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Activist moves CIC over info denial under RTI Act

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TURA, May 13: Social activist Nilbirth Marak of Williamnagar, East Garo Hills, has filed a complaint with the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of Meghalaya against the deputy commissioner, who is also the first appellate authority for RTIs, over the denial of information under the Act.
The complaint with the CIC follows the first appeal made by the activist with the DC after his RTI application on the project under the Greater Water Supply Scheme of Williamnagar was denied by the PHE department of EGH.
Interestingly the PHE Simsanggre Division has continued to deny information under the RTI Act, citing third party information. This has happened over several RTI applications filed by various residents with the department, not willing to submit information for scrutiny for reasons best known to them.
In his complaint, which was filed on Monday, Nilbirth highlighted three sections where information was denied to him, citing third party clauses. He was denied information on whether tender notice was taken out for the contract in question, the name of the contractor(s) as well as a detailed work order.
The RTI application was filed against a water supply project for the town of Williamnagar at a cost of Rs 121 crore.
In their reply to the RTI application, the PHE PIO had stated that tender notices were not available in their office and were done by the office of the Chief Engineer. The normal course of action, as per the RTI Act, is to forward the same to the concerned department for the information.
Further, in answer to the question on the work order and the names of contractor(s), the department peculiarly stated that the third party had denied providing the information.
“I appealed to the DC for a resolution to the matter on Oct 10, 2023 after their reply of October 4. However, it has now been more than six months and despite repeated appeals, he has not provided any answer or solution. In fact, there has been no reply at all from him.
As such, I had no other option than to contact the CIC for this illegal denial of information by the PHE and the silence on the matter by the DC,” informed Nilbirth when contacted.
He added that the denial of information under Section 11 of the Act is not the correct interpretation of the Act.
“Information under Section 11 is applicable only in the matter of confidentiality requested by a third party. In this instant case, I have sought information of a work order which is a public document and the contractor who is carrying on public duties that is being paid for by public funds. As a citizen, it is my fundamental right to know how public money is being spent,” added the activist.
Nilbirth has sought action against the DC as well as the PHE department on the issue in his appeal submitted today, May 13.

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