CIC can take up suo motu case

CIC can take up suo motu case
Highlights

The Section 18 of RTI Act imposes a duty on the Central or State Information Commissions (CIC or SIC) to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person. Where the CIC is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. While inquiring into any matter under this section, the Information Commission will have same powers as are vested in a civil court.

The Central Information Commission has directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to inform the people through the Commission about impact and harmful effects on Mumbai people due to digging and burning of hills, report of study done or action taken, if any, or if any action is contemplated on this situation, and to find out from the authorities concerned whether such destruction of hills is permitted. Under Section 18 of the RTI Act, CIC or SICs can summon and enforce attendance of persons and compel them to give evidence on oath or produce the documents or things

The Section 18 of RTI Act imposes a duty on the Central or State Information Commissions (CIC or SIC) to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person. Where the CIC is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to inquire into the matter, it may initiate an inquiry in respect thereof. While inquiring into any matter under this section, the Information Commission will have same powers as are vested in a civil court.

It can summon and enforce attendance of persons and compel them to give evidence on oath or produce the documents or things. It can require discovery and inspection of documents. It can requisition any public record from any court or office. It can issue summons for examination of witnesses or documents etc. It can examine any record to which the RTI Act applies, which is under public authority, and no such record may be withheld from it on any ground.

Information Commission can receive complaint from any person. Looking at the overall scheme of the RTI Act and the duty of responsible person under general law, the Commission can also take note of the circumstances. The RTI regime created under this Act is less informal mechanism, if not totally informal.

Environmental harm

Near Mumbai airport, four or five hills were emanating thick white clouds of smoke that spread over sky. This author could notice on 27th February, 2015, at 9.25 am this smoke in Mumbai near Santa Cruz Airport, from the Air India flight (from Delhi to Mumbai) while going to Department of Atomic Energy, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to address scientists on the RTI. The staff members of BARC also noticed the disturbing smoke. (The concerned photos are attached to this file)

Digging of hills

At a little distance from the smoking hills, it was also noticed that around a dozen hills were being dug by big earth movers. Almost fifty per cent of the hills were found cut. The Commission has taken notice of this happening and considered this as a complaint by itself, taking responsibility to find out the information.

The Commission directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests to inform the people through the Commission about the causes, impact and harmful effects on Mumbai people of digging and burning of the hills. It also sought to know if any study had been done or action taken, or if any action was contemplated on this situation by the authority. It wanted to find out from the authorities concerned whether such destruction of hills was permitted or not.

Pathetic state of water in schools

The Commission took note of the news item published in Times of India newspaper on February 27, 2015, revealing the pathetic state of water supply in 27 per cent of schools in Delhi. The Commission deems Ms Shreya Roy Chowdhury, reporter of ToI and the NGO, Paradarshita, as complainants in this case. Any person can complain against non- furnishing of information as per Section 18(1) of RTI Act, which says: “...it shall be the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person...”

The news report says: Over a quarter of Delhi's government schools are functioning without a water connection. Of the 798 that bothered to respond to a query filed under the RTI by a Delhi NGO, 220—27.5%—reported they don't have a Delhi Jal Board connection. Rajiv Kumar of Paradarshita said: "We work in the northeast district (there are 13 school districts in Delhi) and know of schools that have no water supply. We wanted to know what the situation is in other parts of Delhi."

As per the data received by the NGO, the maximum number of schools without connections is in the northeast district—50. In southwest B, there are 41 schools and in south, 30. There are only 24 schools in northwest B that don't have DJB connections as per the RTI responses but the actual number may be higher—there are several schools that haven't replied. It's the same situation with southeast—17 have declared they are without water connections but over 40 haven't responded.

The Commission directed the Chief Executive Officer of Delhi Jal Board and the Deputy Director Education to give a report on drinking water facility in the schools of Delhi with challenges, proposals and plans to provide the drinking water along with the timeframe for the same, and Department of Education to collect information from those forty schools as to drinking water facility and furnish the same to the NGO complainant, Paradarshita and Shreya Roy Chowdhary, Correspondent of Times of India, Delhi. This article is based on the notices issued by the CIC in the first week of March 2015.

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