imposed on public information officers (PIO) for such violations since 2010.
"This is a big blow to the principle of transparency upon which commission functions. Now we are not aware of how many officials were punished, or whether action was taken at all," said Ghadge. RTI activists feel that this will set a bad precedent, and will encourage PIOs to withhold information from public without any fear of punishment. "It will also increase grievances of citizens, as the success of RTI will be damaged," said activist Anil Galgali.
The RTI query further revealed that the department's annual report for 2016 has also been delayed. The data shows that the SIC had a backlog of a whopping 38,839 second appeals (when applicant applies to SIC for information after being turned away by the department he/she originally applied to for data). The Commission is also yet to deal with 2,564 complaints against PIOs who did not share information despite the SIC's orders.
"These figures show how reluctant government officials have become to follow the commission's order. Now, if the SIC does not provide details on action taken against such officials, there is high possibility that the RTI Act will lose its purpose," said Ghadge. The data also highlights that from 2010 to 2015, penalties amounting to Rs 19,33,550 have been imposed on officials in Maharashtra, but there is no word if this amount has been recovered from PIOs. State Chief Information Commissioner (in-charge) Ajitkumar Jain was unavailable for comment.
No. of second appeals pending with SIC
No. of pending complaints against PIOs
Penalties imposed on PIOs from 2010 to 2015 in rupees
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