I will quit if I fail to clear appeals in 3 months: New information commissioner

October 1st, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 1 (IANS) Shailesh Gandhi, newly appointed information commissioner in India’s Central Information Commission (CIC), has promised to clear all appeals to his office within three months, and to quit if he fails to live up to his promise.”My first and foremost objective is to bring down the pendency of the appeals and complaints at CIC (Central Information Commission that administers the Right to Information Act). Sometimes the appeals come for hearing after 3-6 months and when they come so late, the focus of the applicant gets lost,” Gandhi, who is a well know right to information (RTI) activist, told IANS in an interview.

“My main aim is to tackle that issue effectively. No appeal will stay with me for more than three months. My commitment is to ensure that an order on an appeal is passed within three months,” Gandhi added.

“This is non-negotiable and if I am not be able to do this, I promise to quit the job.”

The announcement of Gandhi’s appointment was made in the first week of September and he was sworn in as an information commissioner Sep 18. RTI activists across the country welcomed the appointment of Gandhi as an information commissioner with the CIC.

According to Gandhi, he will have to set an example for others to follow.

Asked about levying penalties on government officers for violating the RTI Act, Gandhi said: “Imposing a penalty is one way of ensuring the enforcement of the act. I will not levy penalties just for the sake of it.

“Perhaps after the first six months they will be harsher. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that I will be lenient with penalties during the first few months.”

Gandhi also said he would streamline the process of passing orders.

“I will ensure that I will give the written order to both the applicant and the PIO (Public Information Officer who heads the CIC) just after the hearing. This will save both time and resources of the commission, the applicants and the government.”

Asked about complaints of deficiencies in orders, he said: “I will try and ensure that I don’t make mistake in my orders. However, in cases where a deeper understanding of the law is required, I will take time to pass the orders.”

According to Gandhi, his ultimate aim is to ensure that applicants don’t even have to come to the CIC office, barring exceptions, for a hearing.

“I want to strengthen the system so that the commission can pass an order on the basis of what the applicants file,” he added.

Gandhi’s other major role would be to make the people aware of the RTI Act.

“Creating awareness is also an important task of the commission but I will be looking at this after a period of six months, when I am properly settled in my role of an information commissioner,” he said.

“I would also like to contribute through various awareness programmes such as workshops,” Gandhi said.

A number of RTI activists had expressed surprise when Gandhi announced that he would not file RTI applications while he was an information commissioner.

Asked about this, he replied: “I sincerely feel the RTI Act is meant to empower the common citizen. Nothing will happen if I don’t file RTI applications. I just think that being information commissioner, it will not be right on my part to do so.”

“But I am always open to advising people over the issues on which they want to file RTI applications,” Gandhi added.

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