Navi Mumbai cops too quick on the draw with RTI
Mumbai, October 21 The Navi Mumbai police commissionerate, it seems, is making its own rules while processing right to know applications. Of the 74 appeals it received under the Right to Information Act till September 15, it has dealt with all but without conducting a single hearing.
Appeals are filed by RTI applicants if the information sought is denied or is incomplete or inadequate.
But now it has come to light — courtesy an RTI application by a Vashi resident —- that though the Navi Mumbai police have no appeal pending with them, all were dealt with without calling the appellant for a hearing.
RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi agreed it was bad precedent. “It is a bad practice to not conduct hearings specially in those cases where the appeal is being subsequently denied.”
It all started when Ajay Marathe, a local resident who has filed several RTI applications with the Vashi police, realised that in cases where he wasn’t satisfied with the information provided by the public information officer (PIO), the first appellate authority dealt with them without calling for a hearing.
While earlier, it was Navi Mumbai police commissioner who officiated as the first appellate authority, now the responsibility has been delegated to a deputy commissioner of police (head office).
“I sought information on the number of appeals dealt with by the police commissionerate and the hearings conducted. I was surprised with their reply saying that the department did not conduct any hearings,” said Marathe.
Except for one instance when the appellate authority overruled the PIO to provide him the information he wanted, Marathe noted, all his appeals were rejected. “Had I been given the opportunity for a hearing I could have argued my case. Not conducting a hearing deprives me of the chance of presenting my case in person,” he added.
As an example, Marathe cited his application to the Vashi police on the
voluntary disclosures that are to be made by government departments as per Section 4 of the RTI Act. “Unfortunately even the first appellate authority denied me the information, which they had to disclose voluntarily. A hearing would have certainly avoided such a scenario,” he said.
Asked about it, DCP Shashikant Mahavarkar at Vashi offered a feeble explanation. “The hearings are conducted based on the merit of the appeal. In fact, we have now called Marathe for a hearing,” he said.
But Marathe has had enough. He has already complained to state information commissioner Suresh Joshi.
Joshi, who presided over a hearing on Friday evening, expressed displeasure at the fact that the Navi Mumbai police commissioner was not present despite being directed to be there. Joshi was perturbed by the fact that 74 RTI appeals were handled and not a single hearing conducted.
Joshi asked Deputy Commissioner of Police Shashikant Mahavarkar to tell the police commissioner to remain present along with 74 files so that he would peruse it during the next hearing on November 1.
Last edited by sidmis; 22-10-07 at 10:57 AM.
Info chief gives lesson on RTI to Navi Mumbai police
It WAS a rap on the knuckles and, at the same time, a crash course on the Right to Information (RTI) Act for the Navi Mumbai police when Maharashtra’s Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi arrived at Uran on Thursday.
The occasion was a hearing on a grievance lodged by Navi Mumbai resident Ajay Marathe against the Navi Mumbai police—they’d rejected seven of his appeals against orders of public information officers (PIO) without conducting a hearing. Joshi conducted a special hearing at the CIDCO guesthouse at Uran where top police officials including Police Commissioner Ramrao Wagh were present and explained painstakingly to the gathered police officials the importance of the sunshine law.
The belief that the Act does not mandate the conducting of a hearing is incorrect, a belief arising out of ignorance of the Act. The information commissioner quoted Section 19 (5) of the Act under which the onus to prove that denial of information is justified remains with the PIO who denies the request. It is only through a hearing that such a denial can be justified, he said. “Believe me. I am the last word for RTI in the state,” he added, to senior police officers.
Joshi also expressed concern that the Navi Mumbai police commissionerate has only one PIO, emphasized the need to issue prompt replies, especially when information sought is available readily.
Earlier Joshi had been piqued when Wagh did not show up for a hearing on October 18. Deputy Commissioner of Police Shashikant Mahavarkar, officiating as the first appellate authority, was the only senior officer who’d turned up. Joshi expressed his dismay that of the 74 appeals under RTI dealt with by the Navi Mumbai police till September 15, not even one applicant had been given a hearing. Joshi had summoned the commissioner for a hearing on November 1, with all the files.
After several of his appeals were rejected by the first appellate authority despite no hearings conducted, Marathe had used the RTI once again—this time, seeking precise details of all first appeals filed by information seekers to the Navi Mumbai police. “The reason I have come here today and am explaining the Act is that I want Navi Mumbai police to be a model organization for implementation of RTI,” Joshi said.