By Frederick Noronha
Pune : The Right to Information (RIT) is giving a new power to Indians. But it is also running into bottlenecks, including abuses by officials who are deleting information to prevent it from reaching the people.
Citizen-campaigners are reporting missing information in a small but significant number of cases. They believe officials who do not want to release information simply make it vanish.
A call for stringent action in 'missing document' cases was made at a national convention of RIT campaigners in Pune, facilitated by the HumJanenge network.
Among other things they suggested was a submission of a list of officials who are custodians of the missing documents, filing criminal cases against them, fining guilty officers and probes into deficient record maintaining system.
Other anomalies are also coming up.
Delays in replying to RTI applications are another problem. To counter this, campaigners want notices to be sent to those causing the delay.
They also want that no request for information should be closed until complete information is received and the citizen is satisfied.
Activists are demanding that Information Commissioners should not be allowed to manage departments where they had any past dealings. Every commissioner should also pass orders in an open court.
Other changes sought in the implementation of the act include hearing both parties in every case and enforcing compulsory disclosures from government officials.
The Pune meet also suggested video filming of all hearings at Information Commissions – the autonomous government bodies that govern disputes regarding the non-release of information.
It was also felt that Information Commissions should themselves create awareness regarding the law rather that funding NGOs to do so.