Though delayed, after protracted battle with corrupt Odisha bureaucracy and inefficient, lethargic and law-ignorant Odisha Information Commission, RTI Activists achieved outstanding victory in ensuring justice to BPL people and downtrodden masses

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Pradip Pradhan

Oct 20, 2015, 1:01:05 PM10/20/15
to humjanenge, Admin RTIIndia, US RTI DoPT, National RTI Forum, odisha samachar

Though delayed, after protracted  battle with corrupt Odisha bureaucracy  and inefficient, lethargic and law-ignorant Odisha  Information Commission, RTI Activists achieved outstanding   victory in ensuring justice to BPL people and downtrodden masses

·           Tall claim of Nabin Patnaik Govt as Champion of poor is proved false and sheer deception.

·           Though  the BPL people  are  entitled  to get  information free of cost under  section 7 (5)  of the RTI Act, the State Government  continues  to deny  the information free of cost  since last 10 years.

·           Decade-long Rally, Dharana, demonstration of the RTI Activists demanding to enforce section 7(5) of the RTI Act did not yield any result. The corrupt bureaucracy remained adamant to do all illegality to harass BPL people by depriving them of their legitimate right to get the information free of cost.

·           Astonishingly, Odisha Information  Commission ( represented by  Sri D.N. Padhi, former Odisha Chief Information Commissioner, Sri Jagadanand, former  State Information Commissioner, Prof. Radhamohan, Former Information Commissioner, Sri Tarun Kanti Mishra, former Chief Information Commissioner ) whose mandate is to protect law  was found establishing  unholy alliance with corrupt bureaucracy  and behaved as dreaded  criminals to subvert  RTI   and giving illegal  direction  to  the   PIOs  to collect fees for information from the BPL people and deprived  crores of BPL people of their legitimate right.  The illegal direction of the Commission was challenged by RTI Activists in High Court.

·           Exploring ways and means in order to provide justice to the BPL-RTI-Applicants, RTI Activists knocked at the door of Judiciary not once but twice seeking direction to State Government to comply section 7(5) of the RTI Act.

·           In June, 2015, The Hon’ble Odisha High Court finally gave the direction to State Govt.  to issue  Gazette notification to provide information to the BPL people free of cost.

·           At last, the State Govt.  was forced  to issue  Notification  to  provide  information the BPL people free of cost.

·           Now, the BPL-RTI-Applicants are entitled to get the information amounting thousands of rupees free of cost.

·           We the RTI Activists   will remain alert not only enforcing and monitoring it but exposing anti-RTI character of Odisha Govt.  and Odisha Information Commission in the days to come.      

Dear friends

 Right to Information Act  which came into force  on 12th October, 2005  has  mandate  to enforce a transparent  and accountable  governance system in the  country  and  giving  right  to the Citizens to access the  information held  by the Public Authorities.  As per section 7 (5) of the Act, the BPL people are required not to pay any kind of fee i.e., fee for application {section 6 (1) }, fee for  information {section-7(1)}, fee for information in electronic format {section 7(5)}. But  while framing the Rules  i.e,  Odisha RTI Rules, 2005, the State Government  made a provision ( Rule-4) of only making application fee for BPL people free of cost while allowing other  fees  like fee for information to be  collected  from them. Though the law is  supreme, but  the State  Govt. gave the direction to the officials  to implement the  law  following  the  illegal provisions of  Odisha  RTI Rules.  This arrangement made by the State Govt.   gave unbridled power to the PIO  to collect the fees  from BPL people for  information.  

 Though it  was illegal, the Odisha Information  Commission  joined  hand with State bureaucracy  and  endorsed and ensured   this illegality  by  giving  direction to the PIOs  to collect  from BPL people the fees for  information.   Sri D.N.Padhi who is  a corrupt bureaucrat  and joined  as First Odisha Chief Information Commissioner , while adjudicating   Complaint Case 11 and 12/2006  directed  the BPL people  to pay the fees  for information violating section 7(5) of the RTI Act.   It was vehemently opposed by RTI Activists. The Information Commission was publicly condemned for their act of illegality.  As Sri D.N. Padhi is man of shrewd character, he, while hearing Complaint cases directed the BPL people to pay the fees for information but did not mention it in proceeding of the case.   Under pressure from RTI Activists, the Commission made a recommendation to State Govt.  on 16.11.2007  to  provide  BPL people  information  of 75 pages ( Rs. 150.00)   free of cost.  But the State Govt.  did not give any importance to this recommendation and  continued with their mandate  to  collect the fees from BPL people.

Campaign of RTI Activists continued   and exposing anti-BPL mindset of Odisha Information Commission and State Government. In May, 2013, Sri Jagadanandi Mohanty, then State Information Commissioner while addressing a  Workshop on RTI  in  Collectorate Conference Hall, Malkangiri  spoke about  misuse of RTI by non-BPL people  who are seeking  information  in the name of the BPL people  to get the information free of cost. A lot of complaints in connection of this issue have come to the notice of the Commission.  Sri Tapan Padhi, prominent RTI Activist who was present there, then filed an RTI Application to the office of Odisha Information Commission seeking information about details of Complaint Cases filed about misuse of RTI quoting statement of Sri Jagadanand Mohanty.   In response to RTI Application,  the PIO said that  there was no such information available  in the Commission. The dangerous character of Sri Jagadanand Mohanty to satisfy all illegalities of the State Government and spreading misleading information in public domain was found true.

Campaign of RTI Activists took a turn, when Sri Tarun Kanti Mishra, then State Chief Information Commissioner while adjudicating a Complaint case No. 2028/11 gave direction to Sri Kunja Bikari Patra, BPL-Applicant and RTI Activist of Nayagarh district to pay the fees for information, though he pleaded to get the information free of cost under section 7 (5) of the RTI Act.  The direction of the Commission  was challenged by Sri Kunja Bihari Patra  in Odisha High Court. While  disposing the case ( W.P.C. No.- 4797/13) on 3.7.13, the High Court quashed  the decision of the Commission as illegal  and directed the PIO to provide the information free of cost  in observance of section 7 (5) of the RTI Act.

This is one step achievement of RTI Activists to provide justice  to the BPL people.  This judgement was highlighted, largely circulated and demanded to all the Public Authorities to provide information to the BPL people free of cost. Being pressurised by the RTI Activists, the Odisha Information Commission   made a direction to the State Govt. on 31.3.14 to issue notification  observing direction of Odisha High Court.

The corrupt bureaucracy remained adamant   and continued to collect the fees from BPL people. Then, Sri Dhoba Sahu, BPL-Applicant and RTI Activist of Kalahandi district  who was denied  the information free of cost , filed  a  Writ Petition No. 135/15 in Odisha High Court seeking  direction   to State Govt. to provide all BPL people  the information free of cost.  On 23.7.15, the High Court  gave the direction  to  State Govt. to  Comply  section  7 (5) of the RTI Act.  On 21.9.15, the State Govt. has finally issued  notification  to  all the Public Authorities to provide the BPL people information free of cost.

Our   legal battle  for withdrawal of compulsory RTI Application, illegal provision of  submission of proof of Citizenship at the time of  submitting RTI Application, providing  copy of the decisions of the  Commission in Odia language  is still going  on  and the case pending in Odisha High Court.   

Pradip Pradhan

State Convener

Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan


Date- 20.10.15 

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