Economic Times: New Delhi: Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has returned nearly half the applications it has received this year for wrongful denial of information under Right to Information (RTI) Act, seeking additional documents.
In the first four months of 2017, CIC returned 7,268 cases — almost 40% — of the 19,152 cases it processed. In April, the commission returned more cases (4,109) than it registered (2,776). Data collated from CIC's website reveals that the registry returned 58% of the case .. it processed. In April, the commission returned more cases (4,109) than it registered (2,776). Data collated from CIC's website reveals that the registry returned 58% of the cases in April. Doubts are being raised by activists about this new practice.
RTI activist Lokesh Batra said, "This looks like an attempt to artificially reduce pendency at the commission. It has been very high, around 33,000 on an average. But if they don't register the cases, their numbers remain almost the same."
So far, CIC had been registering cases and asking the applicant to make good any deficiency before the hearing. However, it now uses a little-known power on 'Return of Appeal' enshrined in Rule 9 of the RTI Act rules, 2012.
The rule says, "An appeal may be returned to the appellant if it is not accompanied by documents as specified in Rule 8, for removing deficiencies and filing the appeal complete in all respect."
However, returning is not mandatory. Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur cited the rule and told ET, "It is not an appeal till it has all the mandatory documents. It is a legal matter. Keeping it with me and registering it does not solve anything. It's an incomplete appeal."
An independent Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan study revealed that only 5% of RTI applicants approach CIC for a second appeal. Anjali Bhardwaj of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) says, "This does not mean that the remaining 95% get the rightful information. The study shows that not many people find it motivating or helpful enough to reach the commission. In such a scenario, CIC is returning appeals. It raises serious questions. CIC should act as a facilitator and not be so bureaucratic."