State Information Commissioner Gumjum Haider highlighted the status of RTI pending cases amid rising allegations levelled by various unions & associations against various departments & State nodal agencies for not disseminating information within the stipulated time frame from designated Public information officers as per RTI Right to Information act 2005 to their queries.
According to a few RTI activists, the Arunachal Pradesh Information Commission failed to summon some government departments of Arunachal Pradesh whose public information officers (PIO) didn't respond to the queries & disseminate information of ongoing projects, and schemes within one month time period as enacted under the RTI act 2005.
According to Arunachal Pradesh RTI commissioner Gumjum Haider, all allegations are fabricated, and informed that out of the total 460 RTI pending cases more than 300 have been already addressed & disposed off.
Haider stated "RTI was passed in 2005 by an act in the parliament of India. Right to information is the most vibrant & functional statutory body all over India which forms a part of the quasi-judicial matter in India. We have five state information commissioners here in Arunachal & all are trying to address & dispose of as many possible cases, on day to day basis & trying to give justice to any appellant who knocks on the door of our court. Commissioner denied chances of corruption while seeking justice through state information commission remarked Gumjum Haider (SIC)
Whoever approaches us after not getting satisfactory information regarding their concerned schemes of work where public money through the Government is involved gets justice within the stipulated timeframe.
Accordingly, all the public information officers (PIO) deputed in various departments of the state have to furnish information to whoever seeks it,” added SIC commissioner Gumjum Haider.
Compared to other Northeastern states, Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed the highest number of RTI cases with a total of 460 cases of which 300 have been already disposed off.
“No citizen who visits us can claim that he/she didn't receive justice from our state information commission. But it is also true that we enacted some rules here in the court. If an appellant after filing the case observed to be absenting himself/herself from making an appearance in our court automatically that case will get disposed off with assumptions that the appellant is no more interested in the case. Then a notice is served to the appellant from the court,” added SIC Gumjum Haider.
The State Information Commissioner enumerated that if any Government body or department avoids to furnish the information as sought by the appellant, then this information commissioner court can even take disciplinary action against the particular department & Officials for denial & alleged officers & PIOs will face trouble in their future pension benefits during their retirement.
According to Gumjum Haider, the Public Information Officers (PIO) that are present in every district and blocks should be active while disseminating information sought by any citizen of the state. Hence the SICs are given the responsibility to train the Public Information Officers by visiting every district and block in the state.
Showing confidence that there is no dearth of any appellant not receiving justice, the SIC Haider further stated that the appellants were even approached to know whether they received the information regarding their queries & assurance of their satisfaction or not or whether the info received was misleading. A time period is given to the appellants who after receiving the information disclose whether they are satisfied with the answers thus received or not.
SIC Haider also informed that Arunachal Pradesh Information Commission (APIC) has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a Public Information Officer (PIO) of Lower Subansiri district for the delay in furnishing information sought by two appellants, besides directing him to pay compensation of Rs 5,000 to them for the monetary losses incurred on them in making to and for journeys between Ziro and the state capital.
The APIC appeal case pertains to negligence and refusal in furnishing the information to the appellant (information seeker) and defying the direction/order of the Commission against the PIO.
The Commission directed the PIO cum DPDO (District Panchayat Development Officer), Lower Subansiri district, Neelam Teji, to deposit the penalty amount in favour of the Registrar, Arunachal Pradesh Information Commission, Itanagar under the head of account No. ‘0070’. It further directed him to furnish all the information to the appellant as sought and deposit his payment challan to the Commission for final disposal of the appeal.
SIC Haider further warned the PIO of disciplinary action as per service rule under Section 20 (2) of the RTI Act of 2005 if he failed to comply with the order.
When asked by India Today ne correspondent whether the RTI cases have been used as a blackmailing tool to harass officers, SIC Haider denied it & rather informed that if officers are working honestly and transparently, then there is no question of blackmailing as citizens have full right to access information as per RTI act, regarding any schemes, road projects, ongoing works where public money is being used and funded by the Government, and stated that it's tax payers money and it should be used judiciously for the welfare of the common citizens & for developmental activities.
“There is no need to be afraid of RTI applications if the officers and the departments concerned are clean.” He added that RTI is an Act of Parliament and the state has little scope to amend it.
However, any attempt to weaken the RTI Act would encourage endemic corruption in Arunachal as the people at the helm of affairs would be shielded by a weak Act and their corrupt practices would be condoned by the political bosses.
"The stronger the Act, the more transparent would be the governance system. Let’s not kill the RTI Act. However, any attempt to weaken the RTI Act would encourage endemic corruption in Arunachal as the people at the helm of affairs would be shielded by a weak Act and their corrupt practices would be condoned by the political bosses," remarked SIC Gumjum Haider.
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