Over a year in the making, the Delhi government’s online portal to accept Right to Information (RTI) applications is yet to take off. The government had, in January 2016, said it would start accepting online RTI applications to simplify the process for thousands of applicants. The project was supposed to begin by April 2016.
According to a reply to an RTI application filed by activist Neeraj Sharma, the portal was stuck because of the municipal elections in the city. “It may be informed that the process for online filing of RTI petitions is awaiting formal launch, which could only be there after elections for three MCDs in Delhi are over. Training sessions for PIOs and First Appellate Authorities at various departments of GNCTD (Delhi government) have already been conducted. Now since election to three MCDs are over, process for starting online RTI portal is now being expedited,” the reply sent by the Administrative Reforms department stated. The municipal elections held in the last week of April.
“It has been over a month since the polls, and the portal has still not been launched. The government had announced in 2016 that the portal would be ready in three-months’ time. That deadline has been missed entirely. The reply stated that portal was only awaiting a formal launch. If that was the case, why is it that even after almost two months since the MCD elections ended, we still can’t file an RTI online?” said Sharma.
According to a government spokesperson, the project required clearance from two quarters — the Administrative Reforms department and the Information Technology department. Both departments have cleared the project and the file is now with the National Informatics Centre.
“We have learnt that the file will be cleared soon and the portal will be up by July,” he said. The Aam Aadmi Party government has several leaders, who were part of the Right to Information movement and have advocated the use of RTIs extensively in the spirit of transparency.
At a recent Idea Exchange session at The Indian Express, Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia had said, “RTI is a tool for transparency. I don’t think it is a problem. There can of different interpretations of an RTI response, but we have never stopped that. The media trial against us has been conducted through RTI. But we give out information on our own; the truth is the truth. Look at the facts, the media trial against the AAP government always emerges from some or the other RTI.” The idea behind the project was to help residents file applications from any government department, make payments online and receive replies through email. Currently, RTI applications are filed in person or by post and the applications are affixed with postal orders of Rs 10.