Subhash Chandra Agrawal for BeyondHeadlines
India is celebrating eight anniversary of Right-To-Information Act which has divided post-independence period into two eras, one pre-RTI Act and the other post-RTI Act. Transparency Act has given countrymen second freedom where citizens have power which is at times practically more than those available to Parliamentarians leading even law-makers taking RTI-route to grill government. While Parliamentarians have one chance of being provide written reply to an un-starred Parliamentary question, RTI Act provides three opportunities on a single RTI petition with additional provision of first Appellate Authority and Information Commission.
RTI Act has done wonders in exposing scams, scandals and irregularities making system refine for betterment. Scams like 2-G, CWG-2010 were exposed through a series of RTI petitions. Even judiciary which was considered perfectly immunised from public scrutiny has to become transparent and thus fairer with even Supreme Court judges bowing to media and public pressure by sue-motto disclosure of their wealth because of a much talked-about RTI petition, followed by wealth-disclosure of ministers and even President of India all by virtue of RTI petitions. RTI-revelation of large misuse of public-money on Presidential tours by Pratibha Patil for leisure and pleasure of her friends and relations ultimately resulted in making all tour-details at government-expense public. CIC-verdict for bringing political parties under RTI Act has invoked public-awareness towards transparency in political system and poll reforms. Much more reforms are expected in time to come. Right-To-Information petitions if properly drafted can rather result in ‘Right-To-Action’. RTI Act has not only been a curative medicine but also a preventive medicine in effectively checking scams, scandals and irregularities in system.
However it is a matter of regret that such a wonderful reform-tool is being misused by some miscreants as is clear by CIC-decision dated 26.07.2013 in appeal-numbers CIC/SM/A/2013/000401 & 416 wherein the then Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra while dismissing the appeals also observed: “this Appellant is in the
Bare reading of CIC-verdicts in other about 122 cases filed by the same petitioner reflects that the petitioner has been in habit of filing absolutely frivolous and irrelevant RTI petitions thus wasting precious time of Central Information Commission already overburdened with a backlog of pending petitions. Significantly the petitioner based outside Delhi has never utilised facility of video-conferencing for appearing before the Commission. Such frivolous petitions should be rejected without even wasting valuable time and resources of Central Information Commission and public-authorities. After all Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) had to impose a word-limit of 500 words considering some petitioners sending extra large petitions where bare reading of the petition could take many many-hours what to talk about time taken in responding to the same.
Likewise is the case of another petitioner whose complaints are summarily disposed sometimes in hundreds per day (example 30.09.2013) where the petitioner always claims having not received any response from various public-authorities. Such curious cases should also be analysed on individual basis to ascertain if concerned public-authorities had not actually responded to RTI petitions. Much can be improved if RTI fees may be uniformly fixed at rupees 50 with first 20 copied pages provided free-of-cost by specifically mentioning for RTI fees in sections 27 and 28 of RTI Act so that no public-authority may have liberty to fix an RTI fees other than stipulated by Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT).
If RTI Act has given right to citizenry, then people also should feel themselves duty-bound to utilise it with responsibility.
(Writer is Guinness Record Holder for most letters in newspapers and an RTI activist)