In a move to address the long standing complaints of Right to Information (RTI) users, the state government has issued a circular which has now debarred public information officers (PIOs) and appellate authorities (AA) from hearing or taking decisions on RTI applications which seek personal information about them. The onus of taking decisions about such applications has now been given to the public authorities or other PIOs/AAs.
PIOS and AA are designated by the RTI Act to take decisions about the application requests from information seekers. In case of information related to PIO or AA, the decision is taken by those officials themselves. RTI activists had pointed out how this was in contravention to the set norms of jurisprudence. Judges are often known to refuse hearing of cases if they feel there would be a conflict of interest in them — “Not before me” — is the commonly used term in such cases.
The recent notification issued by the General Administrative Department (GAD) of the state government, other than barring the PIOS/AAs from hearing such applications, have issued several other directives. Such applications are to be duly registered and separate records should be kept of them. As mentioned above, the new notification has mandated that such applications would be heard by the public authority (this usually is the head of the establishment) or other PIOs/AAs.
Activist Vijay Kumbhar welcomed the move by the state government. “However, this notification shows that there were cases when PIOs and AAs took to deciding cases where there were clear cut conflict of interest. Such cases should have been avoided from the start but that did not happen,” he said.