Other States

RTI queries draw unusual responses

Odd though it may sound, the Odisha Forest Department has refused to divulge travel details of officers deployed in protection of forests and wildlife, arguing that it would compromise with nation’s sovereignty and integrity.

Some people, who wanted information regarding alleged corruption in the Uchhupur Cooperative Society in Puri district, were provided blank papers last year. Apprehending foul play, seven information-seekers had opened the registered postal envelopes in the presence of the postman and found only plain papers.

Despite a decade and half of passage of the historic RTI Act and massive awareness programmes conducted, government officials have found bizarre ways to deny information in the State.

Concerned over alleged frequent poaching of elephants in the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) and adjoining area, wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty had sought copies of tour dairies of STR’s Field Director and Deputy Directors.

On September 1, the STR PIO replied that the information attracted Section (1) (a) of RTI Act, 2005.

The Section (1) (a) RTI Act, 2005 reads, “Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.” Under the clause, the public authority is not under obligation to disclose the information.

‘Confusing replies’

Pradip Pradhan, convenor of Odisha Soochna Adhikar Abhijan, an RTI forum, said, “Lack of imposition of penalty has emboldened public authorities. They are taking different excuses to deny information. They evade supplying information by asking exorbitant cost of true copies of documents and sometimes answers are deliberately made confusing to discourage information seekers.”

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 5:21:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rti-queries-draw-unusual-responses/article32663734.ece

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