Most of PIOs not showing seriousness in implementing RTI Act’s vital provisions

Facilitating record inspection, rendering support to applicants

Compliance only after CIC passes orders in complaints

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Aug 3: Most of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) in the departments of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory are not showing seriousness in ensuring voluntary compliance to the provisions of Right to Information Act vis-à-vis facilitating inspection of record and rendering assistance to the applicants in getting information, which otherwise is not readily available with them.
These vital aspects of the transparency law receive due attention of the Public Information Officers only after the Central Information Commission (CIC) either passes strictures against them or issue explicit orders for compliance.
The Central Right to Information Act, 2005 states: “The information accessible under this Act and which is held by or under the control of any public authority includes the right to inspection of work, documents and records”.
Moreover, dissemination of information has been described as making known or communicating the information to the public through notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcast, internet or any other means including inspection of offices of any public authority.
All this clearly indicates that Public Information Officers are supposed to facilitate the inspection of available record as sought by the applicant under the RTI Act on mutually agreed date and time if by any reason furnishing copies of the record sought by the applicant is not possible.
Moreover, this option can also be exercised in case the applicant expresses dissatisfaction over the reply furnished by the PIO in response to his or her applicant.
Similarly, Sub-Section 3 of Section 6 of the RTI Act states: “Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, which is held by another public authority or the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority to which such applicant is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer”.
“The transfer of an application shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application”, proviso to Sub-Section 3 of Section 6 of the RTI Act reads.
Moreover, the Public Information Officer on receipt of a request under Section 6 of the Act shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within 30 days either provide information on payment of prescribed fee or reject the request for any of the specified reasons.
However, these provisions of the transparency law aimed at facilitating inspection of record and rendering assistance to the applicants in getting information are not being taken seriously by majority of the Public Information Officers in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“Instead of facilitating the inspection of record the PIOs simply try to dodge the applicants by giving lame excuses but when the applicants get orders from the Central Information Commission the PIOs immediately extend cooperation for inspection of record”, they further said while disclosing that the CIC has passed numerous orders during the past few months expressing serious concern over lack of voluntary compliance to the provision vis-à-vis records inspection.
“There should not have been any hesitation on the part of the PIOs in facilitating inspection of relevant record by the applicants”, read the common observation made by the Central Information Commission in such orders.
As far as facilitating applicants in obtaining information from other public authority is concerned, the PIOs simply mention: “The information sought doesn’t pertain to this office as such cannot be provided”.
However, the Central Information Commission has, in numerous orders, observed, “though some PIOs adequately inform the applicants regarding unavailability of the information. But despite being aware of the probable holder of the information they don’t transfer the RTI application to the concerned public authority in total disregard to the provisions of the transparency law”.
“The Government of J&K Union Territory must pass explicit directions to all the Public Information Officers for paying serious attention towards these vital provisions of the transparency law as the same will not only facilitate the information seekers but will also reduce the burden on the Central Information Commission”, sources stressed.

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