Village councils reminded: Gag on RTI applications illegal
Dimapur, October 7
The illegal act of village authorities especially councils restraining or placing conditions on villagers from filing Right to Information (RTI) application is illegal and undemocratic that tantamount to violation of an individual’s right to know, and be a part of the dynamics of development and its processes. In this regard, he said that the Commission had written to the Government of Nagaland to take necessary steps against those village councils passing such illegal resolutions.
This issue was the main point of discussions during recent programs in the state during the RTI week.
As a part of observing the Right to Information Week, the Kohima district administration organized a seminar in the DC’s conference hall in Kohima on October 7.
Speaking on the theme ‘RTI and village administration’ as the resource person, Dr. Hovithal N Sothu said that the main objective of the RTI Act was to create a practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure transparency and accountability of public authorities- to grant a statutory right to information for every citizen and to contain corruption.
He said that under the village administration there were many schemes but the two important agencies/schemes were Village Councils /Village Development Board and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Dr. Sothu informed that the commission ‘has noticed’ that several village councils have been passing resolutions not to file RTI without the knowledge or permission of the village councils.
However, the commission has taken this trend by village leaders seriously. The commission said that the act of the councils was illegal and an obstruction by a legally constituted body and threat to information seeker under the RTI Act, 2005. In this regard, he said that the Commission had written to the Government of Nagaland to take necessary steps against those village councils passing such illegal resolutions.
He also emphasized on the guidelines of MGNREGS which is the only scheme where RTI is in-built. He also informed that under Village level, the VDB Secretary is the PIO and Block Development Officer/Planning Officer is the Appellate Authority (AA) whereas in the Block Level the VDB Secretary is the APIO, BDO/PO is the PIO and the District Program coordinator is the AA.
Emphasizing on what information a citizen can get or cannot get, Dr. Hovithal said that a citizen can get information from Government Departments and VCs/VDBs and NGOs which are substantially finance by the Government, however one cannot get information relating to sovereignty, security, integrity, strategic scientific and economic interests, relation with foreign States and incitement to violence etc. He also highlighted on the stakeholders in the implementation of the RTI Act and roles and responsibilities of PIOs and APIOs.
PIO and ADC Kohima, Lithrongla Tongpi in her keynote address expressed her appreciation and gratitude to the VCs and VDBs for their participation in the programme. Giving a brief introduction on RTI Act, she said that the RTI Act was enacted on 15th June 2005 and came into force on 12th Oct. 2005 which applies only to citizens of India covering whole part of India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. She also gave a brief highlights on how to file RTI application and to whom it should be addressed.
APIO and SDO ( c) Sadar Kohima, Kethosituo Sekhose chaired the programme. A Documentary Film on RTI entitled ‘ My Right My Voice’ produced by the Nagaland Information Commission was also screened during the programme.
Phek observes RTI Week
A seminar about the Right to Information (RTI) week was held on October 6 at DBDB conference hall in Phek where keynote address was delivered by the ADC of Phek, Kuko Mero.
Speaking during the occasion, he said that the RTI week is held every year to create awareness among the masses so that our government functionaries are kept transparent and accountable. He called upon the people to avail the opportunity by applying RTI to any of the government offices and to maintain good attitude for the benefit of all.
RTI Week in Mon
The district administration of Mon has notified that that as a part of observing RTI Week 2015, a formal function will be conducted in the council hall near the DBs’ court, on October 12. The event will commence at 11 a.m.
All the village councils of the district have been informed to send a delegation of 5 (Five) council members consisting of the village council chairman, council secretary, VDB secretary, head GB and one women representative to attend the program. Attendance will also be taken to ensure the presence of the council members.
Citizens’ Power: Do you know?
In 2013, an application was filed with the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking to get the details about the work undertaken by the corporation regarding laying interlocking tiles of octagonal design and construction of footpaths on sides of Gill Road from Campa Cola Chowk to Sidhwan Canal.
As the information provided by the public information officer (PIO) of the municipal corporation was incomplete, the applicant filed an appeal with the first appellate authority. The FAA and the commissioner, LMC directed the PIO in his order to furnish the complete information to the appellant free of cost and within 10 days.
However, as the PIO failed to comply with the order passed by the appellate authority, the appellant then approached the State Information Commission, Punjab. The SIC has now ordered that the information be provided to the appellant and that a penalty of Rs. 25,000 be imposed on the concerned PIO. The penalty is to be deducted from the official’s salary and deposited with the government within six weeks. The SIC also directed the Commissioner, Ludhiana Municipal Corporation to take action against all PIOs and other officials who don’t comply with the RTI Act.