SIC takes back orders barring info on building plans under RTI
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Two months and several complaints later, State Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad Wednesday withdrew his order that directed planning authorities not to furnish information relating to the internal plan or layout of a building, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Gaikwad was hearing a complaint by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, who argued that such an exemption can only be mandated by an amendment to the Act and such an order would prevent illegalities in construction from coming out.
Gaikwad said he agreed in principle with this and that a blanket ban prohibiting information was not his contention, and hence his orders dated September 26 and November 21 stand withdrawn. "I withdraw my earlier orders with a rider that due application of mind is exercised while giving information about the internal plans of public utility buildings to ensure that it does not pose a risk to national security," said Gaikwad.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai had brought to the notice of Gaikwad on September 25 that planning authorities were giving detailed internal plans of public and private buildings under RTI, which posed a grave security threat. He cited the 26/11 terror attack, and extortion cases in Jharkhand wherein culprits had detailed building plans.
Following this, Gaikwad issued an order asking planning authorities to stop furnishing such information. Gaikwad said his order was misinterpreted by PIOs who started refusing information. Following complaints, a clarification was issued in November, which listed what information could be furnished for public or private buildings.
However, Gandhi and Prabhu argued that such an order would still curtail information about illegal constructions and alterations. "This order tries to hide such information. Such an order of exemption from giving information can only be passed in case of an appeal or by amendment to the law by the Parliament. Chances of terrorists taking the RTI route to get building plans are minimal," argued Gandhi.