Consumer Issues
Use the government's own grievance redress mechanism effectively

If you have a grievance with a government department or ministry, here is how to file a complaint which does not require much effort skill and can be effective too

 
As an early adopter and practitioner of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, I have watched with some dismay as it became diluted and more complicated over the last few years. In addition, with the passage of time, there have been many issues which have diluted its efficacy, or made it difficult for the applicant to get the sought information. Why do people file for information? To seek information and find a resolution to some form of injustice or non-delivery of service from a government office. The RTI experience has been soured by the following factors:
 
Many amendments and rules that have been made which make matters even more complicated
The amount of paperwork and filing that a typical RTI application is required
The great difficulty in many cases to simply pay the Rs10 as RTI fee to the Public Information Officers (PIOs) or Public Authority
The large number of ‘internal’ RTI applications clogging up the pipeline and diverting resources away from the general public
The chances that, in many cases, the outcome of decisions at Information Commissions will and up in courts
The not so subtle way in which selection of Information Commissioners is done to possibly skew matters in certain directions
Effort required to make small payments for photo-copying charges, when postage for that is often higher
Antipathy and aggressiveness that RTI applicants face if they meet up directly with the PIOs and Appellate Authorities (AAs)
Wide disparity in the way the states have taken forward their responsibilities in implementing the RTI Act
The way a whole lot of professional RTI ‘consultants’ have jumped into the fray, often on a “for profit” basis
More importantly, when you do get the information, what do you do with it?
  
By contrast, the Public Grievances Portal (it can be accessed here: http://pgportal.gov.in/), or the Grievance Redress Mechanism, covering both central and state government entities, appears to be promising and in many cases better. The best part about this is that there is no application fee or subsequent fee involved, and the complete process can be kept paperless, using internet, email and SMS. Of course, if people want to go the hard copy route, then there is provision for that too.
 
The basic premise with the Grievance Redress Mechanism is that it addresses the very question of—what next, after you have obtained the information? And then gives you an answer as well as a solution. Also, it works for both central and state government grievances, again, without any costs involved. Of course, if you are not satisfied with the way your grievance is handled, then you can certainly file another grievance with the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances citing the reasons for your dissatisfaction. This is explained in fairly simple terms as well as in great detail if required, in this booklet available in Hindi and English. 
 
You can download the booklet by clicking here
 
It appears to have actually taken into account without mincing any words that there are government departments which, by definition, are problem areas because of their dealings with the public. Since their very existence depends on dealing with the public, these interactions can not be wished away and hence have to be made accountable.
 
Read much more on RTI by Moneylife; click here.
 
Do give it a go, preferably online, and chances are that you will be pleasantly surprised by the results achieved.
 
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)
 

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COMMENTS

Vaibhav Dhoka

4 years ago

I lodged o grievance against SEBI,at http://www.pgportal.gov.in and after about 55 days I received routine reply from this portal_ Case closed log in for details.It is just eyewash by government.None of the government agencies work.The reason-NO ACCOUNTABILITY.

abhi

4 years ago

Veeresh sir,
I tried to find out your e-mail address but couldn't find it out, I want to draw your attention towards the thousands of cadets in this country who are today roaming on streets of mumbai in hope of becoming a seadog one day,these cadets passed out from hundreds of substandard institutes approved by DG Shipping.Where is the luxurious carrier in Merchant navy leading them to? What is DG doing in this regard? Is it not their responsibility to restrict the no. of cadets passing out each year, or to make the entrace that tough that you don't destroy anyone's life, I have personally seen guys getting addicted to alcohol and smoking, and even trying for suicide, they all are loosing hope. What is DG doing???

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to abhi 4 years ago

Dear Abhi, my email address is fairly open domain, veereshmalik at gmail dot com.

The situation with jobs at sea for young Indians is, to put it briefly, fairly drastic.

What is DGS doing? My observation is that they appear to be suffering from a variety of ailments.

Shall try to address this issue too, thank you for the reminder,

rgds/VM

siddharth biswal

4 years ago

i have used their portal but to no avail.inspite of using their reminder mechanism they have not responded yet even after 5-6 months.I have therefore filed RTI regarding this.Thanks for your suggestion,i will see whether it works !

REPLY

Veeresh Malik

In Reply to siddharth biswal 4 years ago

Dear Sidharth, thank you for writing in, and I can only suggest again that you please try to use a combo of PG Portal with RTI to try to get desired results.

Best/VM

Telcos to be chargesheeted for excess spectrum during NDA

The apex court directed the CBI to go by the view of its Director in taking further action on the allocation of spectrum between 2001-03 when Pramod Mahajan was the Telecom Minister

 
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to go ahead with its outgoing Director AP Singh's view on the prosecution of telecom companies, their officials and public servants on the allocation of excess 2G spectrum during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime when late Pramod Mahajan was the Telecom Minister, reports PTI.
 
The apex court paved the way for the agency to file the chargesheet in the case in which an FIR was lodged against the then Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and Deputy Director General (Value Added Services) JR Gupta and unnamed officials of Bharti Cellular (now known as Bharti Airtel), and Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Essar) in November 2011.
 
The delay in filing the chargesgeet was due to difference of opinion between the CBI Director, who was of the view that those named in the FIR should be prosecuted and the agency's Director (Prosecution) disagreeing with him.
 
The matter was referred to the Attorney General GE Vahanvati for his opinion and he gave the view to the CBI which was placed in a sealed cover before a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and KS Radhakrishnan.
 
After perusing the report, the bench directed the CBI to go by the view of its Director in taking further action on the allocation of spectrum between 2001-03 when Mahajan was the Telecom Minister.
 
"We are of the opinion that CBI will take action in accordance with the view expressed by CBI Director against some persons and companies," the bench said.
 
The court said the retirement of present Director will not come in the way and the agency will proceed with his view as he is the highest functionary in the CBI and he has taken a particular view.
 
In the earlier hearing, the bench had questioned why the CBI was seeking opinion of the Attorney General on the issue when the Government has appointed Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for the prosecution of the cases arising out of the investigation in the 2G spectrum scam.
 
The CBI in its progress report into the probe of the spectrum allocation during Mahajan's tenure had stated that after Director (Prosecution) in the CBI disagreed with the investigators on filing the charge sheet against the accused named in the FIR, the matter was referred to the AG for his opinion.
 
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was appearing for NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), had said "difference of opinion between the two wings of CBI has become a pattern" and it is all to protect the Chairman of Bharti Group, Sunil Mittal.
 
The case was registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
 
"The then Minister for Telecom and Communication (Pramod Mahajan) has been excluded since he expired," CBI had said but alleged he was a part of a criminal conspiracy to allocate the additional spectrum in a "hurried" manner.
 

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RTI Judgement Series: You can get information on sub-judice matters under RTI

Under the RTI Act, disclosing information on matters which are sub-judice does not constitute contempt of court, unless there is a specific order forbidding its disclosure. This is the fourth 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) cannot deny information on matters which are sub-judice by citing Section 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, unless there is a specific order forbidding the disclosure, ruled the Central Information Commission. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, also disagreed with a previous decision of the Commission.
 
“The appellate authority had claimed exemption under Section 8 (1)(e), but the PIO has given no reason to justify how this can apply. The only exemption of Section 8 (1) which might remotely apply is Section 8 (1)(b) which states, ‘information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;’ can be denied. This clause does not cover sub-judice matters, and unless an exemption is specifically mentioned, information cannot be denied,” the Commission said in its order issued on 18 February 2009.
 
Delhi resident Ashwani Kumar Goel sought information regarding the creation of the posts of additional senior public prosecutors, vacancies and their ad-hoc promotions and subsequent regularizations during the period 1994 to 2005, from the government of NCT of Delhi. The PIO denied the information saying that the matter is sub-judice in the Delhi High Court.
 
The First Appellate Authority (FAA), while noting that the applicant (Mr Goel) is seeking information for use in the court case to promote his professional and private interests, asked him to obtain the information from Delhi High Court, since the matter was sub-judice. “Further, it was also informed that no large public interest is served from the information as asked by the appellant and can be denied under section 8(1) (e) of RTI Act,” the FAA said in its order.
 
Dissatisfied with the answers from both the PIO and the FAA, Mr Goel then approached the CIC. During the hearing on 18 February 2009, representative of the PIO cited an earlier decision (No. CIC/MA/A/2005/00001) given by the CIC on 14 March 2006. The CIC decision states that “The matter is sub-judice. The appellate authority has correctly advised that information in question could be obtained through the court, which is examining the matter.”
 
After hearing both the sides, Mr Gandhi, in an order said, “I respectfully have to disagree with the earlier decision cited by the appellant since it is per incuriam. This Commission rules that a matter being subjudice cannot be used as a reason for denying information under the Right to Information Act.” 
 
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
 
Decision No. CIC /WB/A/2008/00838/1777
 
Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2008/00838/
 
Appellant                                :         Ashwani Kumar Goel,
                                                                  G-6, Model Town-III,
                                                                  Delhi-110009.
         
Respondent 1                           :      RN Sharma,
                                                                  Joint Secretary (Home) & PIO,
                                                                  Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
                                                                  Office of the Registrar Coop. Societies,
                                                                  Parliament Street, New Delhi.
 

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COMMENTS

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

What Ghandi says is correct BUT who will correct the other IC's. Those support blindly the respondents indirectly Public Authorities. CAN ANY ONE PROVIDE SOLUTION TO IT kindly inform [email protected]

REPLY

Ashok Das

In Reply to praveen sakhuja 4 years ago

I respectfully disagree to your generalized view. Opinion on who is correct may vary. Declaring that all other CICs are biased compared to Gandhi is not a good idea. It shows bias. Shri Shailesh Gandhi is known to have a particular bias too. Balance is very very important in delivering justice. Like you have rightly said, a quick and good solution is still pending for ordinary citizens. At least we have RTI now, thanks to several people including Shailesh Gandhi. Lets hope we are able to make it better and better with time. Thanks.

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

2nd - My experience says it is IC who do not take care of the decision/order of the colleague in a right spirit. those try to shield the respondents of their choice with giving a twist to the past decision/order with new mythology. IC-SS is glaring example to it.

praveen sakhuja

4 years ago

It is the fate of the applicant as to which IC's is dealing with the appeal. Ic's has full discretion to decide fate of the applicant. he/she may even reverse his observations while dictating the decision/order delivered during hearing proceedings,

Ashok Das

4 years ago

Respected Sir, This is quite confusing. Can someone help understand this? One CIC order says that “The matter is sub-judice. The appellate authority has correctly advised that information in question could be obtained through the court, which is examining the matter.” and another CIC order states that "This Commission rules that a matter being subjudice cannot be used as a reason for denying information under the Right to Information Act.” How is the confusion to be cleared as to what is correct? Who decides? Thank you.

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