India

RTI appeals to take decades in some states

05 Nov 2016 | By Supriya Kaur
Is RTI's power slowly being strangled?

A study on workings of 'Information Commissions' in 16 states has concluded that the inherent power of the 'Right to Information' Act (RTI) is diminishing.

Across India RTI 'Information Commissions' are choked with pending cases and RTI appeals can take years to be heard.

In Assam the 'waiting period' is 30 years whereas in West Bengal and Kerala it's 11 and 7 years respectively.

In context: Is RTI's power slowly being strangled?

OverviewThe Right To Information Act

The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) empowers every citizen to seek information from the government; its aim is to promote transparency and ensure accountability of working of public authorities.

RTI mandates public-authorities to computerize records for wide-circulation; any information requested by a citizen must be responded to within 30 days.

Information disclosure in India was formerly restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923.

RTI: A powerful tool

RTI relaxed the restrictions under the Official secrets Act, 1923 with respect to information disclosure and became a powerful tool in the hands of citizens to fight corruption: 2G scam, Commonwealth Games scam and the massive Adarsh Housing society scam were exposed via RTI.
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The RTI Process

OverviewThe RTI Process

An RTI application can be filed via post or by filling a form on the RTI website.

Upon filing, the applicant must wait 30 days to receive a response from concerned authorities.

In the event of no response, the applicant can file a first 'appeal' with the internal appellate authority.

The internal appellate authority is required to dispose off the appeal within 30-45 days.

Appeals to Information Commissions

An RTI applicant can file a second appeal to the information commission, within 90 days of the original application. Although second appeals must be disposed off within 45 days, the pendency is high as penalties aren't imposed on officers who deny information or provide misinformation.

05 Nov 2016RTI appeals to take decades in some states

DetailsFindings of the study

The study carried out by 'Research Assessment and Analysis Group' showed that despite increase in information officers under the Central Information Commission, pendency increased from 13 months to 22 months.

The pending number of RTI appeals and complaints are currently at a whopping 1.9 lakhs.

Study also revealed that states like Bihar and Rajasthan were worst performers as over 70% RTI responses were deficient.

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Penalty provision not imposed

Information commissions are empowered to impose stiff penalties on RTI officers who wrongfully deny information to RTI applicants. The penalties are a key provision of the RTI act but so far have only been imposed in 1.3 % of the cases, leading to a system-breakdown.