Metro nixes KIC order, ignores RTI plea

BMRCL chief questions newspapers authority, threatens to complain to Press Council

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation  (BMRCL) has shown scant regard for the Right to Information (RTI) Act and transparency in its functioning.

It has refused to provide any information to an RTI applicant despite its public information officer being penalised Rs 30,000 by the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) in three cases.

Even after a two-year wait and a penalty of Rs 30,000 imposed by the KIC with some strong comments against BMRCL General Manager (Projects) U A Vasanth Rao, he has not provided the desired information to the applicant, former Mayor P R Ramesh.
The case dates back to April 21, 2010, when Ramesh filed three applications with three queries related to the Swastik Metro Rail Station.

He wanted a copy of the agreement and related documents pertaining to the public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives for the construction of Swastik Station. His second application was for a copy of the title deeds as well as right of ownership of land on Survey number 20, 21, 25 in Jakkasandra village in Kasaba Hobli where the Metro station was coming up.

The third query related to the extract copy of the meetings of the board of directors held between March 4, 2009, and April 21, 2010, regarding the PPP initiatives for the construction of the station.

When he did not get any information even after 60 days, he filed an appeal before the KIC.

On August 24, 2011, the first hearing took place where the KIC directed Vasanth Rao to provide information or be prepared to pay a penalty of Rs 250 per day for each case, with a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 per case. But, Vasanth Rao remained defiant.

The next hearing took place on February 22, this year, but Vasanth Rao did not attend the hearing.  Information Commissioner J S Virupakshaiah took serious note of this and levied a penalty of Rs 10,000 in each case on Rao, totalling Rs 30,000.

The Commissioner directed the State government to collect Rs 30,000 in five monthly
instalments.

When Deccan Herald contacted BMRCL Managing Director N Sivasailam about the officer’s failure to provide information even after two years, he questioned the authority of the newspaper. He said the case was related to a dispute between two parties. “Deccan Herald has no role to question it,” he ruled.

“As a newspaper group, you are not entitled to ask me this question. Next time you do so, I will take up the matter with  the Press Council of India. Who are you to ask me? Just because you introduced yourself as a journalist, I cannot answer you. Ask your editor to send me queries, only then will I answer,” Sivasailam said.

Not surprising

Reacting to Sivasailam’s reply, P R Ramesh said he was not at all surprised given the contemptible functioning of the BMRCL.

 “When they have the guts to defy the KIC order, they can also challenge the authority of any Constitutional body. They are behaving as if they are law unto themselves,” said an aggrieved Ramesh.

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