Information regarding provisioning of utility duct along national highways was denied stating that the matter relates to MoRTH - On transfer of application by planning commission, MoRTH did not respond - CIC: MoRTH to provide the available information
1. This matter pertains to an RTI application dated 15.8.2013 filed by the Appellant, seeking information on five points regarding provisioning of knowledge duct or utility duct / corridor along national highways / other roads and related issues. Not satisfied with the response of the Respondents, she filed second appeal dated 24.11.2013 to the CIC, which was received by the Commission on 3.12.2013.
2. The Respondents submitted that the application was transferred by them to the CPIO of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) on 30.8.2013 under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act. Further, a reply was sent to the Appellant by the Director (Transport) and CPIO of the Planning Commission on 11.11.2013. The representative of the Appellant submitted that the Planning Commission has not responded to the specific queries of the RTI application. He mentioned in particular that with reference to point No. 4, the Appellant has not been informed whether any guidelines have been issued by the Planning Commission in the matter. He further stated that no information was received by the Appellant from MoRTH.
3. We have considered the records and the submissions made by both the parties before us. The issues raised in the RTI application focus essentially on the following: that while the NHAI projects envisage 5 m. wide utility corridor along the highways on either side for providing all utilities, no such construction was carried out by NHAI, thereby causing unnecessary expenditure on subsequent execution of the same work by public utility services such as telecom companies and others; that wastage of public money is involved because of laying of optical fibre cable by telecom companies by damaging the existing roads and whether the Planning Commission has initiated any study and is issuing guidelines for avoidance of the above situation in future. However, it is noted that the reply dated 11.11.2013, sent by the Planning Commission, was in the context of a meeting held under the Chairmanship of Adviser (Transport), Planning Commission in the context of provision of service ducts along highways across the northeastern states under the NLCPR fund. It did not answer the queries of the RTI application raised in the wider context of provisioning of utility ducts while building highways and other roads in the country. The RTI application raises an important issue. The Commission, however, is not competent to address such issues and will not go into it. Therefore, we will confine ourselves to the aspect of provision of the information sought by the Appellant. In response to our query during the hearing, the Respondents submitted that they have nothing to add to their reply dated 11.11.2013 and that further developments, if any, should be known to MoRTH. In this context, we note from paragraphs 6 and 7 of the Planning Commission letter dated 11.11.2013 that MoRTH has been seized of this matter and has also issued consolidated guidelines for granting “Right of Way” permissions to Telecom Service Licenses / Infrastructures provided for laying Telecom Cable / ducts on NH land, which are applicable to all regions. We also note that in spite of the application having been transferred to MoRTH by the Planning Commission on 30.8.2013, no information has been sent to the Appellant by them. In view of the foregoing, we direct the CPIO, Planning Commission to transmit a copy of this order by name to the concerned CPIO in MoRTH, within five days of its receipt, under intimation to the Central Information Commission. The CPIO, MoRTH, is directed to provide to the Appellant the available information, on the basis of the records held by MoRTH, in response to the issues raised in the RTI application dated 15.8.2013. The CPIO, MoRTH is further directed to provide information as above, free of cost, within twenty days of receipt of a copy of this order by him from the CPIO of Planning Commission, under intimation to the Central Information Commission.
4. With the above directions and observations, the appeal is disposed of.
5. Copies of this order be given free of cost to the parties.
Citation: Smt. Haripriya Patel v. Planning Commission in File No. CIC/SH/A/2014/900003