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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Be courteous to info seekers : Important instructions on RTI Act which are a must-see for all PIOs and Appellate Authorities as well as info-seekers

I agree that the RTI Act can sometimes be a pain for PIOs when perhaps misused by litigious personalities. However any miniscule negative side-effects of the Act are far outweighed by the sheer constructive consequence that the Act has had on public life. This is the single one step which has brought in some amount of transparency and accountability in governance. And that is the reason why it pains me to hear certain PIOs speak in derogatory terms about RTI applicants as if information seekers are enemies of the State.

This attitude needs to be curbed. The Act is a piece of legislation which empowers each citizen to have access to public information, files, notings, material etc which normally is hidden behind an unnecessary veil of secrecy. The Act has also forced public authorities to tread on the path of administrative reform and to actually do what they are supposed to do. There was a time when the administration used to just sit on applications made by the public. Not anymore. One IPO of Rs 10 does wonders - which brings us back to the topic. PIOs need to treat RTI Applicants as equal participants towards the aim of responsive governance and a regime of transparent administration. And this is exactly why the DoPT (the controlling Ministry for RTI) had issued instructions in 2008 (No 4/9/2008-IR) asking PIOs to be courteous to information seekers. Acknowledging that it had been brought to the notice of the DoPT that some PIOs do not ‘behave properly’ with information seekers, the department has reminded PIOs that the ‘responsibility of a public authority and its public information officers (PlOs) is not confined to furnish Information but also to provide necessary help to the information seeker, wherever necessary. While providing information or rendering help to a person, it is important to be courteous to the information seeker and to respect his / her dignity.’

The above mentioned instructions become all the more important in view of the fact that the RTI Act does not only provide a right to seek information but also to inspect files and records the application for which can be made to the concerned PIO and for which no charges are chargeable for the first hour (Rs 5/- are however charged for every fifteen minutes thereafter).

The benefits of the Act in a military backdrop have already been highlighted in this earlier post.


Anonymous said...

RTI is the most potent legislation ever enacted by the Indian State.

Anonymous said...

The administration and the officialdome should learn to be fair and transparent in their functioning as soon as possible. This is more so required in the fauj where every thing is shrouded in secrecy.

Beniwal said...

It is seen that our own uniformed PIOs do not help Information seeker by giving correct/complete info. Appellate Authority also generally agrees to PIO, since they know info seeker will get frustrated or complaint to CIC will take years, by then purpose of info may be lost. PIOs also take cover under section 8(j)(personal info) for not parting with the info there by harm the interest of one/many. As maj. Navdeep had pointed out earlier, that our own officers have to change their mind set to help which is there, without giving from PIO/helper's pocket. Let us help each other. It is sad and shameful that what we get from MoD is denied by our own by misinterprtation of rules. Any one need general help for RTI may write to trident142@gamil.com

Navdeep / Maj Navdeep Singh said...


My blogpost was not on 'uniformed' PIOs but on the issue as a whole.


Satish said...

Our nation on the whole suffers from lack of user empowerment at all levels.As an example in Army a soldier (USER) has no say in how funds meant for maintenance/new construction of his accomadation whether married or single is being utilised.So is the case with rations though scaling depends on numbers.The contracts are executed and monitored by those who have no stake and are not personally affected.RTI is the only way some empowerment has taken place though only Post event monitoring can be carried out now.With the advance of technology maybe some day we might have real time.

Beniwal said...

Please read email id as- trident142@gmail.com in my above post. Thanks to Maj. Navdeep. What I said is general approach of PIOs including fauji PIOs,who should be more helpful to other faujis.

Lt Col G Kameswara Rao (retd) said...

When I aked the Cabinet Secretariat for some information and file notings, I was told that it is exempt under section 8 (i) (e) and file notings by officers are of a fiduciary trust and no public interest would be served by giving the information sought for ! In such a case all departments will refuse to give the information and file notings on the same pretext and the purpose of the RTI Act 2005 as laid down in its preamble is completely lost -- the bureaucracy will take the umbrella of section 8 (i)(e) and refuse to furnish all information, defeating the very purpose of the Act. I have submitted an appeal to the Appellate authority and am awaitng an answer.

Vikas said...

I have been able to obtain information from Station Headquarters after their initial refusal - thanks to RTI. It really worked wonders.

In case of doubt regarding which PIO the application must be adressed to, it is best to send it to the following address for correct routing

RTI Cell
G-6, D-1 Wing,
Sena Bhawan
(Near Gate No 4)
Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army)
New Delhi - 110011

A Postal Order for Rs 10/- payable to "GSO1, RTI Fund, New Delhi" must be enclosed.