Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi is miffed with the functioning of Maharashtra Governments website that seeks to address public grievances, saying it had “no real intention” of bringing transparency and establishing direct connect with people.
Three months after taking charge, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in January 2015 had launched “Aaple Sarkar”, a website, with a view to establish direct and close communication between citizens and Government and also address public grievances.
To ascertain the portals effectiveness, Gandhi on November 13, 2015 filed an RTI query with a couple of queries directed to the General Administration Department (GAD).
These were – how many grievances have been received on the portal in the last six months and how many of them have been redressed? Gandhi also requested the GAD to provide the answers to these questions on a CD.
The former CIC said he was astonished by the reply given by Public Information Officer (PIO), who sought exemption from giving details by invoking Section 8 (1) (f) of RTI Act, 2005. This Section deals with information received in confidence from foreign Governments.
Terming the reply as a “joke”, Gandhi said, “Firstly, the PIO should have given some reason for seeking exemption. Secondly, Section 8 (1) (f) exempts information received in confidence from foreign Governments. This is hilarious. This stand is without any justification.”
Miffed with the reply, Gandhi filed first appeal to which no response has been given by the officials concerned till now. He is now contemplating filing a second appeal. “I filed first appeal on May 6, 2016 but have received no response. I am going to file a second appeal very soon.”
Describing the entire episode, Gandhi told PTI, “I did not know I was trying to unravel a State secret. Firstly, GAD said it did not have the information and sent it to the CMs Office (CMO), which returned it to GAD on December 4, 2015.
“On January 2, 2016 GAD transferred the query to Technical Directorate. Ultimately, the PIO in CMs office,- in a letter dated April 2 – claimed exemption under Section 8 (1) (f) of the Act.
“I have dealt with so many curious cases of RTI in my career, but this is a truly unique and hilarious experience for me,” said the veteran RTI activist. This shows the portal had “no real intention” of bringing transparency and establishing direct connect with people, he said.
When contacted, a senior official from CMO said, “There was an inadvertent mistake while furnishing reply. We have prepared a clarification which would be sent to Shailesh Gandhi in a day or two.”