Congress-NCP govt removed Anti-Corruption Bureau from RTI just before polls

A notification, which has still not been put up on the Maharashtra government’s website and only appears on the ACB portal, declares ACB out of ambit of RTI Act. Whom was the Congress-NCP government trying to save and why?

 

When the central or the state government finds some influential Neta or babu on a sticky wicket, they for sure try to kill transparency. The union government put Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) out of the Right to Information (RTI) Act sometime back. Suddenly, last month Maharashtra government also decided to put the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) out of RTI ambit, leading to a wave of protests from activists across the state, as they just discovered this mean trick.

What is strange that every notification issued by the General Administration Department (GAD) is put up on the Maharashtra government’s website but the one about ACB having been put outside the RTI Act, is yet to be uploaded, although it was issued on 6 September 2014. It has been only recently put up on the ACB website. What is also strange is that, such a notification, which directly affects the public at large, is required to be put up before the public for suggestions and objections but that has not been done at all. In a most suspicious manner, ACB has been removed from RTI by the Congress-NCP government just before the Assembly elections.


RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who is pursuing the alleged land scam and financial irregularities by the controversial bureaucrat Prabhakar Deshmukh, has been tracking a complaint lodged with the ACB, demanding an inquiry against the IAS officer. For full details on Kumbhar’s investigations read this story in Moneylife:   

 

http://www.moneylife.in/article/pune-div-commissioner-prabhakar-deshmukhs-land-scam-exposed/36456.html

Last week, when Kumbhar tried following up on the status of investigations against Deshmukh at the ACB, he was casually told by a middle level official that the department is out of the RTI Act. The official asked Kumbhar to check the ACB website.  Kumbhar says, “This was a shocking revelation to me. Does ACB come neither under ‘security’ nor `intelligence to merit it from being secret? This is a dirty trick done by the previous government to shield not only Prabhakar Deshmukh but other high level politicians as well.’’

Allegedly, there is another twist to the story. Prabhakar Mategaonkar, a Mumbai-based social activist had lodged a complaint with the ACB against Ajit Pawar’s alleged corruption in the Rs73,000 crore irrigation scam. The permission to start investigations was given to the ACB on 22nd August. Similarly, a complaint has been lodged against Harshavardhan Patil, another prominent minister in the Congress-NCP government. By a strange coincidence, the notification came up on 6th September.  By the way, a notification has been signed by the Governor after it was passed by the Assembly. The ACB seemed reluctant to prosecute such VIPs and so a notification, which was surreptitiously passed, seems to have been a convenient option.

Lt Gen Sudhir Jatar (retd), a prominent RTI activist, says, “I had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court wherein very senior officers have been involved, which came to light only because I could access the relevant report of the ACB. It is sad that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was openly and shamelessly corrupt from top to bottom. I, of course, doubt if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will reverse these orders!’’

Many RTI activists across the state are rallying around Kumbhar regarding this issue. One of them, Vivek Velankar from Pune said, “The union government removed CBI; the state government removes ACB – this is all abuse of power and no respect for transparency.”

In fact, the Special Branch of Police is also out of the RTI Act in Maharashtra. So, your RTI requisition gets stone walled even if you ask a simply query like the number of foreigners staying in Pune.

To conclude, after nine years of RTI Act, the strangulation by the powers that be, continues. Let us all put up a fight against the ACB deletion.

BOX:

The following quick reading on Section 24 of the RTI Act will reveal as to why ACB cannot be out of the RTI Act and procedure to be followed for any deletion:

 
24        (1)                    Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government:
                                  
Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:
 
                                    Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the Central Information Commission, and notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.


            (2)                   The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, amend the Schedule by including therein any other intelligence or security organisation established by that Government or omitting therefrom any organisation already specified therein and on the publication of such notification, such organisation shall be deemed to be included in or, as the case may be, omitted from the Schedule.


            (3)                   Every notification issued under sub-section (2) shall be laid before each House of Parliament.


            (4)                   Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to such intelligence and security organisation being organisations established by the State Government, as that Government may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify:


                                    Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:


                                    Provided further that in the case of information sought for is in respect of allegations of violation of human rights, the information shall only be provided after the approval of the State Information Commission and, notwithstanding anything contained in section 7, such information shall be provided within forty-five days from the date of the receipt of request.


            (5)                   Every notification issued under sub-section (4) shall be laid before the State Legislature

(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

Comments
manoharlalsharma
10 years ago
we understand that Congress do not able to understand the mindset of INDIAN citizen but what about N.C.P.? which boast of by name itself as NATIONAL but it do not RECOGNIZE other than MAHARASHTRIANS any way now voted out the govt and it was understood so it has removed Anti-Corruption Bureau to shelter the CRIMINAL from R.T.I. just before polls
manoharlalsharma
10 years ago
we understand that Congress do not able to understand the mindset of INDIAN citizen but what about N.C.P.? which boast of by name itself as NATIONAL but it do not RECOGNIZE other than MAHARASHTRIANS any way now voted out the govt and it was understood so it has removed Anti-Corruption Bureau to shelter the CRIMINAL from R.T.I. just before polls
manoharlalsharma
10 years ago
we understand that Congress do not able to understand the mindset of INDIAN citizen but what about N.C.P.? which boast of by name itself as NATIONAL but it do not RECOGNIZE other than MAHARASHTRIANS any way now voted out the govt and it was understood so it has removed Anti-Corruption Bureau to shelter the CRIMINAL from R.T.I. just before polls
Avinash Murkute
10 years ago
Congratulations ACB. As such ACB was not of any use when it came to fighting corruption because ACB was mere TRAP agency and nothing more plus publicity stings for few media hungry B-Cats.
Suiketu Shah
10 years ago
moneylife is the 1st to report this.This shows how shallow the tv and print press is.Congrats Moneylife.happy Diwali and new yr.
avi
10 years ago
Lets not stop at the fact that hese utterly corrupt thugs lost the election.Now lets bring them to book.Otherwise the oney stays with them and the audacity to commit such crimes will show up again.Lets end this once and for all.
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