RTI: Officials hide behind wrong order

The damage is so deep that even after the commission issued a corrigendum, RTI applications continue to be rejected across the state.

An erroneous order by the Karnataka Information Commissioner that limits the RTI provision to three queries per person per year has struck at the heart of the Act, as thousands of applications have been rejected across the state over the last year.

The damage is so deep that even after the commission issued a corrigendum in May this year, applications filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) continue to be rejected across the state, in clear violation of the law.

The source of the confusion is rooted in a false claim made in April 2018 by the panchayat development officer of Vishveshwarapura in Nelamangala taluk, who cited a non-existent Supreme Court order to deny information to an applicant. Though state information commissioner Vijaya Kumar P G upheld the decision of the officer citing a different reason, the erroneous claim found a place in the order signed by the information commissioner.

Karnataka Chief Information Commissioner N C Srinivasa said despite clarification, the error has become a shield for officials who seek to hide information from applicants.

“There is no such order by the Supreme Court. But officials prefer to go with the mistake. Nobody wants to look at the corrigendum, which has been issued as a circular. Limiting the number of applications is nothing but closing the door on accountability. We will issue another set of clarifications if needed,” he said.

However, RTI activists frustrated by the mess, are planning to move the Karnataka High Court seeking action against the officials responsible for the mess.

According to an information commissioner, about 10,000 applications have been rejected based on the erroneous order.

In August 2019, Ranebennur tahsildar C S Kulkarni ruled that only three of the six RTI applications filed by the activist should be honoured. 

The applicant, Haveri-based activist J M Rajashekhar said he was disappointed by the entire exercise.

Rajashekhar, who has been educating people about RTI through social media, said he receives complaints about rejection everyday.

“Tens of thousands of applications have been rejected till now. In reply to our complaint to the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, his secretary has suggested that we initiate steps on the legal side. We will file a petition soon,” he said.

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