Test case of Critical flaw - s.6 RTI without s.4 data: Complaint application for upgrading access to MOUD-DOE data on govt staff housing to RTI
- Complaint to Central Information Commission under s.18 of RTI Act, 2005
- Rejoinder, submissions on Directorate of Estate’s Comments on the Complaint
- Decision, Appeal No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 Dated:17-5-2006
- Hearing, [mpisgmedia] MOUD database on govt acco: CIC decision
- Errrors, request for review for correction of errors in CIC Decision dated 13.07.2006
- Contempt, request for response to application dt 17.07.06 (in view of non-compliance and s.6 application by IC)
1. Complaint to Central Information Commission under s.18 of RTI Act, 2005
through Gita Dewan Verma … Complainants
The Complainants respectfully submit that:-
The Complainants rely on the following among other grounds:
Complainant 4 is authorized representative of Complainants 1 & 2 in their 2nd Appeals submitted to the Commission and co-petitioner in the writ petition (CWP 6824-25/2006, Rajinder Singh & Anr v/s UOI & Ors) that Complainant 3 had to file in pendency of his 2nd Appeal and is making this urgent Complaint on behalf of Complainants 1, 2 & 3 with their concurrence besides on her own behalf.
2. Rejoinder, Submissions on Directorate of Estate’s Comments on the Complaint
It is prayed that the Complaint be allowed in view of the above additional submissions.
3. Decision, Appeal No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 Dated:17-5-2006
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Appeal No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 Dated:17-5-2006
Right to Information Act – Section 18
Name of the Complainants : i) Shri Nizamuddin
Name of Public Authority : Directorate of Estates & Ministry of Urban Development, New Delhi
The applicant has filed a complaint on 14-5-2006 against alleged violation of Section 4 of the RTI Act by the Directorate of Estates. The complaint is with regard to information placed on the website which, in the view of the complainant, is not in conformity with Section 4 (1) that requires that the Public Authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated. It is acknowledged in the complaint that the Directorate of Estates primarily deals with the Government accommodation pool but in para-4 of the complaint points to a number of deficiencies in the information available on the site i.e. :
Applicants have, therefore, complained that Government employees entitled to the accommodation have been inconvenienced and have therefore prayed that Directorate of Estates and its nodal Ministry of Urban Development be directed to forthwith upgrade levels of information access to be in compliance with the RTI Act, and this be taken up urgently.
In response to the complaint notice issued by this Commission to the Directorate of Estates on June 12, 2006 that Public Authority has responded through a letter of 23rd June, 2006 with a reply on four paragraphs raised in the complaint, indicating that measures are being undertaken to replace the existing website with a reconstructed one being designed by NIC, which will replace information on GAMS systems through the EAWAS website on the web address http://estates.nic.in. In her rejoinder to these comments complainant No.4 Smt. Gita Dewan Verma has objected to her complaint being treated as a suggestion, but has in fact requested for compensation options under ground
(H) of the complaint which reads as follows:
H. “Because Government employees in the communities of Complainants 1 to 3 have been greatly disadvantaged by failure of DOE to make proactive disclosure under s.4 of RTI Act to make publicly accessible in a meaningful way the information contained in the GAMS database, ie information intrinsically connected to enabling them to avail entitlements to Government accommodation. It is pertinent that their communities as a whole are disadvantaged by the failure of other authorities of the MoUD to implement legal schemes for housing entitlements in accordance with the Master Plan. As a consequence of these failures, they face options only of illegal re-housing, at times so grossly sub-standard as to be fatal. They face, therefore, not only hardship but also risk of deaths, including of children.”
Appellants are represented at the hearing by Ms. Gita Dewan Verma. PIO Shri S.K. Chakrabarty, Dy. Director (Computers) of the Directorate of Estates is also present. Ms. Verma once again reiterated that the complaint may not be treated as suggestion and that Section 4 of the Act not having been complied with even a year after the enactment of the law cannot be condoned. When it was pointed out to her that u/s 4 (1) “a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources” had been allowed for computerization and connection through networking all over the country from different systems so that access to such information is facilitated, she responded by arguing that in this case the records were already computerized and therefore, they needed to be made RTI compliant in a manner and form which facilitated the right to information under this Act. She reiterated her arguments that data base information, at present, was not meaningfully accessible. The PIO welcomed the arguments of the complainant, and offered to include her in the consultation process for improving the website. However, appellant Ms. Verma objected that she did not wish to be treated as privileged, but only that information should be supplied in the manner mandated by the Act.
The PIO Shri Chakrabarty committed before this Commission that the reconstructed website incorporating the points raised by the complainant would be on-line by the close of July. The complainant is welcome to inspect the site either in the office of the Director of Estates or through her own access and make any suggestions for improvement. However, since Section 4 (2) and (3) of the RTI Act calls for continuous improvement in keeping with the resources available, we fail to find any reason to hold the Directorate of Estates in violation of that Section, since we find that they are endeavouring to keep pace with technological development so as to ensure the updating of their information.
Under para (H) of the complaint quoted above the complaint is that because the Department has not updated their information other organizations of the MoUD have also not done so, thus causing damage and risk. However, in this complaint there is no prayer for damages which has been asked for by applicant no 4 in her rejoinder to the response of the Directorate of Estates to the complaint notice. This was also not pursued in the hearing. Since the Directorate of Estates has admitted to the shortcomings, complained against and committed to completion of restructuring in compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act, this complaint is now disposed of with the stipulation that improvement of the website may be made a constant endeavour so as to keep the public authority in compliance to the Act.
Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner 13/7/2006
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:
(L.C. Singhi) Additional Registrar 13/7/2006
4. Hearing, [mpisgmedia] MOUD database on govt acco: CIC decision
Nizamuddin ji, Harphool Singh ji, Rajinder and I had made a complaint to CIC about govt accomodation data held (in Oracle database known as GAMS) by Directorate of Estates (DOE) / MOUD not being meaningfully accessible in violation of s.4 of RTI Act. Our grievance is that the non-transparency directly disadvantages those entitled to govt acco in especially lower Types and affects all by spawning corrupt practices and housing supply distortions.
In their Comment the Respondents did not address our grievance, Grounds, Prayer or Complainants 1 to 3. They converted the examples by which the s.4 violation was illustrated to my suggestions and said those are being incorporated in new website by NIC to be in place by July end. I put in a Rejoinder. Hearing was on 13 July and the decision was on CIC website by next day: http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Orders/Decision_13072006_3.pdf
I am very worried CIC has not only not taken a view on database access but has also taken the view that it is alright if already computerized data has not been made accessible even in July 06 and has even cited s.4(2) & s.4(3) in support of this.
I am worried CIC rejected additional prayer - for consideration of compensation options for communities of Complainants 1 to 3 - on the grounds that it was not originally a prayer and that it was not pursued at the hearing (even as I think I had excessively pursued its rationale, leading to our Ground H being reproduced in full in the decision).
I am also worried by the errors in the text of the decision, for which I have requested correction. I have also sought information of procedure for seeking reconsideration of the complaint.
Complaint, rejoinder (incl summary of Comments) and request about errors are at: http://plan.architexturez.org/site/anomie/RTI/gams-database
I am also generally worried by my hearing on 13 July.
I appreciate that Chief Information Commissioner (who took the hearing) is making all efforts to amicably resolve all matters and so welcomed the welcoming Comments of DOE. But I had vigorously argued ours was Complaint and presented its concerns and ALL the points in our rejoinder. Yet only some points stand out in the decision that seems not to capture our Complaint at all.
I had objected to the Comments ignoring the other Complainants altogether (para 2a). Chief even asked Respondents to send Comments to them. I had repeatedly clarified that my objection to our Complaint being viewed as my suggestion was that professional ethics forbid use of Complaint procedures to gain professional privileges (para 2b). This was after Chief asked Respondents to invite me to inspect new website when done (me! who needs click-path-finding help with even azPlan! for a moment I thought this was brilliant planner-jhelo-penalty idea, but quickly noticed it was not meant like that). I had pointed out we had chosen not to resort to NIC complaint procedure but to RTI Complaint procedure because of broader issues of s.6 outpacing s.4 (para-2c). NIC representative assisting the DOE rep had confirmed NIC Complaint procedure.
I had vehemently objected to the term user-friendly-website, which Chief had said was common cause of Complainant and Respondents, as something not same as RTI Act compliant level of access to data in database (para-3). Chief agreed not to use that term. I had objected to Respondents saying RTI Act commenced in October 05 and pointed out that the illustrative anomalies converted to my suggestions could also have been fixed in the existing weekly-update procedure (para-3a). On this I had argument with DOE rep as to whether or not their weekly data was time-stamped. I had also said I did not believe they had any consultation procedure as their website did not even announce the upgrading (para-3b). DOE rep had got a bit irritable and said our views on RTI Act compliance might not match and I *suggested* they publish on their website, to start evolving consensus, what they consider RTI Act compliant database access (para-3c). I had also said, since NIC rep was present, that I saw nothing also on NIC website about that and had made the point also to speaker from NIC at recent national seminar on open document format.
I had fussed about our s.4 Grounds not having been addressed in Comments. Chief had said he was now reading from Grounds and that I had left out in quoting from s.4(1) in (A) the phrase about reasonable time. I had argued he and I could not debate Grounds as Respondents have not opined and we cannot debate reasonable-time at all, as that is not in s.4(1) for data already computerized, was not plea of Respondents who had ample time till Oct 05 and had just said their new website will be up in a month or two after having said it will be so end July in Comments in which they had entirely ignored Complainants 1 to 3 who are hugely aggrieved by unreasonable delay, which was a Ground, H, in Complaint and reiterated in rejoinder. Chief then read Ground H and asked Respondents for their view. DOE representative said if we show specific cases of mis-allotments action could be taken. I said if they show their data we will see and show cases.
I felt trapped into being mean to DOE and NIC. Under different circumstances I would have been overjoyed at the opportunity to inflict plannerly complaining on nerds over their chai-biskut. But I was determined to press the s.4 Complaint as that. When Chief referred to me as activist, I even said while objecting that I had been Senior Feline handling also Estate Management R&T for MoUD-HUDCO and could have discussion with MoUD-DOE in also that capacity but was before him with citizen-n-professional grievance against clear and admitted RTI Act violation not for any freewheeling activism or career advancement. Since Chief has heard me a few times and has made on occasions indulgent remarks about how I carry on, I also requested he set aside biases if any and view this case in perspective of serious s.4 issues. He did say to Respondents that I perhaps expected they lead other MOUD agencies in s.4 compliance.
I think what I provoked was not interest in s.4 but bafflement about my objection to our Complaint being reduced to its examples converted to my suggestions. Chief tried to clarify to me a different perspective with the example that if someone tells him the Commission is slow he views that as suggestion rather than complaint. But that only baffled me more. I asked how and why he treats grievance as suggestion; violation is violation and complaint is complaint, why must the complainant be made to feel uncooperative for asking for proper action if the points of complaint are admitted or feel privileged if admitted points of complaints are welcomed as suggestions of the complainant… I figured we had hit one of my ossified mental blocks and just had to get out of the building to breathe.
I am terribly disappointed. I hope whatever MOUD-DOE is committed to doing by end July brings cheer.
5. Errors, Request for review for correction of errors in CIC Decision dated 13.07.2006
To: The Registrar, Central Information Commission
re correction of erors in the decision dt 13.07.06 at: http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Orders/Decision_13072006_3.pdf
I am Complainant 4 in the above and attended hearing on 13.07.06. I saw the decision on CIC website on 14.07.06. I request information of procedures to seek reconsideration. Meanwhile, I request review for correction of the errors (15 nos) listed below.
(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-1: applicant
(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-4: complainant
(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-4: section 4(1)
(Facts) Page-1-2, list: 5 points (a) to (e)
(Facts) Page-2, para-1: Applicants have, therefore, complained that Government employees entitled to the accommodation have been inconvenienced…
(Facts) Page-2, para-2, line-3: reply on four paragraphs raised in the complaint
(Facts) Page-2, para-2, last: In her rejoinder to these comments complainant No.4 … has objected to her complaint being treated as a suggestion, …
(Facts) Page-2, para-2, last: … but has in fact requested for compensation options under Ground (H )…
(Facts) Page-3, para-1, line-1: Appellants…
(Facts) Page-3, para-1, line-2: PIO Shri S.K.Chakrabarty…
(Facts) Page-3, para-1: (Omission of appearance)
(Facts) Page-3, para-1, end: PIO welcomed the arguments of the complainant and offered to include her in the consultation process…
(Facts) Page-3, para-1, end: However, appellant Ms.Verma objected that she did not wish to be treated as privileged…
In Decision Notice, para-1: PIO Shri Chakrabarty
In Decision Notice, para-2: para (H)
|Gita Dewan Verma, Planner (Complainant no.4)|
6. Contempt, description: Request for response to application dt 17.07.06 (in view of non-compliance and s.6 application by IC)
Sub: CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 & RTI Application of IC re government accomodation
If resort to s.6 is required for the above, kindly let me know. I would require for that contents of the RTI Application reported in the press and if resort to s.6 is required for that kindly also let me know if I should apply to MOUD-DOE or to the Commission.
Gita Dewan Verma, Planner
cc: for kind information: Chairman, Standing Committee on Urban Development