The Tamil Nadu Information Commission today reserved orders on my appeal against the refusal of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Chennai, to provide its Detailed Project Report on bus services funded by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The Appellate Authority at MTC had rejected my first appeal, on the ground that it attracted exclusion under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act.
I argued before the Information Commissioner that the MTC was wrongly invoking the Section. The funds for the DPR were drawn from the exchequer, making it a public document. The MTC also contended that three months of effort had gone into the preparation of the DPR at Anna University, and Rs. 16 lakhs had been paid as consultancy fee. Therefore, the report should not be released into the public domain.
The Information Commission recorded my argument that the DPR was prepared for a public purpose, and it was fully funded by tax payers, and hence rightfully could be claimed as public property. Every government project now involved the use of consultants, and this could not be used as a justification to refuse publication of the report. Also, there was no personal gain involved. My request fully met the criterion of public interest.
Other questions that MTC has refused to answer, and which are now to be decided by the Commission are : the quantum of funds allocated under the JNNURM for purchase of buses for MTC, Chennai, and whether the funding conditions stipulate that the buses should not be operated outside Chennai.