Monday, November 26, 2012

Cabinet Secretariat avoids RTI queries on allegations by former IA Chief, says Activist

Posted by- Neelam Mathews
Nov 26, 2012

We enclose a letter to the Chief Information Commissioner, New Delhi by an RTI activist even as his RTI on allegations by former IA CMD Sunil Arora against former aviation minister Praful Patel, are ignored.

Sign of things to come?

Kindly refer to esteemed order dated 23.10.2012 in my petition-number CIC/SM/C/2012/001035 whereby your honour was kind enough to direct Appellate Authority at Union Cabinet Secretariat to give me an opportunity to be heard by him to ensure providing of desired information without any further loss of time.
Learned Appellate Authority at Union Cabinet Secretariat Shri Subhash Chandra Garg summoned me for hearing on 20.11.2012 at 11 am, which was telephonically postponed for 6 pm on the same date. He was kind enough to allow query-numbers 1 to 4, 6, 8-12 and 14.
I submitted my oral submissions towards query-numbers (5) and (7) with repeated requests to endorse these in the Appellate Authority. But by oversight or for some other reason, my repeatedly emphasized plea for not to invoke section 11 of RTI Act on these queries because of not invoking these sections within five-days time-period as stipulated in the RTI Act, was not mentioned in the Appeal-order dated 21.11.2012. I appeal that learned Appellate Authority may kindly be asked to reveal how the repeatedly emphasized plea of section 11 of RTI Act not being invoked within five days of receipt of RTI petition was not mentioned in the Appeal-order.
Otherwise also, section 11 of RTI Act itself makes it prominently clear that “disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in the disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party”, an aspect completely ignored by the Appellate Authority in his order otherwise discussed in much detail on section 11 of RTI Act. It is definitely an aspect involving great public-interest where a former Indian Airlines Chief wrote to the then Union Cabinet Secretary about himself and other board-members being wrongly pressurized by the then Union Civil Aviation Minister. I may mention that national airliner in response to my earlier RTI petition confirmed misuse of national airliner for benefit of relations of the very same Union Minister. It is to be noted that information exposing the misuse was also provided very reluctantly despite an earlier CIC-verdict on the issue. It is a well known fact that the nation had to pay heavily on heavy losses on the national airliner also due to such reasons of misuse by those on high posts.
I appeal that an early hearing may kindly be fixed to direct Union Cabinet Secretariat for immediate providing information also on query-numbers (5) and (7) together with sought and related documents but now to be provided free-of-cost under section 7(6) of RTI Act. Otherwise also, sought information is already in public-domain through news-reports like the enclosed one with RTI petition. Various CIC-verdicts have allowed disclosure of information also if already highlighted in media.
I specially emphasize for imposition of maximum penalty under section 20 of RTI Act on concerned CPIO who deliberately avoided reply to the petition by unnecessarily writing to various authorities other than the originator of the original communication namely Shri Sunil Arora. If he had to invoke section 11, then he should have done so by writing to Shri Sunil Arora within five days of receipt of RTI petition under intimation to the petitioner as stipulated under RTI Act. I may also mention that the CPIO at Union Cabinet Secretariat usually delays and avoids information even after directions of Honourable Central Information Commission, and therefore also needs departmental proceedings against him to be initiated for being careful in future for responding to RTI petitions in time and with true spirit of transparency. It is shocking that country’s nerve-centre Union Cabinet Secretariat does not have even proper mailing system when the CPIO did not mail notice for hearing earlier scheduled on 12.11.2012.     
I also request for adequate compensation under section 19(8)(b) of RTI Act for mental agony of not being fully recorded in the Appeal Order apart from spending valuable man-hours in long wait and attending the appeal-proceedings at Union Cabinet Secretariat. I appeal that necessary directions may kindly given to concerned ones at Union Cabinet Secretariat under section 19(8)(v) of RTI Act for proper training on the right to information for its officials. It is prayed accordingly.

Humbly submitted
(Guinness Record Holder & RTI Activist)

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