Maharashtra SIC order banning disclosure of building plans under RTI reversed
The chief information commissioner of Maharashtra state information commission (SIC) has reversed his earlier order which sought to exempt the building plans approved by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from the purview of Right to Information (RTI) Act citing security concerns.
The recent SIC order asks the public authorities dealing with sanction of building plans to furnish the requested information under the transparency act. The information that has to be disclosed includes Floor Space Index (FSI) statement, coverage statement, parking statement, staircase passages, cross-section of building, IOD/ CC, Occupation Certificate, etc. The only information not to be disclosed in this regard pertain to the internal layout of the rooms in a building and interiors and internal details.
On 26 September 2013, Shri Ratnakar Gaikwad had issued an order using powers vested under Section 19(8)(c) In its decision, the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, has the power to impose any of the penalties provided under this Act; and 25(5) of the RTI Act, which said, "All municipal corporations, municipalities in the state are directed not to provide building plans or other related documents of public buildings including government and semi-government offices, hotels, gymkhanas, hospitals, malls, IT and commercial buildings. Similarly, in case of private buildings, interior plans will not be provided under RTI unless it is proved that the information sought is in public interest."
The order of the SIC was criticised as being bad in law and contrary to the spirit and preamble of the RTI Act. The activists had argued that the Information Commissioner has to pass orders within the purview of RTI Act on a case which is presented before it and has no powers to make a law. It was pointed out that more than half buildings in Mumbai do not have occupation certificate (OC) and the order of the SIC would only ensure that the illegalities committed by the builder-babu-neta nexus would never be made public. The case of the Campa Cola building has received mass media coverage wherein a modus operandi of first constructing an illegal building in three to six months and then seeking to regularize it claiming that it is an old building has come to notice. During the period of construction, neither any cognizance of any complaint is taken nor any information provided under the Right to Information Act.
The SIC held that the order was being reversed because of misinterpretation of the earlier which was meant to impose ban only on internal plans/interiors of building plan unless it was proved that it was in larger public interest. He said that there were many complaints that RTI applications seeking any information relating to building plans were being refused by the public authorities.
In many instances in the past, the knowledge of the provisions of the RTI Act amongst the information commissioners, or the lack of it, has received a lot of criticism.