Monday, November 24, 2008

The Govt's lie about DVAC and TSVC Exemption

Today morning I went to the P&AR department for section 4 inspection after sending them an intimation asking them to "keep ready for inspection all relevant facts which formed the basis in the formulating of the decision to exempt DVAC and TSVC from the Right to Information act, vide a Government Order (G.O. Ms. No 158, Dated: 26.8.2008)". I sought this exemption under section 4(c) of the Right to Information act which says "Every Public Authority shall, publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;". When I went there today, I was told that the files have been sent to the Government Pleader at the High Court since the PIL against the exemption was listed for hearing today. This PIL was filed by one Mr.Sethu. I have not heard about him or met him. When I called him up to find out whether the case had really been listed for hearing, he did not know that it was listed for hearing. He then checked and confirmed that it was indeed listed, but said that the case might not be heard today since it was listed as one of the last cases for the day.

At the time of exempting DVAC and TSVC from the Right to Information act, the government in response to the criticism in the media about the exemption, sent out a press release saying that information regarding closed cases can still be obtained. The press release, which was in tamil, can be seen here. I was still doubtful since a press release does not have any legal sanction. So I filed an RTI application with the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti Corruption, asking for number of cases in which investigation was complete and the number of people convicted in these cases. The information I sought was clearly about cases where investigation was complete. But I received no reply for 30 days. I again filed a first appeal. Again there was no reply for about 15 days. So I called them up last week to know the status. They said that a reply will come and if not, I can come to thier office the following week. So I went to their office today. There I was not even allowed to meet the PIO or any officer. I explained the whole thing to the person at the gate, and gave him a copy of the press release which said that information regarding closed cases can be disclosed. He argued for some time, and then said that he will take this to the officer concerned. He asked me to sit at the gate itself. So I sat there. And after ten minutes he came back saying that the officer told that they received no orders for disclosing information and hence they cannot give information. When I asked him who it was who gave this reply, he told me that it was the admin inspector. When I asked for the name, he refused to give me the name and asked me to send a letter so that I can get a reply on the record. I reminded him that I had come there precisely because my two earlier letters were not replied to. He just was not reasonable and so I walked off. After getting back to office, I called up DVAC and found the admin inspector's name. He was one Mr.Sudhakar. The person at the gate also told me that the admin inspector asked me to go to court or to any other body if I wanted to question his

This only confirmed what I had doubted. They did not give any order saying that information for closed cases alone can be given (whose legality, I doubt anyway) but just gave a press release saying the information regarding closed cases will be made available. The claim, by the P&AR department in the press release, was simply a lie.

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