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RTI Applications, Orders On First Appeals And Lockdown

Presently officers of public-authorities are usually worried about possible proceedings for imposition of penalty and recommendation of disciplinary proceedings for not being able to respond to RTI applications and passing orders on First Appeals in stipulated time period of 30 days (plus 15 days grace for orders on First Appeals) because of national lockdown period due to corona-virus. Even though central and some state governments have prescribed Work From Home, responding to on-line RTI applications cannot be practically possible in most cases during lock-down where inputs are required from official records with offices closed under lockdown. Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Central and State Information Commissions should notify that lock-down period will not be considered in stipulated time-period for responding to RTI applications and passing First Appeal Orders. Registries of Central and State Information Commissions should ensure that complaints under section 18 of RTI Act for not responding in lock-down period may not be registered to unnecessarily further burden workload of Information Commissions. Second appeals filed under section 19(3) of RTI Act should be auto-remanded back to First Appellate Authorities without any hearing in case First Appeal Order is missing because of lockdown period.  For ensuring early disposal of petitions pending with Information Commissions, it may be considered to drop all show-cause proceedings for orders passed from April 1,  2020 onwards. All such steps are in tune with Supreme Court verdict dated August  9, 2011 in the matter Central Board of secondary Education versus Aditya Banopadhyaya and others (Civil Appeal number 6454 of 2011) which mentions that the threat of penalties under the RTI Act and the pressure of the authorities under the RTI Act should not lead to employees of public authorities prioritising information furnishing, at the cost of their normal and regular duties.

SUBHASH CHANDRA AGRAWAL, NEW DELHI

Corona-Relief Only Through Direct Bank Transfer

Some state-governments have announced monetary-relief for those in unorganised sectors without any type of registration with any concerned authority. But big question is how to select such unregistered beneficiaries in unorganised sector. It should be ensured that any such monetary corona-relief should only be through Direct-Bank-Transfer like is done by central government. State governments should save funds by avoiding expenditures on aspects like government-advertisements even though these may be relating to advice to meet corona-crisis. Rather all TV news-channels including of private and autonomous public-authorities can be directed for daily direct telecast of press-briefings by head of state-governments at some stipulated time. Every order by political rulers should be implemented by concerned officers only on written (and not verbal) orders of political rulers

MADHU AGRAWAL, NEW DELHI

Social Distancing And Hygiene Should Continue

All eyes will now be on what happens post 14 April when the current 21- day national lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ends. In view of the prevailing scenario of the raging pandemic the lockdown may have to continue. After a concerted analysis of the evolving situation the health experts will have to suggest the options forward. Given the dynamics, a staggered withdrawal of the lockdown may be difficult to execute. Once that state borders are open monitoring the spread of COVID-19 may be a mission impossible. After this lockdown, for life to return to normalcy may be a very challenging task. With the regular day to day administration of the state having come to a standstill, it’s going to be tough getting the wheels of governance back on track. The temples of justice will have an added pile up to the already existing mountain of cases. But together and with determination we shall overcome this first ever crisis we have had to sadly witness in our lifetime. The expected turmoil and panic that Goa has witnessed over the last few days was due to the unplanned lockdown. The public could have been given a day or two to stock up the essential commodities. Now that normalcy has somewhat returned the authorities have to ensure that the supply of essentials continues uninterrupted with grocery stores open all through the day so that the public can shop at ease while strictly maintaining social distancing and hygiene. In this epidemic the selfless doctors, nurses and the support staff have risen to the occasion and have been angels of hope in battling this virus.

AIRES RODRIGUES, RIBANDAR

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