Over 4 yrs after its enactment, RTI Act yet to be complied by many deptts

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Aug 20: Making mockery of the repeated statements of almost all the Ministers about enactment of progressive legislation aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability, many Government departments are reluctant to ensure voluntary disclosures under Right to Information Act.
In this way, these departments are not only depriving the common masses of the vital information but also showing scant regard to repeated directives of the General Administration Department and State Information Commission.
The Section 4 (I) (b) of the Right to Information Act provides that every public authority has to publish within 120 days from the commencement of Act different information pertaining to the organization including its Functions, Duties, Rules, Regulations, Instructions, Manuals and Records and norms set for discharge of its function etc.
But even after the lapse of more than four years, several Government departments have miserably failed to adhere to the guidelines of this historic law despite being grilled by the State Information Commission, which is to ensure implementation of the Act. “Even those departments which have their official websites are not regularly updating the same and obsolete information is available on such websites”, sources told EXCELSIOR.
What to talk of State Information Commission even General Administration Department issued repeated directions to all the departments to ensure implementation of RTI Act but it seems in many departments nobody takes the Act seriously.
This can be gauged from the fact that GAD vide Circular No-25 of GAD of 2009 dated June 5, 2009 and Circular No.15 dated April 27, 2012 had issued instructions to all the concerned to ensure the implementation of RTI Act as per the timelines provided in these Circulars.
However, during the meeting of Secretaries taken on January 31, 2014 the Chief Secretary observed that many departments had not complied with the instructions issued from time to time by the General Administration Department and had not resorted to voluntary disclosure of the information as required under the Act.
Accordingly, the GAD vide Circular No.10 dated February 25, 2014 once again enjoined upon all the Administrative Secretaries/HoDs/Deputy Commissioners to ensure that the provisions of Section 4 of RTI Act are implemented in letter and spirit by the public authorities under their control.
Shockingly, many departments have yet not ensured compliance of these circulars till date and due to the prevailing situation conclusion can be drawn that enactment of laws makes no sense unless people are really benefitted by such legislations.
In the recently held meeting of Committee of Secretaries, this vital issue was again taken up and the Commissioner/Secretary, Information Technology Department submitted a report to the Chief Secretary about the departmental websites being compliant to the Section 4 of the RTI Act, sources said.
According to the report, nine departments are yet to fully comply these provisions of the RTI Act and not much progress has been made in the matter during the past some time. “The Chief Secretary, while expressing serious concern over this, has directed the defaulting departments like Industries and Commerce, Technical Education and Youth Services and Sports to make their websites compliant immediately”, sources said.
The Secretary Information Technology Department was directed to call all the Additional and Special Secretaries of the defaulting departments and secure the compliance from the departments on this account, they said, adding Secretary IT Department would appraise the Chief Secretary in this regard in the next meeting of Committee of Secretaries.
However, there are apprehensions about 100% compliance from the defaulting departments keeping in view their non-serious approach towards the circulars of GAD till date, sources said, adding “the subordinate wings of several those departments which have hosted information as required under Section 4 of the Act, have also yet not ensured compliance of the Act”.
“If the benefit of this historic piece of legislation is to be ensured, Chief Minister should issue clear warning to the defaulting departments while making it clear that action as warranted under Service Rules would be taken in case of further non-compliance”, sources stressed.


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