The CIC warned the PIO for denying information without applying mind while claiming exemption under Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI Act. This is 167th 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 Public Information Officer (PIO) of Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) at Kolkata to provide information about proceedings of departmental promotional committee and correspondence regarding the post of senior scientific assistance (bacteriology) and senior scientific assistant (pharmacology). The PIO had denied the information citing exemption under Section 8(1) (b) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act by claiming the matter as sub-judice.
While giving this judgement on 19 January 2012, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, "...the PIO has not applied his mind properly and has denied information which is not exempt (under Section 8(1) (b) of the RTI Act). The PIO is warned to ensure that denial of information is not done unless there is an express provision in the law."
Kolkata resident Tarun Nag, on 30 June 2011, sought from the PIO information about proceedings of departmental promotional committee. Here is the information he sought under the RTI Act...
1. Details of Proceedings of Departmental Promotional Committee (DPC) of 'Junior Administrative Officer' Central Drugs Laboratory, Kolkata. In that DPC Mr Tarit Kumar Adhikari had been considered for the post.
2. The total corresponding letter send between office of the Director of Central Drugs Laboratory, 3, Kyd Street, Kolkata-700016, and DCGI, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt of India & Office of The Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, FDA Bhawan, ITO, Kotla Road, New Delhi-110002 related to the post of senior scientific assistance (Bacteriology) & senior scientific assistant (Pharmacology) from the 1994 to till date
The PIO transferred the application to the director, Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL), Kolkata so as to give reply with the information to Nag, the applicant and to take necessary action in the matter in accordance with the provisions of RTI Act, 2005.
Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Nag filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) said the information cannot be provided as the matter was sub-judice. He said, "Director, CDL, Kolkata has informed that the subject matter is pending consideration before Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Kolkata Bench in OA No.504 of 2011 and WPCT No.265 of 2011 before Calcutta High Court and attracts provisions of section 8 (1) (b) of RTI Act, 2005."
Citing, incomplete and unsatisfactory information provided by the PIO and unfair disposal of the appeal by the FAA, the applicant then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC noted that the PIO has refused to give the information on the ground that a case is pending before CAT, Kolkata Bench and before the Kolkata High Court. "Effectively the PIO has stated that since the matter is sub-judice he is claiming exemption under Section 8(1) (b) of the RTI Act," he said.
Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI Act exempts,
"information which has been expressly forbidden by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court."
Mr Gandhi said, "This clearly does not extend to all matters that are sub-judice. If Parliament wanted to exempt sub-judice matters it would have said so expressly. In this event the PIO has not applied his mind properly and has denied information which is not exempt. The PIO is warned to ensure that denial of information is not done unless there is an express provision in the law."
While allowing the appeal, the Bench directed the PIO to provide information sought by Nag before 10 February 2012.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/003224/16954
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/003224
Appellant : Tarun Nag Kolkata-700040
Respondent : Dr MFA Baig
PIO & Sr. Scientific Officer
Central Drugs Laboratory
The cost of the delayed Versova—Andheri—Ghatkopar Metro project rose 84% to Rs4,321 crore. Although the Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One is going to miss its seventh deadline this September, the company is seeking to hike the fare to substantiate increased project cost
Repeated delays and rising cost of raw material has caused construction cost of the Mumbai Metro project to shoot up by 84%. It is now going to cost Rs4,321 crore, up from its original cost of Rs2,356 crore. The project was scheduled for completion in March 2012, but remains "work in progress," according to Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan. The 12km long Versova- Andheri-Ghatkopar metro project is going to miss its seventh deadline, which was on September 2013, and is now scheduled to be completed early next year.
Right to Information (RTI) Activist Anil Galgali, who is closely following the progress of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and state government projects, filed an RTI application seeking information on cost escalation and other issues. The response to his RTI query reveals many facts.
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of MMRDA, in his reply stated, "In meeting held on May 2012, Board members had approved a revised budget of Metro project cost around Rs4,321 crore. The MMRDA will not share the additional cost. MMRDA will only consider original cost of Rs2,356 for project and its cost sharing formula would be the same in 70:30 ratio as per the agreement signed between government of Maharashtra and Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL)."
As per the agreement, the state government's share in the project was Rs1,194 crore while the rest Rs512 was to be paid by MMOPL. MMOPL is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) set up for the project between MMRDA, Reliance Energy Ltd (now Reliance Infra), and Veolia Transport of France. Reliance Infra holds 69% (Rs354 crore) in the SPV, while MMRDA holds 26% (Rs133 crore) and Veolia the remaining 5% (Rs25 crore) stake in MMOPL. The viability cost funding in the original project was Rs650 crore. While the union government was expected to pay Rs471 crore, the MMRDA was to bear Rs179 crore out of this viability cost funding. In short, as per the original project cost, MMRDA's was expected to pick-up a tab of Rs312 crore for the metro.
Although, the MMRDA has approved revised budget for the project, it had not specified about sharing the additional cost in the MMOPL, the SPV for the project. So this brings forth an important question as to who will then bear the additional burden?
Galgali says, "It is full responsibility of MMOPL to complete project within the deadline. The deadline is extended for seven times and the government should not sanction a single paisa increase to MMOPL and instruct MMRDA to get the metro ready at the earliest".
"MMOPL is keeping everyone in the dark. Even Reliance Infra is not in a position to state the reason behind the cost escalation. This indicates MMOPL's lack of planning and unfortunately the MMRDA has been very soft on MMOPL," Galgali alleged.
He also slammed MMOPL's decision to let Reliance Infra use its name on the coaches for the metro. On this issue, MMRDA in its reply to the RTI application confirmed that the name put up by Reliance Infra on coaches is permitted neither by the Authority nor by the state government.
Reliance Infrastructure-led MMOPL has failed to complete this project before deadlines due to many factors such as changes in designs, rupee depreciation, space crunch, utility shifting and getting approvals, litigations, addition of extra coaches and delay in receiving permission from Indian Railways.
MMOPL has approached the state government as well as the MMRDA seeking revision in ticket fares due to an increase in construction cost and purchasing extra rakes with an expectation of high ridership. The present fares are: Rs6 up to first 3km, Rs8 between 3km to 8km and Rs10 for more than 8km. The demand by MMOPL is to increase the fares up to Rs35. However for time being, this issue will not touched by the state government.
The first phase of Mumbai Metro rail project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in June 2006. Mumbai Metro is the India's first public private partnership metro project in which all the three phases of construction, operation and maintenance have been given to a private players.