Thursday, April 23, 2015

MRTPS Act 2015, babudom is not willing to loosen its grip on the neck of democracy

Maharashtra Government has decided to bring an ordinance to enforce The Maharashtra Right to Public Services Act 2015 (MRTPS). The decision regarding this was taken in the recent cabinet meeting.However, if enacted as it is, the act will have disastrous effects on delivery of public services. It seems that babudom is not willing to loosen its grip on the neck of democracy. MRTPS 2015 has so many loopholes.

As we all know how babudom is stifling Right to information act (RTI).Though RTI act says  The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC  shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. All over India we see all the CIC  and IC’s are  from the bureaucracy only exept few.

In  MRTPS they have eliminated all other fields except  Governance from the Right to Public services Commission that is to be established under MRTPS. Section 13 (5) this act. It says The chief commissioner or commissioners shall be the persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in administration in government or public authority. That means there will be only babus as  CICs and ICs of commission.Hence there will be no  independent and impartial appellate mechanism.

First and second appellate mechanism under this act is with senior officers of the same  public authority or the department only, and third appeal is with Right to Public services Commission .That means first and second appeals will be heard by working babus and third appeal will be heard by retired babu. Applicants will have to depend on the mercy of babu’s only.And so many appeals may frustrate prevent the applicants from filling the appeals.

As per section 2 (j) of the act ““Public Authority” means,-
(a)     any Department or authorities of the Government;
(b)     any organization or authority or body or institution or a local authority, established or constituted,-
(i)     by or under the Constitution of India, in the State;
(ii)     by any other law made by the State Legislature;
(iii)    by notification issued by the Government;
(c)     and includes,-
(i)     any institution , a co-operative society , Government Company or a authority owned, controlled or  financed by state government ; or

(ii)     any non-Governmental organization receiving financial aid the State Government.

This definition is almost copied from Right to information act. But that is not sufficient because bureaucracy thinks that system has already been overloaded. They are also speaking of dedicated machinery, outsourcing and outside funding for providing public services. In this case terms “private institution financed by the state government” or  “NGOs “ receiving financial aid” may harm the very cause of the act. Here one can see that the term, “directly or indirectly finance  by state government’ is missing here .That means institutes providing public services with outside finance or managing the services with the fees for providing public services will not attract provisions of MRTPS act.

Another hurdle is section 4 of this act. It says (1) subject to legal, technical and financial feasibility, every eligible person shall have right to obtain public services in the state
(2) Subject to legal, technical and financial feasibility, every Designated Officer of the Public Authority shall provide the notified services specified in the notification to the eligible Person, within the stipulated time limit. We know how words “technical and financial feasibility ‘ have become obstacle in obtaining information under RTI specially in rural areas . And as far as legal feasibility is concerned one should not forget that in past  government had tried taking Declaration that the case relating to Information sought for, has not been filed previously/pending with any court/any Authority before filling appeal under RTI. Yes there must be some restrictions, however those should be very clear so that nobody will misuse it.

Section 10 (1)(a)  of this bill says Where the First Appellate Authority is of the  opinion that the Designated Officer has failed to provide notified service without sufficient and reasonable cause, then he shall impose a penalty subject to such maximum amount as may be specified by the State Government from time to time by notification in the Official Gazette.

This is the trick to kill the act before its inception. If penalty provision is not fixed in the act itself, babus will time and again try to minimize or remove it completely by mere notifications. And what is not provided in the act cannot be added or changed by mere notifications. We also should not forget that babus have tried to weaken the RTI by mere office orders, circulars and notifications.

Section 11 of this act says , Designated Officer or First appellate authority as the case may be shall pay the amount of penalty within period of thirty days , failing which competent authority shall recover the amount of penalty from salary of Designated Officer or First appellate authority as the case may be. This clause is likely to be misused by corrupt officer, they would not mind depositing any amount in cash if it is not to be recorded in his/her service book. So amount of penalty shall be recovered from salaries only.

As well as there is no provision of any compensation or cost if applicant doesn’t receive desired service in stipulated time.

There so many other loopholes in the act. This act was dream and first announcement made by chief minister Devendra fadnavis. If enacted properly this act has power to change the future of the state. 

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RTI KATTA is a platform to empower oneself through discussions amongst each other to solve their problems by using Right to Information act, Every Sunday at Chittaranjan Watika, Model Colony,Shivaji nagar, Pune, between 9.30 to 10.30 A.M.

Vijay Kumbhar

RTI Resource Person, RTI Columnist

Phone – 9923299199
Email – kvijay14@gmail.com
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