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Info commissioner ticks off RTI activists


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Info commissioner ticks off RTI activists

as reported by Ashutosh Shukla, October 25, 2008 DNA

 

He did not allow them to scrutinise commission’s files

 

The State Information Commission (SIC) is the authority that is expected to ensure that the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, is followed in letter and spirit. However, on Friday, in the first-ever inspection of its own files by a bunch of RTI activists, SIC came up a cropper.

As per the RTI Act, any citizen can demand for a personal scrutiny of files under Sec 4 of the Act, and no public authority — not even the SIC — can deny inspection.

 

State information commissioner S Joshi told the activists that his office was busy and hence could not allow the inspection to take place. When activists requested for inspection of a fraction of what they actually wanted to inspect, Joshi said that they would be entertained only after Diwali.

 

The activists, including Krishnaraj Rao, Gaurang Vohra, IK Chhugani, Mohammed Afzal and Sundeep Jalan, were prompted to conduct an inspection of the SIC files, after hearing the travails of Nagendra Pandey, a slumdweller from Shivajinagar, Malad (E).

 

Pandey sought information of the last time his slum society conducted elections, its present members and a list of people living in his slum, which was to undergo redevelopment under the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme.

 

Pandey filed an RTI in November 2006 with the deputy registrar and later with the appellate authority, but did not get any reply to either. “After a year, I got a date with the information commissioner in July 2008. He gave an extension of 30 days to public information officer (PIO) and now almost three months later, I still have no information. The PIO too was not fined,” he said.

 

Pressed with an urge to check if the authority was indeed doing its job and appeals showed any positive results, the activists decided to check on the disposal of the RTI appeals and orders passed on them from January to September 2008 on Friday.

 

In the meeting, Joshi, on Pandey’s issue, said, “If the person was not satisfied, he can move court.”

 

“Any PIO who does not provide information should cite reasons or be fined. They are given undue and unlawful leniency. Timeliness and penalty are the teeth of the Act,” he said.

 

Rao countered, “The commission cannot pass the buck of safeguarding RTI to the court. By this attitude, the SIC is also devaluing the sanctity of the Act.”

 

DNA - Mumbai - Info commissioner ticks off RTI activists - Daily News & Analysis

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colnrkurup

To me, the one and only answer to such problems is formation of INFORMATION COMMISSION OF INDIA. Approaching judiciary or r Governor for action under Section 17is neither improvng the system nor producing any beneficial result. Any other solution ?

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More retired HC/SC judges and non-IAS officers be inducted in CIC/SICs. Unless chemistry of CIC/SICs are drastically de-burocratised, things will move in govt mode with old mind-frame of old days rulers.

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FROM HAMJANENGE YAHOO GROUP

PRESS RELEASE*

 

Mumbai's citizens met Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner Dr Suresh

Joshi and Information Commissioner (IC) Ramanand Tiwari on Friday,

24thOctober, and told them that many of their orders were unlawful

under RTI Act

2005. They refuted the myth of IC's discretionary powers and asserted that

they had no authority to pass orders that ignored key provisions of the Act.

As a quasi-judicial body (not under Law Ministry), they had powers only to

pass orders that were strictly according to the RTI Act 2005, and they were

obliged to give reasons for their order as per Sec. 4 (1) (d).

 

Also, to set a precedent for people all over India, the citizens tried to

exercise their right to inspect the SIC's manuals, norms, procedures and

documents, including orders passed between 1st January 2008 and

31stSeptember. After initially giving evasive replies, Dr Joshi backed

down to

the citizens' pressure, and promised to give a date for inspection after

Diwali. He said this as though he would be doing them a favour. In response,

the activists issued a stern letter (see attachments 1-3) that stressed that

by not giving them inspection when requested, the SIC had failed to comply

with Section 4 of RTI Act.

 

Citizens Krishnaraj Rao, Gaurang Vora, Mohammed Afzal, Sundeep Jalan and

Indur Chhugani rallied around Dr Nagendra Pandey, an appellant who filed his

RTI application in November 2006. His appeal was heard by SIC Ramanand

Tiwari in July 2008 and an unlawful order was passed. As a result, Dr Pandey

continues to be denied information by MHADA's Deputy Registrar of

Cooperatives.

 

In his written order, SIC Tiwari directed the PIO to give information within

a month. But as the SIC neither sought justifications for denial of

information under Sec 19 (5), nor imposed penalties under Sec 20, the PIO

simply ignored the order and went scot-free. No information has been given

till date.

 

Does this case sound familiar to you? It should. Such unlawful orders are

passed in 20-30% of 2nd appeals filed before Information Commissions

nationwide. (Mohammed Afzal and Gaurang Vora have themselves received such

orders.)

 

Faced with such frustrating orders, most appellants feel defeated by "the

system", because going in appeal means moving the High Court – which is

rarely feasible.

 

*However, Mumbai's citizens are opening up an alternative way of fighting

such systematic sabotage. As Information Commissions are themselves "public

authorities" (and not part of the judiciary, as is widely misunderstood),

the solution lies in subjecting the Information Commission to the rigorously

reasoned approach of the RTI Act itself.*

 

*They intend to freely distribute a checklist outside the Information

Commissions to enable appellants to monitor the quality of their

implementation of the RTI Act. *

*The form reads as follows:*

**

 

*Is Information Commissioner following the proper procedure with your RTI

Appeal? Please verify!*

 

Dear RTI Applicant / Appellant,

 

Information Commission is a public authority to implement RTI Act 2005 and

safeguard your Right to Information, but it is *not part of the judiciary*.

Information Commissioner (IC) is a *public servant* appointed to uphold RTI.

He has powers to punish Public Information Officers (PIOs) which he must

exercise, but *does not have powers to punish you*. So, don't be afraid to

demand your rights under RTI.

 

*Before leaving the IC's office, ask him the below questions and complete

this checklist.* As a citizen, you have the right to ask such questions and

seek answers. Submit a copy of the completed checklist to the Information

Commission's dispatch section. Insist on acknowledgement stamp on a Xerox

copy. Send one copy by post or email to our address, given at the bottom of

this sheet.

 

1) Section 6(2) of RTI Act 2005 says that *RTI applicant shall not be

required to give reasons* as to why they need information.

 

*Did IC ask you for reasons and justifications why you needed the

information? YES / NO*

 

* *

 

2) Information Commission is not a forum for grievance redressal. IC

has no powers to settle disputes, or pass any order without reference to RTI

Act 2005. IC must conduct hearings only with reference to RTI Act 2005.

 

*Did IC discuss on extra issues other than the process of giving

information? YES / NO*

 

* *

 

*A. **If IC says your requested information will not be given, answer the

following: ***

 

 

 

3) Denial of information may be justified under section 8 or 9 of RTI

Act 2005.

*Did IC explain under which section of RTI Act you are not given the

information? YES / NO

*(If "yes", then tell IC to write this section in his written order.)*

 

*

 

4) RTI Act 2005 Sec. 19 (5) states that the duty to prove that denial

of information was justified *shall be* (i.e. is compulsory) on PIO, who

must cite sections of RTI Act in his reasoning.**

 

*Did IC seek and receive such justification from PIO in writing?

YES / NO

*(If "yes", then tell IC to include PIO's justification in his written

order.)

 

 

 

*B. ** OR Answer the following if IC directs your PIO to give information:

***

 

5) Sec 20 (1) says that if PIO refused to receive an RTI application,

did not give information within 30 days (48 hours if concerning life and

liberty of a person), wrongly and knowingly denied information or gave

incorrect, incomplete or misleading information, *IC* *shall (i.e.

compulsorily) impose penalty of Rs 250 per day of information not given, up

to maximum Rs 25,000. *Also, Sec 20 (2) says that *IC* *shall recommend for

disciplinary action *against the PIO under the service rules applicable to

him. Sec 7 (2) says that if PIO fails to respond to your RTI Application

within 30 days, *he* *shall be deemed to have refused the request, and

attract penal provisions*. **

 

*Did IC follow these rules to punish PIO?

YES / NO***

 

* *

 

6) Sec. 19 (8) (a) states that IC has the power to direct the public

authority comply with RTI Act by:

(i) providing access to information in a particular form requested by you

(ii) appointing a PIO

 

(iii) publishing certain categories of information

(iv) changing its ways of keeping records and files

(v) asking its officials to be trained in implementing RTI

(vi) adopting an annual report format in compliance with Section 4(1)(b)

 

Sec. 19 (8) (b) says that IC can ask the public authority to compensate you

for loss or harm.

 

*Did IC exercise any of the above powers in your favour?

YES / NO*

 

 

 

7) Sec. 18 (3) says that IC has* *the same powers as a civil court for:

(i) *summoning and enforcing the attendance of persons (especially

PIOs)*and compelling them to give oral or written evidence on oath,

and to produce

documents or things

(ii) requisitioning any public record or its copies from any court or office

Sec. 18 (4) says that *IC may examine any record to which RTI Act applies,

and* *no such record may be withheld from it on any grounds*. **

 

*Has IC exercised any of the above powers in response to your RTI

appeal?

YES / NO***

 

* *

 

*If the answer to the first two questions is "Yes", and to all other

questions is "No", then your Information Commission is not following RTI Act

2005.

Your Right to Information is being "adulterated" and "diluted".

Please stand firm and guard your sacred right as a citizen.*

 

* *

 

*Your details** *Name & Signature:

RTI Appeal serial no:

Postal address:**

 

Contact numbers & email address:

 

*Information Commissioner's details: *Name & office address

 

* *

 

____________________________________________________

*For further action in this matter, mail copy of this checklist to: *Sahasi

Padyatri, 12 Shiv Krupa, Kulupwadi Road, Borivli East, Mumbai 400 066. Ph:

98215 88114 Email: sahasipadyatri@gmail.com

____________________________________________________

 

 

*PS: *A word file of the above email is also attached to facilitate

circulation and discussion.

 

Forwarded are two links to related reports in daily papers:

 

Report in DNA: http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1200902

 

Report in Times of India:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Mumbai/Info_panel_rejects_RTI_activists_plea/articleshow/3639024.cms

 

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