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Civic body’s reply to RTI plea: ‘Sorry, records were old, got misplaced’

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As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal in expressindia.com on 31 March 2008:

Civic body’s reply to RTI plea: ‘Sorry, records were old, got misplaced’ - ExpressIndia.Com


Civic body’s reply to RTI plea: ‘Sorry, records were old, got misplaced’


New Delhi, March 30 Najafgarh resident Jagdish Kumar’s appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act hangs on the words of the very man against whom he seeks information. In July 2006, he had applied to the Deputy Commissioner of MCD’s Najafgarh zone for inspection of records to establish that one Gulshan Kumar had been illegally occupying his premises for the last 24 years.


Jagdish’s application sought information on how the MCD had in 1982 issued trade licence to Gulshan’s textile shop, which was allegedly functioning from a property occupied illegally. The civic body has been periodically renewing the permit since then.


Two years after he filed the plea, Jagdish is still waiting for a proper reply, with the MCD failing to trace either the records or the officials who “misplaced” them.


Ironically, the only person he can turn to now for an answer is Gulshan Kumar, who runs ‘M/s Aneja Textiles’.


Not mincing words to describe the MCD’s conduct as “lamentable”, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah directed the civic body’s public information officer to record Gulshan Kumar’s statement and pass it on to Jagdish Kumar for his perusal.


“This is a lamentable case of information being misplaced by a public authority expected to be a custodian of records, and hence the information sought,” noted Habibullah.


He put on record an urgent recommendation to the MCD chief to give serious thought “to computerising the records of this public authority so vital to the interests of Delhi citizens, to enable ease of access”.

The CIC recommendation comes even as the MCD introduces itself on its website as one of the largest municipal bodies in the world — “next only to Tokyo in terms of area” — providing “civic services to an estimated population of more than 13.78 million citizens...”


In his appeal to the CIC, Jagdish described how he was invited to “come to the MCD office on any working day during office hours” for inspection of the “available” records.


His visit on August 1, 2006, proved futile when the clerk “showed him no file but an old register”.


Two months later, Jagdish received an explanation from the Additional Commissioner (Health), the appellate authority under the RTI, stating that the records were lost.


“Since the related file of the case is not available, it being 24 years old, there is no alternative with the department but to express regret,” said the missive.


Summing up the situation, the CIC hinted that his hands were tied because “there is no officer who can now be identified as being responsible for the loss of this information and penalised.”


“An inquiry in this regard will do no better than take time and possibly reveal the identity of the wrong-doer. But it won’t serve the purpose of Jagdish Kumar,” he observed, leaving the ball in Gulshan Kumar’s court. “If there is no record of the occupation of the property being authorised, Z U Siddiqui, the MCD public information officer, will, after hearing Gulshan Kumar, inform appellant Jagdish Kumar,” concluded the CIC.

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I think the approach was wrong. Irrespective of the Municipal records, the occupant of every piece of land has to produce his title to that land. Whenever there is such dispute, it is incumbant of the Authorities to direct the owner to produce his title deeds. I don't think any action on that line is taken.


I had a similar problem. When compelled, the authorities fully knowing that the vested interest has no title deed, gave me the particulars of a Registered deed hoping that I will stop at that. I had obtained its copy from Sub Registrar's Office and established that that particular deed does not belong to the land occupied by the vestered interest. Of cource thefight is progress.


In the above case also Mr.Jagdishkumar should proceed in such a way that the Authorities will be compleed to direct Mr.Gulshan Kumar to produce his title deed to that particular land.

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