India

Experts Find Anti-People Features in Proposed RTI Maharashtra Appeal Procedure Rules

BeyondHeadlines News Desk

A group of prominent citizens and RTI experts from Mumbai and Pune unearthed anti-people features in the proposed RTI Maharashtra Appeal Procedure Rules that the state government may pass in coming months.

Signed by many concerned Mumbaikars, a letter was sent on 17 June to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and other concerned officials. The letter expresses serious concern with the new RTI Appeal Procedure Rules that the government seems poised to pass in the near future.

Experts Find Anti-People Features in Proposed RTI Maharashtra Appeal Procedure RulesVijay Kumbhar, an RTI activist from Pune was the whistleblower, who first found out that the draft rules were doing the rounds of Mantralaya. He raised an alarm since the government stealthily amended Maharashtra’s RTI Rules (which are distinct from RTI Appeal Procedure Rules) in January 2012.

The draft appeal procedure rules were analyzed by five prominent activists of Mumbai, who also contributed to the drafting of the letter. In addition to categorically stating what’s wrong with the proposed Appeal Procedure rules, the letter suggest what anti-people features need to be removed.

“We hope that the Chief Minister issues a clarification concerning Maharashtra Government’s intentions concerning these rules. Otherwise, in days to come, it may be necessary for activists to come to the streets and protest,” stated the activists.

A copy of the letter is provided below for Beyondheadlines readers;

To

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,

Chief Minister of Maharashtra,

6th floor, Mantralaya,

Madame Cama Road,

Mumbai 400032

 

Copy to:

1. Shri Jayant Banthia, Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

2. Principle Secretary – General Administration Dept.

3. Principle Secretary – Law and Judiciary Dept.

17th June, 2013

 

Please Remove Harmful Provisions of Proposed RTI Appeal Procedure Rules

Dear Sir,

We refer to the proposed Maharashtra State Information Commission (Appeal Procedure) Rules that has come out into the public domain because of the efforts of some leading RTI activists. Ideally, we should be giving feedback on a finalized draft put up on the government’s website. But since the RTI Rules were stealthily amended in January 2012 without soliciting public feedback, we fear that Maharashtra Government may similarly pass these Appeal Procedure Rules. Hence, as a precaution, we are giving you feedback based on a document that was discovered recently, and appears to have been created in May 2012.

We strongly feel that some provisions are against the public interest, or are unlawful as they violate specific sections of the RTI Act. If passed in their present form, they will discourage the common man of Maharashtra from using the RTI Act, and will sharply reduce the average success rates of RTI applications.

In this copy of the proposed appeal procedure rules, we have highlighted our points of concern in bold-red types: http://tinyurl.com/proposed-appeal-procedur-rules

 

Anti-People Rules & Specific Changes Needed:

1)  RULE NO. 4(VI), “ACCOMPANIMENTS IN MEMORANDUM OF APPEAL, requires the RTI appellant to file an affidavit with additional personal details e.g. “name of father / husband, age- yrs., service /business”. Sir, this rule is a blatant violation of Section 6(2) of RTI Act 2005, which states, “An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give… any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.” Also, this affidavit only burdens the RTI appellant (who is quite often a common man, and not an experienced RTI activist) with a meaningless, difficult and costly legal procedure. Change needed: Provision for affidavit should be deleted. In compliance with the RTI Act, no extra personal details must be asked, other than the ones needed to contact him.

2)  RULE NO 6. “SERVICE OF THE NOTICE BY COMMISSION” says that the Notice for hearing will be issued (as far as possible) at least 15 days, before the date of hearing fixed by the commission.” Sir, due to postal delays, it is a common experience that the notice that is issued only 15 days in advance reaches the appellant on the same day or the day after the hearing. For outstation appellants especially, this leaves no time for booking railway tickets and making necessary travel arrangements, and therefore, it sharply reduces the availability of the remedy of second appeal hearing. (Sometimes, the notice of hearing is back-dated and dispatched only a couple of days before the hearing date.) For those who are doing jobs or pursuing a professional career, this allows no time to make a leave application etc, and many people fail to appear for the hearing, which is then disposed off ex-parte. Change needed: Make provision for notice to be served (and not issued) 30 to 60 days before the hearing date, to give people sufficient time to book their railway tickets, apply for casual leave, etc. Ample allowance of time should be made, so that the hearing is at least 30 days after the date of acknowledgement of the notice (and not after the date of issue).

3)  RULE NO 6. “SERVICE OF THE NOTICE BY COMMISSION” also says that notice “will be served to the appellant, state public information officer , first appellate authority or the third party in any of the following modes, namely:

i. service by the party itself

ii. by hand delivery (dasti) through process delivery

iii. head of the office or department

iv. by displaying program of the hearing on notice board

v. by displaying the programme of hearing on website;

vi. by registered post with acknowledgement”

Sir, if the State Information Commissioners decide to only post the date of hearing on the notice boards, lakhs of appellants (common citizens with jobs and businesses, retired senior citizens or busy housewives) will have to travel to the local SIC’s office in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Amravati, etc. to check the notice boards every week! Alternatively, if the SIC posts it only on the website, then lakhs of people without net access (especially senior citizens and people in the hinterlands) will suffer hardships. Change needed: Service by hand delivery or registered post with acknowledgement, as well as serving notice by email and SMS, must be done compulsorily. Displaying on notice board and website must be done in addition to this, but not as an alternative to this.

4)  RULE NO. 7, “DOCUMENTS TO BE FILED BY RESPONDENTS” states that the concerned Public Information Officer (PIO), First Appellate Authority (FAA) and Third Party are required to send copy of their rejoinder to the State Information Commission, but not to the RTI appellant. This is inequitable and unfair, because as per Rule no. 3, “Memorandum Of Appeal”, the duty is cast on the appellant to serve a copy of his appeal to the concerned public information officer, first appellate authority, etc.Change needed: In Rule no. 7, cast the duty on all respondents to serve a copy of their rejoinder to the appellant simultaneously with the Commission.

5)  RULE NO. 8. “PERSONAL PRESENCE OF APPELLANT” says in point (1), “The appellant or complainant… may… be present in person or through his duly authorized representative in an exceptional case with the approval of the State Information Commission at the time of hearing…” This implies that the appellant cannot authorize any RTI activist or legal consultant to appear on his behalf at his own discretion; he must do so only at the pleasure of the State Information Commissioner. It also means that the appellant cannot attend hearings accompanied by an RTI activist or legal consultant who will give him advice and moral support. This places the appellant/ordinary citizen at a psychological disadvantage, as the public authority is usually represented by two or more persons i.e. Public Information Officer, Assistant PIO, First Appellate Authority, and often an advocate also! This provision is discriminatory, and it imposes grave limitations on the right to send (or be accompanied by) an authorized representative. It will surely be abused to prevent RTI activists with good knowledge of the Act from representing some citizens who cannot speak for themselves. Change needed: Delete the words, “in an exceptional case with the approval of the State Information Commission”. The right for legal representation must be largely unconditional. The appeal procedure rules must make it clear that the appellant is at complete liberty to send on his behalf, or be accompanied by, an advisor or colleague.

6)  RULE NO. 9. “PROCEDURE FOR HEARING OF APPEAL” does not include Video Conferencing or Phone-conferencing as an option given for appearance for hearing. Please note, Central Information Commission has been allowing appellants all over India to depose by video-conferencing or on the phone (with the SIC’s speaker-phone on) for many years. Sir, Maharashtra is a technologically advanced state! Video conference and phone-conference facilities are crucial as appeals concerning Mantralaya etc. are heard by the Chief Information Commissioner in Mumbai only, and people in remote areas find it difficult to travel 12 to 24 hours to Mumbai for hearings. Change needed: Video conference and phone conference facilities must be made available in all SIC benches of Maharashtra.

7)  ANNEXURE A, POINT NO. (11) requires the appellant to file “Declaration that the case relating to Information sought for, has not been filed previously/pending with any court/any Authority.” Sir, it appears that this provision is for preventing citizens from filing a complaint concerning denial of information before the consumer forum. It is an undeniable fact that by paying for information, a citizen becomes a “consumer”, and is therefore entitled for remedy under the Consumer Protection Act. For blocking such a remedy, this proposed rule seeks to place an unlawful limitation on the common man’s right to file a second appeal which is enshrined in the RTI Act. Please note that as per Section 3 of Consumer Protection Act, this Act is not a replacement of any other law to settle disputes, but in addition to whatever law or other provisions are available. Article 14 & Article 39A of the Constitution guarantees an individual access to all avenues of Justice; but this proposed rule seeks to curtail the rights of the citizen in this respect. Hence, Point no. 11 of Annexure A is a rule that goes beyond the ambit of the RTI Act, and unconstitutional. Change needed: Please delete this rule.

In a nutshell, Sir, you should emulate the Central Appeal Procedure Rules, which are fair and lawful: http://tinyurl.com/CIC-RTI-appl-procedr-rules2012

 

ADDITIONS RECOMMENDED:

A)  ADD A RULE/PROVISION FOR UNIQUE TRACKING NUMBER. Every appeal or complaint to the State Information Commission should be provided a Unique Tracking Number, whose status can be tracked via the Commission’s website, via SMS Information System, or via phone call to a helpline. As Maharashtra is a technologically advanced state, the citizens of Maharashtra may legitimately expect such facilities.

B)  FRAME MORE RULES FOR RESPONDENTS TO SHOW THAT THEY ACTED DILIGENTLY TO PROVIDE INFORMATION AS PER RTI ACT 2005. Currently, it appears that the rules are made for binding the appellant, while leaving the respondents (i.e. the public authorities) free to adopt any tactics at their disposal. As per these draft rules, the respondents are not required to do anything beyond filing the bare minimum of documents outlined in Rule no. 7. Even at the hearing, many Information Commissioners barely even demand an explanation from them; instead, Information Commissioners and 3-4 respondents together put the appellant on the defensive, and he is required to justify why he filed second appeal! Please note that RTI Act 2005 casts the duty on the PIOs and the public authorities to act diligently, and it casts the onus on them to show that they acted diligently to provide information. Kindly frame proper rules to ensure a level playing field between the appellants and the public authorities.

C)  ADD A RULE THAT APPEAL/COMPLAINT SHALL NOT BE DISMISSED WITHOUT HEARING, EVEN IF APPELLANT FAILS TO COME TO HEARING. Currently, many appellants are shocked to know that because of their absence (which often happens because the notice of hearing reached them late), their appeal or complaint was dismissed! Please make a rule that in case of the appellant’s absence, hearing shall be conducted as scheduled, and ex-parte order shall be given based on the merits of the case, as argued in the second-appeal petition or complaint.

Sir, we request you to CIRCULATE THE FINAL DRAFT OF THE APPEAL PROCEDURE RULES AND SOLICIT PUBLIC FEEDBACK, and incorporate such feedback before passing them. Leading up to the 2014 general elections, such transparent steps will show your government in a good light.

Please take such steps to inspire confidence among the community of law-abiding citizens (commonly known as RTI activists), who are using the sunshine law to actively uphold accountability and good governance in the country. Simultaneously, take steps to ensure that the common people, who are using the RTI Act to resolve their own grievances and disputes, are facilitated to do so. In the long run, this will enhance voters’ confidence in your government.

Yours faithfully,

1)      Mohammed Afzal, Landlord | Andheri West, Mumbai  | mohdafzal1963@gmail.com  | 9820490435

2)      G R Vora, Pathologist | Kings Circle, Mumbai | grvora1@gmail.com | 9869195785

3)      Prashant Uikey, E.R. Officer | Mulund, Mumbai | prashant.vikey@gmail.com  |  9769612555

4)      Krishnaraj Rao, Content Creator | Borivli East, Mumbai | krish.kkphoto@gmail.com | 9821588114

5)      Sulaiman Bhimani, Interior Designer | Bandra West, Mumbai | designerstouch11@gmail.com | 9323642081

6)      Dr Adrian Almeida, Mumbai,  Cell: 09820033465

7)      Ajay Marathe, Thane, Cell : 09322215443

8)      Jeetendra Ghatge, Mumbai,  dream.jeet@gmail.com

9)      Mohan Siroya, Andheri E, Mumbai, Cell: 09322211610,  mohansiroya@hotmail.com

10)   Clarence Pinto,  Govt. employee, Santacruz East, Mumbai, Cell: 09869649138, clarencepi@gmail.com

11)   Rajiv Patel, Mumbai, rpatel.fffie@gmail.com

12)   Adv. Abhay Patil, Pachora, Maharashtra, asalil2001@gmail.com

13)   Mazhar Vahanvaty, Mumbai, mehhv11052@gmail.com

14)   Ms Shehnaz Kader, Social worker, Andheri West, Mumbai,  shahnazkader@hotmail.com | Cell: 9930657599

15)   Sharad Phadke, Mumbai, sharadphadke@gmail.com

16)   Ms Hema Sampat, RTI activist, Kalbadevi, Mumbai, Cell:  9820508140,  hemasampat@gmail.com

17)   Sridharan Kumaraswamy, Santacruz E, Mumbai, Cell: 09820652816, sridharanai@gmail.com

18)   M D Kini, Retd. Executive, Andheri E, Mumbai, kinis68@gmail.com, 09967843886.

19)   Mukund Parikh, RTI activist, Mumbai, mkppm@yahoo.co.in, Cell: 09967830099

20)   Nilesh Kale, Activist, Mumbai, nileshkale@hotmail.com

21)   Vijay Meghani, Banker, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai, Ph. 22153102, vvmeghani@gmail.com

22)   Bimal Khemani,  RTI activist, Aligarh (UP),  Cell:  09359724625, bimal.khemani@gmail.com

23)   Deepak Sethi, Shipping Professional . Pune . dsethi05@hotmail.com, Cell: 09822477438

24)   D S Ranga Rao, Retd. Govt. Servant, Bhivandi, Maharashta, Cell: 09969069144, dsrangarao@gmail.com

25)   Vijay Menon, Activist, Mumbai,  vijay.menonvs9@gmail.com

26)   Bhaskar Prabhu, RTI activist, Mumbai, Cell :  09892102424,  mahitiadhikarmanch@gmail.com.

27)   Sunish Subramanian, Animal welfare activist, Bhandup, Mumbai, Cell: 09833480388, E-mail: call9833480388@gmail.com

28)   Marshello Mendonca / Sr. Citizen / Andheri East / 9869692724, E-mail : macha_mendonca@rediffmail.com

29)   Vishal Kudchadkar | Software Engineer | Los Angeles | 323 632 6479 | vishalk@gmail.com

30)   Raj Paliwal, Kalyan, Maharashtra, rpaliwal786@gmail.com, Sr. Mktg. Manager.

31)   Awdhesh Kumar,  IT Professional – Ulhasnagar –     jhajee9999@yahoo.co.in

32)   Utsal Karani, Hon. Secy. Janhit Manch, Vile Parle W, Mumbai – 56, Cell: 09324991030  Email-  tarajvpd@gmail.com

33)   Pawan Duggirala, Merchant Navy, Bhiwandi,  pawanrao5693@gmail.com,  Cell: 9969 8427 29

34)   Pearl Goswami, Retd. Airline Exec., CHS activist, Bandra W, Mumbai, Email : pearlngoswami@gmail.com, Cell: 09892310000.

35)   Ramesh P Jadhav, Sr. Citizen, Andheari W, Mumbai 58, Cell :  09820086238, Email:  rameshpjadhav@yahoo.com.

36)   Ashok Dhingreja, dhingreja@rediffmail.com, CHS activist, Mumbai.

37)   Kishore  Samtani, Chembur, samtani.kishore@gmail.com, Cell: 09833517514.

38)   Shahnaz Kader, CHS activist, Mumbai, E-mail : shahnazkader@hotmail.com

39)   A V Shenoy,  Engineer, Opera House, Mumbai, Cell : 09869008409, E-mail: shenoyav@gmail.com

40)   Simpreet Singh, Social activist, Dadar E, Mumbai, Cell: 09969363065, E-mail: simpreetsingh@gmail.com

41)   Raja Bunch, RTI activist, Borivali W, Mumbai 400103, Cell: 09969972283, E-mail: bunch_raja@yahoo.co.in

42)   Claramaria Menezes, Activist, Byculla, Mumbai 8, Cell: 09929955684, E-mail: claremmenezes@gmail.com

43)   Vishnu Rajgadia, Secy. Jharkhand RTI Forum, Cell: 09431120500, Ranchi-Jharkhand, E-mail: vranchi@gmail.com

44)   C J Saldanha, Personal Exec., Andheri W, Mumbai, Cell: 09870704041, E-mail: meenali88@yahoo.com

45)   Kanwarjit Singh, Retd., Juhu, Mumbai, Cell: 09833062713, E-mail: chhachhi@gmail.com

46)   V K Deshpande, Activist, Mumbai, vasatkdeshpande@gmail.com

47)   Madhukar Shah, Activst, Navi Mumbai, Cell: 09322505188, E-mail: madhukar.m.shah@gmail.com

48)   Rajendra P Bansal, Ex. Dy. Dir. Gen., DoT, Govt. of India, Navi Mumbai, Cell: 09869471624, E-mail: rajendra.p.bansal@gmail.com.

49)   S K Nangia, Retd., RTI activist, Mumbai, Email: sknangia2004@yahoo.com

50)   Dr Manoj Sangoi, Doctor, Mulund W, Mumbai, manojsangoi@yahoo.co.in, Cell: 09821098168.

51)   Anoop Awasthi, President, Legal Rights Society, Ex Indian Navy, RTI/Human rights defender, Pune, E-mail: legalrightssociety@gmail.com, 9921234399

52)   Omnath Garg, Activist, Mumbai, E-mail:  omnath.garg@gmail.com

53)   Krishna Garg, Activist, Mumbai.

54)   Sunish Subramanian, Animal welfare activist, Bhandup, Mumbai,  Cell: 09833480388,  E-mail: sunish9833480388@gmail.com

55)   Ravi Srivastava, Cyber law Expert, E-mail: ravi4354@gmail.com, Mumbai.

56)   N Thiagarajan, Vikhroli E, Mumbai, mat.thiagarajan@gmail.com, Cell: 09820541864

57)   Sumit Gala, Business CEO, Mulund W, Mumbai, sumit110876@gmail.com, Cell: 09223351954

58)   Ashok Mehta, Business, Matunga, Mumbai 19, 09821651732, E-mail: ashokmehtajpn@yahoo.com

59)   Shailendra Bhagat, Activist, Dombivli, Cell: mob-9869406487, Email- shailes6@gmail.com

60)   Phiroze R Dessai, Activist, Dadar, Mumbai – 14, Cell: 09821038754, Cell: prdess@yahoo.com

61)   Gopal C Mehta, MD of Pvt. Co., Juhu, Mumbai – 49, Cell: 09820141178, gopal@glorimexind.com

62)   Francis Monteiro, Kandivali E, Mumbai – 400101, Cell: 09702046610, E-mail: francismonteiro@gmail.com

63)   Subramanian K, Activist, Mumbai, E-mail: subbu.k09@gmail.com

64)   Malcolm Rodrigues, Activist, Andheri, Cell: 09323120034, E-mail: rodrigues.malcolm@gmail.com

65)   D Sukumar, ALM Member – FNCF, Businessman, Hindu Colony, Dadar, Mumbai, Cell: 09322210555, E-mail: doraisuk@gmail.com

66)   Vikas C Dixit, Research Scientist, Cell: 09987568773, E-mail: vikasd.1012@gmail.com

67)   R B Popat, Ch. Accountant, Dadar E, Mumbai – 14, Cell: 09769259566, E-mail: rbpopat@gmail.com

68)   Cynthia Fernandes, Bandra W, Mumbai – 50, Activist, E-mail: cynthiaqueenie@hotmail.com

69)   Deepak Varma, Retd., Borivali W, Mumbai – 92, Cell: 09892212454, E-mail: dipak.varma@gmail.com

70)   Saumya Bahadur, Activist, Mira-Bhayandar, Cell: 09833383017, E-mail: bahadursaumya@gmail.com

71)   Jaypal Shetty, ALM member (FNCF), Matunga (E), joykrish@gmail.com , 97028 74794.

72)   Ramchandra Yemitkar , Businessman, Lower Parel Mumbai – Cell – 9819109698, E-mail mail_sahi.yram@gmail.com

73)   Ganesh Pisat, Business | Mahim, Mumbai | shriganeshpisat@gmail.com |

Cell: 9820051836

74)   Reggie Peter Dias| Retired PSU, Officer | Santa-Cruz East Mumbai | 9869384304 | reggiepeterdias@gmail.com

75)   Dr Y T Oke, Retd. Medical Consultant, Sahar Rd., Mumbai – 99, Ph. 28230296, E-mail: oke.yeshwant@gmail.com

76)   Janak Keshriya, President- Youth Against Corruption, Mulund W, Mumbai – 92, E-mail: jskeshriya@gmail.com, Cell: 9821344673/9224221010.

77)   Manish Gala, RTI Activist, Member of Tarun Mitra Mandal, Mumbai, E-mail: minal_metals@yahoo.co.in

78)   Brijesh Sharma, ITService , A/403,  Jupiter A, PK Road, Mira Road,  brijesh100_Sharma@yahoo,com, Cell : 9322683456

79)   Komesh Chaurasia ,  Koparkhairne,  28 yrs,  Activist, Cell:- 8451044116, e mial id- iackomesh@gmail.com

80)   Sandeep Chhajer, Nerul, Activist, Navi Mumbai, Cell:  9619724414 sandeep_bkn2001@yahoo.co.in

81)   Ramesh Kalhan,  Media professional,  Mira Road,  Cell : 9892117364,  Email ID : rameshkalhan@gmail.com

82)   Anoop Awasthi, President, Legal Rights Society, Ex Indian Navy, RTI/Human rights defender, Pune, legalrightssociety@gmail.com, 9921234399

83)   Ravi Raibhandare, Interior Designer, Nerul, Navi Mumbai, Cell: 09979602487, E-mail: raibhandare@yahoo.com

84)   Samir Zaveri, RTI activist, Mumbai, Cell: 09820224288, E-mail: szaveri71@gmail.com

85)   Mayank Gandhi, Chief Co-ordinator (Maharashtra) Aam Aadmi Party, Cell: 09920788909, E-mail: mayankgandhi04@gmail.com

86)   Manas Kundu, Professional Engr | Andheri East, Mumbai  | manas_kundu@hotmail.com  | Cell: 9821 83 93 92

87)   Adv. Chandan Athani, Legal Consultant, Vile Parle E, Mumbai – 57, Cell: 9029033660, E-mail: chandan.athani@gmail.com

88)   Bhupendrapratap Singh, Businessman, Kandivali W, Mumbai – 67, Cell: 0808004588, E-mail: bhupendrakawkins@gmail.com

89)   U C Bhartiya, Retd. BARC Scientific Officer, Belapur, Mumbai – 400614, Cell: 09920769643, E-mail: umesh.bhartiya@gmail.com

 

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