Misuse of RTI

Misuse of RTI

Misuse of RTI

RTI Act, 2005

The RTI Act is passed to provide to set up the machinery towards applying the right to information for individuals which held under the control of public authorities, by means of which, transparency and accountability are promoted in the working of every public authority, set up by Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions. The transparency, as well as responsibility, might assist in eliminating the corruption through making such governments and their instrumentalities accountable for the actions while rendering their services towards the public; however, the Act also makes certain that the preservation of the privacy of sensitive information. The Act also set up the machinery to offer the information expeditiously requested by the public. 

Misuse of RTI Act, 2005

In the provisions of the RTI Act, the said Act is for securing access towards information under the control of public authorities; towards promoting transparency and accountability in the functioning of every public authority. This Court held that such an object of the Act is, on the contrary, misused through the claimant that there is no public interest in disclosure. It has been seen in cases that RTI law being misused by casual or habitual information seekers for some reason. Firstly non-applicability of locus-standi rule towards RTI case and secondly, non-requirement of giving reasons for looking for information leaves plenty of scopes for non-serious information seekers to misuse it for their personal interest.

The 11th annual report of the State Information Commissionerate (SIC) has drawn attention to possible “misuse” of the RTI Act through certain users.

The various benches of the SIC have seen cases of a single person filing multiple appeals. Similarly, there were cases of misuse of the financial leeway given to below the poverty line claimants. Misuse of the RTI Act was noticed in some instances and it is the responsibility of social organizations and activists to take cognition of the similar and devise actions to stop it.

As per the officials of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Appellate Authorities (AAs), the modus operandi of such applicants is simple files multiple applications regarding the same issue, go into appeal and then go for a second appeal. Officials stated individuals then approach them for ‘settlement’. In a few cases, officials in public welfare departments receive several such applications.

The annual report calls upon RTI users as well as NGOs to take measures to control such misuse.

How people are affected by the misuse of RTI?

•    RTI could be curbed by imposing rational restrictions on the constitution.

•    If RTI is curbed, the day is not far when we would have to give reasons to speak and establish our identity.

•    An individual could be defamed by speech or writing.

•    The powerful are not happy with the RTI and hence, try to discredit it by talking regarding its misuse

•    Many eminent individuals berate the RTI and call for restricting its usage.

•    There is an extensive acceptance that statements, books, and works of literature and art are covered by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. Any attempt to control this is met with stiff resistance.

•    The continuous refrain that the RTI provision is misused is nothing but an effort to muzzle a citizen’s fundamental right.

What is the way forward?

RTI should not be allowed towards being misused or exploited, to become a medium to hinder national development and integration, or to destroy peace, tranquillity, and harmony amongst citizens.

Two easy tips to PIOs to handle repetitive RTI queries are:

1.    Ensuring that the information is provided in less than 10 days by taking applications from such applicants on priority. Ensuring that letter asking for additional fees is sent well in time. I have found such an approach usually leading to a reduction of such applications. If however, this does not have any effect, then the matter should be highlighted before the Information Commissioner in the second appeal.

2.    Another good practice that could be adopted would be to upload all queries and the replies on the website. Where information has already been provided applicants may not ask for it. Even if they do ask, the PIO would find it easy to provide it. Besides in a few cases where an applicant is filing what appears to be frivolous or repetitive applications, this would be a restraint since it would expose such applicants.

3.    If someone is indeed filing requests for the same information repetitively make him pay each time.

The constant refrain of some people to highlight ‘misuse’ of RTI is an attempt to muzzle the citizen’s fundamental right. Freedom of speech and media which also are covered under Article 19 (1) (a) have been expanding with time. There is a national debate when a movie is subjected to cuts or people or media are muzzled by government, political class or ruffians. Yet the nation goes along with this big lie of RTI threatening the peace, harmony, and integrity of India. If RTI is curbed the day is not far when we will have to give reasons to speak and establish our identity. A person can be defamed by speech or writing. 

Penalties under Section 20 of the RTI Act, 2005

It is one of the important Sections in the RTI Act 2005 as this makes the CPIOs or SPIOs legally responsible for not acting consistent with the Act and hence penalty is enforced to a maximum amount of Rs.25, 000 as stated in Section 20 of the RTI Act, 2005.

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