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Suggestions and Reccomendations

Chapter 8

SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

8.1 Introduction

The significant achievements of our country that make us proud could be

education, information technology, nuclear tests, satellite. But the implementation of

Right to Information Act is the most important achievement of independent India

because all the other achievements as said above can be fully enjoyed if we have freedom

to information. In pre independent arena the britishers sucked the blood of Indians. In the

post independence arena the politicians and the bureaucrats have encroached our

freedom. Earlier Indians were ruled by the britishers and now by its politicians. In real

terms with Right to Information, we have got freedom. Right to Information Act is a

befitting reply to such bureaucrats of our community. Successful implementation of

Right to Information Act would give Indians the freedom in true sense of the term.

In this chapter suggestions and recommendations are provided with the objective

to reap maximum benefits of the Right to Information Act. These suggestions and

recommendations will be useful to general citizens, public authorities and the officers

who provide the information and are the implementers of the Act. The suggestions and

recommendations will also be useful to the government in understanding the point of

view of general public about the Act and making certain changes in the Act accordingly.

The suggestions and recommendations will also be useful to the academicians willing to

pursue the study in this area.

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8.2 General suggestions

Suggestions based on the thorough knowledge of the study undertaken are

formulated. Following are the general suggestions:

1. Most of the political leaders collect huge amount of funds and accumulate a lot of

properties by means of some supporting corrupt officials under various departments

appointed in their areas. These officers do not try to disclose the records to the public.

Under such circumstances, Right to Information Act is expected to break the vicious

and unethical relations among some immoral politicians, dishonest contractors and

corrupt bureaucrats. Hence it is suggested to make use of this Act as an instrument to

achieve true democracy in India.

2. A change in the attitude of the people is also another crucial factor responsible for the

success of the Right to Information Act in India. Instead of keeping any suspicious

attitude towards the Act, people should convince its holistic approach and meritorious

aspect. Gurnar Myrdal, a renowned economist of international repute, in his

illuminating work ‘Asian Drama’ has rightly emphasized on the attitudinal change

for attaining economic development in the developing countries.

3. In spite of the existence of some operational problems, the success of the mission -

Right to Information Act depends largely on how the people are united, organised

and aware of their surroundings and their preventive capacity to fight against

corruption and unlawful activities. It is thus suggested to the people to be united and

organised in order to make this Act successful.

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4. Awareness and consciousness among the people are the pre-requisites of the success

of this Act. How far the base level administration will be corruption free and will be

able to maintain transparency that depends on the complete awareness among the

people. It is therefore suggested to the people to achieve a desired level of awareness

for effective implementation of Right to Information Act.

5. It is feared that there is every chance of misuse of the Act by some opportunist and

influential people. The success of the Right to Information Act also depends on the

civic consciousness of the people and thus they should be more vigilant about what is

happening in the government sector.

6. The Poor people have limited capacity and strength to fight against bureaucrats with

the help of Right to Information Act. The people should therefore achieve a desired

level of education, gather courage and do away with their shy nature to fight against

such bureaucrats.

7. Abusing of provisions, frivolous allegations, and asking for information with no

specific intent may result in putting authorities into embarrassment and killing their

time and energy to no effect. It is suggested to the general public to ask for sensible

information with a good intention.

8. People seeking redressal of their civic issues can visit the Right to Information clinics

established by the government. These clinics act facilitation centre for dissemination

of information.

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8.3 Specific suggestions

The researcher has made an attempt to arrive at specific suggestions related to the

Public Information Officers, Information Commissions and the Government. The list of

specific suggestions is summarised as follows:

8.3.1 Specific suggestions related to the Public Information Officers

1. The public functionaries should be more active and sensitive towards the general

public and should supply the required information with more enthusiasm. They

should be aware of their duty to advise and assist information requesters. Likewise,

they should be fully aware that the people have a right to call on any officer for

assistance, and that officer has a duty to help them. The people should be given

guidance on whom they should approach if the officials are unsure whether to release

information.

2. The Public Information Officers at the institutions providing information are found

busy with number of other activities other than providing information. The Public

Information Officers thus appointed should perform gathering and disseminating of

information as their prime job.

3. A stitch in time saves nine which means a timely effort prevents more work later.

Hence it is suggested that the Right to Information authorities should adhere to

section 7 of the Act which expects to provide the information as expeditiously as

possible. This suggestion is given as it is observed that the officers try to dispose off

the request for information within a month.

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4. The delay in providing information due to the loose connections between levels of

implementers needs to be avoided. There should be co-operation among the different

levels of officers involved in providing information. This will avoid the harassment

caused to the general public to give the application to the concerned Public

Information Officer.

5. It is suggested that every public authority should computerise their records for wide

dissemination and to proactively publish certain categories of information so that the

citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.

6. In case of illiterate applicants the request cannot be made in writing. The officers in

such a case should render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request

orally to reduce the same in writing.

7. To be on a safer side, it is advised to the officers to provide the information

which is brief, true and easily understood by the citizens. This will avoid

further complaints resulting into wastage of time, energy and money. If some

rules, references, bye-laws are to be quoted; a copy of these may also be

supplied to the applicant so that he can understand the limitations of the person

concerned. In addition while giving replies; satisfaction of people should be

kept in mind.

8. The public has every right to question the officers as the officers are appointed

to serve the public. The officers should deal with the public politely even if

they ask wrong information or use filthy language. Whenever citizens come

with requests for information they should be given a good welcome and not

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considered as an obstruction in their work.

9. The Public Information Officers must make the heads of the departments or

organization, understand the importance of Right to Information Act, procedure

to be followed, time framework, etc. Public Information Officers must direct

them that this is to their own advantage as this would promote efficiency and

responsiveness.

8.3.2 Specific suggestions related to the Information Commissions and the

Government.

1. The success of the Right to Information Act basically depends on the awareness of

the people. There is lack of specific institutional and financial provision to spread

awareness in the public for the Act to generate expected results. The government

should take steps to increase awareness among the people by providing the

institutional financial support.

2. Further, complete awareness largely depends on the level of education given to the

people. If the people will be educated, they will try to understand their rights and

facilities available to them. They will be vigilant towards their rights and a spirit of

protest will be developed among them. Therefore, the success of the Right to

Information Act ultimately depends on the eradication of poverty and illiteracy. To

achieve this, the government while implementing the target oriented policies and

programmes, should try to reduce the rate of illiteracy as far as possible within a

stipulated period of time.

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3. Public authorities should not maintain secrecy as far as possible at the time of

implementing the policies and programmes of the government. It must be open for

all. The government should give necessary instructions to different departments to

follow the principle of openness so that the transparency in the department can be

maintained.

4. Instead of playing an evasive role, the bureaucrats should be simple, sympathetic to

the problems of the common people and lucidly explain the plans, policies and

programmes of the government.

5. Recognising how important it is that all officials covered by the law understand it and

support it, experience has shown that one of the most important activities that need to

be undertaken when preparing to implement any Right to Information law is to

provide training to all officials. All Public Information Officers and appellate

authorities need to be fully trained on what their responsibilities are under the law,

how to manage applications and of course, how to apply and interpret the law.

6. It is observed that due to inadequate support staff, there is slow pace of disposal of

request, the applications pile up and there is long waiting period. Adequate and

efficient support staff should be put in place for quick and effective pro-active

communication and information transfer.

7. Certain phrases used for maintenance of records like ‘subject to availability of

recourses’, ‘in a reasonable time’, etc that may create confusion and controversy

amongst the masses should be framed properly so that false grounds for refusal of

information can be avoided.

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8. There are many exemptions to the Act like the class exemptions, prejudice based

exemptions and time limited exemptions. These exemptions prevent the information

from being received by the seeker. The exceptions should be minimised so that there

is more transparency.

9. The procedure prescribed for obtaining information includes writing an application,

submitting the evidence of payment of application fee and sending the application to

the concerned Public Information Officer. Though this procedure is not very

complicated it should be further simplified so that people get an initial understanding

of Right to Information and how it works. Thus the procedure should be minimised to

afford and easy to understand.

10. Even five years after the enactment of the pioneering Right to Information Act,

penalties for delays in providing what has been sought under the law are imposed in

very rare cases. There must be stringent penalty and effective prosecution system for

violating the mandatory provision.

11. There are many cases where the information commissioners have alleged misuse of

RTI or felt that the information sought was frivolous. Issue of frivolous Right to

Information applications needs to be handled carefully. Special staff should be

appointed to handle the frivolous allegations and demand for information with no

specific intent, so as to save time and energy of the higher authorities.

12. In order to ensure good performance of Public Information Officers in implementing

the Right to Information Act, it is suggested the there should be allocation of

responsibility to the Public Information Officers, appellate authorities and to other

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senior level officials.

13. It is found that there is low awareness level among the public about the Right to

Information Act. Section 26 of the Act states that the appropriate government may

develop and organize educational programmes to advance the understanding of the

public, especially disadvantaged communities, regarding how to exercise the rights

contemplated under the Act. The government may resort to the major sources of

awareness like radio, television, newspaper, word of mouth, seminars and

discussions.

14. Many departments of the Government of India seem to have appointed multiple

public information officers. This results in citizens having to run from office to office

seeking out the correct Public Information Officer sometimes in vain. Appointment

of multiple public information officers should be avoided so that harassment to the

citizen is avoided.

15. There are also problems regarding people's access to Public Information Officers. In

many departments the Public Information Officer can only be met after a security

pass has been obtained. However, in case the Public Information Officer is not in

place, the security desk does not issue a pass. Therefore, people have to sometimes

wait for hours till the Public Information Officers returns. Considering the Public

Information Officers are also performing other functions that could keep them away

for long periods of time, each office could authorize the cashier or the person

designated to collect the fee to also accept the Right to Information form and issue

the acknowledgement along with the receipt.

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16. It has also been reported that various ministries and departments of the government

are insisting that they will only accept the specific forms that they have designed. The

law, however, does not provide for a form and does not authorize the public

authorities to prescribe forms. Therefore, whereas they can have recommendatory

formats, they should accept all requests even if they are on plain paper. The

government should be requested to send out a circular clarifying that the Right to

Information Act does not require any form and that people are free to apply on plain

paper, as long as all the required information is included.

17. Information received through Right to Information Act reveal that personnel at

top level are responsible for many ills in administration. It is suggested that only

competent people practicing some ethical standards and who have faith in

discharging their duties honestly must be placed as officers and Information

Commissioners.

18. Retired people who have already served in government need not be appointed as

public authority to handle Right to Information. Persons who have worked in

Government have developed bureaucratic attitude and the same will continue.

That is why appointment of such persons means the poor functioning and

ultimate failure.

8.4 General recommendations

The researcher has arrived at general recommendations which are common and

specific recommendations relating to specific issues in the study. Following are the

general recommendations of the study:

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1. To create awareness about the important provisions of the Act among the people the

role of the mass media and Non Government Organisations is vital. Regular

publication of the objectives and role of Right to Information Act through the mass

media and electronic media is necessary. Non Government Organisations should

organise meetings, forums, seminars in different areas specifically in rural areas so

that the people can be easily convinced about the merits of Right to Information Act.

2. To facilitate the dissemination of information and to speed up effective

implementation of the Act, the number of Right to Information clinics can be

increased. These clinics give an opportunity for people to ask any questions about

how they can use the Act to extract information from Companies or State bodies.

3. The system is that one has to deposit a certain amount of fees to get the information

should be avoided. We should follow the procedure followed in European Countries

at the time of supplying information to the people. In those countries, information is

available without any cost. Every department should open its own website so that one

can be able to collect information as one needs.

4. In the European countries, every department has its own website. After providing the

information if anybody has doubt can ask questions through e-mail and the answers

are supplied to him within twenty-four hours. If any person wants to make

discussion, then that person is informed regarding the time, date and venue of

discussion within seven days. Such practice needs to be followed in our country.

5. Right to Information penalties for delay in information are rarely imposed. An

effective penalty system or damage realization method should be started to

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discourage people from violating the provisions. The penalties on the officers should

be made stringent and may be deducted from their salaries.

6. Public Authority can prepare a Right to Information ready plan where each officer

can do a self evaluation and identify areas of improvements and budget requirements.

This would help in meeting the infrastructural needs, thereby meeting the

requirements of the Act.

7. A monetary incentive for the officers may be considered. Often, the Public

Information Officers are liable to pay penalty, for reasons beyond their control. So

while a penalty has been mandated by the Act, they should also get rewarded for

good performance. This is important at places where Public Information Officers

handle a high volume of Right to Information applications.

8. For quick and rational responses to the applicants, specific software application like

Right to Information-compliant template and ‘information request management’ may

be designed for implementation at public authority level.

9. The public authorities providing information should classify the applications

and complaints received under Right to Information Act, so that rendering

replies may be easy. Separate sections dealing with a particular subject can be

prepared. The method of classification must be decided in advance.

10. The team of people handling Right to Information need to be of dedicated and

meritorious people. This would on the one hand generate employment and on the

other hand would provide active and dynamic leadership. People can be considered

from universities, Non Government Organizations, advocates, engineers,

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doctors, etc. who have depicted their performance. Once, competent people are

in place such institutions would work well and good governance would be the

ultimate result.

11. It would be desirable to have a system of grading of important Right to Information

offices based on their performance in providing information. This will lead to healthy

competition and also motivate the officers to improve their performance.

12. Culture of openness and transparency are lacking in Indian administrative

system. There is a need of constant interactions among the Information

Commissioners, Public Information Officers and appellate authorities. The Right

to Information must develop forward and backward linkages with other

organizations to bring strength and creativity in the implementation process.

There can be forum to facilitate exchange of information amongst related

organisations and amongst different states.

13. In order to resolve some serious issues, the Information Commissions can consider e-

hearings through video conferencing facility. Under the national e-governance plan

for government of India, video conferencing facilities have been set across all the

districts in India. It is suggested that the Information Commissions should utilize

these facilities in holding e-hearings to make their reach convenient to the masses.

14. The system is that one has to deposit a certain amount of fees to get the information

should be avoided. We should follow the procedure followed in European Countries

at the time of supplying information to the people. In those countries, information is

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available without any cost. Every department should open its own website so that one

can be able to collect information as one needs.

8.5 Specific recommendations

Specific recommendations are made keeping in mind the Public Information

Officers and the Government. Specific recommendations are summarised as follows:

1. The government can take steps to increase awareness among the people through

radio, television, newspaper. Advertisements, printing and distribution booklets,

pamphlets, walling, etc., may be resorted to spread the aims and objectives of Right

to Information Act among the people.

2. It has been marked that a number of posts under various departments are lying vacant

due to restrictions on fresh recruitment. Moreover, most of the departments are

neither computerized nor have its own website. It is the duty and responsibility of the

government to initiate e-governance system in all departments for the successful

implementation of Right to Information Act.

3. A time may come when information requirements may be more than the generation

of information. The government should proactively take concrete steps like making

available the information on internet on a really large scale.

4. A separate study is recommended to improve the current record management

guidelines and make them ‘Right to Information friendly’. Re-organisation of record

management system to promote information management is recommended.

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5. At the state level a training implementation plan should be designed with support

from the state government. Head of the public authority should own the responsibility

of training the officials in its department.

6. As explained in the suggestions that there is a need for training programme for

developing resource persons for handling Right to Information. Further it is

recommended that a Knowledge Resource Centre can be designed for developing and

updating the training content. The key responsibilities of this centre would be to

suggest ways and means to develop Right to Information readiness plan, developing

common resources like Information Technology system and training modules. It

would also include preparation and publication of reports on implementation of the

Act and design and implementation for a mass awareness campaign.

7. Even if the posting as Public Information Officer is only a part of the overall

responsibilities handled by the officer, a mandatory column on the Public Information

Officer’s performance must be added in the annual reports.

8. As a one-time measure, the government of India should spend one percent of their

planned budgets for implementing Right to Information Act for a period of five years

for updating records, improving infrastructure, creating manuals, etc and on

awareness generation programmes.

9. The citizens have to run from one office to another office in search of the correct

Public Information Officer. It is recommended that there should be a single window

approach in each department or ministry in receiving applications and appeals under

the Right to Information, in order to prevent harassment to the people.

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10. The government can initiate a feedback system, where the general public can share

their experience and complaints with the government. The government can appoint

people to take care of this feedback system. This will help the government to know

the flaws in the implementation of the Act. The feedback forms may be submitted to

the Public Information Officers. At the same time the feedback can be given on web

on the software application specially designed for it.

11. There are many cases of Right to Information Activists being beaten up and the

whistle blowers being caught in the legal and administrative problems. The

government should make a provision to protect the whistle blowers and the

Right to Information activists who release information on wrongdoing.

12. Web-based and other mechanisms can be evolved to create such a single window so

that people need not approach various departments separately. Web-based source can

give citizens easy access to all proactive disclosures made by public authorities. It

can give a similar easy access to all reports of Central Information Commission and

all other Information Commissions.

13. It is recommended that there should be an Right to Information Implementation Cell.

This cell can set up implementation measures to take necessary action to implement

the Right to Information provisions. This cell can develop and organise educational

programmes to improve the understanding of the public. It can develop separate

e-learning modules for various stakeholders – Assistant Public Information Officers,

Public Information Officers, First Appellate Authorities, Politicians, government

officials and citizens. It can also conduct national level workshops, inviting Central

Information Commission, State Information Commissions, Social Organizations and

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other stakeholders of Right to Information to discuss the Right to Information

progress across the nation.

14. Right to Information education should be introduced in the school syllabus.

Government department handling Right to Information should work with educational

boards in drafting a section on Right to Information in the school syllabus. To ensure

the new generation is aware of Right to Information, the department may work with

education boards to have mandatory questions on Right to Information in class X

exams. An effective Right to Information education programme should also cover

training of teachers belonging to schools.

15. The Right to Information call centre could be a single point used by citizens for filing

Right to Information applications or appeals or complaints over the telephone.

Through this initiative, the citizens can file information requests under the Right to

Information Act through telephonic channel. It is simple and convenient in filing

applications even for illiterate, disabled and elderly people. It will also save efforts of

citizens in finding the correct Public Information Officer.

16. It is recommended to have a National Right to Information portal for submission of

Right to Information requests online. The Right to Information portal would be a

universal access point for submitting Right to Information requests through internet

for every Public Authority. Citizens can submit Right to Information requests from

their homes, office or other remote areas, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Right to

Information portal is a responsive, service oriented and effective channel as it will

ensure faster and better delivery of government information. The Right to

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Information portal should contain links to all Ministry or Department website of the

appropriate government.

17. It is recommended to automate the request of information with front-end software

which will capture the receipt of the application, date, time, location received, contact

details of applicant and print a receipt for the applicant. Automated record

management will help to streamline queries and responses thus enhancing

accountability, and transparency.

18. As explained in the suggestions that there is a need for training programme for

developing resource persons for handling Right to Information. Further it is

recommended that a Knowledge Resource Centre can be designed for developing and

updating the training content. The key responsibilities of this centre would be to

suggest ways and means to develop Right to Information readiness plan, developing

common resources like Information Technology system and training modules. It

would also include preparation and publication of reports on implementation of the

Act and design and implementation for a mass awareness campaign.

8.6 Conclusion
Many of the problems in implementation of Right to Information Act are due to

lack of clear accountability established through appropriate government rules and lack of

controls to measure the effectiveness of implementation. The Act needs to be thoroughly

amended to not only remove the unjustifiable provisions but also to include necessary

provisions like protection of whistleblower, punishments in respect of violation of the

provisions and the yet to be constituted Lok Pal bill. There is a need to conduct a

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thorough study detailing the roles and responsibilities of various entities and establishing

a control mechanism. Knowledge by the people about their government is

indispensable if democracy is to succeed. The government cannot operate

successfully if its activities are veiled in ignorance, misunderstanding and mystery.

Public authorities must come into the market place and tell people simply and

clearly what they are trying to do and why. They should explain and justify their

methods. They should be frank about difficulties and shortcomings. Only by a

deliberate effort of this kind can prejudice and ignorant or malevolent criticism be

avoided, and a discriminating body of public opinion built up.

There is a move to amend the Right to Information Act so as not to disclose the

whole information but selective information which would amount to lack of transparency

avoiding the exposure of vested interests and revert to secrecy. While corrupt officials

have a stake in trying to keep potentially damaging information secret, many honest

officials also resent having to divulge information due to an ingrained culture of secrecy

that views answering the public’s questions as an attack on their personal power and

esteem. While the system allows public access to even cabinet decisions, little is being

done to open information relating to the past, or provide reasonable access to information

on critical areas like national security.

The campaign for the Right to Information Act was started by grass-roots

movements. The idea was to empower people with a legislation and an administrative

apparatus that would keep a check on the government. Our Right to Information Act is

considered to be one of the best in the world, but it will be effective only if the

independence of Right to Information commissions is maintained. The attempt to block

access to rue notings was defeated by a sustained people’s campaign. A similar effort

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may be needed to preserve the autonomy and independence of information commissions.

An overhaul of information commissions is necessary. They have to be rid of the babu

mindset. The penalty clause meant to haul up officials refusing to give correct

information has to be effectively used. It is revealing that the Central Information

Commission has not one case to show where an erring official has been penalised. The

commissions have to put in place a transparent mechanism where complaints are heard

so that decisions are not made on arbitrary or subjective grounds. Proper reporting of the

proceedings at the information commissions would ensure accountability. It is in the

collective interest of the nation that Right to Information becomes an effective tool to

ensure good governance.

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