Hyderabad: In what is being seen by activists as an undemocratic and authoritarian move, Telangana chief secretary Somesh Kumar has issued orders which will it difficult for the general public to obtain information through the Right to Information (RTI) act. The order essentially says that Public Information Officers will have to inform superiors before giving out information.
In a letter dated October 13, chief secretary Somesh Kumar asked all special chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries to the government (Telangana) to instrict Public Information Officers (PIO) appointed under the RTI Act to obtain their “orders” before furnishing the information to applicants concerned.
“It has come to the notice of the undersigned that the State public information officers designated/appointed under the Right to Information Act 2005 in certain administrative units or offices are furnishing information to the applicants in a routine manner without proper verification of records,” said the circular from chief secretary Somesh Kumar, dated October 13. The subject of the memo is titled ‘certain instructions issued’.
While the state government has reasoned that information is being provided to applicants without any scrutiny, activists argue that a PIO in every government office is independent and has to furnish information within a month’s time. If not, the matter can be appealed. “So now, every PIO will have to ask higher ups. Information has to be provided, there is no if or buts. Does the government have something to hide? This is completely undemocratic,” said an activist who did not want to be quoted.
City-based lawyer B. V. Seshagiri, who also flagged the issue, took to Twitter and said, “Telangana Chief Secretary issued a U.O Note with a direction to PIO’s that ‘to obtain permission from the C.S, Prl. Secretaries before furnishing information under RTI Act to the applicant’s’. An attempt to dilute RTI Act.