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Efficacy of RTI Act

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Governance

My repeated representations to the Police Commissioner, the Additional Commissioner-Traffic, as well as the Transport Commissioner, both written as well as oral, in the matter of strict enforcement of the M V Act, specifically with regard to display of vehicle registration number plates in English letterings/ Arabic numerals, as per prescribed standard, had all met with responses which essentially amounted to passing the buck from one to the other. The threat this poses is discussed in detail here

As such, on 8th April, I filed a query under RTI, with the Police Commissioner, reading: "Whereas the M V Act is very specific that vehicle registration number plates have to be made out with English letterings and Arabic numerals, as per prescribed standard, more and more vehicles (including ones belonging to the Police) are being seen on the city roads with number plates made out only in Kannada. My query is whose responsibility is the enforcement of this aspect of the M V Act".

The Commissioner forwarded it to the Addl Commissioner, Traffic, on 16th April (with a copy to me), directing him to respond. His remaining silent, on 19th May, I made an appeal to the Commissioner, with a copy to the Addl Commissioner, Traffic. On 31st May, I received a similarly worded response from the Commissioner, directing me once again to the Addl Commissioner, Traffic, to whom the response was in fact addressed. After waiting for nearly a month, on 25th June, I filed an appeal with the Information Commission. Due to its various internal problems (check this), it was only on the 6th April this year, over 9 months later, that the case came up for hearing.

On that day, some low lie official attended the hearing essentially to hand over a letter seeking more time to respond, I presume, since I was not given a copy of the letter. The Commissioner readily adjourned the case to 2nd June.

By this time, I think the officials concerned realised that things were getting a bit too hot for their comfort, and decided to act. I am not sure if the change of guard at the Commissioner level helped here. The city traffic police came on to the Facebook, and invited members of the public to post instances of traffic rule violations, including those by police personnel, on its wall. The resulting flood made the new Commissioner to issue an intra-departmental memo on the 26th May (copy attached) to enforce compliance as per M V Act within 48 hrs, firstly by all police and government vehicles.

So, on the 2nd June, when the matter again came up before the Information Commission, a police official submitted a letter addressed to me by the Addl Commissioner, Traffic (with a copy to the Commission), admitting amongst other things finally that it was their duty to enforce the M V Act (copy of the same is attached). Alongwith, the official also submitted a copy of the intra-departmental memo dt 26th May, issued by the Commissioner.

The Information Commissioner, Mr M R Pujar, IPS retd, then turned to me with a "that should satisfy you?" look. But, I pointed out to him that it had taken over a year to get the police to own up their duty, when he went on to record a note of caution to the official concerned about such lapses in future, in his order. I didn't want to make things any more difficult for an ex-senior cop sitting in judgement over the doings of a serving senior cop, and left things at that.

Now, even as my appeal was before the Information Commission, on 13th July, '10, I had received a letter from the DCP Traffic, West, saying that the responsibility of enforcing the M V Act in this regard was that of the Transport Department, in effect washing the Traffic Police's hands off the matter. This was a plain falsehood, more serious a misdeed than the delay tactics employed, and, had I pressed for strictures on this account, it would have led to more embarrassment all around. And not just embarrassment, but, with these going into personal records, they can have an impact on career aspects too. And, therein lies the strength of the RTI Act.

Well, now that the ambiguity over who the enforcement authority is, has been cleared, let's see how good a job the traffic police does of it. On my part, whenever I am in a position to do so, I have been taking pictures (of vehicles with number plates in Kannada alone) and posting them on the traffic police facebook wall. Even on the 2nd June, as I was returning home from the hearing, I took four such pictures, and posted them the next day.

Another interesting aspect of the matter is that I had taken up the issue with the Lok Ayukta as far back as in April, '08. Unfortunately, however, they didn't do anything about it, though, Justice Hegde had very clearly stated in one of his early public meetings that governance issues were very much a part of their mandate, since it can't be that you have to approach the regular courts for enforcement of every single rule. Had the Lok Ayukta acted, I could have been spared the tortuous exercise spread over more than a year. Perhaps, Justice Hegde got bogged down with weightier issues in the meanwhile. Whatever, I consider it a failure on his part.

Coming back to the matter of the efficacy of the Commission, I must mention here that even as I was waiting for my case to come up, I had to sit through the proceedings of some 10 other cases, most pertaining to the Anekal Tahsildar's office. It was indeed heart-warming to see the officials cringing before the Commissioner when he took them to task, nice and proper, in the presence of the petitioners, for dereliction of duty of every nature. He warned each of them (and their Tahsildar) of serious consequences if they failed to file action taken reports by the next hearing. The impact was quite visible, and I am sure the Anekal Tahsildar's office is going to be a transfrmed place soon. And, if this happens all across the country, imagine how better life would become for everyone concerned.

There was one sore point, though. On the first day of the hearing, ie on 6th April, I was told that the matter was adjourned to the 2nd June. Thereafter, I did not receive any intimation from the Commission. No update was available on the website either. From about a week before the adjourned hearing date, I made a number of attempts over phone to get the details of when and where the hearing was to happen, but without success, with either the officials concerned not being readily available, or the others themselves not knowing where to access the information. Finally, on the day before the hearing day, a certain Mr Srinivas was kind enough to go out of his way to dig out the information and call me back to say that the hearing was to take place in "1st floor, Mythic Society" between 11 AM and 1.30 PM. As it turned out, it was not in the Mythic Society, but in the "Rashtrothana Parishat" building next door, where the Commission has now set up three of its new, fairly well appointed, court halls. I took up the matter with the Commissioner, who then checked and informed that a notice had been posted to me on the 26th May (but, by ordinary post). On checking my mail box after reaching home, I noticed that the letter had just been delivered just that day. Well, very certainly this dependence on the ordinary post alone is not good enough, and the Commission needs to do a lot more in this aspect, all the more because of its being the "Information" Commission.

Muralidhar Rao
 

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Comments

Sanjeev's picture

Great Work by Murali Sir

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One year to get them accept the respnsibility of MV Act.

These things will encourage others to do theri bit for society from their part.

sanjeev

Ravi_D's picture

Thanks for the efforts and

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116 users have liked.

Thanks for the efforts and the report Murali Sir. Hope your enthusiasm rubs on more of the rest of us.

Ravi

n's picture

Very tenacious effort and at

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Very tenacious effort and at least a positive outcome to show.  Unfortunately, the spirit of RTI to inculcate transparency is lost as the mindset has not yet changed to provide and share information.  It will probably take at least a generation for effective information dissemination; hopefully this will lead to faster decision-making too.


psaram42's picture

Effectiveness of the RTI act

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RTI act is a tool to get information from the government. Murali sir has got the desired result of making the correct department own up the responsibility of compliance of the MV regulation wrt to vehicle number plates being in English. It is a commendable achievement indeed and a sad commentary on the errant department.

It is a shame the manner in which the Bangalore Police have failed in owning up this sensitive responsibility, let alone acting on it. 

psaram42's picture

Right to Information act a wild goose chase

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RTI is worthless and futile if the information is not readily available, as in the present example. It took an appeal in a court to wake up the police department to identify an agency for the job. Can we hope at least now all the vehicles in Bangalore are made compliant to the existing act specifications as far as the number plates are concerned?

silkboard's picture

meet e-governance secy?

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I was just thinking if enforcing some "digital data storage" guidelines on all departments via department of e-governance will help in any way. While this case pointed out by Murali is a clear example of intentional delay, wouldn't there be situations where the department itself will not know how to quickly compile some requested-for information? Even further, now that everyone will slowly be hosted in state's new data center, can the state's e-governance department provide all RTI answers directly (as it would be kept with them) and go to the concerned deptt only if they have not kept that information (digitally) with them?

I know it all sounds too hard to to and ask for. But you never know.

psaram42's picture

Are these Baby steps justified?

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When the whole world is going paperless why Karnataka should be taking these baby steps? In fact the Yeddyurappa government should have all files residing in the hard disk with graded accesses to all. Is RTI relevant?

ajit n naik's picture

Let us follow Shri Mualidhar Rao

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We have to learn lessons from Mr.Muralidhar Rao. There are  many  deficiencies in variousGovernment departments which we can set right gradually by filing RTI. I have decided to file 2 RTI applications pertaining to Registation of Apartment Owner's Association. One application to know the Competent Authority who is/ will be on job to implement Karnataka Apartment Ownership Act, 1972. There is already an order by Karnataka Information Commission, Bangalore to Housing Department, Vikasa Soudha, Bangalore to take steps for implementing another related act,  The Karnataka Ownership Flats (Regulation of the Promotion of Construction, Sale, Management & Transfer) Act, 1972 in response to the Case No. KIC 3658 PTN 2009 filed by Sri C.N.Kumar. Other RTI will be filed with the concerned Authorities who are entrusted with Registration of  Societies under Karnataka Societies Act, 1960 seeking their clarification on registering the Apartment Owner's Association under Karnataka Societies Act, 1960  though such Association  and it's property is already subjected to Dedication of Karnataka Apartment Ownership Act, 1972 by registering Deed of Dedication and Bye-laws of Aparment Owner's Association. I have asked the guidance of Mr. Muralidhar Rao in this regard.

Though it is time consuming to get proper replies on RTI applications we should follow up sincerely to get the end results by following the example of Mr. Muralidhar Rao.

murali772's picture

non-information

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Interestingly, for the meeting adjourned on the 6th April, to 2nd June, I received an SMS message reading "KIC8602PTN2010 is adjourbed and the next date of hearing is 02/06/2011" from TD-KICKAR at 3.30 PM on 9th June, ie 7 days after the event.

Tells a tale in itself.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Societies Act not relevant

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@ Mr Ajit Naik

The office of the Registrar of Societies is ill-equipped, both manpower-wise as well as facilities-wise, and if you insist on registering, they will do it as long as you furnish a set of the prescribed documents (all in Kannada), and give them their customary bribe of some Rs 3 to 5 K, irrespective of whether you are eligible or not. For more on that, click here

Now, just because there is no authority specified under KAOA to 'register' an association, though the 'Registrar of Co-operative Societies' has been named as the "Competent Authority", but with powers and responsibilities not clearly defined (for more on that, click here), many lawyers are advising (in my view, wrongly) to re-register associations (already regiastered under the KAOA) under the Societies Act. Now, even if an association decides to do so, it has to be in total supersession of the registration under the KAOA, for which there has to be unanimous consent from all the members, without which it is invalid.

Unfortunately, very few people seem to know this.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

example from an advanced country

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As compared to that, the Mayor of London is insisting on US President Obama paying congestion levies -10 pounds per vehicle - for the presidential motorcade used during Obama's state visit in May - check here for the full story.

When we refer to a country as 'advanced', this is perhaps where the advancement lies.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

final order copy attached

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The final order (dt 02/06/11) copy has also been attached to the original post.

Muralidhar Rao

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