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Information Commission website not informative
The apex body under the provisions of the Right to Information Act in the state of Karnataka, the Karnataka Information Commission, violates the provisions of the Act by not disclosing the relevant public information. Nothing can be more ironic!
DESPITE BEING the apex body under the provisions of the Right to Information Act in the state, the Karnataka Information Commission violates the rules of the Act by not disclosing the relevant public information like its annual report, details of the right to information cases, the monthly remuneration of each of its officials and the Commission’s budget, among other things, on its website.

Section 4(1) b of the Right to Information Act states that every public authority should take constant steps to provide as much information as possible to the public on its own through easily accessible means like notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts and websites, amongst other media. It especially calls for disclosure of information in an electronic form.

“We have been amiss in this area,” says KK Misra, Chief Information Commissioner of the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC). He also blames the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for this lapse.

“The NIC has been very busy lately,” he says, “It has not been helping us.”

The National Informatics Centre is supposed to provide technical support to various government departments to facilitate e-governance. It also hosts the KIC website. KIC does not have any manpower to maintain the website. Misra says that two operators were appointed a few months back for maintaining data related to the order passed by KIC. One representative from NIC visits occasionally to collect this data and upload it.

Apart from orders, there are many other pages on the website like recent decisions, landmark orders, monthly disposal of cases, RTI disclosure, terms and conditions of services of the Information Commissioners and links to central and state government departments and events. These pages either say that they are under construction or are not available. The Commissioner informs that these pages are also supposed to be taken care of by NIC. In addition, the website displays the annual report for 2005-06 only. Reports for 2006-07 and 2007-08 have still not been uploaded. On its part, the NIC says that it is responsible only for providing technical support and hosting the website on its server. All content is to be uploaded by KIC.

“Most of our energy goes in hearing and solving cases,” says Misra, adding that they are left with no time to tend to the website. KIC is currently coping with a backlog of 3,000 cases. The Commissioner admitted that KIC needs to take instant steps to provide maximum information on its website. He has requested the Centre for Good Governance, an organisation of the Andhra Pradesh state government, which designed the website of the Information Commission there, to help the KIC out.

“Suo moto principles apply to the KIC more than they apply to any other institution,” says Vivek NS, a law student from BMS College, Bangalore, who was associated with a survey on the Right to Information Act, conducted by Public Affairs Centre, a non-governmental organisation based in Bommasandra, Bangalore city. “No excuses can be tolerated,” he added.

“The institution at the apex of the Act is faltering; so it definitely sets a bad example for other government organisations,” says Rohan Sachdeva, a law student from ILS Law College, Pune, who was associated with the same survey.

He also complained of the inadequacy of information and the lack of an RTI portal on other government websites. According to the survey conducted by the Public Affairs Centre, only 44 per cent of the 39 state government websites studied by them were disclosing public information like details of expenditure and annual reports.

“They can’t even fix a website; how are they going to protect the interests of the taxpayers?” asks Megha Gowda from the Public Affairs Centre, adding that ideally no government department should take more than a day or two to upload data on their website.
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