Lokpal bill cloud on RTI

Shillong, Oct. 23 : Meghalaya’s chief information commissioner Chester D. Kynjing said the introduction of Jan Lokpal bill in the winter session may “overshadow” the existing Right to Information Act, 2005. He was delivering the valedictory address at a seminar here today.

“We are all aware that there is a strong movement to pressure the government to frame the Lokpal bill in the country to root out corruption. We really don’t know how much power will be given and how much teeth it (the Lokpal) will have. But it will be successful only if information is freely available. There is also likelihood that it may overshadow the present RTI act,” Kynjing said.

The two-day seminar on Strengthening Participatory Democracy: Five years of the Role of RTI was held at Synod College, Jaiaw. It was organised by the P.A. Sangma Foundation in collaboration with Synod College and NGOs Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) India Office and Media for Change, New Delhi.

“There are allegations of corruption everywhere in the country. To dispel such doubts and fears, people should seek for information and find out for themselves as to how things are done,” Kynjing said.

“During the five years of implementation of the RTI act in the state, it would appear as if the public authorities have been very active and cooperative, and perhaps because of that, the complaints under Section 18 and appeal under Section 19 are not forthcoming to the Meghalaya State Information Commission.”

He said 102 cases of appeals and 175 cases of complaints have been disposed of by the commission since its inception on March 3, 2006.

“While it is true that our government functioning is quite transparent in comparison to other states in the sense that officers and public representatives are easily accessible to people, this is mainly perhaps because many of the applicants are not fully conversant with the procedure and aware of their rights under the RTI. Therefore, it is still necessary to create a lot of awareness to the people of our state,” Kynjing stated.