Mumbai: RTI activists in the city have welcomed the Supreme Court’s directives that there be a choice of hybrid hearing of complaints and appeals, but at the same time said that the issue should not have required prodding from the court.
The Supreme Court passed the directives while hearing a public interest litigation to improve the function of the state information commissions. It was told that while some were conducting hybrid hearings, others were not.
The SC then directed the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the nodal agency looking after implementation of the RTI Act, to hold a meeting and prepare a timeline for implementation of its order, adding that technology was a necessity and should be used.
Online hearings should be the norm across the country: Former Central Information Commissioner
“This is something that should not have required the Supreme Court’s prodding. In fact even lower courts should have this facility. Why should this facility not be there and should be asked for?” said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner.
“At the CIC, we started online hearing as early as 2010. In my own bench I would have hearing and we used the NIC platform. Online hearing should be the norm across the country. Covid-19 only made them understand the value of it. I have even filed a PIL on this. We are asking online that judicial and quasi-judicial bodies be considered a fundamental right.”
Activists said that online hearing has been made compulsory but it is not being implemented by the state government. At the state information commission one of the benches had started it but over a period of time it stopped.
“They used to send emails and SMSes. But they do not come regularly. Online hearing is something that the government had said should be continued after Covid. They had even issued a circular but nothing happened and online hearings stopped,” said Bhaskar Prabhu, an RTI activist from Mahita Adhikar Manch, a body that looks to propagate usage of RTI in the city.