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karira

I think I made a Change: Activist Commissioner

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karira

An interview by Sonal Kellogg in harnewsmedia.com:

http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2009/02/2601

I think I made a Change: Activist Commissioner

 

Right to Information (RTI) activist Shailesh Gandhi was appointed Central Information Commissioner by the Centre in September 2008. He became the first high profile activist to be appointed to such a position. Gandhi is a Mumbaikar, an engineer-industrialist who retired early and took up the responsibility of making RTI more effective. He has filed more than 700 applications asking for information since Maharashtra passed the RTI Act in the state in 2003 and also after the Centre passed the RTI Act in the country in 2005.

 

Since joining Central Information Commission (CIC), Gandhi has been in the news for a variety of reasons. First for reversing his decision of not accepting any salary or perks as a commissioner just 15 days after joining. Even his decisions have been criticised for not being consistent. Many prominent RTI activists feel he let them down. Excerpts from an exclusive interview to Hardnews:

 

Sonal Kellogg Delhi

 

 

Q: Tell us about your experience till now as an Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission.

A: It's been good so far. I am not here on a government job. I am here because we need to make a difference in governance. I see it missing at the moment. I feel that RTI Act will bring in transparency and accountability which will result in better governance. I have completed around 1200 cases so far. I had promised in Mumbai before moving to Delhi and joining that I would ensure by April that pendency of cases in my area were reduced to 90 days after a case is filed in the CIC. I now feel that I will be able to achieve this by mid-March or latest by March end. I strongly feel that the judicial process must deliver in a reasonable time to be effective.

 

Q: Did you face any hostility in the CIC, since you were an RTI activist before you joined?

A: No, I didn't face any hostility; at least I couldn't feel any. But I also had a policy as a RTI activist to not criticise any individual. I directed my criticism to the system or the judgment but not to any person.

 

Q: Tell us why you reversed your decision of not taking the salary and perks as an information commissioner?

A: Yes, I will like to explain this. When I first agreed that my name be forwarded by RTI activists as a commissioner, I agreed that I would take just Re 1 as salary. At that time, it sounded all utopian and noble but I did not account for the fact that I would have to shift to Delhi and therefore would need a house, car, help in the house and the whole wherewithal to start working and living in Delhi for a long period of time. I was told that I would be provided whatever I needed from the people who were ready to help. But when I came here I realised that for everything I would be dependent on someone else. I did not feel comfortable about this. Though I was entitled to a salary, house, car and other perks, I would have to ask someone for a house, for a car, for support to even keep a house help or a driver. So after careful thought I decided to accept the salary and perks since I felt that I would fail as an information commissioner for all the wrong reasons if I tried to continue without the salary and other perks. I took the decision, told my wife and then declared it publicly. I would like to say that even asking people for my needs instead of taking a salary could also translate into pressure from another quarter.

But I understand that some RTI activists are upset about my decision since I reversed my earlier decision just 15 days after joining. If it was Mumbai, I would have been able to manage without a salary since I have a house and the required infrastructure there.

 

Q: Since you joined you have been also been embroiled in controversy, whether it is your decisions in various cases or your stand to not penalise public information officers (PIO) despite defaulting. What is your take on this?

A: I want to clarify that I do believe that penalty is a very necessary tool in the act to make it effective. But I found that the all pervasive atmosphere in government department is for not giving information. Public information officers felt that they could get away with it. So when I started the hearing, I issued show cause notices in hundreds of cases but I penalised in just three cases because I want to create a scenario where PIOs feel that they should give information instead of denying it. But change takes time.

Even as an activist I was not a great believer of penalty as a major tool in implementing the act. I was on the receiving end in many cases as I didn't receive information from them. But I never insisted on a penalty for the PIOs during the appeal process.

Instead what I have done is to conduct workshops for departments so that they learnt the regime of act and know that they have to give information. I conducted a workshop with around 120 Municipal Corporation of Delhi officers, and I think I made a change.

When I became a commissioner, some people assumed that I would impose penalty every time. If I was to go by that logic I would have had to impose penalties in 400-500 cases. It was never feasible, practical or desirable.

Also one another thing I want to point out is that when delay occurs, a lot of it is due to the number of pending cases. When there is a delay in hearing cases in CIC of six-nine months how can I have the moral authority to impose penalty on PIOs.

My only work is to hear appeals under RTI act but the PIOs have other work as well. How can I penalise officers when I do not have any norm for delay at the CIC? At present I warn officers and ensure that they give the information. But once the pendency of cases reduces I will impose penalty and PIOs will know they cannot get away by not giving information.

I believe that there will be a huge change when the pendency of cases in appeal comes down to around 60 days. Then PIOs will start giving information since they will know that the case will come up for hearing in a short time and he can be penalised for delay.

Retribution itself cannot be a change agent. It is a combination of things that will make the change happen.

 

Q: Is your work satisfying and do you think you can make a difference?

A: I am enjoying myself since I am doing the work that I believe in. I believe the Act can bring about transparency and accountability which can in turn bring about better governance.

I believe that nothing can reverse the Act, no political party or bureaucracy can reverse this process. But what can kill the act are information commissions and courts. If hearings of appeals are delayed endlessly and no justice is granted in courts either then the act will prove to be ineffective. Therefore I have taken on myself the challenge of reducing the pendency of cases. I have proved that we don't need to delay ruling.

I feel I can clear around 500 in a month, by June I will be able to bring down pendency of cases to just 60 days. If others also take this up, we would have ensured that RTI Act is effective. Presently I am also working on Saturdays to reduce the number of cases but later on I will be able to work for five days in a week.

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colnrkurup

Ido not accept following view of Mr.Shailesh Gandhi:

 

" Penalising PIOs was never feasible, practical or desirable. When delay occurs, a lot of it is due to the number of pending cases. When there is a delay in hearing cases in CIC of six-nine months how can I have the moral authority to impose penalty on PIOs.

My only work is to hear appeals under RTI act but the PIOs have other work as well. How can I penalise officers when I do not have any norm for delay at the CIC? "

 

Such a stand is disappointing. Had he started awarding penalty at least in the first 10 cases where the information was refuced without any reasonable cause, it would have cautioned the PIOs that in case the information is refused without any reasonable cause, the PIO is bound to get penalised. Most of the cases would have settled even before it reached him. It would have reached stage that if the PIO knew that his case if reach Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, he would not have taken any risk and ultimately the pendency would have been dropped automatically. - Mr.Shailesh Gandhi has disappointed us.

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karira

These days, in ALL his orders, Hon'ble IC SG does not even issue a "Show Cause" notice in case of delay by PIO.

He just states "the commission condones the delay and warns........not to repeat......OR to adhere to the time limits in the....

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chanda_s

i admire the man's straight forwardness. it takes a lot of bravery to say things one feels correct even after knowing it would not go down well with a lot of people.

 

i accept his views when he says that the general environment in govt set up is to a great extent against furnishing info. my thoughts have always been that some steps have to be taken to change this environment.

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taurus

He is not totally against penalties on PIOs. He justifiably feels that he has no moral authority to penalise a PIO for delay when he himself could not dispose off the appeals in short time. This is for delay in giving info. What about denial of info. He feels that there is a general lack of enthusiasm to give info, which he feels will gradually change. That is why he says - "Then PIOs will start giving information since they will know that the case will come up for hearing in a short time and he can be penalised for delay.

Retribution itself cannot be a change agent. It is a combination of things that will make the change happen." He does not totally rule out penalty. On the other hand, he indicates that in future he will, indeed, impose penalty.

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colnrkurup

Those are lame excuses. The CIC himself has given in his press conference that he being the CIC, is the one who decide things. That is a known common practice in any organisation. Members of such organisation/departments are scared to go against such directions or dictum of the top boss due to fear of loss of job or inability to displease the Chief. In Mr.Shailesh Gandhiy's case also if that was the reason for his scare to penalise the guilty, why can't he come out openly and declare his resignation to set an example. Further, his excuse that his office itself being delaying the cases, he lack moral courage to punish others for delay is BASELESS. There is no delay in CICs office as the RTI Act does not stiulate any time frame for CIC unlike PIO. Can anyone say as to how many days the CIC is delaying ? No. One can only say that the CIC is taking more time. But they have not committed any breach of law where as the PIOs are committing breach of law by not providing the information within the time frame laid down.

 

Mr.Shailesh Gandhi, such lame ecuses are not good enough and expected from you. At least be frank and say that you are unable to award penalty due to the internal policy of the CIC. In case you cannot function the way you are expected as an Rtian, please state so.By letting the guilty go unpunished, you are making the mockery of the

RTI Act apart from violating the statutory provisions; but delaying the appeals you are not committing any offence; but only show that the government is not helping you by not providing adequate staff. At least atart awarding penalties in all cases where you found the the PIO has refused information without any reasonable cause and see its implication.

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karira

Just look at it logically:

 

The maximum penalty that can be imposed for delay in providing information by the PIO is Rs. 25,000.00 - that is for a maximum of 100 days.

 

RTI Application Date: 01 March 2009

Reply due on: 31 March 2009

No reply

First Appeal can be filed between: 01 April - 30 April 2009

First Appellate Authority can pass an order between: 30 April 2009 - 15 June 2009

Second Appeal can be filed between: 01 May 2009 - 15 September 2009

Need to add another 15 days for notice to be sent by the CIC to PIO/FAA and await their response

Therefore date of hearing and order: 15 May 2009 - 30 September 2009

Normally IC SG gives 15 days for the PIO to provide the requested information

Therefore the applicant can get information between: 30 May - 15 October 2009

 

Therefore the least delay that can happen for denial of information in such a case is 60 days (assuming Mr Speedy Gonzales is the RTI applicant and does not even sleep between receiving a reply and filing a appeal and the FAA as well as IC SG are even more faster than the applicant !) and 195 days (assuming that all the people concerned are Mr. Lazy Lateefs and do everything on the last possible day - and NO DELAYS in the CIC !).

 

In the above situation, which the most normal one, where a applicant demands penalty, where and how does the pendancy at the CIC level comes into the picture ? Why is IC SG feeling guilty and condoning the PIO because of delays in the CIC, when in most cases thee delay in the CIC occurred well after the period of 100 days (maximum penalty) had already passed ?

 

Even a simple denial of information will result in a Penalty of Rs. 15,000.00 (Rs 250 X 60 days) even if IC SG hears the appeal religiously on the very first day that he receives the reply from the PIO/FAA to his notice - allowing no time for scheduling etc.....

 

The statement and excuse cited by IC SG, therefore, has no logic attached to it.

 

Note: Postal transit times are not accounted anywhere !

Notice periods have not been accounted anywhere !

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colnrkurup

You are on the dot Mr.Karira. Can't Mr.SG show some loyalty towards his fellow Rtians and award penalty in most deserving cases at least to satisfy his own conscience ? The reason/justification advanced by him is not correct . Firstly he is shit scared to award penalty. Secondly the post of IC has become too attractive to him that he does not want to loose it under any circumstances. Thirdly he is shit scared of CIC Mr.WH that he does not wish to utter a word attracting his displeasure lest he may loose the job. I think we should serve Mr.SG a caution forthwith. If he does not correct his ways we Rtians should openly disassociate him with the term RTI Activists . He is only another IC who used RTI Activities as a stepping stone to achieve personal glorry and gains. It is not worth wasting time on discussing him. Once we had an RTI Activist named Sri.Shailesh Gandhi. The present IC Sri.Shailesh Gandhi does not appear to be the same person. So forget it.

.

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Abhijit_Ghosh

In fact the delays (if any) in the CIC are caused by the very PIOs, whom Mr. Gandhi is shielding. Most of the PIOs just does'nt care to give reply in time or care to give a reply at all, knowing that the commission will ultimately spare them by issuing soft reprimand, such as ""the commission condones the delay and warns........not to repeat......OR to adhere to the time limits in the.... ". Thus, better not give a reply at all, and let the applicant frustrate in the process. I doubt how many applicants ultimate knocks the door of CIC after being shunned by the PIOs or FAAs. Only the dedicated one goes all the way. Thus, hardly 10-15% of all the legitimate appeals ultimately reach the commission and rest are not persued by the applicants at all, knowing very well that they may or may not have the information or justice after waiting for more than one year.

 

It is often seen that after waiting for one year, an applicant is getting the information from the same PA, only after being directed by the commision. Thus most of the information which is already available with the PA is provided after taking away the valuable time of the commission.

 

Now, only this minuscule percentage of applications causes the commission delay of almost one year. This situation will definetely be worsen once the awareness amongst the applicants gets increased and more and more 2nd appeal will come to the commission.

 

Therefore, only pre-emptive measeure, available with the commission is to impose heavy penulty to the defaulting PIOs in case of deliberate delays or willful denial, so that the PIOs dare not take this act for granted. The relevant and genuine appeals will come to the Commission only if the PIOs know very well that they would not be spared in case of deliberate mischief on their part.

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colnrkurup

Well said Mr.Ghosh. The pity with 'Shaileshghandhigiri' ie., "It is OK PIO Boy.Maine thumhe maaf kiya." is defenitely not acceptable to me. He may or may not award a penalty; but defenitely has no power to Pardon a guilty. It is a mockery on us in general and the RTI Act in particular. I am allowing a period upto 31 March 2009 to Sri.Shailesh Gandhi to "Sudhar himself ' failing which at least I will be refusing to reckon him as an RTI Activist

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chanda_s

we all know the credentials of Mr.gandhi. dont we? he has taken a disciplined stance in his wisdom and is brave enough to say so in public. atleast he is not saying something and doing something else. giving punishment to the pio is not an end in itself.

 

the concept of moral authority to punish or act is visibly not in fashion these days but we must remember that thats what our illustrious forefathers preached and practiced. when gandhiji did the same during the chauri chaura incident, everyone criticised him. but they all fell in line later on as he stuck to his concept of morality and means justifying the ends.

 

the IC's performance is laudable on most counts. let us not judge him merely based on one parameter about which he already made himself clear. for me, his reasoning appears perfectly alright and exudes a lot of foresight and statesmanship. i'm grateful that he did not carry his zeal of rti into his working as IC as i feel he would have ended up becoming a modern day tughluq who always took the most radical route to achieve his ends.

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whackpack

dear mr chanda,

 

your moderate stand is perfectly justified, but you must see the proportion - just 3 cases of penalty - out of 1200 completed so far...?!

 

do you find it justifiable? are the PIOs really so co-operative? is he doing the act good by being so lenient as to reserve penalty only for the most most severe cases? does he wish to increase the efficacy of the Act or merely be a good cog in the wheel?

 

i personally am appalled by the sheer disrespect for the act in particular, and good governance in general, every day.

 

i agree that in cases where there is some scope of leniency, the same may be exercised, to establish a relation of faith, and be compassionate to the fact that the PIOs are in a difficult situation themselves. but in cases where it is visibly clear that there is a intention of sabotaging the information, if the IC SG cannot impose penalty, he has no right to associate himself with his past...

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chanda_s
if the IC SG cannot impose penalty, he has no right to associate himself with his past...

 

accepted. but thats exactly the crux of the story. mr.gandhi is now an IC and not an activist. the roles are entirely different. i'm not complaining that he has left behind his past as an activist when he became an IC. personally, i think he has done the right thing by showing the difference in his two roles.

 

percentage of punishments might improve or come down even further; that to me is not the sole parameter to judge him.

 

i'm just reminded of my teenage when in the zeal backed by hot blood we indulged in all sorts of student movements and agitations and suddenly one day i find myself sitting on a chair as an officer; my old friends come to me and say now that you are in a position of power and responsiblity so continue with the old spirit. but i have to refuse them flatly; one tends to get sobered when holding an office. one has to take the bigger picture into consideration and show responsibility and maturity. in a sense, i have disassociated myself from my past.

 

if a small and puny officer like me can reallize to some extent the importance of curtailing one's belligerence and radicalism and growing out of the restrictions and imperfections of the past after attaining a position of responsibility, just think of the IC. he is huge. he is the face of rti act implementation in the country.

 

in any case, i'm sure his "percentages" will improve once he achieves his primary target of bringing down the pendency of cases before him.

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sandeepbaheti
....... just think of the IC. he is huge. he is the face of rti act implementation in the country.

 

I don't think the IC, or for that matter anyone, is bigger than the law. RTI Act is very clear on the matter of penalty. Everytime information is delayed/denied without reasonable cause, penalty has to be imposed. The Act does not leave it on the discretion of the IC or other citizens to decide whether or not someone has the moral authority to impose penalty, or whether or not penalty is a means to an end or whether or not penalty will improve the implementation of RTI Act. If the IC or other citizens feel that penalty is not required, they are at liberty to request the parliament to remove this provision from the Act. But so long as this provision is there in the Act, the IC is bound to abide by it.

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sidmis

I just wonder if judges act like the ICs then what a mess it would create. :mad:

We would have Afzals, Kasavs roaming around the streets scot free.

 

Thank heavens, we don't have ICs masquerading as judges.

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rajub

It is the claim of Shri Shailesh Gandhi that he made a change.

 

That means he is of the opinion that a change is needed.

 

The question is "has he really made a change?".

 

What is changed since he took over as CIC?

 

At this point I remember a remark by sidmis "justice hurried is justice burried" when we all were going ga ga over Shri Gandhi's statement that he will dispose off more than 1000 (not sure about the number) cases a month.

 

RTI Act is a law. IC is an authority entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the law in its letter and spirit.

 

The only touch stone for the action of any IC is whether it implements the law in its letter and spirit.

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colnrkurup

I do not agree with any effort to white wash SG. Look at it this way: What is special in RTI Act ? Primarily Section 20(1) & 20(2). Remove this section from the Act and see. No one will bother about RTI Act.. This is the stand we all Rtian including SG took. You may go through various posts of SG in various forums. The Yes Ministers refused to implement Section 20 the way we were wanting. Then the government appointed one of us as an IC and challenged us to implement Section 20. If SG had a different view now expossed why did he join us and accept the challenge making fool of us. Either he implement the RTI Act as laid down or proclaim that he is no more an RTI Activists. We are not telling him to do anything unlawful. I in person do not like to be used as stepping stone by others. SG used Rtians all over India as stepping stones to become an IC. I know there are many more very serious activists like him who are on the line of SG. We are telling SG only to abide by the RTI Act without getting influenced by vested interests and ............................... I refuced tobe fooled. I have gone through most of SGs posts in various forums. Of cource he was a preacher of pendency reduction, I could not find a single words to the effect of PARDONING THE GUILTY.

 

In Malayalam there is an anecdote.A man was cought climbing jack-fruit tree - of cource to steel jack-fruit. When he saw that he is being caught he started climbing down. Then the Villegers asked him why did he climb the jack-fruit tree. His answer was to pluck certain herbs. When the villagers asked where is the herb in a jack-fruit tree, his answer was - " That is the reason he is climbing down." Mr.SG 's justification and all views supporting his act fall under the category mentioned in the anecdote,

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chanda_s

most PIOs that i have known are generally more amenable to providing information after just one interaction with the information commission and a few sermons from the IC even without penalty. in that sense, mr.gandhi's experiments with information would definitely yield results. and before anyone shouts at me, i have said "most" and not "all" PIOs.

 

any change is permanent when it happens out of conscience. it is temporary when it happens out of being imposed a penalty or punishment.

 

i really have no answer to the arguments comparing an information denial with waging war against the country aka kasav or afzal and rti act with internal securty acts or TADA, though for the sake of rhetoric it we may still do it. lot of emotional appeal involved.

 

as a nation we want miracles. we want sachin to score a 80 ball century every time. we want change overnight. we expect a new govt would solve all our problems. unfortunately it doesn't happen that way. we should realise that change is gradual and one has to be patient to see it happens completely, unless ofcourse we want a la Russian revolution or the long marches. we have a right to get information but we also have an equal responsibility and duty to ensure that the systems to realise our rights are in place. we have to fight for that as well. but we conveniently leave it to the government to put things in place. we are the greatest escapists. we fight for our rights but when it comes to duties; -"sorry, not my job. we have an elected government for that."

 

there is a saying in my language - "we get what we deserve". the earlier we realize it, the better.

 

probably my views are slightly old fashioned. even severely outdated. probably the most popular slogan around is to kill those who kill information.

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karira

Mr Chanda,

 

If I don't obey traffic rules, I get caught by a policeman and pay the fine

If I don't pay my income tax on time, I have to pay a penalty

If I don't......., I pay........

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Similarly the PIO has to face Sec 20(1) and 20(2) if he does not abide by the RTI Act 2005.

 

Please visit CIC

 

Just search for:

 

1. "Registrar of Cooperative Societies"

2. "patents, designs, trademarks"

 

Both these PA's, various PIO's in the PA's and the FAA's have been warned countless number of times by various IC's and the CIC himself. It has not made a difference. Even yesterday, there is a order against RoCS castigating the PIO and the AA.

 

In fact, both the above PA's are fit cases for invoking Sec 20(2).

 

PS: I have never filed a RTI application with any of the above PA's but only have a Complaint under Sec 18(1)(f) pending against the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CIC Complaint against Controller of Patents - RTI Directory) - so I have no axe to grind. Just going by what I read every day on the CIC website.

 

The only deterrent is fast disposal of appeals and penalties/disciplinary action.

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chanda_s
Mr Chanda,

 

If I don't obey traffic rules, I get caught by a policeman and pay the fine

If I don't pay my income tax on time, I have to pay a penalty

If I don't......., I pay........

it would be so stupid on my part if i didn't know this.

 

i guess i have been unsuccessful in putting my point through.

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rajub

In response to Shri Chanda's arguments in post # 18!

 

I respect the views as genuinely caring for our society (No I am not sarcastic).

 

The first and foremost of my viewpoint is "as an orderly civil society the rule of law must prevail".

 

RTI Act is one of many laws in force and ICs, PIOs and AAs are law enforcement agencies. (Yes, PIOs and AAs are law enforcment agencies just like every lawyer is an officer of law)

 

Whatever may be their ideals and ideas these agencies must act within the boundaries of the Act.

 

The Act itself is very clear that whenever there is a contravention of the Act the penalty has to be imposed. The ICs are not expected to bring about change in setup of the system or mindset of the people. The Act does not say it.

 

A tiral court Magistrate, a sessions court Judge, HC or SC judge have their jurisdictions well defined in terms of disposal of a case before them.

 

None of the above presiding officers can go beyond their urisdiction to punish or condone guilty. If the guilt is proved the punishment must be in accordance with the statute and not in accordance with the presiding officer's personal belief.

 

A final word.

 

It is said a very disciplined indian in observance of civil laws in a foreign country immediately throws garbage on street, breaks traffic rules etc. on arrival to India. Why???

 

My personal experience with one PA (not PIO).

 

I visited the PIO with application. He treated me very respectfully, offered me a seat, accepted and acknowledged my application and gently said, "Sir, what ever you demand we have decided what information will be given what is not".

 

I just did not enter into any argument. But within 3-4 months I learned he meant what he said.

 

I made 7 applications. All were rejected. All rejections were upheld by FAA. No rejection is based on any exemption clause of the Act. In the past severe strictures were passed against PIOs and FAAs of this PA by the CIC.

 

I mentioned all those strictures in first appeals. I mentioned past orders of CIC (in FA) that every denial must be supported by exemption clause(s) of the Act. I mentioned (in FA) the past orders of CIC holding the information demanded by me has already been held to be disclosable by CIC (e.g. the certified copy of appointment order of PIOs has already been held to be disclosable by CIC). i mentioned the HC and SC judgements that judicial order must be reasoned and speaking.

 

The FAA and PIOs completely ignored all the citations made by me. There is no mention of those citations, those past strictures in the orders by PIOs and FAAs.

 

Now my question is where do they get the strength to openly flout all the legal norms and particularly the provisions of the Act from?

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Abhijit_Ghosh

I could not comprehend the line...most PIOs are generally more amenable to providing information after just one interaction with the information commission and a few sermons from the IC even without penalty. What is expected from the PIOs? Whether they should not provide the answer even after the interaction with the information commission and a few sermons from it? Who will take the responsibility for the loss of valuable time both for the applicants and the CIC itself. If the PIOs are giving information after just one interaction with the information commission, why they are not providing it initially in the first place? As pointed out by Mr. Karira.... "bad habits die hard", and we find so many instances when the same PA has been reprimanded by the CIC many a times.

 

In my organisation, I found, initially there was a general sense of fear and apprehension regarding RTI act, especially, regarding its penalty aspects, although without much awareness about the act itself. Most of the times, information used to be provided, well within time and without any mischief. However, of late the awareness has increased regarding the Act, rather its ineffectiveness. Thus, applications are kept in pending for even more than two months, although the information is very much available. Sometimes, replies are given casually ....."the answer does not come under the purview of RTI Act", ......without providing any reason for such denial. Another practice is to forward the application to various offices within the organisation with a direction to directly answer the applicant. Idea is to confuse the whole thing and you never know whether the particular branch/office, having the information really answered you or not.

 

Thus, with time, change is really taking place ......but really don't know, whether in the right direction or not. I hope, now on, PIOs won't add this new plea that they did not provide the answer, as their conscience is yet to change.

 

By the way, if most of the PIOs are generally more amenable to providing information, what is the prescription for the rest? Is it being followed by the CIC?

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colnrkurup

The present situation cannot be explained better than the way Mr.Rajedra Bakre has explained above.Even your best riend as the PIO cannot formally provide certain information that can inconvenience the PA, the predecesor Officers and certain policy being followed from time to time according to the requirement of political parties from time time time. The masters will protect the PIOs concerned at any cost even by influencing the highest..... I can give youy example.

 

But noone ill come to his aid if the PIO is ordered to pay penalty and discipliniary action is initiated in terms of Section 20(1) and 20(2). TheAccountant General will not spare if the copy of the orders of SIC is endorced the Accountant General with direction. If an adverse entry is made in the records of service, the PIO will never get promotion. Not because of the sanctity of the order, the man junior to him will press the issue so that he get the promotion if his seniuor missess it. This exactly is the reason or sanctity of the Section visualised by the Architect of the RTI Act.

 

The highest powers inluence at every level to ensure that the Commission donot resort to Penalty. I have no doubt that this aspect is fully brief to every Cimmission especially the CIC. TheCIC has said recently that nothi8ng happens in his office without his permission. If Shilesh Ganhi does not award penalty, it is only because CIC's direction. Am IC need too much Leadership Qualities to take the correc decision. If Shailesh Gandhi is not awarding penalty, it is not because he is not wanting; but he was ordered not to award. He does not have guts to come out with the truth. Will he ? Anslutely not. Let any of them start awading penalties, and see the result. In many states, or even in Centre Ministers or Ministries will fall.

 

The issue is entirely diferent from what we less mortals are discussing.

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taurus

There is no quarrel over whether the PIO is to be punished or not in case he fails to furnish the info. That is provided in the Act itself. But if the IC, after going through the full facts and circumstances of the case comes to a conclusion not to levy a penalty, he is well within his rights to do so. Even in criminal courts, where IPC provides specific punishment for specific offences, the criminal courts do not impose those penalties as a matter of routine. They differentiate one case from the other. Different types of punishments are given. Sometimes no punishment is given at all.

The second thing I want to mention is, let us not get too personal about one IC, simply because he was an activist earlier. It is better to maintain a certain amount of restraint in criticising personalities.

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ganpat1956

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      Name of Appellant : Satyapal
      Name of Public Authority : CPIO, TCIL

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      It is seen that while the CPIO declined to furnish the information sought for on the ground that file notings are exempt from disclosure, the appellate authority, without confirming or rejecting the stand of CPIO that file notings are exempt from disclosure, has relied on Section 8(1)(d) and (e) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
      As is evident from the Preamble to the RTI Act, the Act has been enacted to vest with the citizens, the right of access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of any public authority. Conscious of the fact that access to certain information may not be in the public interest, the Act also provides certain exemptions from disclosure. Whether file notings fall within the exempted class is the issue for consideration.
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      Sd/-




      (Padma Balasubramanian)




      Information Commissioner




      Sd/-




      (Wajahat Habibullah)



      Chief Information Commissioner


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