Indian Ministries Told to Post Replies Online by Oct. 31

23 October 2014

All Indian government agencies have been told to post online their replies to Right to Information Act requests by the end of the month.

The ministry overseeing the administration of the Indian RTI Act on Oct. 21 announced a new website feature that will allow placement of replies on the RTI Online system.

Agencies were instructed to contact the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) for directions on the system upgrade. A one page memo by Sandeep Jain says the goal is to implement the policy by Oct. 31.

The obligation to post applications and appeals, and agency responses, was set on April 15, 2013, in a DOPT guideline. Since then a pilot RTI Online portal has been testing programs for such disclosures.

The Times of India quotes another government memo indicating that agencies can withhold RTI replies that contain personal information. “It may be noted that RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed if they do not serve any public interest,” said the DoPT note circulated to all Union ministries and departments on Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

Support for Change

The move was lauded in an article in the Economic Times, which reported:

This will mean unprecedented scale of disclosure and cheer transparency advocates, especially those in the NGO sector with whom this government has had a testy relationship. Until now, only the person filing the RTI application seeking replies from a ministry or a government department would get the reply and that too mostly via post.

The Economic Times quoted Satyanand Mishra, former Chief Information Commissioner, tas saying that the step takes transparency under the RTI Act to “just another level.”

“It is a very good and welcome step. It will not only improve transparency but also reduce workload of government officials as it will help eliminating possibility of repeated RTI queries on the same issue,” Mishra said.

 

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