There is more good news for RTI votaries. The Chief Central Information Commission (CCIC) has recently said the Prime Ministerâ€™s Relief Fund was open to the RTI Act.
Chief Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, â€œThe relief fund is not a trust or has acquired a legal entity. While it is a discretionary fund with the PM, the information held by PMO as the public authority and they are, therefore, obliged to make it accessible to citizens under RTI Act.â€
A complaint was filed by RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi when he was given improper information on his application seeking details of the PMâ€™s fund. Under the Act, Shailesh sought details of the total amount, cash exceeding Rs 50,000 disbursed by the fund and the recipientsâ€™ list in the last two years. Though the PMâ€™s office sent him a reply, stating the details of the fund mutilation are available on the website, he found the information was not satisfactory.
â€œThere were no specific details about how the money had been spent,â€ said Shailesh, who then filed a complaint with the CCIC.
The order is significant for another reason. It brings into purview the funds disbursed under the Chief Ministerâ€™s Relief Fund. The state refused to provide information on similar grounds. An appeal challenging the stateâ€™s refusal has been pending with the State Information Commission.
DNA - Mumbai - â€˜PM Relief Fund open to RTI Actâ€™ - Daily News & Analysis
Statesman News Service
BHUBANESWAR, April 25: The state government yesterday obtained an interim stay order from the High Court to a petitionerâ€™s claim for a copy of a judicial commission report under the RTI Act. The order came as a relief for the government which had been directed by the state information commission to furnish the copy to the applicant.
The applicant filed a detailed petition in the High Court not only justifying his claim that the report should be made public but also calling certain significant aspects of the issue in question.
Countering the plea that since the report had not been placed in the assembly, it could not be made public, Mr Kanungo stated there was no question of breach of privilege if the report were to be made public. Rather, breach of privilege can be alleged against the government and the minister concerned for having failed to table the report along with the ATR within six months of its submission to the government, he contended.
Interestingly, the case of a judicial commission report remaining shelved indefinitely has brought to public notice many instances of governments constituting an inquiry commission and then forgetting all about it, alleged political leaders. They feel that chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik, who holds the home portfolio, ought to be pulled up on this account. A government which professes transparency in all aspects not only shy away from tabling reports but has made it a habit of ordering probes only to buy time, they alleged.
They cited the rather peculiar instance of a judicial commission report going missing and another probe ordered to trace it! The bizarre incident took place last year when people wanted to know what happened to the recommendations of the commission which had inquired into the stampede at Puri Jagannath Temple.
A review of status of such orders reveal that the charge is not entirely baseless. Over a period of almost 8 years as many as 15 inquiry commissions have been constituted and nearly Rs 1 crore has been spent by the government on that score. Not many of them have seen the light of the day, let alone the recommendations being accepted or action being taken against those held responsible. Reportedly, only 2 of the 15 action taken report has been placed while the commission formed to inquire into the stampede at Puri Jagannath temple is yet to commence work.
Citing several instances, these sources said a commission probe ordered into the firing at Rourkela engineer college in 1998 was completed in 2002 but the report is yet to see the light of the day.
The R Udayagiri sub-jail incident was probed by a district judge and the report was submitted in 2000 but the action taken report has not yet been placed, alleged the sources. The sources based their charges on information provided to them by the government under the RTI Act.
There were many other commission reports that have met with a similar fate ~ the Balasore Drug mafia probe, the probe into the clash between advocates and police, the Rangabahal police firing , Raighar firing, Sahid Nagar custody death, Kuchinda lock up death.
Lakhs have been spent on setting up such commissions and conducting inquiries. Ironically, each time there has been a request for early completion of the probe with the routine phrase â€œwithin three monthsâ€ strewn about.
The Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 had been amended in 1971 specifically to overcome the problem of inordinate delays and reports not being made public. The amendment was in the form of incorporating a sub-section which said that the report and ATR had to be placed in Parliament or Assembly within a period of six months from the date of its submission.
The Sorono police firing report sought by Mr Kanungo, the orders of the state information commission and the case filed by the state government in the High Court has, in a way, opened up broader questions relating to the manner in which inquiry commissions are ordered and the fate of the reports such commissions come up with.