The Central Information Commission has ordered political parties to designate Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities by 15th July. As the deadline nears, RTI activists are gearing up to counter the government’s alleged proposal to bring in an Ordinance to put political parties out of the ambit of RTI Act
In early June, the Central Information Commission had ordered all political parties to not only designate their Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Appellate Authorities (AAs) but also to implement voluntary disclosures under Section 4. Quite predictably, all the major political parties opposed the CIC decision vehemently and are now huddled together, cooking up an Ordinance, allegedly within hours from now, but in any case before 15th July, to put political parties out of the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Stalwart RTI activists across the country had raised their up their antennas and are planning vociferous protests to nullify the Ordinance. Members of the National Campaign for the Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) steered by Nikhil Dey and Anil Bahirwal, the RTI petitioner who along with Subhash Agrawal had filed the series of RTI applications in the Income Tax and other relevant public authorities, met on 9th June in Delhi, to draw out a series of protests against the promulgation of the Ordinance. These include memorandum to the UPA chief, president of India and heads of political parties; petition by eminent people; signature campaign and dharna in Delhi during the Monsoon session of the Parliament.
States Bhaskar Prabhu, co-convener of NCPRI, “As per reliable sources, it is a few hours from now left to issue the Ordinance, so we need to send at least 10,000 petitions to the president of India, today itself. Letters can be sent in individual capacity or in the name of your organisation. Within the organization, volunteers, members, associates etc can also send them in individual names.” (at the end of the article, the draft letter and the email id of the president of India has been published.). Leading Mumbai-based RTI activist and former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has already sent the letter to the president of India and has urged citizens and activists to do the needful as early as possible.
The letter states that, “…citizens cannot see any reason which justifies an Ordinance. Curtailing citizen's fundamental right and issuing an Ordinance to frustrate a statutory order are morally and legally repugnant. Frustrating an existing law arbitrarily, will not promote the rule of law. I plead with you to consider whether it would be right to curb citizen’s fundamental rights by ordinance when there appears to be no need for immediate action.”
The letter also states that, “I am sure you realise that an Ordinance should only be promulgated when there is a great urgency. Article 123 of the Constitution states (1) If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the president is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require.”
The NCPRI meeting on 9th June was attended by RTI activists AnjuTalukdar, Vipual Mudgal, Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Aheli Chowdhury, NandiniDey, Anil Bairwal, Manoj (ADR), Kamal, Karamveer Shastri and Amrita Johri.
Following is the plan of action of the NCPRI:
Calling citizens to send a letter to the president of India today itself, along the following lines:
To: President of India <[email protected]>
Shri Pranab Mukherjee,
President of India.
There are reports that the government has decided to promulgate an ordinance to amend the RTI Act. The ostensible purpose is to counter the decision of the CIC declaring six political parties as Public Authorities which are subject to the Right to Information Act. Representatives of all political parties have stated that they believe the CIC decision is unsound legally and hence they are opposing it. If they are being truthful, they can certainly go in a writ to the courts. Hundreds of CIC decisions have been quashed by the courts.
I am sure you realise that an Ordinance should only be promulgated when there is a great urgency. Article 123 of the Constitution states (1) If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the president is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinance as the circumstances appear to him to require.
In the instant case citizens cannot see any reason which justifies an Ordinance. Curtailing citizen's fundamental right and issuing an ordinance to frustrate a statutory order are morally and legally repugnant. Frustrating an existing law arbitrarily, will not promote the rule of law. I plead with you to consider whether it would be right to curb citizen's fundamental rights by Ordinance when there appears to be no need for immediate action.
If you do issue the said ordinance, I am hoping you will share the reasons for the immediate action with citizens.
(Name of the person)
See my earlier stories on this issue: Political parties asked to designate PIOs and Appellate Authorities within 6 weeks
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
The Karnataka State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has asked a builder, who failed to deliver flats to buyers in time, to compensate. “The house rent prevailing in the open market for a two-bedroom well-furnished house is between Rs12,000 and Rs15,000 per month. Had the developers executed the sale deeds in time, the complainants could have avoided paying rent. So the company is liable to pay compensation by way of rent from January 2009 till realization,” the bench of Justices K Ramanna and GT Vijayalakshmi said. The developer has also been directed to pay Rs5,000 each to the two complainants towards litigation expenses.