Thursday, July 27, 2017

High Court raps Delhi government for ‘dilatory tactic’ in RTI case

Economic Times: New Delhi: Thursday, July 27, 2017.
The Delhi High Court has disapproved of dilatory tactics by the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education in denying information on income and expenditure of private schools sought under the Right to Information and ordered it to consider the application in accordance with the law.
Instead of entertaining the application seeking to know if an audit of private schools had been conducted, the public information officer (PIO) of the directorate forwarded the request to its 29 deputy directors, who in turn passed it on to the over 1,400 schools.
“Clearly, transferring the petitioner’s application to various schools is unsustainable,” the HC ruled, disapproving of the dilatory tactics. “The public information officer is required to provide all such information as sought for, subject to the exceptions as provided under the (RTI) Act.”
In its response, the directorate said some of the information was “confidential in nature” and thus the “director pub may not be in a position to supply the same.” Forwarding the application to the schools meant that if they chose not to respond, the applicant would have to file over 1,400 appeals against nondisclosure of information. Aggrieved, petitioner Shikha Bagga approached the Delhi High Court.
“The question involved in the present case does not entail examination of whether the information sought for is confidential or is to be withheld from the petitioner.
The petitioner’s grievance is regarding transfer of her application to other PIOs and thereafter to various schools,” the court said in the order last week. The HC made it clear it has not expressed any opinion on whether the information ought to be made available to the petitioner.
“That question would be examined by PIO in the first instance,” it said. The directorate has been ordered to “consider the application” of the petitioner “in accordance with law” instead of adopting dilatory tactics. It set aside the order by which the application was forwarded to the deputies and onward to the schools.
ET View: Make information public
The court is right. Dither and delay in responding to RTI applications is unfair to a citizen. The law is meant to disclose reasons that inform policy making. The citizen has the right to seek clarifications on what the government has done or proposes to do about something that is of importance to her. It makes sense for the government now to move from parting with information on request to making the information available in public domain, without even waiting for an RTI query.