Former Central Information Commissioner-turned activist Shailesh Gandhi had filed a second appeal for obtaining information about undertrials in Maharashtra prisons
Former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi is back at the role of an activist of the Right to Information (RTI). Following refusal by the Public Information Officer (PIO) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) to provide information about undertrials in prisons in Maharashtra without any valid reasons, he had filed his second appeal before the State Chief Information Commissioner.
On 26 November 2012, Mr Gandhi had filed an RTI application seeking information about undertrials held in prisons in Maharashtra. Here is the information he sought from Pune-based Additional Director General of Police (Addnl DG) and Inspector General of Police (Prisons) (IG-P)...
1. Subject matter of information: Undertrials held in prisons
2. The period to which the information relates: As on 30 September 2012
3. Description of the information required...
a. I want total number of undertrial prisoners who have no conviction and have been in jails for over three years
b. For these undertrials, I want the information in the following format:
The PIO at the office of Addnl DG and IG-P refused to provide the information citing the information is not held or collated at his office. He then attached the list of 43 prisons in Maharashtra.
Not satisfied with this reply, Mr Gandhi then filed his first appeal before the FAA. He said, “The PIO refused to give the information claiming that the information is not collated or held in his office. There is no provision for such a refusal by the PIO. He should have either sought assistance of the other officer as per the provision of Section 5(4) or transferred the application within five days as per provisions of Section 6(3) of the RTI Act. He also did not give me the particulars of the FAA as per Section 7(3)(b).”
“The FAA did not deal with the issue raised in my appeal, but took on the role of the PIO and without giving any reasoning, arbitrarily claimed exemption under Section 8(1)(b), (g), (h) and (j). No reasoning has been given by the FAA. Unless the FAA gives any reasoning, an applicant cannot refute the exemptions,” Mr Gandhi said in his second appeal filed before the state CIC on 11 January 2013.
In his second appeal, Mr Gandhi has also requested the State CIC, to direct the PIO to provide the information, penalise the PIO as per provisions of the RTI Act and reprimand the FAA for a casual approach in rejecting a citizen’s fundamental right.
Last month, the union home ministry told states and Union Territories that under Section 436A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), an undertrial prisoner completing half of the maximum period of imprisonment should be released by the court on his personal bond with or without sureties, with the exception of those involved in heinous crimes.
According to statistics provided by National Crime Records Bureau, as of December 2011, there were 2.41 lakh or 64.7% undertrial prisoners out of total 3.32 lakh jail inmates across India. The occupancy rate across all prisons in the country was 112.1% or 3.72 lakh inmates against a capacity of 3.32 jail inmates, the data said.
The highest percentage (26.9% or 51,695 out of 1.91 lakh) of undertrials was charged with murder. Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of 8,595 or 16.6% of such undertrials, followed by Madhya Pradesh at 9.2% or 4,776 inmates, the data showed.
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