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Mid-Day: Maharashtra CIC Joshi turning a deaf ear?

Is the state Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) really hearing anything at RTI hearings? That is the big question on the minds of RTI activists these days, who allege that the state CIC Suresh Joshi has a hearing handicap, and often forgets to use a hearing aid. They also say that he is not fit to preside over RTI meetings, and have sent letters to the Chief Minister’s office and the Governor to this regard.

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“Yes, we have sent a formal letter because he uses a hearing aid. It is fine if he is careful and uses it every time, but often he forgets to do so and conducts important meetings and hearings, which hampers the process,” said Krishnaraj Rao, a Mumbai- based RTI activist.

One-week rule

Joshi became the darling of the RTI activist brigade a few days ago when he announced RTI applications would be answered within a week and not a month. But if the experience of RTI activists who have dealt with the CIC’s office is any indication, Joshi does not believe in leading by example.

These activists alleged that Joshi had himself not replied to RTI applications seeking information on his activities. Pune-based RTI activist Vihar Durve has two such applications pending with Joshi’s office.

No transparency

“Two years ago, I made an application with Joshi’s office, asking for his property details,” said Durve. “But they rejected my application, stating that this was exempt under RTI.” Durve then went for a second appeal. “At the last minute, they cancelled the date of hearing, which is pending till today,” he said.

Then, last year Durve filed an application to get details of Joshi’s foreign tours during his tenure as CIC. “The reply was that I should enquire at another office. When I did, there was no reply, so I went in for a second appeal. But no answers were given, so I filed a fresh application on May 11,” said Durve. “It is now nearing the one- month period, and again, it seems there will be no reply.” MiDDAY has copies of all these applications filed and the replies received. Durve is not the only one with such an experience. Mumbai-based RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu filed a complaint with Joshi’s office over a year ago over the charges levied by the BMC for providing information under the RTI Act.

“I have not received any reply,” said Prabhu.

THE OTHER SIDE

Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi said he was not aware that information on his foreign trips was not given in reply to the RTI query seeking these details. “ There is no reason to hide this information as I went ( abroad) after receiving all official permissions and clearances, right from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Governor. There is an officer here who was on leave and he replies to such queries, I will direct him to give the information immediately,” he said.

As for the pending RTI query regarding his property details, he said he was not aware of such an RTI application and would look into the matter.

ALIFIYA KHAN alifiya. khan @ mid- day. com 

Posted in Activism, Right to Information, RTI Act 2005.

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