Records untraceable- RTI applicant in the lurch

It is just a brazen instance of how service in a government department is not taken with all seriousness it deserves as an applicant under RTI seeking a particular information has been denied the same for full five years . The reason put forth is as ridiculous as it is unacceptable by all accounts that of non availability of records. As is wont with such an incompetent system, the means adopted to keep off the applicant is to shift the onus between multiple Public Authorities. Perhaps, the very elementary but cardinal functioning of a public office is to maintain properly all the records of papers, decisions, files, registers , documents etc and whenever a need arises for its retrieval either for any reference or for any other purpose, the same must be made available. Repeatedly, the fact that dispensing information under the RTI to an applicant must receive prompt attention has been, off and on brought home to all Departmental Heads and other concerned functionaries failing which direct intervention of Central Information Commission (CIC) becomes inevitable which usually takes a serious view of the lapse.
In the instant case, the CIC has directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Headquarters of Jammu and Kashmir Police to conduct detailed inquiry into the matter and fix responsibility in respect of glaring lapses in record maintaining. At the outset, how can non -availability of the relevant records be made sort of a base to get relieved of the responsibility to have it secured properly and secondly , how can the applicant be subjected to such a treatment which is nothing short of a harassment . The predicament of the higher authorities in the Police Department can be visualised by the remarks passed by the CIC wherein the ”baffling” stance of the concerned officials has been asked to be taken note of and ”corrective measures” taken. Whatever the information is asked for and in the instant case, it pertains to an application submitted under the RTI in October 2015 , the Department has failed to submit. In respect of every record , there must be ancillary or supportive information in the shape of any other document and the records can be built but when there is no fear of accountability and from within on individual basis there is deficiency of taking initiatives , the situation reaching the present pass is the expected outcome.
The information sought is in respect of the testimonials submitted by a police official at the time of applying for the post of sub-inspector and other relevant details which the Department concerned has failed to provide. The CIC has quoted the relevant provisions under which the information sought for falls under “disclosure of information in larger public interest.” Even the manner and structure of the enquiry asked by the CIC to be instituted, has been advised by it to the IGP and has directed for the report to be sent to it within a period of 45 days. It may be observed that randomly such instances take place which serve the purpose of the levels of where the working of the government departments stood . Not only such intervention in the matter by the CIC is reflection on the concerned department in respect of innocently or knowingly disregarding the importance of the matters under the RTI but pointing out flaws by the CIC in the functioning of the concerned department and hence its failure to provide information to an applicant resulting in an awkward and embarrassing position to the authority concerned of the defaulting department. Therefore, not only more awareness about the importance of the RTI was required to be created but intermittent inspections and audits conducted where such lacunae can be found and pointed out in order to rectify those in time to prevent such an unpleasant situation from taking place.