State infrastructure body MMRDA has refused to part with information relating to its dispute with the Metro-1 operator over the construction cost of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor, in response to a query sent by DNA under the Right to Information Act.The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and the Reliance Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Private Limited (MMOPL) have gone for arbitration to settle their disagreement. The MMRDA has justified its refusal by calling the process a judicial issue.In their reply to DNA, Mruthunjaya Devaru of MMRDA, said, “Arbitration process is one of the judicial processes and this process and proceedings are going on and not yet completed. Therefore, it is not fair to provide information unless and until the process is completed.”RTI activists have slammed the denial by MMRDA, particularly because it has not quoted any section of exemption under RTI. Former info panel chief Shailesh Gandhi said, “Replying without quoting any section of exemption under RTI Act is bad in law and it is an illegal denial of information.”According to a decision by the Central Information Commission in 2013, mere pendency of arbitration process is no justification for withholding information. The Act does not provide an exemption from disclosure for sub-judice matters, and “the only exemption in sub-judice matters” is when a court or tribunal’s order has restricted the same, the CIC had ruled.DNA sought comments from MMRDA chief UPS Madan as to why the infra body was guarding the information, but didn’t get any response.The dispute between MMRDA and MMOPL is under arbitration since three years. While the operator has claimed that cost escalated to Rs 4,321 crore due to various delays, MMRDA claims it at Rs 2,356 crore that was during the bidding stage in 2006.The 11-km route is the first Metro corridor in the city constructed under a private-public-partnership model. Work started in 2007, but the line became operational seven years later.DNA had reported in 2015 that the MMRDA had taken a stand for bringing MMOPL under RTI after the latter denied sharing information claiming that it was a private entity and that the major funding for Metro-1 had been done by it.The MMRDA had contended to the same citing MMOPL should be brought under RTI as the state government contributed for funds, car depot of Metro and the right of way of Metro-1. Later, the MMOPL had accepted the same, and was brought under the ambit of RTI, Act subsequently.

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MMRDA denies RTI info, activists term it ‘illegal’