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:
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”