Stop selling that frivolous argument

When you oppose something, usually it is assumed that your opposition is backed by a reason. And depending on the situation, your reasoning can be based on either your experience or some study or data. But what of you are talking just in the air without any justification whatsoever to back your argument? Who is going to believe you in that case?

Five public five public authorities including the prime minister’o Office (PMO) have said that they have never received any ‘frivolous’ application under the right to application (RTI) act in the last five years- that is, since the time of enactment of the act. The response nails the government’s lie that the act should be amendment to discourage frivolous applications.

Other four public authorities include the supreme court, ministry of external affairs (MEA), department of personal and training (DoPT)- the nodal department for the implementation of the transparency act and the Indian embassy in Washington DC.

The information has been obtained by Noida based RTI activist Commodore (Rtd.) Lokesh K Batra and Los Angeles resident Vishal Kudchadakar over a period of six months.

It makes official, what we always knew- that the government does not have any substantial data or survey of any kind to back its ‘frivolous applications’ argument. It is based on the experiences of public information officers (PIOs) who are of the opinion that people are misusing the act by demanding trivial information, supplying which, is sheer wasted of manpower and resources.

Babus dealing with RTI queries have been found giving this excuse in almost every meeting conducted to discuss amendments in transparency act

Just for the sake of argument, let us assume that frivolous and vexatious applications are increasing the workload of government departments.

In this case, who will decide what is frivolous? Considering that there are thousands of public authorities (departments covered under the RTI act) across the country, will the definitions of vexatious vary from one office to another?

Webster’s dictionary defines ‘frivolous’ as something characterized by lack of seriousness or sense or self-indulgently carefree.

Something which is very serious in nature for me can lack of seriousness for you. How can someone else categorise matters of seriousness on my behalf?

Suppose, I have faired well in an examination but the results does not reflect so. I believe that something is wrong and want to see my answer sheet. This is something extremely important for me, but can be frivolous for the staff of the institution. They might say that allowing one student to scrutinize his answer sheet might set a wrong precedent.

Therefore, it is time the government stopped giving the ‘frivolous argument’ while discussing changes in the RTI act and came up with some logic.

This appeared on http://www.governancenow.com on May 16, 2011

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