CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2007/00691 dated 2007
Right to Information Act 2005 – Section 18
Complainant: Ms. Gita Dewan Verma
Respondent: New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC)
By an application of 3-9-07 assigned I.D. No. 399, Ms. Gita Dewan Verma of Vasant Kunj, New Delhi applied to the PIO, NDMC seeking the following information:
“Please permit and arrange inspection of all records relating to the following: -
- NDMC decisions to construct the Chanakya Cinema (1960s).
- NDMC decisions to pull down the Chanakya Cinema (current).
I request the above most expeditiously.”
She sought this information in the context of an accompanying representation dated 2-9-07 to Chairman, NDMC suggesting changes in the re- development of Plan on the grounds of Press reports, which “vaguely mention a redevelopment proposal (multiplex etc, for the Games though PPP) about which I am not above to locate any information on NDMC website-not even in RTI section, in which links to ’17-manuals for Estates (II) & (III) departments are not functional and the property appears not to come under Estates (I), Architecture department disclosure does not include project/building-specific information, and disclosure for Project Department ‘dealing with the various projects under PPP model’ is perfunctory.”
To this she received an initial reply dated 30-9-07 from PIO, Estate Department NDMC requesting her to inspect the records after which 290 pages, as desired by appellant, were given to her on 1-10-07.She also received response on 28-9-07 from Shri Ajay Gupta, AE (Projects) and PIO, ProjectDepartment in which, although the letter states that it is a response to her application of 3-9-07, instead of responding to her request to inspect the records, sought to answer the questions raised by her in her suggestions to the Chairman, NDMC Mr. Parimal Rai in her letter of 2-9-07.
Because the information provided by the Estate Department formed only part of the record which did not answer question No.1 at all and only part of question No.2 this entire request for information seems to have been involved in a protracted correspondence between various branches of the NDMC and appellant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma. Ms. Gita Dewan Verma, therefore, moved a complaint before us with the following prayer:
“a. Direct NDMC to give me, on my application dated 3.9.2007 (pp. 5-6 herein) and Architecture Deptt’s letter (9.14 herein), access to all records of its decisions to build Chanakya and subsequent architectural decisions culminating in decision to demolish and, further more, to:
i. Forthwith publish u/s 4(1)(c) & (d) the necessary information for creating a public record of its building.
ii. Ensure and assure accuracy and completeness of its public record, including by obtaining/ confirming information from other authorities.
iii. Under take to not allow demolition till its public record is completed and adequately verified in relation to its building
b. Direct NDMC to forthwith give its decision/ reply in terms of MOUD reference dated 19.11.2007 (p.23 herein) on my request dated 5.11.2007 for public clarification by public presentations and debate about anomalies/ ambiguities in the public information about its redevelopment proposal.
c. Direct and advise NDMC for maintaining full transparency in all its decisions and actions in respect of its Chanakya cinema complex.”
The complaint was heard on 30-1-2008 with the following present:
- Ms. Gita Dewan Verma
- Ms. Minoo Varma
- Shri Ajay Gupta, AE (Projects) NDMC
- Shri Ram Kumar, Dy. Director (Estate) NDMC
- Shri M.L. Tanwar, H.A. Estate, NDMC
- Shri Rajeev Sood, Dy. CA
A set of further documents was submitted by complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma, a copy of which was also provided to respondents. Complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma invited our attention to a letter of 14-1-08 received from the Department of Architecture & Environs, NDMC subsequent to her complaint before us, stating as follows:
“For Question No.1&3, PIO (Project Department) has already replied vide No. 2392/PA/Dir (Proj.) dated 28-9-07.
Regarding Question No.2, Chief Architect’s department reply is as under: -
The Cinema hall in question does not fall under zone F, rather it is in zone-D and in accordance to the approved zonal plan of zone-D in existence the land use of the land underneath the cinema hall is commercial. Redevelopment of re-building of any commercial building on a plot of commercial land use, as another or same of land use does not require change of land use and reflection of the same in zonal plan.”
The other documents submitted by Ms Verma are with regard to media conjecture on the demolition of Chanakya Cinema, which she stated has resulted from the failure of NDMC to go public in a matter that should otherwise have earned public appreciation.
Shri Rajiv Sood, Dy. C.A. submitted that documents concerned of which inspection was sought by complainant Ms Verma cover several departments of the NDMC. However, NDMC has no objection to disclosure of the information sought by appellant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma.
The issue before us is simple: complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma had asked for inspection of records, only part of which ha thus far been allowed. We are not satisfied with the argument that the matter concerned several departments of the NDMC. The NDMC is one public authority and it is the responsibility of the PIO receiving an application to collate the information sought and supply the same to the applicant. Shri Ajay Gupta, AE (Projects) NDMC and PIO will now collate the information on both questions so that complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma may inspect the full record concerned. This exercise will be completed within 15 working days of the date of receipt of this decision notice under intimation to Shri Pankaj K. P. Shreyaskar, Joint Registrar, Central Information Commission.
In plea a) i) her prayer in her complaint before us as cited above, Ms. Gita Dewan Verma has pleaded for publication of the information regarding construction and demolition of Chanakya Cinema u/s 4 (1) (c) and (d). The sub- sections read as under:
Sec. 4 (1)
(c) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;
(d) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons.
Clearly the decisions taken and policy formulated in connection with Chanakya Cinema, both for its construction and its demolition are matters of concern to the public and merit uploading on the website. In this context, at the time of placing the records before appellant for inspection the PIO would be well advised to also obtain her suggestions on the manner of so doing, since complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma is herself a seasoned planner with experience of application of the RTI Act since its inception. It is presumed that if this is done effectively, the remaining issues raised in the prayer of Ms. Gita Dewan Verma in her complaint before us and as cited above, will also be met since the School of Planning & Architecture has, according to complainant,already done considerable study on both the permission to construct and architectural facilities of the Chanakya Cinema.
We have found above that the information sought by complainant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma has not been provided. Although complainant has not pleaded for penalty the matter has been examined u/s 20 (1). The response both from the Estates Department and the Department of Architecture & Environs and Director (Projects) though incomplete has been given on time. The issue before us therefore, is whether the request for information has been “malafidely denied” or incorrect and incomplete information “knowingly given”. As a consequence of having heard all sides in this matter we are of the view that the failure has resulted from incompetence and not malafide. Therefore, while no penalty will lie, Chairman, NDMC is directed to so streamline the processing of applications under the RTI Act as to obviate such a systemic failure in future and to ensure that all such information as is mandated u/s 4 (1) sub-sections (a) (b) (c) and (d) is actually placed on the website, so that civil society is saved from the necessity of having to move applications under the RTI Act to obtain information which should normally be in the public domain.
Announced in the hearing. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied against application and payment of the charges prescribed under the Act to the CPIO of this Commission.