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The Freedom of Information Act, 2002
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Central Information Commission
Ms.Shibani Ghosh vs Ministry Of Environment And ... on 18 January, 2012

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

Club Building (Near Post Office)

Old JNU Campus, New Delhi - 110067

Tel: +91-11-26161796

Decision No. CIC/SG/C/2011/001398/16936

Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2011/001398

Complainant : Ms. Shibani Ghosh N-71, Lower Ground Floor,

Greater Kailash-1, New Delhi 110048

Respondent : Ms. Sanchita Jindal CPIO & Director

Impact Assessment (IA) Division

Ministry of Environment and Forests

Government of India, Paryavaran Bhavan

CGO Complex, New Delhi 110003

Complaint filed on : 14.11.2011 Date of Hearing : 18.01.2012

Facts arising from the Complaint:

The Complainant has filed the present Complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act (hereinafter 'the Act'), with the Commission, contending that certain categories of information should be available on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. It is further contended that these documents/details should be available suo moto-

1. Copies of applications and related documents submitted by the Project Proponent while seeking prior environmental clearance, particularly the following documents: a. Form 1

b. Form 1A, where applicable

c. Draft Terms of Reference suggested by the Project proponent

These documents are submitted by the Project proponent in accordance with para 6 of the EIA Notification 2006. This information should be made available on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests within 5 days of the Project being placed on the Agenda for discussion by the relevant Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) to issue Terms of Reference.

2. Additional information submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committees by the Project proponent

During the project appraisal stage, on certain occasions, the EACs direct the project proponent to provide certain additional information such as specific reports/studies on certain aspects of the project. This information should be made available on the website as it not only forms a basis of the EACs' recommendations but also allows citizens to verify whether the information provided to the EACs by the project proponent is correct. This information should be uploaded on the website of the Ministry within 10 days of receipt of the information.

3. Reports/studies commissioned by the Expert Appraisal Committees from independent agencies/ sub-committees

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In some cases, the EACs have either constituted sub-committees or requested independent agencies to submit a report on the project after undertaking a site visit and/or undertaking further analysis of the project. Reports submitted by these agencies/sub-committees including site visit reports should be made available on the website of the Ministry within 10 days of receipt of the reports/studies.

4. Following information relating to post-clearance compliance of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter and monitoring of the same-

a. Six-monthly compliance reports that are to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

b. Reports of committees which may have been constituted to monitor the compliance of conditions by the project proponent.

c. With regard to certain projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests stipulates that certain additional studies/ reports such as mitigation plans have to be done after the clearance has been granted. These studies/ reports should be made available.

The afore-mentioned information should be displayed on the website before the 10 th day of the following month during which they were received.

5. Information relating to the Regional offices of the Ministry of Environment and Forests

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has six regional offices in different parts of the country which perform a significant part of the Ministry's functions particularly those relating to site inspection and monitoring. However, not much information relating to the functioning of these regional offices is available on the website of the Ministry.

6. General suggestions-

a. All information pertaining to one project such as Form 1, EIA reports, public hearing proceedings, minutes of EAC meetings when the project was considered, compliance reports, etc. should be made available at one place.

b. Important sections of the website of the Ministry particularly on the Environmental Clearances and the Forest Clearances are mostly not accessible after official working hours and during weekends.

c. There should be a system to track the movement of an RTI Application. As the Ministry has a centralized system of filing RTI Applications, the Applicant should be able to follow up with the concerned PIO directly.

d. The PIOs should be encouraged to contact the Applicant by email. For instance, applicants who have sent applications through post could be informed that the RTI Application has been received.

Relevant Facts emerging during the hearing:

The following were present:

Complainant: Ms. Shibani Ghosh and Mr. Ritwick Dutta; Respondent: Ms. Sanchita Jindal, CPIO & Director Impact Assessment (IA) Division; Mr. J. P. Meena, US(RTI); Mr. Pradeep Kumar, Director (ROH) and Dr. Annadurai, Consultant (M/o E&F);

The suggestions of the Complainant were discussed with the Respondents who have displayed a very positive attitude towards displaying information on the website. It emerges that the Ministry is putting a lot of information on the website. The Commission now directs the PIOs to ensure that the following information is displayed on the website of the Ministry:

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1- Copies of applications and related documents submitted by the Project Proponent while seeking prior environmental clearance, particularly the following documents: a. Form 1;

b. Form 1A, where applicable;

2­ Additional information submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committees by the Project proponent.

3­ Reports/studies commissioned by the Expert Appraisal Committees from independent agencies/ sub-committees.

4- Following information relating to post-clearance compliance of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter and monitoring of the same- a. Six-monthly compliance reports that are to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

b. Reports of committees which may have been constituted to monitor the compliance of conditions by the project proponent.

c. With regard to certain projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests stipulates that certain additional studies/ reports such as mitigation plans have to be done after the clearance has been granted. These studies/ reports should be made available.

The Commission directs that these would be uploaded on the website for all projects from 01 April 2012 onwards.

5­ Information relating to the Regional offices of the Ministry of Environment and Forests: The Ministry of Environment and Forests has six regional offices in different parts of the country which perform a significant part of the Ministry's functions particularly those relating to site inspection and monitoring. However, not much information relating to the functioning of these regional offices is available on the website of the Ministry.

As regards point-5 the respondents explained their practical problem and therefore it was agreed that the information with the Regional Office about the Monitoring and Site Visit Reports would be implemented from 01 June 2012 onwards.

As regards point-6 the Respondents explained that since they are not able to host the complete data on the NIC Website presently they would be able to ensure 24 hours X 07 days website availability only after NIC starts hosting it. This would happen within three months. The Respondents state that the proceedings of the Public Hearing are displayed by the State Pollution Control Bards on their website. This is a mandatory requirement. The Complainant states that this is often not done. The Commission directs the PIO to issue an order to all State Pollution Control Boards to ensure that the proceedings are displayed regularly on their website within seven days of the issue of the Minutes of the Public Hearing.

Section 4 (1) (a) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, which is a mandatory obligation, reads as - "maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated". The Commission appreciates that the Department has made improvements and is moving towards better transparency.

The Right to Information is a fundamental right of the citizens which has been codified by the RTI act, No. 22 of 2005. The act envisions that all citizens shall receive information primarily by suo moto disclosures by various public authorities as prescribed by section (4) of the act. Disclosures in accordance with the said Section are crucial to ensure transparency and accountability in institutions. This would reduce the load of RTI Applications being filed with

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each institution as information would be freely available to citizens and they would not have to apply for it. It further envisages that citizens would be required to specifically ask for information under section (6) only in a few cases. Citizens have been demanding that certain information is essential to them and should be available proactively in form of public notice boards, display boards etc."

Decision:

The Complaint is allowed.

The Commission directs the PIO Mr. J. P. Meena, US (RTI) to ensure that details as listed above are displayed on the website of the Ministry before 01 April 2012.

These directions are being given by the Commission under its powers under Section 19(8)(a)(iii) of the RTI Act. It is also in conformance with the requirements of Section 4(1)(b)(xvii). This order is prospective and will apply to all documents received by the Ministry from March 2012 onwards.

The PIO is directed to send a consolidated report of compliance of the above directions is sent to the Commission by 10 April 2012. The report may be sent to rtimonitoring@gmail.com, with a copy to the Complainant.

The PIO Ms. Sanchita Jindal is directed to ensure that an order to all State Pollution Control Boards to ensure that the proceedings are displayed regularly on their website before 15 February 2012.

This decision is announced in open chamber.

Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.

Shailesh Gandhi

Information Commissioner

18 January 2012

(In any correspondence on this decision, mention the complete decision number.) (RM)

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