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Supreme Court for govt reply on RTI voluntary disclosure

The Times of India logo The Times of India 22-01-2022 Dhananjay Mahapatra
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NEW DELHI: More than 16 years after the RTI Act was enacted to usher in transparency in the functioning of governments, writ petitions continue to flood the Supreme Court, which on Friday sought the Centre's response, albeit reluctantly, on another PIL complaining that public authorities are not complying with the RTI mandate to make voluntary disclosures about their activities.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh issued notice on the PIL filed by advocate Kishan Chand Jain, who said that Section 4 of the Act is the soul and spirit of the transparency law and without a direction from the apex court to the governments and authorities for its compliance in letter and spirit, the RTI Act would be remain an ornamental legislation.

He also said the Department of Personnel and Training had issued a Office Memorandum requiring public authorities to commission third-party audits to scrutinise Section 4 mandated disclosure levels.

But, the Central Information Commission reports of 2018-19 and 2019-20 show that only one-third of the public authorities carried out such public audit and it was found that their performance was very poor, Mahajan said, adding once the disclosures are as per the mandate of the RTI Act, there would be greater transparency and people would not be required to resort to RTI so often as they do now.

Justice Kaul remained unconvinced. "This is a legislation and there is a mechanism to implement the legislation. I don't believe in issuing meaningless directions. What is the point of issuing a direction when there is a mandate of the legislation for mode and manner of its implementation. Of course the law and its provisions have to be implemented. What mandamus can be issued by the court? How will we monitor whether such a direction, even if issued, is implemented? It would rather be a meaningless direction."

The lead judge of the bench asked - "Can the SC say there is a section of RTI Act and there is a OM and hence, all public authorities should follow it? What is the meaning of such a direction? How would we monitor its implementation?

Justice Sundresh then engaged Justice Kaul with an intense discussion following which the bench issued notice on the petition to the Union government and tagged the PIL with three other pending writ petitions seeking implementation of other provisions of the Act.

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