AN EXPERIENCE OF STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION, LUCKNOW by a RTI activist.
I, Bimal Kumar Khemani, Saha Prant Sangathan Mantri of AKHIL BHARATIYA GRAHAK PANCHAYAT Braj Prant, a national organization of consumers have formed a group of about 10 dedicated persons to find out corruption with the help of RTI Act, 2005. We have selected few departments viz. Nagar Nigam, Bharat Sanchar Nigam, Aligarh Development Authority, D.S.Degree College, Aligarh Muslim University, Electricity & Health Department. Besides finding out corruption, we also impart training to various Govt. officials and conduct public awareness campaign. In course of a period of almost 2 years we did not get proper information and so have to file
about 30/35 appeals before the STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION, LUCKNOW. On request of one of our friends to plead his case before the commission on 24-04-08, I had to visit S I C Lucknow.
The State Information Commission office, Lucknow is located on the 6 th Floor of Indira Bhawan. The Govt. of U.P. has allotted an office space about 375 Sq. Mts. for a staff of 10 commissioners and 77 sub-ordinate staff. It has 5 chambers for Commissioners and rest of the space is for the staff and keeping records.
Sri Mulayam Singh Yadaw, ex. Chief minster of the state appointed a retired H.C.Judge, Mr. M.A.Khan as Chief Information Commissioner and 4 other commissioners. Km. Mayawati the present chief minister of the state appointed another 5 commissioners. These appointments give a political smell. So at present there is a total strength of 10 commissioners. But in this Palatial building
there are only 5 rooms for the commissioners. So commissioners work in shifts. Five sit from 10.00 to 14.00 hrs. and the other five from 14.00 to 17.00 hrs.
Is it not unfortunate ? Is it not a waste of man power and money ? Does it not give out 50% results of
the working capacity ? Does it not show how seriously the Govt. of U.P. takes the State Information Commission ?
There is no Enquiry desk. An enquiry revealed that there are four clerks to receive DAK, sort it out and send it to the respected commissions . Out of these four persons one opens the letters and enters the details in receipt register and puts the receipt numbers on them. I was also told that normally more than 500 letters are received daily and out of them hardly 400/450 letters are opened and entered into the register. So rest are left to cool there heals.
A meeting with the
Chief commissioner revealed his easy style of functioning. He graced us to meet us in his retiring room at about 2.00 p.m.. He was shown a list of 31 pending appeals as filed by our group , with a request to get them registered and listed for hearing since more than last 4/5 months have passed . He was also informed that the proper notices of hearing are not received by the appellants and also the copy of the judgments are also not sent to the parties concerned. I was informed that the commission has evolved a noble method for supplying the copy of the decision. One is to apply for a copy as per civil procedure by affixing a court fee stamp of Rs. 10/- and also required to collect the same from the office of the commission. I do not know why at this point the Honorable Chief Information Commissioner got annoyed .and told me to contact Km. MAYAWATI ,and ask her why she is not allotting more
funds to the commission. This was also not the end of the drama The retd. High Court Judge cum Chief Commissioner also uttered something and started challenging the role of Khemani as an RTI activist fighting for transparency in the system.
The experience shows that an appeal filed to-day may get lost in the office of the commission or be listed after several months due to shortage of space and funds. It became obvious even in this short visit that the whole atmosphere is political. Chief commissioner and other commissioners, are pro-administration. And they are hesitant to impose penalty on the defaulters u/s.20. If this is going to be the fate of R T I Act then one will like to keep mum and just watch.
BIMAL KUMAR KHEMANI
Saha-Prant Sangathan Mantri,
AKHIL BHARATIYA GRAHAK PANCHAYAT BRAJ PRANT,
2/40D, Janakpuri, Marrish Road,
e.mail: bimal.khemani@ rediffmail. com