Disclosures in accordance with Section (4) of the RTI Act are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in public authorities, which would reduce the load of RTI Applications being filed, the CIC said. This is the 145th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing a complaint, directed the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) to publish and regularly update its 16 manuals on its website as mandated under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While giving this judgement on 20 October 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “When public authorities do not fulfil their obligations under Section (4) of the RTI Act, citizens have no way but to seek information under Section (6), which in turn becomes a cost for the citizens as well as the government.”
Secunderabad (Andhra Pradesh) resident CJ Karira, filed a complaint under section 18 of the RTI Act stating that the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), which is a public authority as per the Act, has not published its manuals which should be published in pursuance of its obligations under Section 4 (1)(b) of the Act.
The RTI Act 2005, under Section 4 (1)(b) mandates that all public authorities shall suo moto disclose information by publishing the same under 16 manuals.
On perusal of the website of the Pharmacy Council of India, the Bench headed by Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, found that the public authority had failed to publish the said manuals.
This was in gross violation of the provisions of the Act which reads as under:
"4(1) (b) publish within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of this Act,-
(i) The particulars of its organisation, functions and duties;
(ii) The powers and duties of its officers and employees;
(iii) the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability;
(iv) the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions;
(v) the rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records, held by it or under its control or used by its employees for discharging its functions;
(vi) a statement of the categories of documents that are held by it or under its control;
(vii) the particulars of any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, the members of the public in relation to the formulation of its policy or implementation thereof;
(viii) a statement of the boards, councils, committees and other bodies consisting of two or more persons constituted as its part or for the purpose of its advice, and as to whether meetings of those boards, councils, committees and other bodies are open to the public, or the minutes of such meetings are accessible for public;
(ix) a directory of its officers and employees;
(x) the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employees, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations;
(xi) the budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made;
(xii) the manner of execution of subsidy programmes, including the amounts allocated and the details of beneficiaries of such programmes;
(xiii) particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it;
(xiv) details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form;
(xv) the particulars of facilities available to citizens for obtaining information, including the working hours of a library or reading room, if maintained for public use;
(xvi) the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers;
(xvii) such other information as may be prescribed; and thereafter update these publications every year;"
Mr Gandhi said, "Public Authorities were not only under an obligation to publish these manuals within 120 days of the enactment of the Act but also to update these manuals at regular intervals or at least once a year. It is pertinent to mention here that the Council had failed to fulfil either of its obligations under the Act even after five years of its coming into effect, thereby expressing its refusal to abide by the law so enacted. Obligations under section (4) were to be fulfilled by 12 October 2005. Such lackadaisical approach defeats the purpose of the legislation enacted for the welfare of the masses and to usher in transparency in the functioning of government institutions."
After receiving the complaint, the Bench contact the Council over telephone and was assured that the manuals would be published within 15 days’ time. The Bench, later perused the website of the Council and observed that the manuals have since been published.
Mr Gandhi noted that the RTI Act envisions that all citizens shall receive information primarily by suo moto disclosures by various public authorities as prescribed by section (4) of the act. It further envisages that citizens would be required to specifically ask for information under section (6) only in a few cases.
"However, when public authorities do not fulfill their obligations under section (4), citizens have no way but to seek information under section (6), which in turn becomes a cost for the citizens as well as the government. Disclosures in accordance with Section (4) of the RTI Act are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in public authorities. This would reduce the load of RTI Applications being filed with each public authority as information would be freely available to citizens and they would not have to apply for it," the CIC said.
While allowing the complaint, the Bench gave following directions to the Council...
1. The manuals published in pursuant of section 4 (1) (b) of the Act, shall be updated regularly and necessary Standing orders shall be issued in this regard to the concerned officers.
2. The manuals shall be available as hard copy in the office of the CPIO.
3. Manual (xi) should be itemized and the report must be for the previous 2 years and there should also be a report on current budget estimates as per manual
4. A sign board of appropriate dimension shall be installed, mentioning name(s), designation(s), contact details, including the office address/room number, availability hours and telephone numbers of the central Public Information Officer(s), Central Assistant Public Information Officer(s) and First Appellate Authority, as the case may be, who have been notified under the RTI act 2005 (in case of a change of PIO or Appellate Authority, the sign board will be updated within ten days of the said change.) Information regarding the requisite fees to be paid under various provisions of the RTI Act 2005, modes of payment and the office where such fee will be accepted. Information regarding information Handbook/manuals published under section 4 (1) (b) of the act; their location and time when they can be accessed should be also mentioned on the board. The exact link/URL to the page on the website of the college/ department where the information handbook can be viewed will also be mentioned. No acronym/abbreviation should be used. This information shall be inscribed both in English and Hindi, and shall be installed at a location having maximum public view. This will be maintained by the head of the public authority/ head of institution as the case may be, or the officers so directed by him in writing, so long as the RTI act is in force.
5. The RTI link on the website should read as "Right to Information Act 2005".
The above directions shall be complied by the 30 November 2011, the CIC said.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2011/900911/15246
Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2011/900911
Complainant : CJ Karira
Andhra Pradesh- 500 026
Respondent : Registrar - cum- Secretary,
Pharmacy Council of India.
Combined Council's Building Road
Aiwan - E - Ghalib Marg,
New Delhi - 110 002
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