| Complaint against the Chief Orissa Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioner, Orissa under Section 17(3) of RTI Act 2005 for deliberate spreading of misinformation on RTI Act and for hijacking to itself the mandatory domain of the State Government.
Raj Bhavan, Bhubaneswar
"Right to Food Campaign, Orissa" is a consortium of Civil Society Organisations spearheading the campaign for effective implementation of Right to Information Act 2005 in the State for more than 4 years now.
1. During our campaign on RTI Act, we came across a bilingual compilation comprising both Oriya and English versions of RTI Act 2005, spaced in a total of 81 pages published by Orissa Information Commission. As evident from the note given at the end of the book, a total of its 90,000 copies were printed as on 28.2.2007 by Orissa Government Press, Cuttack. Thus for about two and half years now, the book has been in wide circulation throughout Orissa, used by the members of public, officials, civil society groups, media persons, RTI activists et el.
2. While going through the Oriya translation of the Act provided in the said book, we found a lot of misleading information concerning RTI Act being spread by it on different pages of the book. To illustrate the kind of anomalies we came across, let me present here only two examples for your kind perusal -
Example-1: Please go to lines 2 &3 under Section-18(1-a) on page-27 of the Oriya booklet. In the very place, where the expressions 'Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer' should have been there, one finds Oriya equivalents of 'Central Information Commissioner or State Information Commissioner'. As a result of such erratic translation, a reader would be misled to believe as if the Central or State Information Commissioner is duty bound to receive an application for information from any applicant directly, failing which an applicant is entitled to lodge a Complaint directly before the Commission under Section 18.
Example-2: Please go to Section 18(2) on Page 28. In the very place, where such expressions as 'Central Information Commission or State Information Commission' should have been there, one finds Oriya equivalents of 'Central Information Commissioner or State Information Commissioner'. Needless to say, in legal parlance there is a hell and heaven gap between these two sets of expressions. An honest reader would be misled to believe, as if the Central Information Commissioner or State Information Commissioner, as the case may be, is the sole authority to decide if there existed a ground for enquiry into a complaint or not, and conversely, as if the Chief Information Commissioner of the respective body or even the Commission itself doesn't matter at all.
3. In the past, we had brought to the notice of the Orissa Information Commission about the types of flaws that marred the Oriya version of RTI Act, when the Commission had displayed it on their website. In fact, we had also published a booklet under the title "Operationalisation of RTI Act 2005 & Role of State Information Commission in Orissa- Status & Review" as early as 1st January 2007, where we had reproduced verbatim the above 'authoritative' Oriya translation after downloading it from Commission's website, with a view to show by example the kind of anomalies it suffered from. For instance, we had shown on page 13 of our booklet, how at 3 places in Section-17 alone, the word 'Governor' has been wrongly replaced by the word 'President' and how there occurred two different errors in Section-18(1). On publication of out booklet, what the Commission did in turn was to correct 4 out of 5 errors pointed out by us, leaving in tact many other errors including the two examples as mentioned above. As a result of such erratic Oriya translation being circulated, countless citizens throughout the State have already been confused during last two and half years and many more are going to be confused in days to come about the actual intentions and provisions of RTI Act.
4. Sir, as you might know, as per Section-2 of 'THE AUTHORITATIVE TEXTS (CENTRAL LAWS) ACT, 1973 (ACT NO. 50 OF 1973)', an authoritative text of a Central Act/Rule in any of the regional languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution shall be published in the Official Gazette under the authority of President of India. It is therefore presumed that experts at several levels right from Rashtrapati Bhavan down to Government of Orissa must have been involved in the process of finalizing an authoritative Oriya translation of the Central Act, called RTI Act 2005. Secondly, it is further presumed that Orissa Information Commission before ordering its printing must have checked the Oriya version for its authenticity in every respect. But sadly enough, Orissa Information Commission despite having been informed in advance about the defective nature of the Oriya translation, ordered its printing to the extent of 90,000 copies at a huge cost to the public exchequer.
5. Further, it sounds ironical, an Information Commission, which is supposed to punish the concerned officers of public authorities for disclosing or disseminating false and misleading information to the public under Section 20 of RTI Act 2005, has itself been indulging in the deliberate perpetration of the said offence with impunity for last several years, as if it is determined to rout out the RTI Act from the soil of Orissa by way of misleading the citizenry about its real intentions and provisions. To our great shock, the individuals and groups associated with our platform have been greatly confused and confounded by the above-mentioned defective translation of Oriya Act as published in book-form by Orissa Information Commission.
6. Another pertinent matter that we would like you to address to is that there is a complete transgression of the mandate of RTI Act in respect of functions entrusted to Government of Orissa under its Section 26. The said Section clearly stipulates that any activity that concerns training and awareness on RTI Act including publication of dissemination material is to be undertaken by the State Government, while the State Information Commission should limit its activities to adjudication (Sections 18, 19 and 20) and drafting of annual report on the status of RTI Act in the State (Section 25). However, it has been observed right since inception that the jobs such as, awareness, training or publication etc. entrusted to the State Government have been hijacked by the State Information Commission. And as a result, not only the State Government has ever remained idle in respect of functions assigned to it, but also the Commission has been found floundering in respect of its mandatory functions as an adjudicatory-cum-reporting authority besides doing a mess of the functions snatched from the State Government, as indisputably evident from the instant case of publishing a mistranslation of RTI Act. This functional mishmash between the State Government and Information Commission needs to be sorted out at the earliest in the interest of breaking through the current RTI imbroglio pervading the State.
7. Under the circumstances, we appeal before you, who is the head of the Sate Government and as well the disciplinary authority over the State Information Commission, to order the following immediate measures in the interest of RTI Act itself-
Immediate cessation of the circulation by Orissa Information Commission of the controversial book containing defective Oriya translation of RTI Act ;
Notification in the Gazette and public media of a list of Errata on the omissions and commissions in the defective Oriya translation, for the knowledge of the members of public who might have been confused by the said mistranslation during last two and half years; An Expert Committee to be set up to revise the defective translation so as to produce a better, popularly intelligible and mistake-free Oriya translation of RTI Act, and of related subordinate legislation like Central and State RTI Rules and RTI Guidelines of national level nodal agency;
An administrative enquiry into the role of persons and circumstances responsible for printing and publication of a defective Oriya translation of RTI Act by the Orissa Information Commission despite the prior knowledge of the latter about the possible occurrence of multiple errors in the said mistranslation; Exemplary punishment as deemed proper to be meted out to the public servants so found guilty, along with recovery of money and interest thereon from them to compensate for the loss to the public exchequer done by them;
Stopping the Orissa Information Commission from hijacking any further the functions assigned to the State Government and enabling the latter to discharge dutifully all functions assigned to it under Section 26 of Act including the task of publication of all dissemination material on RTI Act and related matters.
CC: - Mrs. Prativa Patil. President of India, Rashtrapati Bhavn, New Delhi
- Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, New Delhi
- Mr.Veerapa Moily, Minister for Law and Justice, Govt of India, New Delhi
- Cabinet Secretary (Ministry of Personnel), Govt. of India, New Delhi
- Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Orissa, Bhubaneswar
- Minister for I&PR, Govt of Orissa, Bhubaneswar
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