NEW DELHI: Curious Indians are prolific users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and public authorities are unable to keep them satisfied. Indian citizens have filed close to 50 lakh RTIs in a year (2013-2014) but the number of rejections and appeals indicate that public authorities are often failing to give the information that people are seeking.
A country-wide study on the functioning of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and state information commissions by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) reveals that the number of RTIs has increased exponentially. While the number of RTIs in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has increased by 127%, the number of RTIs in Rajasthan has almost doubled. Gujarat has recorded 41% increase in the number of RTI applicants while Karnataka witnessed 31% within a year.
The study "State of Information Commissions and the Use of RTI laws in India" by CHRI's Venkatesh Nayak found that public authorities under the central government received the most number of RTI applications in 2013-14 at 8.34 lakh (with 73% public authorities revealing the number of applicants). Maharashtra came in second with 7.03 lakh RTI applications. In fact, between the central government and Maharashtra, the two received 62% of RTI applications among the 12 commissions that submitted their details.
If the increase in the number of RTIs is a heartening sign, the rejections of applications are not. CIC reported that 60,127 RTI applications were rejected by public information officers in 2013-14, the number of first appeals filed with various First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) was 57% higher at 94,945. "However the number of first appeals is disproportionately large and indicates lack of satisfaction amongst the RTI applicants with the information or reply provided by the PIOs," the report says.
The highest proportion of first appeals was reported in Karnataka at 1,786%. While the state information commission reported that 1,517 RTI applications were rejected the number of first appeals filed was 28,614. "This indicates the extremely high level of dissatisfaction with the decisions of the PIOs," the report said.
Nagaland clocked a 1,325% increase in the number of first appeals (228) filed as against the number of rejections (16) at the application stage. Maharashtra comes third in terms of first appeals outnumbering rejections (in 2014). While 15,848 rejections were recorded for this period, the proportion of first appeals filed was 490% of the rejections (77,678). Of this only 7,139 appeals were rejected by FAAs and information is said to have been provided in the remaining cases.