Friday, November 28, 2008

Different versions of public authority on govt portals on RTI

The Right To Information (RTI) Act has a different interpretation on the definition of ‘public authority´ when it comes to its Hindi version on government portals. While the English version of the RTI Act defines public authority as any authority or body or institution that comes under the Central and state governments, the Hindi version considers it as a body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Centre only.
Even after seven months when the error was reportedly brought to the notice of the Prime Minister’s Office and Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah by an RTI activist, it continues to appear on the website of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT).

Complete article

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chief Justice of India office comes under RTI: CIC

The office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Central Information Commission (CIC) chief Wajahat Habibullah said in Delhi on Wednesday. "The CIC would soon hear some petitions pending on the issue," said Habibullah while delivering a talk on "Working of RTI Act issues and challenges" at Observer Research Foundation in Delhi.

He said he had discussions with the Lok Sabha speaker and officials of the Rajya Sabha secretariat to improve flow of information regarding the functioning of members of parliament. "The purview of the RTI has gone beyond central and state governments, encompassing any body which has received government funding. This includes institutions like distribution companies, stock exchanges and aided schools," he added.

Complete Article

Bureaucrat with two names faces heat

The chief executive officer of State Consumers' Cooperative Federation Ltd. (Confed) has been using two names in his official capacity. Mr Sujan Kr Mistry, the CEO, Confed, also uses another name, Mr Sujan Kr Mitra, while signing official documents.
Interestingly, the state government recognises both the names of the officer. To steal a line from the BBC comedy Yes Minister, is this a case of yet another top bureaucrat using two names for his two faces, as it were? While replying to a set of questions submitted under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the deputy secretary and the SPIO, co-operation department, admitted that the CEO, Confed, is using two names in violation of government norms.

Complete Article

Official liquidators have to make info public: CIC

Information held by official liquidators -- who manage the assets of companies under liquidation -- can be made public according to the Central Information Commission (CIC). The official liquidators working under different high courts will be considered "public authority" under the RTI Act and are under an obligation to provide details to an information seeker under the transparency law. A full bench of the commission argued that since the `official liquidator' is appointed by the central government with his salary, allowances and office expenses borne from the government budget, the person holding the office will be seen as a public servant.

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CIC demands records of Army wives body

Reacting to questions surrounding functioning and funding of the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) and its relationship with the Army, the Central Information Commission in New Delhi on Monday issued a notice to the defence ministry asking for AWWA balance sheets of the past 7 years. Satyanand Mishra, information commissioner, issued the notice after taking note of the statement made by Lt-Col Anil Chandra on behalf of chief of Western Command, stating AWWA is not part of the Army and that the body is not funded by it. CIC also sought a list of serving defence personnel performing "any duty in any establishment of AWWA during or after office hours for the period 2007 and 2008".

Complete Article

And now, file RTI pleas online in Karnataka

Exercising your right to know has just got easier. The Centre has launched a multi-crore, user-friendly scheme that aims to connect all district headquarters with State Information Commissions through video conferencing, introduce the Right to Information Act in school textbooks and use postcards to create awareness about the all-empowering legislation.

The Department of Personnel and Training will anchor the scheme on capacity building and awareness generation for effective implementation of the RTI Act during the Eleventh Five Year Plan. All State Information Commissions will be granted up to Rs 30 lakh for setting up video conferencing facility between district headquarters, dak digitisation for easier management of appeals and complaints and online complaint appeal mechanism. Recently, the Central Information Commission launched an online system for submission of appeals and complaints under RTI Act.

Complete Article

HUDA fined for ignoring RTI query

State Information Commission has fined Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) Rs 15,000 for failing to comply with a Right To Information query. The RTI application filed in March 2007 by H R Vashis, an entrepreneur in Udyog Vihar, sought to know the details of external development charges imposed on plot owners in Udyog Vihar and Sector 18.

Besides the penalty, the commission also ordered Ajay Malik, then estate officer-cum-SPIO of Gurgaon-I, to appear before it on December 3 for deciding on the fine that would be imposed on him for being "responsible for the delay and non-compliance of the orders of the commission and submitting a very irresponsible reply''.

Complete Article

HUDA fined for ignoring RTI query

State Information Commission has fined Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) Rs 15,000 for failing to comply with a Right To Information query. The RTI application filed in March 2007 by H R Vashis, an entrepreneur in Udyog Vihar, sought to know the details of external development charges imposed on plot owners in Udyog Vihar and Sector 18.

Besides the penalty, the commission also ordered Ajay Malik, then estate officer-cum-SPIO of Gurgaon-I, to appear before it on December 3 for deciding on the fine that would be imposed on him for being "responsible for the delay and non-compliance of the orders of the commission and submitting a very irresponsible reply''.

Complete Article

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A partly Rs 2 lakh per year on RTI Act's publicity!

This refers to the shocking RTI reply from DoPT that the Union government, through DAVP and Prasar Bharti, has spent a meagre sum of Rs two lakhs on publicising Right-to-Information Act in the last three years of implementation of the Act. Undertakings, ministries and departments of governments (both central and state) drain hundreds of crores rupees every year on useless advertisements just for photo-publicity of political rulers. The Central government should spend the allotted Rs 300 crores to push Right To Information Act through Central Information Commission.

Otherwise, funds will be misused for photo-publicity of political rulers handling DoPT, the nodal government agency handling RTI Act, which in practice is the biggest hindrance in effective use of the Act, and even disrespects Central Information Commission by not obeying its orders on file-notings? DoPT has never cared to provide sufficient staff to the Commission which is grossly under-staffed now with nine Information Commissioners.

Complete Article

Sunday, November 23, 2008

PTA funds not private: CIC

Discarding the UT education department's plea that the money collected by PTAs (Parent-Teacher Associations) of government schools are private funds and no information under the Right to Information Act could be provided, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the education Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to furnish information sought by an applicant. Taking the view that schools are being run by the UT administration and teachers and principals, who are ex-officio treasurers and vice-chairmen of the association, respectively, the CIC said they are involved in the collection and expenditure of PTA funds. Schools are public authority and that the activities of PTAs are inextricably connected with schools. Therefore, the funds thus collected and expenditure thereof fall under public domain.

Complete Article

Standing Committee On Implementation Of Rti Act 2005 invites views/comments/suggestions from Public

An advertisement from the Standing Committee On Implementation Of Rti Act 2005 inviting views/comments/suggestions from Public was placed in DNA paper.

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[posted by Siddharth on the Humjanenge yahoogroup]

50,000 trees axed in Delhi in eight years

Delhi Government gave permission to axe nearly 50,000 trees to execute infrastructural projects in the last eight years but the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD 2021) has no location reserved for compensatory plantation. Information received under RTI from the Forest Department of Delhi Government reveals that in West Division, officials gave permission to fell 26,000 trees, followed by 23,000 in South Division and 700 in North Division in the period between 2000-08. But what has come as most surprising is that the MPD 2021 which has envisaged need for various developmental and housing projects to meet increasing population need is silent as far as compensatory plantation is concerned.

Complete Article

Jama Masjid is safest, Dwarka most crime-hit

Be warned, if you want to buy a new house in Dwarka and Rohini. In response to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Delhi police say Dwarka is the capital's most unsafe area and the congested Jama Masjid neighbourhood is its safest. Records available to this paper show that the five most crime-infested police
areas are in the south-western and outer districts. The central and northern districts, which include old Delhi, are the safest. Sociologists say this is because these areas often have a stronger sense of community.

Complete Article

RTI shows bail plea pending in HC for 4 yrs

At a time when the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has asserted that judges are working very hard to clear backlog of cases, an RTI reply from Delhi High Court (HC) shows the oldest bail plea pending before it is more than four years old. The stunning disclosure, which many might view as violation of the Right To Speedy Trial of an accused, came in response to an RTI query filed by a lawyer and is one of the rare instances where HC has responded positively to the plea of an information seeker, furnishing an answer without questioning the locus of the information seeker or invoking its special rules of RTI. HC's answer reveals that while two of the oldest bail applications pending before it date back to 2004 and are yet to be decided (Sanjay vs State 1569/04 is one of them), others still pending include two bail pleas from 2005 and six filed in the year 2006. HC's reply came in response to an RTI query filed by a lawyer who sought to know "10 oldest bail pleas still pending in the court."

Complete Article

Officer penalised for denying info

If you are still waiting to get your refund from the stamp duty office even after months of filing your application for the same, the Right to Information (RTI) Act can come to your rescue. The information law can not only help you get the refund, but also penalise the errant bureaucrat who hasn't responded to your queries. The State Information Commission (SIC) has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the deputy superintendent of stamps, Mumbai, for not providing information to an applicant on stamp duty refunds. Ghia Tarun Jamnadas, a chartered accountant, had sought information on the number of applications that had come for stamp duty refund and the total amount of refund that had been disbursed in the last two years.

Complete Article

Cong turns to RTI to take on BJP

It is said that knowledge is power. But those sitting on the seat of power hate
any attempt made to know about them inside out. That is why, politicians and bureaucrats dislike the Right To Information (RTI) Act, which people have started using extensively to expose corruption in the corridors of power. But, interestingly, in the Madhya Pradesh assembly election campaign many politicians, especially of the Congress, are using the RTI route to gather information against ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ministers for use in the poll campaign. The other opposition parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party never thought of using the RTI channel to turn the heat on BJP ministers. But, on seeing many Congress leaders making use of it in their campaign, they say, "We will certainly use the RTI next time."

Complete Article

BJP going RTI way to target Cong in Delhi poll campaign

Not only citizens, even political parties are now using the RTI Act to their advantage in this election season. The BJP had formed an RTI Cell three months back to collect information from the Delhi Government as part of their preparation to take on the Congress in the November 29 assembly election. The party has already procured vital statistics from various government departments and are now planning to use these details in the campaign to target the ruling party. "'Sarkar ka Hathiyar, Sarkar par hi Waar' (attacking the government with its own weapon) was the idea behind it," said a senior party leader who was part of the think tank which proposed the formation of the cell. Talking to PTI, President of the cell Sumita Bharadwaj said the RTI cell was formed after the party realised that there was a "huge gap between Government's claim about various schemes and their actual implementation." She alleged that through the RTI route they came to know about "large-scale irregularities and scams" in many schemes details of which have been forwarded to party's chief ministerial candidate V K Malhotra and Delhi unit chief Harsh Vardhan to "nail" the government.

Complete Article

RTI to the aid of SHGs

A three day long convention of SHGs and farmers' organisation was jointly held by the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD) and Swayamshri Micro Credit Society (SMCS) at Rajabati in Chowduar recently. The theme of the convention was 'Financial literacy and access to livelihood'. About 2,500 SHG members and farmers from 200 SHGs participated in the convention. Expert from financial and banking sectors were also present at the meeting. Regional director of RBI, Mr Kaza Sudhakar, inaugurated the convention and informed the participants about loan process in banks and about the special provisions available in banks for rural people. Addressing the gathering state information commissioner and chief speaker Mr
Jagadananda advised the participants to make use of the Right to Information Act whenever they feel deprived of their rights. He also urged women participants to take an increasing role in SHGs.

Complete Article

Meghalaya most RTI friendly but RTI officials under scanner

Despite being considered the most RTI friendly state, failure of some RTI officials in providing complete and accurate information to the public has irked Meghalaya State Information Commission (MSIC) which has proposed incorporation of specific items in the confidential record of each official entrusted with RTI duty. "It is absolutely important that the assessment of performances of the officers involved in RTI activities should also find a reflection on the confidential reports of the officers concerned," MSIC said in a report to the state government. Decisions on all departmental proceedings against officers recommended by the commission should be entered into the service books and records of the officers concerned, it said. According to MSIC there were 39 complaints available with it in 2007. Of them 33 per cent were refusals or 'deemed refusals' by public information officers to access the information required, while 31 per cent of the complaints related to failure of the PIOs to respond within the prescribed period of 90 days.

Complete Article

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Do not give Govt funds to NGOs without RTI mechanism: CIC

The CIC on Tuesday directed the government to release funds to NGOs only after ensuring they have a RTI mechanism in place. In a full-bench hearing chaired by Chief Information Commissioner WajahatHabibullah the commission said "Government should direct the NGOs to set up the RTI system while sanctioning the funds. Before releasing any funds, it should be ensured that the system is in place." Under the RTI Act, any NGO which gets funding from Government is considered a Public Authority and is supposed to have proper RTI infrastructure in place including a Central Public Information Officer, an appellate authority and complaint redressal system.

Complete Article

Productivity analysis of AP Information Commission

Productivity analysis of AP Information Commission Below is the productivity analysis of the APSIC (Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission) done by a fellow RTI Activist and a good friend 'C J Karira'.

The period covered is since the inception of the Commission (November 2005) till 31 August 2008. The expenses data ONLY includes Salaries/HRA/Vehicle allowances. It
does not include establishment expenses, rents, utilities, etc.

1. Although the Commission had a total of 569 days available, the days of actually conducting a hearing ranged from 61 to 122.

2. On an average, the APSIC conducted hearings only on 19% of the days the office was attended by CIC/IC

3. For the days when hearings were held by CIC or the IC's, the average number of hearings ranged from 0.8 per day (IC Dileep Reddy) to 4.9 per day (CIC C D Arha) - with a overall average of 2.3 per day for the Commission as a whole.

4. It must be remembered that as per various analysis done previously, by us the APSIC has a a 50 to 60% rejection rate at the "admission" stage - that is at least 50% of the second appeals and complaints are rejected on admission due to procedural lapses.

5. If one takes into account the minimum rejection rate of 50%, the average reduces to 0.38 to 2.44 hearings per day with an average of 1.14 per day for the whole Commission !

6. The average cost per decision ranges from Rs. 1009 (for the CIC) to Rs. 6782 (for IC Dileep Reddy) with an overall average of Rs. 4882 for the commission.

However, if one factors in the rejection rate of 50%, the average cost per decision is Rs. 9765 Based on information available it can be estimated that other allowance are about 50% of the total expenses. If the same criteria is used for the APSIC and the total expenses factored in, the average cost of each decision works out to Rs. 19,530.00!

Complete Article

[posted by Umesh Sharma on the Orkut RTI Community]

We want to know what does our legislator do

Pushpa, a slum-dweller whose complaint about an overflowing open drain in her neighbourhood fell on deaf ears, was among the many who narrated their travails at a public hearing here Tuesday on transparency in the functioning of elected representatives. As the open drains spewed diseases around her shanty, Pushpa first approached the municipal office and then filed a petition questioning the responsibility of the area’s councillor and legislator. Dismay followed her as she ran from one office to another looking for information on the duties of and fund allocation by the legislator. Officials bullied her, subjected her to taunts and told her that instead of poking her nose in administration she should look after her family like a ‘good Indian wife’. Several others empathized with her as she unfolded her story at the public hearing held at the Gandhi Peace Foundation. The hearing organised by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a citizens’ group working to promote transparency and accountability, was to demand proactive disclosure of information related to the functioning of elected representatives.

Complete Article

Study tours cost Rs 26 lakh but no report was filed

At least five different teams were sent by the tree conservation committee of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on study tours to different parts of the country between 1992 and 2003 at a whopping cost of Rs 26 lakh. But none of these teams has submitted any study report, so to this day the corporation has not the slightest inkling on what difference the tour made to the functioning of the tree committee. This was revealed by a query made under the Right To Information Act by activist Sandeep Khardekar.

Complete Article

Yet again, red-tapism scores over RTI Act

If you thought that you can extract information from the government under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, you are mistaken. In what appears as a clear-cut case of the authorities' unwillingness to part with information under the RTI Act, the Gujarat government has shown that it has a right too—the right to evasion. A three-member inquiry committee was formed in November 2004 to probe charges of administrative and other irregularities in the functioning of the Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute (GCRI). In December 2006, one Shaktisinh Parmar of Rajkot had submitted a query to the Health and Family Welfare Department, asking what action was taken on the report.

Complete Article

Govt fined for not giving admission info

Even as parents struggle in the quagmire of nursery admissions, the Central Information Commission has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the Delhi overnment's education department for its inability to give details of admissions given to under-privileged children by two well-known schools. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 -- the maximum that can be levied -- on the education department's public information officer. In his order, Gandhi said the PIO was unable to give any "reasonable cause" for her complete failure to provide information.

Prakash Kumar had filed an RTI plea demanding information of pre-primary and pre-school admissions in Vasant Valley and Ryan International schools in Vasant Kunj from the state education department. Amongst the details that Kumar had asked for were the number of applications received under the EWS (economically weaker section) quota and if a draw of lots was used to choose the candidates. The applicant had also asked for a report on the draw of lots and if any of these schools had not followed the procedure and what action had been taken or would be taken against the guilty school.

Times of India
New Delhi
18 Nov 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Schools not funded by govt are not subject to RTI Act: Centre

Educational institutions not funded by governments do not come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court. The Centre made the submission while challenging a CIC order directing a school run by Air Force to provide information under RTI application. Advocate Sanjeev Kumar Dubey, appearing for the Centre, contended that institutions which are not provided government fund could not be directed to reveal information under RTI Act. "Air Force schools are non-public fund ventures and are administered and managed by a Society. These schools cannot be termed as public authority under the RTI Act," Dubey said while challenging the Centre Information Commission's order.

Complete Article

Madhya Pradesh official canvassing for son: Congress

The Congress party in Madhya Pradesh Saturday charged the state's Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) P.P. Tiwari with misusing government resources for his son, who is contesting the assembly elections, and demanded his removal from the post. 'Tiwari is using the government phones to canvass support for his son Sarvendu Tiwari, who is contesting the assembly election on the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) ticket in Sidhi district's Churhat constituency,' Congress spokesperson J.P. Dhanopia told IANS. Ajay Singh, son of Union Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, is Congress candidate against Tiwari.

Complete Article

IITs tinker with JEE cutoffs to save face

Stung by the flak they got for having single-digit subject cutoffs in JEE for two years running — as was reported by TOI in a series of stories — IITs have come up with what seems to be an ad hoc attempt at raising the bar for the next entrance examination due to be held in April 2009. The formula for calculating the cutoffs has been changed from the needlessly low 20 percentile (the best of bottom 20% candidates) to the more respectable"average of the marks scored" by all candidates in each subject. In an image makeover to the cutoff procedure, IITs have also changed the nomenclature: the subject cutoff will hereafter be called the "minimum qualifying mark for ranking (MQMR)". The new procedure announced last week however smacks of adhocism as, far from being a systemic change based on a coherent policy, it seems to be more a
frantic attempt to break out of the single-digit syndrome of the last two years. The application of the MQMR formula to the data of the two years in which JEEhad single-digit cutoffs does indicate that the cutoffs in JEE 2009 could just about enter double figures.

Complete Article

Make info sharing easy, CIC tells DU

Coming to the rescue of a student who had to run pillar to post to find out the procedural details about his internal assessment in college, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered the Delhi University (DU) to publish information to facilitate the process of accessing information. The CIC has put DU on the spot for not implementing section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI), which requires any authority to provide all the information in the form of brochure so as to ensure transparent working of the body. When DU student Aditya Prasad could not find information about the internal assessment system in his college, he filed an RTI application seeking information on the designated PIOs and about the non-implementation of the Section 4 in November 2007.

Complete Article

Info law helps man get refund for delayed courier

What if an important document couriered to you through the postal service reached you after a days delay? You would have either cursed the system or may not even have noticed it as most courier parcels hardly reach their destinations on time. But Dadar resident Milind S Mulay decided not to take it lying down. Mulay used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to get a refund when two articles he had sent through speed post reached their destination after a days delay. He had sent two couriers to Thane and Kalyan from the Shivaji Park post office at Dadar. "I had sought some information from the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) and from the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) under the RTI Act. But when I realised that the couriers had reached late, I decided to check what went wrong,'' Mulay said.

Complete Article

Health Ministry under pressure to relax Anti-Tobacco Act

The tobacco industry is putting "pressure" on Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to revise the Anti-Tobacco Act, the ministry has revealed before the Central Information Commission. It has also said that there are number of cases going on in various High Courts and revealing any details about the meetings of group of ministers in this regard would weaken the stand of the government. Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit accepted the arguments of the Health Ministry and asked them to forward the application to Parliament so that affidavits filed by the government in Himachal Pradesh High Court, in the case, can be provided to the applicant -- Shanmuga Patro.

Complete Article

Right to information: Orissa activist keeps hitting brick wall

A social activist in Orissa has complained he has failed to get information from government organisations in response to most of the applications he has been filing under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.The 2005 act empowers citizens to demand information on the working of the government. But Biswajit Mohanty, who claimed to have filed about 450 RTI applications in the past three years, said Friday that he has received a response to only about 60. "Of the total applications I had filed, I have got information only for 60 applications," said Mohanty, who usually seeks information from the Forest and Environment Department.

Complete Article

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lok Nayak has highest rate of newborn child deaths in Delhi

On the eve of Children’s Day, disturbing news has emerged from Delhi hospitals. The death rate of newborns in the Capital’s Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital (LNJP) is about seven times higher than that of the national Neonatal Motility Rate (3.7 per cent) and 14 times more than that of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (1.8 per cent). About 21 per cent of newborns and 30 per cent of referral newborns in LNJP have died since 1 January 2006, the hospital, informed NGO Uday Foundation, in a
reply to a Right to Information application. The NGO had filed the RTI in LNJP, Safdarjung Hospital, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and AIIMS, asking similar questions about the status of newborn babies.

Complete Article

Make probe against judicial officer public: CIC

Brushing aside claims by Delhi High Court that a vigilance probe against a judicial officer is an "internal matter between an employer and an employee'' and therefore confidential, the Central Information Commission has asked it to make the probe report public. The report was prepared by an inspector on the orders of registrar (vigilance) of HC, who in turn, initiated a probe against a metropolitan magistrate after allegations of misconduct were made by one Pratap Singh Gandas in 2004.

But when Pratap Singh sought a copy of the probe findings, HC denied him, invoking Rule 5 (a) of Delhi HC (RTI) rules. The specially framed rules say an information seeker can only ask for information which is already in the "public domain'' and has been severely criticized by CIC and RTI activists for diluting provisions of RTI Act, even negating it in certain cases. Since the probe report was confidential, HC argued, it was exempt from disclosing it to Singh. "Inquiry and probe against an officer is an internal matter between employer and employee and disclosure, thereof, is not in public domain,'' HC told CIC opposing Singh's appeal in CIC.

Complete Article

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lawyers or separatists?

There is an unusual addition to the list of separatist organisations in J&K - the Kashmir Bar Association (KBA). According to the Union Home Ministry, the Bar is one of 49 separatist groups currently operating in the state. This disclosure was made in response to a RTI application filed by Aditya Raj Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit youth activist. The Bar has questioned the government's decision. It says its objectives are apolitical and, hence, it cannot be categorised as a separatist organisation.

"The KBA is a body of lawyers practising in J&K High Court. The advocate general, government advocates, public prosecutors and standing counsels for government departments, public sector undertakings and banks are members," said its president Mian Abdul Qayoom. What may have prompted the government to make this categorisation is the fact that the KBA constitution calls for finding ways to resolve the Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of the people. But Qayoom finds nothing wrong in
this. "When India and Pakistan are engaged in negotiations on Kashmir: why can't the
KBA or its members strive for resolution of the contentious issue?"

Complete Article

Demolition row: BMC boss cracks whip but no action taken

The civic chief's instructions don't seem to matter to local ward offices. A month ago, additional municipal commissioner Kishore Gajbhiye had ordered the demolition of an allegedly illegal health club in Andheri (W) but so far no action has been taken. On October 6, the Lok Shahi Din, Gajbhiye, who was officiating on behalf of civic chief Jairaj Phatak, responded to RTI activist Mohammed Afzal's complaint by issuing necessary directions pertaining to the demolition of the illegal clubhouse built on a part of a recreation ground within the compound of Deepti-Shakti-Mukti CHS at Yari Road, Versova Village.

Complete Article

Vaccination drives by NGOs illegal, says civic official

Calling the door-to-door vaccination drives held by private organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGO) illegal and life threatening, a civic official has appealed to citizens not to fall prey to the offers. City-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar brought up this issue on Tuesday, following which the civic body made it clear that private vaccination camps should only be held at hospital set-ups. “Private organisations and NGOs need to take authorisation from the municipal corporation, before holding such drives,” said D D Chandakkar, deputy health official, PMC.

Complete Article

Playing with fire in Orissa's farmland

The unchecked spread of illegal Bt cotton cultivation is a serious threat to the
state’s agriculture, warns Latha Jishnu. Orissa’s farmlands have become the battleground for several conflicting interests. There is the familiar battle over what should be grown — traditional food grains versus the more rewarding cash crops — but the more insidious battle is being waged over how the crops should be grown and what technology should be used. Cotton is the focus of this largely covert operation to wean farmers on a genetically modified (GM) regimen in a state which maintains that it intends to remain GM-free. The figures revealed by the department are eye-popping. In response to a right to information (RTI) petition filed by a voluntary organisation, it disclosed that 58,255 farmers were contracted by 15 companies to grow cotton on 60,371 hectares during 2007-08.

Complete Article

Pak emulates RTI Act, goes one step ahead

Whistleblowers using the proposed Freedom to Information law in Pakistan would get legal protection, unlike India, where authorities haunt regular information seekers.
The new draft Freedom of Information Bill, 2005 has a special provision to protect information seekers who expose corruption while using the law, said Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, executive director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives, Pakistan. In India, Right To Information (RTI) activists, like Mujibur Rehman, who exposed irregularities in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, have been under attack from authorities. In Uttar Pradesh, RTI activists have even been jailed for seeking information from the police.

Complete Article

Govt in a spot as CIC orders release of 'Cabinet papers'

Putting the government in a piquant position, an order has been passed under the Right to Information Act to reveal all documents related to amendments in the Environment Impact Assessment notification that could end up before the Cabinet for finalisation.
The decision has created an awkward situation for the government, which would now have to disclose all draft notifications, presentations and correspondence related to proposed amendments to the EIA. The decision has opened a debate on the definition of 'Cabinet papers' -- which are expressly kept out of the purview of the Act unless a decision has been taken on the issue.

Complete Article

Is MUDA land shrinking?

Has the MUDA got adequate lands to form sites and distribute them to the genuine beneficiaries? According to ACICM Convenor M. Lakshmana, the land in possession of MUDA is gradually shrinking, thanks to the denotification business that is going on over the years. According to information available with Lakshmana under Right To Information (RTI) Act, MUDA has denotified more than 160 acres of land since about an year. The Special Land Acquisition Officer of MUDA has given three different replies to Lakshmana on three occasions. Lakshmana had sought information from MUDA about the lands in its possession. In the reply given to him in December last, MUDA had claimed that it had 565 acres of land in its possession. Again in June this year, MUDA replied that the land in its possession was 510 acres, that is 55 acres less than Dec. 2007. In the third reply on 5.11.2008, the MUDA informed Lakshmana that it has only 401 acres and 25 guntas in its possession. Lakshmana wants to know where the remaining land has gone. He suspects that the 164 acres of land has been denotified and 'sold' to land mafia. The land which was meant for genuine site aspirants has gone to land mafia thus depriving sites to many genuine beneficiaries.

Complete Article

Officers told to upload RTI data

Chief Commissioner of Right to Information Act C.D. Arha has directed the officials of Chittoor and Nellore districts to upload all the relevant information on the action taken by them on the website by the 20th of this month. Accompanied by RTI commissioners Sudhakar Rao, Ambati Subba Rao and R. Dileep Reddy, he conducted a review meeting on the implementation of RTI Act in Chittoor and Nellore districts and also the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) management here on Tuesday. He discussed the implementation of 4-1(B) and 5 (1 & 2) Acts and insisted that the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the information officers be prominently displayed at the respective offices without fail.

Complete Article

PIO to compensate RTI applicant

If you have spent a lot of time, energy and money to file an RTI application and yet been denied information by the babus, then here is a piece of welcome news: you may be compensated by the official who has denied you the details. The state information commission (SIC) on Monday imposed a penalty on L M Bisen, public information officer (PIO) with the MMRDA, which will be recovered from his salary and paid to the RTI applicant, for providing misleading information. The SIC imposed a penalty of Rs 9,500 on Bisenfor delaying information to be paid to the public exchequer and also directed that a token compensation of Rs 100 be given to the RTI applicant from the PIO's salary.

Complete Article

Can a non-existent professor evaluate student's answer script?

Can a "non-existent" professor evaluate the answersheet of a law student? This tricky question has been tossed up by a student in Supreme Court which on Tuesday issued a notice to Dr Hari Singh University in MP over her claim that she was wrongly declared failed in her paper's re-evaluation. The petitioner, Suman, a second-year girl student of J L Varma Law College, was declared failed in the "Legal Jurisprudence" subject by the university authorities for the academic year 2007-08. Suman, had applied for re-evaluation of her answersheet after she was declared failed in the subject on obtaining 32 marks out of 100. According to the petitioner as per the procedure, the university claimed to have got her script re-valued by two professors, one of whom is allegedly "non-existent" according to the response received by her to an RTI query.

Complete Article

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poor record of DoPT in handling Right To Information

The Department of Personnel and Training, the nodal authority for handling RTI Act, has a poor record when it comes to providing information to the RTI applicants as it could dispose off less than 12 percent of the queries directed to it this year. According to the latest RTI management information data maintained by different Union government departments, DoPT could only dispose off 11.77 percent of the applications directed to it between January 1 and November 10, 2008. It had received 773 RTI applications during the period but only 91 could be disposed off while 682 are pending.

Complete Article

Ratatouille: SSNNL Dam metal detectors fall prey to rat bite

Radio mechanics at the dam discovered that rats had entered the wooden frame of the detectors and chomped on the wires In a major security breach, metal detectors installed at the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia Colony have stopped functioning after rats nibbled the wires damaging the circuit of the equipment. According to sources, rats have damaged the circuits of the Door Frame Metal Detector (DFM) near SSNNL Dyke number-1. Police personnel posted at the Sardar Sarovar Dam have said that at present, two of the DFMs installed at SSNNL, are not functioning. One of them is near
SSNNL Dyke number-1 and the other is at SSNNL River Bed Power House (RBPH), where the DFM has stopped functioning for the last two months. Police men said that the damage occurred after rats entered the metal frame. "The radio-mechanics employed by SSNNL found out that there were problems in the wiring system. Now, the entire wooden circuit had to be installed again. We are trying to coordinate with the Ankleshawar-based 'Encode' security agency over this," said a police officer. Police personnel deployed at Kevadia Colony have also affirmed that they are using 11 hand-held metal detectors to check on the visitors at the tourist site. This is not the first time though, that rats have damaged the security apparatus at the Sardar Sarovar dam and its canal network. Earlier, following the canal breach at Mehsana, the dam authorities had admitted to a Right to Information (RTI) query that rodents were affecting the canal network at places, leading to breaches and issues of maintenance along with other factors. Incidentally, SSNNL Chief Engineer K J Trivedi has said that there are no loopholes in the security. "The security is alert and all the DFM's are functioning," he has said.

Complete Article

Monday, November 10, 2008

CIC asks Justice Dept to respond to fund spent on SC judge trips

The Central Information Commission has directed the Department of Justice, Union Law Ministry, to "respond" to a Right to Information query seeking details of public funds spent on official foreign trips of Supreme Court judges. The recent decision by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah follows a "war of letters" between the SC and the department on which of them is the public authority concerned to divulge the details sought in the RTI plea.

The applicant, S C Aggarwal, had on May 21, 2008 applied to the PMO, the Department of Justice and the SC, seeking information on the procedure for sanctioning foreign trips of apex court judges. Specifically, the three-pronged request sought details on the rules, making it mandatory for the judges to opt for the shortest air-routes for official tours abroad, whether their wives were entitled to accompany them and expenses paid by the Government.

Complete Article

Info about Nano project denied under RTI

When the state government signed an MoU with Tata Motors Ltd (TML) for the Nano car project, the government claimed it was as per existing norms and regulations. But now, industries department has denied access to the MoU and other related information sought under Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Under RTI, TOI had sought a copy of the agreement through an application dated October 10. However, a month later the information has been denied by the industries department through a letter interestingly dated October 24, but stamped November 7. The letter signed by the departments public information officer (PIO) BS Mehta says that since the application seeking information pertains to a third party, it is necessary to issue notice to the company for making submissions under Section 11 of RTI.

According to the PIO, TML has requested not to let out any information regarding the Nano project since this will harm the company¢s competitive position. Moreover, the information sought is related to TMLs trade secrets, the PIO said.

Complete Article

Sunday, November 09, 2008

RTI Effect: Government agency penalised for excluding couple from voters' list

The Haryana State Electronics Development Corporation (Hartron), an agency of the state government, has been penalised Rs.100,000 for excluding the names of a man and his wife from the voters' list after an application was filed under the Right to Information Act. Satpal Singh, who runs an NGO "Anti Corruption Society" here, found that his name and that of his wife were excluded from the voters' list in the Chandigarh electoral roll issued Nov 22, 2007. Singh filed an RTI application with the Chief Electoral Officer, Chandigarh, seeking the reason for the exclusion of their names. "After an inquiry, Hartron, the company responsible for preparation, revision or any other correction in the electoral roll, was found guilty of unnecessarily omitting the two names without giving any reasonable reasons," he told IANS.

Complete Article

Political pressure leads to killing of wrong tiger

Wildlife conservationists may be trying hard to save tigers in India but local politics sometimes throw a dampener in their efforts - as in Maharashtra where the wrong tiger was killed by the forest department, which allegedly acted in haste because of political pressure. The case in point is of Bramhapuri forest in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra where a tiger, mistaken to be a man-eater, was killed by forest department officials under alleged political pressure last year. This came to light in an RTI reply where it was mentioned that forest department had made a mistake by killing a male tiger instead of the man-eating menace which is a tigress. As per the pug mark report given in the RTI reply, the pug marks of the man-eater did not match with the pug mark of the tiger that was killed.

Complete Article

Saturday, November 08, 2008

RTI reveals "At PU, scholarships worth lakhs lie unutilised"

At Panjab University, if records are anything to go by, more than 60 students from different states have missed the opportunity and failed to claim scholarships announced by their respective governments. While students say they were never told about the scholarships, authorities at the university blame it on the lack of awareness among the students. This communication gap leaves behind lakhs of unused amount which is sent back by the PU authorities to the states.

According to a data received by the PU Registrar's office under a Right to Information application, 25 students for the academic session 2006-07 from states such as Punjab and Haryana have not claimed the scholarships announced by their states. The figure is around 25 for the next two sessions, 2007-08 and 2008-09, as well. Scholarships up to Rs 10,000 announced by various states are lying unutilised.

Complete Article

'Educational certificates public documents' - GIC

Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) has ruled that certificates submitted supporting educational qualifications of a person employed in a public authority cant be denied to anyone seeking it under Right to Information (RTI) Act. Under RTI, Dinesh Anajwala had sought copies of certificates from Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), based on which Pradeep Jhala was selected for post of deputy municipal commissioner (DyMC).

He also mentioned that Jhala was earlier the municipal secretary. SMCs public information officer (PIO) replied that Jhala had BA, LLB degrees but no other information could be given. That information was personal and had been given to the corporation in a fiduciary relationship.

Complete Article

CIC asks HC for info on judicial exam candidates

In a ruling which may set a precedent for examinations conducted by Delhi High Court, the Central Information Commission has allowed an RTI plea of a candidate seeking personal information of successful candidates. Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah on Friday asked HC to furnish information sought by an RTI applicant, Rashmi Bansal where she demanded to know not just marks and names of those who cleared Delhi Higher Judicial Service Examination (DHJS) 2006, but also "the addresses of those selected for interview'' and "names/designations of their parents/guardians.''

When Bansal first approached HC last year and asked for details of DHJS, her RTI plea was declined by then PIO A K Mahajan under Delhi High Court RTI rules. Mahajan rejected the plea invoking confidentiality clause. However, in her first appeal within HC, the appellate authority allowed revelation of number of total candidates who were successful. This prompted Bansal to move CIC in final appeal and re-iterate her request for complete information.

Complete Article

Orissa's Copter Cabinet

Manipur Information Commission will conduct a hearing on November 12 complaint against under secretary, state department of personnel for not providing the list of the Indian Administrative Services, IAS officers and Indian Police Services, IPS (Manipur and Tripura cadres) serving under the Manipur government along with particulars of children, wives and female partner/s (if any) and their properties to an applicant seeking the same. The applicant lodged the complaint after the SPIO, department of personnel failed to convert into action to the dreictive of the chief information
commissioner to provide the information within a week time from the date of issue of the order. The order was issued on September 23 last. The state chief information commissioner, RK Angounsana gave the following a complaint lodged by one Wahengbam Joykumar of Wangkhei Hijam Leikai against the under secretary (DP) who is also SPIO on his refusal to provide the information under section (1)(e) of the Rights to Information Act, 2005.

Complete Article

'Indians are yet to take advantage of Right to Information'

In an informal chat with Assistant Managing Editor Indrani Roy Mitra, this 61-year-old former IIT alumnus spoke about his dream of an India that would swear by RTI, his achievements as the central information commissioner, Indians' lack of awareness about RTI and many other issues.

* Taking the cue from your answer, what ails our country?
- A profound lack of awareness is a bane for us. Ours is a funny kind of democracy where each individual functions like a rudderless ship. There is hardly any group participation in the democracy that we live in. Things are, however, different in the Western world. In India, each one of us wants to win an individual battle. Everyone wants to challenge the authority or governance but cannot as he finds the process extremely time-consuming and complicated. Right to information bridges this gap between an individual and an authority. It empowers a citizen to raise an eyebrow and question.

* Tell us about the RTI Act. How can it transform India?
- This Act empowers people's right to know about the government and governance. Because of the RTI Act, an individual citizen becomes the monitor of the government. The Right to Information is derived from our Fundamental Right of Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. If we do not have information on how our government and public institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it. This has been clearly stated by various Supreme Court judgments since 1977. This Act reaches to every stratum of the society. Thanks to the RTI Act, the State's response to non-entities and general people goes up considerably. Remember how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was once thrown out of the first class compartment of a South African train in Pietermaritzburg in Natal? Even at that time (a century back), a letter of complaint was replied to and a railway official had intervened. This is something one can't imagine in India. RTI is a great ray of hope in this
respect.

Complete Article

Now, RTI Act applicable to private un-aided colleges

DO un-aided private colleges come under the purview of RTI Act ? Yes. The latest order issued by Vilas Patil IC Vidarbha makes it clear. As per the order related to two different cases of professional colleges,private colleges have been asked to appoint public information officer and first appellant officer u/s 5 and 19 of RTI Act. Sanjay Ramesh Agrawal from Akola and Rajkumar Shamrao Bhoyar from Nagpur had sought information regarding admission process,facilities and remuneration given to employees of private colleges.

A report in the Hitavada (Nagpur) by Manish Soni & Vikas Vaidya
Dt 07th Nov.2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

RTI Act yet to make impact in villages

Three years after India enacted a transparency law, it is still not effectively used by villagers at a time government spending in rural projects is not properly accounted for, say activists and policymakers. "There is a need more than ever for the RTI (Right to Information Act) to become a success in rural areas," said T.R. Raghunandan, joint secretary in the panchayati raj ministry, which oversees local governance. "About 70% of the money spent on Central government schemes routed through panchayats (village councils) are not accounted for properly." The government has spent at least Rs1.2 trillion in four years, Raghunandan told participants of a seminar that discussed the progress of the legislation here this week. Some 26,500 panchayats spent Rs 30-40 lakh each in the last fiscal year to March, he pointed out. Aruna Roy, Magasaysay award winner and a founder of the RTI movement in India, said when it comes to transparency and accountability, villages are neglected by the Centre.

Complete Article

Karnataka Information Commission website not informative

Despite being the apex body under the provisions of the Right to Information Act in the state, the Karnataka Information Commission violates the rules of the Act by not disclosing the relevant public information like its annual report, details of the right to information cases, the monthly remuneration of each of its officials and the Commission's budget, among other things, on its website.

Section 4(1) b of the Right to Information Act states that every public authority should take constant steps to provide as much information as possible to the public on its own through easily accessible means like notice boards, newspapers, public announcements, media broadcasts and websites, amongst other media. It especially calls for disclosure of information in an electronic form.

"We have been amiss in this area," says KK Misra, Chief Information Commissioner of the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC). He also blames the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for this lapse. "The NIC has been very busy lately," he says, "It has not been helping us."

Complete Article

NRIs too complain of not getting information under RTI

It's not just Indians, but even Non Resident Indians (NRIs) have complained of obstacles in exercising the right to seek information. A release from the NGO-Association of India's Development (AID)-said that even three years after the notification of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the government had not specified the procedure for remitting fees. In addition, it is very cumbersome of NRIs to file and get acknowledgments to RTI applications filed with various Central and State Public Authorities. When the PIOs were appointed at the Embassy, NRIs hoped that they would function as the APIOs in Indian post offices. Unfortunately that was not to be, AID noted.

Complete Article

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Judges’ asset declaration before CJI not for public eye: SC to CIC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the Central Information Commission (CIC) that declaration of assets by judges before the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a "voluntary" act and was not for the public eye. Appearing for the Supreme Court, Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan maintained that judges could, of their own accord, declare their assets as per a Full Court Resolution by the Supreme Court in 1997. Sharan maintained that revealing any details would amount to a "breach of confidentiality" as declarations were made to the Chief Justice in his personal capacity and not on official terms. However, Information Commissioner M M Ansari appeared dissatisfied with Sharan's explanation of the procedure and proceeded to question if a "Full Court Resolution" was not an official document at all. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah followed up, questioning if the declarations, if any made, were held by the CJI's office. Habibullah also wanted
to know if the declarations submitted before the CJI were indeed passed on to successors. The CIC has reserved the case for final orders.

Complete Article

Maharashtra SIC seeks more commissioners

Under constant attack from civil society activists for huge pendency of RTI appeals in the Maharashtra State Information Commission (SIC), chief information commissioner Suresh Vinayakrao Joshi has asked the Vilasrao Deshmukh government
to appoint five more information commissioners. At present, the State Information Commission has six commissioners, including
the chief information commissioner. The sanction of another five will take the commission's overall strength to 11, the highest in the country. While Punjab has 10 infor mation commissioners, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have eight each. "I have written three letters to the government in the past three months and have asked for a meeting of the committee that appoints commissioners," said Joshi, at a two-day convention on RTI, organised by the CIC. Joshi told Sakaal Times that 16,300 appeals and complaints were pending with the commission and even the addition of five more commissioners would not see the end of backlog before 16 months.

Complete Article

Two Day RTI Seminar at Lucknow

Action Group for Right to Information cordially invites you to participate in the Two day NATIONAL SEMINAR & WORKSHOP on people's right to information on Nov. 22 & 23, 2008 TENTATIVE PROGRAMME

VENUE : NBRI Auditorium, Sikandar Bagh, Ashok Marg, Lucknow.
Presided by : Mr. Justice Kamleshwar Nath (Retd.)
President Transparency International, UP Chapter

Chief Guest : Mr. Wajahat Habibullah
Hon'ble Chief Information Commissioner
Central Information Commission,New Delhi

TOPICS
(i) An overview of the implementation and administration of the RTI Act.
(ii) Performance of Central and State Information Commissioner.
(iii) Media & RTI
(iv) Open public hearing
(v) Role of public Information Officers Problems & Solutions
(vi) Workshop : How to use RTI Act. (Specially Sec. 6 & 7 of the ACT)

NOTE : Please send your confirmation so that we can make your stay arrangement at Lucknow.
Contact person: Izhar Ansari
Mob. : 09935382406, 09415763426, 0522-2325607
E-mail : rtiactiongroup@gmail.com, rti.lucknow@rediffmail.com

[posted by Dr Niraj Kumar on the HJ board]

No more letting out figures, says KMC

he Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) will no longer give figures of people affected with vector-borne diseases like malaria. The reason behind it being its inability to coordinate matters and figures of affected persons with the state health department.
The move comes at a time when the state government is claiming to have successfully put into effect the Right to Information Act and the civic body boasts of having brought into effect the Citizen's Charter. Chief municipal health officer, Dr Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay said: "The number of people afflicted with vector borne diseases and other relevant information regarding the matter will be made public through the Information and Public Relations department of the state government."

Complete Article

Somnath for punishment on frivolous proceedings under RTI

Expressing concern over filing of a large number of frivolous cases under RTI Act, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on
Tuesday said those who pursue such cases should be punished even as he cautioned people to guard against anyone who want to use it as a tool to pursue personal agenda. Delivering the valedictory session of the third annual convention of the Central Information Commission, Chatterjee said piling up of RTI cases as in the judiciary will defeat the Act's well-defined purposes
and the reasons for the delays need to be investigated and action taken. "It is also a fact that a large number of frivolous cases are filed under the RTI by vested interests or by people with no bonafide motive. Unless they are strictly dealt with from the beginning they will add to the backlog and there should be adequate disincentive including imposition of some punishment on frivolous proceedings," he said.

Complete Article

Amar Singh tapes accessible, says CIC

Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi agreed with Bhushan and said that "any information held by the government could be sought by RTI applicants". The Delhi Police will have to make public contents of the taped, two-year-old phone conversations Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh had with government officials if such information is sought through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, top policymakers and a civil rights lawyer said on Tuesday. The tapes of Singh's conversations with some Bollywood stars, government officials and others, which were allegedly intercepted by some private detectives, had raised a political storm in early 2006 after excerpts were aired on television channels and reproduced in print.

Complete Article

Info officers clueless about their role

An ongoing survey of RTI use in urban and rural areas has thrown some hilarious results with many public information officers (PIOs) who are supposed to be the interface with common men under the RTI regime, either not knowing that they were PIOs or wishing to be excused. Interim findings of the survey, being carried out in 11 states by RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (RaaG) and National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) and host of other organisations including Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), say that over a hundred of the public information officers approached during the survey, did not know they were PIOs. Another over 55 out of 223 public information officers said they did not want to be information officers. The interim findings also claim that only one third of the total PIOs surveyed were available to the public. Apparently the worst attendance was observed in UP, the state which has appealed to courts to remove its CIC. During a rural survey of West Bengal, the surveyors found that their applications were returned unopened with the postmaster remaking that the application was rejected by District Collectorate on the ground that no such official existed under it. Three fourth of the total PIOs surveyed in rural areas were not helpful to applicants and asked them for reasons as to why they wanted the information. This flies in the face of the RTI as the Act specifically prohibits this question.

Complete Article

Monday, November 03, 2008

Still long way to go : PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday agreed with the Right To Information
(RTI) activists' complaint about government department's reluctance to disclose
information. "The public authorities still have a long way to go in proactive disclosures," Singh said, while inaugurating the Central Information Commission's (CIC) annual convention on the RTI Act. Meanwhile, the federation of panchayats in Karnataka ensured the disclosure of information on the implementation of more than 200 schemes. The federation comprises all panchayat heads in the state. "They have decided to collect information on the government schemes in all the panchayat areas in the state," said T.R. Raghunandan, joint secretary in Panchayati Raj ministry The information sought were not only on the works undertaken by the panchayats, but also on the Central and state government schemes, ranging between Rs 1 crore and 2 crore, he said. Magsasay award winner and social activist Aruna Roy said RTI had such an impact that Kerala finance minister T.M. Thomas Issac had to seek a social audit of
all government programmes in Palakkad which exposed irregularities.

Complete Article

RTI-related issues to figure at CIC convention

Issues related to individual privacy vis-a-vis the Right to Information Act will be discussed at the third annual convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Monday. The convention will be inaugurated by PM Manmohan Singh and will cover
aspects related to RTI and governance, the Act and its use in media and civil society.
The two-day convention will have several technical sessions chaired by former chief justice of India, Justice J S Verma, Planning Commission member B N Yugandhar, social activist Aruna Roy amongst others.

Complete Article

Third RTI convention starts Monday, but activists unhappy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will Monday inaugurate the third annual Right to Information (RTI) convention. Activists, however, are not too happy with the convention, as they claim it is only a waste of public funds and nothing will come of it. The main theme of the two-day convention organised by the Central Information Commission (CIC) will be 'RTI and its Ramifications for Good Governance' and will have seven technical sessions covering major aspects of governance. 'The third annual convention will have a distinction of being one of its kind where the assessment of the act both by the government and by the civil society would be discussed,' a CIC official said.

Complete Article

Punjab's car-o-bar proving too expensive

This is a story told often, but one which never ceases to shock us. Whopping expenditure on official vehicles by politicians, bureaucrats and their staff continues unabated in this cash-starved state, despite global recession. Consider this: The rental fixed for one Lancer car, used by an agro official, is Rs 42,000 a month Information gathered under the Right to Information Act (RTI) has revealed that besides the lakhs spent each year on the use (and misuse) of vehicles owned by the government, boards and corporations "hire" fancy cars for their chairmen and managing directors to travel in, frittering away with impunity the tax payers' money.

Complete Article

Corrupt babus' names can't be kept secret

The Central Information Commission has ruled that names of corrupt government officials cannot be withheld on pretext of privacy under the Right To Information law. The ruling came after the Delhi government's Home Department refused to provide information on officials against whom prosecution sanction was granted or had been sought. RTI applicant Shruti Singh Chauhan had asked for the information. Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said if charges were substantiated, the information no longer stays private.

Complete Article

Accused of espionage, officer takes RTI route for probe info

A former intelligence officer facing trial in a case of espionage, has got Delhi police's special cell on the defensive through deft use of RTI Act. On his RTI plea, the Central Information Commission has directed special cell to spell out the criteria by which an officer is deemed to be an "expert'' in forensics and cyber crime or to examine electronic evidence. A Bench headed by the Chief Information Commisioner Wajahat Habibullah further ordered that Delhi police furnish the RTI applicant with a
copy of guidelines/order, if any have been issued to the force for handling computer/electronic or cyber evidences during search and seizure by investigating officers.

Complete Article

AIIMS negates RTI with media gag rider

n an ingenious attempt to have its cake and eat it too, AIIMS has made a disclosure under the Right to Information Act that negates the very openness it is meant to promote. AIIMS told the RTI applicant that the information given was only meant for "personal consumption" and it could not be shared with the media without the hospital director's "written permission". Conditional disclosure is contrary to the RTI Act, which allows the applicant to use information obtained for any purpose. Section 6(2)
exempts the applicant from giving "any reason for requesting the information".

Complete Article

Daily wager stands up against RTI injustice

Kartik Rojwar, a daily wage earner from a remote Neguria village in Purulia district, has become the epitome of citizen's empowerment through Right to Information (RTI) Act in West Bengal. On August 8, the state information commission had imposed a fine of Rs
25,000 on the BDO of Puncha Block for furnishing false information to Rojwar and allegedly forging his signature on a document claiming that the public authority had provided the information he had sought.

Complete Article

Civil Society to hold RTI gun to government’s head

Members of the civil society are all set to pull the governments — both central and the states — for not spending enough money to publicise the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, thereby limiting the use of this powerful tool. The issue will be raised in a two-day annual convention on "RTI and its ramifications for good governance", to be organised by the Central Information Commission in New Delhi on November 3 and 4. While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the inaugural session, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is likely to deliver the concluding speech. Besides State Information Commissioners, the event will see the participation of civil society, activists and media persons - not only from India but also from SAARC nations. During the convention, experts will deliberate on a variety of topics like RTI in South Asia, role of media and civil society to promote RTI, poverty alleviation and RTI, protection of privacy and RTI, transparent governance and RTI.

Complete Article

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