Has Kejriwal delinked himself from the RTI?

New Delhi: It is very unfortunate that Right to Information (RTI) activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal, who is heading the Delhi government, has been ignoring his government’s statutory obligations under the RTI Act.

Delhi Dialogue Commission Chairman Sarbajit Roy has written a letter to Ms. Geetika Sharma / DANICS, Additional Secretary in office of chief minister Delhi on June 22, 2015 pointing out that ‘some corrupt persons in office of Chief Minister Delhi have ensured that the mandatory suo-moto disclosure prescribed under section 4 of RTI Act 2005 has been removed from Delhi Govt website. Currently, the only working link among the “17 manuals” of RTI is the one to the PIO and First Appellate Authority in CM Office, and even that is populated with incorrect entries including your own.’

However, the fact of the matter is that at the time of filing of this report, working links on Delhi Government RTI website were missing not for 16 but all the 17 manuals: 1. Particulars of organization, 2. Power and duties of officers/Employees 3. Procedure for Decision Making, 4. Norms for discharge of functions, 5. Rules,Regulations for discharge of functions, 6. Statement of categories, 7. Details of consultative committees and other bodies, 8. List of boards, councils, committees and other bodies, 9. Directory of officers/employees, 10. Monthly remuneration of officers/employees, 11. Budget allocated to each agency, 12. Execution of subsidy program, 13. Particulars of recipients of concessions, permits, 14. Information available in an electronic form, 15. Facilities available for obtaining information, 16. Particulars of PIOs, 17. Other information Prescribed.

Roy may have accused ‘some corrupt persons in the office of Delhi chief minister’ for the RTI Act related shortcomings, but the only person who needs to be accused for not ensuring the proper and transparent implementation of the RTI Act in Delhi is Arvind Kejriwal.

It is not that only Delhi government under Kejriwal has been shying away from transparency in the governance. This Economic Times report of March 22, 2016 says that ‘an analysis of the annual data released by Central Information Commission (CIC) reveals that 40% of government ministries and departments have not updated their RTI manuals and made mandatory disclosures on their webpages for the last one year.’

One can understand other bureaucrats’ and ministers’ hesitation in disseminating information under the RTI as they might not be ‘honest’ and ‘RTI crusader’ like Kejriwal. But, how can a politician forget his foundation?

It was the RTI Act that gave name and fame to Kejriwal. He built the image of crusader against corruption using the RTI Act and that culminated in historic win, 67 out of 70 assembly seats, in Delhi assembly elections.

It is pertinent to mention here that Kejriwal shot into prominence using the RTI Act. He won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for his involvement in the grassroots movement Parivartan using RTI Act in a campaign against corruption.

In 2005, Kejriwal and his colleague Manish Sisodia, incumbent deputy chief minister of Delhi, founded another Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) Kabir. Like Parivartan, Kabir was also focused on RTI and participatory governance.

It is not that only links of ‘17 manuals’ of Delhi Government RTI website are missing. Actually, Kejriwal has delinked himself from the RTI.

Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi wrote an open letter to Arvind Kejriwal on September 24, 2015 criticising him for being too lenient on RTI Act.

He wrote, ‘You have been one of the champions of transparency and RTI and your national recognition came because of this. However Delhi government does not appear to have improved on the transparency score nor adherence to RTI. I checked with some RTI activists in Delhi, CIC and even some strong supporters of yours. All of them say that there is no significant improvement in sou moto disclosure under Section 4, or even the responses being given to RTI applications. Your supporters said you will take this up later. A small suggestion in this regard: Consider making the working of your government completely digital in the next one year and put up all files on the internet each day, save what is exempt. ‘

Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training on 15 April, 2015 issued guidelines to the union government and all the state governments and union territories regarding implementation of suo motu disclosure under Section 4 of RTI Act, 2005.

Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act lays down the information which should be disclosed by Public Authorities on a suo motu or proactive basis. The purpose of suo motu disclosures under Section 4 is to place large amount of information in public domain on a proactive basis to make the functioning of the Public Authorities more transparent and also to reduce the need for filing individual RTI applications.

To link himself again with the RTI Act and transparency, Kejriwal must read The Game Changers, a book by-IIT Kharagpur students or reread this report titled ‘How this IITian became an anti-corruption crusader’ that features him.

Kejriwal should remember that Delhiites had given 67 seats to an activist who promised to change the politics and not to one who would change into a regular politician after assuming power.

Politics Watch