Thursday, October 02, 2008

Work with the Commission

I have set two interns to work on analysis of the files of the State Information Commission starting Jan 2007. They are from Loyola College and are doing this work on Wednesdays and Thursdays. There have been many problems with the State Information Commission and the most important of them is that they dont follow up on their orders. In the worst manifestation of this, the penalties they impose too are not followed up on.

I went through all the judgments of the Commission and made a list of penalties imposed by the commission and found that about 24 penalties were imposed by the commission. I passed this info on to Shyam of the Hindu who talked to the Commissioner about this. An article on this came out in the Hindu ( The Commissioner claims that more than 200 penalties have been imposed so far and says that the reason why I could see only 24 penalties was that, many of the penalties imposed have been after replies from Show Cause Notices came in, and they were looked at. I still have not seen any documentary proof for those 200 penalties. In addition to this, a staff of the Commission told me that not a single reply to the Show Cause Notices has been looked at so far.

Recently the State Information Commission gave a bad order against an RTI applicant, Mr.Gunasekaran. A copy of the decision can be seen here, but the gist was that the applicant had applied for a post of a driver in the State Transport Corporation. But he did not get the job. He told me that there is always corruption in such appointments and the money would be in the filed an RTI application under RTI application asking for Merit List and the marks list of candidates who appeared for an interview for the post of a driver for a State Transport corporation. Since he could not get those, he filed an RTI again asking for panel members who decide the merit list. This time the transport corporation gave the names of the panel members (which in the commission's opinion need not have been disclosed). The applicant then filed an RTI with one of the panel members with a view to get the mark list for which he was told that RTIs cannot be filed with panel members. When the first RTI (asking for merit list and marks for merit list) came up for hearing, the commission ruled that normally they order the mark list have to be disclosed, but in this case since the applicant has asked for panel members' names and has got them, the commission decided that disclosing the marks list could lead to personal harm of the panel members and hence ordered that information need not be disclosed. I was also along with him, at the hearing. My repeated appeals, saying that just because the names of the panel member were known, it does not mean we would do them any harm. The commissioner Mr.T.R.Ramaswamy said that we should come with our hands clean. He also asked us why we were so impatient that we filed a second RTI application when the first was still pending and why could we no wait. Such questions were unnecessary as it does not matter how many RTIs we file. But he refused to listen to any of our arguments and ordered that information need not be disclosed.

I have decided that this decision should be challenged in the High court. Gunasekaran is also ok with it. So through Arvind Kejriwal I got a lawyer contact in Chennai. She is Ms.Gita working in Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). Over phone she agreed to help us out. So Gunasekaran and I will meet Ms.Gita the coming monday (6th October). I feel this will go on for some time. So, as they say, keep watching this space :-)

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