Thursday, October 28, 2010

[HumJanenge] ‘Judiciary should come out of cocoon of secrecy’


Outgoing Haryana CIC says people want judiciary to open up

"Judiciary should come out of the cocoon of secrecy and understand
that it is not out of the RTI Act," said Haryana Chief Information
Commissioner G Madhavan, who retired on Thursday. "People have tasted
the RTI Act, and now they want more. Citizens expect the judiciary to
open up," he said.

He gave reference to a judgment of Justice K Kannan of the Punjab and
Haryana High Court regarding the Act. The judge had once said the line
that was being drawn between what should be in public domain and what
sealed in the iron chest of any establishment was getting dimmer by
the day. "More than any other public institution, it should be the
judiciary which should set an example to herald the era of
transparency," Justice Kannan had said, adding that any attempt to
conceal information would only go to erode the majesty of the
judiciary in public perception.

Madhavan, who completed five years in office, had joined as the CIC
when the RTI Act came into force in 2005. In five years, he has
decided 2,575 cases — 174 of them in a double bench with either
Meenaxi Anand Chaudhary or Lt Gen J B S Yadav. He has imposed Rs 1.13
lakh worth of penalty in 22 cases and awarded compensation worth Rs 11
lakh in 277 cases. However, the job was tough and challenging. "It was
a new Act, and there was no precedent to follow. So one day, I sat
down with the then Punjab CIC Rajan Kashyap and chalked out some
procedures and norms. We decided to keep the proceedings judicial, but
not unfriendly, and also drafted a proforma. I did not have an office
and started work from a room in the Secretariat. The Act came into
force in October 2005, but the budget for the building came only in
March 2006. By July 2006, we were able to set up this building," he
said. When asked if the less number of complaints in the Haryana
commission as compared to Punjab indicated a lower level of awareness
in the state, he said: "We divide the cases into complaints and
appeals, and also guide the information-seekers to go to the first
appellate authority if they have skipped the step. This reduces the
number of cases."

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