Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Information Commission (SIC) has urged the Kerala government to instruct public authorities, as defined under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to go in for proactive disclosure of information relating to them.

In its annual report to the government, the commission points out that even though proactive disclosure is mandatory under the Act, many public authorities are not doing so. Such disclosure, the commission feels, will reduce the number of requests for information. Keeping in view the cost and time elements involved in publishing and updating information through the print media, it is advisable to immediately publish the information on the official websites of the government and the organisations concerned.

Organisations can be encouraged to develop their own websites and provide information through them. Funds available under e-governance may be profitably utilised for the purpose, the report says. The commission also recommends publication of lists of public authorities under each administrative department in order to remove any ambiguity in the matter. Under the RTI Act, public authorities include institutions and non-governmental organisations which are controlled or are substantially financed by the government. However, some institutions such as cooperative banks, aided schools and colleges, management of religious institutions and places of worship, libraries, etc., which are either controlled or are substantially financed by the government, are under the impression that the provisions of the RTI Act are not applicable to them, the commission says.

It reminds the government that though many public authorities have designated assistant public information officers, public information officers and appellate authorities, some are yet to do so. This is especially so in the case of non-governmental organisations substantially financed by the government such as private aided colleges and schools and cooperative societies. The commission recommends designation of more than one public information officer in major offices such as corporations and municipalities, Directorate of Health Services, Directorate of Education, Directorate of Public Instruction, Police Department, etc. to receive and dispose of requests under the RTI Act.

Taking note of the many instances where applicants have faced harassment and oral threats from officers/employees of certain public authorities, the commission urges the government to create awareness among the public information officers and assistant public information officers on the provisions of the RTI Act for imposing severe punishment.