- Any person can seek any information regarding the Institution according to the Right To Information Act 2005 from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Institution i.e.Principal.
ESSENTIALS OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION
1 Preamble to RTI Act, 2005, commands every public authority to furnish information under its control to every citizen.
2 Practically every authority established under the Government is a Public Authority under Section 2(h) of the Act; every public authority will include all Deputies or Subordinates to it under Section 19 of General Clauses Act 1897.
Under Section 5(1), every public authority is bound to appoint 'Public Information Officers' (PIO) in all Administrative Units and Offices under it; this arrangement has to be decentralised up to Sub-divisional or sub-district levels, where the PIOs are duty-bound to receive applications for information or Appeals, and forward them to concerned PIO or Senior Officer or to State Information Commission, as the case may be, under Section 5(2).
To ensure the smooth operation of the State's obligations under the RTI Act, every Public Authority is bound to keep ready all the data referred to in Section 4(1). These include all records in form which shall 'facilitate the right to information' [Cl (a)], office manuals & records [Cl b(v)], statement of categories of documents held under its control [Cl b(vi)], information in electronic form [Cl b(xiv)], 'particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information' [Cl b(xv)], names/particulars of PIOs' [Cl b(xvi)], and 'provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons' [Cl (d)].
With this paraphernalia at hand, the PIO will deal with the request for information and render 'reasonable assistance' to the applicant under Section 5(3). He may seek the assistance of any other officer for discharge pf his duties [Section 5(4)]; such other officer 'shall render all assistance to PIO', and for the purposes of any contravention of the Act shall be treated to be PIO.
Where information is held by another Public Authority, the Public Authority of PIO shall transfer the application to the other Public authority and inform the Applicant [Section 6(3)]. An important aspect of disposal or transfer of information-application is the distinction between the obligation of the Authority to whom the application is made initially and the Authority to whom the application is transferred; the PIO of the originating Authority is bound to procure all information which is maintained at any level in all its departments/sections/offices it can transfer the application only if the information is maintained by another Authority. This is the effect of Section 19 of the General Clauses Act.
7 The PIO has to furnish requisite information within 30 days of receipt of application [Section 7(1)]. The information must not be 'incorrect, incomplete or misleading', otherwise penalty can be imposed on PIO under Section 20.
While rejecting a request for information, the PIO has to communicate to the applicant, the reasons for rejection, the period in which and the Authority to whom an appeal may be filed [Section 7(8)]. The 1st Appeal has to be filed within 30 days before that officer of the same Public Authority who is senior to PIO and is designated as such for the purpose [Section 19(1)]. 2nd Appeal may be filed against the order in 1st Appeal within 90 days to State Central Information Commission under Section 19(3). The 1st Appeal and/or 2nd Appeal shall be disposed of within 30 days of its receipt, or within maximum of 45 days of the date of its filing for reasons recorded under Section 19(6).
The Apex body under the Act is the Central Information Commission under Chapter III for Central Government, and the Apex body for State Government under Chapter IV is State Information Commission (SIC). The decision of Central or State Information Commissions in Appeals are final and binding [Section 19(7)].
Over and above the 1st & 2nd Appeals provided under Section 19, a Complaint may be filed under Section 18(1) of the Act. However, this right to file a Complaint is 'subject to the provisions of the Act'; and since 'provision' has been made in the Act for filing Appeals, it follows that remedy of Appeal should be pursued before a Complaint is made. At the same time, there is no 'general' provision for Appeals; the scope of an Appeal is limited to the situations specifically set out in Section 19. Hence all such situations as going beyond Section 19, could attract a Complaint u/s 18(1). For example, Section 19(1) provides that where a decision of PIO is not 'received' within 30 days, the applicant may file an Appeal; but this provision does not include a situation in which no 'decision' has been taken at all. So, where PIO fails to pass a final order within 30 days, a complaint can be filed against the failure. It is, of course, expected that the PIO who has not passed an order will not 'create and ante-date' an order; that will amount to forgery & misconduct/misbehaviour. Judicially, an order which is required to be communicated but is not put in course of communication is non-est (=non-existent).
The Act has conferred effective powers on SIC. In an Appeal, it can award Compensation to the aggrieved party u/s 19(8)(b). Under Section 20, both in Appeal and Complaint, SIC can impose penalty on PIO at the rate of Rs 250/- per day till the information in question is furnished; the aggregate of penalty amount, of course, cannot exceed Rs 25,000/-
With these vast powers in hand, the Act expects the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners to possess certain standard of competence, learning and high public image. The mandatory provision under Section 15(5) is that they "shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience of law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance." It is interesting to read the antecedents of some of the present personnel of State Information Commission of UP published in January 2009 issue of a monthly Hindi Magazine, Sachchi Muchchi; the details leave much to be desired.
A significant grievance of users of RTI is that that there are too many adjournments in the CIC which involve lot of underserved expenditure, besides waste of time, specially when the law has given liberty to the applicant/appellant not to be personally present during hearing [vide Rule 7 of the Central Information Commission (Appeal Procedure) Rules, 2005]. Further, in Appeal or Complaint proceeding, it is PIO's obligation to prove that he acted reasonably and diligently in dealing with the motion for information [vide Proviso to Section 20(1)]. Thus no Appeal/Complaint can be rejected simply on account of applicant's absence; the order of CIC or the Appellate Authority in every case, therefore, has to be on merits, i.e. for recorded reasons.
Finally, success of RTI depends upon the good faith of the Users and sincere implementation of the Act by the Authorities. Users should confine its use only to obtain redress of genuine grievances without causing embarrassment to the Authorities and the latter should whole-heartedly cooperate in helping the users in redressal of their grievances; there should be no game of hide-and-seek.
Public Information Officer :
DIRECTOR,HIGHER EDUCATION : APPEALING OFFICER
DR. CHANDRA RAM, Principal: PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER (LOK SOOCHNA ADHIKARI)
DR. MAHIPAL SINGH : ASSISTANT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER (SAHAYAK LOK SOOCHNA ADHIKARI)