‘Frivolous’ RTI applications irk NHRC officials

February 26th, 2008 - 10:57 am ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) An understaffed and overburdened National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is inundated with applications seeking “frivolous” information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. On an average, the NHRC, with a staff of 300, receives 20-30 applications daily.

“The flow is very high and about 70 percent of the applications pertain to the functioning of the commission. But we try our level best to dispose them of, considering we do not have a separate RTI division,” a senior official from the NHRC said.

Another NHRC official said: “Most of the applications are frivolous and are an added burden on the commission.”

“One such application was sent by a girl from a village in Uttar Pradesh. She had sent some ‘ladoos’ (sweets) to US President George W. Bush on ‘Rakshabandhan’ but the sweets never reached their destination. So citing it as an infringement of her rights, she wanted us to take suitable action,” the official said.

The ministry of home affairs had received an application seeking information about the number of people in every department of the government of India.

“The application was forwarded to us as well. We replied to the application that we have about 300 staffers, but what is the public use of this information?” the official questioned.

“Another applicant kept pestering us to take action against a multinational bank for issuing him a dishonoured cheque, though we informed him that his complaint has been forwarded to the authority concerned,” he said.

Service-related matters are also giving the officials sleepless nights as people have been approaching the commission with these complaints even though it is not under its jurisdiction.

The language barrier is another problem hampering the speedy clearance of RTI applications as many of the pleas sent are in vernacular languages like Kannada and Telugu.

In most cases it is a battery of people who are regular information seekers.

“There are a few people who send RTI applications regularly like Bagambar Patnaik from Orissa, Ram Murat Dwivedi from Pune and Mantri Shyam Prasad from Hyderabad. Their names are on our fingertips,” another official said.

A recent application by Mantri Shyam Prasad poses 31 questions before the commission pertaining to its functioning, the amount of money spent in the year, number of seminars organised, number of complaints received and disposed of in the year and so on.

“We do not mind answering these questions but what is annoying is that all facts like this are on our website which is updated regularly,” he pointed out.

Another bothersome area for the commission is overenthusiastic complainants.”Some people file a complaint and immediately move an application under the RTI to know the status of their complaints,” the official added.

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