Draft RTI rules still waiting for approval, stagnant progress and uncertainty affecting millions annually

Nearly a year after the government has come out with the draft RTI Rules in 2017 still it faces uncertainty and unambiguousness and lay in the back-burner, with stagnant progress insight towards the approval.This delay has been attributed to many objections from sections of the Central Information Commission (CIC). There are many activists who have argued the draft rules endangered applicants and reduced transparency. Another cause of very concern is the second proposal; that applicants be allowed to withdraw an appeal if the matter hasn’t been heard or order is pending.This increases the risk of appellant drastically. “The minute you say you can withdraw, the guy who is affected will be at your throat.”

There have been other recommendations that will likely to backfire on those who are seeking information. Eg, the proposal mandates more documents than before while applying under RTI. If they are found unsuitable, the appeal can be returned. “They have made the process more cumbersome.” The appellant has to file complaints within 90 days of the cause. Afterward, a special request has to be made to accept the delay and explain the cause of it. However, in most cases, violation of RTI Act by officials, such as providing false information, comes to light much later.

The very important proposal which is been made is that complaints must be accompanied by a copy of the RTI application which needs to be submitted to the Public Information Officer.However, often, the PIO refuses to accept an application and  Even then, or in complaints related to non-appointment of PIOs, the appellant has to submit the PIO-approved RTI application copy, a mandatory requirement or else need to struggle through the end for completing the required routine cycle. This is certainly in direct violation of SC orders.

RTI Officials agrees that there is a huge scope of some improvements. A stronger mechanism needs to be introduced to deal with non-compliance of information commissioners’ orders, which is a common complaint But the overall situation is worrying, especially because the RTI Act is currently the world’s most widely used transparency law: as many as 4-6 million people use it annually.