Slower Growth Rate Seen in Indian RTI Requests

2 April 2015

The rate of growth in the number of Right to Information Act requests filed in India is slowing, according to the preliminary findings by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

“So the question to ask is whether RTI fatigue is setting in or will the numbers go up considerably if all public authorities were to report their RTI stats,” according to the analysis.

 CHRI also documents that not all pubic authorities reported their RTI data to the CIC.

Another finding is that the rejection rate based on the category of “other” is rising. Overall, the rejection rate is dipping slightly, according to the data.

To reach these conclusions, CHRI took a close look at the 2013-2014 annual report of the Central Information Commission and previous year’s reports. (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)

The CIC puts the total number of RTI received by the public authorities reporting to it in 2013-14 at 962,000, according to the preliminary findings.

“This is not the correct figure as it includes pending RTI applications from the previous year,” according to CHRI. The correct figure for receipts in 2013-14 is 834,000, the group calculates.

The report continues:

This shows a marginal decline in the rate of receipts when compared to the rate of increase between 2011-12 and 2012-13. It was 22% increase in 2012-13. But increase in 2013-14 is 2.7%.

Reporting Gaps Seen

More than a quarter of public authorities did not report RTI statistics in the last period though they are as required by law to do so, the report also documents. The CHRI chart shows that 73 percent of 2,276 public authorities provided data.

The report says:

The reporting compliance rose in 2012-13 but fell again in 2013-14. The Highest rate was in 2005-06 followed by 2007-08 when the reporting was more than 85%. CIC is not able to compel a large number of public authorities to submit data.

Rejection Rate Down

The rejection rate in 2013-2014 was 7.2 percent, down from the previous year’s rates of 7.7 percent and 8.3 percent.

However, CHRI found, more requests are denied on grounds outside the standard exemptions.

CHRI said:

The proportion of rejections for reasons other that Sections 8, 9, and 24 is increasing. Each year the CIC expresses worry about this trend but has done previous little to inquire into the reasons. Under the RTI Act a request can be rejected only for reasons under Sections 8, 9 and 24. Section 11 (third party) is not a ground for rejection. It is only a procedure as rejection must still be based on reasons given in Sections 8 and 9 or 24. For all of GoI, the rejection under “Others” has increased by 4.4% over the previous year. However there is a reduction in the number of instances where Section 8(1)(c) _ Parliamentary privilege, 8(1)(e) – fiduciary relationship, 8(1)(g)- endangering life, 8(1)(h)- impeding law enforcement or trial or arrest, 8(1)(i)- Cabinet exemption and 8(1)(j) – privacy have been invoked overall. The total rejection rate has also come down by 0.5% while the number of requests has grown by 2.2%.

The report also documents rejections rates at individual agencies.

The rejection rate in the Finance Ministry was reduced this year although it receives the largest number of RTI applications, but the Corporate Affairs Ministry has seen an almost 300% increase in the rejection rate last year.

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