Wednesday, February 15, 2017

‘Be proactive in giving information’

The Hindu‎‎: Belagavi: Wednesday, February 15, 2017.
Advice to dept. heads from State Information Commissioner.
State Information Commissioner Shankar R. Patil called upon heads of departments to suo motu declare all the necessary information about various programmes and schemes, projects and works taken-up along with the budgetary allocations on their respective websites and at the project sites, which he said would certainly bring down the number of applications seeking information under the RTI Act, 2005, by half.
Mr. Patil, who is one of the six Commissioners in the Karnataka Information Commission, was speaking to mediapersons after conducting a training programme for Public Information Officers and First Appellate Authorities in various departments here on Tuesday. He also advised the officials to be proactive in replying to applications seeking information under the RTI Act even without waiting for the maximum 30 days. Information on various subjects was readily available which could be given in a very short period of time. “At times, I have furnished information to various applicants in hardly five minutes.”
When his attention was drawn towards the fact that despite the directions from the government and KIC, many departments do not display details about their projects on the site nor update their website regularly, he said: “Our officials need to be proactive as the RTI Act is the simplest of all Acts, legislated with the avowed objective of promoting transparency and accountability in governance and empower public with the information; if they do this, there will be a significant drop, by 50%, in applications seeking for such information.”
On the allegations of growing number of self-proclaimed RTI activists even in taluk centres now, using the RTI Act as a tool to blackmail officials to make quick money, he said there was no specific complaint before the KIC but it was matter to be looked into by the government.
To a question, he said he had disposed of about 4,500 out of the 8,000 cases which came up before his court since he took charge of his office two years and eight months ago. Now, totally around 30,000 applications were pending for disposal before the KIC.
Mr. Patil slapped a penalty of Rs.25,000 on V.N. Karekar, Town Planning Officer at Hubballi-Dharwad Urban Development Authority, for failing to provide information and non-compliance with the KIC’s order in violation of the RTI Act. Mr. Karekar, while serving in the same post in Belagavi Urban Development Authority earlier, had not provided information for three years on the criteria adopted for appointment of law officers as sought by an advocate.
In another case, the Police Commissioner had been advised to issue show cause notice to retired Assistant Sub-Inspector M.G. Mujawar for giving false information while in service.
Mr. Patil said action could be taken for violations of RTI Act even after retirement of a public officer but within four years from the day of his or her retirement.