RTI Judgement Series: Environment ministry asked to display information on its website
Moneylife Digital Team 04 September 2013

Appreciating the positive attitude of the PIOs, the CIC directed them to ensure display of information on the MoEF website as mandated under Section 4 (1) (a) of the RTI Act. This is 168th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application

The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing a complaint, directed Public Information Officers (PIOs) of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to display information on the website about certain projects as mandated under Section 4 (1) (a) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

While giving this judgement on 18 January 2012, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, "Disclosures in accordance with the Section 4 (1) (a) of the RTI Act are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in institutions. This would reduce the load of RTI Applications being filed with each institution as information would be freely available to citizens and they would not have to apply for it. It further envisages that citizens would be required to specifically ask for information under section (6) only in a few cases. Citizens have been demanding that certain information is essential to them and should be available proactively in form of public notice boards, display boards."

 

New Delhi resident Shibani Ghosh, on 14 November 2011, filed a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act before the CIC contending that certain categories of information should be available on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. She also contended that these documents/ details should be available suo moto. Here are points mentioned by her in the complaint...

 

1. Copies of applications and related documents submitted by the Project Proponent while seeking prior environmental clearance, particularly the following documents:

          a. Form 1

          b. Form 1A, where applicable

          c. Draft Terms of Reference suggested by the Project proponent

 

These documents are submitted by the Project proponent in accordance with para 6 of the EIA Notification 2006. This information should be made available on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests within 5 days of the Project being placed on the Agenda for discussion by the relevant Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to issue Terms of Reference.

 

2. Additional information submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committees by the Project proponent.

 

During the project appraisal stage, on certain occasions, the EACs direct the project proponent to provide certain additional information such as specific reports/studies on certain aspects of the project. This information should be made available on the website as it not only forms a basis of the EACs' recommendations but also allows citizens to verify whether the information provided to the EACs by the project proponent is correct. This information should be uploaded on the website of the Ministry within 10 days of receipt of the information.

 

3. Reports/ studies commissioned by the Expert Appraisal Committees from independent agencies/ sub-committees

 

In some cases, the EACs have either constituted sub-committees or requested independent agencies to submit a report on the project after undertaking a site visit and/or undertaking further analysis of the project. Reports submitted by these agencies/sub-committees including site visit reports should be made available on the website of the Ministry within 10 days of receipt of the reports/studies.

 

4. Following information relating to post-clearance compliance of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter and monitoring of the same-

 

a. Six-monthly compliance reports that are to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

b. Reports of committees, which may have been constituted to monitor the compliance of conditions by the project proponent.

c. With regard to certain projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests stipulates that certain additional studies/ reports such as mitigation plans have to be done after the clearance has been granted. These studies/ reports should be made available.

 

The afore-mentioned information should be displayed on the website before the 10th day of the following month during which they were received.

 

5. Information relating to the Regional offices of the Ministry of Environment and Forests

 

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has six regional offices in different parts of the country which perform a significant part of the Ministry's functions particularly those relating to site inspection and monitoring. However, not much information relating to the functioning of these regional offices is available on the website of the Ministry.

 

6. General suggestions-

 

a. All information pertaining to one project such as Form 1, EIA reports, public hearing proceedings, minutes of EAC meetings when the project was considered, compliance reports, etc. should be made available at one place.

b. Important sections of the website of the Ministry particularly on the Environmental Clearances and the Forest Clearances are mostly not accessible after official working hours and during weekends.

c. There should be a system to track the movement of an RTI Application. As the Ministry has a centralized system of filing RTI Applications, the Applicant should be able to follow up with the concerned PIO directly.

d. The PIOs should be encouraged to contact the Applicant by email. For instance, applicants who have sent applications through post could be informed that the RTI Application has been received.

 

During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, observed the PIOs showed very positive attitude towards displaying information on the website. It emerges that the Ministry is putting a lot of information on the website, he noted.

 

He then directed the PIO to ensure that following information is displayed on the website of the Ministry:

         

1. Copies of applications and related documents submitted by the Project Proponent while seeking prior environmental clearance, particularly the following documents:

          a. Form 1;

          b. Form 1A, where applicable;

 

2. Additional information submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committees by the Project proponent.

 

3. Reports/studies commissioned by the Expert Appraisal Committees from independent agencies/ sub-committees.

 

4. Following information relating to post-clearance compliance of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter and monitoring of the same-

a. Six-monthly compliance reports that are to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

b. Reports of committees which may have been constituted to monitor the compliance of conditions by the project proponent.

c. With regard to certain projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests stipulates that certain additional studies/ reports such as mitigation plans have to be done after the clearance has been granted. These studies/ reports should be made available.

 

The Commission directed that these would be uploaded on the website for all projects from 1 April 2012 onwards. 

 

As regards with point-5 the PIO explained their practical problem and therefore it was agreed that the information with the regional office about the monitoring and site visit reports would be implemented from 1 June 2012 onwards, the Bench said.

 

As regards point-6 the PIO explained that since they are not able to host the complete data on the NIC website presently, they would be able to ensure 24x7 website availability only after NIC starts hosting it and this would happen within three months. The PIO stated that the proceedings of the public hearing are displayed by the State Pollution Control Bards on their website and this is a mandatory requirement.

 

Ghosh, the complainant stated that this is often not done.

 

Mr Gandhi, then directed the PIO to issue an order to all State Pollution Control Boards to ensure that the proceedings are displayed regularly on their website within seven days of the issue of the Minutes of the Public Hearing.

 

Section 4 (1) (a) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, which is a mandatory obligation, reads as

"maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated".

 

The CIC said it appreciates that the Department has made improvements and is moving towards better transparency.

 

While allowing the complaint, Mr Gandhi directed the PIO to ensure that details as listed above are displayed on the website of the Ministry before 1 April 2012. The Bench also directed the PIO to send a consolidated report of compliance of the above directions is sent to the CIC by 10 April 2012, with a copy to Ghosh, the complainant. 

 

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

 

Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2011/001398/16936

https://ciconline.nic.in/cic_decisions/CIC_SG_C_2011_001398_16936_T_74418.pdf

Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2011/001398

 

Complainant                                     : Shibani Ghosh

                                                            New Delhi 110048

         

Respondent                                        : Sanchita Jindal

                                                            CPIO & Director

                                                            Impact Assessment (IA) Division

                                                            Ministry of Environment and Forests

                                                            Government of India, Paryavaran Bhavan

                                                            CGO Complex, New Delhi 110003

Comments
CA BRAJESH
8 years ago
Good order

CA Brajesh Agarwal
9818623388(m)
Free Helpline
Legal Credit
Feedback