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RTI Judgement Series: When illegal construction activities become invisible

The appellant alleged that MCD officers act as if the construction activities are invisible and when the building in complete it is claimed that the building has been in existence before 2007. The CIC ordered a joint inspection. This is the 122nd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) and executive engineer for B-II in the Office of the Superintending Engineer-II, at Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to conduct a joint inspection report with photographs.

 

While giving this judgement on 18 September 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, “The joint inspection report with photographs will be prepared and a copy given to the appellant and the Commission before 25 September 2009.”

 

Delhi resident Kali Ram Tomar, on 15 April 2009, sought information regarding unauthorised constructions from the Public Information Officer (PIO) in the office of the Superintending Engineer-II at the MCD, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Here is the information he sought...

 

1. That construction of commercial building/flat which is being done in unauthorized manner going on at F-44, Samas Pur Road, Pandav Nagar, Delhi-110092, has its map been passed as per the rules by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA)?

2. If the map has been passed then for how many varg gaj it has been passed?

3. Whether the map passed is a commercial or residential map?

4. If its being constructed in an unauthorized manner without a map then what action has been taken as per DDA Act?

5. Has any report been filed in the police station against this unauthorized construction?

6. Has the area police registered any complaint against this unauthorized construction?

7. Was any complaint lodged to the Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent Engineer, Executive Engineer, DDA, Shahdara South against this unauthorized construction?

8. What action was taken against this unauthorized construction on 30 March 2009?

9. Which officer is investigating on the complaint of 30 March 2009? Give the name and the designation of the officer.

 

The PIO provided information, which Tomar alleged to be wrong. He then filed his first appeal. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) ordered the PIO to provide information to the appellant within ten days.

 

However, despite the order from the FAA, the PIO did not furnished the information. Tomar then approached the CIC with his second appeal.

 

During the hearing before Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, the PIO stated that he had given the information saying as per records no building construction had been sanctioned on the said plot of land.

 

Tomar said he had filed a complaint about an illegal construction of a four-storeyed building being in progress but the then PIO Ranvir Singh had given the information that there was no complaint on record. Tomar alleged that is systematic modus operandi in which without any authorisation or permissions buildings are constructed in collusive collaboration with MCD engineers.

 

The appellant further stated that in spite of complaints, MCD officers act as if the construction activities are invisible and when the building in complete it is claimed that the building has been in existence before and the Delhi Government’s blanket immunity to illegal works before 2007 is used to allow these buildings to continue without any hindrance.

 

Tomar also submitted a photograph of the building being constructed at that site to support his allegations.

 

While allowing the appeal, Mr Gandhi then directed the PIO to conduct a joint inspection of the site on 23 September 2009. “SP Tanwar (executive engineer for B-II and also assistant PIO) and the appellant will conduct the joint inspection, take photographs of the site and make minutes of the meeting to record the existing position,” the Commission said in its order.

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001831/4852

http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/SG-18092009-08.pdf

Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001831

 

Appellant                                            : Kali Ram Tomar

                                                                 Delhi-110032

                                                                   

Respondent                                       : Public Information Officer

                                                               Municipal Corporation of Delhi,

                                                               Office of the Superintending Engineer-II,

                                                               Shahdara South Zone, Karkardooma

                                                               Delhi-110092

User

Leave the rich man, tax his son

Levying tax on inheritance will check the obsession to accumulate wealth through illegal means for the next generation

The subject of tax is seldom an emotional issue as it mostly concerns the manner by which the government generates revenue and encourages or discourages certain sections of trade and industry. History shows that whenever the subject of tax becomes an emotional issue, some fundamental change follows. Today we are in the midst of such a situation. The present discussion on introducing an inheritance tax makes for such a situation. Though it was believed that the Union Budget 2013 will introduce 'Inheritance Tax', nothing really came out of it.
 

The Indian society is deeply family centric and that accounts for much of its strength, resilience and much of what is desirable in it. As a society the concepts of ‘paap’, ‘punnaya’, ‘dharm’, ‘karm’, the continuity of the soul through its journey of many lives, are well accepted and deeply embedded concepts. Yet we see around us, the wide prevalence and acceptance of corruption and criminalisation of society. Any attempt to resolve this troubling dichotomy leads to a web of interconnected cause-effect solutions that are obviously not appropriate to apply.
 

Our family-centric existence and value system, in the absence of any social economic and humanitarian safety net becomes our greatest flaw. In the absence of such a safety net, all our values, morality and deeply embedded concepts are sacrificed at the altar of the family. In the absence of such a safety net we completely and absolutely dedicate our lives to the accumulation of wealth for the next generation. The effort is largely wasted and the situation spirals out of control. India follows the policy of unfettered inheritance; no matter what the size of the inherited value it is not taxed. This in a family-centric society soon proves socially disastrous.
 

We have an inheritance law that allows for vast fortunes to be passed on to the next generation. This for our highly family-centric society works like sweet poison. An individual in our society is programmed for the accumulation of wealth for the next generation, and behaves like a ‘dynastic slave’. Of all the laws in our Constitution, the law of inheritance is the one that is closest to the heart-mind of any Indian. This is the law whose true spirit is fully imbibed in our culture and we hold it as a sacred right. This is one law, out of so many, that is engraved in the collective psyche and transcends all caste, creed, religion and social stature. ‘Baap ki Jaeydaad’ is dear to us, to a fault and a few make much out of it. In our country today we see the serious ill effects of unbridled inheritance. It is the root cause of all and every corruption that aims to accumulate wealth, because the corrupt know that the wealth will be passed on to the next generation, who shall hugely benefit from its compounded value and who in turn, shall add to the kitty and compound it ever more.
 

Surprisingly, the Western thinkers had envisioned such a situation and had largely protected their societies from this malady. They well understood that the free market system that they were propagating could soon degenerate into a corrupt and despotic oligarchy. They understood that unfettered inheritance will lead to polarisation or concentration of wealth and opportunity in a few hands and will hinder competition and enterprise. So they rationalised their inheritance policy. A rationalised inheritance policy in simple terms is as follows:
 

No tax is levied on inheritance of a value of say $1 million, beyond which the tax is 40 per cent.
 

The rationalisation has at its core the central principle of capitalist societies: the principle that social privileges should be earned, should be a reward for contribution to society, rather than handed out by government leaders or passed down by aristocratic dynasties. In 1935, Franklin Roosevelt took up the crusade, striking out at great fortunes, again for moral as well as economic reasons. “The transmission from generation to generation of vast fortunes by will, inheritance or gift,'' declared F.D.R., “is not consistent with the ideals and sentiments of the American people...Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our Government.''
 

Countries that have not rationalised their inheritance policy all suffer from similar situations. India, Pakistan, Brazil have wealth and opportunity polarisation at pathological levels, they all suffer from rampant and socially accepted corruption and poor governance. Recently, Brazil stepped up efforts for collection of the inheritance tax. Egypt, an ancient civilisation, a society that had withstood the vagaries of modernity and the dialectics of many conflicts, scrapped their inheritance policy in 1996. Soon, polarisation of wealth and opportunity and a very high level of corruption made the society ungovernable with results that were seen by all and blamed on a kind of ‘spring uprising’.
 

Pakistan is one unfortunate country where the serious ill effects of unbridled inheritance in a feudal society have become very clear. The polarisation of wealth and opportunity is extreme and is tearing up the social fabric of society. The recent example of the Swat Valley brings forward what is in store for those societies that do not stop this polarisation. The Swat valley in Pakistan was taken over. The fact is the entire Valley was previously controlled by just four dozen landlords. The landlords and the elected leaders were mostly the same people, protected by a de-motivated and underpaid police force.
 

In India the extent of polarisation of wealth and opportunity can be gauged by the fact that 1, 20,000 individuals (0.01 per cent of the population) own more than 33 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Is it then surprising that 182 districts across 20 states have witnessed Naxal activity? All big ticket corruption has a singular driving force: To amass wealth to leave for the next generation. With the total absence of any social safety net the perpetrator of such misadventures find ready followers in the society. By this simple logic the evil is perpetuated. The polarisation spares no one, even the reasonably well off have to run hard and fast to remain in the same place. The polarisation of wealth and opportunity and the resultant mindset it generates in society leads only to civil chaos. This evil soon breaks the many unseen bonds so critical to the existence of the social fabric that the resultant anarchy cannot be held back.
 

It is not essential that all the superrich will oppose the introduction of inheritance tax, because many among them realise that it is good to be rich and powerful but it is better to be rich and powerful in a stable society. The Gates-Buffet initiative, where in the super rich have pledged 90 per cent of their personal wealth to charities after their deaths, is a case in point. Such business leaders realise that inheritance, like patents and trademark rights, is just another benefit that civilised society gives to individuals. At no time should this benefit be used to ransom the very society that grants it. The introduction of an inheritance tax, rationalised to the Preamble and the Directive Principals of State Policy of our Constitution, will be a big step in nation building, inclusive growth and a giant leap in our ability to govern this great country.
 

There is a very strong correlation between good governance and the presence of a rationalised inheritance policy. Societies that practice unfettered inheritance are generally poorly governed, the only exceptions to the rule worth quoting are Canada and Australia where there is no inheritance tax and yet good governance prevails. Russia and China also have no inheritance tax but the cultural situations are not comparable to India. Corruption and polarisation of wealth and opportunity have reached their extremes in our country. How long will it take us to react?
 

Courtesy: GOI Monitor

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COMMENTS

hasmukh

3 years ago

Inheritance tax is not a good idea. Many new taxes were introduced during last few years, raising lot of revenue. But same have not helped a common man but unproductive Govt. expenditure has risen many fold leading to killing inflation.

Vinay Isloorkar

3 years ago

The author sounds like a Coffee House Commie.An essential part of our ethos is the belief that if you work hard in your lifetime,it helps you to upgrade your lifestyle and also leave behind a life of comfort for your progeny. This primordial instinct vies with the urge to procreate.It also explains the high rate of savings among Indians.It is bad enough coughing out usurious taxes to an inefficient system during one's lifetime. Inheritance tax? Not on my pyre/grave.

delhidjinn

3 years ago

Inheritance tax is immoral and double taxation. One of the prime motivation of a person to work is to give his children a good head start. Nothing wrong with this.

First, the government taxes the father, and then taxes the son for something where there was no earning.

The naxalite movement/inequality that the author refers to is largely due to crony capitalism and politicians themselves making the money. This requires correction.

The government should engage in providing an environment of equal opportunity to all of its citizens, instead trying to loot at gun point.

Inheritance tax is a bad idea.

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