New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided a whopping 1,288 appeals filed by a retired Air Force official in one go.
Retired Wing Commander Sanjeev Sharma filed these appeals before the CIC after not getting information on issues ranging from gifts given on farewell parties of the officers, felling of trees, working of Air Force Wives Welfare Association (AFWWA) to contingency funds among others.
Sharma had filed 6,443 RTI applications with various wings of the Indian Air Force. In his order, Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha chided the Indian Air Force for poor management of Right to Information-related matters.
Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and Assistant Public Information Officers (APIOs) are deputed to handle Right to Information applications in a public authority.
“The lack of sufficient number of CPIOs/APIOs in one of the three largest wings of Ministry of Defence raises a serious concern regarding the kind of importance that is accorded to the RTI Act provisions,” he noted.
Sinha said the dismal rate of disposing first appeals by the officers concerned of Western Air Command and Central Air Command is “alarming”.
He gave a four-point advisory to the IAF from posting a Central Public Information Officer and Assistant Public Information Officer at every unit, conducting sensitisation exercises for them, bringing details of non-public fund ventures in public domain and maximum disclosure of NPFVs.
“A copy of this order is marked to the Chief of Air Staff and the Defence Secretary to take note of the observations made above as well for appropriate action as may be deemed fit for translating the advisory into effective implementation,” he said.
Justifying his decision to adjudicate 1,288 appeals in one go, the Information Commissioner said this has been done after taking into consideration the fact that these RTI applications are seeking the same information but in the context of different air commands.
“…the basic contentions and relief sought in appeal would be suited for a composite listing of the matters in order to cut down on the time and resources invested in adjudicating on each appeal separately,” he said in the order.
During the hearing, applicant Sanjeev Sharma said he had filed these applications as there is a parallel economy running inside the IAF fraternity and there are different sources of corruption.
Sinha appreciated the efforts of Sharma to expose alleged corruption but cautioned him that he should be aware of the spirit of the RTI Act.
“…however noble the end of this vociferous attempt of bringing about probity in the functioning of IAF would have been, fact remains that the means adopted by the appellant regrettably speaks volumes of his ignorance of the spirit of the RTI Act,” he said.
Sinha, a former senior officer of Intelligence Bureau, said commission is of the opinion that the kind of time and resources spent by Sharma in filing these RTI applications and appeals do speak of certain kind of accountability which appears to be lacking in the IAF.
Commenting on the development, RTI activist retired Commodore Lokesh Batra said it is a landmark order covering a comprehensive reading of the excerpts, analysis and submissions of both the parties and other Commissioners need to emulate the practice of such a well-drafted order.