Times of India: Mumbai: Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
In an order that is expected to bring in transparency into the workings of the Right to Information Act, Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad directed the state chief secretary to create an online RTI register in every office which has a public information officer.
Gaikwad directed that such an 'e-register' must be maintained with information on applications filed and disposed under RTI. He called for implementation of the online platform by June 15 this year.
"This platform will facilitate compilation and tracking of RTI applications filed offline as well as those that might be filed online with departments,'' said the CIC after observing that there was a "total lack of review of performance of PIOs and appellate authorities by their superiors''. It had led to public authorities having to "pay huge compensation to information-seekers from public exchequer''. "The government was also responsible for ineffective implementation of such a revolutionary Act, which directly relates to citizens exercising their fundamental right to expression,'' said Gaikwad in his order passed on April 16.
The CIC was responding to a complaint filed by former Central Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that it was difficult for department heads and the information commission to review the overall performance of PIOs to take corrective action in real-time when delays and other lapses occur. Gandhi sought a direction to all public authorities to publish details of RTI applications and their disposal on one platform.
Gandhi had submitted that such a register would facilitate reviewing of the overall performance of individual public information officers and the first appellate authorities by the department head and the Information Commission. "It would also facilitate preparation of an annual report on the state of RTI in the state, which needs to be presented to the state assembly,'' he said.
Gaikwad appreciated Gandhi's suggestions. He said a similar notification was being issued by the department of personnel and training, where it had asked public authorities to pro-actively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses on their websites.
Gandhi told the state CIC that "software could easily be developed so that a dashboard showing each PIO's performance and of the public authority would be transparent for every one to see.''