Madras HC issues notice in petition for creation of online RTI portals

A writ petition has been filed in the Madras High Court, seeking its intervention to direct the state government to set up online RTI portals in respect of all government departments.

The petitioner, one Mohamed Khader Meeran, represented by Advocate Fathima Sulthana, has submitted that the Right to Information Act, 2005 contains provisions for the creation of online RTI portals. However, no state, with the exception of Maharashtra, has undertaken initiatives to provide such online services.

It has also been noted that as per Section 4(1)(b) of the Act, public authorities are required to disclose information regarding their organisational structure, function, powers and duties of employees, procedure followed in decision making, categories of documents under its control etc. within 120 days of commencement of the Act. No such disclosure has been made by the Tamil Nadu government till date, the petition contends.

The petitioner has suggested that the online RTI facilities already initiated by Maharashtra can be emulated by Tamil Nadu. Following RTI queries, it was discovered that the Maharashtra government received technical support from the National Informatics Centre to set up its online RTI service facilities. No additional cost was incurred in the establishment, management or supervision of these services.

It  was also submitted that such initiatives would help develop transparency, reduce the burden of Public Information Officers, reduce paper and save public money that would be lost with transit of information otherwise.

The petitioner had made a representation dated May 12, 2017, to state government authorities in Tamil Nadu, which was forwarded to the Chief Minister’s cell as well, requesting that measures be implemented to carry out the mandate of proactive disclosure, and further than online RTI facilities be set up. The representation, however, did not yield any satisfactory response.

In these circumstances, the petitioner approached the Madras High Court, praying that directions be issued to state government authorities so that measures may be undertaken for proactive disclosure as mandated by the RTI, and further that online RTI portals be launched in the state.

As per a press release, the Court has issued notice to the Chief Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (State and Union Government) as well as the National Informatics Centre. The case is expected to be taken up for hearing next on September 4.

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