CHANDIGARH—Right to Information Act (RTI) is gasping for breath in Chandigarh Administration because of non-serious CPIOs. There are scores of cases where either CPIOs do not take the Act seriously or finding ways to escape from providing information to the applicants. Here is a classical example of CPIOs in dealing with the RTI application. Have you ever heard that a court has passed an order without hearing the case? Here is a classical example.
The reporter has sought copies of pages of the register maintained by the Chandigarh Estate Office in respect of completion certificates vide application dated October 13, 2020. When no action was taken by the CPIO concerned, he preferred an appeal against the action of the CPIO before the First Appellate authority vide application dated November 26, 2020. As said silence is also itself a question, the first appellate kept silent. The reporter has filed another appeal before the Second Appellate on December 31, 2020.
On the same CPIO suddenly woke up from his slumber, informed the reporter vide his Endst. No 392889 the SDO (B), Chandigarh, the application has been sent to the Chandigarh Housing Board to supply information in respect of Point No 2. Whereas the Point No 1 is concerned the information is not available with his office (while he is the competent authority to issue completion certificates).
The CPIO, Chandigarh Housing Board swung into action and delivered a letter No 65 dated January 1, 2021 stating, “such information has not been maintained in a compiled form and not compiled so far and compilation of the same tantamount to the creation of documents, hence it is not covered under RTI Act.”
The appellant was surprised to find that while first and second appellate authorities did not hear his appeals, CPIOs delivered these letters. Notably, a letter dated January 11, 2021, from the first appellate authority was delivered at the applicant’s residence on January 15, 2021, stating the same context which was convened by the CPIO, Estate Office vide his letter of December 31, 2020.
Notably, CPIO, Chandigarh Housing Board, who had earlier refused to supply information on Point No 2, now has delivered a letter Ends 59 dated January 12, 2021, received on January 17, 2021, providing information which was denied earlier. An RTI activist sought information from the Registrar, Cooperative Department, Chandigarh regarding a cooperative housing society has been denied on the plea that it is not a “public authority” but the registrar continues to appoint an administrator in housing societies. Similarly, Superintendent, Vigilance, Chandigarh Administration informed an information seeker that the allegations leveled in the application were “inquired and filed.” The applicant asked for a copy of the inquiry under the RTI Act. He was told by the same official that “no vigilance inquiry was conducted.” Hundred of RTI applications dealt with in a casual manner. Even decisions of appellate authorities and chief information commission were not honored.
It was found that the estate office, police and cooperative departments topped the list of departments lacking in compliance with RTI applications. According to the official data, the UT Administration has received over 14,000 RTI applications in 2013-14 compared to 12,942 in 2011-12 and 10.404 in 2010. However, only a small percentage of these actually come up hearing owing to various reasons.
RTI Act more of a fairy tale than an incredible tool that has recently passed out in the third division (scoring 38 marks out of 100) in Transparency International’s latest corruption perception index. Casual action from the CPIOs turns the RTI Act more of a fairy tale than an incredible tool to empower the public has become a convenient tool for the CPIOs to ‘brush aside’ all relevant information by keeping silence. Anyhow, silence is itself a question to be answered.