CIC Calls for Contact Updates of Appellants To Conduct Online Hearings under RTI
On Wednesday, the central information commission (CIC) issued a circular requesting second appeal appellants and complainants to send to it, their updated email addresses and mobile numbers in order to be able to contact them for informing them of the date of hearing to be conducted online, either by audio or video communication. 
 
This is more than welcome, as over 36,000 second appeals are pending with the CIC headquartered at Delhi and the national lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic would have added to this pendency. An earlier circular dated 24 March 2020 had almost implied that the CIC would not function.  It had stated that:  “the office of the Central Information Commission shall remain closed for a period of 21 days with effect from 25.03.2020. All cases scheduled for hearing are deferred for this period. In case of any matter of urgency, deputy registrar of the registry be contacted telephonically. Hearing of such a matter would be through audio conference.’’
 
However, in a turnaround, the circular dated 22 April 2020, states: “Updation of e-mail id and mobile number in the second appeals/ complaints for conducting hearings through audio/video conference. Due to COVID-19, applicants are requested to provide the e-mail id and mobile number in the second appeals/complaints for conducting hearings through audio/video conference.’’
 
The details of the updated contacts should be sent by the applicant with his or her file number and applicant name to: [email protected]. For any further assistance, the applicant can call Anil K Gehlot, joint secretary, CIC on 011- 26183053.
 
The format should be as follows:
 
File Number:
Diary number:
Public Authority:
Applicant Name:
Email-id:
Mobile Number:
 
Besides, you may contact any of the deputy registrars as they fix the dates of CIC hearings. The circular has listed their names and phone numbers which area follows: 
Central Information Commission Contact numbers of Deputy Registrars. 
 
1. KL Das, DR to Bimal Julka (Chief Information Commissioner) – 9968091423;  
 
2. RP Grover, DR to Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha (Information Commissioner)– 9818463820;  
 
3. HP Sen, DR to Divya Prakash Sinha (Information Commissioner)– 7065349476; 
 
4. AK Assija, DR to Ms Vanaja N Sarna (Information Commissioner)– 9990725966; 
 
5. SC Sharma, DR to Neeraj Kumar Gupta (Information Commissioner)- 9910172208; 
 
6. RS Murthy, DR to Suresh Chandra (Information Commissioner)– 9560177655;  
 
7. Baljit Singh, DR to Dr Amita Pandove (Information Commissioner)– 8974004151 and
 
8. KA Talwar, DR to (CR-1) – 8130895332
 
Last week, on 15th April, the CIC had conducted around 18 Zoom video-conference hearings wherein the appellant, the public authority representative and the CIC were present. However, just a day later, on 16th April, after the cyber coordination centre (CyCord), under the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA), issued a directive that,  “the platform is not for use by government officers/officials for official purposes’’, the CIC has begun looking for other options, the safest being audio conference hearings. Until then, the conventional video conferencing facility is being used though this means that the parties would have to physically go to the studio. Typically, the CIC letter for the hearing date mentions this. (this was for a hearing today on 23rd April 2020):
 
 Venue for the Appellant/Complainant NIC Studio: CIC, NIC Lucknow, E-Floor Yojna Bhawan, 9-Sarojni Naidu Marge, Yojana Bhawan, Lucknow - Pin - 226001, IP Phone - 47021 ,47022 (Contact officer: Diwan Singh, Technical Director. Contact No: 9839670752 / 0522-2298822/ 0522-2298823)
 
Venue for CPIO 1 Venue: Room No. 302, Central Information Commission, Baba Gang Nath Marg, Munirka, New Delhi - 110067 3 / 4 Venue for CPIO 2 NIC Studio : N.I.C. Video Conferencing Studio, District Centre, Near D.M. Meeting Hall, Ground Floor, Collectorate, Agra-282010 (Uttar Pradesh) (Contact officer : Vishnu Prasad Gautam (Scientist-C)Contact No. : 0562-2261511) 
 
Venue for CPIO 2 Venue for CPIO 3 NIC Studio: CIC, NIC Lucknow, E-Floor Yojna Bhawan, 9-Sarojni Naidu Marge, Yojana Bhawan, Lucknow - Pin - 226001, IP Phone - 47021 ,47022 (Contact officer : Diwan Singh, Technical Director Contact No. : 9839670752 / 0522-2298822/ 0522-2298823)
 
However, all is not hunky dory and to the benefit of the RTI applicants. States Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) who is communicating with the CIC to make the video/audio second hearings more transparent, rues that, “It appears that when any applicant comes for attending 'online hearings' - she/he is unaware of the submission made by respondent CPIOs. Hence, she /he is unable to put up arguments in response to what the CPIO has submitted. I propose that Commission implement my above proposal that will bring all parties on same page.”
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is 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”.)
Comments
glnprasad52
1 year ago
Ha Ha Ha.. Are you aware that for one High Court the designated Public Information officer is Registrar General, and he is represented before the State Information Commission through a Peon in District Court before State Information Commission several times?. A retired DIG as IC announces the same in personal hearing and asking that representative to occupy seat informing that he is honored representative of HC. Are you not aware that it is only Asst. Public Information officer that provides/denies information in Courts and never SIC took objection to that. Less said the better in implementation of RTI by Courts. Do you know that some High Courts appoint Counsels of repute and they, in turn, authorize junior most Advocates for representing HC/Courts on day to day basis every day, and that junior advocate is available in SIC every day ?. Even in CIC State HCs representatives are more than one counsel whose allowances are abnormal. It is still not clear as to whether HC is under CIC or SIC and Subordinate Courts are under State Government rules or HC rules under RTI. A shame to state, about the pendency of such a large number of appeals, after 15 years of enactment, and there was already a decision/judgment on such appropriate use of denial mentioned under Sec. 8 (1) exemption misused by PIOs are maximum 4 in 90% of the cases. If there is a will, there is certainly a way. Once penalties are imposed and the system is developed, there is no need for such huge costs on information commission and agony to appellants over long delay.
raviforjustice
1 year ago
What Cmde Batra has pointed out is only one of the basic frauds being perpetrated by the info commissioners. In fact I have elaborated on the exact procedure to be followed by the information commissioners in a redrafted RTI Rules submitted by me to the DoPT in 2017. These are available at http://raviforjustice.blogspot.com/2017/04/rti-rules-2017redrafted-by-rti-activist.html.

It needs to be recollected that the wording of Sec 20 of the RTI Act is unambiguous that the opportunity to being heard should be given to the PIO only if the IC is required to penalize him. And the decision, whether he has defaulted, is to be made after studying the documents submitted with the 2nd appeal. In case there is no need to penalize, the appeal can be simply disposed of by merely recording the findings. In such cases conducting hearings is a absolute charade.

Then, the opportunity of being heard should be given only to the PIO who has defaulted. Here again we can find that, with the delays involved in conducting the hearings, that the PIO who has defaulted is no more the PIO of the defaulting public authority. To circumvent this, though illegally, the CIC is permitting representatives of the PIO to appear. Here is the extract of the relevant paragraphs from a notice for a hearing:

Quote

3. (a) CPIO/PIO should personally attend the hearing if for a compelling reason(s) he/she is unable to be present, he/she has to give reasons for the same and shall authorise an officer not below the rank of CPIO.PIO, fully acquainted with the facts of the case and bring complete file/file(s) with him

b) If the CPIO attending the hearing before the Commission does not happen to be the concerned CPIO, it shall still be his/her responsibility to ensure that the CPIO(s) concerned must attend with complete fiIe concerning the RTI request, the hearing along with him

Unquote

The notice from the CIC also mandate that written submissions, if any, has to be submitted to the CIC 7 days prior to the hearing and copies have to be served on opposite parties too. Here is the extract of the relevant para from a notice:

Quote

4. All the parties may submit their written submission, if any, to the Commission at least 7 days before the date of hearing. A copy of the same shall be served upon opposite party. If any party wishes to make online submission, the same may be sent to the Commission's link only viz, http:dsscic.nic.in/online-link-paper-compliance/add

Unquote

Now, here there is an obvious fraud: the email id of the parties are not known to each other.

The notice does not indicate if the copy of the 2nd appeal had been provided to the PIO/FAA. If it had been provided then the PIO may know the e mail id of the appellant. In my case I do provide my e mail id. But I have never received any submission made by the PIO.

Ultimately, the whole process is a blatant fraud. In one case I had pursued against the railways, the original CPIO had merely forwarded the application to another CPIO under Sec 6(3) and communicated that matter to me. And there had been no response from the other PIO, nor any response to the 1st appeal. In the decision the IC merely stated the the PIO had replied and disposed off the 2nd appeal!

If the judiciary had been working at least 1 percent satisfactorily this IC should have been sentenced to 7 years in prison under Sec 219 of the IPC, even at the admission stage itself.

glnprasad52
1 year ago
States Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) observation "It appears that when an applicant comes for attending 'online hearings' - she/he is unaware of the submission made by respondent CPIOs. Hence, she /he is unable to put up arguments in response to what the CPIO has submitted. I propose that the Commission implement my above proposal that will bring all parties on the same page.”- is absolutely right. Not even once as known to me CPIO has submitted his arguments out of ten cases even when he was requested by appellants. Cheap tactics by giving an outward number and speaking to CIC that the submissions were marked on such and such date by ordinary posts are very prevalent. If only new CIC has a will he can formulate a policy and can dispose of all pending applications on this day by 31-10-2020 by issuing Show cause notices on deemed denial and penalizing for delay or misleading statements without exempting any CPIO and recovering such amounts from CPIO. By next year CIC may not have such work if only penalties are imposed in all deserving cases without fear and favor.
glnprasad52
1 year ago
In complicated cases, VC is not useful and the time is the main constraint. Public Authorities exploit the system. It has to be seen as to how it can help rural, semiurban applicants without such a facility. An honest move, with limited success.
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