Petition to Maharashtra CM Against Disregard for Democratic norms by MCGM
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We live in a system of government based on fundamental democratic principles. Constitutionally, our democracy rests on the three pillars: The Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. We have stringent checks and balances to ensure that none of them encroaches on the legitimate jurisdiction of the other two.
It is against the backdrop as aforesaid that we wish to convey to you our strong displeasure with certain draconian measures being adopted with impunity by the executives of our oldest and renowned civic body, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
Right to information has been recognised as a fundamental right. However, there have been repeated instances of targeting, defaming and hounding of fellow citizens who file RTI applications seeking information from the MCGM. One Asst. Commissioner of MCGM went to the extent of filing a complaint with a police station naming over 70 citizens, mostly RTI users, as extortionists and blackmailers, without producing any evidence!
The Municipal Commissioner and other senior officials have been spreading a canard calling citizens using their Fundamental Right to Information as blackmailers and undesirables, and blaming them for the corruption and everything else wrong with the civic body. Whether it is the fire in the Kamala Mill’s compound or illegal constructions, instead of acknowledging its own failures to enforce the law and its own Regulations and punishing its corrupt officers and employees, the blame is being placed by the MCGM at the doors of citizens, in a perverse manner!
We have been seeing such irresponsible actions for too long.
We, therefore, demand that you intervene personally and commit to take the following actions:
- Issue a directive to all government officials to desist from calling RTI users blackmailers. If there are any specific cases of illegal actions by any citizens, they should certainly be brought to book.
- Ensure that all RTI applications and responses will be displayed on MCGM website from 01st March 2018 onwards. This will ensure compliance with the Government of India, Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), Office Memorandum (OM) which states: “1.4.1 All Public Authorities shall proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses, on the websites maintained by Public Authorities with search facility based on key words.”. This has been reiterated in the Government of Maharashtra, General Administration Department Resolution dated 25/8/2015. This would eliminate any possibility of anyone blackmailing.
- We understand that the Municipal Commissioner has issued a formal order (MGC/S/4825 dated 21/10/2017) declaring a well-known NGO, Praja Foundation, and its employees as 'persona non-grata’ simply because they used RTI to bring out wrong doings by the MCGM. This order must be withdrawn forthwith. It is patently illegal as it means denying citizens the use of their fundamental right. The Municipal Commissioner has no authority what-so-ever, statutory or otherwise, to take any such draconian action. Ironically, while the Municipal Commissioner has made no attempt to act against the so-called ‘extortionist activists’, a respected NGO is sought to be castigated for the honest and dedicated work it has been doing for more than a decade.
- Ensure that the MCGM will comply with the requirements of Section 4 of the RTI Act, as outlined in the DOPT OM and the Maharashtra State Govt. GR, before 30th March 2018.
- Ensure that the MCGM will upload all RTI applications and information on the State portal.
- Ensure that all data on the MCGM System Application Protocol (SAP) system is put and displayed on its website.
We are sure you will respond to this plea which will make the MCGM transparent, accountable and citizen-friendly. Citizens should be enabled to monitor MCGM's working actively and in a participative manner, instead of being maligned and shunned.
[Petition signed by Julio Ribeiro (Founder and Trustee, Public Concern for Governance Trust), D M Sukhtankar (Chairman, Action for Good Governance and Networking in India), Shailesh Gandhi (Former Chief Information Commissioner and RTI activist), Sucheta Dalal (Founder and Trustee, Moneylife Foundation) and Nitai Mehta (Founder and Trustee, Praja Foundation) on behalf of Citizens of Mumbai]
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