Right to Information – Master key to good governance

How the PMC used the right to info

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 14, 2006

How the PMC used the right to info
Abhijit Atre
[ 14 Jul, 2006 0046hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]


PUNE: The Right to information Act, which has become a powerful tool in the hands of civic activists and the general public, came in handy for the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to extract information from another government department.

In what could be the first such case in Maharashtra, the PMC effectively used the Act to procure the ‘closely-guarded’ information on tax returns filed by city traders to check whether there is any octroi evasion by them.

The sales tax department had been sitting on the PMC’s applications. That’s when the idea of exercising the provisions of the RTI Act came to the mind of octroi department chief Nitin Gosavi.

Gosavi told TOI that the octroi department had prepared a list of traders, particularly wholesale distributors of electronic goods, hardware, plywood, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals and cloth merchants, who were suspected of octroi evasion.

However, the department was unable to verify its findings as it does not have the power to raid the godowns of these distributors.

Hence, it applied to the sales tax department, seeking details of the value added tax (VAT) returns filed by these traders to find out their official turnover and compare it with the octroi paid, he said.

Though the sales tax department has agreed in principle to provide information, it sought time and there was no guarantee when it would be given, Gosavi said.

The use of the RTI Act proved successful because within 30 days, the sales tax department provided information on VAT returns filed by 57 traders and promised to provide data on the remaining shortlisted traders at the earliest.

Gosavi said he had not sought the approval of the civic general body (GB). “Even a common citizen can get this information under the RTI Act. My officials or I do not need a special permission.

Moreover, we sought the information to curb octroi evasion and thus achieve the target set by the GB itself.” The gross annual target of octroi collection for the current year is pegged at Rs 577 crore as against Rs 430 crore in the previous year.


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