Where ignorance is a right
- Where ignorance is a right
29 Jun 2008, 0337 hrs IST, Arvind Singh Bisht,TNN
LUCKNOW: The Right to Information (RTI) Act needs to be put on oxygen
in Uttar Pradesh. A wake up call has almost become a necessity for
even senior officials candidly admit their ignorance about the Act.
Ironically, this is the situation which prevails three years after the
law was enacted on June 15, 2005 by the Parliament.
What is most disturbing is that neither the chief secretary (CS) nor
the director general of police (DGP) evinced any interest in creating
awareness about the Act, according to the observations made in various
judgments of the State Information Commission (SIC).
The most glaring example of this is the letter written by principal
secretary, irrigation, Manjit Singh to secretary SIC. In his letter
(2416/08-27-Singh-2-3(25)/07 dated June 18, 2008, Singh explained to
the commission that the delay in granting information to one Tulisi
Ballabh Gupta, general secretary, diploma engineers and architect
sangh of the irrigation department, UP, was due to lack of knowledge
about the necessary procedure under the RTI Act.
Under the Act, information sought by an applicant needs to be
furnished by the department concerned maximum within 30 days. In the
absence of it, the issue could be taken up in the first appeal to be
heard by the next competent official, appointed for the purpose by the
However, an applicant under the Act has an option to directly approach
the SIC after the expiry of 30 days deadline. But in the above case,
the matter came before the commission only after the applicant
approached the next competent official, who in that case was the
special secretary working directly under Singh. But the said officer
kept sitting over the file.
Later, he feigned ignorance about the procedure and took it as an
excuse for the delay. This was also explained in his letter by Singh
to the SIC.
However, taking a strong exception to this, information commissioner
Gyanendra Sharma slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the department for the
delay and also conveyed his displeasure to Singh, asking him to hold
refreshal courses in the RTI Act for officials working under him.
Sharma further ordered that a copy of his order should also be served
to chief secretary office. "I am sure this would be an eye-opener for
the chief secretary and help him evolving some method to sensitise
officials in the state," Sharma observed in his order.
But what makes matters worse is that the commission has found that the
CS office does not have its own website like other departments nor has
it appointed its own information officer. While raising these
questions, the commission has sought to know from the CS about the
manner in which it deals with issues raised under the RTI Act in the
absence of an information officer.
The police department, perhaps, presents the worst picture. "It's
pathetic that district police chiefs have flagrantly violated the
norms for giving information to the applicants under the RTI Act and
also refused to comply with the order issued to this effect by the
DGP," Sharma observed in his order.