Central Information Commissioner,M L Sharma,held a special hearing of cases filed against various departments of the Chandigarh Administration under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,here today. Nearly 55 complaints were filed by members of NGOs,Burning Brain Society and Citizens Voice,under the Mission Zero Tolerance initiative to make the functioning of public offices more transparent and accountable.
The conference room of the UT guest house,where the hearing was held,was packed with over 100 public information officers and appellate authorities. The cases,argued by social activist Hemant Goswami,pertained to the period between December 2007 and January 2008,when a group of young law students visited various offices to submit RTI applications.
The complaints mentioned that in more than half the cases,either the Central Public Information Officer was not available or the RTI applications were not accepted.
The complainants claimed that under the mandatory Section 4(1) (b) and (c),disclosures were neither displayed on the notice board nor were provided when demanded by the complainants,which was in violation of the Act. Since most of the cases were of a similar nature,Sharma decided to club all the cases and pronounced a consolidated order. He also held an open session with all Public Information Officers and the appellates of various departments and asked them to follow the Act both in letter and spirit.
I have noticed that junior officers have been assigned the job of CPIO and appellate authority in some departments. This is wrong and departments should assign a senior officer. Also,there must be proper application of mind before disposing an appeal,even if the information seeker is not present. Both the CPIO and the appellate authority should adopt a positive attitude towards the information seekers as it is their right to obtain any information permissible by law, Sharma said.