Monday, April 28, 2008

Use of RTI Act limited in Assam

More than two years after the Right to Information Act came into force, Assam continues to witness a markedly limited use of its provisions, which could be linked to its poor promotion by the State Government. In a large number of government offices and institutions receiving Government funds, there are no functionaries who have been properly trained to handle RTI applications. Other offices are handicapped by lack of supporting infrastructure. This has created a discouraging situation for the applicant, and a restraint in the flow of authentic and updated information. Since the Act became operational in October 2005, there have been attempts by vested interest at undermining the Act through various stratagems. According to NGOs working in the sphere of the RTI Act, the worst cases involve threats to RTI applicants in the State.

The Assam Tribune,
April 28, 2008

School compound wall built

After a lot of struggle, Varjuben Manek managed to get a school approved in Wadi area of village Mulvasan. The school building came up but the work on building the compound wall stopped midway. She filed an RTI application seeking inspection of files pertaining to construction of the school building. Many irregularities were found on inspection. The contractor was told to complete the compound wall.

Complete Article

RTI application now gets you bijli, sadak, pani

Dhaval Datani was an agent with the Gandhinagar branch of Ahmedabad Mahila Nagrik Sahakari Bank, collecting money from clients for the daily recurring savings scheme. In 1997, the bank went bust and his clients' life savings were frozen. He filed an RTI with the co-operatives department, wanting to know the status. And, his clients
have begun getting their money after 11 years!

Complete Article

RTI effect: Sexual harassment panels spring up in 35 departments

The moment an activist from Vadodara filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act, asking the state government details about sexual harassment committees in its departments as stipulated by the Supreme Court, the officials woke up. Since February 7 — when the RTI application was filed — 35 departments have formed the panels.

Complete Article

After 1.5 years, RTI provides NREGS documents to Unnao

After ten hearings at the Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Information Commission and 1.5 years from first filing the Right to Information (RTI) application to seek documents related to National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Miyaganj block of Unnao district in UP, the people of Miyaganj are finally relieved to get those documents pertinent to the NREGS work done in their block.

The RTI application asking for information (like muster rolls and measurement books) under the RTI Act, 2005, was filed on 4 December 2006 by Miyaganj block resident Yeshwant Rao at the local Block office. He received a reply after more than six months (June 2007) asking him to submit Rs. 1,58,400 (at an arbitrarily fixed rate of
Rs. 2,400 per village panchayat for 66 panchayats of the Miyaganj Block).

This followed a long battle in the State Information Commission of UP where after more than ten hearings ultimately an order was passed directing the Block officials to provide information free of cost. The people of Miyaganj finally started getting the documents on 6 April 2008.

[posted by Bobby Ramakant on Antibribery Campaign group]

Rs 300 cr in Plan for strengthening RTI

The Centre, in a bid to strengthen the Right to Information (RTI) division within the personnel department and for granting financial autonomy to state information commissions (SICs), is set to launch a Rs 300-crore scheme under the Eleventh Plan to fund capacity building, training programmes, awareness and educational campaigns
relating to RTI.

The scheme, which will involve disbursal of Rs 300 crore as grants to RTI and the 27 SICs for effective implementation of RTI Act, has already been given in-principle clearance by the Planning Commission. The amount, which will be released over four years from this fiscal year to 2011-12, will help in adequate computerisation and capacity building at RTI division while reducing dependence of SICs on state governments for physical and financial resources.

Complete Article

Disposal of cases by Karnataka IC for the month of March 2008

Dear All,

The Stastics of disposal of cases for the month of March 2008 @ KIC is given below for the information of the Activists:-

Cases pending at the end of February 2008 : 1928
Number of Complaints and Appeals received during March 2008 : 529
Number of Complaints & appeals disposed during March 2008 : 524
Number of cases pending at the end of March 2008 : 1933
Number of cases heard during March 2008 : 907
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months : 1183
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 3 months : 735
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months :15
Number of Commissioners at prsent : 3

With regards,
Anil Kumar
[posted on the Humjanenge group]

RTI exposes K'taka Vigilance Director's political activity

Mr. Dodda Chowdappa, Retired Chief Engineer was appointed as Vigilance Director in the Karnataka Lokayukta after his retirement from the services. RTI Activists had sought particulars of his appointment as Vigilance Director in Lokayukta. Copies of all investigation reports submitted by Mr. Dodda Chowdappa was also sought from the Karnataka Lokayukta. In the meantime Mr.Dodda Chowdappa had approached Congress Leaders for a ticket to contest from Mulabagal Constituency in the ensuing Assembly Elections. He had never informed about his political activity to the Hon'ble Lokayukta. His illegal activities were brought to the notice of the Hon'ble Lokayukta with convincing proof of his participation in a political meeting. Convinced with the informtion provided by the RTI Activists Justice Santhosh Hegde, Hon'ble Lokayukta of Karnataka immediately sacked him from the post of Vigilance Director held by Mr. Dodda Chowdappa

[posted on humjanenge by Mr Veeresh Bellur]

RTI drive to raise Bhopal gas tragedy issue

In an effort to draw attention to the plight of the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy, a major RTI campaign will be undertaken and at least a thousand applications will be filed in the next one week seeking information on the action taken by the government. RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, who along with the survivors of the gas leak in 1984 is launching the massive RTI campaign, said answers will be sought from the government on what it has done to rehabilitate the victims. The RTI applications will seek information on issues like the dumped chemicals at the Union Carbide factory site poisoning the environment, gas-leak survivors being asked to pay for their healthcare and why the government was not ensuring that the Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals provided adequate compensation.

Complete Article

RTI reveals Orissa Transport Minister's affadvit is false

Yet another Orissa minister has been found to have filed false affidavit adding to the woes of the ruling Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition. State Transport and Commerce Minister Jayanarayan Mishra, who belongs to the BJP, has been found guilty of providing false information about his educational qualification while filing nomination in the 2004 Assembly polls.

Information gathered under Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that contrary to the information filed in an affidavit, Mishra has not passed his Bachelors Degree.

Complete Article

To check MPs' assets, just send RTI to Speaker

A day after Chief Justice Of India K G Balakrishnan said the judges of SC and HCs have "voluntarily" (there is no rule to make it mandatory) declared the details of assets to him but that he will not make it public, it has come to the light that LS speaker Somnath Chatterjee has not only "officially enforced mandatory declaration"
of the assets and liabilities of all the Lok Sabha MPs to his office secretariat but has even formally ordered the opening of the sealed envelopes containing those details as and when sought by anyone through the RTI Act.

Complete Article

CIC pulls up CVC for non implementation of RTI

The transparency watchdog has pulled up the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for not implementing the RTI Act in its true spirit. "We do find the practice of the CVC, of not informing the complainant of the disposal of his complaint, is not in keeping with the spirit of the RTI Act which demands transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. The CIC's observations came while dismissing an appeal of Dharam Prakash Verma, who had sought action against a CVC official for not informing him about the closure of his complaint pending before it.

Complete Article

Friday, April 25, 2008

None exempt from RTI

The fear of transparency is so embedded in the Indian system of administration that the Right to Information Act is often seen as a devilish instrument. A commitment to transparency would have automatically led to a more welcoming attitude towards the RTI Act. Often some ruse or excuse is found to keep certain offices and institutions outside the purview of the said act. It was thus important that the chief information commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, reiterated the point — even though it seems somewhat
self-evident to most people — that no constitutional authority is exempt from the RTI Act. The reiteration came in the context of a comment reportedly made by the chief justice, K.G. Balakrishnan.

Complete Article

RTI Act should apply to judges too

We are unable to agree with Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan's assertion that the higher judiciary ought not to be covered by the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The CJI's contention — which appears to militate against the principle of enhanced transparency that underlies the law in question — would obstruct the deepening of
democracy, crucial if it is to become genuinely participatory and functional.

Complete Article

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Govt asks PwC to study efficacy of RTI

The Department of Personnel and Training has decided to get international accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers to study the efficacy of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it marks its third year on October 13. The RTI Act has been showcased by the UPA Government as one of its key achievements.

Suspicious that this study could end up helping babus instead of citizens, leading RTI activists, including Aruna Roy and her Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Shekhar Singh and his National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) have launched their own alternative study. They have formed RAAG (RTI Accountability and Assessment Group) which will examine what they call "the RTI regime." Significantly, Google Foundation has stepped in to make this study possible by offering $250,000 as an initial grant.

Complete Article

Officials fined Rs. 17 Lakh for denying information

Unbelievable but true. Around Rs. 17.52 lakh has been collected from officials at various levels for unlawful denial of information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, reveals the second annual report of the state information commission tabled in the state legislature on Tuesday.

Times of India
Thursday, April 24, 2008

20,000 RTI queries stonewalled: Maharashtra SIC Report

Two years since the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence in Maharashtra, as many as 20,142 applications were denied information by the various state departments, government undertakings, and civic corporations, reveals the second annual report of the State Information Commission (SIC). The 35-page document tabled in the state legislature on Tuesday clearly points to an upward trend in rejecting applications made under the RTI Act during 2007, as compared to responses by the administrative machinery in 2006. Statistics reveal that during 2007, 12,892 applicants were told outright that the information would not be made available to them.

Times of India
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

CIC confirms fine on PIO despite plea of no training on RTI

An Information officer’s plea that he was a “technical person” who received no training on the RTI Act did not help him escape penalty imposed by Central Information Commission (CIC) for delaying information sought by an applicant. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah turned down the appeal by M L Kumbhare, Director of Geological Survey of India (GSI), who sought exemption of the penalty imposed on him for the delay in responding to an RTI application. “It is clear that no new ground has been provided to us to substantiate any reconsideration of penalty in this case.

Complete Article

Application shows RTI law is under-publicized

How many advertisements does it take to create awareness about a right every Indian now enjoys? Just three in as many years, going by the number of times the Indian government publicized the Right to Information (RTI) Act. No wonder then that three years after it became law, RTI remains an urban weapon, with the rural masses largely unaware of it. This dismal state of affairs came to light when an activist group filed an RTI application with the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), the agency that oversees the government’s ads.

Complete Article

Transparency law covers chief justice: Habibullah

Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah’s clarification comes in the wake of comments by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan reportedly seeking exemption from the act. Habibullah said he was not certain about the exact comments. “But no constitutional authority is exempt from the RTI act.”

Complete Article

Speaker disagrees with CJI's views on RTI

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Monday disagreed with Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan's views that the Right the Information Act was not applicable to his office. ''I am not questioning the Chief Justice. He is a high constitutional functionary. But since you ask me, I feel we should not keep anything back from people,'' he told reporters when asked about the CJI's views.

Complete Article

CM's relief fund used for recreation

Successive governments in the last decade have disbursed crores of rupees from the CM's Relief Fund for non-calamity-related reasons, a reply under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed. The CM's Relief Fund was set up in 1967, with the primary intention of providing relief during calamities.

TOI had in its March 15 edition reported in detail how crores of rupees were disbursed from the CM's Relief Fund from 2003 to 2005 for trivial reasons like kabaddi competition, women's football matches and ghazal contests. Now, details of the fund in 1996-97 (Sena-BJP rule) and 2006-07 (Congress regime) have revealed a mixed bag of disbursals.

Complete Article

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CIC loses application that had questioned its performance

In a peculiar case, the Central Information Commission, or CIC, the apex body that makes sure citizens are able to access public information, has censured its own office for misplacing a right to information, or RTI, application that had questioned its performance. Calling it "a distinct failure in the registry of this commission," CIC ordered an official to find out how the RTI application disappeared. It has since admonished its officers and asked them to "ensure that no such failure recurs." In an application on 22 November 2006, Shaji M.K., a Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, resident had asked the commission's central public
information officer for the number of public information officers in various government departments who were found guilty of violating provisions of the RTI Act, the action that has been taken against them, and the number of second appeals citizens have filed. Second appeals follow a first appeal that are made when an RTI application elicits no or inadequate response. Significantly, the applicant also asked whether CIC had decided on any time frame for deciding second appeals, since the Act does notset a deadline.

Complete Article

CIC rejects RTI plea on Sonia's citizenship

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has struck down an applicant’s appeal under the RTI, against denial of details relating to citizenship of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her communication with the President after the last general election.

Complete Article

Should chief justice come under RTI?

The question whether the Chief Justice of India should come under the Right to Information Act is once again being raised. To many, India's highest legal officer is just as accountable as any other citizen in the country. However, the Chief Justice of India K J Balakrishnan says he does not come under the Right to Information Act. There has been a growing demand to make judges accountable and a law to this effect is pending in Parliament but the chief justice decided to stay clear.

Complete Article

Office of CJI not covered under RTI - Justice Balakrishnan

Asked whether the CJI would come within the ambit of the RTI, he said: “The CJI is not a public servant in the strict sense. He is a constitutional functionary and constitutional authorities are not covered under the RTI.”

Complete Article

RTI: new rule restricts quantum of information

It has come to light that the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) recommended that the State Government amend the Karnataka Right to Information (RTI) Rules 2005 to restrict the quantum of information sought in a single application. This was discovered by Y.G. Muralidharan, consumer rights activist and founder of Consumer Rights Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT), who evoked the RTI Act only to receive this startling piece of information. “Having grown in a culture of secrecy, the tendency to find reasons for denying information to the citizens is not surprising. But one never expected that the KIC would advise the Government to take the drastic step of amending the rules, which cuts the roots of citizens’ right to information,” Mr. Muralidharan told The Hindu.

Complete Article

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No need to reveal basis for cheap petrol through cards: CIC

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has refused to direct petroleum companies to reveal the basis for providing incentives to consumers using credit cards for buying petrol, saying oil majors were free to adopt strategies to promote their business. "There is no justification for disclosing the details of basis for providing incentives to the consumers that are critical for promotion of business," Information Commissioner M M Ansari said, rejecting an RTI appeal.

Complete Article

Kerala IC Order on office of Finance Minister

In an order, Kerala Information Commission declared that the office of the Minister of the Finance Minister is not a Public Office for the purpose of applicability of RTI Act. Chief Information Commissioner Mr Palat Mohandas passed this order on 31.03.2008 declaring that the office of the Minister is not a a Public Authority. The Commission observed that for the applicability of the RTI Act, it is necessary for the office to come under section 2(h) and also possess some information as defined under section 2(j). The Commission observed that the as the office of the Minister does not "generate" any information and as there is no permanent staff attached to this office, the office of the Minister is not a Public Authority as defined under the RTI Act.

The Commission also differentiated the office of the Minister with the Prime Minister's Office and held that the PMO acts as an independent secretariat covering a wide range of issues while the office of the Minister takes into account matters only concerning that ministry. The Commission, thus observed that the office of the Minister is not a Public Authority.

This is a very bad order and we plan to challenge this order in Kerala High Court. Please send your comments and opinion on this order. Please also send us the copies of orders passed by different Information Commissions either on similar lines or declaring the office of the minister as Public Authority under the RTI Act.

Thanks and Regards!
Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar
Public Cause Research Foundation
(A Parivartan Initiative)
[posted on the Humjanenge group]

First victim of inclusion of Section 14 in Karnataka RTI Rules 2005

Dear Friends,

I had filed an application under RTI Act before The Additional District Registrar, Bangalore Urban District, BDA complex Bangalore seeking the following information:
In compliance to the Summons issued by the karnataka Information Commission in Complaint No. KIC:3928:COM:2007 you had submitted a reply stating that you had removed two volunteers fromt he Office of the Sub-Registrar, BDA after you assumed the charge. Please provide the following information in respect of the same:

A) Name & Address of Volunteers who were working in the Office of the Sub-Registrar, BDA Complex during 2004-05 to 2007-08.
B) Name & Designation of the Sub-Registrars who are responsible for appointment of Volunteers during 2004-05 to 2007-08.
C) Nature of work entrusted to Volunteers during 2004-05 to 2007-08.
D) Particulars of salary paid/emoluments paid to Volunteers including monthwise emoluments, Particulars of Head of Account.
E) Copy of all reports submitted to controlling authorities relating to appointment of volunteers during 2004-05 to 2007-08.
F) Name and Addresses of Volunteers who are working at present in your Office.

In response to the above application the PIO has replied as under:
(Translated version)

NO.AJINO;BDA:27.2008.09 Additional District Registrar
Bangalore Urban District
BDA Complex, Bangalore.
Dt. 11.04.2008.

Sri. B.H.Veeresha
54, 17th Cross, M C Layout



With reference to your application the following information is provided.

As per information provided to Karnataka Information Commission vide our letter dt.12.2.2008 the name and address of a volunteer wroking in this office is as under. However information of another volunteer is not available.
No.49, B C Residency
Kadirenahally, Indiaranagar
Bangalore 560 038.

With reference to the other information sought under B, C, D, E & F, you are hereby informed that information will be provided only if you file separate applications for each questions as laid down under Government Notification issued in No. DPAR;14;RTI:2008 dt.17.3.2008.

With regards,

yours faithfully,

Please make an assessment of my application and reply furnished by the PIO and post your comments to my e mail so that the issue can be taken up before the Karnataka Information Commission by way of a complaint.

[posted on the Humjanenge group]

Friday, April 18, 2008

Inviting suggestions from Activists

Dear Activist,

We have requested for appointment with Chief Secretary, Principala Secretary(Janaspandana) and the Chief Information Commissioner (KIC) to discuss the difficulties faced by the Activist in seeking information.

Yesterday evening I had received an SMS message from SCIC(KIC) Sri. K.K. Misra which is quoted below:-
Ref yr request. 25 April at 12 noon would be convenient. K.K.Misra unquote

I had called up Sri. K.K. Misra to-day and confirmed the message and accepted the time and date of the meeting.

I request the Activists to post their valuable suggestions/experiences, to be taken with the Chief Secrtetary, Principal Secretary and KIC for discussion in separate headings.

It will be convinient if the suggestions are posted on the board on or before 21.04.2008.

There is no change in programme of submitting the memorandum to KIC to-morrow at 11-00 AM.

With regards,
[posted on Humjanenge]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Officer fined Rs 25,000 under RTI Act in Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu information commission has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the public information officer of the Directorate of Medical Education for having failed to furnish certain information sought under the Right To Information Act. The PIO had chosen to ignore the directives of the Tamil Nadu information commission four times. A MBBS aspirant from Cuddalore district C Arulapparaj had submitted an application under the RTI Act on September 8, 2007, seeking a copy of a letter written by the higher education department to the director of medical education on April 21, 2006 announcing the abolition of the plus two improvement examination scheme that year.

Complete Article

Mumbai trains claimed more than 20000 lives in 5 years

Death on the railway tracks seems to have become a way of life for Mumbai. A query, under the Right to Information Act, has revealed that Mumbai’s lifeline has ended up claiming more than 20,700 lives in the last five years. Most of the deaths occurred while people were crossing the tracks, sometimes to catch a train, but a significant percentage of commuters died after they were pushed off trains or hit trackside poles while struggling for a square foot of space in overcrowded coaches. Central Railway, which covers a much wider zone than Western Railway, has accounted for a lion’s share of the deaths since 2003; exactly 17,553 lives have been lost on CR tracks from January 2003 to December 2007. About one in six of these mishaps have occurred when people have failed to maintain even a toehold on overcrowded trains. Exactly 2,784 commuters have died after being pushed off from moving trains.

Complete Article

RTI lecture by Shailesh Gandhi in Pune

Intelligent Pune is organising a public lecture and welcomes all

Leading RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi who has invoked the RTI Act more than 1,000 times will speak on RTI's power in information disclosure (special reference DOW)

Venue: Pune Patrakar Bhavan
Date & Time: April 19, 4 p m
Please be seated by 3.45 p m

For further details, contact: Nitin Randive: 93716 76368

Legal tussle over giving out data on bio-safety tests of transgenic

While the Supreme Court last Tuesday ordered that bio-safety tests on transgenic crops should be made public, there is a petition pending in the Delhi High Court, which has issued a stay on giving out data on bio-safety tests of genetically engineered brinjal which is under trial. The company testing transgenic brinjal, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (Mahyco), got a stay last year on the order of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) asking the department of biotechnology (DBT) to part with data on bio-safety tests of transgenic brinjal.

Greenpeace is about to challenge Mahyco's contentions by filing an affidavit by April 23 in the Delhi High Court. Greenpeace activist Divya Raghunandan sought information on bio-safety, toxicity and allergencity tests on transgenic crops like okra, mustard, brinjal and rice under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In April 2007, the CIC asked the DBT to provide all bio-safety data available with it saying that "any further grounds for non-disclosure are invalid even if the information was still in the process of development."

Complete Article

Maharashtra rejects RTI plea on MoU

The Maharashtra government has rejected a Right to Information (RTI) query on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Dow Chemicals and the state government. The query has been rejected on the ground that it would affect India's sovereignty, thereby, making it a test case on the limits to the Right to Information. Dow Chemicals is a multinational that plans to set up a research and development facility on 100 acres of land in Pune. It had signed a MoU with the state government in 2007. However, the plant was opposed by locals who feared an environmental fall out.

Complete Article

New CPIOs in CIC

1 Shri Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar, Deputy Secretary
For all matters being handled by the Chief Information Commissioner, Shri Wajahat Habibullah relating to Chapter V of the RTI Act

2 Shri Prem Singh Sagar, Under Secretary
For all matters being handled by the Information Commissioner, Smt. Padma Balasubramanian relating to Chapter V of the RTI Act

3 Shri G. Subramanian, Under Secretary
For all matters being handled by the Information Commissioner, Dr. O.P. Kejariwal relating to Chapter V of the RTI Act

4 Shri M.C. Sharma,Under Secretary
For all matters being handled by the Information Commission, Prof. M.M. Ansari relating to Chapter V of the RTI Act

5 Shri D.C. Singh, Under Secretary
For all matters being handled by the Information Commission, Shri A.N. Tiwari relating to Chapter V of the RTI Act

6 Shri Tarun Kumar, Joint Secretary
In regard to all other matters of the Commission.

Complete Order

Sunday, April 13, 2008

CIC dissatisfied with govt efforts on RTI awareness

The Central Information Commission has expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre's efforts to create public awareness with regard to the Right to Information Act. Observing that it is the Centre's duty to take steps for educating people on the transparency law, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the government was "not doing its part satisfactorily" towards that cause.

Even as he quoted an official report to claim that the RTI law was being increasingly used by ordinary citizens, including people below poverty line, the CIC was categorical in expressing his dissatisfaction when he said, "very little has been done by government to create awareness of the RTI Act."

Complete Article

PMC admits 225 conservancy staff died in 24 months

It’s official now. By its own admission, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has said that 225 of its conservancy staff died in the 24-month period ending September 2007. The Indian Express, in the first part of a series of articles on the alarming mortality rate of the PMC conservancy staff, had said that 227 of PMC’s conservancy staff had died prematurely in the preceding 30 months. In response to the Express article on October 12, 2007 titled ‘In just over two years, 227 Pune civic staff died cleaning the city’s filth,’ the PMC had clarified at that time that the actual number of conservancy staff that had died during a 24-month period ending September 2007 was only 108. Now, in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query, the PMC health department has admitted that 44 employees had died from October 2005 to March 2006, 144 from April 2006 to March 2007 and 37 from April 2007 to September 2007.

Complete Article

Nagaland Teachers file RTI to seek action taken on CAG report

The Central Executive Council of the Nagaland University Teachers' Association has taken a decision to suspend the Academic Closure and resume Academic activities in the three campuses of Kohima, Lumami and Medziphema with effect from Monday, the 14th April 2008.This decision has been taken in view of the positive response of the Ministry of Human Resource Deve-lopment to the demands put forward by the NUTA. The CEC, NUTA has also filed for information under the Right to Information Act 2005, to the University Grants Commission and the Com-ptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the 11th April 2008,seeking information on what action has been taken on the CAG Special Audit Report 2006 on Nagaland University.

Complete Article

Seminar on RTI held in Manipur

After inception of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Manipur, 143 cases have been filed of which 112 cases have been already disposed off, revealed Manipur RTI commissioner RK Angousana was replying to the participants' queries on the Act during technical session. The RTI commissioner maintained that through RTI Act, many people have got their grievances cleared and information being addressed as well. He also said that the Manipur State Government has been handling the awareness programmes on RTI. In Manipur, 13 cases through RTI have been compensated, said Angousana adding people can seek information on any Governmental works by paying Rs 10 .

Complete Article

CIC penalises over 120 info officers, but recovery low

The Central Information Commission (CIC), has penalised over 120 public information officers (PIOs), for not providing information under the Right to Information Act of 2005. They have paid penalty totalling Rs 13 lakhs until March 2008. Disclosing this at a seminar organised on the Right to Information Act 2005, in New Delhi on Saturday, chief information commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah also stated that over Rs 5 lakhs have already been recovered from the guilty public information officers out of the total of Rs 13 lakhs. He clarified that the full penalty would not be recovered as more than 100 PIOs, accused of not providing information under the Act, have moved various courts.

Complete Article

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Officer penalised for not furnishing information under RTI Act

A public information officer of Bihar's Munger district has been penalised for not furnishing certain details to a former Bihar minister under the RTI Act. Chief Information Commissioner Justice S K Singh (retd) imposed a fine of Rs 20,750 on executive-cum-arms magistrate N K Singh for not providing information to Bihar's former labour minister and RJD leader Upendra Verma, Commission sources said. Verma had, on January 21, 2007, sought from the officer information regarding rules to keep arms.

Complete Article

Chennai Corporation appoints eight PIOs

Chennai Corporation has appointed eight Public Information Officers under the Right To Information Act at the Ripon Buildings. According to a press release from the Civic body the following officers are appointed as Public Information Officers and can be contacted for the respective information required from the civic departments.

Complete Article

RTI killed in Karnataka

Karnataka Government amended Karnataka Right to Information Rules, 2005 and issued notification which imposes certain restrictions on citizens seeking information. Beaurocrats in Karnataka are relentlessly trying to scuttle the implementation of RTI Act and systematically working in blocking citizens from seeking information. The present amendment is one such attempt to kill RTI Act in the State. No objections were invited from the citizens before making amendement to the Act. This is the only amendment enacted by the State Government eversince imposition of president's rule in Karnataka. The present amendement will result in filing more number of applications for getting specific information from the Public Authorities. As already experienced this will ultimately result in filing more number of complaints before the Karnatka Informtion Commission and consequently more waiting period.

It has become a practice that unless complaints are filed before the Information Commission and notices are received, no PIO in the State is furnishing the information to the applicants. As of now it takes a minimum 6 to 7 months to get any information from any of the public authority in Karnataka. Soft stand taken by the Commissioners in letting out the errant PIOs has complicated the issue further.

We are planning to arrange for a protest meeting/rally and hunger strike against the unilateral stand taken by the Karnataka State in amending the Rules which is aimed only at protecting the Public Informaton Officers. Please we solicit your opinion on the amendment carried out by the State Government.

[Posted by B.H. Veeresha of Mahiti Hakku Adhyayana Kendra, Bangalore on the HJ group]

Text of Notification

CHRI's critique of the amendment

CORE decries Govt on RTI

The Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE) has decried the failure of the State Government to provide the information it sought on police reforms and its commissions and authorities through the RTI. A press release issued by CORE alleged that even as the State Government had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court declaring constitution of the State Security Commission, State Level Police Complaint Authority and the District Level Police Complaint Authority in all districts of Manipur, no such commissions or authorities can be found in the State.

Complete Article

RTI Expose: Illegal office on CCL land

The district administration apparently does not need any clearance when it plans projects on other people's property. Recently, a civil surgeon's office was constructed on a plot belonging to Central Coalfields Limited (CCL). But the administration and the executing body had not taken a no-objection certificate (NOC)
from CCL. The illegal construction, estimated at Rs 8,381,874.93 lakh, came to the fore when one Tauheed Alam asked for information through the Right to Information Act.

Complete Article

Babus use RTI to mellow bosses

If you are fed up of your boss' threats and want to teach him a lesson, then take a leaf from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) employees, who are ready to prove that bullying bosses could be busted using the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Civic employees, working in various departments, are seeking information about their bosses under the RTI in large numbers. Many civic employees ensure that the information reaches the media and top civic heads like municipal commissioner and additional commissioners. In majority of the cases employees ask their friends and relatives to file the application, while there are some who directly seek the information. Some of the most common questions asked are: whether their boss has the paid property tax, which files has he cleared and which he has held back, whether boss' family is duping the civic body, do they have any illegal construction.

Complete Article

High Court sets aside order of Goa State Information Commission

The single judge of the Bombay High Court, Mr Justice S A Bobde has set aside the order passed by the Goa State Information Commission whereby Dr Celsa Pinto, PIO, was directed to pay penalty of Rs 5,000. The Commission had held her guilty of furnishing incomplete, misleading and false information under the Right to Information Act, 2005 and imposed the penalty which was liable to be deducted from
her salary. The order of the Commission appears to suffer from a serious error of
law apparent on record and results in the miscarriage of justice, the court observed.

Complete Article

President’s office gets CIC rap for denial of information

India's Central Information Commission, or CIC, has rapped the President's Secretariat, asking it to be more careful in implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The RTI overseer has also asked the Union government's department of personnel and training, or DoPT, to remove "whimsical entries" from its website and other places in the public domain about documents available under the Act. "The President's Secretariat is advised to exercise greater caution in implementing the RTI Act," CIC said in a recent ruling while hearing an appeal by S.S. Bhamra, an employee at the secretariat. Bhamra, currently an assistant grade employee, was promoted to the post in 2006 from the post of a lower division clerk, or LDC. He says
five of his LDC colleagues were given out-of-turn promotions in 2004 through a relaxation in the rules, prompting him to file two RTI applications.

Complete Article

'RTI reducing corruption by 15%' - IC Ansari

Central information commissioner (CIC) M.M. Ansari claimed on Monday that the Right to Information (RTI) Act is reducing corruption at the rate of 15 per cent and has increased transparency in the country. "It is the perception of 'Transparency International' (the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption) that RTI has enabled decline in corruption in India at the rate of 15-20 percent. The annual report of TI shows that transparency is increasing," Ansari said.

Complete Article

SC asks panel to study GM crops

The Supreme Court today directed the genetic engineering approval committee to
consider the toxicity and allerginicity of genetically modified food items, and asked the government to post relevant material on the website so that independent experts could examine them. The committee will also study the isolation distance of the experimental field from human habitation and the level of detection (LOD) ratio. At present, the isolation distance is fixed at 200 metre for rice. This, however, is a controverial issue, and it could be more or less for other crops. The committee has been asked to examine the objections in this field. Bhushan said big manufacturers could not claim confidentiality when the products are released in the environment and the public are eating food items that are not verified and approved for safety standards. He insisted on transparency, while the companies said their research is specifically protected under the RTI Act.

Complete Article

RTI info says all’s well with LPG stock

The serpentine queues outside LPG agencies belie the information procured under RTI by an NGO, People for Transparency (PFT). Even as residents kept complaining of a short supply of LPG cylinders for the past few months, minister of petroleum and natural gas Murli Deora had always held his ground saying all was well. urprisingly, the minister has been proved right.

In the information furnished to PFT, the petroleum ministry disclosed that 49% of country’s population used LPG as cooking fuel, of which 25% was imported by oil marketing companies (OMCs). The total number of LPG customers in India was 842 lakh in 2005, 886 lakh in 2006 and jumped to 994 lakh in January 2008. It further stated that though OMCs increased the number of connections every year — 44.27 lakh new connections against 36.62 lakh released during same period last year — but being a subsidized product, LPG was prone to unauthorized diversion to the non-domestic sector across the country.

April 8 2008
Times News Network

Official data in Punjab reveals that commercial users are less than half a percent of total consumers

Ever wondered why you don’t get your LPG refills in time? That heavily subsidised domestic refill meant just for you is being grabbed for commercial use all across Punjab. Abusing your right are owners of hotels, restaurants, dhabas, commercial messes and vehicle owners who prefer cheap gas over expensive fuel. Official data on LPG connections in Punjab reveals there are negligible commercial LPG users in the state - less than even the fraction of a per cent. Being revealed for the first time, this data has been procured after a yearlong struggle under the Right to Information Act, from two major oil companies operating in Punjab.

Tribune News Service

RTI Effect: CIC forced to put its own house in order

It is unconscionable that the very body created to bring about greater transparency in the working of public bodies is itself unable to furnish any information about its own operations. The Central Information Commission, which oversees the right to information, has failed to provide even basic information, like the number and status of cases and appeals pending with it. It has been accused of not keeping any records of judgments and orders passed on RTI applications or of pending cases. It is heartening that in the midst of this deplorable state of affairs, it was an RTI application, which alerted the chief information commissioner about the lack of transparency within the commission. He has since ordered an upgrade of records in his office.

Complete Article

HDMC Fails To Provide Information under RTI Act

Residents of Hubli, Dharwad have little choice when it comes to recreation and outings in and near the city. For the twin cities with a population of over 9 lakhs, among the few choices that citizens have are the Glass House and the Unkal Lake in Hubli, and the Kittur Channamma Park in Dharwad. An undated poll on the HDMC website indicates that an overwhelming majority of the citizens feel that the maintenance of the parks in the twin cities is poor It's no revelation that these public parks are almost continuously in a neglected state and cry for upkeep and development. The situation with these parks deteriorates every passing year. We see short signs of improvements once in a decade. However, they are the same unchanging sight since ages. Rashtrotthan Sankalp has initiated a process to bring the facts in front of the public, discuss and participate in the development of these places of recreation as also their city and hold the administration accountable for its actions, as well as inactions. Associates of Rashtrotthan Sankalp had filed an application in the office of the Commissioner of (Hubballi Dharwad Municipal Corporation) HDMC under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on Feb. 20, 2008 to seek information on upkeep and development of these parks, in the past 3 years.


PMC tax department acts as blind as a bat to citizen applications

Pune Municipal Corporation is boasting about its record tax collection. But are you paying the property tax at higher rate? Is your tax invoice correct? Is your conveyance deed application pending with PMC since years? Check out this Right to Information (RTI) success story where a senior citizen battled with e-governance savvy Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) who acted as blind as a bat to his applications pending since 2003. Records are managed in a pitiable condition exposed this RTI application. Sudhakar Dandawate, a senior citizen, is resident of Tulip Apartments, Mrutyunjay society, Kothrud Pune. He retired from military services. Tulip apartments is five flat abode to seniors like him. They jointly filed society
deed of declaration and requested flat wise bills to PMC authorities on May 12, 2003 It derived no response but still we pay our corporation taxes regularly, aid these senior citizens.

[posted by Avinash Murkute on Humjanenge]

RTI Effect: DOW gets a rap but ...

Shockingly – at one end, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has revised its consent, strictly asking DOW to restrict its activities only to Research & Development and NOT indulge in `manufacturing' (the consent by MPCB earlier was that of manufacturing). MPCB has asked it to submit a series of stringent environmental certificates from the union ministry of environment & forests, the explosives department, the industrial safety department and so on. At the other end though, the HIGH LEVEL EXPERT COMMITTEE, chaired by secretary environment has given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to re-start its construction activity (the work is on hold because of protest by villagers). As per the new notification of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) under the Environment Protection Act, NO CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY cannot begin until all the stringent environmental norms are fulfilled. Is the government hoodwinking the public and surreptitiously allowing DOW to be ``casual'' and indirectly mocking at the Environment Protection Act?

Complete Article

RTI exposes DOW's 'mysterious project'

"The Honourable Chief Minister Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh took keen personal interest to establish this centre in this state," Dow Chemical International Pvt Ltd (DCIPL) boasted in a press release issued on January 22, 2008, as it spelt out the details of an "R&D Centre" it was setting up at Chakan, near Pune. Though the chief minister has so far not reacted to the claim made by the DCIPL, Deshmukh may have to regret some day in future for having invited this wholly-owned enterprise of the US-based DOW to set up an R&D centre in Maharashtra with an "an initial investment of Rs 400 crore". For, less than three months of the MNC going to town about its ambitious plans of putting Shinde-Vasuli village near Chakan on the global R&D map, the DOW enterprise faces a serious credibility crisis, with more and more people questioning its "actual motive" behind setting up the Chakan plant and its claims of it being environmental-friendly.

Complete Article

Essence of RTI gets 'lost in translation'

In a case of 'lost in translation', the definition of 'public authority' in the Hindi version of the Right to Information Act has the potential to let such authorities that come under the state government go scot-free. While the English version of the RTI Act defines 'public authority' as any authority or body or institution that comes under the Central and the state Governments, the Hindi version considers it as a body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Centre only.

Complete Article

Fire department not keen on safety checks

The fire department has neither conducted inspections of high-risk buildings nor identified any fire-prone areas in the city, said Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) chief fire officer Devendra Potphode while replying to queries, filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, about the accountability of the department on various fire safety issues. Activists Vijay Kumbhar and Vihar Dhurve had sought information on whether the fire department was monitoring the fire safety measures at cinema halls, schools and colleges, godowns, slum areas, old ‘wadas’ and commercial establishments in the city.

Complete Article

CIC pulls up info officer of AAI

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the public information officer of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for not providing information in the stipulated period of one month. AAI PIO B.V. Subha Rao of the Chennai office has been found to have violated the provisions of the act and issued a showcause notice as to why he should not be penalised.

Complete Article

Central info chief clueless on RTI pleas

Like charity, transparency begins at home. India's topmost body, created to enforce your right to know, just learnt this the hard way. The Central Information Commission has been caught on the wrong foot after an RTI activist exposed how the commission — known for ticking off public authorities which fail to maintain records, leading to lack of transparency — is itself unable to furnish to the public
information as basic as the number and status of cases and appeals pending with it. The reason: it maintains no such record.

Complete Article

Punjab-based man comes to rescue of rural populace

Moved by a programme, aired by a news channel, depicting the plight of villagers residing in small hamlets, hardly 20-30 km from the State capital, a man from Mohali in Punjab has come for the rescue of the rural populace. Empathising with their problems, he immediately sought information from the State Government under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI). The Government's apathy has eventually made the man to appeal before the State Information Commission (SIC). The SIC though has directed the Punjab resident to complete formalities necessary for filing a second appeal, but the sensibility has already created unrest among the Government officials, as it is sure to bring into public eye the disparity between the urban and rural development in the State.

Complete Article

Misuse of funds in Orissa office

Soil Conservation department (agricultural department) of Similiguda block of Koraput district of Orissa has government vehicles lying unused and in abject condition in the garage. The water-pulling pump is also absent. When we inquired about it the office staffs said that it was in the storeroom. But when I asked to see it they refused. That means that, either it is not there or it has been stolen. The fences of the office are unsafe, for the department. When I, as the Citizen Journalist of Merinews, asked for the information related to March 4, 2008, to the officer in charge and the clerk, they refused me and instead, offered me money for not to disclose it. I went again, with the RTI (Right to Information) form. But still they refused. This time they threatened me and slashed me and till now they have refused to accept the RTI. The accountant of the department was not present.

Complete Article

Info babus deaf to MP queries

Extracting details from an information commission can be a tough task, even for an MP, M.V. Mysura Reddy has realised. The Rajya Sabha member, who under the Right to Information Act wanted to know the basic functioning of state information commissions, has "failed" to get proper replies to any of his questions. Reddy had asked the commissions for details on appeals filed and disposed of by them and the number of cases that went in favour of or against the applicants.

Complete Article

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

22 Sub-Registrars Under Lens For Illegal Registration Of Revenue Land

Mahithi Hakku Adhyayana Kendra conducted a Social Audit on the registration of revenue properties in Bangalore City after collection about 380 Compact Diskettes of data of about 18000 properties registered in Bangalore city from 1.4.2007 to 31.12.2007. MHAK also collected documents running into 4000 pages from various authorities viz., Inspector Generalof Registration and Commissioner of Stamps and also from the Secretary to Government, Revenue Department. MHAK submitted various reports on irregularities in registration of Revenue Sites in violation of Karnataka Land Reforms Act to the Government as well as to Governor of Karnataka. The report indicted inefficiency of two senior beaurocrats in the Revenue Department. As a result of which detailed investigation was conducted and finally Inspector General of Registration submitted his report to the Governor on the irregularity in registration of Revenue Sites in Bangalore City.

In Dasanapura and Hesaraghatta sub-registrar offices, an acre of land has been transacted and registered as 40 different documents in one day. How? The land has been split into 40 guntas and there is a transaction for each gunta separately by a single sub-registrar. Rampant registration of revenue properties has got 22 sub-registrars of Bangalore, of a total of 33, into trouble. They are now under the Governor’s scanner. A confidential report prepared and submitted by the Inspector General (Stamps and Registration) H Shashidhar three days ago has recommended investigations into irregularities and action against 22 sub-registrars. The irregularities have come to light after a committee formed by IGR inspected the cases and reported their findings. The report has pointed to violations of the Stamp Act and Land Reforms Act. On Tuesday, the report was submitted to Governor’s adviser
P K H Tharakan.

MHAK also conducted a Social Audit on filing of Assets & Liability Declaration of public servants working in the Department of Stamps and Registration. During Audit it was exposed that more than 20 Sub-Registrars and another 20 officials of lower rank had not filed their Statements consecutively for the past 7 years.

Times Of India – Bangalore Edition
2nd April 2008
and inputs from B.H. Veeresha
Mahiti Hakku Adhyayana Kendra

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Are housing society secys PIOs?

City-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar wants the Maharashtra State Co-operative Commissioner to say whether secretaries of co-operative housing societies are public information officers (PIOs). A recent order by Uttar Pradesh Housing and Development Board's commissioner MAA Khan Letter (Number 3273) quoting article 2(J) (III) along with 2(A) of RTI Act 2005, states that the secretary of a co-operative housing society is liable to work as a PIO. The RTI Act 2005 has a provision to appoint public information officers in the offices of public authorities as per the Rule-5 of Chapter-2. According to Lumbar, housing society secretaries must be appointed as PIOs to end malpractices reported by residents.

DNA News

RTI User manuals in Santhali, seven other tribal tongues

City-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar wants the Maharashtra State Co-operative Commissioner to say whether secretaries of co-operative housing societies are public information officers (PIOs). A recent order by Uttar Pradesh Housing and Development Board's commissioner MAA Khan Letter (Number 3273) quoting article 2(J) (III) along with 2(A) of RTI Act 2005, states that the secretary of a co-operative housing society is liable to work as a PIO. The RTI Act 2005 has a provision to appoint public information officers in the offices of public authorities as per the Rule-5 of Chapter-2. According to Lumbar, housing society secretaries must be appointed as PIOs to end malpractices reported by residents.

DNA News

Information received under RTI

Dear RTIians,

Following information I have received under RTI from different Public Authorities during last 1 year.

Airports Authority of India (applicable to all airports in India)
- Embassy vehicles if not parked in VIP designated parking area, and then they also need to pay the respective parking charges. So no free parking.
- Embassy vehicle can go near to terminal building only to drop or receive the ambassador.
- Facility is available only when ambassador is around.
- No policy regarding this as result no list of vehicles is maintained.

Pune RTO
- Learning license in 1 day
- Permanent license in 7 days
- Duplicate license in 1 day
- Renewal of license in 1 day
- New vehicle registration in 7 days
- Vehicle transfer in 7 days
- NOC in 30 days
- No agents are allowed
- On vehicle number plate besides alpha numerical registration number, nothing is allowed. E.g. flags, pictures, slogans, colors, police, press etc.
- Legible size for characters
For two and three wheelers 200 x 100 mm
For Light Motor Vehicles/ Passenger Cars 340 x 200 mm /500 x 120mm
For Medium Commercial Vehicles 340x 200 mm
For Tractors Front 285 x 45 mm, Back 200 x 100 mm

- Uniform is compulsory for auto drivers
- They need to keep original permit papers while on road
- They need to mention registration no and permit no near meter
- Meter should be sealed
- Only between 12.00 – 05.00 am they can charges 50% more than the regular fare
- Glass at the rear side of the auto is compulsory
- They can not refuse travel request under any circumstances
- In case of improper treatment or malpractices, citizen can report to nearest police station or RTO

Pune Municipal Corporation (applicable to all gardens owned and maintained by PMC)
- No commercial usage is allowed
- No political use is allowed
- No political poster, banner, cut outs are allowed in the garden
- No catering is allowed
- Only few cultural activities with prior permission and charges the permission is granted
- Usage of loudspeaker, band, audio, video is limited
- Cleanliness is compulsory by the organizer after the activity

Pune Municipal Corporation (Sanitary Department)
- Public loo ratio should be 1:100 people (thanks to Kumbhar Sir for initial information)

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited
* Refill booking after 21 days – not imposed any such rule for booking.

Make the best use of it,
Sanjay Shirodkar

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