It was a first of it’s kind of public hearing in India. More than 250 transparency seekers i.e. practitioners of the Right to Information Act 2005 were there to question Mr Shailesh Gandhi, the Information Commissioner. Mr. Shailesh Gandhi heard each and every question which were in fact grievance against his own decisions and practices at his office. And he admitted that “Yes! There are some problems in handling the cases”. He agreed to correct the systems and also pay attention towards compliance of his orders.
Almost every speaker said that Mr Gandhi’s orders are more or less in favor of information seekers, but they becoming ineffective in forcing the government officers to release the information. Hence the RTI Act is becoming useless. Taking a serious note on this, Mr Gandhi announced that he would dedicate at least one day for hearing of non-compliance cases. This was a great achievement of this Public Hearing.
But Mr Gandhi was as usual not comfortable in being hard to the officials who are violating the peoples Right to Information. Public questioned him that if Arunanchal Pradesh Information Commissioner can issue arrest warrants against 5 officers, why no him? He sidelined this argument by saying that if he gets into all such practices his rate of hearing the case would come down, which would result more and more pending cases at his office. Public didn’t at all buy this argument.
However this public hearing was a very good and long much needed beginning. Hope other Information Commissioners would also agree to face public like this.