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Monday, February 19, 2007

RTI activists to now act as watchdog over info panel

Himanshi Dhawan | TNN :New Delhi: From Monday, applicants dissatisfied by the Central Information Commission’s style of functioning will find help at hand. A group of NGOs, including Parivartan and Delhi Right to Information Manch spearheaded by Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal, will camp outside the CIC office to record people’s experiences and help them get redressal.
‘‘In the most grave cases of injustice, we will approach the high court to get information for the ordinary people,’’ Kejriwal said.
The information watchdog is under flak for various problems ranging from large pendency of cases to dissatisfied applicants who accuse information commissioners of dismissing their applications summarily.
When contacted, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said he was unaware of the campaign. ‘‘I don’t want to comment on the campaign. I have no idea as to the purpose behind this but let’s see. It is up to them... we will continue with our work,’’ he said.
Some of the issues that NGOs plan to take up are the lack of transparency in proceedings besides the pending cases. According to CIC records, the number of cases as of January 2007 are 2,371. The commission received 608 cases in January but was able to dispose of only 297. Civil society activists also feel that cases are disposed of without calling the applicant or giving people a chance to be heard. ‘‘The commission has not issued more than 7-8 penalties despite hearing over 2,000 cases. This is a pittance and shows its huge sympathy for the bureaucracy,’’ Kejriwal said.
NGO representatives have also complained that the scope of Section 8 of the Act or the information that is exempted from being made public has been widened while the Act itself is being restricted to a small number of issues. Activists said that many applications had been dismissed on the basis that the information asked for was of a ‘‘fiduciary nature’’ or hurt the personal or institutional interests of the organisation.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 18; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13

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