The Tribune: Ludhiana: Monday, May 08, 2017.
In a landmark judgment, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled against denial of information about illegal buildings by the urban local bodies and area development authorities under the Right to Information Act taking the cover of Section 8(1)(e) and (i).
Disposing of an appeal filed by Deepak Sharma, Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad has observed in his orders (pronounced on April 24, 2017) that he agreed with the appellant about his right to seek information considering that no legal provision debars disclosure of information pertaining to an unauthorised construction, particularly one which is directly affecting the appellant.
The CIC further remarks: “The appellant being a stakeholder in the (housing) society and affected by the unauthorised construction and illegal usage of the flat for running an industrial/commercial unit is directly and adversely impacted by such act of the owner of the premises. The provisions as cited by the respondent are not applicable since the information sought is neither personal in nature nor is information about unauthorised construction held in fiduciary capacity by the respondent. On the contrary, information about such violation of the law and punitive action in such cases should be uploaded on web sites and publicised by every possible medium in order to strike the fear of law in the minds of miscreants in order to discourage such illegal practices.”
The appellant (Deepak Sharma) had filed an appeal with the CIC against the decision of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation where information was sought under the RTI Act about unauthorised construction of flats and their illegal usage in Amrapali Cooperative Group Housing Society in Indraprasth Extension. The East Delhi MC had cited provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act which deals with invoking of privacy of the third party.
Hailing the orders of the CIC, Rohit Sabharwal and Arvind Sharma, president and secretary, respectively, of the Council of RTI Activists, said the orders would set a precedent and curb to a great extent common practice among urban local bodies and area development authorities to deny information about illegal constructions or their unauthorised use citing provisions of Section 8 of the RTI Act.
There have been numerous instances when Section 8 of the Act has been abused/misused by officials of urban local bodies to hide their own misdeeds or lapses or else to benefit the builders’ mafia, they added.