India Looks to Encourage More Proactive Disclosure

16 July 2015

The Indian government is pressing agencies to proactively release more of the information repeatedly sought by requesters under the Right to Information Act.

The government has asked all departments to do an analysis of information sought often by applicants and suo-motu make such details public, according to media reports such as an article in The New Indian Express. The report says the effort is in response to a recommendation by a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“All departments must make an analysis of information which is sought most often from applicants and provide it on their website as suo-motu disclosure,” according to the 76th report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

The Department of Personnel and Training wrote to all ministries July 9 urging compliance with the committee’s recommendations.

“Despite directions, not all ministries have followed it. Some ministries have started putting RTI queries and their response on their websites. Action will be taken if they do not start doing it,” a senior DoPT official is quoted as saying.

Similar messages have been sent in 2013 and in 2014. An Oct. 21, 2014 order called for uploading RTI replies and appeals requests. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

Separately, the department June 29 issued another order on suo-moto disclosure, based on the recommendations of a committee of experts. The order tells departments to post “all details of the public authority” on their websites and specifically mentions disclosure of “information relating to recruitment, promotion and transfers.” The order says there must be “an effective system to address the grievances of affected persons.”   It urges training for employees on “the virtues of transparency”

In another development, the DoPT announced that states can get financial aid to set up facilities for online filing of RTI applications and other initiatives aimed at simplification and promotion of the transparency law, including establishment of helplines in local languages, reported The Deccan Herald.

Companies Compile Lists of RTI Regulars

Another effort to reduce the number of RTI requests is being undertaken by public sector companies.

They are uniting through their umbrella lobby organization, the Standing Committee on Public Enterprises or Scope, to draw up a list of regular requesters, aiming to use this list to block such requests.

“The companies claim they have the right to do this, since repeated information sought from them can be pieced together by rivals as price sensitive data,” according to an article by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee in The Indian Express.

U D Choubey, Director General of Scope, said habitual seekers of “irrelevant clarifications” under RTI are affecting the productivity of public sector enterprises, according to the aricle.

“Scope has written to all its constituent public sector companies for providing the list of habitual seekers of queries. Once the list is obtained, (we) shall take up the issue with the august institution of Central Information Commission (CIC),” he said.

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