Orissa’s top information activist Pradeep Pradhan has alleged that the State Information Commission is more active in violating the RTI Act than implementing.
In a statement he has relied upon information obtained through RTI on 28 December 2011 that show that the Commissioners have disposed off 1338 cases without having any enquiry into or hearing on them, within a period of four months from August to November, 2011. When the State Chief Information Commissioner has disposed off 374 complaint cases, one State Information Commissioner has disposed of 320 complaints as against disposal of 644 complaints by the other within this period. None of them has disposed of any second appeal Case during this time.
Under Sections 18, 19 and 20 of RTI Act, the Information Commission has been empowered to receive, hear, enquire and dispose the Complaints and Second Appeals and also to impose penalty on defaulting PIOs as and where required.
Therefore, the hearing of the cases is crucial in the entire process of disposal of a case, as it gives an opportunity of hearing to the concerned PIO, on whom lies the burden of proof as to whether he acted diligently to provide the requested information to the applicant, he has pointed out.
He has further alleged that, while disposing the cases in the above manner, the Commission generally directs the concerned 1st Appellate Authority to dispose the case at their level and ask the concerned complainant, if necessary to approach the Commission again in the form of a complaint or second appeal, in case he or she is dissatisfied with the decision of 1st Appellate Authority.
But this is a farce, he says, inasmuch as “no record of compliance of such directions” according to information obtained from the Commission’s office, “is maintained by the Commission”. It means, Pradhan asserts, the Commission is concerned about the rate of disposal of cases in its own arbitrary way, but not so concerned about the actual rate of compliance of its orders for providing the information to the deprived applicants.
Thus the Commission is encouraging the PIOs to disregard the RTI Act altogether. They are showing a careless attitude to the RTI applications, being overconfident that there is no fear of penalty from the Commission, the activist has pointed out.
Rejecting the claim of the Commission in public forums that there was compliance to the Commission’s orders to the extent of 90 % as false, he has observed that the Commission may be feeling a self-congratulatory satisfaction by dishing out the figures of reduced pendency, but in the process they have made RTI Act a casualty of their arbitrary action. If anything, the Information Commission has made a farce of the RTI Act by such arbitrary disposal of cases, he has stated.