Information commissioner alleges violations of RTI Act by AAP govt
In a letter to LG VK Saxena dated September 22, 2022, information commissioner (IC) Uday Mahurkar said that Delhi government departments have been stonewalling information or giving misinformation in reply to RTI requests
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has written to lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena accusing the Delhi government of failing to implement the Right to Information Act, 2005, and reducing it to a “lame duck” legislation -- a charge denied by the state government, which described the missive as an example of “dirty politics”.
The commission, in a letter seen by HT, alleged that the government has shown lack of transparency and accountability in issues of governance involving public interest, and made charges of corruption and nepotism. According to senior officials, based on the letter, the Delhi LG directed the government’s chief secretary to take “corrective action” at the earliest.
In the letter dated September 22, 2022, information commissioner (IC) Uday Mahurkar said that Delhi government departments have been stonewalling information or giving misinformation in reply to RTI requests.
“It (RTI) is a major weapon in the hands of the common citizens to fight corruption, injustice, nepotism and lethargy in the system. But in the national capital it has been reduced to a lame duck Act by the Delhi government particularly in departments like revenue, PWD, cooperative, health, power besides bodies like the Delhi Subordinate Service Selection Board (DSSSB) and the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (DSIIDC) which directly deal with the ordinary people,” Mahurkar said in the letter.
Among the issues raised were public information officers not coming for hearings, authorities not doing enough to protect public interest, and an alleged “nexus” between officials and contractors. The letter also alleged that private hospitals were not giving mandatory free treatment to patients belonging to the economically weaker sections despite getting land on concessional rates; that the revenue department was stonewalling information in cases where huge properties, including ancestral land, was involved; and departments such as PWD and DSIIDC were not forthcoming on tender details, citing one instance where tender details worth an estimated ₹100 crores were allegedly given for 40% less.
When contacted, Mahurkar said that he wrote to Delhi LG but declined to elaborate.
The matter was referred by the LG office to chief secretary Naresh Kumar. “In view of the seriousness of the issues highlighted by the Central Information Commissioner, the Lt. Governor’s Secretariat has directed the Chief Secretary to take requisite corrective action as per rules in place to address the matter at the earliest,” said the LG’s letter to the chief secretary, which HT has seen.
The latest issue comes at a time when there a massive political tussle between the Delhi government and the LG -- leading to allegations that have sparked a CBI probe in the government’s 2021-22 excise policy in which deputy CM manish Sisodia has been named as an accused, and have also sparked probed into issues such as bus procurement, recruitment of guest teachers, and power subsidy. There have also been allegations levelled by the government against the LG during his previous assignment at the central Khadi board, leading to a defamation case filed by Saxena against four Aam Aadmi Party leaders.
The CIC correspondence led to a fresh political tussle in Delhi on Tuesday, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calling it proof of lack of transparency in governance.
“Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was an RTI activist before coming to power, is today opposing RTI. Whenever information is sought from the government departments, either wrong answer is given or it is withheld because the Delhi government knows that they have not done anything,” Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta said.
When contacted, a Delhi government spokesperson dismissed the charges made in the letter.
“CIC has written this letter at BJP’s behest. It is painful to see that a body like CIC is indulging in dirty politics. Delhi government takes pride in the fact that we implement RTI Act in true letter and spirit,” he said.