Sunday, March 02, 2008

RTI Project Updates - 12, 13

It has been two weeks since my last update and hence this is going to be a two week update. The past two weeks have given me new ideas, better understanding of commissions etc.

Working with the commission
One important work that happened this fortnight was that I analysed close to 80 decisions of the State Information Commission. The analysis reveals that decisions were by and large fair and shows that the commissioners are well intentioned in getting information from the petitioner. The major problem is that fines are not imposed in most cases. Out of the 83 cases analysed, 59 cases were fit for penalty. Out of these 59 cases, Show Cause Notices have been issued only in 35 cases. That leaves about 24 cases. Moreover, impositions of a SCN does not mean penalties are imposed, since later when I spoke to the Chief Commissioner, he said that they did not look at the replies to the SCNs since they did not have time. That means no PA gets really fined. Which is pretty bad, since the only reason why a PA might give information is the fear that he may be fined. But there will be a hundred reasons why a PA will NOT want to give information. So if that sole reason to give information is not there, information will not be given. This has always been the argument from my side.
There have been few important cases too. There was this case where the teacher had sought some information from the headmaster and he is suspended for it. The case come to the commission, and the commission strongly condemns disciplinary action just because the teacher had sought information.
Another case is where the PA had repeatedly ignored the orders from the commission, and finally at the hearing he is given a 24 hour deadline. Since the order says this, I got in touch with the appellant (after writing a letter to him) and he says that he has still not got information. It is precisely instances like these, that support the case for stringent penalties on erring PIOs. The analysis excel can be viewed here.
I have taken copies of 4 important decisions and have uploaded them here. 1,2,3,4.

I would like to state here, that analysis has been done based only on the Final orders given at the hearing, since accessing the relevant files for each order was not feasible, since searching for each file would take a really long time.
I also attended a day of hearings of the Central Information Commission. This was handled by Ms.Padma Balasubramanian and I have blogged the details here.

On 19th Feb, Rupesh and I represented Nity at the commission for a hearing wherein Nity had asked for information (like copies of MOU, land acquisition details) regarding TATA's Titanium dioxide project in Tuticorin. The PIO had rejected information saying it was confidential information, but for the hearing Nity had given detailed point by point rebuttal, and at the end of the hearing, the Chief commissioner ordered that information has to be given within 15 days. The PIO then asked for one month, for which the commissioner refused. What was interesting was that, when we were about to leave the room, the PIO asked the commissioner to talk to the secretary. But the commissioner plainly refused to do anything of that sort. The 15 day time period will end on March 5th.

Awareness sessions
In the last two weeks, not much awareness happened. There was a follow-up of the Saidapet slum awareness session. Lokesh, Raj sundar and I went to the saidapet slum on 27th Feb. Filed first appeals for 3 cases, and one more RTI was filed. I have talked to L&T and Infosys to conduct awareness sessions in their companies. I have talked to bothe their HRs. There will be two sessions in Infosys (in their two development centres) and one in L&T. Am also trying to talk to other companies and give their people training. The program in Big FM should also happen in March 1st week. I have talked to Mr.Ramamurthy of an organisation called SODEWS for a session in Yelagiri in Vellore district for SHGs there. This will most probably happen on March 15th. I have also placed the publicity cards at the commission after talking to the Chief Commissioner. There are quite a few people who come to the commission without much idea about the act. Hence I told the despatch clerk there to give these cards to those who want to know about the act.

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