Ensure Compliance, Prepare for 17-Point ‘Mandatory’ Disclosure Under RTI Act, Says SIC

In a landmark verdict, the Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission (MPSIC) ordered all district collectors to ensure proactive compliance and suo motu disclosures provided under the pending RTI Act for 17 years.

Late Friday, State Information Commissioner Rahul Singh said in an order that the disclosures will also help tackle allegations that RTI is being misused as a tool to blackmail public authorities.

Singh said it has been 17 years since the RTI Act was enacted, but public authorities have yet to prepare the 17-point manual for suo motu disclosures under the law. The Supreme Court in the case of Kishan Jain v Union of India had issued a notice of failure to comply with mandatory disclosures by public authorities under section 4 of the RTI Act so that it does not become a ” ornamental legislation,” he added.

In his order, Singh further stated that it was disappointing to see that all DC offices in Madhya Pradesh had continuously violated Section 4 of the RTI Act for nearly two decades. By law, proactive disclosures of the 17-point handbook that had to be made within 120 days of its promulgation were still missing after 17 years.

He pointed out in the order that “section 4 of the RTI Act obliges every public authority to keep all documents properly cataloged and indexed in a manner and in a form that facilitates the right to information, so that citizens must file RTI requests as a minimum Any public authority shall ensure that all registers likely to be computerized are computerized within a reasonable time and subject to the availability of resources”.

The SIC issued the order after an appellant, Shivanand Dwivedi, filed an RTI request with the office of the District Collector and Magistrate, Rewa, requesting the 17-point manual and subsequently a complaint of non- fulfillment of obligations under Section 4(1) of the RTI Act by the Rewa DC Office and, similarly, all other DC Offices.

Deciding on the appeal and the complaint together, the SIC commenced an investigation using the powers conferred on a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908, as provided for in section 18(3) of the RTI Act to review the websites of all districts of Rewa. division and physically check them.

The SIC also noted the unavailability of the “17-point manual” required under Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act, in the Deputy Minister’s office. Rewa’s Collector Public Information Officer has declared the unavailability of the 17-point handbook and now it has become clear that this information which facilitates transparency and reduces the burden of RTI applications in government offices and calls in the SIC is not available and inaccessible either only in DC office, Rewa, but in all DC offices in the state.

The investigation revealed that the Rewa DC office and other DC offices were in clear violation of Section 4 of the RTI Act. The CIS, after taking a considered position, decided not to impose a sanction and gave the Rewa DM office time to comply. The SIC also directed Dr. Ilayaraja T, then Rewa District Collector, to go through the 17-point manual uploaded on the General Administration Department website and accordingly prepare the information and manual for download. on the district’s website.

The Information Commissioner, in his order, also explained how voluntary disclosure would lead to good governance. The order reads: “Good governance is that which enables citizens to be informed so that they can participate in the processes of governance to improve it for themselves and for society as a whole, but in the absence of a mechanism for transparency and accountability, governance becomes opaque, exclusive and loses the public trust of citizens in the state.

The SIC said that during the hearing of numerous appeals, it was found that the information sought in RTI’s request fell into the category of disclosures under Section 4 and, therefore, should have been accessible. to the public. DC offices set up to connect directly with people and work for them put their citizens through a cumbersome process of filing RTI claims.

Singh also suggested in his order that proactive disclosure will serve as a safeguard against any allegations that RTI is being misused as a blackmail tool. The SIC observes in the order that recently Indore District Collector Manish Singh raised concerns about the misuse of the RTI Act and that it has become a means of blackmail.

The order reads: “The SIC believes that by complying with Section 4 of the Act and disseminating most of the information widely and in a form readily available to the public, as provided section 4(1) and section 4(2) of the Act, would not only reduce blackmail, but also ensure limited use of the RTI app by the public to obtain information. circular DOPT F n° 1/1/2013-IR of March 23, 2016, all public authorities are required to proactively disclose RTI requests and their responses on websites operated by public authorities with a search function based on keywords.

The ball started to roll

Following Singh’s order, Rewa became the first district in Madhya Pradesh to successfully comply with the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act. Singh, in his order, praised the efforts of Dr Ilayaraja T, who took proactive steps to ensure compliance with Section 4.

He said, “Rewa serves as an example and role model for all other districts in Madhya Pradesh to take proactive steps to make their offices transparent and accountable to its citizens.”

MPSIC issues a warning

The commission granted three months for compliance. However, the Information Commissioner has warned that in cases of non-compliance, the SIC can receive complaints under Article 18 against the relevant public authority and take disciplinary action. The SIC directed the Principal Secretary of the GAD to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance in all DC offices.

Read all the latest Assembly news, breaking news and live updates here.

Comments are closed.