GUWAHATI, Oct 5 - Despite the Right to Information (RTI) Act completing a decade, negligence and apathy of government departments in providing information to applicants has ensured that this crucial piece of legislation has fallen short of yielding the desired results.
In one such instance, an RTI application dated June 14, 2013, was filed by Manjit Kumar Sarma of Guwahati seeking certain information regarding the production of 12 TV commercials for promotion of Assam Tourism through various satellite channels of national and international repute.
As the Tourism Department did not respond to the RTI application, Sarma filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority of the department on July 22, 2013.
Ironically, it also shied away from responding to the appeal.
As the last option, Sarma approached the State Information Commission for justice on September 3, 2013.
�The matter was finally chosen for hearing by the State Information Commission on July 31, 2015. The Commission sent the notice of hearing dated July 27, 2015 by Speed Post only on August 1, 2015, a day after the one-sided hearing had already been conducted, keeping the applicant out of the justice delivery process,� Sarma said.
Sarma added that in a lopsided order, the Information Commission did not award any punishment to the PIO/SPIO/First Appellate Authority in the Tourism Department for their wilful failure to provide information sought by the applicant within the stipulated time.
�The State Information Commissioner, HS Das, went on to write in his order, that the applicant was absent in the hearing without any information. But before recording such observations, he should have verified the fact whether the applicant had been informed or not,� Sarma said.
Sarma added that without trying to ascertain whether the applicant was satisfied with the answer provided by the department, or whether or not the answer was legally tenable, the Commission went on to dispose of the appeal leaving no scope for the petitioner to express his dissatisfaction.
Answers to Sarma�s RTI queries provided by the Tourism Department revealed that an amount Rs 1.15 crore was spent for producing twelve 20-second duration promotional advertisements of Assam Tourism, and that another amount of Rs 3.83 crore was incurred on making payments to 19 national and international channels where the promos were telecast during September-December 2012.
The Tourism Department also acknowledged that the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the apex body of broadcasters in India, slapped a ban on the Assam Tourism for its failure to make timely payments of its dues.