Officials should reply to every RTI application irrespective of what kind of information has been sought by the applicant, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday and asserted that the importance of the transparency law has increased in present times.
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Addressing the inaugural function of the 11th annual Central Information Commission convention, Singh said his ministry was recently asked what is the action plan of the government against “a zombie or alien attack” and he had ensured that response is given to it.
“All of you must understand the ecosystem of information and without getting influenced by what information is being sought, you must do your duty,” he told the gathering which included Central Public Information Officers and Information Commissioners.
Singh also inaugurated the e-court system in the Central Information Commission which will make the transparency panel go paperless in matters of appeals and complaints being processed by it.
The new system has come into place as the Commission has digitised over 1.5 lakh files with it, allowing people to file appeals and complaints online without any requirement of hard copy.
“Government must be sensitive, corruption free and accountable to people of the country. Keeping this in mind, the importance of RTI in these times has increased more than ever. As far as RTI is concerned, it is an effective and strong mode of communication between people and government,” he said.
Asserting that participation of people is increasing in framing policies, Singh said over 40,000 suggestions were received on GST.
“More the systems will go digital, the better will be transparency… there is a need for a digitally strong society,” he said, adding that it is the responsibility of government to make people aware about their rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
He said there should be a single window system for addressing people’s grievances so that people do not have to knock the doors of different offices.
“It is the demand of time that government is transparent, responsive as well as smart. It is required that the government performs and also provides information to people wherever it is required,” he said.
Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said although there is no pendency, the filing of such grievances has gone up from about two lakh annually when the new government was formed to eight lakh now.
Quoting a couplet of Mirza Ghalib, Singh, while taking a veiled dig at UPA government, said people file grievances because they have hope of them being resolved.
He said a higher number of RTI applications are being processed but still the numbers are increasing.
“We cannot check corruption by laws,” Singh said.
Underlining the menace of frivolous RTI applications, Singh said one must test it on a couple of parameters to “avoid the avoidable” RTI applications like whether the motive is public or personal.
Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur also highlighted the system being choked by a single RTI user as among 35,000 pending cases before the Commissioner, about 4,000 have been filed by a single person.