Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

RTI proving boon to citizens

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 13, 2006

RTI proving boon to citizensNT News Service

http://www.navhindtimes.com/stories.php?part=news&Story_ID=071317

Mapusa, July 12: Thanks to the Goa State Information Commission (GSIC), the Right to Information Act is proving to be a real boon to citizens in Goa while at the same time it seems to be a thorn in the side of some government bodies.

Refusing to bow down to unfavourable rulings of the public information officers of some government bodies, several citizens have appealed to the Goa State Information Commission and the Commission has upheld their interests by chastising the errant departments.

The GSIC has passed several orders since its recent inception but probably the most significant order is against the state of Goa itself. The order was passed by the state information chief commissioner, Mr A Venkataratnam and the state information commissioner, Mr G G Kambli on July 7, 2006.

Following a complaint by one Mr Amar B Naik, the GSIC has directed the director of information, who is the ex-officio joint secretary in the department of information and publicity to prepare the list of public information officers, assistant public information officers and the first appellate authorities designated by the government within a period of one month from the date of the receipt of this order or by July 30, whichever earlier.

The GSIC has also directed the director of information to notify the same in the official gazette.

The order follows Mr Naik’s complaint to the GSIC that only a few public authorities have designated public information officers and published manuals containing the ‘suo moto’ information under Section 4(1)(b) of the Act.

Mr Naik also held that some of the public authorities are still struggling with the preparation of list of public information officers including courts, high courts, consumer forums, municipal councils, State Pollution Control Board.

Besides, Mr Naik said that some authorities have prepared the manuals and kept them in their files instead of displaying on the notice boards for the benefit of the citizens.

The GSIC has also directed the director of information to submit a list of public authorities that have not yet designated and displayed the list of their PIOs, APIOs and first appellate authorities.

The RTI, as the act has come to be known, seems to be getting stronger in Goa. But public bodies still show reluctance in parting with information as another case shows. It pertains to a application made by Mr Ashok Menon, assistant divisional officer in the fire and emergency services, Margao.

When Mr Menon applied to his own department for information, the PIO asked him why he wanted the information. Although an applicant is required to give a reason and Mr Menon explained his reason. But the information was denied to him.

The reason cited was that the requested information did not justify public interest and was exempt under Section of the RTI. Mr Menon’s first appeal of June 23 was also rejected by the first appellate authority, which was the director of fire services.

But the GSIC has upheld his request. In its July 7 order, the GSIC has directed the department to provide Mr Menon the information on all the points within 15 days from the date of receipt. There are several other orders chastising public bodies for withholding information or for giving false information, but that is beyond the scope of this Article.

Talking to ‘The Navhind Times’ about the reluctance of public information officers to part with information, the state information commissioner said: “The public information officers are independent officers. They do not need permission of the department head to furnish the department. If they do not furnish the information, the department is liable to be fined. That is a loss to the government.” Mr Kambli said the fledgling legislation is a great boon to the citizens.

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