Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Modi's Gujarat "competed" with Karnataka in rejecting RTI pleas in 2013-14, as applications rose by whopping 41%

By Our Representative
A just-released report, “State of Information Commissions and the Use of RTI Laws in India: Rapid Study Based on the Annual Reports of Information Commissions”, prepared by a team of researchers headed by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has said that Gujarat has one of the highest proportion of rejection of right to information (RTI) applications, close to a fifth (19.5 per cent), for reasons not pertaining to the RTI Act.
While the Central Government tops the with the highest proportion of rejections of RTI applications (35.62 per cent) “for reasons other than Sections 8, 9, 11 and 24 of the RTI Act”, Karnataka tops among states with the public authorities rejecting “more than a 30 per cent of the RTI applications for reasons not specified in the Act”, the report states.
Coming to specific sections under which RTI applications were rejected, the inter-state comparison suggests that “Section 8(1)(j), relating to the personal privacy of individuals was the most frequently invoked of exemptions by public authorities under the Central government and the Karnataka government.” Thus, invoking this section, more than a third of the RTI applications in Karnataka (33.15 per cent), followed by Central government (23 per cent) and Gujarat “a little more than 10 per cent”
At the same time, the report says, two sections – Section 9, which protects private copyright, and Section 11 which protects confidential information about third parties – were invoked rejecting more than 20 per cent of RTI applications in Gujarat.
Then, the report says, “In Gujarat, 6.2 per cent of the RTI applications were rejected for reasons specified in Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, which pertains to national security and specified national interests of the state, including foreign relations.” This is followed by Karnataka, 4.8 per cent. As for the Central government, only 0.05% of the rejections were on this count.
The report further says, “In Gujarat 23.5 per cent of the RTI applications were rejected under Section 24, as they pertained to security and intelligence organizations exempted by the government from the ordinary obligations of transparency like other public authorities”. In comparison, this section was invoked only in 6.52 per cent of the cases by the Central government.
Giving other details, the report states, as was the case last year, the maximum number of vacancies in the state information commission was in Jharkhand (4), with Gujarat and Tamil Nadu closely followed with 3 vacancies each. It notes, “The appointment of the woman IC in Gujarat was quashed by the High Court for not having any of the specializations specified in Section 15(5) of the Central RTI Act.”
Regretting that “only retired career bureaucrats are serving on the state Information Commissions of Chhattisgarh and Gujarat”, the report says, both “the Central and State governments are not adhering to the directions of the Supreme Court to widen their pool to include candidates with other specializations.”
As is natural, the Central government topped the number of RTI applications in 2013-14 with 8.34 lakh, with Maharashtra coming second with 7.03 lakh applications in 2014, Karnataka 4.25 lakh applications, and Gujarat at 4th place with 1.72 lakh applications. Pointing out that there has been a drastic increase in awareness about RTI in Gujarat, the report says, “Gujarat has reported a 41 per cent increase in the number of RTI applicants in 2013-14”, followed by “Karnataka 31 per cent”.
Coming the departments which received most number of RTI applications, the report says, the rural development topped the list in Chhattisgarh (14.85 per cent) and Himachal Pradesh (10.86 per cent), while the urban development topped the list in Gujarat (24.91 per cent) and Maharashtra (30.58 per cent).
As for the home department, including the police and prisons, it topped the list in Rajasthan (28.68 per cent), with Gujarat closely following (17.26%).

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