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    The first appeal to the Appellate Authority that helped me get Codified Promotion Policy for BPCL Officers


    The first appeal to the Appellate Authority that helped me get Codified Promotion Policy for Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited Officers from the Appellate Authority.

    I wish to share the same for benefit of others as under:

    ------------------------------------------------

    22nd June 2007

    First Appellate Authority and Director (HR),
    Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited,
    Bharat Bhavan, 4 & 6 Currimbhoy Road,
    Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001

    Dear Sir,

    Your kind attention is invited to the enclosed RTI Application No. VAGHELABDBPCQ1 dated 20th May 2007 seeking information, under the Right to Information Act 2005 (hereafter referred to as "the Act"), pertaining to Codified Promotion Policy for BPCL Officers (Deputy Managers and above) made to Shri Vinod Giri, General Manager (Marketing Co-ordination) and CPIO, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Bharat Bhavan, 4 & 6 Currimbhoy Road, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001 and his reply dated 12th June 2007 received on 19th June 2007.

    As can be seen from the reply, the CPIO has refused to furnish the requested information seeking exemption from disclosure under section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act 2005. CPIO has give the following reasons for the rejection:

    1. Information sought relates the internal processes of BPCL with relevance limited to a section of BPCL staff only.

    2. Disclosure of the information has no relation to any public activity and

    3. Information sought is of commercial confidence.

    In view of the refusal, as an aggrieved RTI applicant, I hereby file this first appeal to the specified First Appellate Authority (FAA) within the prescribed limit as stipulated in the RTI Act 2005 as under:

    Overview:

    GOI has enacted the Right to Information Act 2005 to improve the transparency and the accountability in the public administration which means every decision of a public authority can be questioned by any RTI applicant. Further, through Section 8 (1) (j) of the Act a powerful provision thas been made available that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person (as defined under the Act). Therefore, even BPL (Below Powerty Line) card holder can seek information (free of charge in that case) under the Act. So far as the RTI Act 2005 (which stems from the Constitution of India) is concerned, a common man has been truly empowered and put on a high pedestal as that of the Parliament. By making provision of Section 8 (2) in the RTI Act 2005, it has been amply ensured that even the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 or the provisions of any other Act cannot come in the way of disclosing information in larger public interest.

    In nutshell, an empowered common man can request for the information, that was hitherto privy to only the MPs / MLAs, and irequested information is required to be provided to him within 30 days (within 48 Hrs in case involving "Life or Liberty" of a person. The prescribed time limit for the response is highly crucial.

    Further, the PIOs and FAAs (in every organisation covered under the Act) are appointed to assist the applicants in accessing the information. Moreover, the Act has also made provision to penalise the defaulting PIOs by way of financial penalty as also by disciplinary action. Further, to provide respite to the affected persons, the Act has special provision under section 4 (d) to request even for "reasons" for actions taken by a public authority. This provision makes the public authority specifically answereable to the person (s) who is / are going to be affected by the decision of the public authority. Moreover, section 8 (3) provides for seeking information, under section 6, that is more than twenty years old with provision to refuse the same only for highly exceptional matters pertaining to Soveregnity of the Country / Cabinet Papers / Breach of Parliament etc. and only by the bodies specified in the Second Schedule of the Act (RAW, IB etc).

    These drastic institutionalised changes that the Right to Information Act 2005 has brought in, indicates how different the Post-RTI era is going to be (has started to be) from the pre-RTI era so far as the working in the Govt / PSUs is concerned. Every public authority needs to keep this in mind while taking decisions as they remain answereable for their decisions whether arbitrary or otherwise.

    Specific to the refusal of information by the CPIO:

    BPCL is a Central Govt PSU and the RTI applicant has a right to know as to how well the company is performing. Whether the decisions taken by the BPCL officials are transparent or not and whether these decisions are taken in line with the well laid down criteria based objective policies or they are taken arbitrarily. These aspects have a strong bearing on the quality of the managerial decisions and also on the performance of the company which selects the Managers (who are to take those decisions) highly crucial.

    To fascilitate transparent / non-arbitrary decisions, the company policies need to be codified, required to have quantifiable criteria and the judicious weightage attached to each of the critera. That is the reason why CVC guidelines (enclosed) provide for codification of policies, by PSUs, in every functional area including Personnel Management.

    Further, these policies need to form part of the pro-active disclosure under the RTI Act 2005 and nto put on the company website for general public to know.

    This is applicable to policy on selection of Dealers / Distributors / Vendors (to carry out jobs / supply goods and services) and also applicable to selection of officers for promotion to share higher responsibilities on elevation in the organisational hierarchy.

    Considering these aspects, the contention of the CPIO (for refusing the information) on the following ground is not at all justified.

    1. Information sought relates the internal processes of BPCL with relevance limited to a section of BPCL staff only.

    2. Disclosure of the information has no relation to any public activity and

    3. Information sought is of commercial confidence.

    Further, Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act 2005 (the section quoted by the CPIO for seeking exemption from disclosure) very much permits disclosure of the requested information even if it is of commercial confidence (incidentally that is not so in this case as explained above) if it does not harm the competitive position of the third party. Neither the CPIO has mentoned the involvement / existence of any third party nor any third party, in fact, is involved / exists in the present case.

    On the contrary, larger public interest demands that this policy form a part of pro-active disclosure and is well publicised. After all, the codified policy is expected to show what are the various criteria of selection, how reasonable and fair they are and how weightage (marks) is attached to each of the criteria, Therefore, claiming it to be of commercial confidence is absolutely unconvincing / unjustified.

    In view of the above, CPIO needs to disclose the requested information.

    It is said that "Truth is so naked that people rush to cover it". That could happen in case of RTI matter also and PIOs may try to give some excuse or the other (may be by justifying the non-disclosure and also quoting the provisions (s) of the Act) for refusing the information) and the truth might not get disclosed in the same RTI application.

    However, ultimately truth prevails. May be it requires extra effort on the part of the RTI applicant and a few more (avoidable) applications (since there is no upper limit on no. of RTI applications a person can make) seeking the information in a different manner to bring out the truth.

    The way truth comes out through cross-questioning during the proceedings in Courts of Law, ultimately truth comes out in the RTI matter also. May be it takes time. It would, therefore, be advisable to accept the fact, in the first instance, so that corrective action can be taken based on it since, even after telling a hundred lies (to cover one lie) ultimately truth is bound to come out. It would only be a question of time for SATYAMEV JAYATE.

    CPIO's refusal to disclose the requested information has not brought out the fact whether the codified promotion policy indeed exists or not but the FAA may verify the records and ascertain the factual position in this regard.

    In the light of the foregoing, FAA may arrive at the decision whether:

    The requested policy indeed is in existence and not disclosed

    or

    The policy does not exist and hence efforts have been made by the CPIO and hence efforts have been made to seek exemption from disclosure.

    Before concluding, the RTI appellant would like to emphasise that the information is requested in larger public interest and the information that cannot be denied to the Parliment cannot be denied to the RTI applicant. Therefore, CPIO may specifically be asked to confirm whether he would deny the same information if requested by the Parliament. If his answer is not categorical NO, CPIO may be directed to disclose the requested information.

    It may not be out of place here that the identical information requested on the same date from another Central Govt PSU under the administrative control of MOP&NG has already been received in time. The concerned PIO has disclosed the complete information. I find the promotion policy (approved by their Board of Director) to be objective and transparent. It can work as a Model Policy for other PSUs also. This speaks volume on the transparency and accountability being practised in that PSU. To avoid clouding the thinking process during the disposal of appeal by the FAA, it has not been considered prudent to name the PSU / give copy of their policy to the FAA in this appeal. If desired, a copy can be made available.

    Based on the facts and taking into consideration the contentions of the CPIO as also that of the appellant, FAA may kindly take a judicious decision on this first appeal and pass necessary order within the time limit prescribed in the Act.

    With kind regards,



    (Vaghela B D),
    Applicant under the Right to Information Act 2005 and
    Sr. Manager (PPES), IOC Ahmedabad

    Mailing address:
    202, Sarap, Opp Navjivan Press, Off Ashram Road, Ahmedabad – 380 014
    Resi – 079 2754 0128 M – 94276 08632 vaghelabd@yahoo.com


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