Stop playing havoc to RTI Act and Oriya language


 As you might know, Orissa Information Commission has published a bilingual compilation of RTI Act 2005 in both Oriya and English spaced in a total of 81 pages. As evident from the note given at the end of the book, a total of its 90,000 copies were printed as on 28.2.2007. Thus for about two and half years now the book has been in great circulation throughout Orissa. I did also make use of it in some of the training sessions on RTI Act, and precisely on those occasions when I didn't have enough number of copies of our own translation of RTI Act published by Right to Food Campaign, Orissa, for circulation en masse among the participants.


 While going through the Commission's so-called authoritative version of the said translation during the training sessions, I felt simply wonder-struck and couldn't but yell, 'What a none-sense'. With no ready alternative at hand, I had to instantly dictate the corrections to the participants for noting down at the appropriate places of the Oriya text, sans which the training session couldn't have proceeded even a bit further. Since then I have made it a non-negotiable point for the participants not to make use of the Commission's book on RTI Act at all, lest it would confuse them, me and all around not only about the Act, but also about ancient Oriya language.


 In fact, a whole treatise can be produced on the numerous fatal flaws that stalk the pages of the Commission's Oriya publication. But considering the limited space available here I would cite only a couple of instances, and that too from one Section only, just to illustrate how the said publication suffers from absurdity para excellence and how a meticulous reader, if he reposes an innate faith, which one should of course have in relation to a statutory authority like the Commission, in the authenticity of all that which emanates from its dispensation, he is sure to contract a gluttony of 'false and misleading information' punishable under RTI Act by the Commission itself.


 Example-1: Please go to lines 2 &3 under Section-18(1-a) on page-27 of the Oriya booklet. In the very place, where the expressions 'Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer' should have been there, you would find Oriya equivalents of 'Central Information Commissioner or State Information Commissioner'. As a result of such erratic translation, a reader would be misled to believe as if the Central or State Information Commissioner is duty bound to receive an application for information from an applicant directly, failing which an applicant is entitled to lodge a Complaint directly before the Commission under Section 18.      


 Example-2: Please go to Section 18(2) on the next Page i.e. 28. In the very place, where such expressions as 'Central Information Commission or State Information Commission' should have been there, you would find Oriya equivalents of 'Central Information Commissioner or State Information Commissioner'. Needless to say, in legal parlance there is a hell and heaven gap between these two sets of expressions. An honest reader would be misled to believe, as if the Central or State Information Commissioner is the sole authority to decide if there existed a ground for enquiry into a matter or not, and in the reverse, as if the Chief Commissioner or Commission itself didn't matter at all.


Now it is upto Orissa Information Commission and RTI loving Orissa's citizenry at large to quickly but carefully scan the pages of the so-called authoritative Oriya translation of RTI Act to discover for themselves if there be further errors of the above or other types in the rest of the book. 


 A pertinent question may arise here, whether the State Commission was apprised on the gross errors of the above kind affecting its Oriya translation of RTI Act? The answer is an emphatic Yes. In a bilingual booklet published as early as 1st January 2007 by Right to Food Campaign, Orissa under the title, 'Operationalisation of RTI Act 2005 & Role of State Information Commission in Orissa- Status & Review' we had reproduced verbatim the so-called authoritative Oriya translation after downloading it from Commission's website, just to point out token instances of the erratic Oriya rendering. For instance, we had shown on page 13 of our booklet, how at 3 places in Section-17 alone, the word 'Governor' has been wrongly replaced by the word 'President' and how there occurred two different errors in Section-18(1). On publication of out booklet, what the Commission did in turn was to correct 4 out of 5 such errors, leaving one error in tact and


bothering least about the possibility of other errors occurring in the remaining text. Strange but true, though aware about the possibility of some un-addressed and potential errors in the Oriya translation, the Commission went for printing of 90,000 copies in July 2007 at a huge cost to the public exchequer. 


 Whatever might be the reason for Commission's decision to publish a defective Oriya translation of RTI Act 2005, it has already wrought great damage not only to the cause of RTI Act but also to Oriya language itself. It seems the persons including the Commissioners themselves who might have vetted the decision to go for printing of the said translation into 90 thousand copies at one go, were little concerned with the negative fall-out it would possibly generate on fronts of both RTI Act and Oriya language.


Be that as it may, as for now, the Commission should instantly stop further circulation of its defective translation of RTI Act, issue a public apology in mass media and on its website for having circulated such a defective translation, and widely publicise a list of errata of the said publication for the public knowledge. Moreover, the Governor Orissa who is as such the ultimate disciplinary authority over the Information Commissioners, should constitute an enquiry under Section 17 of the Act by a Supreme Court judge so as to trace out the persons responsible for such a messy treatment meted out to both RTI Act and Oriya language, take drastic action against them and recover due compensation from them against the huge loss already done to the public exchequer by their fancies and follies.  


 Above all, the Commission, whose basic two-fold mandate is to adjudicate the cases and draft the annual reports on the state of RTI, should keep its hands off the financial and administrative business of publication, be it of a book, FAQ, poster or any campaign material and leave them lock, stock and barrel to the State Government, whose legitimate domain it is as clearly spelled out in Section 26 of RTI Act.


Chitta Behera


Cuttack, Orissa