“Public Information Officers (PIOs) are humans and should develop a friendly rapport with Right to Information (RTI) applicants because this will go a long way for betterment of governance and delivery of necessary information,” says RTI activist Anil Galgali. He was speaking at a special workshop organised for PIOs by Moneylife Foundation’s RTI Centre at Port Management Training Centre (PMTC) located in Mazgaon, Mumbai.
Addressing an inquisitive symposium of CPIOs from various departments of Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping, Mr Galgali says, “Sometimes even the PIOs erroneously provide incorrect information to applicants and fail to realise it until the applicant informs them. Now if the applicant had brought the same to the notice of the PIO’s higher authorities then it would have been a menace for that PIO himself. In such cases, cordial approach between the PIO and RTI applicant proves beneficial for both.”
Sharing his experience while seeking information under RTI on the expenditure incurred upon Devendra Fadanavis’s oath swearing ceremony at Wankhede stadium, Mr Galgali said, “There were hundreds of RTI applications filed by numerous people on this issue. However, owing to my long cherished association with the concerned PIO, I received the information within seven days while others had to wait for the stipulated period of 30 days.”
“We know that the PIOs in certain cases have to seek resort for using dilatory tactics or reject information on ambiguous grounds and we also know that many times, this is done unintentionally. Very few times this is done to save from revelations omissions or wrongdoings of senior officials. But I would strongly recommend you to disclose information as required in accordance to section 4 of the RTI Act. This will also help reduce your burden of applications and make your work and life simpler.”
Taking cue from the curious PIOs who were been listening to him with rapt attention, he offered them some helpful tips. Mr Galgali says,
- Reply to the applications at the earliest possible because this is certainly lessening your work in the long-run.
- If the information needs any time for collation, request the applicant to visit you on a particular date and at specific time. Meanwhile, have the records ready for his inspection and if in case of your unavailability, have your colleague informed about such visit, so that he might guide the applicant in case, your busy with any other task or in a meeting.
- Section 11 (third party information) is a procedure and PIO should be able to determine and identify its applicability properly. During First Appellate (FA) hearing, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) should also call such third party to attend the hearing in case if he has replied the PIO to deny the information sought by that applicant.
- If necessary, provide the information or the letter seeking information fee amount to the applicant on e-mail. This will save time and also the postal cost.
- If there is any clarification needed then contact the applicant on phone (if provided) and seek redressal to your doubts. This may save your time and energy.