'Info officers must have power to make officials work'

'Info officers must have power to make officials work'

DH Spotlight

Central Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu sought suo motu powers to each information officer to question the authorities concerned if Section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI) was not implemented.

Acharyulu was speaking at the DH Spotlight event on ‘Citizen’s Right to Information: Issues and Perspectives’ in the city on Saturday.

The event saw a great response with experts from across sectors engaging in a discussion with the authorities of the information commission and experts.

The event also saw the participation of Shailesh Gandhi, former information commissioner and Venkatesh Nayak from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

Acharyalu was responding to a query by Kathyayini Chamaraj, executive trustee, CIVIC, pertaining to the implementation of Section 4 (1). She sought to know what the Infomation Commission could do to ensure compliance.

Section 4 of the RTI Act speaks about the obligations of public authorities and has several sub-sections that mandate that particulars of a given organisation, powers of the employees, directory of its employees with other essential information, be published within 120 days of the publishing of the RTI Act.

“If you ask me personally, as a student of law, I consider that each information commissioner has a responsibility arising out of the context of RTI application, that if he finds that the section 4 (1) (B) is not implemented, he should give direction to the public authorities to implement it,” he said.

He added that even as the law does not prescribe any authority, suo motu powers should be given to commissions.

“Whenever the commission finds that there is lack of information, he should be in a position to pick up a fight and ask for it. This will enhance the quality of the RTI Act,” he opined. Replying to yet another query on what could be done for non-adherence of Section 4 (1)(b) of the RTI Act, he said, “Nowhere in the RTI Act is the commissioner entrusted with the responsibility of implementing Section 4. That is a mistake. It should be entrusted to the commissions. I tried to enforce 4 (1)(b). Some commissioners are making efforts towards implementation. I request people to ask the public authorities to ensure that they comply with Section 4. Strategise your efforts to ensure its implementation.”

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