The RCS office is a unique case of RTI violations because along with information blockade, the concerned RCS officials also provide wrong information to the applicants.
By Rakesh Raman
I sent the following complaint to the authorities.
To October 21, 2022
The Chief Information Commissioner
Central Information Commission (CIC) of India
Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG)
Government of India
Lieutenant Governor (LG)
Delhi Government, Delhi
Subject: Complaint against the officials of Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) office of Delhi Government for blatantly violating the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Appeal: Since the current provision of penalties under Section 20 of the RTI Act is not sufficient for corrupt RCS officials, a jail term and termination of their services is recommended.
I am a national award-winning journalist and founder of the humanitarian organization RMN Foundation (my detailed profile is given below). Please refer to a recent complaint by the Central Information Commission (CIC) office about the flagrant violations of the RTI Act by the bureaucrats of Delhi Government.
In response to the CIC complaint, the Lt. Governor (LG) of Delhi Mr. Vinai Saxena has directed the chief secretary to take action to ensure proper implementation of RTI Act in the state. A report in the Hindustan Times newspaper on October 11, 2022 quotes a CIC letter to Delhi LG which accuses the Delhi Government of failing to implement the RTI Act and reducing it to a “lame duck” legislation.
This observation of the CIC office is also correct in the case of the office of Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS), which is one of the most corrupt departments of Delhi Government. The RCS office is a unique case of RTI violations because along with information blockade, the concerned RCS officials also provide wrong information to the applicants in order to deceive them. I will explain the criminality of RCS officials with a recent case which is described below.
CRIMINALITY OF RCS OFFICIALS
I have been running a free online anti-corruption social service “Clean House” for the past 5 years to help the suffering residents of Delhi raise their voice against the growing corruption and injustice in cooperative group housing societies (CGHS). These housing societies – regulated by the RCS office – have become dangerous centres of crime and corruption. The crimes in these housing societies are being committed by the managing committee (MC) members or administrators in connivance with the corrupt RCS officials.
In order to check the criminal activities in housing societies, the RCS office has repeatedly issued orders for the societies to make their exclusive websites and keep them updated to ensure transparency and reduce corruption. But strangely the RCS office does not enforce its own directions and allows the societies to operate opaquely.
As a result, rampant corruption is happening in almost all housing societies of Delhi and the RCS office ignores the aggrieved residents’ complaints against crime and corruption because the criminal MC members of housing societies bribe the RCS officials. Since the society websites – if operated transparently – can reduce corruption to some extent, I filed the following RTI application on September 21, 2022 with the RCS office to seek information about the status of websites.
To September 21, 2022
The Public Information Officer (PIO)
Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS), Delhi Government
Old Court Building, Parliament Street, New Delhi 110 001
Subject: RTI Application to Seek Information under the Right to Information Act 2005
Name of the Applicant: Rakesh Raman
Dear PIO, RCS Office, Delhi Government,
Please provide me the following information:
1. How many cooperative group housing societies (CGHSs) are in Delhi?
2. How many flats are in cooperative group housing societies of Delhi?
3. How many notifications or directives has the RCS office issued during the years 2015 to 2022 to the managing committees (MCs) of cooperative group housing societies in Delhi to make their society website?
4. How many cooperative group housing societies of Delhi have a working website?
5. How many cooperative group housing societies of Delhi do not update their websites regularly and with relevant information?
6. What action has the RCS office taken against the MCs which have not made their society website?
7. Which Section of the DCS Act is violated by the MCs which have not made their website or which are not updating it properly?
8. What is the reason that the RCS office does not take action against the MCs which defy the RCS directives about website creation?
If the information sought above is not available in your office, please forward my application to the concerned public information authority to seek information.
But instead of giving me the information, the RCS office kept informing me through multiple communications that it does not have the information. It also asked me to visit the RCS website, which is so crudely developed that it is almost impossible to find information from it. Many of the links on RCS website are defective, but the corrupt RCS bureaucrats never tried to make it a useful online facility for the citizens. Obviously, I could not find the information that I requested in my RTI application. A couple of RCS communications in response to my RTI application are given below as Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2.
I was shocked to know that the RCS office does not have the basic information such as the number of cooperative group housing societies (CGHSs) in Delhi while it is the only government department that regulates these housing societies. And when the RCS office is directing the societies to make their websites, it is the responsibility of the RCS bureaucrats to monitor compliance and it must compile the list of societies that defy its directions so that they could be penalized. But the corrupt RCS officials provide impunity to criminal MC members of societies who regularly bribe them.
Also, in order to harass the RTI applicants, the RCS office gives wrong contact details of its Public Information Officers (PIOs) and does not follow the RTI “User Manual”. I informed the RCS office about these lapses. But, as usual, the RCS office neither replied to my emails nor did it provide me with the information requested through the RTI application.
The RCS office deliberately gives wrong email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and faulty phone numbers to RTI applicants so that it could block the information requested by them.
Moreover, the RCS office flouts the rule for making additional payment, as it does not give an option to applicants to make payment online as described on page 20 of the RTI “User Manual”.
While the RCS office never replies to public emails sent to its official email firstname.lastname@example.org, the particulars of Public Information Officers (PIOs) under RTI Act mentioned in its Manual-16 are wrong and the RCS PIOs are so careless that they do not bother to take public calls.
You can click here to download and read my email sent to the RCS office on October 12, 2022 in which I have complained that the PIO contact and the email addresses given by the RCS office are wrong.
You can also click here to download and read my email sent to the RCS office on October 12, 2022 in which I have complained that there is no additional payment option given by the RCS office to make payment online as described on page 20 of the RTI “User Manual”. But the RCS office did not reply.
You can click here to watch a related video on YouTube. It is also given below.
Since massive corruption amounting to hundreds of crores of rupees is happening at the RCS office, the RCS bureaucrats are not willing to share information with the public under the RTI Act. They also openly violate the Delhi Cooperative Societies Act (DCS Act) to commit corruption crimes. A number of RCS bureaucrats have been jailed for corruption and some senior RCS bureaucrats (IAS officers) are under investigations for their corrupt practices.
These investigations have been ordered by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India to be carried out by the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India. But corruption has not stopped and is only increasing at the RCS office.
NEED TO REVAMP RTI PROCESSES
The violation of RTI Act is a new form of corruption being committed by the RCS officials so that they could continue their corrupt acts secretly. In order to check corruption, the RTI processes need to be revamped. For example, the RTI officers / PIOs should never call the applicants for physical hearings and to visit their offices to search files. It is the responsibility of the RTI officers / PIOs to deliver information at the applicant’s address.
It will be better if the information requested by the RTI applicants is stored digitally on a cloud platform and just the hyperlink / weblink is shared with the applicants instead of sending the paper documents to them. This is essential to reduce cost, save paper, and protect the environment.
Moreover, if there is a need for hearings in appeals, etc., the RTI officers / PIOs should give the option to the applicants to join online / virtual meetings. And it should be registered as a cognizable offence of destroying the evidence against the RTI officers / PIOs if they say that the documents sought by the RTI applicant are not traceable.
The RTI Act is being grossly violated by the RTI officers / PIOs of the RCS office to neglect their official duties and suppress information for which they must face strict legal action. Therefore, the penalties for RTI Act violations should be linked with the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) so that the bureaucrats at RCS office and other offices could be punished with imprisonment.
REQUEST FOR ACTION
In view of the facts stated above, the authorities are requested to:
1. Identify the RCS officials who have violated the RTI Act and start prosecution against them so that they could be convicted and jailed at the earliest.
2. Since lack of transparency increases the chances of corruption, the culprit RCS officials must be prosecuted for their corrupt acts of blocking the information sought through the RTI applications and dereliction of official duty.
3. Prosecute the RCS officials under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act) and other provisions of IPC, as the penalties under the RTI Act are very weak to deter negligence and corruption.
4. Revamp the RTI processes completely by significantly using information and communications technology (ICT) and web-based systems in order to reduce the level of bureaucrats’ physical interaction with RTI applicants.
5. Make an online repository for each department to store the information delivered to different RTI applications in order to reduce the repetitiveness and make the process more efficient. The citizens can first search this repository and if the information is not available in it, they can file the RTI application.
ABOUT THE COMPLAINANT: RAKESH RAMAN
Rakesh Raman is a national award-winning journalist and founder of the humanitarian organization RMN Foundation. Besides working at senior editorial positions with leading media companies, he was writing an exclusive edit-page column regularly for The Financial Express (a daily business newspaper of The Indian Express Group).
Nowadays, for the past 12 years, he has been running his own global news services on multiple news sites. He runs various environment protection, education awareness, and anti-corruption campaigns, and publishes digital magazines and research reports on different subjects.
Earlier, he had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development.
At present, Rakesh is associated with the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project as a Country Expert for India to provide expert research inputs on multiple topics pertaining to democracy and governance. The V-Dem Project is managed by V-Dem Institute under the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Currently, he is also working as an editor for Wikipedia, which is a free online global encyclopedia.
In order to inform the Indian citizens and the global community about the extent of corruption in India, he compiled and released in October 2022 a comprehensive report on corruption in the country. Under the title “India Corruption Research Report 2022 (ICRR 2022),” the research report covers diverse aspects of corruption in India.
He has launched a nationwide campaign to introduce social democracy in India in order to build an egalitarian society in which all citizens could enjoy equal rights, opportunities, freedoms, and access to justice. He is running an editorial section / microsite “Power Play: Lok Sabha Election 2024 in India” to cover the election news, events, and political campaigns.
In his anti-corruption activities, he participated in a global petition led by Germany-based international organization Transparency International to call for the UN General Assembly Special Session against Corruption, UNGASS 2021, to direct all countries to set up central, public registers of beneficial ownership.
He runs a community-driven anti-corruption social service “Clean House” to help the residents of Delhi raise their voice against the growing corruption and injustice in housing societies where millions of people suffer because of rampant corruption and lawlessness. He has also formed an environment protection group called Green Group in New Delhi, which is the most polluted national capital in the world.
As Rakesh has been facing constant threats including death threats for his editorial and anti-corruption work, the Paris-based international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that defends freedom of journalists has urged the Indian government to save him from threats and persecution.
Editor, RMN News Service [ Website ]
Founder, RMN Foundation [ Website ]
463, DPS Apts., Plot No. 16, Sector 4
Dwarka, Phase I, New Delhi 110 078, India
WhatsApp / Mobile: 9810319059 | Contact by Email
Two exhibits are given below.
Exhibit 1: RCS response to my RTI application dated 21.09.2022 saying that the information is not available in the RCS office.
Exhibit 2: RCS response to my RTI application dated 21.09.2022 saying that the information is not available in the RCS office.
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