Officers should guard against misuse or abuse of the provisions of Right to Information Act, Shankar Patil, State Information Commissioner, said here on Tuesday.
He told officials at the zilla panchayat to use their discretion in deciding on RTI applications that were not bona fide. “If you know that an application has been filed only to harass officers or seek details of an officer or beneficiary’s private life, there is no need to give information. You can always reject the application right away, citing specific reasons,” he said. He was responding to an officer who complained that he had received a RTI application that sought the names and phone numbers of inmates of a girls’ hostel.
Recalling one of his judgments, he said that a teacher had filed numerous RTI applications only to harass a headmaster who had suspended him. “I warned him that he would be arrested if he continued to do that,” Mr. Patil said. “Karnataka implemented the Act before many other States. We are committed to bring in transparency by ensuring free flow of information and uphold the rights of citizens. However, we will not tolerate the misuse of the Act,” he assured officers.
He asked all heads of departments to appoint their second-in-command as the public information officer. This is according to the RTI Act.
He said there were over 32,000 RTI complaints and appeals pending before the commission. This is due to the long pending vacancies of officers at the commission’s office. He had requested the government to fill these posts. He said that there was a need to create more awareness about the RTI Act in rural areas.
Zilla panchayat chief executive officer Pavan Kumar Malpati, SP Prakash Nikam, Assistant Commissioner Venkat Raja and others were present.