<!--[if gte vml 1]>
Hon'ble Chief minister
Govt. of Karnataka
Bangalore -560 001
Dear Respected Sir ,
Subject : Requesting the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Karnataka not to appoint any new additional information commissioners in the karnataka information commission to save the public money by improving the efficiency and performance of existing Five information commissioners .
With reference to the above I am an Advocate , RTI Activist and social activist working for the betterment of society on the principles of Swamy vivekananda & Sir M.Visweswraiah and I am the follower of Anna Hazare and participated in all the movements of anti corruption lead by AnnaHazare to build corruption free society and to bring transparency and good governance in the state.
I came to know that the government is making arrangements to appoint new Five information commissioners in the karnataka information commission even though there is no necessity to appoint any new information commissioner which will put burden on finance of state exchequer and on tax payers money . In this context the Janaspandana was issued an official notification calling applications for the post of the state information commissioners . I wish to bring some of the real facts about the functioning of Karnataka information commission for your kind notice .
Since from 2005-2006 when RTI Act 2005 came into existence myself and some of like minded friends of me are involved in RTI Campaign bringing awareness among the common man and govt. officials about RTI act and its implementation in the right spirit to bring transparency and good governance in the state to curb corruption in the state . My self and my group filed more than 1500 RTI Applications , Most of the RTI Applications are pertaining to Section 4(1) a & 4(1) b of the act . which is a mandatory section to be complied by all the government offices including Vidhanasoudha . Section 4(1) b suo-moto disclosure under 17 templates which helps the common man to understand what the government is doing for the citizens. Our group had filed RTI Application from Governor
office to Panchayath office level and Covered all most all the departments like Police Dept. Revenue Dept. Vidhanasoudha , Vikasasoudha , Civil court , District courts , High court , Lokayuktha , BDA , BBMP , BWSSB , BMRDA & all the other departments to bring awareness about RTI Act. More than Rs.15,00,000/- [ Rupees Fifteen Lakhs ] of penalty is imposed on public information officers in our cases against the public information officers who had failed to furnish the information within time and the said penalty amount will be credited to government account . Without Penalty clause the RTI Act will become redundant . Inspite of imposing penalty on the public information officers they are not furnishing the information sought within time and ready to pay the penalty due to huge corruption in the govt. departments.
The penalty is imposed on some of the important IAS , KAS and Senior police officers in our cases . More than 12 officials approached high court of Karnataka challenging the order of the commission of imposing penalty against them for failing to furnish the information within time in our cases and I am devoted and dedicated my valuable time to bring motivation , awareness among the citizens by providing free guidance and brining awareness among the government officials to facilitate to implementation of RTI Act in the government offices to bring transparency and good governance in the state . I had spent most of my valuable time with Karnataka State Information commission for the betterment of the society and I am observing the performance of the
commission in the interest of public since for the last 6 years.
Presently there are Six information commissioners functioning in the commission including one Chief information commissioner .Out of Six information commissioners four of them retried bureaucrats and Two of the information commissioners from political back ground . One of the information commissioner is retiring this month. Remaining five information commissioners are having approximately Two and half years term of service. Salary paid to information commissioner is equivalent High court judges and other facilities such as Luxury car , adequate personnel staff , perks Medical facilities , pension privileges are provided to them Govt. is spending approximately bare minimum Rs.6 Lakhs on each information commissioner every month including their personnel staff , stationery expense ,
Medical expenses , Petrol , Diesel ,computers , telephone , premises rent , furniture and fixtures interiors and other expenses which is costing around each information commissioner 72 Lakhs per year ffor six information commissioners which will works out around approximately more than 4 Crores on the govt budget and which is a public money and tax payers money.
If the Government appoints additional new five information commissioners and the government would unnecessarily incur a huge financial burden for the next five years even though there is no necessity of appointment of information commissioners in the state , since the Government has not utilized the services of existing information commissioners effectively. The existing information commissioners are functioning like part time information commissioners working for only few hours a day and there is PIL challenging their appointment by one of the RTI Activist which is pending before the court. Once the appointments were made by the government without following the provisions of the act then process to remove an Information Commissioner was very cumbersome and not possible
I wish to bring following few observations made by me and other friends for the past 5 years about functioning of the Karnataka information commission . I am not complaining against anyone but bringing the facts about the system and how the information commission , Public information officers and 1st appellate authorities are functioning in the state . The Information commissioner and chief information commissioner post is a permanent and fulltime Job and salary is in par with High court judges. But surprisingly present information commissioners are working like part-time job and they are functioning between 11 to 1-30 Pm and even early . After wards there will be no hearings and they will sit in their chambers and some of them leave the commission and they will do their personnel works by using govt. car and other facilities
and privileges. Due to working like part time commissioners pendency of the cases are increasing day by day in the commission and they are informing the RTI Applicants they are expecting appointment of new information commissioners by the govt for hearing of pending cases.
Every day the existing information commissioners are hearing only between 10-20 cases and each case will be heard for a few minutes , some times for few seconds but the information commissioners are granting years together time to furnish the information to public information officers against the provision of the act. Each case will be adjourned several times and the cases are dragged for years together unnecessarily and creating pendency on their own. The information commissioners are failing to work as per the provisions of the RTI Act and fails to implement the provisions of rti act with right spirit to bring good governance and transparency in the state to control the corruption in the state . Information commission is very important organization due
to disclosing of information all the scams are exposed . For simple information sought by the citizen the information commissioners are granting too much time to the public information officers and the public information officers taken a lenient view on the commission and some of the public information officers are not appearing in their cases before the commission due to lenient attitude of the information commissioners . The public information officers are failed at grass root level to furnish the information within 30 days and 1st appellate authority also failed to function properly by hearing the 1st appeals and issuing strict directions to the public information officers to furnish the information sought by the citizens in a speedway and within time prescribed by the act.
The penalty was imposed by the information commissioners in a very few cases and allowed the public information officers freely who are failing to comply the provisions of the RTI Act and their duties to furnish the information to the citizens within time . Due to this the public information officers becoming redundant and the citizen has to run pillar to post for information and the Citizen has to approach the commission to get the information by filing 2nd appeal by waiting years together to get the information Due to the failure of furnishing the information by public information officers at foundation level and failure of 1st appellate authority to hear and to issue necessary directions to the public information officers to furnish the information sought expeditiously and the citizen has not
having any alternative and he has to approach the commission by filing 2nd appeal . Increase in number of 2nd appeals causing financial burden on the state . The information commissioners are not training the public information officers and creating awareness to furnish the information within time and to avoid the information seeker to approach the commission every time to reduce the financial burden on the state , At the initial stage itself without extra salary or with lesser the cost the information can be furnished to the public . Due to failure of these functioning of public information officers at gross root level and at 1st appellate authority level the citizen has to approach the commission and govt. is spending lakhs of rupees on salary and other facility on information commissioners even though it is not necessary.
The services of the information commissioners are not utilized properly by the Government by spending huge public money and Govt. is not questioning the style of functioning of the commissioners . what they are doing and how they are performing and there is no audit is made from the government by getting feedback from the citizens and activists who are using the RTI Act. Government never consulted or made an attempt to discuss the issues by making public meetings with citizens and activists and government has not made any survey to assess how the information commission is functioning and whether a common man from remote rural village is getting the information sought easily.
The information commission is a Quaci - judicial authority works under the provisions Civil procedure code 1908 . If we examine the functioning of small causes courts , Civil courts Magistrate court , High court they are functioning from morning 10-30 Am to 5-30 Pm and approximately more than 100 of cases are listed for hearing and courts will see that some of the cases will be given date and other cases will be heard for evidence , cross examination , arguments and for some of the cases for orders and judgments etc and the judges are liable to give monthly statement of disposal and there is pressure from Higher courts to dispose the cases expeditiously to deliver the justice and to bring down the litigations pending before several courts and there is no such system to report the disposal and pending status
of the cases to the government monthly or quarterly.
It is true fact that Government offices are not complied the provisions of section 4(1) a & 4(1)b of the RTI Act 2005 , 4(1)b suo-moto voluntary disclosure must be published within 120 days of act came into force , But even lapse of 7 years of act came into force no Government organizations are least bothered to comply the provisions of the act and this compliance of section 4 will reduce number of applications to the government departments . The section 4 (1) a & b provision of the act is like brain of the RTI Act. Every year lakhs of crores of money spent on public works and other works but record maintenance system by the Govt. departments is very poor and Plublic records acts must be implemented immdiately .
For example BBMP Budget is around 10,000 crores spent every year but if we see the quality of roads laid in Bangalore brings doubt about where the public money has gone . Public record management system is very poor and public records act is not implemented properly and there is no responsibility and accountability on the officials .
As per RTI Act if an RTI Applicant fails to get the information within 30 days he has to file 1st appeal before the higher authority of the same office where the information is sought under section 19(1)of the RTI Act Inpsite of Clear supreme court verdict the functioning of 1st appellate authority is became redundant in the state due to there is no penalty provision for 1st appellate authority and the penalty will be imposed only on public information officer for delay in furnishing the information and the government is keeping silence to fix accountability on 1st appellate authority which is failing to comply the act and issue necessary directions to the public information officers and furnish the information sought by the RTI Applicant within the time limits.
1st appeals were never heard properly and directions were not issued to the Public information officers to furnish the relevant information sought as per the provisions of the act . Due to non functioning of 1st appellate authority more and more 2nd appeals registered before the Karnataka information commission under section 19(3) of the act and burden is increasing day by day on the commission due to inefficiency at gross root level , Neither the government nor the commission taking this issue seriously . The commission is not taken any steps to strengthen the 1st appellate authorities and not made any seminar's , audio visual program to improve the performance of 1st appellate authorities . If an RTI Application is heard and disposed at 1st appellate authority level their will be no extra cost burden incurred on the
government , Due to non functioning of public information officers and 1st appellate authority the government is spending cores of rupees on the salaries and perks , privileges on the information commissioners . The govt. is paying more salary for less work to the information commissioners and this is a not a good practice and govt must utilize the public money judiciously and utilize the services of information commissioners cost effectively to less burden on state exchequer and burden on tax payer and common man. The Janaspandana which is a nodal agency to implement the RTI Act in the state become redundant and the government is spending more money on Administrative training institute which is also failed due to training by retired officers of the same department and other retried govt servants who are teaching how to evade and conceal the information .
Presently The information commission is not issuing any direction to strengthen the 1st appellate authority level to reduce the burden on the commission and not bringing awareness about RTI act among the common man and the govt. servants to bring transparency and good governance in the state and to build strong nation. To curb corruption at all levels by disclosing all the civil works and other works carried out by the govt. beneficiary scheme under various welfare scheme to poor and middle class people to reduce the misuse of welfare schemes etc.
Presently the information commissioners are not functioning as per the provisions of the RTI ACT 2005 to bring the good governance and transparency in the state govt. departments to build confidence among the citizens . Janaspandan which is a body responsible to implement the RTI Act 2005 becoming redundant in training the govt officials how to implement the act in their departments and fail to put pressure on govt departments to appoint more and more public information officers and 1st appellate authorities to dispose the RTI Applications expeditiously with lesser cost and saving the public money instead of spending more and more money on information commissioners salaries perks , Medical benefits etc.
The existing information commissioners are working for 2 to 3 hours only on each day between 11 am to 1-30 PM and drawing full salary , Luxury car and exclusive staff , exclusive chamber with all facilities such as telephone , Xerox , fax computer systems etc . Practically one information commissioner can hear minimum 50 cases per day , 6 information commissioners can hear 300 Cases per day and monthly average 7500 cases can be heard and disposed by issuing strict directions to the public information officers to furnish the information to the citizens within time and the present information commissioners can hear approximately around 70,000 cases per year But presently that is not happening in our state and no one is bothered also. and karnataka information
commission is not having such pendency . I had filed an RTI Application seeking pendency of cases but they are disclosing the same and there is not much pendency before the commission . Recently I met the Chief information commissioner of Karnataka and explained the same and requested to all the information commissioners to direct work for full time and for whole day , But he replied that he is expecting appointment of new information commissioner to hear the cases. Actually there is no such pendency of cases in Karnataka information commission .
The present information commissioners are working like part time appointment at the cost of public money and information commission is became a rehabilitation center for retired bureaucrats and political supporters , party workers . Due to such appointments made by the government the main object and purpose of RTI Act 2005 is not achieved and defeated .
If we come to analyze how the present information commissioners are functioning there is no hard and fast rule , law or procedure adopted by them uniformly by all the information commissioners ,Each information commissioner is having his own style of functioning in hearing of the cases and providing the justice to their job as a information commissioner . One of the information commissioner starts hearing at 11AM and other information commissioner starts at 12AM and one of the information commissioner is taking half an hour break after one hour hearing of cases and every case is heard on several adjournments.
RTI Act 2005 is a common man law and is very simple and powerful tool to eradicate corruption to bring good governance in the state . The act is very simple with few sections and which helps the citizens rights to know what is happening in the state and how the govt. is functioning and how the govt funds are utilized and how the quality of civil works and other works are carried out and how the welfare schemes are benefited to the common man.
As per RTI Act the applicant is not necessary to appear before the commission for hearing of their cases . The commission has to conduct the hearing in a fair manner and impartial enquiry must be made whether the information sought is furnished or not and whether the information furnished well within the time and pass suitable orders and directions to the public information officers to furnish the information sought by the applicant and if there is any delay or false , incomplete information is provided , in case the application is rejected the information sought is dodged , the information the commission can impose penalty of Rs.250/-per day and a maximum of Rs.25,000/- under section 20(1) of the act . The penalty amount imposed will be deposited to govt. account
and become revenue to the govt. and which will teach a lesson to the public information officer who is default in furnishing the information and he will be careful in future since the penalty amount imposed is to be paid from his pocket or deducted from his salary.
Generally In most of the cases the present information commissioners are not invoking the section 20(1) of the act on public information officers who are failing to comply the direction of the commission and for failing to furnish the information within time . If the RTI Applicant insists and pressurize for imposing penalty on Public information officers and then after the repeated requests nominal penalty is imposed on erring public information officers . The recovery of the penalty is to be followed up by the RTI Applicants only . Most of the public information officers will not pay the penalty imposed on them . The government must formulate a system to deduct the penalty amount from salary through HRMS System . The some of public information officers are approaching the courts by challenging the orders of the
commission without following the direction of the commission and without furnishing the information within time and increasing the work load on High court. The commission is made a party in the proceedings in the High court , Panel advocate is not taking much interest to protect the orders of the commission and most of the time the orders of the commission are not allowed due to a common man cannot engage a advocate to represent his case by paying fee for simple information . The recovery of penalty is also one of the challenge to the commission due to frequent transfer of officials and retirement of officials especially in departments like BBMP , Police , BDA , KPSC ,revenue departments etc and some of the penalty imposed cases run for years together to recover the penalty and lot of time is wasted on recovery of penalty the commission has not made standard procedure in consulting the govt. to recover the penalty ,
The penalty imposed cases must be heard quickly and the amount must be credited to the government account .
If the RTI Applicant does not appear before the commission for hearing of his case In most of the times the cases will closed stating that information sought is furnished as per the submissions made by the public information officers without verifying the facts such as what information furnished , How many pages of information furnished and mode of furnishing information and documentary proof of postal receipts and acknowledgements .
In most of the cases the public information commissioners are not appearing before the commission for hearing of cases inspite of summons and notices issued by the commission to appear on specific date . For example departments like revenue departments of Bangalore urban and rural , BBMP , BDA , BWSSB , Police Dept. secretarial department in MS building ZP Bangalore urban and rural . The public information commissioners are taking the commission notice very lightly and without any responsibility and accountability , the Information commissioners PA will make a telephone call and calling them to appear for hearing of their case and requesting them to appear before the commission etc and the information commissioners will wait for the public information officers arrival
and the RTI applicants has to wait hours together for their arrival and the Public information officers will escape from the responsibility of furnishing information by giving various excuses .
If the RTI Applicant fails to appear before the commission for hearing or came late for hearing of the case . The cases will be closed without any information and applicant has to go with empty hand if the applicant questions or requests with the information commissioners they answers to challenge their orders in High court by filing Writ petition , For hearing of cases the public information officers are deputing steno , SDC , typist , case workers to attend the case and senior officials will rescue to appear before the commission , The deputed staff will try to hush up the case by making submission that the information sought is not available , voluminous , very old record , file not found , file misplaced and claiming some irrelevant exemptions by quoting other commission decisions and get
the excuse and see that information sought is not provided to avoid transparency and good governance in the state Especially KPSC is number one organization where we cannot get any information.
One of the most worst practice in the information commission is some of the information commissioners are meeting the Public information officers at their chambers before and after hearing of the cases and they are discussing about the cases posted before them and they are training the public information officers how to evade and conceal the information sought by the citizens . Most of the information commissioners are retired bureaucrats and they are having link and friendship with the officials of earlier departments where they have worked and known each other very well and they will take advantage of the same and the information commissioners are taking lenient way on them due to friendship or known to their higher officers , relationship ,caste ,native place and native district and other facts are taken into
consideration while hearing of the cases depending on the seriousness of information sought by the rti applicants pertaining to corruption , mal-administration misuse of power by public servants and some of the information commissioners are from political circle back ground they will help their party members and the officials who known to them earlier.
The government is given an advertisement calling for applications for the posts of information commissioners . But my humble request to the chief minister of Karnataka as a responsible citizen of the state not to appoint any new information commissioners in the public interest to save the public money which may run into several crores and which is a tax payer’s money . I am requesting the government to utilize the services of Existing information commissioners service in fulltime and properly and efficiently and to request them and insist them to hear more number of cases every day minimum 50 cases per information commissioner and work for whole day and the pendency will reduce within short time .
The style of functioning of existing information commissioners can be examined by calling suggestions from RTI users and activists and problems faced by the common man and suggestions from citizens to improve the performance of existing information commissioners .
Before making any fresh appointments the govt must examine the infrastructure available presently , the commission is working at two places three information commissioners works at MS Building Gate -2 and three information commissioners functions at rented building with high rent and situated away from MS Building and there is no permanent staff and the staff is appointed on out -sourcing basis and there is no accountability on the staff .The government has not taken any steps to appoint permanent staff even after lapse of 7 years of act came into existence.
If the government insists the existing information commissioners to function on full time basis between 10-30 am to 5-30 pm there will be no pendency of cases in the commission and also reduce the financial burden on the state exchequer and which is a public money and tax payers money . Presently the commission is having a pendency of few thousand of cases only and there is no necessity to appoint any new information commissioner in the commission . The citizens who are coming to the information commission are becoming frustrated and not ready to come again to the commission because they are not getting any information within time and quickly and the citizens have to wait several years and to attend several hearings by spending their hard earned money , more and more time is granted by the information commissioners
to the public information officers . The public information officers are not worried because all the expenses will be borne by the govt.
The existing 5 information commissioners are still having more than two and half years tenure of service and they can hear the cases expeditiously to reduce the pendency , An information commissioner can hear average 50 cases per day and 1200 cases per month and 15,000 cases per year . Existing five information commissioners can hear approximately 70000 cases per year and if they use this formula within 3 months there will be no pendency in the Karnataka information commission.
If the govt. appoint more and more information commissioners and there will be same situation and it is a waste of public money and hence the govt. must drop the proposal to save the public money instead of that the government can strengthen by training the public information officers at grass root level and issuing stringent directions to the 1st appellate authorities to hear and dispose the RTI Applications expeditiously without any extra cost .
One of the Public interest Litigation is pending before the Hon'ble high court of Karnataka pertaining to appointment existing five information commissioners appointed during earlier BJP Government which was challenged by one Sri.Umapathi in WP 40784/2012 is pending before Hon’ble High court of Karnataka and the notice was issued to the government and to the information commissioners . The said petitioner has made all the 5 information commissioners and Govt. as parties and the matter is pending before the Hon’ble Chief justice Court. and govt. must examine this issue before making any new appointments.
Andra pradesh High court has set aside the appointment of four information commissioners made recently due to various reasons. The govt. must examine all the complaints received from the citizens and RTI users against the existing information commissioners and the complaints forwarded by the Janaspandana , the complaints forwarded by Governors office and President of India office pertaining to conduct of functioning of existing information commissioners and competency of existing information commissioners before making any new appointments and while appointing the Bureaucrats the government must follow cooling period followed by the central and state governments/ Immediately retired and retiring soon Bureaucrats shall not be appointed as information commissioners because they may became hurdle to furnish the
information where they worked earlier pertaining to important files.
Some of the suggestions to save the govt. money which is a public money and tax payer money by improving the performance of exiting information commissioners and by without appointing any new additional information commissioners for the time being :
1). All the Existing information commissioners shall report to the commission at 10-00 Am and to start hearing of the cases at 10-30 AM
2). Morning session from 10-30 AM to 1-30 PM minimum 25 New cases to be heard daily
3). After noon session from 2-30PM to 5-00 PM minimum 25 part heard cases must be heard daily
4). All the information commissioners shall present daily in the commission during office hours between 10-30 am to 5-30 Pm even on Saturday.
5). Before and after the hearing of the cases the information commissioners shall not meet any Public information officers , government servants in their office chambers and it must be totally banned.
6). During the hearing of the cases the commissioners shall provide an opportunity to the RTI Applicants to argue their cases and they must respect the RTI applicants and treat them with human dignity.
7). The information commissioners should insist all the public information officers or their representatives with authorization letter must present well in time for hearing of the cases before the commission and habit of calling and requesting the public information officers by commission through telephone must be banned and shall not wait for the arrival of public information officers who are coming late and whenever they want. The commissioners shall not insist the rti applicants to wait till the public information officer arrives to the commission for hearing of the cases.
8). The Information commissioners shall insist the public information officers must come to the commission with relevant complete files pertaining to the information sought by the RTI Applicants and allowed to inspect the files if the applicant wishes to inspect in presence of Information commissioner .
9). The commission shall comply the provisions of section 4(1) a & b of the act to encourage the other departments to follow the same.
10). The commission web site shall be updated and furnished all the relevant information , Penalty imposed details , Procedure adopted while alloteing th cases to information commissioners , details of monthly receitp and disposal and pending cases before the High courts pertaining to penalty imposes cases and List of pending cases before the commission.
11). The commission has appointed Law officer and advocate , But the Commission advocate is not defending the penalty cases in right spirit and fails to bring entire file during the hearings.
12). True and impartial hearing of cases shall be followed by all the information commissioners In the interest of justice and equity .
13). The administration of the commission shall be improved by deploying the required permanent staff and infrastructure.
14). The commission is functioning in a private rented building by paying more rent and the same must be shifted to MS Building to facilitate the RTI Applicants
15). The information commissioners shall invoke section 20(1) on the public information officers who are failing to furnish the information as per the provisions of the act.
16). The Information commissioners shall issue strict directions to 1st appellate authorities to hear the 1st appeals and to furnish the information at 1st appellate authority level itself.
17). The record maintenance and record management system in the Karnataka information commissions shall be improved
18). Getting information from Information commission is a big challenge to the citizens and hence suitable training must be provide to the Public information officer and the 1st appellate authority of the information commission to furnish the information sought within time.
19). Providing training by the Government to the Public information officers and 1st appellate authorities to implement RTI Act in their departments with right and positive spirit to bring transparency and good governance in the state
20). Strengthening 1st appellate authorities by insisting to comply the Supreme court order to hear the 1st appeals regularly and to issue necessary directions to public information officers to furnish the information within the time limits to reduce the burden of filing more and more 2nd appeals before the commission.
21). All the commissioners must voluntarily disclose Asset and liability particulars on Commission web site voluntarily.
22). The Government must initiate departmental enquiry against the 1st appellate authority officials who are failing the comply the provisions of the act to failing to issue necessary directions to the information commissioners to furnish the information sought by hearing the 1st appeals within time by giving priority to RTI Act and to reduce the piling up of 2nd appeal before the information commission .