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NGOs Meet on RTI Act
Anti-Corruption Movement General Secretary's Response

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NGOs Meet on RTI Act
Dear Mr.Kejriwal,
It is very kind of you to have made contact to me thro Ms. Awasthi and furnishing so much of materials in this mail, which helped me to get enlightened of the good work being done by your organization. I remember that there was criticism in some quarters about your method of evaluation. But I found that they were all not genuine but prejudiced and had sent letters fully supporting the findings of the Award committee. Now you have convened a meet to discuss the methodology for future evaluation of the Information Commissions and Commissioners. I have a small difference of opinion here.

The Commissions central and State are appellate authorities and the appeals coming to them should be minimum and a small percentage of the total applications. but actually it is not so now. The commissions are getting flooded with appeals. The simple reason is that as we have experienced and also as rightly observed by you , the public authorities are not willing to part with information whether they have skeletons to hide or not. The Tamilnadu Information commission is enamoured that they occupy  the first place in getting the highest number of appeals in the Country. The State govts. particularly Tamilnadu is not committed to the implementation of the RTI Act for obvious reasons which is that the Act ties up their hands from doing things as they wish. So it is with the blessings and support of the govt that the PIOs take strength to deny the information asked of them. So it is not so much the Information commissions which are to be evaluated but the Govt and its implementing dept. viz the Personnel and administrative reforms dept (as it is christened in Tamilnadu).In some of our meetings with the Chief Secretary and the Secretary to personnel dept. we invariably got the impression that they were least concerned with the RTI implementation. They have not taken adequate steps to educate its officials, nor instituted a mechanism with the superintendence of the district Collectors or anybody else, to assess the performance of the PIOs of the various depts. You will find that the Act does not specify any action imperative on the part of the Govts. It does not say how the penalty is to be recovered on the orders of the commission.
Therefore a study and analysis of the performance of the respective Govts and delineation of their  duties and responsibilities and making them get fully involved in the successful implementation of the Act seems to be the need of the hour ,rather than evaluating the Commissions and commissioners. I am not saying that the latter  is not necessary but only indicating the preference.
Again there is no need for so many Commissioners. In my opinion the Commission is not a judicial body not even quasi judicial. A reading of the Act would suggest that the Commission is vested with some limited judicial functions such as summoning witnesses and calling for documents etc as otherwise it wouild have no teeth. Farcical scenes are witnessed in Tamilnadu where even advocates are made to represent clients. The scope of the act is simple. You seek information from a PIO. he doesn't provide. You approach the first appellate authority. You don't get relief .So you go to the Commission on second appeal. The Commissioners have to go thru every appeal personally and pass orders per se. If a PIO has not cared to send any reply positive or negative the Commission has to straight away take steps to impose penalty. Then it can examine if the information sought for is disclosable and pass appropriate orders. As simple as that. This simple procedure is not followed now. The commissioners do not peruse the representations. Only hearings are fixed willy nilly and the commissioners act as judicial officers which they are definitely NOT.
No wonder the PIOs are least bothered and the appeals keep mounting in the Commissions.

One point I want to mention is that the first appeal is unnecessary and in most cases it results only in delay. The appellate authority is only the head of office or a senior officer in the same office. This can be done away with.

The time limit of 30days is not justified. if the PIO has the information it requires max. of a week to provide them to the applicant. if the Information is not available the PIO may write and seek time to reply. So a time limit of 15 days would appear meaningful.
It is not without reason that the Award committee has debarred the TN Information Commission from being considered for the award. Normally as a Madrasi I should be unhappy at this turn of events. But on the contrary I wish to agree with the decision. Plainly the Tamilnadu IC is in the hands of an imbecile man who does not know what to do and what he is doing. Almost all the NGOs are fed up with the Commission that we have submitted a memorandum to the Governor seeking the removal of the Chief Information Commissioner. The representation to the Governor is attached for your kind information. We have sought appointment with the Governor for a personal representation.
 You have not given much details of what you propose to discuss on the 30th and 31st and who are all likely to participate.
We have started an “Academy of Honest politics” and conducting FREE week end courses to eligible and willing youth on 'Political leadership development' in order to mould capable politicians for the future. My participation in the meet at Delhi is therefore dependant on a few local factors.

However I and our Anticorruption Movement stand by all your patriotic efforts and wish success to your endeavours.
With kind Regards and new year greetings,
Yours truly
General Secretary
Anticorruption Movement.

Invitation from Mr.Arvind Kejriwal

Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 14:16:17 +0530
Subject: Invite for Attending Meeting on the Status of RTI in India

Dear Mr. Arasu,
We are happy to attach the final report on the comparative assessment of the performance of the information commissioners in the country (the final proofing of the report is still ongoing). Kindly go through it and let us have your feedback.
We cordially invite you for a two day meeting to discuss in detail the methodology and parameters for next years's performance evalutaion of information commissioners. The meeting would be held on 30th and 31st January, 2010 in New Delhi.  The meeting would focus on:
a) Possibility of engaging with respective information commissioners as a follow up of the attached report - you may like to present the possibility of the same.
b) Refining the process of the study for next year's survey.
Kindly block the dates. We will be in touch with you for logistics.
A very happy new year!
Arvind Kejriwal