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CIC reports 6% dip in RTI applications received by Central government


By Venkatesh Nayak*
Through our Rapid Review Reports published since 2013 based on the Annual Reports of Information Commissions across the country, we have been reporting that the number of requests for information submitted to public authorities under the Central Government has been plateauing. Now for the first time since 2005, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has actually reported a 6% dip in the number of RTI applications received by the Central Government. Our preliminary review of the statistics included in the Annual Report of the CIC for the year 2016-17, uploaded on its website.

Trend across the Central Government

While more public authorities (1,965) have filed their annual RTI statistics with the CIC in 2016-17 (only 1,903 reported in 2015-16), the number of RTI applications has come down from 9.76 lakhs in 2015-16 to 9.17 lakhs – a dip of 6.1%. If the RTI statistics reported by the Union Territories (1.07 lakhs) are excluded from these figures the dip is 5% of the 2015-16 total. In 2015-16, 1.23 lakh RTI applications had been submitted across the UTs. The overall proportion of rejection for Central Government (including UTs) has come down marginally from 6.62% in 2015-16 to 6.59% in 2016-17. These Public authorities rejected 2.86% of the RTI applications (26,267) for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 permitted under the RTI Act. This figure has also come down from 3.78% in 2015-16.
The Ministry of Finance has once again topped the list of Ministries with the most number of RTI applications received in a year, thanks to the inclusion of RTI data from banks, insurance companies and the income tax authorities. Here too there is a 2.65% dip in the number of RTI applications filed in 2016-17 as compared with the previous reporting year. 175 public authorities under this Ministry received 1.51 lakh RTI applications as against 1.55 lakh RTI applications received the previous year. The proportion of rejection has also gone up marginally from 18.30% in 2015-16 to 18.40% in 2016-17. However, the proportion of RTIs rejected for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 has fallen from 6.89% in 2015-16 to 6.70% in 2016-17.
The Prime Minister’s Office on the other hand received almost 13% more RTI applications (12.89%) in 2016-17 as compared to the previous year. In 2016-17 PMO received 12,787 RTI applications as compared with 11,138 in 2015-16. Interestingly, the proportion of rejection has fallen to 10.21% in 2016-17 as compared with 20.10% in 2015-16. The PMO also rejected fewer RTIs (10.03%) for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 as compared to the previous year (19.99%).
The Ministry of Home Affairs has reported a 3.62% rise in the number of RTI applications received in 2016-17. 28 public authorities under the Home Ministry received 59,828 RTI applications this year even though 33 public authorities reported 57,657 RTI applications the previous year. The proportion of rejection has gone up considerably to 16.10% in 2016-17 from the 14% figure reported in 2015-16. A bulk of these RTIs (6,422) were rejected by the exempt organisations under this Ministry such as Assam Rifles, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal etc. The proportion of RTIs rejected for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 has gone up to 3.26% in 2016-17 as compared to 3.04% in 2015-16.
The Ministry of External Affairs reported a 13.37% in the number of RTI applications received in 2016-17 although the number of public authorities under this Ministry has gone up from 4 in 2015-16 to 101 in 2016-17 with the recognition of all Embassies and High Commissions as public authorities in their own right. Interestingly, the proportion of rejection of RTIs in 2016-17 has fallen to 0.6% as compared to 5.74% in 2015-17.
The Ministry of Defence reported a backlog of 89,391 RTI applications at the beginning of 2016-17 which is 39% of the bulk of RTI applications it had to deal with during the year. Only 58,339 fresh RTIs were received this year. however this is an increase of 14.36% over the receipts in 2015-16. The proportion of rejection has fallen considerably to 6.80% in 2016-17 from 11.50% in 2015-16. The proportion of RTIs rejected for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 of the Act has also fallen by almost half – 3.12% in 2016-17.
More than 97.5% of the backlog of RTI applications in the Defence Ministry were actually reported by the Indian Army – 87,167 pending at the beginning of 2016-17. During the Army received 17,599 RTIs – a 2% increase over the figures reported in 2015-16. The proportion of rejection has fallen to 5.50% in 2016-17 from 8.9% the previous year.
The Indian Air Force did not have any backlog at the beginning of 2016-17 and received 3,947 RTIs during the year. The proportion of rejection has also fallen considerably to 17.50% from 36.30% reported in 2015-16.
The Indian Navy received 1,645 RTIs in 2016-17 which is more than double (almost 55%) the number received in 2015-16. However the proportion of rejection has fallen to 12.90% as compared to 18.50% during the previous year.
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions- the nodal Ministry for implementing the RTI Act in the Central Government, received 3% more RTI applications in 2016-17. However, the proportion of rejections has jumped to 5.76% from 3.40% reported in 2015-16. The proportion of RTIs rejected for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 remains the same at 1.88%.
Rashtrapati Bhawan received 2.79% more RTIs in 2016-17 but rejected only 0.7% of them. In 2015-16, it had rejected 1.2% of the 2,939 RTIs received.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India received more than double the RTI applications (57.6%) in 2016-17 as compared with the 2015-16 figures. The proportion of rejection fell drastically from 17.20% in 2015-16 to 3.7% in 2016-17.
The Cabinet Secretariat reported a dip of 8.65% in the number of RTIs received in 2016-17 as compared with the previous year. The proportion of rejection has also fallen marginally to 6.5% in 2016-17 from 6/65% the previous year.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) received 13.8% more RTIs in 2016-17 as compared to the previous year. Although the CIC’s report records 0% rejection in the data table, the ECI rejected 14 RTIs for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24.

Trends across the higher judiciary in Delhi

The Supreme Court of India received 3.8% more RTIs in 2016-17. However the Apex Court rejected a quarter of these RTIs (25.5%). In 2015-16, the Court had rejected only a fourth of the RTIs received (21.1%).
The Delhi High Court received 12.18% more RTIs in 2016-17 as compared with the previous year. Interestingly, the proportion of rejection has fallen to 23.7% from 27.3% in 2015-16.

Trends across Delhi

Among the Union Territories, Delhi received the most number of RTI applications in 2016-17. However the figures show a dip of 17.3% as compared to the figures of 2015-16. 198 public authorities under the Government of Delhi rejected 0.5% of the RTI applications received which is marginally (0.1%) higher than the figures reported the previous year.
Delhi Police reported a backlog of 1,925 RTIs at the beginning of 2016-17. During the year it received 1.35% more requests for information. The proportion of rejection has fallen by 0.5% in 2016-17 as compared with the previous year. Delhi Police rejected more RTIs (1.88%) for reasons other than Sections 8, 9 and 24 as compared to the previous year.

Some public authorities that did not submit their RTI statistics to the CIC

The following is a sampler of public authorities that did not submit their RTI statistics to the CIC in 2016-17:
Ministry of Women and Child Development, Departments of Pharmaceuticals, Aids Control, Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, Central Bank of India, Bureau of Police Research and Development, IISc, Bangalore, Registrar of Newspapers, ONGC (Videsh) Ltd., National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Women, Chief Commissioners of Income Tax in Guwahati, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, and DG Income Tax (Investigation) in Delhi, Patna, Kolkata and Mumbai.
The DG (Investigation) who oversees the tax exempt organisations Like NGOs, trusts and political parties (and sends them notices threatening withdrawal of tax exempt status for not filing Income Tax Returns) also did not file RTI returns with the CIC in 2016-17.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

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