Sunday, March 12, 2017

Litigation-wary govt to raise transparency.

The New Indian Express: New Delhi: Kanu Sarda: Sunday, March 12, 2017.
Embarrassed over repeated conflict with the Chief Information Commission (CIC), the Centre has now asked its departments and ministries to be more transparent in replying to RTIs to avoid litigation.
Recently, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu took on the government over RTIs demanding disclosure of the educational qualifications of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani. 
Acharyulu was eventually barred from hearing appeals related to Ministry of Human Resource Development in January following orders from Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur. However, the Delhi High Court stayed both the orders later.
“The purpose of RTI and the CIC is to ensure transparency in the working of the government and not to institute another platform of justice dispensation,” the note circulated by Ministry of Law and Justice read, adding, “All departments and ministries should be encouraged for voluntary disclosure of information as per Section 2(4) of the RTI Act.
All information-providers should be able to give remedy to the ordinary people and inform how the tax-payers’ money is spent.”
The Centre has also asked all Public Authorities under it to improve their mechanisms of suo motu disclosure by constituting consultative committees of stakeholders, setting up information and facilitation centres, proper categorisation and organisation of information that is disclosed for its easy retrieval and to undertake transparency audit of suo-motu disclosure. 
The government’s move is aimed at ending increasing litigation against CIC orders in the High Courts, which is its appealing authority. It had noted that all CIC orders are often being challenged in the High Courts thus increasing unnecessary litigation.