सीधे मुख्य सामग्री पर जाएं

Bureaucracy is stumbling block on road to accountable governance: Kerala SIC

By Venkatesh Nayak*
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgement about transparency in the banking sector announced on December 16, expressed its concerns about the manner in which many Public Information Officers reject people’s requests for information under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Some Information Commissions are only adding their weight to the problems that are increasingly preventing the effective implementation of the Act, instead of resolving them. The latest instance of this trend is from Kerala.
In January 2015, Ms. Shikha Chhibbar, Project Officer, Access to Justice Programme, CHRI, submitted an RTI application to the Home Department, Government of Kerala seeking information about action taken to comply with the Supreme Court’s directives in the matter of State of Gujarat vs Kishanbhal [(2014) 5 SCC 108] delivered in in January 2014. She paid the RTI application fee of Rs. 10 using an Indian Postal Order (IPO).
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Home Department promptly returned the RTI application stating that IPO was not a recognised mode of payment under the State Government’s RTI Rules and demanded fee payment in cash or through Bank draft or court fee stamp. As fee payment in cash was not possible due to the distance between Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram and court fee stamps bought in Delhi would not be acceptable in Kerala, Ms. Chhibbar sent a Bank draft spending more than triple the amount on bank charges and postage.
Simultaneously, she filed a complaint with the Kerala State Information Commission (SIC) arguing that IPOs were not prohibited by the RTI Rules as a mode of fee payment and that the value of the IPO could be readily realised by the PIO upon presenting it to the concerned post office for redemption. This complaint case filed in January was decided by the Kerala SIC on 2nd December.
The SIC has dismissed the complaint holding that IPOs are not a valid mode of payment under the RTI Rules and that the PIO’s action of rejecting the RTI application was not improper or illegal. Despite the Complainant pointing out that Section 7(1) of the RTI Act permitted a PIO to rejection of an RTI application only by invoking the exemptions specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act and no other reason would be valid or legitimate, the SIC chose to ignore that plea. Nor did the SIC bother to make a recommendation to the State Government to consider amending the RTI Rules to include IPOs as a valid mode of payment.
The Central Government and several State Governments accept IPOs for fee payment. Members of the RTI fraternity in Kerala have pointed out the deteriorating situation vis-a-vis the implementation of the RTI Act in Kerala thanks to an SIC which is not only orthodox in its approach to transparency but also has several vacant posts of Information Commissioners. The recent order of the Kerala SIC only strengthens this collective impression. The Home Department has sent some documents as evidence of action taken to implement the Apex Court’s directives.

Background of the RTI intervention – ascertaining compliance with a set of directives of the Supreme Court

The Kishanbhai case was about the acquittal of the Respondent in a case of rape-cum-murder of a six year old girl child in 2003 in Gujarat, for want of convincing evidence. The judges of the Apex Court expressed their anguish at having to set aside the conviction because the prosecution had not been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, despite their conscience being troubled by the barbarity of the crime. In order to make shoddy investigators and incompetent prosecutors accountable for acquittals of such kind in criminal cases, the Apex Court laid down a mechanism for reviewing such cases to ascertain the reasons for the lapses, fixing responsibility and launching disciplinary action against errant officers, documenting such cases for use in enhanced training programmes for investigators and prosecutors. A series of directions to this effect are given at the end of the text of the judgement.
Several experts of human rights law and criminal law have been critical of the “conviction oriented-ness” of this judgement. However neither the State of Gujarat, nor any of the other Government or any human rights/criminal law expert or advocacy organisation has sought a review of the directions of the Apex Court in this case. So under Articles 141 and 144 of the Constitution these directions have attained the status of law that all jurisdictions must comply with. In January this year, we decided to ascertain the steps taken by States and Union Territories to comply with these directions. It was in this context that Ms. Chhibbar filed her RTI application with the Home Department of Kerala.
In several States leading RTI activists and campaigners agreed to partner with us and seek information from their Governments about the action taken to comply with the Apex Court’s directives inKishanbhai. Armed with the circular issued by the Union Home Ministry (MHA) drawing the attention of the Governments of all States and UTs, they filed RTIs in 27 States and 3 UTs to ascertain compliance.

RTI interventions woke up the Governments of Maharashtra, J&K and Manipur to the Apex Court’s directives

Maharashtra SIC was the first to take up this matter. Mr. Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) filed 3 RTI applications (thanks to the 150 word limit) with the State’s Home Department seeking details of action taken on the Apex Court’s directives. The Government did not bother to respond. The matters escalated to the SIC in less than 4 months – remarkable speed as compared to other Information Commissions which receive a large number of appeals and complaints that remain pending for several months or even years on end. The State Government initially denied knowledge of the MHA circular.
When Mr. Prabhu submitted a copy of the same to the SIC, it became apparent that the State Government had slept over it for more than a year. The SIC took a grave view of the lackadaisical manner in which the Government had dealt with the Apex Court’s directives. The SIC directed the Chief Secretary to inquire into the lack of response to the RTI applications on such an important matter as compliance of the Apex Court’s directives and recommended launch of disciplinary action against the officers found delinquent as a result of the inquiry. This order was issued in May, 2015. Not having received any communication from the Government about action taken on the SIC’s order, Mr. Prabhu has once again sought details of compliance with the SIC’s order under the RTI Act.
The SIC of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K SIC) was the next authority to take note of similar non-compliance on a complaint filed by RTI activist and journalist Mr. Raman Sharma. Upon not receiving any reply from the State Home Department to his RTI application regarding compliance with the Apex Court[‘s directives in Kishanbhai, he filed a complaint with the J&K SIC. The Home Department pleaded that it had not received Mr. Sharma’s RTI application at all. However evidence of submission of the RTI application was provided during the hearing to prove otherwise.
The submissions of the J&K Police who attended the hearings revealed that although they had issued some instructions after receiving the MHA’s circular the committee that was required to be constituted to inquire into lapses of the investigating and prosecuting authorities as directed by the Apex Court had not been set up until the J&K SIC took notice of the RTI complaint. The J&K SIC recommended that the State Government implement the directives of the Apex Court in letter and spirit. It also issued a penalty show cause notice to the PIO of the J&K Home Department.
The Manipur SIC has also taken note of this matter. Mr. Joykumar Wahengbam, Executive Director, Human Rights Initiative and a Co-Convenor of NCPRI filed an RTI with the State’s Home Department about action taken on the Apex Court’s directives inKishanbhai. The PIO rejected the RTI application pointing to a circular issued by the State Government 10 years ago exempting the entire Home Department under Section 24 of the RTI Act. When the matter escalated to the Manipur SIC, in November this year, the SIC rejected the Home Department’s plea holding that implementing the Apex Court’s directives is related to allegations of violation of human rights and therefore the PIO should disclose all information to the applicant free of charge within 45 days. Mr. Wahengbam is still waiting for the information.
In many other States this matter has escalated to the concerned SICs while in a few others some documents relating to compliance with the Apex Court’s directives in Kishanbhai have been supplied. While RTI is proving to be a very useful tool in demanding transparency about lack of action in public authorities on key issues, the somnolence or impunity, as the case may be, of the bureaucracy is proving to be a stumbling block on the road to accountable governance.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

टिप्पणियाँ

ट्रेंडिंग

हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

- प्रमोद रंजन*   भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

ગુજરાતના સ્થાપના દિવસે યાદ કરીએ ભારતના વિશ્વપ્રસિદ્ધ ગુજરાતી પુરાતત્વવિદ્ ને

- ગૌરાંગ જાની*  આજે કોઈ ગુજરાતી એ કલ્પના પણ ન કરી શકે કે વર્ષ ૧૮૩૯ માં જૂનાગઢમાં જન્મેલા એક ગુજરાતી વિશ્વ પ્રસિદ્ધ બની શકે! પણ આપણે એ ગુજરાતીને કદાચ વિસરી ગયા છીએ જેમણે ગિરનારના અશોક શિલાલેખને દોઢસો વર્ષ પૂર્વે ઉકેલી આપ્યો.આ વિદ્વાન એટલે ભગવાનલાલ ઈન્દ્રજી. ૭ નવેમ્બર, ૧૮૩૯ ના દિવસે જૂનાગઢના પ્રશ્નોરા નાગર બ્રાહ્મણ પરિવારમાં તેમનો જન્મ થયો હતો. જૂનાગઢના એ સમયે અંગ્રેજી શિક્ષણની સગવડ ન હોવાને કારણે તેમને અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનું જ્ઞાન ન હતું પણ પાછળથી તેમણે ખપ પૂરતું અંગ્રેજી જાણી લીધું હતું.

Under Modi, democracy is regressing and economy is also growing slowly

By Avyaan Sharma*   India is "the largest democracy in the world", but now its democracy is regressing and its economy is also growing slowly. What has PM Modi's ten years in power brought us? Unemployment remains high. Joblessness is particularly high among India's youth - with those aged 15 to 29 making up a staggering 83% of all unemployed people in India, according to the "India Employment Report 2024", published last month by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD). The BJP-led government did not provide jobs to two crore youth in a year as was promised by Modi in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

रैंकिंग: अधिकांश भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिरा, इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी

- प्रमोद रंजन*  अप्रैल, 2024 में भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर उच्च रैंकिंग की चर्चा रही। मीडिया ने इसका उत्सव मनाया। लेकिन स्थिति इसके विपरीत है। वैश्विक विश्वविद्यालय रैंकिग में अच्छा स्थान मिलने की खबरें, कुछ संस्थानों को इक्का-दुक्का विषयों में मिले रैंक के आधार पर चुनिंदा ढंग से प्रकाशित की गईं थीं। वास्तविकता यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में हमारे अधिकांश विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिर गया है। इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी रही है।

नोएडा में मैन्युअल स्कैवेंजर्स की मौत: परिवारों को मुआवजा नहीं, प्राधिकरण ने एफआईआर नहीं की

- अरुण खोटे, संजीव कुमार*  गत एक सप्ताह में, उत्तर प्रदेश में सीवर/सेप्टि क टैंक सफाई कर्मियों की सफाई के दौरान सेप्टिक टैंक में मौत। 2 मई, 2024 को, लखनऊ के वज़ीरगजं क्षेत्र में एक सेवर लाइन की सफाई करते समय शोब्रान यादव, 56, और उनके पत्रु सशुील यादव, 28, घटुन से हुई मौत। एक और घटना 3 मई 2024 को नोएडा, सेक्टर 26 में एक घर में सेप्टि क टैंक को सफाई करते समय दो सफाई कर्मचर्मारी नूनी मडंल, 36 और कोकन मडंल जिसे तपन मडंल के नाम से जानते हैं, की मौत हो गई। ये सफाई कर्मचर्मारी बंगाल के मालदा जिले के निवासी थे और नोएडा सेक्टर 9 में रहते थे। कोकन मडंल अपनी पत्नी अनीता मडंल के साथ रहते थे। इनके तीन स्कूल जाने वाले बच्चे हैं जो बंगाल में रहते हैं। नूनी मडंल अपनी पत्नी लिलिका मडंल और अपने पत्रु सजुान के साथ किराए पर झग्गी में रहते थे। वे दैनिक मजदरूी और सफाई कर्मचर्मारी के रूप में काम करते थे।

दाँव उल्टा पड़ा: राहुल गांधी के रूप में हम एक साधारण इंसान को नायक होते देख रहे हैं

-  अमिता नीरव  संघ औऱ बीजेपी ने राहुल गाँधी पर जो सोचकर ‘इन्वेस्ट’ किया था, उसके परिणाम गंभीर रूप से नुकसानदेह आ रहे हैं। ये थोड़ी अटपटी बात लग सकती है, लेकिन सोचिएगा कि संघ और बीजेपी ने राहुल गाँधी को जितना गंभीरता से लिया, उनकी संभावनाओं को लेकर वे जितना श्योर थे, उतना तो खुद राहुल और कांग्रेस भी नहीं थी।

બે પુખ્ત યુવક-યુવતીન જીવનસાથી બનવા નક્કી કરે તો સત્તાધારીઓના પેટમાં કેમ ગોળો ચઢે છે?

- બિપિન શ્રોફ   “લવ જેહાદ”! કેવો લાગ્યો આ  શબ્દ?  શું મારુ કે તમારું નાકનું ટેરવું તો ચઢી ગયું  નથી ને? લખનાર અને વાંચનાર બે માંથી કોઈના મા-બાપની કોઈ ગરાશ તો લૂંટાઈ ગઈ નથી ને ? એ તો જેને વીતે તેને ખબર પડે? પરોપ દેશે પાંડિત્યમ! કેમ? ખરી વાત ને? 

बिहार के ऐतिहासिक विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय के खंडहरों की परिक्रमा का रोमांचक अवसर

- सुमन्त शरण  कुछ दिन पहले एक सुदूर ग्रामीण अंचल (पीरपैंती)  से तकरीबन डेढ़-दो घंटे की दूरी पर अवस्थित ऐतिहासिक बौद्ध विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय (के अवशेषों) की परिक्रमा का अवसर मिला। विक्रमशीला विश्वविद्यालय की स्थापना पाल वंश के राजा धर्मपाल ने की थी। 8वीं शताब्दी से 12वीं शताब्दी के अंत तक यह विश्वविद्यालय भारत के प्रमुख शिक्षा केंद्रों में से एक हुआ करता था। कहा जाता है कि यह अपने कुछेक अत्यंत अनूठे नवाचार के चलते उस समय नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय का सबसे बड़ा प्रतिस्पर्धी था। हालांकि, मान्यता यह भी है कि अल्प अवधि के लिए दोनों विश्वविद्यालय के बीच शिक्षण एवं प्रबंधन के क्षेत्रों में घनिष्ठ पारस्परिक संबंध एवं शिक्षकों के आदान-प्रदान का सिलसिला भी रहा था। यह विश्वविद्यालय तंत्रशास्त्र की पढ़ाई के लिए सबसे ज्यादा विख्यात था। इस विषय का एक सबसे विख्यात छात्र अतीसा दीपनकरा था, जो बाद में तिब्बत जाकर बौद्ध हो गया। इसके प्रथम कुलपति ज्ञान अतिस थे।