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20 July 2011

Gujarat government officials breaching of Right to Information Act

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: It has been the fifth year since RTI Act has come into existence, but the bureaucrats from Gujarat has still not developed their basic understanding of this act. This resulted into denial of information to RTI activist Bharatsinh Jhala, who also runs CRANTI- Citizens Resource and Actions Initiatives – an organization fighting for Justice.

“As all the parties now began talking about heinous act of corruption and yelling like anything, I silently filled two RTI applications on June 30, 2011 to Election Commission, Gujarat and to Legislative Assambly, Gujarat that demands the details of our legislators’ property. At one hand our masses are grieving into the problems generated by these so called representatives, they do not have houses to live and on the other hand our these political leaders are enjoying privileges provided by we the people – this invokes me to file those RTIs seeking the property detail, traveling expenditure and salary and other allowances provided to these legislators.” The information seeks the detail of the legislators including MPs from both house of the people and council of the States, MLAs who were elected since one to three consecutive terms.

He further added that, “Though they come under the purview of RTI, still P.V. Patel, RTI officer of General Administration Department, Gujarat State who also holds the designation of deputy secretary of the aforesaid department, denied to provide the information citing the sections 8(1)(C) and 8(1)(I) of Right to Information Act-2005. Further to that S.M. Damor, another state-loyalist Information Officer just troubled to transfer the application to Information Officer, Deputy Secretary, Cabinet, General Administrative Department, Sachiwalaya and to Information Officer, Information Officer, Chief Electoral Officer, Office of Gujarat State. While he also attempted an escaping act by giving the name and address details of 180 Information officers and suggested me to go there to have the demanded information, while he, himself, did not transfer my application to any of them. By the means of law, he can either transfer the application to those officers or himself demand the details and provide it to the applicant. Besides, State Election Commission must have those figures as any candidate has to file all the property related details to the Election commission before nominating their candidature. If Government of Gujarat claims it as a transparent Government, it must make a stagnant law which authorize it to give a show-cause notice to idle Information officers and must suspend them if they are found guilty.”

“The candidates while filling their nominations to the Election Department do not provide the true figure.” These were the words from SM Damor Information Officer, Electoral Office, Gandhinagar. This was one of the excuses for not providing the Information. whle asking for his being passive for not transferring the application he topld , “I have transferred the application for two offices and now I cannot transfer it any more.” He just transferred it to two irrelevant places if he wished he could transfer it to any two of the Information officer from the list of 180 Information officers.

The false of the Information officer has been exposed while referring the sections 8(1)(C) which reads , “Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature” and 8(1)(I) of Right to Information Act-2005 reads (i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers. So the state’s Information officer just uttered a “white lie”. They did cross-transfer of the application.

Moving ahead Bharatsinh Jhala today filed an RTI application with the same content to the Information Officer, District Collector, Ahmedabad.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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