Appellate officials' laxity spurs RTI backlog at KIC
The callous attitude of the first appellate authorities (FAA) to dispose of cases related to Right to Information (RTI) has resulted in a huge backlog before the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC).
The State government had brought in changes to the RTI rules about two years ago when it made it mandatory for the applicants to approach the FAAs if they did not get information from the authorities within 30 days of filing the RTI applications.
If the FAAs fail to address the grievances within the next 45 days after submission of the first appeal under Section 19 (1) of RTI Act, the applicant is entitled to approach the KIC within 90 days of filing the RTI application before the public information officer (PIO). Due to the amendment to the rules, the KIC is not entertaining appeals coming to it directly. In most cases, KIC is also not accepting complaints under Section 18 (1) of the RTI Act.
The objective behind empowering the FAAs was only to reduce the burden on KIC. However, due to the callous behaviour of the FAAs there is heavy pendency in the KIC. Cases which were listed last year have still not come up for hearing.
Last year, KIC received about 4.62 lakh applications, while the Central Information Commission received 10 lakh applications. In Karnataka, the six information commissioners hear at least 20 to 30 cases on a daily basis. Yet the disposal rate is low.
A senior KIC official said, “Pendency in the KIC will go down substantially if the first appellate authorities hear cases and address them at their level. The present rate of hearing by the FAAs is merely 30 to 40 per cent.” He said most offices do not have the list of PIOs and FAAs in their offices as mandated by the RTI Act. A circular to this effect was issued in 2007 by the department of personnel and administrative reforms. The list should be revised whenever the PIOs and the FAAs are transferred.
He said most applicants do not know the names of PIOs and FAAs due to which they do not get the desired information. He underlined the need for more powers to the KIC to penalise the FAAs if they ignore the first appeal.
RTI study centre trustee Vikram Simha said, “The whole functioning of RTI is to fool the public. The KIC is not able to furnish details of the pending cases and they ask to file an application, which takes another 45 days to get inform- ation. Most of the FAAs do not have knowledge of the merit of the cases. He said that the clerk level employees are all outsourced and they have no idea about RTI. There are only six commissioners to hear thousands of cases. The government should implement more effective measures to make sure that RTI does not lose its importance, Simha said.