Question – You are a CPIO in a government department. You directly answer the RTI queries or transfer them to the concerned section /division for necessary action. One day, an RTI worker comes to meet you and asks you to give some information which is outside the purview of RTI. When you deny him, he threatens you that he will fill your office with trivial RTI questions and make your life miserable, While you do not pay attention to his threats. But you become more alert now. In a week, the inevitable starts. Each day, you start receiving hundreds of RTI queries, most of which are trivial and arbitrary. However, the refusal of the information being sought by the applicants also takes a lot of time to dispose of. You start to fear that the pendency will continue to increase and you will not be able to address them within the time stipulated in the RTI Act. You start to realize that you have become a victim of RTI terrorism. In this situation, what are your options? Whom would you choose and why? Explain supporting your response. – 19 July 2021
The main objective of the RTI Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the work of every public authority and to establish a practical administration to provide citizens with access to information that is under the control of public authorities.
With the accountability of the government department, it is a matter of holding government machinery hostage. Intervention is of great importance due to such a pool of trivial questions.
These are the options that are possible:
- Separate from the talk of the RTI Act, the police complaint about the threatening of the concerned person.
- To reduce pendency, allocation of increased cases to temporary appointed PIOs within the department to reduce pendency.
- Let it increase the pendency and ask them to face its response as far as the decision taken by me as CPIO can be justified.
Considering all the options, my action plan as a CPIO would be as follows:
- I will warn the concerned activist, such as the police complaint that prevents him from requesting trivial questions rather than the actual complaint of intimidation to create fear in his mind.
- Along with this, I will appoint many PIOs using section 5 of the RTI Act to deal with the increasing questions of the activist and also get time for the actual questions.
- If the worker continues the same process of sending trivial questions, I will use Section 21 of the RTI Act, which gives CPIOs the right to take action in ‘good faith’ and for this any kind of lawsuit or legal Action cannot be taken.
- However, providing information cannot be stopped as there is no provision for asking any motive or reason for asking the RTI applicant.
- Law should be applied in both word and spirit and not just on the words. Public interest is more important than self-interest. The concerned department of government and I as CPIOs will try to prioritize questions based on the public good at large rather than as tools of ‘personal retaliation’ and oppression.
In Jagdish Kumar Koli vs. School Education and Literacy Department, CIC Clearly stated that, “Repeated, disturbing applications cannot be accepted.” This can be prevented in the future by taking the following actions:
- By amending the RTI, take action on the the ‘Black List’ activists who are constantly involved in trivial questions. And in case of misuse, the fee can be increased with some provision of fine.
- With the use of computer programs there is a need to increase the use of technology to identify trivial queries and send readymade responses without wasting time and energy of important government resources.
- Second consideration needs to be given to restrict the number of applications by an applicant within a given time period.
Only 0.6% of RTI applications are condemnable as per the Right to Information and the estimates of advocacy group, but such cases can force the government to bring amendments that have the potential to obstruct the real purpose.People need to maintain faith and courage in this ‘Sunshine Act’ of RTI. It is the responsibility of every stakeholder, including the public at large.