Skip to main content

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.
Citizens across the country have been using this Act not only to access information but also as a means to monitor the extent of government’s transparent and accountable to citizens, which is expected in any vibrant democracy.
Gujarat, one of the states with rapid industrial development, has always claimed that it sets an example of best governance practices, and has bagged several awards at the national level for it. However, it is found to be lagging far behind in giving access to information to citizens.
Public Information Officers (PIOs) not only give strange, often innovative, reasons to deny information, but go so far as to restrict citizens to use information that they receive for getting justice.
In the reply dated August 14, AMC denied information to the RTI application filed by me for seeking copy of the contract given to the ride operator/company at the Kakaria Adventure Park, next to the historic Kankaria lake of Ahmedabad, and details of checking done by AMC regarding the ride's safety. The information was sought in the context of an accident, which caused several deaths and injuries.
AMC denied the information saying that a first information report (FIR) had been filed against the company, and hence the information could not be provided. Further, and this was simply scandalous, the AMC’s public authority instructed me that the information should not be used anywhere as evidence or in the “judicial system” (court).
During the accident, which took place on July 14. two people died and 27 others injured when the ride carrying around 30 people in the Kankaria Adventure Park collapsed after a pipe of the main shaft broke. At least 15 people were critically injured. AMC gives contract to private contractors to operate rides in the park.
The accident took place a month after the Ahmedabad Fire Brigade carried out a midnight rescue operation after as many as 40 people were stuck on a ferris wheel at a fare in the city. Fire officials had to use a 55-metre-tall snorkel to rescue those who were stuck, including 14 children and eight women. 
Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation should proactively disclose information relating to safety checking of rides and conditions in the contract
“This is unconstitutional, and even violates the principle of natural justice”, Harinesh Pandya, master trainer of RTI and founder of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, an organization that promotes the use of RTI to enhance people’s participation in the democratic process, told me.
“Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation should proactively disclose information relating to safety checking of rides and conditions in the contract, as it is a very vital information as far as public safety in concerned”, Pandya insisted.
The information sought, he pointed out, falls under the proactive disclosure category as per the provisions of the RTI Act. He adds, RTI has been used by victims of casualties, or injustices done to them in such cases, and certified copies of documents obtained thereby have been produced in court as evidence.
Hence, according to Pandya, it is shocking that AMC instructs not to use the reply in court. In fact, some of the major scams and irregularities that were exposed and governments could take action against the culprits has been due to RTI. The information produced from RTI has often been quoted extensively in courts.
Significantly, the RTI reply shows poor quality of training inputs AMC officials get regarding RTI, and also reveals a very negative approach towards transparency or disclosure to citizens. The reply suggests a very bad sign of governance, which is a matter of major concern.
I have decided to not only filed the first appeal against the reply but I am also planning to make a separate representation to the Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad, the Gujarat government’s Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA), which is responsible for training centre for government officials, and to the State Information Commission.
---
*Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

US publication blames Gates Foundation for 'accelerating' India's healthcare crisis

By Rajiv Shah A new book, published by the New York-based Monthly Press Review (MPR), has blamed Microsoft founder Bill Gates for “crowning” the crisis allegedly engulfing India’s health sector, stating, the top American billionaire’s foundation of late has acquired “extraordinary influence" over India’s public health governance,  giving a fillip to a policy that deprives access of public healthcare facilities for majority of the country’s population.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.