Indian Government Orders More Proactive Disclosure

7 July 2016

Frequently requested information must be disclosed to the public and “transparency audits” should be conducted by advisory committees, according to a new order from India’s Department of Personnel and Training.

The order does not dictate the mode of disclosure, by another section of the order says departments may set up “Information and Facilitation Centres” (IFCs) “to provide printed publications to citizens mentioning the categories of information that are frequently being sought under the RTI Act.”

The directive is based on the recommendations of a committee of experts formed by the government to look into the scope of suo motu disclosure of governance-related information. The committee reported its findings a year ago. The directive is summarized in articles by The Business Standard and LiveMint.

The departments were asked to “constitute Consultative Committees consisting of office bearers of key stakeholder, association on rotational basis to have a systematic and regular interaction between the officials of the Public Authorities to advice what information to be uploaded as suo motu.”

In each public authority, a committee “with rich experience of dealing with RTI applications and appeals” should “identify the categories of information that are frequently asked by applicants,” according to the order. “Such information must be disclosed in the public domain to make it more user friendly and should also be reviewed at regular intervals.”

The June 30 order further says, “Information that is proactively disclosed must be properly categorized and organised in such a manner that it facilitates easy retrieval.” It says, “Information on the website must be organised in a searchable and retrievable database to enable people to access the records.”

The DoPT said the task of undertaking transparency audits may be given to the respective training institutes under each ministry or department and across the states and union territories.

The order says websites and publications must carry the date on which the information was uploaded or printed.

“It is a welcome measure,” LiveMint quoted Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative as saying. He continued: “However, for transparency audits, departments need to involve people who are users of that information. Their concerns should be taken into account.” He also said that “department heads need to be made responsible for the effective implementation of the RTI Act and that should be made part of their performance appraisal.”

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