Transparency at the Transparency Commission

The simple act of listing all pending cases publicly, will go a long way in restoring citizens’ confidence in these institutions, and also act as self- regulating check

I had made a commitment when I was made an Information Commissioner that I would ensure that I decided most of the cases before me in less than three months. By and large, I have been able to fulfil this promise and perhaps the average time for decisions must be around two months. Sometime in June 2011, a RTI (Right to Information) application was received by my PIO (public information officer), asking for the decision in a case registered in May 2010. My staff could not locate the decision anywhere! I realized that the case had not been listed for hearing inadvertently, and no decision had been given. I realized that if a mistake had been made in one case, it could have been made in some others as well. A careful search of 2010 cases revealed another 110 cases which had been forgotten and missed completely!

We listed these for hearing and in one of them, there was a heartrending story. A government employee had died in 1993 leaving his widow and young children. The widow was illiterate and poor. Since 1993 she had been struggling to get the pension she was entitled to. Since she was illiterate, she probably could not pursue the matter properly and each time there was a great delay, the system required many more proofs to establish her claim. By the time she barely managed to submit the required papers, it took years and office inefficiencies would not take decisions for some years! The lady appeared before me with her son who was an unskilled labourer, and both of them could not describe the exact sequence of events. The PIO however assured me that all the papers had been put in order and she would get her pension and all the dues soon. It will always haunt me for my life—that despite running a reasonably efficient set-up—after her 17 year struggle, I was instrumental in delaying succour to her by a full year.

This set me thinking and I realized that there could be many such mistakes, which could result in untold suffering to citizens who approach judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. In most cases there is no list which citizens can access which will tell them, whether their cases are in queue, and whether any logic is being applied in taking up the matters waiting in this queue. I feel upset when I see anyone jumping a queue at the airport, and in judicial and quasi-judicial bodies, the citizen cannot even see the queue. It is necessary that there is transparency in this matter, and citizens can see the queue and also feel assured that it is being dealt with in a transparent non-arbitrary manner. All judicial and quasi-judicial bodies should first ensure that this queue is very short and also give visibility to citizens in the way they take up the cases.

I took up the matter of listing pending cases in the Central Information Commission (CIC) with the Chief Information Commissioner, who readily agreed. The ‘list of pending cases’ has been displayed on the website of the CIC at www.cic.gov.in and will be updated every month. In the Central Information Commission which is just six years old, this will lead to an opportunity for us to correct mistakes and also reassure citizens that there is fairness in taking up their cases. In most commissions and judicial bodies, citizens suspect arbitrariness and corruption in the listing of cases. The simple act of listing all pending cases publicly, will go a long way in restoring citizens’ confidence in these institutions, and also act as self- regulating check.

(Shailesh Gandhi is the Central Information Commissioner for the RTI.  The views expressed here are his personal views and may not represent the views of the commission.)

Comments
P M Ravindran
10 years ago
I can vouch for the veracity of the allegations of Mr A K Sarial. And even when such lapses are brought to the notice of the Chief Information Commissioner nothing worthwhile happens. I dare say that these traitors are more dangerous for the country than enemies across the border!
A K SARIAL
10 years ago
Hon'ble Shailesh Gandhi 's personal views are worth appreciation. On face of it every IC in the commission will agree to it but on back of it there are instances in some of the ICs offices where case files are iether lost or records from files removed knownginly or unknowngly and when insisted upon the case is dealt in a way the real issue is sidelined and orders passed. I have all these sorts of exeperience. If need be, I can support with evidence/case number. Thanks!
Vijay Trimbak Gokhale
10 years ago
I have nothing against Hon.IC Shailesh Gandhi and he is one of the better ICs. Can he please let the people know whether his RTI 2nd appeal regarding documents pertaining to the then Maharashtra Minister Mr. Surupsingh Naik's sickness (sickness was suspected to be a pretence to avoid going to jail) documents from Mumbai Hospital (was it JJ?) before Maharashtra SIC, when Dr. Suresh Joshi was State Chief IC was taken for hearing as per the Q or was it heard in priority over others by jumping the Q. Did he not know that his appeal was very recent then and despite long pendency at Maha. IC it came up for hearing so fast.
P M Ravindran
10 years ago
It is true that Shailesh Gandhi is an exemplary IC. His greatest contribution has been in raising the bar on disposal rates. And some of his orders are also quotable for their detailed analysis and fair conclusions. One example is Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000278/SG/12906 in the matter of Sec 6(3) of the RTI Act. The only thing I can crib even about this singular worthy IC in the whole country is that he also is not imposing the penalties mandated in the cases of delays in providing information. But apart from SG most of the ICs and the nodal departments responsible for effective implementation of the RTI Act are blatantly subverting the law. There may be another odd IC like SG somewhere but as far as the CIC and Kerala SIC are concerned I can vouch for the fact that they are nothing less than traitors. Readers are invited to read my blogs at http://raviforjustice.blogspot.com
rajendra
10 years ago
we must appreciate and salute persons like mr.shailesh gandhi for their sincerity of purpose, humanity and a real urge for helping the poor and the downtrodden. these people are our real strength.
ds ranga rao
10 years ago
Like charity, transparency too should begin at home and nothing can be more better an example than this. Long live transparency and objectivity in governance!
Vikas Gupta
10 years ago
Very good example of Leading the Office with Example. I really appreciate the attitude of Mr. Shailesh Gandhi. These type of persons are required in the Organisations like Information Dept for having the grievances of Common People.
Pawan Duggirala
10 years ago
Simple idea but a indeed a very good example of how to make good use of the resources at hand (like displaying the list on the website ). So glad we have people like you.
Vijaykumar Borkar
10 years ago
Shaileshji's efforts are going to strengthen confidence of citizens in the RTI Act as well as the Information Commission itself . Shaileshji keep it up.
Vijaykumar Borkar
10 years ago
Shaileshji's efforts are going to strengthen confidence of citizens in the RTI Act as well as the Information Commission itself . Shaileshji keep it up.
Vijay Trimbak Gokhale
10 years ago
I am not doubting Hon. IC Shri Gandhi's intent. But what about the quality and legalities of orders issued by CIC? I can show you instnaces of CIC orders of poor judicial quality, suffering from lack of application of mind, total disregard for RTI Act provisions and facts of the case, CIC indulging in interrogation of applicants almost as a matter of routine rather than hearing them and allow them to make their arguments, passing unnecessarily insulting remarks about appellants, disposing of matters in few minutes and sometimes abruptly without formally calling it off, not penalising errant PIOs as per provisions of RTI Act 2005, making distinction between literate and illetarate appellants while hearing matters which is discriminatory. I do not speak or write without with rock sold evidence and law provisions. As per data of CIC itself hardly in 1% of the cases penalty is imposed, compensation is granted or disciplinary actions are recomended against PIOs. CIC does not moniter as to, in how many caes penalty is actually paid, compensation is received by appellants or disciplinary action is actully taken. Listing of pending cases indeed will bring transparancy but the major issues are those mentioned above for people loosing faith and confidence in CIC barring few cases like the ones mentioned by you. The impression people have, and not without reasons, is that CIC is only interested in improving disposal rate and blowing it's own trumpet. Hon ICs do not like appellants arguing their cases. CIC is a quasi judicial forum with some powers of Civil courts.and not a social organisation. It must dispose of the cases in accordance with law and nothing else.
raymond
10 years ago
Kudos to Shri Gandhi for taking such a proactive step of putting up a pending list on the web site. Can he consider giving a direction to Public Authorities to similarly put up pending lists of various applications on their website under sec 4 obligations. This will improve transparency in most organisations automatically, otherwise "jumping the queue " will take place. all power to the people.
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