Thursday, January 21, 2010

Petition to remove Ineffective SIC, submitted to Governor

5th Pillar, Anti Corruption Movement, Lanjam Kodadhor Iyakkam and few other organizations signed this petition to remove the State Chief Information Commissioner and submitted to the governor. The draft of the petition is as follows.

CONFIDENTIAL

LETTER NO.ACM / TNSIC / 2009 dt. 11-09

TO

HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR OF TAMILNADU

RAJBHAVAN

CHENNAI-600022

Your Excellency,

Sub; RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT-2005-POOR

IMPLEMENTATION IN TAMILNADU-

LAPSES ON THE PART OF THE CHIEF

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER –

BROUGHT TO YOUR EXCELLENCY’S KIND

NOTICE-REMOVAL OF THE CHIEF

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER-

REQUESTED

The Right to Information Act-2005 is an excellent legislation enacted by the parliament to ensure transparency in Government administration enabling the citizens to know and effectively participate in the plans and schemes of the Government, Central as well as respective States. The Act is rightly acknowledged by NGOs and the general public as a notable achievement of the independent India. This could be proved true only if the machinery set up for the implementation of the Act all over the country show the same enthusiasm and conviction in the effective implementation of the Act by strictly following the provisions of the Act. But unfortunately this is not so in the case of the Tamilnadu

Information commission. Using the Act we have been trying to elicit information from the Information Officers of the various Public Authorities and in most of the cases no reply is received in time or the reply given is not relevant. After this the first appeal is preferred and in almost all the cases the appellant authority is also not responsive, which necessitates a second appeal to the Information Commission. Many petitioners approach the Tamilnadu Information Commission with the fond hope of getting redressal. But, alas to their dismay they find that the Commission is no better than the errant .Public Authorities. Briefly put, the Commission which has to impose penalty for non furnishing of reply within thirty days by the Public Information Officers itself takes a long time, even a year and more in some cases, even to read the petition, let alone dispose it of. Consequently the Commission finds itself lacking moral authority to impose the mandatory penalty as per the Act, for delay by the Public Information Officers. This has emboldened the Public Information Officers to continue to be indifferent and has resulted in the public flooding up the Commission with lakhs of petitions. The Tamilnadu Information Commission has the dubious distinction of getting the highest number of appeals in the country..

Various NGOs and individual RTI activists,from time to time, have taken up the matter with the Government and the Commission. Some meetings have been arranged and decisions taken. But no follow up action has been taken The activists conducted a protest rally in the City in January 2009. A detailed memorandum was submitted to the Chief Information Commissioner and other Information Commissioners (Copy enclosed). This was followed up by meetings with them individually and collectively. But the situation has not improved and the activists and public are disappointed, that even after four years of the enactment of the Act it has not borne fruit, solely owing to the ineffective functioning of the Tamilnadu Information Commission.

Based on the assessment made by the NGOs and RTI activists, it is seen that, all is not well with the Tamilnadu Information Commission. There is no coordination among the Commissioners. There are no laid out procedures for dealing with the petitions. It is said that the Chief Information Commissioner at his own will, distributes the tapals to the commissioners which is also not regular. Some times the tapals are let to pile up and the Commissioners are left to idle out. In the absence of procedures, the cases passed by the Commissioners are said to be reviewed and revised by the Chief Information Commissioner. Adverse comments have appeared in the Press, and notable personalities have also written openly on the ineffective functioning of the TN information commission. An article written by Late Thiru .A.K.VenkatSubramanian (IAS Retd) and published in the Tamil daily ‘Dinamalar” and our letter of appeal to the Government and to the Chief Information Commissioner quoting the article, are enclosed for kind perusal.

On analyzing all the factors, we have come to realize that the ineffective functioning of the commission is due to the mishandling of its affairs by the Chief Information Commissioner Thiru S.Ramakrishnan IAS (Retd).. The following lapses and deviations from the provisions of the Act are apparent which have not been attended to even after bringing them to his notice.

  1. Section 19 para 10 of the RTI Act-2005 requires that “The Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, shall decide the appeal in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed.

(There are no any such procedures prescribed and in the absence of it all the actions taken by the Chief Information commissioner are arbitrary and unlawful.)

  1. .Section 15 para (4) of the act says that “The general superintendence, direction and management of the affairs of the state commission shall vest in the State Chief Information Commissioner who shall be assisted by the State information commissioners---“. Hence it is the bounden duty of the Chief information Commissioner, to prepare or cause prepared the necessary guidelines for the functioning of the Commission, even before he puts his first signature in office,.

  1. The Chief Information Commissioner has been allocating work to the State Information Commissioners at his will and has not followed any procedure. There have been times when the Commissioners have been sitting without work where as thousands of petitions were pending with the Commission.

  1. Section 25 (1)of the Act requires that “the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, shall as soon as practicable after the end of each year prepare a report on the implementation of the provisions of the act during that year and forward a copy there of to the appropriate Government.

Besides, para 25(4) stipulates that “the Central Government or the State Government .as the case may be as soon practicable after the end of each year, cause a report of the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be, referred to in subsection (1) to be laid before each house of parliament or as the case may be, before each House of the State Legislature, and where there is one House of the State Legislature before that House.”

  1. The Tamilnadu Information Commission as a Public Authority has not been

replying to the first requests made by the public or taken considerably long

period in sending an irrelevant reply. (Copies of documents in support are

enclosed.)

6). The Chief information Commissioner Thiru S.Ramakrishnan , in his address at

Government. convened meetings has been categorically pronouncing that

corruption cannot be contained by the Act.

This is quite contradictory to the principle enunciated in the Act that

“democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which

are vital to its functioning and also to CONTAIN CORRUPTUION”

  1. There are other instances of the Chief Information Commissioner acting

arbitrarily and autocratically against the provisions of the Act, like receiving and

entertaining a first application relating to a PIO and advising the PIO to furnish

the information to the petitioner within a date fixed by him and to report

back. This is irregular and violative of the procedure outlined in the Act..

In the circumstances we fear that, with such a shoddy approach and disinterested and ineffective performance by the Chief Information Commissioner Thiru S.RAMAKRISHNAN IAS (Retd)., the noble and laudable objectives of promulgating such an Act (Viz.RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT-2005) by the Government t of India would be nullified and defeated . We therefore approach Your Excellency with the following submission.

As per para (17)(1) of the RTI ACT -2005.(REMOVAL OF STATE CHIEF INFORMATION COMMISSIONER AND STATE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER) “Subject to the provisions of sub section (3), the state Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner shall be removed from his office only by the order of the Governor, on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the Governor, has on enquiry, reported that the State Chief Information Commissioner or the State Information Commissioner as the case may be ought on such ground be removed.”

Para 17(20 states that “the Governor may suspend from office, and if deem necessary prohibit also from attending office during the enquiry, the State Chief Information Commissioner or a State Information Commissioner in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court under subsection (1) until the Governor has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.”

We request that your Excellency may consider our representation and in the only interest of successful implementation of the RTI Act-2005, benefiting the citizens and the entire Nation, order such action as deemed appropriate by Your Excellency.

With High Regards,

Yours faithfully,

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