Monday, May 17, 2010

TOI Story on the Shamshabad Airport and the applicability of RTI !!

RTI activists to move HC for vacating stay on airport info


HYDERABAD: Citizens seeking information about the functioning of Bangalore airport can go right ahead and shoot their questions under the Right to Information Act (RTI). But that's not possible in Hyderabad, Delhi or Mumbai with the airport operators in all these places having obtained a "stay" from their respective high courts on orders from the Information Commissions of the states stating that airport operators fall under the purview of the RTI. The Karnataka High Court had however confirmed the orders of the Information Commission of the state.

The stay in the case of Hyderabad airport has been in operation since last September when the management had moved the AP High Court. But now RTI activists in the city have decided to move the AP High Court seeking to vacate a stay on the case. "We have decided to approach the High Court to vacate the case at the earliest," said Umesh Varma and Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu of United Forum for RTI Activists.

The AP Information Commission had — last September — declared the airport company running the show to be a public authority as it had a 26 per cent government stake, with 13 per cent equity held by the AP government and another 13 per cent stake by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). But the airport operator, GMR, filed a writ petition in September last year challenging the decision. It was on this that the High Court put a stay order after one hearing.

The RTI activists to move the court in Hyderabad will cite a recent verdict of the Madras High Court which declared public private partnerships (PPPs) that deliver public goods as 'public authorities as they deliver public utilities'. Activists will also cite Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, according to which any authority or body owned, controlled or substantially funded by the state government can be included within the Act's purview.

"The airport is substantially financed by the state government which is why it automatically gets covered under the RTI Act," C D Arha, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of the state, told TOI. The airport operator has incidentally cited its being a PPP, for seeking an exemption under RTI Act.


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