Indians File 4.5 RTI Requests Annually, Study Estimates

9 July 2015

Indians filed more that 4.5 million right to information requests annually in recent years, according to a major nationwide study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

The report digs deep into frequently incomplete data from national and state information commissions. CHRI makes 30 recommendations, mainly focused on the administration of the act and recordkeeping.

In addition to looking at RTI usage, the report examines response rates, the number of pending matters and the condition of the commissions. It’s the third such detailed report, entitled “State of Information Commissions and the Use of RTI Laws in India.”

The vacancy rate on information commissions around the country increased from 14% in 2014 to 20% in 2015, the study shows. In five states, information commissions were headless as of June 2015. Most commissioners (77 percent) are retired government officials.

Looking at usage, the report cites a variety of measurement issues including the inconsistent use of calendar and financial year reporting. “Data culled out from the Annual Reports of the CIC and 12 SICs indicates that a total of 24.77 lakh (2.47 million) applications were filed in those jurisdictions in a given year between 2012-14,” according to the report.

“By extrapolating this data it can be conservatively estimated that about 45-50 lakh (4.5 to 5.0 million) RTI applications may have been filed in various jurisdictions across the country during a 12-month period between 2012-14,” the researchers say. “The actual figure may be closer to 50 lakhs because several States where RTI is being used very prolifically have not reported their RTI applications statistics for the period under scrutiny in this report.

The report estimates that between 0.37-0.41 percent of India’s population sought information under the RTI Act in 2014.

Only two state commissions captured gender data on RTI applicants. In Chhattisgarh, women constituted 6.9 percent of the RTI applicants while in Nagaland they comprised 2.53 percent.

The Central Government received the most requests, at 834,000 in 2013-204, according to the report.

The report documents the pending caseloads at commissions. At the national level, it amounts to 32,776 second appeals and 7,568 complaints.

CHRI calls it “disturbing” that fewer commissions are posting data on their disposal of cases reporting: “Only 27.5% (8 out of 29) of the Information Commissions have displayed their case disposal statistics up to 2014-15 on their websites. In comparison, in 2014,45% of the Information Commissions (13 of 29) had displayed their case disposal data.”

“About 41% (12 of 29) of the Information Commissions display the current status of pending appeals and complaints cases,” the report says, also noting that 62% of the commissions (18 of 29) have uploaded their decisions in appeal and complaint cases for all years.

 

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