IMPHAL October 9: The Right to Information Act is a very radical legislative reformation for the benefit the general population, Chief Information Commissioner Th Ibobi Singh said about the Act which was enacted ten years ago in 2005.
However its legislative content, intend and actual practice have widen with several lacunas and limitations, he said during a press conference held at the State Guest House today.
This shortcoming has amounted from all the stakeholders of this Act, he added.
Ibobi said RTI is a practical system entitled to citizens for securing information to promote transparency and accountability of the government`™s working.
The core aim is to reduce corruption in government departments by empowering the citizens with this new right to access all information in public custody, he added.
It further gives the right to inspect the implementation of government programmes, he observed.
The CIC continued, the public authorities, which is the main players of this Act need to be educated regarding their responsibilities defined in the Act, especially on the major thrust for voluntary disclosure of information or Su moto disclosure mention in section four of the Act which has been neglected till date in Manipur.
All the departments are expected to complete this voluntary disclosure exercise on 17 parameters with proper digitization and indexation within 120 days since the inception of the Act, he said.
Yet, even after ten years, we have not done much, he remarked.
The RTI Act further requires the officials to update information on regular intervals, not less than once a year. The information can also be shared with the public through brochures, booklets and respective websites, he informed.
`While the department still lurch on due to insufficient human resource with vacancies of even the State Information Commissioner, the appointed SPIOs seems to have slept over the Act for several applicants which amounts to `Deemed Refusal`™`, he lamented stretching on the need for the public officials to be pro-active and dispose the applications on time.
He said RTI applications from the remote rural areas are few and women applicants are nominal too.
He further encourages the active participation of the same in accessing information.
He also drew the attention of the public to utilize the powerful RTI Act and improve governance. Towards this endeavor he talked of awareness campaigns to reach even the remotest areas of the State and stretch on the critical role of the media to inform the public of such an empowering Act and to usher transparency and accountability in governance.
The Commission also shared that in few cases the applicants have sought petty insignificant information related to personal grudges.
He feels that such practice will choke the system while delaying genuine public redressing information seekers and suggested that such practice should cease.
Despite the passing of the RTI Act in June 2005, Manipur State was able to set up the State Commission only on September 12, 2006.
There was a long two and half year of defunct period before it reactivation since May this year.
The press conference was part of the weeklong RTI decadal celebration held across the country. In Manipur RTI Act applies to all its 53 departments with 248 Public Authorities with respective SPIO and ASPIOs along with 116 first appellate authorities.
Information is Power. Without Information Democracy loses its significance, the Commissioner said while appealing to all the stakeholders to extend support in promoting and utilizing this Act.