A veil of secrecy surrounds industrial accidents in two public sector units as the managements concerned are loathe to share information. BusinessLine had sought copies of detailed investigation reports of accidents at NTPC and SAIL plants last year under RTI. However, in both cases, the information was denied under Section 8.1 of the RTI Act.

Section 8.1 of the RTI Act primarily deals with denial of information if it compromises trade secrets, security, sovereignty and integrity of the country.

Last month, the newspaper had sought a copy of a detailed investigation report under RTI about a devastating accident in which nine people were at SAIL’s flagship plant in Bhilai on October 9, 2018, during a scheduled maintenance. The RTI application was filed on February 10, keeping in mind the customary 90-day investigation period in such serious matters.

The RTI sought copies of Detail Investigation Report, Action Taken Report and report submitted to the Steel Ministry about the accident. It had also sought the number of SAIL employees, and their designations, who were found guilty of negligence and if any SAIL employee, who had died in the accident was held guilty by the management. Information about the role of contractor employees was also sought under RTI.

The only information shared by SAIL was the new safety initiatives, which have been summed up in three lines by RTI compliance officer in the reply.

But the information was denied by the management under Section 8.1(g), which prohibits disclosure of information which could endanger the life or physical safety of a person, and 8.1(h) for prevention of sharing information which would impede the process of investigation and prosecution of offenders.

Similarly, in 2018, NTPC had used section 8.1(d) of the RTI Act, for protection of trade secrets and intellectual property, to deny investigation reports about an accident in which over 30 people were killed at its Uttar Pradesh power plant.

Regarding theaccident on November 1, 2017, at the NTPC, Unchahar plant, the management only shared a two-page summary of the investigation report, which had primarily delineated the events leading to the horrific accident.

Shailesh Gandhi, former Information Commissioner of Central Information Commission, said in the case of SAIL, it is not clear how the life of a person can be in jeopardy if the reports are shared. When Public Information Officers (PIO) are not comfortable sharing information, they do not apply the mind and take refuge under any section of the RTI Act. While applying a particular section of the RTI Act for not sharing information, the PIO must communicate why that section is applicable, he said.