PRESS RELEASE MARCH 12, 2011
On the occasion of 3rd National RTI Convention in Shillong
NAPM Resolution on Right to Information
Nationwide Action Against Corruption on March 23
Right to Information Act has been in existence for more than five years now and marked revolutionary changes in the realm of governance. It has been a tool to fight the bureaucratic corruption and seek information pertinent to public good. As a result, it has also been under attack from various quarters. Even as we move ahead to make it more effective, NAPM believe that these concerns need immediate redressal.
Making the process of filing of RTI applications simple:
It is important that the process of filing of RTI applications becomes simple and accessible for people from across the country. Three years back, Bihar set up a call centre to receive RTI applications. In this system, people have been given a phone number. They call up this number, tell their name, address and what information do they need from the government. Their voice gets recorded and the voice becomes RTI application. Rs 10 application fee gets debited to phone bill.
This system is extremely useful to the rural people, who had to come to district headquarters earlier to file RTI applications. It is also useful for illiterate people who can simply call up and ask questions without needing to write RTI applications.
A team from Central Government headed by a joint Secretary studied this system and gave a very positive report. Yet, the governments have not implemented this system. We therefore, demand that this system should be implemented everywhere in the country.
Selection and appointments of Information Commissioners:
RTI has been declared as a part of our fundamental rights by various High Courts and Supreme Court in several judgements. Role of Information Commissioners is extremely critical in protecting the right of citizens to information. However, both state and central governments have been appointing information commissioners in secretive and non-participatory manner. While making these appointments, rather than examining the commitment of the candidate towards transparency, his/her loyalty to the political party in power is the criteria for appointment. In most states, retiring Chief Secretaries, due to their proximity to the Chief Ministers have been able to get themselves appointed as Chief Information Commissioners. In the centre, two retiring DOPT secretaries got themselves appointed as Information Commissioners.
Therefore, NAPM demands that the governments should lay down a transparent and participatory process for selecting information commissioners. In this regard, we can learn from Indonesia and South Africa, who have a very transparent and participatory process. Borrowing heavily from the practices adopted in these countries, a meeting of RTI activists, held at Indian Institute of Public Administration in Delhi in August 2010, suggested a system appropriate for our country to all the state and central governments. We demand that these suggestions should immediately be implemented.
An appeal to Information Commissions
RTI Act is the only Act passed by Parliament of India which prescribes a penalty for an officer, to be deducted from his salary, who does not do his job in time. The penalty has to be imposed by Information Commissioners. However, most commissioners hesitate in imposing penalties. A survey shows that of all the recorded violations, penalties were imposed in just 2% cases last year. This has emboldened the officials and they take RTI lightly, as a result of which the commissions are saddled with huge pendencies. We, therefore, demand that the commissioners should adopt a zero tolerance towards RTI violations and impose penalties in every case of violation.
Likewise, almost 62% orders passed by Information Commissioners are not complied with. Though the commissioners have the powers of summons and issuing arrest warrants if summons are violated, just one commissioner from all over the country has shown the courage to issue arrest warrants. We demand that the commissioners should invoke all powers available at their command to ensure implementation of their orders.
Transparency in judiciary:
It is unfortunate that the same judiciary, which spoke about Right to Information so vocally in the last few decades, suddenly became adverse to it, when it came to applying it to themselves. The rules framed by various High Courts violate the basic provisions of RTI. They have also prescribed very high fee. We, therefore demand that the judiciary should implement RTI Act in its letter and spirit.
Nationwide Action Against Corruption on March 23
On occasion of Shahid Bhagat Singh’s martyrs day NAPM and associated organisations announce nationwide action against not only massive economic corruption in various government programmes but in utilisation and exploitation of our natural resources and right to life and livelihood of people. Corporations and political power together are looting our land, water, river, forests and minerals and we from people’s movements have been exposing this corruption in Lavasa, Adarsh Housing Society and others in Maharashtra, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Narmada Valley. Expanding the boundary of corruption we call upon everyone to stand up to stop the destruction of our planet earth and protect the ruthless and corrupt exploitation of our natural resources from the tentacles of unscrupulous businesses and those in power.
[This resolution was endorsed by NAPM bi-ennial Convention on Oct 25-26, 2010 at Badwani, Madhya Pradesh]