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A case-study from Chennai

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I am attaching the following case reported in the Chennai edition of New Indian Express dated 13 Dec.2006, for the information of the RTI community.


<SMALL> The Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has directed the Chennai Metropolitan Development Corporation (CMDA) to provide the draft Second Master Plan for Chennai city under the Right To Information Act within a week.

Earlier, the CMDA had been refusing to provide the draft Master Plan for over six months to a consumer activist who sought it under the RTI Act, though she had filed petitions thrice.

The petitioner, Sriharini Narayanan, deputy director of Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) in Adyar, on May 2 this year, gave the representation to the Public Information Officer of the CMDA to furnish the draft Second Master Plan, quoting a newspaper report that State Government was in the process of finalising a new Master Plan for the city of Chennai.

The CMDA refused to comply with the request saying the Second Master Plan was in,” a draft and unfinished state, likely to incur changes at different levels and hence could not be furnished under the RTI Act.”

Not convinced with the reply, the CAG gave another petition on August 2, reiterating its request, saying that though the draft was expected to undergo changes, a copy of it must be furnished.

Citing Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act, which deals with exemptions, the CAG contended, “a draft and unfinished record does not fall under the exemptions mentioned in the Act.”

The CMDA turned town the plea a second time too. However, proceeding further, the CAG sent another petition with the same request to the CMDA on August 2.

Stating that urban developments in Chennai city had been governed as per the Master Plan of 1976 which had not been modified or changed till now, the petitioner pointed out that when a plethora of new urban development schemes were being sanctioned for Chennai, haphazard development caused due to the absence of an updated Master Plan, had created hardship to the general public and had now become a matter of public concern.

“Under sections 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act, every public authority shall publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing decisions which affect the public,” the petitioner said.

However, the third time, the CMDA did not choose to reply. Aggrieved, the petitioner moved the Information Commission with an appeal.

On perusal of the case, the Commission held, “The reply given by the CMDA is incorrect under the RTI Act. The draft Master Plan is not among the exempt documents under Section 8 of the RTI Act and hence it has to be given and cannot be refused. The CMDA member-secretary is directed to supply the same within seven days, free of cost as 30 days time had been breached and report it to the Commission.” </SMALL>

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