RTI for Land Record in jharkhand

The Right to Information (RTI) Act has proved to be a boon for information seekers across the country as also Jharkhand. Missing land records in the state, however, remain one of the biggest problems, something which even the information commission in Jharkhand has failed to set straight. The chief information commissioner, Justice D K Sinha, former judge of the Jharkhand high court, talks to Sanjay Ojha about the problem of missing land records and piling cases owing to lack of adequate manpower in the commission. Following are excerpts...

The RTI has proved to be one of the most lethal weapons in the hands of the common man to extract information from government offices, which was almost impossible until a few years ago. How has the response been in Jharkhand?

Like any other place in the country, the RTI has proved beneficial to information seekers even in Jharkhand and thousands of people have benefited from it. On an average, 30 complaints reach the commission every day and we ensure that the complainant gets the information s/he is seeking.

There is a set format for getting information, which begins at the lowest level from the office of the principal information officer. Can an aggrieved person directly approach the commission with the complaint?

Yes, in case the government has not appointed the information officer for an office or the officer is not entertaining the application, the aggrieved person can directly approach the commission.

It is a common complaint that principal information officers try to hide facts and at times even demand huge fees. Collecting information is believed to be a long and tedious process?

Any government department, state assembly or even the judiciary, cannot take more than the amount fixed for a particular work. An information seeker can get every detail permitted under the law by paying Rs 10 as fee and Rs 2 per page in case of a government office. If the applicant needs information from the court, he will have to pay Rs 5 per page apart from the fee. For assembly, it is Rs 10 per page. If any officer is asking for more money in the name of fee and charges, the complainant should approach the commission.

Can you name the department against which maximum complaints reach the commission?

Most of the complaints are related to missing land records. It is surprising that 20-25% of the complaints received by the commission are related to land records. The matter has been brought to the notice of the government.

Has the commission punished those officials who were not able to provide information?

The commission has not only recommended departmental action against them, but also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 in strict adherence to the RTE Act. In the last calendar year (2012), the commission issued orders against 18 officials.

Is the commission facing certain constraints at the moment?

Against the sanctioned strength of seven members, including the chief information commissioner, there are only two people working in the commission at the moment. The commission receives around 30 complaints every day. The rate of disposal is around 8-10 per working day. Around 5000 complaints are pending. If the government fills all the vacancies, we can expedite disposal and minimize pendency.