Indian CIC Orders Agency to Post More on Website

17 February 2012

The Indian Central Information Commission has told the Ministry of Environment & Forests to put more information on its website.

The Jan. 18 decision by Commissioner Sailesh Gandhi resulted from a complaint brought by Shibani Ghosh of The Access Initiative India Coalition (TAI India) arguing that certain categories of information should be available on the website. The complaint also noted that the website was generally not accessible after office hours and on holidays.

The Commission told the ministry to post a variety of information about projects seeking environmental approval.

• Copies of applications and related documents submitted by the Project Proponent while seeking prior environmental clearance, particularly the Form 1/ Form 1A.

• Additional information submitted to the Expert Appraisal Committees (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests by the Project proponent as well as reports/studies commissioned by the Expert Appraisal Committees.

• Six-monthly compliance reports that are to be submitted to the Ministry by the project proponent.

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

• Copies of additional studies/reports stipulated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests such as mitigation plans have to be done after the clearance has been granted.

The commission also directed the ministry to issue an order by Feb. 15 telling all State Pollution Control Boards to ensure that the public hearing proceedings are displayed regularly on their websites within seven days of the issue of the minutes of the public hearing. Site inspection and monitoring reports available with the regional offices of the ministry have to be uploaded on their websites by June 1.

A ministry official also said that the website will be available more often in about three months.

The decision concludes by emphasizing the proactive disclosure obligations contained in the RTI law:

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 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.

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