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

  1. Complaint to Central Information Commission under s.18 of RTI Act, 2005
  2. Rejoinder, submissions on Directorate of Estate’s Comments on the Complaint
  3. Decision, Appeal No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 Dated:17-5-2006
  4. Hearing, [mpisgmedia] MOUD database on govt acco: CIC decision
  5. Errrors, request for review for correction of errors in CIC Decision dated 13.07.2006
  6. 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

  1. Nizamuddin r/o erstwhile Moolchand, N Delhi-02
  2. Harphool Singh r/o erstwhile Belagaon, N Delhi-02
  3. Rajinder Singh r/o Rangpuri Pahari Malakpur Kohi, N Delhi-37
  4. Gita Dewan Verma, Planner

through Gita Dewan Verma … Complainants

Versus
  1. Directorate of Estates, through its Director, Nirman Bhawan, N Delhi-11
  2. Ministry of Urban Development, through its Secretary, Nirman Bhawan, N Delhi-11

The Complainants respectfully submit that:-

  1. This Complaint is against violation of section 4 of RTI ACT by the Directorate of Estates (“DOE”) of the Ministry of Urban Development (“MoUD”) in terms of not making accessible for meaningful use the information contained in its computerized records concerning Government accommodations. The information is required urgently as, despite numerous Complaints and 2nd Appeals submitted in this Hon’ble Commission, various authorities have not furnished information concerning housing entitlements and matters have not been heard. Complainants 1 & 2 had sought from DDA, another authority under MoUD, information about lawful re-housing. Their settlements were demolished during 18 & 26 April and they have been / are being compelled to relocate to an illegal scheme where deaths, including of small children, had occurred due to poor sanitation and non-availability of medical care and were not investigated despite Central Vigilance Commission’s reference. Deaths, including of children, continue to occur also by drowning in a watercourse along the extended re-settlement site. Complainant 3 had sought information also from MoUD about its policies to promote illegal builder re-housing instead of enforcing statutory housing provisions and has been compelled, in pendency of his 2nd Appeal, to move court against auction of District Park in ground water critical zone for builder re-housing. Complainant 4, a qualified planner, has also submitted a number of related Complaints and 2nd Appeals. All complainants have raised in their various matters also the issue of misuse of judicial process by NGO / political persons to undermine settled entitlements / solutions. A specific instance set out in Complaint dt 27.01.06 of complainant 1 has now led to Supreme Court reportedly rejecting entitlements of the poor altogether. As illegal housing / re-housing projects being advanced by, inter alia, suppressing / obfuscating information about housing / re-housing entitlements are being justified in name also of a Mission announced by Prime Minister’s Office (“PMO”) in November 2005, information was sought from PMO, which transferred the request to MoUD. Meanwhile, a Bill consonant with the Mission has been passed, but not published on MoUD website, in pendency of the Complainants’ matters. The instant Complaint arises from the attempt made in these emergent circumstances by complainants 1, 2 and 3, assisted by complainant 4, to ascertain options for accommodation for at least government employees in their communities. These attempts revealed that even that information is not meaningfully accessible. It is apprehended that more persons will be willfully evicted for willful projects and denied their housing entitlements to be driven to illegal sub-standard re-housing in builder flats or in places where people, including children, have been dying. It is prayed that the instant Complaint, along with aforesaid pending matters be taken up at the earliest - as was done in the Complaint of Ms. Aruna Roy and Mr. Shekhar Singh.
  2. The Directorate of Estates (“DOE”) primarily deals with the Government Residential Allocation Pool (“GRAP”) for persons entitled to government accommodation. GRAP information is computerized, using a system described by DOE as Government Accommodation Management System (“GAMS”). The grievance of the Complainants is that the information contained in GAMS is not accessible over the Internet in meaningfully usable manner and some of what is made available is outdated or false.
  3. The GAMS database apparently contains detailed records of all Government accommodations and details of Government employees eligible for accommodation. The information therein includes that of Waiting list, Discretionary Allotments, etc. The database can presumably be queried / searched with various user access privilege levels, the lowest of which is over the Internet, where some individual information can be accessed and certain cross-tables and lists concerning Allotments and Vacancies can be viewed. As set out next, much of this information is not in real-time, but static and inconsistent with the actual database.
  4. The information central to GAMS concerns Waiting List and Vacancies. As per its website (“Housing Scenario” page), DOE has 63,745 residential units in Delhi against Demand (on restricted application basis, as of 01.01.2000) of 112,904 - ie, overall shortage of at least 43%. It is submitted that in such a situation, undue advantage can be gained from non-transparency / advance information concerning Waiting Lists and Vacancies and a recent CNN-IBN investigation into servant-quarters’ allotments indicated an organized racket thriving on such advance information. In this context it is significant that on DOE website “Waiting List” link has been disabled and the only accessible information concerning Vacancies is in form of cross-tables indicating numbers of vacant units, locality-wise, in each Type. These showed (on 12.05.06) 381 Type-1&1S, 317 Type-2&2H, 341 Type-3, 39 Type-4, 35 Type-5A, 14 Type-5B, 29 Type-5L, 27 Type-6A, 27 Type-6B, 11 Type-7, etc, vacancies. This information is not verifiable by the available searches and appears outdated or false. In particular:
    1. Lists of Vacant units are not viewable. The only list available is not from the database, but in ‘new’ notice dt 8.3.06 inviting applications for 4 flats of Type-5A (Vacancies table for which shows 35). The anomaly is depicted in Annexure-1.
    2. That the tables are not in real-time / generated from database is apparent in case of Allotments. For instance, Type-wise tables indicating allotments made month-wise during June 2005 and May 2006 in 3 categories (viz, ‘Regular’, ‘Change’ and ‘Other’) show 6002 Type-1, 121 Type-1S, 11674 Type-2, 81 Type-2H, 6442 Type-3, 3846 Type-4, 540 Type-4S, 652 Type-5A, 322 Type-5B, 361 Type-6A, 13 Type-6B, 2 Type-7, 2 Type-8 allotments - all in category ‘Other’. However, in the viewable month-wise lists the ‘category’ field contains for numerous records also ‘Regular’ and ‘Change’. This anomaly is illustrated in Annexure-2 & 3.
    3. The tables for Vacancies are locality-wise and type-wise, but indicate neither all localities nor all existing stock. Lists of localities are available not as data but in pop-up menu of options for viewing lists of type-wise allotments. For Type-7, for instance, pop-up menu shows 30 and Vacancies’ table 7 localities. ‘Housing Scenario’ page indicates total of 88 Type-7 units in Delhi, but it is not possible to view a list of all 88 on any parameter / database field. This is significant in context of rampant unauthorized occupancy / subletting, wherein Vacancy reduces to static and inadequate indicator of availability. As per DOE website (‘About Us’) in 2004 DOE evicted 225 unauthorized occupants and cancelled 213 allotments for sub-letting. Details of, say, cases under eviction / cancellation notices are of as much interest to accommodation seekers as units actually vacant. Conversely, non-transparency aids continuation of unauthorized occupancy / sub-letting.
    4. Rules permit sub-letting / sharing with DOE permission, but no information concerning this possibility is accessible over the Internet. Similarly, discretionary allotments are permitted on “medical, security, functional and on extreme compassionate grounds”, but no information of precedent cases of especially functional and compassionate grounds is accessible. It is submitted that the Complainants were looking for information also of options of Servant Quarters / Garages available for sub-letting and for precedent cases of compassionate grounds related to demolitions. Nearly no GAMS data on Servant Quarters / Garages is accessible and while the category field in some records in the viewable lists contains “AACC.(DEMOLITION)”, it is not clear what exactly this means. Part of a list with such records is illustrated at Annexure-4.
    5. The categorization of all Allotments in Type-wise tables for June 2005 to May 2006 in category ‘Other’ than ‘Regular’ or ‘Change’ is especially curious. The month-wise allotment lists show that the ‘other’ categories are, in higher Types, primarily ‘INITIAL’ (in all records for Types 6B, 7 and 8, nearly all records for Type-6A not showing ‘REGULAR’ or ‘CHANGE’, most records for Type-5B not showing ‘CHANGE’, etc). In Type-6A there are also ten cases of ‘STATE GOVT’ and ‘MEDICAL’ and ‘FUNCTIONAL’ allotments. From Type-5B down more ‘other’ allotment categories like ‘CHANGE RECONSIDER’ and ‘REGULAR RECONSIDER’ start appearing and there seem to be no ‘REGULAR’ allotments. In Types 1 & 2 the range of other categories is vast - eg, AACC.(DEMOLITION), AACC.(DEMOLITION)R, AACC.(DP.QTR.), AACC.(RET/DEATH), AACC.(RET/DEATH)R, AACC.(UNSAFE), AACC.(UNSAFE)R, ADHOC CHANGE, ALT.ACCOMMODATION, CHANGE RECONSIDER, FUNCTIONAL, FUNCTIONAL R, INITIAL, MARRIAGE, MEDICAL, MEDICAL R, REGL.(DEATH), REGL.(RETIREMENT), REGULAR RECONSIDER. These nomenclatures are not explained even as they suggest that ad-hoc practices are being followed at a large scale in allotments of especially lower Types of accommodation. It is pertinent that, as per the DOE website (‘Housing Scenario’ page) lower Types account for most of the accommodation stock, with 39,691 units in Types 1 & 2 and 60,999 units in Types 1 to 4 and only 3,336 units in higher Types.
  5. Government employees entitled to accommodation - especially in lower Types - are being greatly disadvantaged by GAMS database information not being made meaningfully accessible. Public at large is also affected by the consequences of non-transparency in terms of both housing supply distortions and corrupt / corruption-prone practices. Rectification of this situation is an imperative of RTI ACT.

PRAYER

  1. The Complainants respectfully pray to this Hon’ble Commission to direct the Directorate of Estates and its nodal Ministry of Urban Development to forthwith upgrade the level of access to information contained in the GAMS database that is available over the Internet to a level compliant with RTI ACT. It is also prayed that this Complaint be taken up urgently, along with the related Complaints and 2nd Appeals of the Complainants.

GROUNDS

The Complainants rely on the following among other grounds:

  1. Because records already computerized, such as GAMS database, are liable to made accessible over Internet under s. 4(1)(a) of RTI ACT (“Every Public Authority shall… ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are… computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems..”)
  2. Because, further, the computerized records are liable to be so made accessible “so that access to such records is facilitated”, ie, the GAMS database need to be made accessible not in any static manner, but for querying, with query builder interface, database design in diagrammatic form (eg UML or SQL), etc;
  3. Because “details in respect of the information, available to or held by it, reduced in an electronic form” are also liable to be disclosed by DOE under s.4(1)(b)(xiv) of RTI ACT, in violation of which not even database design, the number of ways in which it can be queried, etc, has been disclosed;
  4. Because information contained in the GAMS database includes decisions concerning allotments that affect Government employees directly as well as public at large indirectly, and relevant facts of and reasons for these decisions are liable to be disclosed under s.4(1)(c) and s.4(1)(d) of the RTI ACT. An efficient way of doing so would be to allow necessary level of querying of GAMS database over the Internet;
  5. Because making information contained in GAMS database meaningfully accessible over Internet is in line with s.4(3) (“For the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public”) and s.4(4) (“…information should be easily accessible, to the extent possible in electronic format…”) of the ACT;
  6. Because DOE and MoUD, having chosen to invest public money in ORACLE based rather than open-source system, are expected to take requisite additional measures to ensure compliance with RTI ACT. It is submitted that as this Hon’ble Commission, as per minutes of meeting held on 30.03.06, is considering ORACLE for its database, these aspects could be inquired into by treating the GAMS database as test case;
  7. Because the level of access to information that is at present available over the Internet does not even remotely attain the levels of transparency that are possible and, thereby, represents underutilization of public investment in GAMS, including for meeting the objectives of RTI ACT;
  8. 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.

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.

COMPLAINANTS
14 May 2006

2. Rejoinder, Submissions on Directorate of Estate’s Comments on the Complaint

  1. The Comment views the Complaint against s.4 violation as an Appeal and omissions / anomalies illustrated therein as ‘suggestions’ and says (in ‘measures suggested’ and in conclusion) that NIC has been / is being advised to incorporate them in the GAMS as well as in the new website under construction (Appendix).
  2. Complainants appreciate that glaring omissions/anomalies amounting to violations have not been routinely denied. However, they had not made any ‘suggestions’:
    1. Complainants 1 to 3 have no cause to make ‘suggestions’. Their grievance (para 1, 4(e), 4(f) and 5 and Ground H) has been ignored - notably by not offering either any information or any clarification as to why violations were not rectified by October 2005 under s.4 of RTI Act. Complainants respectfully additionally pray for consideration of compensation options apropos their Ground H.
    2. Complainant 4 made no ‘suggestions’ as DOE had not solicited any (though it might have, as she was formerly Senior Fellow with HUDCO, under MOUD, handling Estate Management among other areas). On GAMS per se, professional ethics prevent her from making ‘suggestions’ (as she is not qualified in IT) and fundamental rights allow her to make ‘complaints’ (as she is hampered in her professional work as qualified planner, qualified researcher and qualified trainer by not having meaningful access to authentic public data for use and inferencing, including directly on her web portal, despite IT Act and RTI Act). Complainant 4 is aggrieved by the way in which the Comment trivializes broader issues in Grounds A to G to minor ‘points’ by which they were merely illustrated.
    3. The Complainants could have directly resorted to NIC complaint procedures to make ‘suggestions’ in respect of specific anomalies as DOE website is hosted by NIC and NIC also hosts Oracle databases. (Complainant no.4 did bring to notice of NIC the fact of the instant Complaint, informally at a seminar on 23.06.06). They could also have made requests under s.6 of RTI Act (as they have been doing to other MOUD agencies in matters mentioned in para-1). They chose to make Complaint against violation of s.4 of RTI Act, as in their view meaningful resort to both other options is predicated on s.4 compliance. The Comment entirely ignores the s.4 Grounds and Prayer in the Complaint and notes that Complainants did not approach in s.6 and conveys that their ‘suggestions’ have been forwarded to NIC. In effect, the Comment, seeks to ‘transfer’ the Complaint to resorts to which the Complainants have chosen not to take recourse.
  3. The Comment / ‘measures suggested’ rely on a new improved website. However, the Complainant’s prayer is not for any improved website but specifically for upgrading access over the internet to information in the GAMS database to a level compliant with RTI Act. In this regard it is submitted that:
    1. The Comment vaguely asserts that at present ‘transfer of information from GAMS to the website… is done on a weekly basis’ and ‘the user thus perceives the information to be either outdated or false’ as information ‘is always restricted to activities on GAMS up to date of the last updation’ (comments on para-2&3). However, this does not explain anomalies illustrated in the Complaint. Even if data is updated weekly, it should be internally consistent and could be time-stamped / display date of update. It is also unclear what prevented the simple ‘measures suggested’ now from being incorporated in the existing procedure.
    2. About the existing website the Comment says it was constructed in 2001 and linked to GAMS in 2004 (comment on para-1). It is not disclosed how the linkage was made in 2004 and what will ensure improved linkage in 2006. About the new website the Comment discloses only that it is under construction by NIC, incorporating ‘suggestions received from various quarters for improvement of our website’, likely to be in place by end of July 2006, drawing upon GAMS ‘in real time through the EAWAS’ internet based website to which the entire functioning of DOE, Delhi on GAMS is to be transferred (comments on para-1). No details of EAWAS are disclosed, even as information about the upradation process is also liable to be disclosed under s.4, including under s.4(1)(d) to the Complainants, in view of their ‘suggestions’ being incorporated in the same.
    3. It is not clear from the Comment what level of access upgradation to GAMS data will accrue from website improvement and if the upgraded level will be compliant with RTI Act in terms of meaningful querying and connectivity (for, say, use and inferencing on professional portals). Nothing is said also about authentication in the improved level of access (while asserting / admitting that the existing level of access provides information that ‘appears’ outdated and false). Clarity on these and such points is germane to the Grounds and Prayer of the Complaint and is not offered in the Comment on behalf of DOE/MOUD.

It is prayed that the Complaint be allowed in view of the above additional submissions.

COMPLAINANT No.4,
New Delhi, 10th July 2006

 

Appendix

 Complaint dt 14.05.06 - Illustrative anomalies :: Comment dt 23.06.06 - comment / measure suggested :: (Remarks on disputed points)
4) Waiting List link disabled :: Not disabled, it was never constructed / NIC can be asked to rename ‘Search…’ as WL :: (Annexure-A shows both; needed for different uses)
4) Vacancies tables not verifiable | 4 a)Lists of vacant units are not viewable, anomaly - Anex-1 :: point well taken, will be available on the website …
4b) Type-wise tables show all allotments in category ‘Other’ / in lists ‘category’ field contains for numerous records also ‘Regular’ and ‘Change’, Anex-2, 3 :: Anomaly exists and needs to be corrected; NIC has been asked to correct the display to show allotments under right categories
4c) tables for Vacancies are locality-wise and type-wise, but indicate neither all localities nor all existing stock, eg: 88 Type-7 units in Delhi, not possible to view a list of all 88 :: Assertion incorrect, Annexure-B :: (From the screen at Annexure-B Complainants could not generate list of, say, all 88 Type-7 units in Delhi)
4c) rampant unauthorized occupancy / subletting, cases under eviction / cancellation notices :: Not available on website, NIC is being advised to post… on website under construction
4e) permissible sub-letting / sharing :: GAMS not programmed
4e) discretionary allotments / precedent cases of especially functional and compassionate grounds :: Available on GAMS but not on website, NIC is being advised … on website under construction
4e) Nearly no GAMS data on Servant Quarters / Garages :: needs to be corrected
4e) category field in some records in the lists contains “AACC.(DEMOLITION)”, it is not clear what exactly this means, Anex-4 :: Categories as created in the GAMS program, NIC being advised to display expanded forms…
4f) lists have wide range of unexplained nomenclature in especially lower Types that account for most of the stock :: Obscurity inherent … for normal user is understandable, NIC being advised…

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

  1. Shri Harphool Singh
  2. Shri Rajinder Singh
  3. Mrs. Gita Dewan Verma

Name of Public Authority : Directorate of Estates & Ministry of Urban Development, New Delhi

Facts:

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. :

  1. List of vacant units are not viewable;
  2. Tables are not in real-time;
  3. Tables for vacancies are locality-wise and type-wise but do not indicate all localities or all availability;
  4. No information regarding sub-letting;
  5. Categorization of allotment is vague.

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.

DECISION NOTICE

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.

(Wajahat Habibullah)

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

Sub: CIC/WB/C/2006/00081

re correction of erors in the decision dt 13.07.06 at: http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Orders/Decision_13072006_3.pdf

 

Sir,

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.

1.

(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-1: applicant
Suggested correction: applicants
Explanation: The Complaint is by four persons

2.

(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-4: complainant
Suggested correction: complainants
Explanation: The Complaint is by four persons

3.

(Facts) Page-1, para-1, line-4: section 4(1)
Suggested correction: all sections and sub-sections of section 4, including section 4(1)(a)
Explanation: Grounds in Complaint refer to all sub-sections of s.4.

4.

(Facts) Page-1-2, list: 5 points (a) to (e)
Suggested correction: 11 points (as summarized in Appendix in rejoinder)
Explanation: Appendix in Rejoinder lists anomalies as addressed in Comment

5.

(Facts) Page-2, para-1: Applicants have, therefore, complained that Government employees entitled to the accommodation have been inconvenienced…
Suggested correction: Applicants have, therefore, complained that Government employees entitled to accommodation - especially in lower Types - are being greatly disadvantaged and public at large is also affected by the consequences of non-transparency in terms of both housing supply distortions and corrupt / corruption-prone practices…
Explanation: Complainants have stated their grievance as above in para-5 in the Complaint, which was also read out by Commissioner at the hearing

6.

(Facts) Page-2, para-2, line-3: reply on four paragraphs raised in the complaint
Suggested correction: reply on Para 4 of the complaint
Explanation: Comments address only para-4 of Complaint, as can be verified from Complaint and Comments and as mentioned at hearing by the Complainant

7.

(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, …
Suggested correction: In rejoinder to these comments complainant no.4 … has objected to the complaint by four persons being treated as her suggestion.
Explanation: The objection is as set out in para-2 of Rejoinder

8.

(Facts) Page-2, para-2, last: … but has in fact requested for compensation options under Ground (H )…
Suggested correction: For Complainants 1 to 3, whose grievance has been ignored in the comments, ‘consideration of compensation options’ is additionally prayed for.
Explanation: Context / basis of additional prayer is in para-2(a) of Rejoinder

9.

(Facts) Page-3, para-1, line-1: Appellants…
Suggested correction: Complainants…
Explanation: The matter is a Complaint

10.

(Facts) Page-3, para-1, line-2: PIO Shri S.K.Chakrabarty…
Suggested correction: APIO Shri S.K.Chakrabarty…
Explanation: He said he is not PIO; is APIO in http://estates.nic.in/rti_act/chapter(xiii).pdf

11.

(Facts) Page-3, para-1: (Omission of appearance)
Suggested correction: Sh Mishra of NIC accompanied Shri Chakrabarty.
Explanation: Sh Mishra accompanied Sh Chakrabarty at hearing

12.

(Facts) Page-3, para-1, end: PIO welcomed the arguments of the complainant and offered to include her in the consultation process…
Suggested correction: APIO welcomed the suggestion of the Commission that Ms Verma be invited to inspect new website.
Explanation: The offer was made as above. Also, no consulting process was disclosed when the Complainant asked. Shri Chakrabarty also said views on what is RTI Act compliance can differ and did not accept the Complainant’s suggestion that DOE publish its view as starting point to evolve consensus.

13.

(Facts) Page-3, para-1, end: However, appellant Ms.Verma objected that she did not wish to be treated as privileged…
Suggested correction: However, Ms Verma said professional ethics prevent her from using Complaint procedures to obtain professional privileges.
Explanation: The objection raised was specifically as above and not general

14.

In Decision Notice, para-1: PIO Shri Chakrabarty
Suggested correction: APIO Shri Chakrabarty
Explanation: as previously

15.

In Decision Notice, para-2: para (H)
Suggested correction: Ground (H)
Explanation: (H) is Ground and not para in the Complaint

 Gita Dewan Verma, Planner (Complainant no.4)
dated: 17.07.06

6. Contempt, description: Request for response to application dt 17.07.06 (in view of non-compliance and s.6 application by IC)

03.08.2006

The Registrar,
Central Information Commission

Sub: CIC/WB/C/2006/00081 & RTI Application of IC re government accomodation

Dear Sir,

  1. Four citizens had approached the Commission with the above Complaint against violation of section 4 of RTI Act by MOUD/ Dt of Estates (DOE) in failing to ensure RTI-compliant level of access to its computerized data on government accommodation. They had cited about a dozen examples of anomalies in data available over the internet for different accommodation Types and stated their grievance as that “Government employees entitled to accommodation – especially in lower Types – are being greatly disadvantaged by GAMS database information not being made meaningfully accessible. Public at large is also affected by the consequences of non-transparency in terms of both housing supply distortions and corrupt / corruption-prone practices”. The Commission disposed off the Complaint after hearing on 13.07.06 as under:
  1. “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. …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.”

    On 17.07.06 I (Complainant 4) made an application for information of procedure to seek reconsideration and, meanwhile, review for correction of errors (15 nos) in the text of the Decision dt 13.07.06, copy of which is at encl.1 for ready reference. This is firstly to bring to the notice of the Commission / Registry that:
    1. I have not received response to my application dt 17.07.06 as yet; and
    2. MOUD-DOE has not honoured its commitment to the Commission – the website has not been reconstructed past the close of July.
  2. It appears MOUD-DOE have also made similar commitments to Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Urban Development. In its Seventh Report (April 2005) the Committee – on being told by MOUD that DOE has a computerized system in Delhi “for ensuring transparent, hassle free and rule based allotment of residential accommodation” and “computerization of GPRA at regional stations has been assigned to NIC” and would be completed by 31.3.2006 – desired as follows:

    “4.36. The Committee hope that Ministry of Urban Development would take up the matter of computerization of regional offices of Directorate of Estates with National Informatic Centre (NIC) expeditiously and with adequate funds so as to bring transparency in their functioning. They hope that computerization would help in the quick delivery system and dispel any misgivings about the functioning of Directorate of Estates. They would, therefore, like to be informed in this regard further.”

    http://164.100.24.208/ls/CommitteeR/urban/7rep.pdf

    In its Twelfth Report (November 2005) on Action Taken on Seventh Report, the Committee noted MOUD’s ‘reply’ – viz, “GAMS …has been developed in the Dte. Of Estates from May, 2003 for the entire housing stock available with the Directorate. It has been decided to computerize the allotment functions at eight regional stations, directly under the administrative control of the Dte. Of Estates. NIC has conducted the study of offices at these stations to work out the requirement of hardware and software” – and desired as follows:

    “49. The Committee desire that the computerization of all the eight regional offices of the Directorate of Estates be completed on top priority basis so as to ensure transparent, hassle free and rule based allotment of residential accommodation. Further, the eight regional offices of the Directorate of Estates be linked to the Headquarters through internet so as to ensure its close monitoring. The Committee should be kept informed about the steps taken in this direction.”

     http://164.100.24.208/ls/CommitteeR/urban/12rep.pdf
  3. It appears, therefore, that since enactment of RTI Act the admittedly (in the above complaint against) RTI non-compliant GAMS system for purportedly “transparent, hassle free and rule based allotment of residential accommodation” is being replicated countrywide at public cost. That the system is not what it is claimed to be has now also been demonstrated, in ambit of RTI Act, by an Application under s.6 in regard to his own entitlement to Type VII accommodation (anomalies in data about which are also illustrated in the above Complaint) by no less than an Information Commissioner, as reported in the press today (encl.2).
  4. In view of the foregoing, I request:
    1. Information of the status of my application dt 17.07.06 regarding review and reconsideration of the Decision dt 13.07.06 in the above Complaint.
    2. view of the Commission on press reportage of an Information Commissioner’s personal Application under s.6 in pendency of the same issue before the Commission (in review application) in a Complaint against s.4 violation by MOUD-DOE.

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

(Complainant no.4)

cc: for kind information: Chairman, Standing Committee on Urban Development

encl: 

  1. application dt 17.07.06 (2p)
  2. text of illustrative press reports (1p)