Vacation or no vacation, Right to Information (RTI) cells in all educational institutions must function round-the-year. This is the latest instruction from Chief Secretary B K Patnaik to six administrative departments under which the educational institutions of the State operate.
Taking note of the delay that has been taking place on the grounds of vacations, the Chief Secretary has shot off a letter to Agriculture, Employment, Technical Education and Training, Health and Family Welfare, Higher Education, School and Mass Education as well as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe departments under which all the educational institutions function.
“It is observed that owing to vacations in all educational institutions, the process of implementation of RTI remains affected and in several cases, the applications return undelivered,” the Chief Secretary’s letter stated, clearly indicating at the long summer vacations that is ahead.
The Chief Secretary was clear in his instruction to the educational institutions to differentiate between academic activities and office administration. While the classes may be suspended during the vacations, the office is expected to function round-the-year as per the calendar of the State Government.
The Chief Secretary was categorical in emphasising that in the eyes of law governing RTI, there is no vacation. All correspondence pertaining to RTI Act should be entertained round-the-year and there should be strict adherence to the stipulations of time as per the Act, his letter stated.
Any deviation in this regard will be viewed seriously and delinquent officials are liable for punitive action by the Odisha Information Commission.
Information Commissioner Jagadananda echoed similar sentiments. RTI is a mandatory Act and citizens have a right to get the information they seek and it is obligatory on the part of the public authority to put in place processes or systems that deliver the information, he said.
The Act, according to him, does not recognise holidays or vacations. “It is the 30-day time, as per the provisions of the Act, within which the public information officer (PIO) must supply the information on what the legislation recognises, nothing else,” Jagadananda pointed out. It is obligatory on the part of all public authorities, he said, not just educational institutions, that they streamline their processes and systems instead of wriggling around.
The Chief Secretary directed all administrative departments to instruct the institutions under their control to ensure proper functioning of the RTI cells all round-the-year as per the calendar of the State Government.