Commission asks state to release RTI info about Priyanka Gandhi Himachal cottage

Shimla:  Efforts to gag information about the upcoming cottage of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Mr. Robert Vadra’s at Chhrabra near Kufri has been turned down by the State Information Commission (SIC) as it today (29.6.2015) directed the district authorities to release RTI information about the property within 10 days following the decision.
In major embarrassment to the ruling congress government led by Mr. Virbhadra Singh, a division bench of  the SIC consisting of Chief information Commissioner Mr. Bhim Sen and Member Mr. K.D. Batish earlier rubbished an Additional District Information Commissioner order that RTI information about Priyanka’s cottage could not be made public as she was under SPG protection.

The SIC bench states that it could not withhold the information sought by RTI activist Mr. Davashish Bhatacharya on the security ground, as there was no such provision in the RTI Act cited by magistrate denying release of the information sought.

Priyanka's cottage roof being redone at Charabra

In his query, Bhattacharya had sought copies of land records for Priyanka’s properties. The records sought by the activist include those of the registration-come-sale deed, the status of the land and the permission granted under Section 118 of the HP Land and Tenancy Act.

Earlier, in February Priyanka had asked the Himachal Pradesh government not to divulge details of her property in the state, as this could put her life in danger.

Acting on the application, the additional district magistrate (ADM) of Shimla on July 21, 2014, had asked the tehsildar of Shimla (Rural) to provide the information. However, in August 2014, the ADM changed his views.

“On 6th August of 2014, the ADM took a U-turn and issued notice to Kehar Singh Khachi, the special power of attorney (SPA) on record of Priyanka Gandhi, and sought his approval for providing the information.

“In the meantime, the tehsildar also sought fees for providing 30 pages of information on 7th August 2014,” Bhattacharya said.

On August 25 of 2014 the ADM informed Bhattacharya that the information related to the khasra number cannot be shared for security reasons.

He disposed of the RTI application by partially releasing information. While he agreed to release the file notings, he refused to divulge information related to the khasra number, citing security concerns.

Then on September 2, Bhattacharya filed an appeal before the deputy commissioner of Shimla, stating that the reasons for not sharing information were not justified, as the view of the entire land was already available on Google Map.

The deputy commissioner disposed off Bhattacharya’s appeal on October 28, observing that Kehar Singh Khachi wasn’t Priyanka’s special power of attorney on the date of RTI application.

ADM Shimla was directed to process the RTI application afresh involving a new special power of attorney of Priyanka.

Bhattacharya then moved a second appeal on November 19 before the State Information Commission in Shimla.

Mohan Verma is a seasoned journalist, with more than a decade of experience of active reporting for news agencies and fast paced online media.

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