Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group
Eight years after the enactment of one of its biggest achievement - the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is ready to review its own performance. After facing a lot of criticism from RTI activists for showing intent to modify the Act, the government has offered to study the problems being faced by information activists.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) earlier this month invited bids to conduct a 360 degree study of the implementation of the RTI Act and to gauge the level of satisfaction among the people with the functioning of the RTI Act.
While the framework for eliciting the feedback is yet to be made public, the proposed study would also record the experience of public authorities at different levels in dealing with RTI applications and appeals filed with them. The study also aims to assess the level of reduction in corruption due to the advent of the RTI Act.
The decision to float the tender for a comprehensive study comes at a time when the number of appeals and complaints has soared at the Central Information Commission (CIC). A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study reveals that the number of appeals and complaints against official replies to the RTI queries is steadily rising.
The number of complaints went up to 22,800 in 2009-10 from 15,426 in 2008-09. In 2010-11, it rose to 28,875, growing up to 33,922 in 2011-12. The growing rejection rate has led to an increase in number of complaints with the commission. During the year 2011-12 rejected applications were to the tune of 8.9 per cent of all RTI applications filed with the public authorities. In 2007-08 rejection percentage was 7.20 per cent which rose to 7.26 per cent in 2008-09. During 2009-10 and 2010-11 the rejection of application was recorded at 6.43 per cent and 5.2 per cent respectively.
Among ministries, the Ministries of Finance, Home Affairs, Communication & IT, Petroleum and Gas and Labour & Employment figured amongst the top five public authorities respectively in rejecting RTI applications between 2007 and 2012.
Interestingly, key ministries which have rejected maximum RTI applications during 2011-12 include Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation rejected maximum 21.7 per cent applications followed by the ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises which refused answer to 15.4 per cent of applications. The Ministry of Finance and Labour followed with 15.3 per cent and 13.1 per cent rejection rate, respectively. The PMO rejected 12.6 per cent applications during the same period.
At the seventh annual convention of the CIC hosted in October 2012, Singh had cautioned against the misuse of the RTI Act by those filing vexatious applications and inclusion of public private partnerships (PPP) within its ambit.