24 Jan 2014

Guidelines for Third Party Audit by Public Authorties Formulated About Twenty Thousand Appeals Disposed of by CIC Annually

The Government has formulated guidelines to provide for a third party audit by the Public Authorities of the proactive disclosures to assess their level of compliance with these guidelines The Government earlier issued detailed guidelines to Central Ministries / Departments for Proactive Disclosure under section 4 of the RTI Act on April 15, 2013.

 State Governments have also been requested to consider issuing similar guidelines, along with templates for disclosure at various levels, for better implementation of suo motu disclosure at State level. Four areas have been identified for development of templates viz. Public distribution system, Panchayats, MGNREGA and Primary and Secondary Schools. 

The Act casts an obligation on public authorities for suo-motu disclosure/publication of large amount of information. It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps for providing as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have to minimally resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. It also requires the public authorities to supply information called for by any citizen and to permit him to inspect the documents and collect samples of various works. 

During the year 2011-12, Central Information Commission received 33,922 appeals/complaints and disposed of the year 23,112. The figure of appeals/complaints received and disposed of for 2010-11 are 28875 and 24071 and for 2009-10 are 22800 and 19482 respectively. 

Out of 95 countries, the Right to Information Act, 2005 has been rated second last year on the “International Right to know Day” September 28th globally in a study conducted by the Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law & Democracy. Both the institutions are Human Rights Organisations working in Europe and Canada respectively.

 The RTI rating provides a numerical assessment for rating for the overall legal framework for the Right to Information in a country, based on how well that framework gives effect to the right to access to information held by public authority. The rating is limited to measuring the legal framework and does not measure the quality of implementation, where the law is applicable. India has been placed second, after Serbia. 

The Government administers a Plan Scheme “Improving Transparency and Accountability in Government through Effective Implementation of the Right to Information Act” to undertake activities in the area of awareness generation and capacity building. A web portal namely ‘RTI Online’ has been launched for all Central ministries to provide a facility for the Indian Citizens to file online RTI applications and first appeals and also to make online payment of RTI fees. 

The enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005, as a comprehensive legislation, marks a benchmark in transparency and accountability in government with its objective of an informed citizenry for effective democracy. The legislation was brought in for setting out a practical regime for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities. The legislation is endorsed by the active participation of NGOs and the media leading to greater transparency and accountability. 

The Act is comprehensive and covers disclosure of information on almost all matters of governance. It is applicable to Government at all levels- Union, State and Local and also to the bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government. It covers all legislative bodies, the judiciary, the executive and all Constitutional bodies. 

The provisions of the Act have been made over-riding in character, so that the scheme is not subverted through the operation of other minor Acts. However, certain types of information pertaining to security of the country, scientific or economic interest of the country and information on trade secrets, etc. are exempted from disclosure. Certain security or intelligence organizations, have been exempted from disclosing any information except pertaining to corruption or violation of human rights. 

The Government of India has constituted the Central Information Commission. All the 27 States to which the Act applies have constituted State Information Commissions. These Commissions are high powered independent bodies which, inter-alia, can look into the complaints made to them and decide the appeals. The Commissions have power to impose penalty on the defaulting Public Information Officers. 

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