This case shows how the IIT provides stability certificates for erecting cell towers on old buildings without any inspection of the buildings! This is the 17th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Public Information Officer (PIO) or First Appellate Authority (FAA) cannot deny information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, especially about a certificate issued by a public authority. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said, “Statutory bodies which permit these towers and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) would do well to take a look at these practices which may have the potential of endangering safety. Alternately people may discover that there is no need for such certification in which case it would be done away with.”
“The PIO was unable to give any of the exemption clauses of Section 8 (1). The Commission found that since the certificate was issued by the public authority and none of the exemption clauses apply to it,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 31 December 2009.
Gurgaon resident Sham Lal, on 25 November 2008, sought information from the PIO of IIT Delhi regarding issuing of the certificate required to erect a mobile tower on the roof-top of a residential building after 1 January 2007. He wanted to know the names, address of building/building owners, date of issuing of the certificate with the certificate number, date of inspection, number of persons required to inspect for testing the structural stability, TA (travelling allowance) paid for inspection and details of vehicle used for the said purpose.
The PIO declined to provide the information citing third party clause. Sham Lal then approached the FAA, who upheld the PIO’s decision. The FAA in his order on 16 February 2009 said, “Having gone through the details, I would like to comment as following:
1) The reply given by the PIO is exclusive and complete. The relief sought for is your interpretation. In this regard, may please note that the certificate is given to the client only citing specific reference of the building.
2) It may be noted that the assignment has been undertaken as consultancy. As per agreed terms and conditions of the consultancy assignment, consultancy report and related documentation is confidential matter and cannot be disclosed to third party.
3) The drawings submitted by our client were returned to the client after the assignment was completed. We do not maintain record of such documents, hence we are unable to provide you a copy of the drawings.”
Not satisfied with the replies, Sham Lal then filed the second appeal before the Commission. During the hearing, he stated that the house for which he is seeking information is in the name of Vinod Kumar, a third party. The PIO said he asked the third party under Section 11 of the RTI Act, and since Vinod Kumar refused to share the information, he did not provide it. The PIO also stated the copies of the plans of the building and other documents supplied by the third party are not retained by them, hence they could not supply these since they do not have the records.
Rejecting the PIO's contention, the Commission said since the certificate was issued by the public authority and none of the exemption clauses apply to it, the PIO should provide certified copy of the stability certificate to Sham Lal on or before 30 May 2009.
However, on 8 June 2009, Sham Lal sent a letter to the Commission alleging that the PIO had given incomplete information despite orders from the CIC. “The PIO had not provided the information within the stipulated time limit and the inordinate delay amounts to wilful disobedience of the Commission’s order and also raises a reasonable doubt that denial of the information might have been malafide,” Mr Gandhi noted.
He then directed the PIO to provide complete information before 30 June 2009 and also be present before the Commission along with the written submission to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act.
During the show-cause hearing on 23 July 2009, the PIO stated that the faculty members in the IIT issue a stability certificate based on the drawings provided by the client in which the address is mentioned. The PIO also said that no records are maintained by the IIT of the drawings.
The Commission took a look at the stability certificate provided by IIT which states, “This building is safe and capable of resisting the forces and moments which may be increased or altered by reason of the additional structures for a 15 meter three-legged tower with GSM and MW antenna. Pre-fabricated shelter and 25 KVADG set installed on the roof top of the building submitted by M/s VAS Design and Infrastructure Consultants Pvt Ltd. This does not certify the safety of building in the case of a natural calamity.”
Mr Gandhi noted that “The wording of this certificate appears to indicate that it is certifying the stability as existing whereas the PIO described that it is a certificate based on a drawing with an address which is not verified at all. Given the fact that the IIT does not maintain any copy of the drawing with itself this process appears to have great potential for misuse.”
The PIO has provided the information but this exercise appears to have revealed some fundamental flaws, he said. The Commission then directed the Director of IIT Delhi to take a look at these practices and correct them if required.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/000589/3293Adjunct
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/000589
Appellant : Sham Lal
Respondent : Vivek Raman
Public Information Officer
Indian Institute of Technology Delhi,
The mismanagement of the mega blocks on the suburban railway network since last Sunday is causing untold pressure on Mumbai's entire transport system. If it is not handled in time, it may lead to another outburst of public protest by commuters whose patience is stretched thin by the overcrowded, creaking and unsafe railway system
In the past few days, a few lakh Mumbaikars who commute to work and back by the Central Railway, are facing delays, suffocating overload of already crowded local trains, injuries and even death. We learn that the direct reason for this unprecedented chaos is mismanagement and bungling by railway officials last Sunday, when the commuter line was blocked for repairs. The question is who is responsible for the mess and the untold misery to commuters? And at what point will their patience snap?
On Thursday, some angry passengers manhandled a station master at Asangaon station, on the outskirts of Mumbai. On Friday, former BJP MP Kirit Somiaya met top railway officials seeking to know what was wrong. And like in Delhi, the Congress party which rules Maharashtra, has been quiet and unconcerned.
It all began with two the mega blocks (when trains are halted in segments for repair and maintenance work, usually on major holidays) announced by the Central Railway on 29th and 31st December. The duration of these blocks were 12 and 16 hours, respectively. The mega blocks were announced to remodel Thane yard for allowing faster train movement, commissioning of route-relay inter locking system to improve signalling and test-charging of the alternate current (AC) power system. Given the role of the suburban railway network as Mumbai’s lifeline, these blocks are planned months in advance and the work is done with clockwork efficiency to a strict time schedule. But this time, it has meant long delays, frayed nerves and suffocating crowds. The desperation to cling on to the train has led to three tragedies, including that of a young 23-year old Deepesh Kadam and 35-year old Ashok Shelar who slipped. The third victim is yet to be identified.
Activist Samir Zaveri, who has been waging a long and tireless battle for safer rail travel has written to the government asking for action against senior railway officials for the mismanagement which has led to several deaths. He says that some preventive action by the railways in response to passenger warnings would have prevented the deaths that occurred on 31st December.
So far overcrowding in suburban locals on the Central Railway line due to the mega block and unfinished work have claimed three lives in three separate incidents while five people were injured after falling off from the trains, packed beyond their capacity.
According to advocate Bapoo Malcolm, such deaths amount to homicide without premeditated intent to kill, damages without mens rea (Latin for guilty mind) and someone has to pay. “There is need to consider criminal action against erring officials including the railway minister for disability/carelessness to discharge their functions and duties. Whether it is voluntarily done or out of a casual approach or sheer negligence, it amounts to a breach of duty, something that they are solemnly bound to do. They have taken oaths, haven’t they?” he said.
According to sources, there was no proper planning done to carry out the work. Contractors who were supposed to lay cables before the mega blocks did not finish the job. This was the main reason why the construction department could not complete laying crossovers in the stipulated time.
We also hear that 12 out of the 41 new signals have been installed differently and motormen are forced to reduce speed between Thane and Mulund stations because they are unfamiliar with the location of these signals. This has led to the bunching of trains and is causing delays.
Passengers are also irked by the lack of communication. Since the start of mega block on 29th December, the Central Railway failed to keep passengers informed through regular announcements at all stations and also using media.
The uncaring attitude is apparent in any visit to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. A board near the gate towards reservation office always claim that all local trains are running on schedule, more than 95% of the time. But just any commuter will tell you that 10-15 minutes delays are now routine. Yet, the Railways claim 95% of its suburban trains are running on time.
Media reports have quoted Chetan Bakshi, Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), who visited the site near Thane, as saying that old crossovers should have been done away with since new ones have been laid. According to the reports, Subodh Jain, general manager, of Central Railway is mulling to initiate an inquiry for taking action against erring officials after completion of the work at Thane.
Last year, Dinesh Trivedi, former railway minister, while speaking at an event organised by Moneylife Foundation, had said that the entire railway system is in mess and there is a urgent need to modernize it so that people can travel safely with some dignity, unlike what every commuter, especially on Mumbai local trains experience every day. “There are no maintenance contracts given by the Railways and they are carrying out even the basic repairs on ad-hoc basis,” he had said.
Railway officials, who have retired from top posts, feel that the helpless rail officials are mere villains of circumstance. “It is creaking infrastructure that is being loaded 300% of its capacity and operating and maintenance engineers really struggle 24/7 with nightmares of a serious accident any time. They (rail officials) can do nothing better. The only option is limit passengers entering stations to match capacity by harsh barricading measures,” says B Rajaram, former managing director of Konkan Railway.
Moneylife Foundation has also called for urgent corrective action by the railways and to share information with the public. A meeting of several railway associations is scheduled to be held at the Moneylife Foundation at 3pm on Saturday. Those who feel strongly about these issues may like to attend the meeting. See box for details or calls 49205000 or email us at [email protected]
Bhagwat claimed that the incidents of rape were the result of adoption of western culture in society as a whole and that erosion of traditional Indian values were more pronounced in urban areas
Silchar/New Delhi: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat created a flutter when he said rape is mainly prevalent in urban India due to western influence and that such crimes against women do not happen in rural areas of the country, reports PTI.
The remark that came against the backdrop of the Delhi gangrape incident was slammed by the Congress, CPI-M and women's bodies while the BJP and RSS defended it saying the comment should be taken in proper perspective.
Bhagwat claimed that the incidents of rape were the result of adoption of western culture in society as a whole and that erosion of traditional Indian values were more pronounced in urban areas.
"Crimes against women happening in urban India are shameful. It is a dangerous trend. But such crimes won't happen in Bharat or the rural areas of the country. You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gangrape or sex crimes," he said at a meeting in Silchar in Assam recently.
"Where 'Bharat' becomes 'India' with the influence of western culture, these type of incidents happen. The actual Indian values and culture should be established at every stratum of society where women are treated as 'mother'," he added.
Demanding that the government take appropriate action to stop rape incidents, he said RSS will support any government initiative to change existing laws.
"Bhagwat neither understands India nor Bharat," CPI-M leader Brinda Karat said.
Karat said government statistics of atrocities on women and sexual assault showed that the maximum number of victims belong to the poor, dalit and tribal communities.
National Commission of Women (NCW) Chief Mamta Sharma said Bhagwat should stop differentiating in terms of geography.
"We are all Indians. We are all citizens of India...Go to grassroots level and see what is the condition of the women there," he said.
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said the RSS chief's statement should be taken in proper perspective.
"He has condemned the heinous crime of assaulting women, rape against women and he said it is an utterly wrong thing and that people who indulge in such things must be punished," he added..
"All that he (Bhagwat) said is that in Indian tradition we have great respect for women and we should learn to uphold this tradition. If one goes away from this tradition it will result in rise of crime against women," Madhav said.
BJP said the statement should be seen in the proper context as he was referring to India's culture, tradition and value system.
"The present controversy relating to certain comments of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is totally uncalled for and unnecessary. His comments are required to be seen and understood in entirety. He was referring to India's sanskar, tradition and value system where respect for women occupies a pride of place," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said in New Delhi.
Backing Bhagwat, Prasad said the RSS chief had also underlined the need for meting out stringent sentences to the guilty.
"At the same time, he also demanded that strong punishment be given to those who are offenders in relation to crimes against women and that laws should be strengthened to even give capital punishment," Prasad said.
BJP maintained that empowerment of women, and giving them respect and security form the core of RSS ideology.
"There is extraordinary work and achievement made in various RSS-related organisations like Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra, Vidya Bharti and other allied organisations which bear ample testimony to the same," Prasad said.
Slamming Bhagwat, Mamata Sharma said," He should go to the grass root level and see what is the condition of the women there and then he should talk about cities."
AICC General Secretary Digvijaya Singh responded sharply to Bhagwat's comments, saying "this reflects RSS's mentality because there is no difference between India and Bharat."
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said such statements are unfortunate and invoked Ramayana to put his point of view across. He said rape incidents occur in villages as well.
"Nobody has the right to draw 'Lakshman Rekha'...," he said.