As an Information Commissioner i come across situations which raise some fundamental doubts about our Governance. Information comes into Public domain, but the Governance structure appears to be unable or unwilling to do anything even about blatant illegalities. Since i have a conviction that Citizens have the power and authority to bring corrections in our flawed governance, i want to share the details of one such instance.
To begin at the beginning. A citizen asked about proof of whether a mobile tower which had been erected on top of an existing building had been given permission as required under the law by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The information was revealed after some coaxing that no permission had been given. The PIO promised to take action. But inspite of a complaint to the Municipal Commissioner and the Police Commissioner no action has been taken to bring down the tower which could pose a hazard, endangering the lives of people staying in those buildings. The Additional Commissioner (Eng.) has revealed the fact that out of 4532 mobile towers in Delhi only 2015 have the requisite permissions and 2517 are without MCD permission! Thus large corporates are putting up the mobile towers on the terraces of existing buildings without legal permission – an example of Corporate Social Irresponsibility?
The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police undertook an inquiry and came to the conclusion that the police cannot take any action since all ‘unauthorised development’ in Delhi has been given official protection by the Delhi Government by Section 3(2) and (3) of the NCT of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2009. By this provision all unauthorized developments like mobile towers are given protection from any punitive action during the year 2009. I had heard about mafia protection for illegal activities, but am surprised that protection is offered by the Government under the garb of a law!
To install a mobile tower there is a requirement of obtaining a stability certificate to ensure that the building is not likely to be endangered by putting additional load on top. MCD has specified that the stability certificate will be accepted only if it is issued by one of the five agencies approved by it. One of the approved agencies is IIT Delhi. During the course of a hearing at the Commission it has been recorded, “The Appellant had pointed out there are two certificates issued for the same address. The PIO has stated that the faculty members in IIT issues a stability certificate based on the drawings provided by the client in which the address is mentioned. The PIO also states that no records are maintained by the IIT of the drawings. The Commission has taken a look at the stability certificate provided by IIT which states, ‘This building is safe and capable of resisting the forces and moments which may be increased or altered by reason of the additional structures for 15 meter three legged tower with GSM and MW antenna….’. The wording of this certificate appears to indicate that it is certifying the stability as existing whereas the PIO described that it is a certificate based on a drawing with an address which is not verified at all. Given the fact that the IIT does not maintain any copy of the drawing with itself, this process appears to have great potential for misuse. Statutory bodies which permit these towers and IIT would do well to take a look at these practices which may have the potential of endangering safety. Alternately people may discover that there is no need for such certification in which case it would be done away with.” I am distressed that any engineer can issue a safety certificate for an existing building without even looking at it! If some of the buildings collapse, an Enquiry Commission will get a few years work at Public expense.
To me the foregoing gives an indication of some fundamental reasons for the steady decline in the rule of law and decadent Governance. The key elements are:
- Major Corporates are flouting the laws by operating without the permissions in over 50% cases.
- MCD will take no action against them.
- The Delhi Government will offer protection to unauthorized activity by major Corporates by law.
- A Premier academic institution issues safety certificates in a manner which is completely flawed.
This is a potent combination whereby conscious collusion and inactive passivity leads to a society where the rule of law is effectively subverted by the powerful, leading to a decadent governance structure. Institutions and Citizens need to find ways to correct this. This same set of conditions are seen in many situations across the country.