UT of J & K advised to register itself with the RTI portal of DoPT so as to facilitate the general public to file online RTI applications and first appeal
New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC), along with Central Information Commissioners, held an important interaction with all the State Chief Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners through Video Conferencing on Friday 26 June 2020 to exchange ideas, methodology and approach to streamline the functioning of the Commission through the use of best technological tools especially during COVID 19 like situation.
This interaction was in continuation of the earlier meeting held on 29 April, 2020 with all Chief State Information Commissioners by Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka.
Friday’s meeting was chaired by Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka. Also present were the Central Information Commissioners.
All the 28 State Information Commissions were invited to participate in the deliberations. Julka shared his experience relating to disposal of cases. The participants were informed that maximum efforts had been made with the help of technology to conduct the hearings under the prevailing circumstances arising due to the lockdown to contain COVID-19. Hearings were conducted through audio / video conference and parties were advised to refrain from physical presence to maintain social distance to comply with the Government guidelines.
It was underscored that out of the box thinking and certain creative and innovative measures had to be initiated in these troubled times so that the information seeker is provided all possible relief under the Right to Information Act which is a common man’s Act. It was also brought out that consequent to the reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir Act. 2019 and transfer of pending complaint and second appeal cases under RTI Act to the Central Information Commission in the Union capital, the Commission had initiated the process to get the cases transferred. The Commission had commenced hearing of cases 15 May, 2020 onward. The UT of J & K was advised to register itself with the RTI portal of DoPT so as to facilitate the general public to file online RTI applications and first appeal. Efforts are also being being made to facilitate training and familiarization exercise of the CPIOs and First Appellate Authorities of J & K and Ladakh Administration through webinars etc. Besides, the participants were also briefed about the preventive measures undertaken in the office premises in respect of maintenance of hygiene & sanitation
Central Information Commissioners, CIC, New Delhi also shared their experiences inrespect of hearing of the cases through audio / video conference. All State Information Commission actively participated in the discussion. It was resolved unanimously that such periodic interactions would further strengthen the functioning of the Commissions
New Delhi: Central Information Commission issued an order on Friday 5 June 2020 in response to an appeal against the non-furnishing of information sought under the RTI Act from Delhi Development Authority regarding the Cooperative Group Housing Societies built on DDA allotted lease land in Delhi underscoring total lack of transparency and objectivity in respect of the documentation and record management resulting in huge loss not only to the DDA but also inconvenience to the public at large.
The order passed by Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka on Friday 5 June 2020 comes in response to an RTI application seeking information on 15 points regarding the Cooperative Group Housing Societies built on DDA allotted lease land in Delhi; name of the Government Authority and the person-in-charge who grants and manages completion certificates in Delhi; Certificate C and D issued to CGHS; certificate of occupancy and completion certificate and the Law, Act/ Rule/ Section under which it was mandatory to issue these certificates.
DDA’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), the officer responsible for providing the information under the RTI Act, stated through a letter on 27 July 2018 that DDA completion certificate was being issued by Building Department. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA). It has come to light that the no order of the FAA in this matter is on the record of the Commission.
Asst Director, Group Housing, DDA, told the CIC that since the information sought was not available with them, he had transferred the file to the Building Division. The representative of the Building Division of the DDA feigned ignorance of the subject matter and stated that he was made aware of the Appeal under consideration on the date of hearing only. He was also unaware of the total number of societies which have yet to obtain completion certificates and tossed the matter to the Group Housing Division.
The representative of the Group Housing Division however informed that he had recently joined and as per his assessment, there were approximately 824 Group Housing Societies registered with DDA but no proper records were maintained of the updated status of fulfillment of procedural formalities.
The Commission has observed that no information was provided by the Respondent and the application shuttled from one Public Authority to another which was in contravention to the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005.
The CIC order categorically points out that apparently, “there exists a palpable vacuum in the records management system of the Public Authority which might be causing colossal revenue loss to the Public Authority besides huge inconvenience to the sufferings of the public”.
keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and also in the light of the sensitivity and the criticality of the subject matter, the Commission has instructed the Vice Chairman, DDA to have this matter examined forthwith and furnish cogent, precise and correct information to the Appellant within a period of 30 days.
The Commission has also advised the Public Authority officials to place the entire information on its website for the benefit of the public at large. It is also essential that the Public Authority revisits its record management manual and evolve a strong and robust mechanism for digitizing such records using the latest technological tools. An action taken report be sent to the Commission within a period of 30 days.
DDA has been asked to convene periodic conferences and seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of duties and responsibilities.
The Commission also has instructed DDA 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.
Editorial Comment: Under Sections 3 (3) (a) and (b) of the Delhi Development Act, 1957, Delhi’s Lieutenant governor is the chairman of DDA, while its executive head is the Vice Chairman, who is always a senior IAS officer appointed by the Central Government. Questions arise, Where the buck should stop? Who should be held accountable for lack of transparency and objectivity and when it comes to meeting the objectives of DDA?
We talk of transparency and objectivity but if we take DDA as a test case, another big question that needs to be addressed is – Who will fix accountability with regard to those responsible for direlection of duty and causing loss to the exchequer?
In another matter connected with the Delhi Development Authority, the CIC in November 2019, had taken 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 Bimal Julka, in his earlier position as Central Information Commissioner, had issued the order. Through this order, DDA 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 had observed that there was 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 hasd stated and expressed its displeasure on the casual and callous approach adopted by the DDA authority in responding to the RTI application. CIC order said: “It was felt that the conduct of the Respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.”
New Delhi: Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office and Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Dr Jitendra Singh, Thursday 14 May, stated that concerted efforts for smooth transition from the J&K RTI Act 2009 to the Central RTI Act 2005 have been taken by offices of Ministry of Home Affairs, DOPT and Central Information Commission consequent to the passing of J&K Reorganisation Act 2019, the J&K Right to Information Act 2009 and the Rules thereunder that have been repealed and Right to Information Act 2005 and the Rules thereunder enforced from 31 October 2019.
The Minister informed that till 10 May 2020, 111 second appeals/ complaints (fresh) cases from the Union territory of J&K have been registered in the CIC consequent to the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019. The Commission has decided to start hearing of these cases from 15 May 2020.
We have taken a proactive initiative to provide justice at doorstep to the citizens of J&K – Bimal Julka, Chief Information Commissioner
Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka held a Video Conference meeting on 14 May 2020 with the Lieutenant Governor of Union Territory of J&K G C Murmu and the Chief Secretary of the UT of J&K BVR Subrahmanyam regarding implementation of Right to Information Act, 2005, consequent to the passing of J&K Reorganisation Act 2019 and to assess the preparedness and move ahead with the hearings.
During the CIC’s video conferencing with the Lt. Governor and Chief Secretary of J&K to discuss preparedness for implementation of the RTI Act 2005 in the UT, both sides noted each other’s concerns and it was also decided to hold webinars to educate the CPIOs/ first appellate authorities in due course. More such conferences are scheduled in future.
A request has also been made to transfer cases of second Appeals/complaints pending with the State Information Commission of J&K prior to 31 October 2019. Chief Secretary of UT of J&K has also been requested to share the list/details of CPIOS and FAAS nominated by the Public Authorities.
Beside the training for CPIOS and FAAS, the proposal for registration/alignment of Public Authorities of Union Territory of J&K on RTI online portal of Department of Person and Training is also being taken up with DOPT.
New Delhi: The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the Central Information Commission have given consent to a voluntary deduction of 30% of the basic salary paid to them by the Commission for the next one year starting April 2020 to meet the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In view of the unprecedented damage caused to the national economy by the Coronavirus pandemic and efforts made by the Government to pool all resources to meet the challenges of this national crisis, Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at Central Information Commission have voluntarily agreed too take a cut equal to 30% of the basic pay received from the commission for a period of one year with immediate effect.
The Central Information Commission has been seized of the issues and challenges arising from the COVID -19 pandemic and the decision relating to the voluntary deduction of 30% of the basic salary of the Chief information Commissioner and Information Commissioners for next one year was taken at an extraordinary meeting of the Commission this past Friday, 10 April 202. The meeting was conducted through video conferencing to deliberate on the steps to be taken by the Commission in the wake of COVID – 19 pandemic.
The meeting was attended by Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka, and Information Commissioners DP Sinha, Y. K. Sinha, Ms. Vanaja N Sarna, Neeraj Kumar Gupta, Suresh Chandra, Dr. Amita Pendove, and Secretary to the Commission.