Information tabled in House can be accessed under RTI

As reported by Vivek Deshpande in Indian Express, Monday, June 23, 2008

NAGPUR, June 22: Information tabled in the legislature cannot be held back by citing the excuse of secret information, thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

This was made clear in an order issued by state information commissioner, Nagpur Division, Vilas Patil, on a petition by a social worker here,
Mohsin Ahmed had petitioned Patil after he was denied information by the state Government regarding the proceedings in a high-powered Government committee about the excise and sales tax payment default of Rs 156 crore till 2006 by Meher Distilleries of Thane.

Ahmed’s complaints against Meher Distilleries forced the Bombay High Court to direct the company in 2001 to pay up its dues. The company had moved the Supreme Court against the verdict, but there too its special leave petition was rejected.

Suprisingly, instead of making the company pay up its dues, the state Government constituted a high-powered committee to look into the matter, which, somewhat questionably, asked Meher Distilleries to pay only Rs 9 crore and that too in six installments spread over 21 months.
Principal secretary (finance) and principal secretary (law and judiciary), however, had expressed dissenting opinions regarding the committee’s benevolence towards the company.

In addition, the Law Department had suggested invoking the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code and, if necessary, to put the persons concerned behind bars.

Ahmed, in October 2006, sought information regarding the recovery proceedings of the committee under the RTI Act.

The plea was filed with principal secretary, (transport and state excise), Home Department, which rejected it quoting Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, which relates to denial of access to secret information.

In response, Ahmed contacted the information commissioner, Nagpur, who allowed his plea to be observed, since it was considered appropriate to reveal information made public in the state Legislature’s winter session in Nagpur by way of a reply to a starred question on December 4, 2006. :: ‘Information tabled in House can be accessed under RTI’