Information Act non-starter


Nearly three months after it was notified by the Delhi Government, in early, October, the Right to Information Act, under which a citizen can seek any information from the Administration after paying a fee has failed to take off. What is more, the agencies, civic bodies, officials and public undertakings concerned have even started violating its provisions.

The reasons are not far too seek. Political apathy and lack of awareness on the part of citizens, coupled with bureaucratic reluctance to part with information under the Act which threatens to expose the very system, has seen to it that remains a non-starter.

``While no strategy has been devised so far for its implementation, the Delhi Government has not even come out with any guidelines. And given the pace at which things are moving, it will take at least a few years for the Right to Information Act to be widely used by people of the Capital,'' said a senior official of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

A few days ago, the MCD received an application from a voluntary organisation, which deposited the requisite Rs. 50 as fee, seeking certain information on the civic body. While a representative of the NGO had to make several trips to Town Hall, the MCD headquarters, to fill in an application form, the information that it sought is still being compiled!

Such is the lack of awareness even among bureaucrats that when a MCD official of the level of Deputy Commissioner in one of the Zones, was asked to furnish the information, in the format prescribed by the Government notification, it was flatly refused, making a mockery of the Right to Information Act.

Consequently, it is understood that the MCD has convened a meeting of senior officials in the first week of January to ascertain the gravity of the situation and discuss their obligations vis-a-vis the Act.

Officials conceded that no step has been taken by the MCD for effective implementation of the Right to Information Act. ``Not even the paper work for publication of information on the Act in the form of booklets, folders or pamphlets has begun,'' they said.

Under the Act, information like particulars of organisation, functions and duties; powers and duties of officers and employees and procedure followed by them in the decision-making process; norms set by the public authority for the discharge of its functions; laws, by-laws, rules, regulations, instructions and the manuals; details of facilities available to citizens for obtaining the information; and name, designation and other particulars of the competent authority should be made available to the public not only through information counters and display boards but also on internet.

``No such step has been taken by us,'' said a senior officer of the Delhi Vidyut Board. Conceding that as per the Act, people can seek information even through e-mail, officials, however, said such a measure will take some time.

``This type of Act can be implemented in countries like the U.S., Britain and France, but not in India. It will create a lot of problems for us as people will leak the information they get from us to the media or file a PIL. The entire administrative machinery will come to a standstill,'' contended a senior Jal Board official.

In fact, these agencies have already started violating the provisions of the Act, which make it mandatory for every public authority to not only maintain all records, but also catalog and index them, publish all relevant facts concerning important decisions and policies that affect the public while announcing such a decision, and give reasons for its decisions, whether administrative or quasi-judicial.

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