Thursday, 6 February 2014

RTI -Right To Insane        

Chennai, February 6: Every citizen in India is bestowed with the right to question any government department under the Right To Information act, 2005. But that doesn’t mean all the departments would react promptly and provide answers to such petitioners.

For instance, the experience of Mr K.Neelamegam of T Nagar, who filed a RTI petition with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), shows how difficult it is get RTI answers and how the process could drain both the money and the spirit of the petitioner.

Social activist Neelamegam filed his RTI petition with the SHRC in March 2013 listing five questions on the functions and publications of reports by the commission. He had sought to know how many days the commission took to respond to a public complaint. “The reply was disgusting. I was told that SHRC would not be able to provide answers to speculations. I merely wanted to know the number of days SHRC takes to clear cases and I can’t understand how that could be termed as speculative question,” Neelamegam told DC.

Worse still, when he asked for publications by the SHRC on human rights law, he was told that he could find those books in bookshops. “In the first reply I was told that the SHRC did not publish any books on human rights law. When I mentioned that I would file an appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC) to get correct answers, the second reply landed; it said I could get those books in a bookshop. That’s not a proper answer for a RTI query,” said Neelamegam.

Unhappy with such responses, Neelamegam filed an appeal with the SIC but its hearing held in Chennai on Thursday was even more disturbing. “During the hearing, a SHRC official said the information I had sought would run to 3,000 pages and I would have to pay Rs.6,000 to get that. I have no clue why I was forced to wait for this answer for almost an year,” he said.