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Decision of the Assam State Information Commission Re Shahidul Hoque

Decision of the Assam State Information Commission Re Shahidul Hoque

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THE STATE OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN ASSAM


WALIULLAH AHMED LASKAR

This a humble effort to present briefly the state of the Right to Information in Assam with particular reference to the situation in Barak valley, southern part of Assam comprising of the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Although the law regarding Right to Information is fairly unequivocal in India providing the right to a broad range of information to the citizens and a mechanism for expeditious enforcement of this right it is still a rare phenomenon that a citizen gets information as he seeks within the timeframe stipulated under the Right to Information Act, 2005. It is feared that the law is strangulated slowly in its implementation by applying various tactics ranging from feigning ignorance, insensitivity, apathy, misinterpretation of law to temptation, intimidation, hooliganism, implication in false charges etc.

According to a sample survey conducted recently by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, 93% of those applicants interviewed told that they did not get any response from the Public Information Officer within 30 days of the receipt of the application as laid down in section 7 (1) of the Act. 86 % of such applicants do not pursue the matter any further. Remaining applicants (14%) either file complaints with the Assam State Information Commission or prefer appeal to an officer higher in rank to the PIO in the same public authority. In the former case, the SIC transfers the applications under section 6 (3) in almost all cases to either the PIO or the Appellate Authority of the concerned public authority. In case where an appeal is preferred to the Appellate Authority the appellants get responses, according to the said survey report, in just 45% of the cases. 73 % of those who do not get response from the Appellate Authority do not make the Second Appeal. In most of the cases where the second appeal are made the SIC without hearing the case itself forwards the petition to the Appellate Authority asking to hear the case giving a timeframe of usually 30 days.

In cases where the First Appeal is preferred, the SIC transfers the Applications to either the PIO or the Appellate Authority and whether in the complaint stage or in the second appeal stage, the redtapism starts invariably. The Appellate Authority or the PIO writes letters to other officers requesting them to supply the information within a specific time limit, in most cases it is 30 days, as he is to furnish them to the applicant with intimation to the applicant. The time limit gets passed and another set of such letters is issued providing another time limit. In the process a period of six months to one year is elapsed.

Meanwhile another unofficial process starts vigorously which involves both temptation and intimidation. 96% of those applicants, who went through this stage and interviewed in the said survey, stated that they faced both temptation and intimidation in one or the other form.

In this regard, communication of Dr. K M Baharul Islam, Chairman and CEO of South Asian Regional Development Gateway in Guwahati and a public spirited person hailing from Karimganj, Assam, deserves to be quoted in some length: “Read your email. I had the chance to represent a case in SIC Assam from my area. Though the SIC was very categorically given the verdict in front of all the parties imposing the highest penalty on the earring officer, it was an utter shock when I saw the decision on the website that inserts a 'penalty confirmation' hearing at a later date on 3/6/08 !!

“And, on 3/6/08 he has become too apologetic and as expected got the penalty waived!! Look what signal it will give to the other officers that you may do anything but later by giving apology you may get away.

“This officer says he was ignorant, whereas time and again for almost 2 years he made the applicant a mental torture, thought shown various provisions of the RTI Act...public protests, news pa
THE STATE OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN ASSAM


WALIULLAH AHMED LASKAR

This a humble effort to present briefly the state of the Right to Information in Assam with particular reference to the situation in Barak valley, southern part of Assam comprising of the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Although the law regarding Right to Information is fairly unequivocal in India providing the right to a broad range of information to the citizens and a mechanism for expeditious enforcement of this right it is still a rare phenomenon that a citizen gets information as he seeks within the timeframe stipulated under the Right to Information Act, 2005. It is feared that the law is strangulated slowly in its implementation by applying various tactics ranging from feigning ignorance, insensitivity, apathy, misinterpretation of law to temptation, intimidation, hooliganism, implication in false charges etc.

According to a sample survey conducted recently by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, 93% of those applicants interviewed told that they did not get any response from the Public Information Officer within 30 days of the receipt of the application as laid down in section 7 (1) of the Act. 86 % of such applicants do not pursue the matter any further. Remaining applicants (14%) either file complaints with the Assam State Information Commission or prefer appeal to an officer higher in rank to the PIO in the same public authority. In the former case, the SIC transfers the applications under section 6 (3) in almost all cases to either the PIO or the Appellate Authority of the concerned public authority. In case where an appeal is preferred to the Appellate Authority the appellants get responses, according to the said survey report, in just 45% of the cases. 73 % of those who do not get response from the Appellate Authority do not make the Second Appeal. In most of the cases where the second appeal are made the SIC without hearing the case itself forwards the petition to the Appellate Authority asking to hear the case giving a timeframe of usually 30 days.

In cases where the First Appeal is preferred, the SIC transfers the Applications to either the PIO or the Appellate Authority and whether in the complaint stage or in the second appeal stage, the redtapism starts invariably. The Appellate Authority or the PIO writes letters to other officers requesting them to supply the information within a specific time limit, in most cases it is 30 days, as he is to furnish them to the applicant with intimation to the applicant. The time limit gets passed and another set of such letters is issued providing another time limit. In the process a period of six months to one year is elapsed.

Meanwhile another unofficial process starts vigorously which involves both temptation and intimidation. 96% of those applicants, who went through this stage and interviewed in the said survey, stated that they faced both temptation and intimidation in one or the other form.

In this regard, communication of Dr. K M Baharul Islam, Chairman and CEO of South Asian Regional Development Gateway in Guwahati and a public spirited person hailing from Karimganj, Assam, deserves to be quoted in some length: “Read your email. I had the chance to represent a case in SIC Assam from my area. Though the SIC was very categorically given the verdict in front of all the parties imposing the highest penalty on the earring officer, it was an utter shock when I saw the decision on the website that inserts a 'penalty confirmation' hearing at a later date on 3/6/08 !!

“And, on 3/6/08 he has become too apologetic and as expected got the penalty waived!! Look what signal it will give to the other officers that you may do anything but later by giving apology you may get away.

“This officer says he was ignorant, whereas time and again for almost 2 years he made the applicant a mental torture, thought shown various provisions of the RTI Act...public protests, news pa

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: Waliullah Ahmed Laskar on Jul 02, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/28/2010

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PROCEEDINGS OF THE ASSAM INFORMATION COMMISSIONFULL COMMISSION(Complaint Under Section 18 of the RTI Act, 2005)Present : 1. Shri R. S. MooshaharyState Chief Information Commissioner.2. Dr. B.K. GohainState Information CommissionerCase No In matters of complaint of Sahidul Haque LaskarCCR.3/2007 - Vs-BDO, Banskandi Development Block Date of hearing 17.06.08Name of the complainant : Mr. Sahidul Haque LaskarSecretary, Kishan Bikash SamityBanskandi, Cachar, AssamName of the Public Authority / SPIO: BDO, Banskandi Development Block, CacharThe following were present:1 Sahidul Haque Laskar Complainant2. Waliullah Ahmed lascar Accompanied the complainant
The complainant present. The Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad, Cachar, thePD, DRDA, Cachar and the BDO, Banskandi Development Block absent. They however sent information that they could not be present before the Commission during hearing todayin view of the visit of the Director (DCP) Planning & Development Department Assam for field verification of the schemes in the district for which their presence was required.
Brief of the case
On 31.7.07, a petition was received from Sahidul Haque Laskar of Banskandi, Cachar in which he stated that he sought for information relating to the 11
th
Finance CommissionAward, 1
st
installment of 12
th
Finance Commission Award, IAY and Tara Pump and RingWell etc in Banskandi Development Block from the BDO of the block vide his applicationdated 9.5.07. Then again on 22.6.07 he submitted a reminder on the subject to the BDO of the block but did not get any information. Hence he submitted this petition to theCommission. The Commission transferred the same to the CEO, Zilla Parishad, Silchar on27.8.07 directing her to furnish the information.Again on 18.9.07, a petition was received from the petitioner stating that he was notfurnished with any information. Then on 1.2.08, another petition was received from the petitioner in which he stated that the BDO of the block furnished him information relating tonine Gaon Panchayats and 11
th
Finance Commission Award, 12
th
Finance CommissionAward and the lists of IAY beneficiaries. But he was not furnished any information relatingto the Tara pumps and Ring Wells and he was also not satisfied with the information.Therefore, the Commission decided to draw up a complaint proceeding and issuednotices to the CEO, Zilla Parisahd, Cachr, the PD, DRDA, Cachar and the BDO of Banskandi Development Block to appear before the Commission today with all records /details.
Submission of the parties
The complainant stated that he submitted a petition to the BDO, BanskandiDevelopment Block on 9.5.07 seeking information regarding the implementation of the 11
th
 Finance Commission Award, 12
th
Finance Commission Award, IAY and Tara Pump andRing Well schemes undertaken in the different Gaon Panchayats of the block. But he did notreceive any information. Again on 22.6.07 he submitted another petition to the BDO of theBlock asking him to furnish the information as he had not received the same. But when he
 
 2did not receive any information he submitted a petition before the Commission on 31.7.07and the Commission was pleased to transfer the same on 27.8.07 to the CEO, Zilla Parishadfor furnishing the information. He further stated that he sent another petition to theCommission on 18.9.07 as a reminder to his letter dated 31.7.07. Then he sent another  petition to the Commission vide letter dated 18.1.08 informing the Commission that onreceipt of the transferred petition from the Commission the CEO, Zilla Parisahd Cachar videher letter dated 10.10.07 directed the BDO, Banskandi Development Block to attend her office on 15.11.07. He further mentioned that the PIO of the Block transferred his petition toeach of the Gaon Panchayat Secretaries under the Block on 1.8.07. Then the BDO issuedanother letter to each of the Secretaries of the Gaon Panchayat asking them to furnish theinformation to him on or before 30.11.07. The CEO once again issued another letter dated29.10.07 to the BDO asking him to attend her office with all the relevant documents on15.11.07. The BDO issued a letter dated 26.11.07 to each of the GP Secretaries to furnishinformation within 7 days of the receipt of the letter.The complainant alleged that the information furnished by the BDO after collectingthe same from the Secretaries of the GPs were incorrect, incomplete and misleading. Hencehe appealed to the Commission vide his letter dated 18.1.08 for directing the BDO to furnishcomplete and correct information.The complainant further stated that he did not receive any information regarding theTara Pumps and the Ringwells from the BDO. Moreover, in the list of beneficiaries under theIAY scheme, the father’s name of any of the beneficiaries was not mentioned making itdifficult for him to ascertain whether the lists furnished to him were correct or not.
Observations of the Commission
(i) The complainant sought for information relating to (1) first, second and thirdinstallments of 11
th
Finance Commission Awards (2) first installment of 12
th
FinanceCommission Award (3) information about IAY (4) Tara Pumps and Ringwellsinstalled under various schemes with the details of information regarding theallocations and implementation of the schemes and the funds allotted during the periods from 2002-03 to 2006-07, with names of benefited area and beneficiaries of the schemes in all GPs of Banskandi Development Block viz. (1) Banskandi, (2)Badrichandrapur, (3) Gobindapur Algapur, (4) Dungripar (5) Badripar (6) Manipur,Tarapur (7) Pallarbon and (8) Dolugram GP.(ii) It is not easy for the Secretary of a Gaon Panchayat to furnish information in the formof photocopy with the limited resources as the complainant has sought informationon many items of work in one petition. However it was seen by the Commission thatthe Secretaries of the GPs had taken pains to get the lists of the beneficiaries under these schemes copied electronically inspite of their limited resources which iscommendable.(iii) Regarding the complaint of the petitioner that the father’s name of each of the beneficiaries was not furnished to him, the Commission observed that the petitioner should be allowed to see the records maintained by the GPs to enable him to get thecomplete information.(iv) Information regarding Tara Pumps and Ring Wells, may be furnished by the BDO if it was available with him. Otherwise he should inform the complainant as to whichdepartment of the Government is the implementing authority so that the complainantmight apply to the competent authority.
Decisions of the Commission under section 19(8) (a) of RTI Act, 2005
The Commission, on careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the casedecided to:

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