RTI lessons help cops to understand cases better

Police now discard frivolous pleas at initial stages itself

Lessons in handling Right to Information applications are doing good to Delhi policemen who are discarding frivolous pleas at initial stages itself with the help of a Delhi government consultant.

“Many of the officials do not know that they can refuse to entertain a plea which uses more than 500 words,” said S C Agrawal, the RTI consultant who conducts lectures for officers and low-rung cops.

Now, police officials have started counting wordage of the RTI pleas they get before getting down to answering them, he said. 

“Sub-inspectors and SHOs keep calling me on my phone for instant advice on how to go about dealing with applications,” he said.

Agrawal, a qualified mechanical engineer, said from his interaction with police officers he came to know that RTI was being used mostly in dowry harassment or maintenance cases between estranged couples.

“I have been telling police public information officers that they need not pass all information to the RTI applicants if it could harm the privacy of the ‘third party’,” he said.

“My stress has been on educating policemen to invoke Section 11 of the RTI Act and seek the consent of the person about whom the RTI applicant has sought information. The affected party’s approval is needed to give out personal details,” he said.

Third party

Section 11 for inviting comments of the ‘third party’ must be invoked within five days of receipt of Right to Information petition, and not in 30 days of receipt of RTI petition, as has been usually observed, he said. 
Late transfer of a plea or seeking comments from the ‘third party’ can attract penalty-proceedings under Section 20 of RTI Act, he said.

Agrawal, 64, who also holds the Guinness World Record for most number of published letters to the editor in newspapers, said while interacting with policemen he also found a tendency to deny information to RTI applicants in cases under investigation.

“Due to lack of knowledge of the transparency law, policemen are denying information to even genuine applicants.” 

“Information can be withheld if its sharing impedes investigation but the policemen tend to block details even if the information is harmless and unlikely to influence the probe,” he said.

He is also working on police department’s public information officers to avoid Right to Information communication that do not mention the dates of receipt of Right to Information petition.

“Non-providing of date of receipt of RTI petition by the responding officer also results in filing of petitions in the Information Commission for alleged delay, while it may not be the case, thereby harming man-hours and money spent by all concerned including of Information Commissions, public-authorities and petitioners,” he said.

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