Delhi Gymkhana Club: CIC directs Land Development office of Housing Ministry to disclose lease related details

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New Delhi: Responding to an appeal by a citizen on denial of information regarding terms and conditions of allotment of leased property to Delhi Gymkhana Club (DGC) and the factual position regarding compliance of the terms by the concerned government authorities, the Central Information Comission on Friday 15 November 2019 passed an order directing the Land and Development Office of Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs to disclose point-wise information to the Appellant in respect of the queries raised by him regarding the periodic inspections/reviews as carried out by the Urban Development Ministry with respect to the lease granted to the Delhi Gymkhana Club (DGC) since 1929 and whether it met with the provisions of the original Articles of Association and the action taken thereon along with the associated issues within 15 days respecting the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 and the larger public interest involved therein.

The order passed by the Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka, directs that any departure from non-compliance of this decision would attract penal action in accordance with Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005.

The Commission has also instructed the Public Authority to convene periodic onferences and seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.

Abhay Kumar Khanna, the Appellant, had sought information on 11 points on whether there was any system of periodical inspection of land granted for public utility in the form of lease in perpetuity. If so, he had sought the details of periodic intervals in which such inspections had been carried out by the Ministry of Urban evelopment, any agency or individuals appointed on behalf of the concerned Ministry.

The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) , through a letter of 4 December 2017, stated that the Appellant had not furnished his stake in
the property regarding which the information was sought by him hence the Appellant was requested to furnish documents, if any, to establish his stake in the Delhi Gymkhana Club within 10 days. Subsequently, the CPIO through a letter of 2 January 2018 stated that Delhi Gymkhana Club had objected to the disclosure of information under Section 11(1) of the RTI Act, 2005. Furthermore, with regard to another point raised by the appellant, it was stated that the issue was taken up with the Club and on receipt of the clarification from them, the Appellant would be informed accordingly.

The Appellant approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA) but no order of the FAA is on the record of the Commission.

The Respondent (public authority) also remained absent during the hearing, despite prior intimation. During hearing, the Appellant alleged that the DGC was not complying with the lease terms as also their AOA, the Appellant submitted that membership of the Club was denied to applicants as per the whims and fancies of the Administrative Authorities.

He further submitted that contrary to the provisions of Section 6 (2) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Respondent Public Authority directed him to establish his stake in the property of DGC which was in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and in contravention to the larger public interest involved therein.

The Commission was also in receipt of a written submission, dated 7 November 2019, from the Respondent, who reiterated the reply of the CPIO, stating that the FAA on 14 May 2018 had disposed off the First Appeal directing the CPIO to furnish the information available in their office to the Appellant. Accordingly, the Appellant was provided information through a letter of 14 May 2018. However, the Appellant had now preferred an Appeal before the Commission mentioning that the First Appeal was never decided and no information had been provided to the Appellant. In view of the above, it was stated that the requisite information had already been provided to the Appellant. Hence, it was prayed to exempt his personal appearance before the Commission.

In this matter, CIC has brought on record that the CPIO/ FAA did not provide a satisfactory response to the Appellant. The CIC order says that the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and various judgements on the subject matter clearly establishes that it is the duty of the CPIO to provide clear, cogent and precise response to the information seekers. Section 7 (8) (i) of the RTI Act, 2005 also states that where a request for disclosure of information is rejected, the CPIO shall communicate the reasons for such rejection.

Delhi Development Authority

In another matter connected with the Delhi Development Authority, raised by Vinod Singhla as Appellant, the CIC on Friday took note of “utter neglect, casual and callous disregard” to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, and directed Rajesh Kumar, Pr. Commissioner (Housing), DDA, to depute an officer of an appropriate seniority to investigate and to fix responsibility and accountability on the concerned official within a period of 30 days. A copy of the action taken in the matter should be reported to the Appellant with a copy to the Commission for its perusal.

In this matter also the Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka has issued the order. Through this order, the Respondent Public Authority has been instructed to convene periodic conferences/seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.

The Appellant vide his RTI application had sought information on 4 points in respect of Flat Number C-1, 164, details of payment plan for the said flat along with dates for the payment of installments; the date on which the possession of the said flat would be granted; number of properties for which the possession of flats had been transferred, etc.

The Assistant Director (RTI)/PIO, through letter of 12 December 2017, transferred the RTI application to the Assistant Director (Housing Scheme-17)/PIO, DDA, for necessary action at their end. Dissatisfied due to non-receipt of any response from the concerned CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The APIO, on 6 March 2018, transferred the Appeal to the FAA, DDA, New Delhi, for necessary action.

The Appellant reiterated the contents of the RTI application and stated that despite repeated reminders to the DDA, no reply had been received for the last two years and therefore enraged by the callousness and utter neglect exhibited by the Respondent, he desired that penal action be initiated against the concerned official and compensation be granted for lack of due diligence and disrespect to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. In its reply, the Respondent while acknowledging the delay in attending to the RTI application submitted that the RTI application remained untraced due to heavy pressure of work and inadequate staff. Only on receipt of the
notice of hearing, the application was attended to and replied.

The repondent informed the CIC that the RTI Appeal was diarised in their office and the same was handed over to the then Dealing Assistant Govind Singh, who had not put up the same to the PIO/FAA and that he had retired in January, 2019. It was also mentioned that Harish Chander who had since retired and Ms Suman Madan, PIO/Assistant Director was transferred from Housing Department. G. S. Badwal, FAA/Dy. Director was also transferred from Housing Department in the month of September, 2019. Furthermore, it was submitted that the information sought by the Appellant was already available in the brochure of the Housing Scheme, 2017 and Demand-cum-Allotment letter dated 15.02.2018 issued to the Applicant and that other information asked by him was hypothetical in nature.

The Commission observed that there is complete negligence and laxity in the public authority in dealing with the RTI applications. It is abundantly clear that such matters are being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflects disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. The Commission has expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the respondent in responding to the RTI application. It was felt that the conduct of Respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.

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