Rising backlog and official apathy affect efficacy of RTI Act
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Unlike most other areas that witnessed growth in 2013, the year was marked with many lows when it comes to the Right to Information Act. High volumes of pendency, delay in garnering information and official apathy towards the Act has left many in Pune disillusioned.
With 5,500 pending cases, the Pune bench of the State Information Commissioner (SIC) tops the list. This implies that people going for second appeals have to wait for years to get justice. The minimum waiting period for applicant now is two years. Such a long waiting period is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of RTI users.
Of late some disturbing pratices have also affected the RTI cause. Complaints under Section 18 of the RTI Act that deals with failure of the public authority in implementing the Act are not entertained by the Pune bench. This move of the SIC is based on the interpretation of a SC judgment. Also, the SIC decision to revert the second appeals to the first appeallate authorities with instructions that they rehear the cases had attracted a lot of flak from RTI users. Pune SIC M H Shah had justified his decision citing precedence of higher courts sending back cases to lower courts. However, activists had said that this move was wrong as it was like sending back the case to square one.
The city, which played a vital role in the struggle to get the RTI enacted, this year also saw a sad spectacle of government officials shirking their responsibilities towards the Act. In fact, the RTI cell of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA), received no response from public authorities when it sought applications for good practices.
Applicants asking for information regarding granting of licences, copies of memorandum of understanding between private and government bodies were unnecessarily put in risk when their original application was being forwarded to private bodies. The city, which had witnessed the brutal murder of Satish Shetty, continues to see such action by public authorities, which goes against the spirit of the law.