Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Applicants vexed over delay in RTI reply

Tribune News Service: Ludhiana: Wednesday, June 13, 2018.
Applicants seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) with respect to their cases in the Commissioner-RTI office are a harassed lot due to the delayed release of information. Officials in the office blame it on the lackadaisical attitude of the Station House Officers (SHOs) concerned who show reluctance in giving information.
During a visit to the RTI office, The Tribune team found several applicants lamenting that they had to do the rounds of the office to get a reply to their RTI application, the time for which has already been extended beyond the stipulated 30 days.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) is supposed to send the RTI reply within 30 days. But due to negligence on the part of officers, information gets delayed. An official of the Commissioner-RTI office said: “We are only facilitating information between the applicant and the PIO. The SHO concerned, who looks after the case, is supposed to send information about the case. However, they are not cooperative at all and as a result information is getting delayed. We have to tell the officers that action will be taken against them if they do not provide information.”
Sarabhjit Singh, RTI activist, said: “Information provided is often deficient or does not relate to the queries. The officers do not identify what the query is and that delays information. Here almost 80% of the RTI is about final reports of investigation. People facing charges want to prove their innocence through the RTI, which they don’t get in time. Not providing information on time can create problems for many persons involved in various cases. This is sabotaging the right to information that pertains to right and liberty of a person. If you are carrying out investigation in a fair manner, what holds you from parting with information? A victim remains a victim till the time his innocence is proved and what is the better way other than the RTI office?”
Prince, who filed an RTI in April, said: “I have still not received the reply. It has been more than one month now. I have paid countless visits to the RTI office.”
Space crunch at office
The RTI office is grappling with space crunch as barely any visitor can enter the office. Work is carried out through a single-window counter. An employee said: “We are six of us who adjust in this small space. Also, first and second appeal applications come here only. It becomes cumbersome to manage. Sometimes, we have to call the RTI applicant inside to understand his query, which is another problem in such a small space.”