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Law schools show dismal record of RTI Act compliance

Rights through Information
Rights through Information
As the government has constituted a new taskforce to enforce implementation of access to the Right to Information, research by Infocracy India suggests that most law schools are not complying with the law.

Section 4 of the RTI Act stipulates that every public authority shall catalogue, index & facilitate access to its records and ensure that online access to such information is facilitated (subject to availability of resources).

Also, every public authority is duty bound to proactively disclose the information provided under the heads mentioned under Section 4 (1)(b). This had to be published within 120 days of the date of enactment of this Act.

Some of the heads under section 4(1)(b) include:

the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; 4(1)(b)(iii)

the monthly remuneration received by each of its officers and employee, including the system of compensation as provided in its regulations; 4(1)(b)(xi)

the names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers etc; 4(1)(b)(xvi)

Needless to say adherence to Section 4 is the first and foremost step towards ensuring transparency and accountability in the functioning of any public authority. However, a country-wide dismal record on this front has goaded the government to constitute a special task force to ensure effective implementation of this Section, as reported by the PTI.

Even our best law universities have a poor record on this. Section 4 came into force on 15 June 2005 and the information should have been disclosed within 120 days by October 2005. It seems that we are six years late.

Here is the track record of our top National Law Universities, ILS Pune and GLC Mumbai.

NLSIU Bangalore, Nalsar Hyderabad, GNLU Gandhinagar and NLU Delhi have provided comprehensive Section 4 information on their respective websites (see table).

NUJS Kolkata, NLU Jodhpur and RMLNLU Lucknow provide only the details of the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the Appellate Authority (AA). All other information mandated by section 4(1)(b) of the Act (usually in the form of a 50-100 page document) has not been published on the websites of these colleges.

NLIU Bhopal, ILS Pune, HNLU Raipur and GLC Mumbai are the biggest truants and have not even published details of the PIO and the AA. Any prospective information seeker wishing to assert her Right to Information in any of these universities won’t even know where to send her application to.

Law College

Details of the PIO and AA

Section 4 compliance

Transparent

NLSIU Bangalore

Yes

Yes

GNLU Gandhingar

Yes

Yes

NLU Delhi

Yes

Yes

NALSAR Hyderabad

Yes

Yes

Cloudy

NUJS Kolkata

Yes

No

NLU Jodhpur

Yes

No

RMLNLU Lucknow

Yes

No

Opaque

ILS Pune

No

No

GLC Mumbai

No

No

HNLU Raipur

No

No

NLIU Bhopal

No

No

The Transparent Colleges

The “Transparent Colleges” not only provide the requisite information but also facilitate easy access to it. Nalsar’s website has a link to Right to Information on the bottom left of its home page while NLS has this information as a drop down menu on the “About” tab.

NLU Delhi’s website has probably the best compiled Section 4 information and also provided for simple access. A colour-flashing tab which says “RTI Act” can be found on its home page.

However, GNLU’s website with the tab name “Information Compendium” on its home page could do well by changing the description to “RTI Act” or something to that effect.

The Cloudy Colleges

Things get difficult with the “Cloudy” law colleges. See the steps involved to land on NLU Jodhpur’s information on its PIO and AA (via the “Profile” tab, click to the “Administration” page, then click on “Public Information Officer”).

The heads are vague, the steps too many and it is questionable whether a reasonable man will construe this as “access” to information.

NLU Jodhpur does also not provide access to other information mandated by Section 4. NUJS Kolkata and RMLNLU Lucknow too seem satisfied with only providing the details of the PIO and the AA.

The opaque colleges

ILS Pune and GLC Mumbai are the biggest culprits. Right to Information seems to have skipped the attention of 2000 plus law students and teachers.

NLIU Bhopal and HNLU Raipur present interesting cases.

NLIU Bhopal: a visible head on the navigation bar of its website provides for “RTI” but a page with information is not actually accessible and does not seem to have been created.

HNLU Raipur: Clicking on the “Misc” tab will lead you to a drop down tab called “Downloads”. One of the downloadable documents is the “Public Information Officer Order”, dated April 1 2009 which speaks about the appointment of a PIO!

Conclusion

This little piece of research establishes what we provokingly blogged on March 13, 2011: Law universities have been at the forefront of the ‘institutional hypocrisy’, leaders of not practicing what they preach.

While legal aid camps are held with gusto, teaching the unaware and the uneducated about their rights; maybe it’s time to also see, how unaware, uneducated and unconcerned we are about ours.

Infocracy India (www.infocracyindia.org) is an initiative to increase RTI activism among law students in India. Infocracy founder Tanuj Kalia and Infocracy student researcher Akshay Sharma are both NUJS students.

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