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Appeal to PIOs to provide all information sought by public within 30 days
‘A nodal officer should be appointed in each department to ensure Act is implemented'
BANGALORE: Kria Katte – an organisation of associations and individuals engaged in disseminating information on the Right to Information Act among the people — on Thursday urged Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to increase the number of information commissioners in the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC).
The organisation said such an act would help in speedy disposal of the applications and appeals filed before the Commission.
Speaking to presspersons, katte convener Ravindranath Guru urged the Government to direct Public Information Officers (PIOs) to provide all information sought for by the public within the mandatory 30 days stipulated under the RTI Act. He said that these measures are necessary to clear 9,317 cases pending with the KIC.
Mr. Guru said that similar directions should be given to the first appellate authority to attend to the first appeals without loss of time. He said that the Public Authorities should publish suo motu declarations under Sec. 4 (1)(a) and 4 (1) of the Act, which they should do within 120 days of the Act coming into force. Had it been done by them, citizens, who had applied for information would have obtained it long ago, he added.
He said that the Government should nominate a senior officer of the rank of joint secretary or above as a nodal officer in each department to ensure that the RTI Act is implemented in toto. Criticising the high-level committee headed by the Chief Secretary for having failed to hold quarterly meetings in the last 16 months, he said representatives of two civil society organisations should be nominated on the panel to highlight the difficulties faced by the public. This would help in achieving transparency and accountability.
He said that a State could have ten commissioners in the CIC including experts from law, science and technology, social service, management and journalism. However, as of now, there were only four in the State, all from the administration side.
Against call centres
Opposing suggestions for setting up call centres to receive applications from the citizens under the Act, Mr. Guru said that it had failed in Bihar. Katyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee, Civic Bangalore, opposed amendments sought to be incorporated into the RTI Act. She urged the Centre not to amend the Act exempting the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from its purview. “There is no reason why CJI should be exempted as he is a public authority and a paid authority.”
The second amendment is for “vexatious and frivolous” applications. Who decides which application is vexatious and frivolous? A public information officer can reject an application, saying that it is frivolous. An officer can reject an application for providing information stating it questions his authority.
Under the present Act, once a Cabinet decision is taken, it should be made public. Anyone can ask for and get the paper and see the rationality of the decision. Now the Government wants to exempt all such papers from public scrutiny. That will give scope for taking irrational decisions, she added.
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