MAHARASHTRA may have played a key role in the promulgation of the Right to Information (RTI), Act 2005, but several bottlenecks have hampered the Act’s progress and led to significant gaps in its implementation.
Such has been the apathy of the state government towards the implementation of the Act that the State Information Commission (SIC) in its Annual Report has refused to issue any recommendations for better implementation of the Act this year as well.
Every year, it is mandatory for the SIC to present its annual report on the implementation of the RTI Act to the state government. The report is to be laid before the state legislature and besides details pertaining to number of applications received or disposed, recommendations by the SIC for better implementation of the Act are also to be issued. Mostly, the recommendations are of administrative nature and the state is expected to act on them to make RTI more powerful and user friendly in the state. The SIC has quasi-judiciary powers and can give orders to the government.
The 10th annual report records the RTI implementation of 2015. Older reports by the SIC, accessed by The Indian Express, shows that since 2006, the SIC has been issuing recommendations for better implementation of the RTI Act in the state. In 2007, 10 recommendations, including the direction for a government resolution to clear the air for issuance of ‘true copies’ or photocopies of documents, were given. During 2008, 2009 and 2010, seven more suggestions were issued. The annual reports of 2011, 2012 and 2013 had sent 6, 15 and 7 recommendations respectively. The SIC has refused to issue new recommendations for 2014 and 2015 and instead asked the state to implement the older recommendations. Inclusion of the RTI Act in the syllabus of qualifying examinations for the state civil services, appointment of public information officers and appellate authorities for implementation of the Forest Rights Act, guidelines to streamline the process of filling RTI fees and setting up of a contingency fund for the commissionerate were some of the recommendations made earlier.
Reacting to the poor implementation of the Act, RTI activist Vivek Velankar said, it is an indirect method adopted by the state to kill the RTI act. “Irrespective of their political leaning, successive governments have been hostile to RTI as they do not want transparency and accountability in their working,” he said. By neglecting the implementation of the Act, the government he alleged was making it fruitless and thus, rendering it ineffective.