He was the man who, in association with Aruna Rai and Jean Dreze, was instrumental in drafting the revolutionary Right To Information Act and getting a call centre for RTI constituted in Bihar. Today, Arvind Kejriwal is running from pillar to post for the last nine months with an application filed under the same Act, wanting to know the details of expenditure incurred for the development of Kaushambi area in Ghaziabad, where he resides.
In his application, submitted to Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC) on April 10, 2006, Kejriwal asked the GMC specific information like, the money spent on development of Kaushambi after it was taken over from the Ghaziabad Development Authority in March 2004; The number of roads constructed; agencies engaged in roads construction and the amount deposited by them. On failing to get a reply in the mandatory 30 days, Kejriwal filed his first appeal in the Municipal Corporation on June 5, but to no avail. He then went in for a second appeal with the State Information Commission (SIC), on September 19.
"Just a week before my case came up before the Commission on November 16, the GMC provided me some irrelevant and incomplete information'' Kejriwal said. SIC sent a show-cause notice to the GMC Commissioner as to why a penalty of Rs 25,000 should not be imposed on him. The SIC directed the GMC commissioner to be present on December 18, the second hearing.
On December 18, Kejriwal was present at the Commission but the GMC Commissioner wasn't and Kejriwal was given a third date, January 16. The RTI Act makes it mandatory to dispose cases in 45 days. What annoyed Kejriewal was that instead of any GMC authority, a government lawyer was representing the government.
On asking the State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC), on the last hearing of the case on December 18, on why officials were not being summoned, SCIC said, "It is my discretion whom I summon to my court.'' Section 18 (3) A of the Act says the State Information Commissioners have the power to "summon and enforce the attendance of persons and compelling them to give oral or written evidence...''
According to sources, the reason the senior officers are now being sparingly summoned to the RTI Commissioner's court is a missive from Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav following representation from the bureaucrats they were being harassed in the name of RTI. During the IAS week held in November, they had demanded that the CM ensure that they were not for hearings of cases under RTI.
Following this, Mulayam reportedly asked SIC not to summon IAS officers and pull them up. However, SCIC MA Khan denies having received any such missive. Instead, he clarifies that senior officers are called only when the matter isn't sorted out at the lower level.
SIC Gyanendra Sharma clarified that normally public information officers (PIO) are summoned but officials concerned are called when they don't part with information to the former. "Penalising PIOs failing to give information because their seniors are not providing them would be an injustice to them,'' said Sharma.
He said the Commission received 100 to 150 applications every day, and most are disposed at the first level of Assistant Public Information Officers and Public Information Officers at the department level. "Not going into technicalities and taking it as a teething trouble, we entertain each application and dispose off around 60-70 of them every day,'' Sharma said. He said IAS officers were called only sparingly.
Man behind RTI battles for information on development
MUMBAI: The Right to Information Act has come to the rescue of a former trustee of a charitable educational trust who was illegally removed by presenting signatures of dead and fictitious members.
The original papers of the trust's no-confidence motion, which were in the charity commissioner's office, were substituted with the forged papers in alleged collusion with the office staff. The charity commissioner's office then passed an order to oust Qamar S Qazi, the trustee.
Seventy-three-old Qamar S Qazi, a former customs official and trustee of Anjuman Tarakki Achra, has been fighting the case for the last seven years. It was when Qazi applied to the charity commissioner's office for the copy of the no-confidence motion passed against him in 1999 that he discovered, to his horror, that the documents were substituted.
"Instead, another document which had about 125 forged signatures of the trustees were placed. Many of the members were dead or their names were fictitious. Some were abroad when the alleged election took place,"Qazi said.
On discovering the forgery, Qazi filed a criminal case against the existing trustees at the Additional Magistrate court, Mazgaon in 2000.
The court directed the Dongri police to investigate the case and the police report established that a forgery was committed. The court then ordered the police to file a chargesheet.
However, despite directives from the magistrate and later the Bombay high court, the charity commissioner's office did not subsequently take any action on the issue of the forgery committed by the existing trustees.
Qazi then filed a query under the Right to Information Act in 2006 asking about the status of the case. "The charity commissioner's office replied stating that they did not have the police inquiry report with them and hence could not take action.
I then filed a complaint with the state information commissioner who directed the law and judiciary department to look into the matter,"Qazi said.
Within a month, Qazi got a reply from the Charity Commissioner which stated that the earlier fake no-confidence motion passed by the trust was set aside and a fresh enquiry had been initiated against the trustees.
"The Right to Information Act has now helped me to set aside an order which was blatantly wrong. I hope justice will be done soon,"Qazi said.
The Times of India - Indian Newspapers in English Language from six editions.