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Don't misuse RTI Act, people told

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WITH RAPT ATTENTION: (From left) Retired civil servant and former Policy Advisor to United Nations (Food and Agricultural Organisation) B.S. Raghavan, Coimbatore District Collector Neeraj Mittal, Chairman of Kural B.K. Krishnaraj Vanavarayar, and Ch ief Information Commissioner, Right to Information Act, S. Ramakrishnan at a meeting organised in Coimbatore on Saturday to sensitise people to Right to Information Act. - Photo: M. Periasamy
WITH RAPT ATTENTION: (From left) Retired civil servant and former Policy Advisor to United Nations (Food and Agricultural Organisation) B.S. Raghavan, Coimbatore District Collector Neeraj Mittal, Chairman of Kural B.K. Krishnaraj Vanavarayar, and Ch ief Information Commissioner, Right to Information Act, S. Ramakrishnan at a meeting organised in Coimbatore on Saturday to sensitise people to Right to Information Act. - Photo: M. Periasamy

Staff Reporter

`The Act has made right to information the duty of the Government'

Coimbatore: Training Government employees on responsibilities under the Right to Information Act (RTI) of 2005 will ensure successful implementation of the Act, said S. Ramakrishnan, Chief Information Commissioner for RTI, here on Saturday.

Mr Ramakrishnan was speaking at a meeting organised by five voluntary organisations: Citizens Voice Club, Karam, Kural, Residents' Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC) and Siruthuli, aimed at creating awareness on RTI.

He said this Act had made right to information the duty of the Government. "It is true that the Government employees have some reluctance and confusion in implementation of the same but definitely there is no resistance or lethargy".

Process to be simplified

He announced that that the process for applying for information under the provisions of the Act was to be simplified shortly and said there was no need to pay the fee of Rs 50 for appeals.

He exhorted applicants to seek practical and realistic information. RTI should be used and not misused.

An information officer could be penalised, if he had deliberately or intentionally refused or delayed information or even furnished wrong information, he said.

Chairman of Kural, B.K. Krishnaraj Vanvarayar, said a self-made industrial city without even a single Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) had once again proved that it would pioneer a people's movement.

District Collector Neeraj Mittal said right to information was already available in an implicit manner under Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, but the Act had made the right more explicit.

Exemption

Consultant lawyer for Federation of Consumer Organisations of Tamil Nadu (FEDCOT) C.A. Das said there were more than 25,000 written laws in the country and some of them were gathering dust.

The law gave scope for asking any information without citing reasons, for copies and even samples. If addressed to a wrong official, the particular officer was responsible to reach it to the one concerned.

The only exemption was for information relating to National Security. In case an applicant does not know whom to address the application, it could be sent to the personal assistant (general) to the Collector.

Retired civil servant and former policy advisor to the United Nations (Food and Agricultural Organisation) B.S. Raghavan said even colonial rulers used to say that every petition concerned the life of a citizen with grievances.

Such an attitude was absent in today's administrators, he said. "During the colonial rule, which we even called slavery, civil servants and authorised signatories would end their letters saying `your obedient and humble servant','' Mr Raghavan said.

In Independent India petitioners were handled arrogantly, he lamented. The Act was aimed at converting the petitioners into rulers in the real spirit of democracy, he added.

``Be forthcoming with information on the status of applications and petitions on your notice board," he told government officers. He exhorted the heads of departments to revive the practice of reviewing pending petitions/applications status on a weekly basis to instil fear and inspect offices regularly.

G. Soundararajan of RAAC, Vanitha Mohan, Managing Trustee of Siruthuli, A.V. Varadarajan of Karam took part in the meeting.

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