As India's Right to Information Act (RTI Act) will enter the 12th year of implementation on October 12, a new study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has said that “not all Information Commissions come out with their Annual Reports in a timely manner.”
“A major reason for the delays in the preparation of the annual reports is lack of inputs from the public authorities through their parent ministries and departments”, a CHRI report, prepared by senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, says.
“Although the Information Commissions are known to press upon the respective Governments to fulfill their reporting obligations, compliance is poor”, it adds.
This year, like before, CHRI says, “There are only a handful of annual reports published for the latest year due. As a result, it is difficult to answer the most basic question - how many RTI applications are received from citizens all over the country in a given year.”
Based on the data collected by CHRI about RTI applications from all the annual reports of the Information Commissions available on their websites, the report says, “A total of 1.75 crore (1,75,23,154) RTI applications are reported to have been made to the Central and State Governments during the period 2005-2015.”
Giving a break up, it says, the Central Government received more than a quarter (27.20% i.e., 47.66 lakh) of the 1.75 crore requests submitted by citizens in 2005-15, followed by the Maharasthra government, which received 26.40% i.e., 46.26 lakh, the Karnataka government 11.83%, Tamil Nadu 4.89%, and Gujarat, long propagated as India's model state, 4.32%, less than the proportion of its population, which is about 5%.
“Counting the RTI statistics published by 15 Information Commissions during the period 2013-15 (taking into account statistics available only for the latest year) a total of 26.60 lakh RTI requests were made by citizens during a period of one year”, the report says.
Based on this, the report adds, “It may be estimated said that the total number of RTI requests submitted across the country in a year during this period could be about 53-56 lakhs.” Other RTI activists peg the figure at 75-80 lakh RTI applications per year.
The report regrets, “None of the Information Commissions that follow the financial year reporting cycle, have published their Annual Reports for the year 2015-16”, adding, “Amongst the Information Commissions that follow the calendar year reporting cycle, only Meghalaya and Sikkim have published their Annual Reports for the year 2015.”
It further says, “The Karnataka Information Commission is the only body that has published online, all annual reports due, since October 2005”, insisting, “There is an urgent need to ensure the publication of annual reports in the larger States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.”
The report underlines, “Without data from these States which have a large number of RTI users and activists, it is not possible to draw a more accurate statistical picture of the volume of RTI applications filed across the country.”