Saturday, August 7, 2010

Public authorities find ways to deny info under RTI Act

Public authorities find ways to deny info under RTI Act

Jeeva, TNN, Aug 6, 2010, 11.46 pm IST

CHENNAI: Despite repeated orders from the state and the central information commissions, public authorities continue to be adamant in rejecting applications filed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act by office-bearers of any organisation. They violate the transparency law saying applicants would be given information only if they apply in their individual capacity and not as representatives of an organisation.

And the state health department has gone one step ahead. It hasn't bothered to comply with a specific directive from the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission ordering it to furnish information within a week to an RTI application filed by P Balasubramaniam, Cuddalore district organiser of Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams (FACT)-India and a former village administrative officer.

The commission, in its order on July 27, also directed the department to submit an explanation why a penalty should not be imposed against the public information officer concerned for refusing to provide the information to the applicant for over ten months now. The order remains on paper.

Balasubrmaniam filed his RTI application on October 30, 2009, with the office of the deputy director (medical services) seeking the addresses of primary health centres (PHCs) in the district, the number of doctors available and their duty hours. He also wanted the mobile number of the deputy director that could be called in case of an emergency.

First, the public information officer rejected the application saying the applicant had sought the information in his capacity as a representative of FACT-India. Balasubramaniam went on appeal with the first appellate authority in the department, only to get the same reply.

"I asked for the details as people in our area have not been getting proper care in several PHCs, particularly at night. Now, I am planning to move the commission about the non-compliance of its order by the health department,'' Balasubrmaniam told The Times of India.

"Section 3 of the RTI Act says all citizens shall have the right to information. It doesn't say that citizens will not have such right if they ask for information representing any organisation. Authorities are increasingly trying to find ways to reject the RTI applications rather than furnishing the information sought," said M Thuyamurthy, an activist in Tondiarpet. Last year, the fisheries department had rejected an RTI application filed by Thuyamurthy in his capacity as vice-president of the National Fishermen Association. However, fisheries department gave a reply to him after the commission directed it to do so.

Courtesy_

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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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