Thursday, May 15, 2008

BIAL open to public scrutiny

BIAL open to public scrutiny

Staff Reporter

BANGALORE: In a landmark judgment with far-reaching consequences on projects taken up under the Public-Private Partnership model, the State Information Commission ruled on Wednesday that Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL) is a “public authority”. The Commission has directed BIAL to appoint Public Information Officers and publicise them for the benefit of citizens.

What this means is that BIAL is bound to give information to those who seek it under the Right to Information Act 2005. From procedures followed in taking decisions to budget allocations and proposed expenditures and documents under its control, as a public authority, BIAL must now voluntarily put out this and more information in the public domain as suo motu information.

Acting on a complaint filed by an individual Benson Isaac, the Commission dismissed BIAL’s contention that it was not “substantially financed” by the Government and instead held that “the financing of the project by the Government promoters is not only substantial, but also higher than the financing by the private promoters”.

BIAL meets the criteria for being a public authority as required by section 2(h) of the RTI Act, the Commission ruled.

Further stating in its order that the project “serves a public purpose and the public have a right to know about the proper management of the project,” the Commission ruled that “it will be a negation of the fundamental rights of the citizens if information about the project is not provided to them”.

The judgement was delivered by State Chief Information Commissioner K.K. Misra. Commenting on the decision, Vikram Simha, trustee of the Right to Information Study Centre, told The Hindu that this opens up all projects under public-private partnership model to scrutiny.

“People have contributed much from giving up their land to use of airspace for this project. The Government has foregone money that would have gone to the exchequer and used for development projects when it gave the airport promoters exemption from several aspects,” he said.


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