If information you need from a government department concerns the life or liberty of a person,just send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Rest assured,this is not a one-liner from a radio or TV advertisement on a helpline,but from Wajahat Habibullah,the top man of the countrys highest transparency panel formed under the path-breaking Right to Information (RTI) mechanism.
If the information sought will impact the life or liberty of a private citizen,he or she has to just send an e-mail to me or my fellow information commissioners with all the necessary details and the name of the government department. We will make sure that the public authority concerned responds within the next 48 hours, Chief Information Commissioner Habibullah said,explaining the online arm of the transparency to The Sunday Express.
Habibullah even highlighted the online helpline of the CIC in a January 19 order when he observed that Information Commissioners or the Chief Information Commissioner may treat e-mail messages as complaints if the information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person.
The Commission intends this exercise as an effort to accelerate the RTI mechanism in the country. In normal practice,an applicant has to wait for at least 30 days to get a nod from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the government department concerned as to whether it has the information or not.
If dissatisfied with the authoritys response,the applicant should mandatorily file an appeal before an appellate authority,but that too within the same department. The applicant can only approach the CIC,which is officially a second appellate authority,as a last resort.
In cases of life and liberty,all the applicant has to do is wait for 48 hours after filing a complaint with the PIO,and then directly approach the CIC via online bypassing the higher authority in the government, said Habibullah.
On receiving the email,the Commission will immediately intimate the PIO of the public authority to respond within 48 hours as to why information was denied to the applicant in the first place. If the reply is found unreasonable,an appropriate penalty will be levied on the officer, he explained the procedure.
The Chief Information Commissioners words for the first time clarifies the legislative intent of Section 6 of the RTI Act,2005,which gives a citizen an option to either make his request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of an area.
Habibullah agrees that an e-mail complaint is a step closer to the spirit of the Act. The provision to expedite the disclosure of information is provided in the Act itself. The format to send the email has been uploaded in our official website, he said in reference to Section 7,which urges PIOs to part with information within 48 hours if it concerns the life or liberty of a person.
The Commission was recently in news for passing a Full Bench verdict directing the Supreme Court to disclose if all its judges had ever declared their assets before the Chief Justice of India.