Ministry of Environment & Forests directed to post records relating to Indira Sagar Polavaram project on its website

Central Information Commission (CIC): “While rejecting the contention of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) that it was difficult to trace the decade old document and observing that ‘failure to trace records’ would not exempt the public authority from their duty to provide the information sought,” CIC directed the Ministry to post the records related to Rs 16,000-crore Indira Sagar Polavaram project in West Godawari District, A.P., on its website. The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by a person whose RTI application seeking information in relation to environmental clearance granted to the said project, was not responded. In appeal, though the First Appellate Authority directed PIO to make all efforts to trace the record and provide the relevant information, said information was not provided. Against the non-compliance, appellant approached CIC, and alleged that he was denied information on the ground that the record sought was ‘decade old’ and the documents were scattered at different places due to shifting of the office, thus describing them as non-traceable. The appellant further submitted that this statement itself indicates grave negligence and utter failure of the Ministry in keeping the precious public records of a significant project to which the government accorded national status. In its defense, Ministry submitted that the delay in furnishing information was because of exigencies related to various projects, court cases before the Supreme Court, National Green Tribunal, and High Court besides Parliament related works. After hearing both the parties, CIC directed MoEF to place all available information of Polavaram project on their official website as per Section 4 (1); (b) subject to Section 8 of RTI Act, so that information requirements are effectively answered as Polavaram project was very significant for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Chattisgarh, and was declared as National Project.. The Commission also directed PIO to furnish copies relating to Environmental Clearance at first instance, and also when the issue of Environmental Clearance was revisited for Indira Sagar Polavaram project in West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, file notings and correspondences along with minutes of meeting in 2009, copies of letters by the Ministry to State of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and their response thereof. (D. Suresh Kumar v. PIO, Ministry of Environment & Forests, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 608, decided on 30.04.2015)

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