CHENNAI: Despite Section IV of the Right To Information (RTI) Act mandating suo motu disclosure of government information rather than manual filing of official application by information-seekers, the state police continues to keep the data compiled by the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) off its official website ‘tnpolice.gov.in’.
It was in 2016 the police dropped the SCRB data from its website claiming maintenance and upgradation. Four years down the line, the data point is still not back on website.
A senior SCRB official, when contacted, said they were following the same system (collating data and sending it to National Crime Records Bureau directly) for the last few years. But whoever wants the data can approach the SCRB. “We will provide them. There has been a long-pending demand of updating data online from activists. But we have got no instruction to upload the data online. However, we are currently permitted to provide data till 2018 for public. The data in 2019 is currently under process of compilation,” the official told DC.
Several states including Kerala publish the SCRB data quarterly on their website. When it comes to Pocso cases, Kerala police publish month-wise data on its website where anybody can access information since 2008 from the crime statistics section.
Chezhian Ramu, a social worker and child rights activist, criticised the police’s attitude of keeping the SCRB data off the website. Police can’t stop publicizing it on the official website as it is the responsibility of the government to keep people’s right to know intact. Based on disclosure, discussion and debate must happen. Then only a civilized society can be built up. Many states including Karnataka, Delhi and Kerala have started the process of periodic updation of crime data. “We keep putting pressure on the authorities to follow suit. But, they keep telling us the process is underway,” he says.
It may be recalled the Economic Survey report last year had dedicated a chapter as ‘Data as Public Good’ which pointed out that the data collected by the government departments have to be used for the benefit of the public. So, providing the disclosure of data to people will help the government to formulate public policy as well.
For instance, the Rajasthan government through the first-ever suo motu public platform ‘Jan Soochna Portal (JSP)-2019’ in September last year had provided data relating to the farm loan waivers to people. By undertaking the periodic analysis of these data, the government can understand whether the scheme benefited the farmers or not. It will help the government which category of farmers benefited most. It has also provided details on the network of public distribution system.
The police’s lackadaisical attitude towards the disclosure of crime data comes at a time when the Second Administrative Reforms Commission headed by M. Veerapa Moily in its report in 2007 recommended that the RTI Act would be effective only when local governments implement Section IV of the Act in letter and spirit....