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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

CIC serves notices but babus refuse to budge: YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW

Of 70 Applicants, Only 7 Satisfied With Replies
Nidhi Sharma TNN: New Delhi: Even after a year of implementation, people are still struggling to exercise their right to information. Despite directions and orders of Central Information Commission (CIC) — the final appellate body for Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005 — government babus refuse to comply and part with information. And that’s not all. CIC’s notices to the departments on non-compliance refuse to make the officials budge. Raj Kumar had filed an application in Municiapal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) under the RTI Act in November 2005. Despite a CIC order, he has been waiting for information from MCD. His struggle started from the south zone office of MCD. He had sought information about a plot on which he alleged that some illegal construction was going on. The chief public information officer (CPIO) gave him information related to some other plot. Kumar again filed an appeal. Meanwhile, the CPIO admitted that there was illegal construction on the plot but did not know whether it was under the jurisdiction of MCD or DDA. CPIO said that MCD had sent a letter to DDA on this. When Kumar asked for a copy of the letter, MCD refused. He filed an appeal, which got rejected. He finally appealed to CIC. On March 6, 2006, CIC instructed MCD to provide Kumar the requisite information. Till date, MCD has not complied with the order. When Kumar did not get any information, he filed a contempt petition in CIC in July 2006. The commission cannot trace his files. A completely disillusioned Kumar says that he now has filed a plea in CIC seeking information about his file. Kumar is not alone. In October 2006, CIC had directed National Saving Institute to provide information to H K Pal on certain appointments made ‘‘within 15 days.’’ So far, Pal has not received any information. Similarly, R K Mirg had asked ministry of home affairs for file inspection under the RTI Act. He was not allowed to inspect file notings during the inspection. CIC asked MHA to show him file notings in its June 2006 order. So far, Mirg has not been allowed. RTI expert and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal blames CIC for this failure. ‘‘The biggest problem is that CIC does not impose a penalty. That is the reason why officials give incomplete or wrong information because they know that nothing will happen to them. Most of the cases end up at CIC.’’ However, this does not help common man at all. Firstly, there is a long waiting period of atleast seven to eight months and even after a favourable order, they do not get the information they are seeking. M P Tyagi, for instance, has been waiting for a hearing at CIC since February 2006. The cause list of CIC on Monday had hearing of cases that had been filed in April and May 2006. Parivartan, an NGO working on better implementation of the RTI Act, has set up a kiosk in front of CIC office to gauge the satisfaction levels of RTI applicants. Of the 70 applicants, who have filled questionnaires, there are only seven who are satisfied with the functioning of CIC.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 27; Section:Times City; Page Number 8

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