HYDERABAD: While the disposal of cases for information has improved at the State Information Commission, there seems to be not much difference in reality. While orders are passed after speedy hearing sessions, information commissioners say the respondents do not comply with the orders.
Reason is the loopholes in the Right To Information Act itself. Though the Commission enjoys a status on par with civil courts, it lacks powers to ensure compliance of its orders or contempt powers, rendering the institution toothless.
“There are several loopholes in the Act. In non-compliance of orders, we cannot act on our own. However, the petitioner can lodge a complaint following which we can hold a hearing and impose fine. But, again there is no system to ensure the fine is paid,” explains Jannat Hussain, chief information commissioner. He, however, claims that a majority of orders are implemented.
Stressing on the spirit of the Act which says “the one who seeks information should get it”, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, an RTI activist, points out that quantitative parameters like disposal rate do not reveal the real story.
“The commission should have powers to track and follow up cases. The present practice is that a case gets closed once the order is passed and not when the order is implemented,” says Dubbudu. Further, he notes that erring Public Information Officers (PIOs) tend to deliberately stay quiet and hesitate from providing the sought information.
State Information Commissioner Lam Thantiya Kumari had recently ordered an Alwal-based private educational institution to fall in line with the Act and divulge the sought information. Upon non-compliance by the management, the commissioner wrote to the UGC for withholding grants to the institution until the management honoured the order.
“There are loopholes in the act and in a majority of cases, the respondents approach the courts and get a stay order on the commission’s judgment, but we have to outsmart the erring respondents,” says Kumari.
Another information commissioner, on condition of anonymity, added, “In a judgment against an influential public school in the city, despite approaching the government for implementing, there is no progress and the school continues not to comply with the judgment.”