New Delhi, Nov.26 : The Chief Information Officer, Wajahat Habibullah, today said that the office of the Chief Justice of India does come under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Delivering a talk on "Working of Right to Information Act Issues and Challenges" at the Observer Research Foundation, a press release of the foundation quoted Habibullah as saying that the Central Information Commission would hear soon some petitions pending on the issue. The press release further quoted the CIC as saying that he had had discussions with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariat to improve flow of information regarding the functioning of Members of Parliament.
He said the purview of the RTI went beyond Central and State governments, encompassing any body which has received government funding. This includes institutions like SGPC, Distcoms, Stock Exchanges, aided schools, etc.
According to the press release, the CIC said there is a need to effect changes in the training of government officials where they are told not to impart with government information to public though they themselves are paid from the public money of tax payers.
The CIC described as "complete anachronism" the Official Secrets Act of 1923. He said the Commission has suggested to the government to repeal it, but no progress has been made in this regard.
Noting that in some cases even the PIOs (principal information officers) themselves were not aware of their roles, the CIC was quoted by the press release as saying that though there many issues to be tackled, he has no doubt that the RTI Act has become a powerful tool even for the weak and illiterate people to get information which otherwise would have been near to impossible to get.
"This is the Act people can use and will use it," the CIC said, noting that the largest users in Delhi are slum dwellers and women.
He said now the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) has also been brought under the RTI Act, which rural people are using.
The CIC said there is an urgent need to bring in uniformity and homogeneity of the fees under RTI Act to make it easier and affordable to all citizens. He also felt that the Commission should be empowered to take contempt action in case of poor compliance to improve compliance level.
He also admitted that the victimisation fear among some applicants is also a real problem which needs to be addressed.
The CIC welcomed the suggestion of the President of ORF Centre for Politics and Governance, Mr. Surendra Singh, that ORF would like to present the Commission its study on the various aspects connected with the RTI Act and how to make it more effective.
Surendra Singh, a former Cabinet Secretary, said though RTI has made lots of progress, there are still many issues which needed to be tackled. He listed coverage of the RTI Act, awareness among citizens, the userfriendliness, the cost factor, the impact of Official Secrets Act, fear of victimisation among applicants, etc as some of the issues impacting the effectiveness of the RTI Act.