The Madhya Pradesh Information Commissioner recently directed the offices of all the State's District Collectors to have and comply with a 17-point manual regarding mandatory disclosures as part of the Right to Information Act. .State Information Commissioner (SIC) Rahul Singh observed that most of District Collector's Offices in Madhya Pradesh have not been making proactive disclosures under Section 4 (obligations of public authorities) of the Act."The SIC expresses grave concern over the fact that even after 17 years since the enactment of the RTI Act, the DC Offices in Madhya Pradesh show complete disregard to the law and transparency regime by not doing suo-moto disclosures to provide public access to information in a clear and accessible format," the SIC order said. The situation has led to citizens not being able to access basic information and have to resort to filing RTI applications for the same, it was pointed out. All such offices were thus ordered to proactively make the necessary disclosures within three months. .Singh in the order even suggested that such disclosures will help tackle allegations that RTIs are misused for blackmailing State authorities."Section 4 of the RTI Act obligates every public authority to keep all records properly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form that facilitates the right to information, so that citizens have to minimally file RTI applications. Every public authority shall ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are computerised within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources,” the order said.By way of background, one Shivanand Dwivedi had filed an RTI application with the office of District Collector of Rewa, seeking a 17-point manual. He subsequently filed a complaint for non-compliance by all DCs with obligations under Section 4 (1) of the RTI Act.Deciding the appeal and the complaint, Singh initiated an inquiry to examine the websites of all the districts in the Rewa Division, and physically verified them too. The unavailability of the '17 point Manual' in the Rewa District Collector's office as well as others was taken note of. The inquiry shed light on how mandatory information as per the RTI Act was unavailable and inaccessible throughout the State, in violation of Section 4. “Good governance is one which enables citizens to be informed so that they can participate in processes of governance to make it better for themselves and society at large however in the absence of transparency and accountability mechanism, governance becomes opaque, exclusionary and loses the public trust of citizens in the state," the order noted. The SIC in the order lamented that during the course of hearing of appeals, it was revealed that the information sought in the RTI application should anyways have been publicly available to citizens. Instead, the District Collectors' offices are pushing citizens towards tedious RTI filing processes instead of making available information under the citizens charter, it was noted.“The SIC is of considerate view that by complying with Section 4 of the Act and disseminating most of the information widely and in such a form that is easily accessible to the public, as provided under Section 4(1) and Section 4(2) of the Act, would not only reduce blackmailing but will also ensure limited usage of RTI Application by the public to obtain information. Also, as per DOPT Circular F No.1/1/2013-IR dated 23 March 2016, all the public authorities are required to proactively disclose RTI applications and their responses on the websites maintained by the Public Authorities with search facility based on keywords,” it ordered.The order highlighted that in case of non-compliance with the same, the SIC can receive complaints against concerned public authorities and take disciplinary action. The principal secretary of the State's general administration department was directed take necessary steps to ensure compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act by all the District Collectors' offices in Madhya Pradesh.