The (Late) RTI Act
The Right to Information Act has been murdered!
Long live the Right to Information!
The Right to Information Act, 2005 got the President’s assent and became law on 15 Jun 2005. The next 120 days were given to public authorities to organize their records and get ready to provide information to citizens when the law will be available to them to seek such information from 12 Oct 2005. However genetic disorders ensured that this law was born dead. Though no formal death certificate has been issued, people are deluded into believing that it is still something useful. Useful it indeed is, but not for getting any information. Even when the idiots and traitors amoung public servants continue to flout the law and deny information sought the never say die activists in this field have found a new use for this law- to identify atleast three idiots and traitors amoung public servants- the Public Information Officer, the First Appellate Authority (if the head of the public authority is not the FAA, then the head of the public authority also!) and the Information Commissioner!
A wit had quipped long back that India was ruled by her clerks. Today the subversion of the RTI Act proves that he was right. Because, the only people who have gained by this Act are some of the worst idiots and traitors amoung these very clerks who got rehabilitated as information commissioners, post their retirement from regular employment. And it is these very information commissioners who have ensured that the law was still born, as far as the public is concerned!
The very first (Chief) information commissioner to be appointed was Wajahat Habibulla who had retired as a Secretary to the Government of India. Undoubtedly he was from the Indian Administrative Service and the ‘honour’ of proving how much of an idiot/ traitor a member of this cadre could be goes to none other than this country’s 1st CIC! The events that led to this conclusion are as follows.
Realising how the consumer ‘courts’ established under the Consumer Protection Act were cheating the consumers, NGOs and activists working in this area got together and formed a Save Consumer Courts Action Council (SCCAC)under the leadership of Sri Ayyappan Nair, publisher of a periodical Upabhoktrhu Sabdam (later christened Upabhokthru Jagratha) from Thiruvanathapuram). In a case filed by his Consumer Vigilance Centre against the then President, Hassan Pillai, of the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (KSCDRC) the order of the High Court of Kerala (Consumer Vigilance Centre Vs State of Kerala, 2004(3) KLT 1073) clearly observed that the President, a former member of the same court, had mislead the court by stating in his affidavit that he had not declared summer holidays for the Commission when the records showed that he had indeed declared it. SCCAC submitted a complaint on 17/8/2005, to the President, M B Shaw, of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), that Hassan Pillai should be removed from office on this ground (of perjury). There being no response, an application was filed with NCDRC on 24/3/2006 under the RTI Act, seeking information on action taken on the complaint. There being no response to it either, a complaint was filed on 6/5/2006, with the Central Information Commission (as provided in Sec 18(1)(c) the RTI Act). (Meanwhile a letter dated 17/4/2006 was received from the NCDRC directing the complainant to approach the State government. But it should be noted that this letter neither referred to the application under the RTI Act nor could the response be construed as a reply to that application!) And then comes the googly from the CIC! A letter dated 25/7/2006 and signed by its director Nisha Singh said that the complaint (against the central public authority!) was forwarded to the Palat Mohandas, Secretary (actually he was the Chief information Commissioner) of Kerala State information Commission!
The matter was taken up with Wajahat Habibulla and he responded with an e mail on 6/8/2006 stating that he was calling for the records and necessary action would be taken. But no, there was no action taken nor any further communication from the CIC. So a copy of the complaint was submitted again on 14/11/2006. Horror of horrors! The reply, dated 21/2/2007, I got left no room for doubt that these public servants who are living off the taxpayer (and looting him otherwise too) were amoung the biggest idiots and traitors on the land! The reply read as follows: Since the appointments to the state consumer disputes redressal commission are made by the state government the complaint should be filed with the state information commission! (A gentle reminder: the complaint under the RTI Act was filed with the Central Information Commission because there had been no response to the application submitted to the NCDRC, a central public authority!)
Given the repeated nature of the idiotic action of the central information commissioner a complaint was submitted to the President to remove Habibulla under Sec 14(3)(d) of the RTI Act. But since it would have been the same clerical mafia that would have dealt with this complaint also and approaching the court was a remedy worse than the ailment the pursuit for information and justice ended there.
Even before the Right to Information Act , 2005 was enacted by the Central Government many states had enacted some version of much earlier, including some of the most backward states. But Kerala which prided itself as the 1st fully literate state in the country was not amoung them! Worse, even this central law has been subverted beyond recognition and by none other than the information commissioners, led by its 1st Chief Information Commissioner, Palat Mohandas, who had been the Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala till the previous day! The plight of the RTI Act in the State had started even with the appointment of Palat Mohandas. Grabbing the opportunity to live at taxpayers’ cost for another five years, Palat Mohandas got himself appointed as CIC even while holding the office of the Chief Secretary and when the illegality of the act was questioned publicly the post was left vacant till he retired! He took over as CIC on 21/12/2005 after having left the law on the limb for more than 6 months! And, suffice to say, throughout the next five years, till he demitted office on 1/10/2010, he was only digging nails on the coffin of the law he had been tasked, equipped, empowered and paid to enforce! For their incompetence and treachery, Mohandas and his fellow commissioners were sought to be removed by the Governor under Sec 17(3)(d) of the RTI Act. A complaint was filed by an activist, P M Ravindran, on 7/11/2007 and by a collective on 12/10/2008. But both these were used as the parcel in the game of passing the parcel and finally vanished. But the complaint submitted during the first Public Contact Program held by the then Chief Minister Ommen Chandy was pursued doggedly till a reply dated 1/6/2012, signed by another Mohandas , Under Secretary, General Administration Department, informed that since the information commission was a constitutional authority the government could not interfere in its activities!
I am reproducing herewith Sections 17 and 28 of the RTI Act. Readers should specifically note sections 17(3)(d) and 28(1)(d).
17 (1) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (3), the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner shall be removed from his office only by order of the Governor on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the Governor, has on inquiry, reported that the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed.
(2) The Governor may suspend from office, and if deem necessary prohibit also from attending
the office during inquiry, the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information
Commissioner in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court under
sub-section (1) until the Governor has passed orders on receipt of the report of the
Supreme Court on such reference.
(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the Governor may by order
remove from office the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information
Commissioner if a State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information
Commissioner, as the case may be,—
(a) is adjudged an insolvent; or
(b) has been convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the Governor, involves moral
(c) engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his
(d) is, in the opinion of the Governor, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
(e) has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his
functions as the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information
(4) If the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner in any
way, concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the
Government of the State or participates in any way in the profit thereof or in any benefit or
emoluments arising therefrom otherwise than as a member and in common with the other
members of an incorporated company, he shall, for the purposes of sub-section (1), be
deemed to be guilty of misbehaviour.
28 (1) The competent authority may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules to carry
out the provisions of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules
may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:—
(i) the cost of the medium or print cost price of the materials to be disseminated under
sub-section (4) of section 4;
(ii) the fee payable under sub-section (1) of section 6;
(iii) the fee payable under sub-section (1) of section 7; and
(iv) any other matter which is required to be, or may be, prescribed.
There are two quotes one would like to recollect. The first one, translated from Malayalam, states roughly to the effect that those who do not assert their authority will find themselves being walked all over by scoundrels and the other one states that those who condemn politics as the last refuge of scoundrels are bound to be ruled by scoundrels! Of more pertinence is what an exasperated apex court judge commented ‘criminals like you should be hung from the nearest lamp post, but I do not have the power to pass such an order, hence…’! Now what can one say about politicians who are mere puppets in the hands of their clerks who are idiots ad traitors?
Tailpiece: Uttar Pradhesh had a former high court judge, M A Khan, as its first chief information commissioner. The controversial Chief Minister of UP, Ms Mayavati, got him removed from that office. It was reported later that he committed suicide after almost one year. In Kerala a former DIG of Police, Natarajan, was suspended for interfering in an investigation involving a land deal. For the next three years he did not do even a penny worth of job but Ommen Chandy led Government had paid him Rs 32 lakhs as regular payment during the period of suspension till the date of report!
P M Ravindran
Co ordinator, Save Right to Information Campaign
E mail: email@example.com
SAVE RIGHT TO INFORMATION CAMPAIGN
Save Right To Information. Use Right To Information Act.
Get information or......
Expose at least three idiots/traitors* among public servants!
1. The Public Information Officer
2. The First Appellate Authority (and the head of public authority
where the head of the public authority is not the FAA!) and
3. The Information Commissioner
*An idiot is one who does not know the job s/he is getting paid to do and a traitor is one who knows it but does not do it!