Maharashtra SIC has ordered BMC and all other local bodies not to disclose building plans under the RTI Act, used by activists to expose illegal and unauthorised construction activities
The Maharashtra state chief information commissioner (SIC) has directed all local bodies in the state not to disclose building plans or other document (like interior plans) to anyone under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, citing security concerns.
Ratnakar Gaikwad, the SIC, in his order on 26 September 2013 issued using powers vested under Section 19(8)(c) and 25(5) of the RTI Act, said, "All municipal corporations, municipalities in the state are directed not to provide building plans or other related documents of public buildings including government and semi-government offices, hotels, gymkhanas, hospitals, malls, IT and commercial buildings. Similarly, in case of private buildings, interior plans will not be provided under RTI unless it is proved that the information sought is in public interest."
This order has come as shock to several RTI activists such as Shailesh Gandhi (who served as Central Information Commissioner) and Bhaskar Prabhu, who are working on placing all permissions granted, approval plans and concessions for several buildings on the website of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC). Both, Gandhi and Prabhu are part of the BMC's technical advisory committee (TAC). The TAC was on the verge of ensuring suo moto disclosure of all building plans, and related documents by BMC.
"This is an unprecedented order muzzling information from being provided. The order of the SIC is bad in law and contrary to the spirit and preamble of the RTI Act. The SIC should withdraw this order. Citizens should ensure that all details should be available on the website to safeguard their interests and prevent builders from fooling them," said Gandhi.
RTI activist Anil Galgali, in a letter sent to Maharashtra governor K Shankarnarayan, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and chief secretary Jayant Banthiya has questioned the issuance of the order by Gaikwad. "...the order is bad in law, without application of mind, illegal, unconstitutional and against the RTI Act. The Information Commissioner has to pass orders within the purview of RTI Act on a case which is presented before it. It has no powers to pass any general orders/law, which is vested with either the government or the Legislature," Galgali said.
He said, "It must be noted that almost 52% of buildings in city like Mumbai do not have occupation certificate (OC). Such order (by the SIC) will ensure that the illegalities committed by the builders in collusion with corrupt babu’s and neta’s are always buried. The common man will never ever get to know about illegalities committed in a building in which he proposes to buy a flat or shop that in future may become another Campa Cola building."
Several activists have exposed illegal constructions across the country using the RTI Act. In one of orders, the Central Information Commission, stated, “The information that 65 illegal buildings have come up in a single zone has been exposed through a citizen’s use of right to information. In other RTI applications, the appellant has been given evidence of another 54 illegal buildings and he claims to have brought to the notice of the authorities another 90 buildings. A clear modus operandi which emerges in this case is that an illegal building is constructed in three to six months and during this period neither any cognizance of any complaint is taken nor any information provided under the Right to Information Act. After the whole building is constructed it is probably claimed that this is an old building and needs to be regularised”.
While the security concerns raised by the Maharashtra SIC needs to be addressed by authorities, blocking access to important information like building plan would deprive buyer a chance to verify the authentication of the building. The recent case of Campa Cola compound building only highlights the need for transparency from local public bodies, without which buyers would continue to be duped.
Speaking with Times of India, Gaikwad has said that there is a difference between a prospective buyer and any other information seeker. "A builder must disclose to a prospective buyer all facts, plans, costs etcetera and can also insist on information under RTI if he feels cheated," he told the newspaper.
Here is the order passed by the SIC…
Mahila Bank is apparently giving “kitchen loan” as per the initial press reports. Kitchen is the place where most of the women in India spend their maximum time. Surely, we want to break that paradigm, not reinforce it
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” wrote William Shakespeare. But he would have definitely changed his thoughts had he visited India, a country obsessed with not just name, but names which very rarely deliver what they are supposed to do. This obsession with names is very well entrenched in the financial services industry. We don’t just sell financial products by catchy names; now we also have financial institutions being promoted by names. Latest to join the series is “Bhartiya Mahila Bank”.
A bank is supposed to be for women of this country, where men can not only be employees, but also have an account opening facility. So what is that differentiates this new bank with other banks that we have in India? Sounds funny but to start with it is “kitchen loan” as per the initial press reports. After all, kitchen is the place where most of the women in India spend their maximum time. This kitchen loan is the start up USP of this bank which must make our Finance Minister happy who was completely wrong to think that all banks were just clones of each other and were offering the same products and services much to his disappointment.
Jokes apart, the most important question that we need to debate now is not whether India needs a “ Mahila bank” or not, as we have created one, but to see what can this bank do to transform the country. There are many things that this bank can do which other banks have failed to do till now, though the concept exists on paper for long. The first and the most important objective of this bank should be to promote financial inclusion. Important thing to note here is that financial inclusion is not something which rural India alone needs. We need financial inclusion in the financial capital of India i.e. Mumbai. There are several maid servants, women vegetable vendors and other women doing small businesses etc., who do not have access to bank accounts and find it difficult to open accounts because of various constraints. These constraints include proof of residence not available, unawareness about the process of account opening etc. There is an RBI circular to handle this scenario in the name of financial inclusion but banks rarely offer the account opening facility to those who don’t matter to them. So this new bank for women can work wonders in ensuring financial inclusion.
The next significant contribution that this bank can do is to promote entrepreneurship among women in India. We have a huge pool of human resource in form of non-working women, which can contribute to economic growth if capital is arranged and hand-holding for starting a business is done. Banks can definitely ensure the first one and contribute substantially to the second one. There is a scheme by the government to promote start up businesses which do not have capital of their own and is called as CGTMSE. Why not make the new bank deliver capital support to woman entrepreneurs through this scheme or any other new idea, if possible? Of course, due diligence process and control points cannot be compromised by granting loans to anybody but an attempt can be made in this direction by targeting the right group.
Of course, a bank cannot financially be viable by promoting financial inclusion and promoting entrepreneurship alone; hence it needs to work on general banking concepts of mobilising deposits and lending to the needy. This is to say that this new bank should continue with old bank practices to remain viable but should always focus on financial betterment of women to make its name and objectives more relevant.
(Vivek Sharma has worked for 17 years in the stock market, debt market and banking. He is a post graduate in Economics and MBA in Finance. He writes on personal finance and economics and is invited as an expert on personal finance shows.)
There are several things to keep in mind while dealing with redevelopment of a building, especially for flat owners in a CHS. Here’s a checklist while dealing with redevelopment so you do not fall into the trap like home owners in the Campa Cola compound
The Campa Cola episode clearly highlights not only the need to curb illegal buildings and corruption but also the need for buyers to be aware of their rights. When redevelopment of the building is proposed, what are the things that you should keep in mind so that you do not fall into the trap like Campa Cola owners?
In the run up to Vinod Sampat’s seminar on 23rd November, he highlights what you need to keep in mind. Before reading, you may want to register for the event over here
Here are the important points that may be considered by your society while considering redevelopment
(a) Date of offer
(b) Area constructed
(c) Date of Acceptance of offer
(d) Date of receipt of IOD
(e) Date on which the last member vacated the premises
(f) Date of receipt of occupation certificate
(g) Date of receipt of the building completion certificate
(h) Income Tax return of developer and his partners, directors
Stay tuned for the 5th part which will be published tomorrow in the run up to Vinod Sampat’s seminar. Register for the Moneylife Foundation Event by Vinod Sampat.
Check the first part over here.
Check the second part here.
Check the third part here.
Those seeking help or advice on CHS issues can contact Moneylife Foundation’s Legal Resource Centre (LRC) ( http://moneylife.in/lrc.html )
(Adv Vinod Sampat is a practising lawyer since past 28 years. He has authored several articles on property-related matters and written 46 books on cooperative societies, transfer of flats, recovery of dues, registration and stamp duty matters. He has been an Hon. Patron member of the Estate Agents Association of India. He is also the Hon. Advisor of the Federation of Accommodation Industry of India and is an advisor to the Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry as well as the Federation of Accommodation Industry in India, apart from being part of many committees and winning several honours.)