Saturday, February 28, 2009

RTI Act launched in Braille formats, CD, audio cassette in Orissa

For the first time in the country a book on Right to Information Act in Braille formats and a CD audio cassette have been launched here for the visually impaired people on Saturday. The book and the cassette has been printed in Oriya language.
On Saturday releasing the book and the cassette Orissa information Commissioner Mr Jagadananda said the visually impaired people have the equal right to RTI. Though RTI has been in force for three years, no effort had been made to print RTI in Braille formats. Bringing out such a book and a cassette for the blind people and illiterates the promoters have made an history in the country. With these publication 5.35 visually impaired would benefit. Besides, Lakhs of illiterate people in the remote and tribal areas would be able to learn about RTI hearing the CD cassette. Orissa association of Blind(OAB) in collaboration with Volunteer Services Overseas(VSO), India has developed the RTI Act in audio and Braille formats.

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Ex-DSP uses RTI to make DM take stock of things

Shailendra Singh, former deputy SP of police and state in-charge of Right to Information Task Force of Congress, has come to the district magistrate's office once again on Thursday after four years. But, unlike in the past when he was arrested, this time district magistrate AK Upadhyaya comes to his office to find out the complaint of Singh and his supporters."This time, I have the weapon in the form of RTI. The officials could not overlook the facts that I produced with every complaint and application. All the details, like where the applications were being submitted on the occasion of tehsil and thana divas, were attached with the complaints," claimed Singh, explaining why the administration or the police could not treat him like they did in the past. It may be mentioned here that in October 2004, Singh had arrived at the DM office with his supporters to submit the complaints of the people. However, instead of meeting him, the officials ensured that Singh was arrested for his act.

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RTI activist strives for 14 months, given no info

Almost a year-and-a-half of repeated efforts have not helped Pune-based RTI activist Rajesh Shende get information from the mining department regarding an auction held for lifting sand from River Neera at Girwi in Indapur taluk here. On Thursday, he was given a new date March 12 for hearing his case. Shende had filed an application under the Right to Information Act to get details about the auction held on November 26, 2007 - who conducted it, the highest bid, whether the winning bidder credited the money to the Government treasury and if not, what action was taken against the person. However, he was sent a letter mentioning that no information was available.

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Biharis pay price for information

Bihar, one of India's poorest states, won a gold medal in Goa recently for its innovative information call centres. But some of those who have sought out information have not had model treatment - they claim they have been harassed, intimidated and in some cases jailed. Chandradeep Singh, a former army man, says he was put behind bars for 22 days after he sought information through the act on the police investigation into the murder of his son and daughter 12 years ago. Mr Singh says he sought information from a police station in Maner.

Mr Singh, who is in his 60s, says he was kept in Danapur jail on a rape investigation until a non-governmental organisation - the Bihar RTI Manch - intervened to win him bail. Mr Singh, wearing his army medals on his sleeves, pedals about 26km (15 miles) every week to the Manch's office to keep up his fight for information. "I want justice,
nothing else. I have fought for the country and I'll not lose hope easily," he told the BBC.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

UP Guv dissents on CIC appointment of controversial Retd IAS

Expressing dissent on the proposal of appointment of the controversial retired IAS officer Ram Kumar as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of the state today, Governor T V Rajeswar sent back the file for reconsideration. The name of 1976-batch officer was officially decided for the coveted post on February 20 and was sent to the state Governor. He had retired last year. Ram Kumar had been in controversies for several corruption charges levelled against him since 1995. In fact, the Kalyan Singh government in the state had suspended him in 1998 and the subsequent government had recommended for his dismissal from the services.

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RTI hurdles aplenty - Information denied in 84 per cent of cases in Jharkhand

The Right to Information (RTI) Act exists in name only, at least in Jharkhand. For, the right was denied to citizens in 84 per cent cases in the state because the provisions of the RTI Act were misinterpreted by the Jharkhand State Information Commission (JSIC). A study by a voluntary organisation, Participatory Research in Asia, in 2008, found out these facts. The findings were revealed at a daylong workshop on "Multi-stakeholders" dialogue on effective implementation of Right to Information Act in Jharkhand" today.

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DSE fined under RTI Act

State information commissioner Dr Shakeel Ahmed has imposed fine on panchayat secretary of Samastipur district's Ujiarpur panchayat as also on Madhubani district superintendent of education (DSE) for failing to supply the information sought from them under Right to Information (RTI) Act. The panchayat secretary has been fined Rs 250 per day to be deducted from his salary up to the maximum amount of Rs 25,000. A similar penalty has been imposed on the Madhubani DSE.

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‘Jai Ho Ram Kumar ji...’

Between the proverbial cup and the lip, this story seeks to become the slip for state government’s intention of demolishing another institution of public trust. If it doesn’t, the all-important position of the state Chief Information Commission (CIC) may be served on a platter to one of the most controversial bureaucrats. The retired official’s sole claim to fame is that he is the only IAS officer in UP’s history, whose services were terminated on charges of corruption and possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income.

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KIC Orders Bescom To Pay Rs-50 Compensation For Long Outage

You may remember cursing Bescom when there was a 21-hour power outage on April 29 and 30 last year. But this 73-year-old man did something more, he found out there is a provision for consumers to get compensation if power supply is interrupted beyond certain hours. And after a nine-month rigmarole, he got Bescom to pay him a penalty of Rs 50 for the marathon power shutdown. Meet septuagenarian C H Ram, a resident of ST Bed Layout, Koramangala, whose casual application to Bescom claiming compensation for erratic power supply transformed into a landmark judgment by the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC). Ram and six others were given a rebate of Rs 50 in their January power bill. The compensation was adjusted following a direction from KIC.

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NGO to file PIL today for 1984 riot victims based on RTI response

Following the Justice Nanavati Commission report, the Centre had announced a rehabilitation package to provide relief to all victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. However, an RTI application revealed that applications moved by 95 affected families with Chandigarh administration had hit the red tape. Now, armed with this information, an NGO, Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI), will file a PIL on Wednesday.

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Doors open to peep into working of societies

In a major development that could bring in transparency in the affairs of group housing societies, specially those floated in Mohali, Zirakpur and Derabassi areas, the Punjab State Information Commission (SIC) while hearing a case has reasoned that these societies come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Following this, anybody having doubt or smelling foulplay in the functioning of these societies can now seek records under the RTI Act. It may be mentioned that in the recent years large number of housing societies have mushroomed around Chandigarh, and almost all of them are embroiled in legal battles, either with real estate developers or members.

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SC judges ready to declare assets, they tell Delhi HC

Supreme Court judges are willing to make public their assets, but will not do so until a fresh law is enacted to address their fears of misuse of the information they will be required to put in the public domain. The apex court on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that its judges "are not opposed to declaring their assets", but qualified that with the assertion that RTI Act does not provide the mechanism or law under which they could make the declaration.

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SIC 'fine' with lack of info

Implementation of RTI calls for public authorities getting their records ready. But found failing on the count is the topmost body - the State Information Commission (SIC). When requested, the commission is not able to provide details regarding imposition and recovery of fine as it has no records prepared on that. It came to the fore when information was sought on 13 points for a year-long period from November 2005 to November 2008 from the PIO of the commission. It concerned the amount of fine that commission has recovered from the faulty public information officers.

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Lack of staff key reason for CIC's under-performance

Citing lack of staff as a key reason for the under-performance of Information Commissions, the CIC has written to the government asking it to provide more staff and resources in order to fulfil the requirements of implementing the RTI Act satisfactorily. In a letter written to Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Prithviraj Chavan about the absence of adequate staff with the Central Information Commissioners, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said "if adequate staff was provided, the average annual disposal of cases per Commissioner could be over 4,000 cases compared to less than 2,000 so far".

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Monday, February 23, 2009

DNSU to conduct seminar on RTI

The Dimapur Naga Students' Union, in collaboration with the district administration, will be conducting a seminar on RTI Act 2005 with the theme `Capacity Building for access to information'. The seminar will be held on February 28 at the Tourist Lodge conference hall at 10:00 am. The Union, taking into consideration the legal awareness of one's right and legal procedure, will be ventilating on topics such as concept, history, philosophy and salient features of RTI Act 2005, and appeals and penalties of RTI Act 2005. The resource persons will be Solomon L Awomi, president of DNSU, and K Nakhro, manager (legal) at NIDC, Dimapur. The Union, in this regard, has appealed to all mass-based NGOs in Dimapur to avail the opportunity by attending the seminar.

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CPWD engineer gets access to ACR through RTI route

In a departure from its earlier stand, a full bench of the CIC has permitted disclosure of entries in the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of a government employee who used RTI as a tool to access information denied to him officially. The CIC order, on the plea of a CPWD official, directed the authorities "to communicate the entries in the ACRs to the appellant for the period asked for by him in his RTI application with in a period of 10 days from the date of the receipt of this decision." The decision is in contrast to CIC's earlier stand, where it considered the ACRs to be confidential documents whose disclosures may seriously harm interpersonal relationship in a given organisation, is based on Supreme Court judgements which allowed the ACRs to be disclosed.

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J&K Law dept seeks public opinion on revised RTI Bill

Jammu and Kashmir Law Department has appealed people to peruse the Draft Legislation of the Bill, proposed to repeal and replace the J&K Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2008, by a comprehensive legislation at par with the Central Act. The Law department has appealed people to give suggestions to make the proposed legislation more effective, more transparent and people-friendly. The Draft Bill is available on the website of the General Administration Department

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obstacles galore in RTI Act working

Applicants making use of the Right to Information Act are facing considerable difficulties in parts of Assam, and worryingly there are no immediate solutions in sight. A recent assessment has highlighted some of the problems confronting people seeking information from various public authorities.According to Partha Ganguly, an academic researcher and a RTI activist who has extensively interviewed people in the districts of Dibrugarh, Kamrup, Karbi Anglong and Nalbari, one of the frequent complaints centres round the lack of information about PIOs and APIOs who are authorised to deal with RTI applicants. More than three years after the Act came into force many government offices still do not have signboards identifying those functionaries.

At times there have been reports of government officials feigning ignorance about the Act, while on other occasions designated authorities have not been able to provide information within the 30-day period. Unfortunately, the applicants have had to endure even longer delays when they subsequently go for appeals. Some of them today are quite frustrated, and do not know how best to pursue necessary information. Some applicants have been unable to secure entry into the State Information Commission office at Dispur, Ganguly mentioned.

A few RTI applicants have received threats of bodily harm from people who would not like disclosure of information to take place. Others have been reminded that their applications could jeopardise their relationship with the office from which information has been sought.

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ED challenges CIC directive on Volcker report

Enforcement Directorate has moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Central Information Commission's order asking it to submit the report of Virendra Dayal, who went to the UN to collect documents for oil-for-food scam in Iraq. "The petitioner (ED) is aggrieved by the CIC's directions to produce the file (relating to report of Dayal) in order to satisfy itself as to progress of the investigation, even while it concedes (in that order) that such investigations are pending," ED said in its petition to the Court. The Directorate claimed that the CIC's order was "unsustainable for more reasons than one". The organisation is specifically listed under II Schedule of the RTI Act, hence exempted from the obligations to disclose the information, ED
submitted before the court.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Legal experts, PDP want debate on RTI

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's keenness to pass the Right to Information Act (RTI) in the State Legislative Assembly without any delay and debate has evoked sharp criticism from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and constitutional experts who maintain debate on the RTI bill "was a must" before passing it in the session. The RTI experts too have not favoured CM's view of sending suggestions about new RTI to him via e-mail. They and have urged the CM that first there should be discussions, seminars and all leading newspapers should carry the new RTI draft after which a consensus would be evolved and the crux of suggestions sent to him. However, the CM seems to proceed in his own way. "The RTI experts are welcome to send their suggestions to me by e-mail. We will incorporate the best ones. A debate on the RTI will only delay the process and we will miss this session," Omar told Rising Kashmir.

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MC gets show-cause notice for delaying RTI info

Taking note of the municipal corporation's procrastination in providing information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the state information commission has issued a `show cause' notice to the MC joint commissioner asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him on this account. In an application dated September 10, 2008 under the RTI Act, Rohit Sabharwal, head of an NGO, the Anti-Corruption & Crime Investigation Cell, had asked the civic body for information on its advertisement
branch staff. After more than a month went by and he did not receive any reply, he appealed to the MC's first appellate authority on October 10. However, when even then he was not able to get the desired information he wrote to the state information commission on November 21.

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Drop in number of cases heard by SIC

The average number of cases heard by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission per commissioner per month has gone down since May, when four commissioners were added to ensure speedy disposal of cases. An analysis of the hearings conducted by the Commission in 2008 (based on data provided by the Commission to an RTI activist) shows that the average efficiency has been reduced with only 11.7 cases heard per
commissioner per month from May to December, whereas 18.4 cases were heard per commissioner per month between January and April. Although the number of days when hearings were held has increased to an average of 12 days per month in the last seven months from 8 days per month in the first four months of the year, the increase in the number of hearings by groups of commissioners could have caused the
reduction in the average per commissioner.

The analysis notes that the proportion of cases handled by a single commissioner has reduced from 82 per cent in April (79 per cent in January, 83 in February and 13 in March) to a maximum of 39 per cent in September and finally 10 per cent in December. With nearly 400 petitions received each day, the Tamil Nadu State Information
Commission is heavily overloaded, according to S. Ramakrishnan, chief commissioner. Most cases are disposed of at the `tapal' stage itself and only a few scheduled for hearing by commissioners and this takes up quite a bit of the commission's time.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

J&K delays RTI amendment act to seek people's opinion on the draft

Jammu and Kashmir government on Thursday delayed the approval in the amendment bill of the state's Right to Information act (RTI act) to make it at par with the Central act and instead decided to seek the opinion of the people on the proposed amendments. After a draft bill to amend the RTI act was discussed in the cabinet meeting, the state government decided to post the draft bill on the website of the general administration department to seek the opinion of the people. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary, S S Kapur, said "the amendments are being posted on the website to seek the opinion of the people."

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I-T official denied access to ACRs

Chief commissioner of income tax-I Ahmedabad, Jugnu D Sahay, has been denied access to her annual confidential records (ACRs) by Central Information Commission (CIC). Sahay had sought to see her ACRs under Right to Information (RTI) Act. CIC has, however, allowed Sahay access to the departmental promotion committee (DPC) proceedings pertaining to her appointment as member of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). CIC decision comes despite a Supreme Court judgment which ruled that ACRs must be communicated to all employees working under the state to enable them to make a representation against it.

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MHA rapped for not sharing information

Is the Home Ministry "wilfully" trying to obstruct disclosure of information regarding a property of the erstwhile Maharaja of Udaipur, despite the Lok Sabha Speaker's nod to share the details with an RTI applicant? The Central Information Commission feels so, as it has slammed the ministry for "having wilfully obstructed furnishing of information to the appellant." The transparency panel issued a show cause notice to the CPIO of the ministry, asking to explain why a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 be not imposed on him for the same.

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J&K RTI Draft Bill vs. Central RTI 2005

Please see the note below from Paul La Porte from University of Chicago.

Link to the proposed JKRTI amendment bill,2008.pdf

Link to Paul's comparison/analysis

Dear All:

I am happy to provide you with a final analysis of the J&K RTI Bill 2009, as proposed by the J&K Government and released via the GAD website on Friday afternoon. I have attached both the Draft and the Central RTI 2005. I would also like to note that Govt, via a press note, has set Friday Feb 27 as deadline for public commentary. It remains unclear whether there will be any public consultation
seminar/discussion/roundtable before or after this deadline.


1. The Draft Bill is a direct adaptation of Central RTI;
2. There are 9 noteworthy changes; I would interpret 7 changes as positive (in blue) and 2 changes as negative (in red).
3. On balance, nothing suggests that Central RTI has been weakened; all of the critical Central RTI provisions are present and due to 7 positive changes the Draft is somewhat stronger than Central RTI.
4. This is an excellent step forward.

Info panel head slams AICTE

Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has taken exception to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for expressing helplessness in ensuring refund of fees to students seeking them in Karnataka. Gandhi, while hearing an appeal of Right to Information applicant Aneesh Bansal, who had deposited Rs 50,000 with Comed K, a consortium of various dental, medical and engineering colleges in Karnataka, said the council should ensure that its "writ runs in colleges which it gives affiliation to".

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Token penalty of Re 1 slapped on passport office by CIC

In a rare decision, the CIC has slapped a token penalty of rupee one on Ghaziabad passport office for harassing an RTI applicant. RTI applicant, Commodore Lokesh Batra, himself sought imposition of the token penalty of Re one on the passport office after it failed to respond to his query related to facilities for the disabled at the office. "The appellant brought to the notice of the Commission the harassment that he has had to go through to get his demand for fulfilment of an important section of the RTI Act to be implemented. The commission considers his point of view and, as per the his own request, awards a token compensation of Re 1 for the mental harassment that the appellant has faced," said Central Information Commissioner O P Kejariwal.

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RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (Raag)'s website

RTI Assessment & Analysis Group (Raag) is a collaborative effort on the part of the civil society to assess the implementation of RTI in the country. Their website contains information regarding the various surveys conducted, case studies, interim report etc

SC restrictions create hurdles for RTI petitioners

Entry restriction in high security zone at Supreme Court have recently been rightly tightened. It was indeed admirable to note that security staff manning the entry enclosure did not allow even a senior official from Delhi Police to enter the secured zone till he obtained entry pass from the reception counter. But at the same time Supreme Court registry should arrange receipt of mail somewhere near the reception counter outside the secured area for convenience of persons coming to Supreme Court for submitting mails only. This counter should also accept petty cash like for depositing fees towards RTI petitions. Such much needed arrangements will not only be for convenience of the general public, but will also considerably reduce heavy rush presently seen at reception counters just for obtaining entry passes.

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GIC removed secrecy surrounding ACR of bureaucrats

Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) had in March 2007 removed the cloak of secrecy surrounding annual confidential reports (ACR) of bureaucrats in the state. It had allowed access to officers to their ACRs under RTI. Bureaucrats had been allowed access after the then state industries commissioner and secretary of IAS association, Arvind Agarwal and two others had complained before GIC. The General Administration Department (GAD) had been denying officers access to their ACRs relying on its November 14, 2005 circular. GIC struck it down reasoning that when RTI is in force, such circulars are not binding. State chief information commissioner RN Das had observed in his order "no appraiser can present the truest picture of the performance of the appraisee if there is absolutely no sharing of information between the two."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Manipuri Women's organization to help RTI users

Macha Leima, a women’s organisation based in Imphal city, has come forward to help anyone who is facing difficulties in seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. At a meeting in Imphal this week, they formed a body called RTI Nupi Lup. The women’s organisation already constitutes 27 units at gram panchayat level in four valley districts so far — Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishnupur.

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Underutilisation of TNSIC's capacity

From: Madhav
Hi All,
Here is some information I gathered and analysed to find out the
extent of utilisation of the new commissioners. Please have a look.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Punjab, daylight ROBbery at toll tax plazas

Startling as it may seem, an RTI application has revealed that thousands of commuters are being made to pay extra toll charges at road over bridges (ROB) merely because the length of the bridge has been stretched beyond admissible limits. If the situation persists, vehicle owners may end up paying a whopping Rs 4.14 crore extra in just one year. Over the next 15 years — as this is the duration for which such project contracts are made for — the amount may go up to an unbelievable Rs 200 crore. Moreover, this is from just five such ROBs in Punjab. This is how the thing works. Commuters are charged according to the ROB length. The greater the stretch, more money one shells out as tax at toll plazas. The RTI reply says that companies executing these projects have violated established norms laid down by the Indian Road Congress which say that for every meter in height of the bridge, the gradient (slope) has to be maintained at 30 or, in extreme cases, up to 40 mts (say, 1:30).

Complete Article

CIC backs RTI applicant who used official letter head for plea

An RTI application filed by a government servant on an official letter head cannot be rejected merely on the ground that it has been filed by him in an official capacity, the CIC has held. "Even assuming that a Government servant uses the letter head of the office for seeking information...Pays fee from out of his personal funds, an application submitted under such circumstances cannot be rejected on the ground that the application has been filed not by a citizen but by a Government servant in official capacity," full Bench of the Commission has said. Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in Ahmedabad, J D Sahay, had applied for empanelment to the post of member Central Board of Direct Taxes twice in the year 2006.

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Panchayat secretary fined under RTI Act

State Information Commissioner (SIC) P N Narayanan slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 on panchayat secretary Raj Hakam (Gopalganj) under Right to Information Act (RTI). The SIC found the panchayat secretary guilty of refusing to supply the information sought by one Bharat Ram and of not replying to an explanation sought by the SIC in this regard. The panchayat secretary has been directed to deposit the penalty amount in five equal instalments in the government treasury. The SIC has also directed panchayat secretary to supply required information to Ram and to apprise the SIC of the compliance of the order by April 22.

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PMPML fined Rs 25,000 for not providing info under RTI Act

In a major setback to the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited, state information commissioner (Pune bench) Vijay Kuvalekar on Monday ordered the company administration to pay a fine of Rs 25,000 to the government treasury for failing to provide information under the Right to Information Act to an activist. As per the order, the fine is to be recovered from the officers responsible for failing to provide the information about a bill issued for 60 propeller shafts on a work order, issued by the PMPML in May 2006, for getting 30 propeller shafts.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

RTI campaign held at Pfütsero

A three-day campaign drive on Right to Information Act 2005 was held at Pfutsero from February 9 to 11, 2009, organized by Youth Net North East Network in collaboration with Chakhesang Students’ Union an sponsored by Government of Nagaland under the ‘Year of Capacity Building’. The team members went out for spot verification of Village Sub-Health Centre and schools on February 9 and 10, 2009. On February 11, 2009 public hearing was held at Badminton Stadium Pfütsero.

Village Council Chairman, VDB Secretary, School Board Chairman and staff of Sub-Health Centres, NGOs, head of offices, public leaders and government servants attended and participated in this occasion. At the Campaign various members of the house queried various departments on how government allotted funds was used. The department officials explained in detail the functioning and activities of the department. The members also requested some department not to release money to the contractor before proper spot verification. Earlier ADC Pfütsero Kewekha Mero explained the activities of RTI to the members of the house.

Complete Article

Supreme Court claims holds no records of complaints against High Court judge

Does the Supreme Court keep no record of complaints received against High Court judges? Well, this seems to be the case as the apex court has refused to disclose such
information to a RTI applicant claiming that such complaints "are not held by or under the control of Supreme Court of India ", an argument upheld by the Central Information Commission. The case pertains to the RTI query of Shruti Singh Chauhan who sought details from the apex court of the "List of all complaints received against judges or
staff of different high courts" between April 1, 2003 to March 31, 2007.

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Information through website not enough under RTI

Posting information on government websites may not be enough under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Central Information Commission has directed public authorities to make available printed or CD copies of information to RTI applicants even if the same data is available online. “All applicants may not have access to websites. Whereas it is helpful to give information on the website, the Public Information Officer (PIO) must always offer to give the same on a CD or hard copies,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

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RTI has brought more accountability in public servants: Pranab

The Right to Information Act has brought about greater accountability among public servants, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today. Presenting the Interim Budget in Lok Sabha, he said the enactment of the Act by the Centre and many states has "bridged a critical gap in the public decision-making process and ushered in greater accountability of public servants." He said the Second Administrative Reforms Commission had brought out a number of reports with "practical recommendations, providing a starting point for improving efficiency in the delivery of public services." The Commission was set up in August 2005 with a mandate to suggest measures to achieve "a pro-active, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient ad.

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City uses RTI to set record straight

For those dwelling in the MIG flats of Urban Estate, Phase-2, seeking exemption from water and sewerage charges according to area specifications has now become easy, courtesy Right to Information (RTI) Act. The residents, who were allotted flats by Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) a few years back, have claimed freedom from paying the water and sewerage bills, as per a notification from the state government to exempt all houses constructed below the area of 125 sq yards.

They claim that the development authority constructed two units of each flat on a single plot area of 162 sq yards and all dwellings had separate power, water and sewerage connections. However, despite this, the municipal corporation had been issuing them bills pertaining to water and sewerage supply every year. When residents brought the matter to MC¢s notice, they were told that they could be exempted only if PUDA gave in writing about the total area covered by the dwellings.

Acting upon it, residents have sought information regarding their flats from PUDA under the RTI Act. Kuldeep Singh Kreer, general secretary, MIG Welfare Society, claimed they had urged the authorities concerned for extending the facility to them.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

A lifeline hit by shortage of staff, braces for more

As new swanky rakes are being introduced by the railways as part of the first phase of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) are grappling with the shortage of key staff. The CR and WR are short of some 245 motormen and 185 guards. Newsline had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the sanctioned strength of motormen and guards in these
railways from October 1, 2007, to December 20, 2008.

Information was also sought about the recruitment process, promotion and payscales of these employees. And according to the information obtained, the CR has 571 motormen as against a sanctioned strength of 716 while the WR has 330 motormen as against the required 440. Similarly, the CR requires 659 guards while it has only 572in service. The WR, meanwhile, has 319 guards as against a sanctioned strength of
417. The CR had promoted 93 guards during the period while the WR got 61 new guards for the suburban section.

With the new rakes in place, the CR and WR will have 500 more services daily. "With the introduction of new services, the pressure on motormen and guards has increased, and it will continue to happen," said a motorman. "We do not get our weekly offs and the pressure is intense."

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Post information on police booths on website: CIC

The Central Information Commission has asked the Delhi Police to put information related to police booths or beat boxes in the national capital on its website. "The General Administration Department of the Police Headquarters is directed to upload the complete information (about beat boxes) on its website preferably in the proforma devised by the appellant," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in his order. The CIC order came after Rakesh Agarwal, general secretary of an NGO 'NyayaBhoomi', had filed an application under RTI and asked the city police to provide information on number of booths in each district, sanctioned strength, detail of areas they are built in and copy of permission taken from civic agencies to build them among others.

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Letter asks judges to disclose assets

Several citizens and activists have urged the judges of the Supreme Court and high courts to follow the standards set by the apex court for legislators and make public their assets. The appeal, made through an open letter dated February 13, refers to
the rationale the Supreme Court cited while setting the guidelines for elected representatives in two cases in 2002 and 2003 on the need to take public their assets. Although all judges "voluntarily" disclose their assets in line with an informal code of conduct adopted in 1997, the Chief Justice of India has refused to part with the information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. Since then, the apex court registrar has also challenged in Delhi High Court the central information commissioner's order asking the chief justice's office to reveal whether the judges were indeed disclosing their assets to him. It will be heard on February 27.

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Officials fined under RTI Act

The State Information Commission (SIC) on Friday slapped fine on two government officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those fined are sub-divisional (SDO) of Bikramganj in Rohtas district and principal of Government Middle School of Kahuara in Nalanda district.

The Bikramganj SDO would have to cough up a fine of Rs 25,000. He failed to provide relevant information to one Kunti Devi who had sought certain information under RTI. The SIC directed the erring SDO to provide relevant information to Kunti latest by April 16 and fixed April 24 as the next date of hearing of the case.

The school principal was found guilty of not providing information to one Apporva Anand for which he would have to cough up a fine of Rs 250 per day with upper limit being Rs 25,000. The commission directed him to provide relevant information to the applicant latest by April 21 and fixed April 28 as the next date of hearing of the case.

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CIC directs information on appointment

The full bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, after hearing an appeal filed by DK Mishra, senior advocate, Gauhati High Court delivered the decision on February 11, directing the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Ministry of Law and Justice, Govt of India to disclose the information regarding views expressed by the State of Nagaland and the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium to the Govt of India regarding the appointment of judges in the Gauhati High Court. The Commission further held that the opinion given by Justice Brijesh Kumar and Justice H.K. Sema, both judges of the Supreme Court at the relevant time who were once the Chief Justice and the acting Chief Justice respectively of the Gauhati High Court, however could be considered to be information provided by third party in confidence. As such, before disclosing the same, the Commission held that it would be necessary on the part of the CPIO to hear them or to take their views in as much as this part of information clearly attracts Section 11(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and therefore, disclosability of information can be determined only if the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants such disclosure.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Delayed by the red tape

Rimpa Halder went missing on February 8, 2005, but a police complaint was lodged at the Sector-20 police station only on July 20, 2005. On many occasions, the case got buried under the files and it took an effective tool like the Right To Information Act to bring it back to life.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) in their August 24, 2005, inquiry report (submitted to the SSP, Noida, on November 9, 2005) mentioned that six girls were missing from Nithari. Later, Uttar Pradesh DGP, in his reply to a notice served on him on January 2, 2007, by the NCW, said five girls were missing. The DGP's letter dated January 11, 2007, did not mention Rimpa Halder's name among the missing girls.

However, when Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra, an RTI activist, filed an application on January 4, 2007, he received certain documents, which acknowledged the missing girl was Rimpa Halder. On a complaint by victim's parents in May 2006, the NCW made an enquiry from UP DGP through a letter on June 6, 2006.

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Bihar Info Commission Slaps Rs 25000 Fine on DGP Office

The public information officer (PIO) of the Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) office has been slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 for not providing proper information to a retired IAS officer. State Information Commissioner P N Narayanan slapped the fine on public information officer of the DGP office on Tuesday after he failed to supply
required information to retired IAS officer Gangadhar Jha, Commission sources said on Wednesday. The Commission has directed the PIO to submit complete information to Jha by
April 30, and fixed May 5 as the next date of hearing of the case.

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RTI activists expose Maytas promoters

At a time when Maytas firms are under intense scrunity following the Rs 7,000-crore fraud in Satyam, campaigners of the Right to Information Act, Umesh Varma and D Rakesh Reddy, have managed to ferret out a revealing piece of information on the promoters of Maytas Properties through the Act. Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, they produced reams of documents, given by HUDA in response to their RTI application for information on 14 companies that own land around the three special economic zones (SEZs) being developed by Maytas. The companies had asked for a change in land-use around the three SEZ's from agricultural to multi-purpose.

According to the information fished out by the RTI activists, the 14 companies are headed by different Rajus but they allege that the real players or promoters behind all the companies are from one family, that of Ramalinga Raju, the disgraced founder of Satyam. Namburi Rama Raju has a majority stake in 8 cos, Namburi Siva Linga Ravi Prasad Raju in 7, Byrraju Rama Raju in 5, Byrraju Suryanarayana Raju in 5, B Teja Raju in 4, Byrraju Radha (daughter-in-law) in 4, Byrraju Jhansi Rani (sister-inlaw)
in 3 and B Nandini Raju in 3.

Were these companies floated to circumvent the rural land ceiling limit of 53
acres? Varma and Reddy questioned. It is clear from the land ownership that the
companies stopped at 53 acres, said Umesh.

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Judges assets case: HC defers hearing till Feb 27

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday deferred hearing on a petition filed by the Supreme Court challenging Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing that information pertaining to assets of the judges should be revealed. Justice S Ravinder Bhat adjourned the matter for further hearing on February 27 after Solicitor General G E Vahanvati sought time to file the reply. The Court had on January 19 stayed the order of the CIC that the office of Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI Act and information given to CJI has to be revealed to the RTI applicant.

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No jobs, Muslims only fobbed off in Bengal

An RTI query reveals that Muslims’ representation in Kolkata Police and the KMC is not even 10% despite they constituting 25% of the state’s population. The West Bengal government has often dismissed the Sachar committee report on the condition of Muslims in the state as an exaggeration. But data related to Muslim employees in two major government departments shows how abysmally low their representation is. The data was made available by the two organizations following an RTI query filed by a Kolkata-based NGO. Even though Muslims in the state officially represent over 25 per cent of the population, the community does not even have a representation of 10 per cent of the workforce in the Kolkata Police (KP) and Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) two biggest government organizations. The picture of Muslim women in government jobs is worse still, with their representation barely touching two per cent. According to the information revealed by the Kolkata Police, the total number of employees in the force is 24,840 of which only 2,267 are Muslims, constituting a
mere 9.13 per cent of the overall strength. Of a total of 24,840 employees in the Kolkata Police, only 414 are women, and only 12 of them (2.9 per cent approximately) are Muslims.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Ex-serviceman files RTI plea over 'one rank one pension' issue

Disillusioned with the system, a former naval officer Monday filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act asking the government on what basis was the demand for 'one rank one pension' overlooked. 'In 2008, the defence minister in a written reply to a question told parliament that the government has not found acceptable the demand of ex-servicemen for one rank one pension. Through RTI Act, I want to get the details as to how the government reached the decision,' Commodore (retired) Lokesh K. Batra told IANS.

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Corruption is rampant at checkposts

A city-based Right to Information (RTI) activist claims to have unearthed corrupt practices at border check-posts. Vipul Patel, who had filed an application under RTI Act last year, was granted permission to supervise work at Samakhayali check-post in Bhuj by regional transport office (RTO) of Bhuj. Patel visited Samakhayali check-post on January 30 this year and spent a few hours supervising the work. Patel claims to have found several discrepancies in the Automatic Vehicle Entry and Tax Collection System (AVETCS) and many vehicles were being allowed to pass without checking their weight. "During the supervision, I found that 40% of AVETCS was not functioning properly. Officials at the check-post were not registering entries of the
vehicles and were allowing to pass them without checking weight," Patel added. "The check-post inspector and other officials started making entries and collecting entry fees from the trucks and other vehicles when I started supervision. The amount of penalty and fees collected on that day was much more than the daily average which pointed to the negligence shown by the officials concerned," Patel alleged.

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RTI relief for father

Shyam Kishore Sinha, the father of Saurabh Kumar who died during a botched rescue mission, has finally received a reply from the Seraikela-Kharsawan administration. The reply confirmed that a helicopter had taken off from the Sonari aerodrome for rescue on June 18 — the day the youth died. Saurabh (26) drowned in floodwater during the operation. The occupants of the chopper were Jharkhand chief pilot A.K. Srivastava and a senior pilot. The third man present during the operation was a civilian. However, Sinha claims that the third man was East Singhbhum police superintendent Naveen Kumar Singh. “He (Singh) told me he was there to guide the pilots.”

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First Global uses RTI to set record straight

Eight years after it was indicted by the market regulator for "profiting from advance knowledge" of news website Tehelka's market-moving exposés, brokerage house First Global says it has procured documents under the Right to Information (RTI) Act that show how the regulator fabricated a case against it. The documents obtained by First Global from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) show that the brokerage's name does not figure in the list of the top-50 sellers from mid-February to
mid-March 2001, the period which was investigated by the regulator to determine the cause of the market crash in that period.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Few cops fined for breaking traffic rules

While, traffic cops penalise people for not wearing helmets or passengers not using seat belts, how many police or government officials who flout these regulations are being penalised? Compared to the thousands of citizens having been fined, in 2007 a woeful 20 cases were made under the Motor Vehicles Act and in 2008, 24 cases were
registered against police officers and government employees. This was revealed after Khadia resident Jaimin Desai, harangued by mounting traffic woes, fired three applications under Right to Information (RTI) Act to demand accountability from the traffic cops.

Through his first application, Desai wanted to know information on seven points relating to towing of vehicles. While, in his other applications he demanded information on number of points relating to traffic signals, and repairs and maintenance of timers on traffic signals. In his appeal before Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) Desai has listed his grievances when a vehicle is towed, it gets damaged and is not taken care of and majority of the timers on the signals are done awry and are not being repaired. Desai also stated that when information is sought under RTI, different information is provided at different times.

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Centre pips state in RTI disposal race

An audit of the performance of the state's six information commissioners reveals that they have been dealing with an average of just five Right to Information (RTI) appeals and complaints per day. The figures show that on an average, each of the six commissioners disposed a little less than 150 appeals and complaints every month, during 2008. "All the commissioners have abysmal disposal rates. If they do not hear more cases on a daily basis, people will lose faith in the RTI Act. Already, people
have to wait for over a year for their appeals to come up for hearing,'' said RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu, who filed an RTI query on this issue.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

PMC apathy over RTI irks activists

After repeated demands by Right to Information (RTI) activists that the Pune Municipal Corporation disclose information on its own initiative, the civic body has finally displayed information about all its departments and the duties of its officers on its website. However, RTI activists like Vivek Velankar have pointed out that only a
namesake' job has been done and incomplete disclosures have been displayed. Velankar says that only that information which is of convenience to the PMC has been disclosed, whereas information which would help citizens monitor the functioning of the civic body remains undisclosed.

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Haryana SIC issues show-cause notice

Taking cognisance of the delay in furnishing information under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the State Information Commission Haryana has decided to issue a show-cause notice to the state public information officer (SPIO) of Mata Mansa Devi Shrine Board. Haryana chief information commissioner (CIC) G Madhavan in the directions issued to the board on Wednesday said why should a penalty of Rs 250, for each day, not be imposed upon SPIO for the delay.

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Bal Sadan scam: One more in net

In April 2007, an inquiry by the social welfare department of Delhi government unearthed irregularities in the purchase process of essential items for Bal Sadan at Timarpur in 2005, hinting at a big scam. While the department failed to act on its own report, a reply to an RTI application helped the anti-corruption branch unravel yet another scam in purchases and resulted in the arrest of the district officer. The ACB arrested district officer M K Sharma. The other two officials allegedly involved include Rajeshwari Chauhan, the then superintendent of the home and R K Sharma, the junior accounts officer. R K Sharma is already in jail for his involvement in the other purchases scam which has seen the arrest of around 10 more. In fact, Chauhan too was arrested, but was granted bail in that case at the time of going to the press, she was still interrogated.

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Ex-RPO approaches HC for enquiry against RTI Commissioner

Former Regional Passport Officer Gloria Kumar has approached the Delhi High Court seeking direction to Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) to set up a committee to enquire into the alleged remarks of Information Commissioner O P Kejariwal against her.
Justice S Ravindra Bhat has issued notice to CIC and Kejariwal and asked them to file their response by March 24 on Kumar';s petition challenging CIC order dismissing her plea in October last year for initiation of a departmental enquiry against Kejariwal.

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Police gives whole register to RTI applicant

The police in Ghaziabad have handed over their whole original complaint register to a man who had, through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, sought data on car thefts in Ghaziabad. Akash Nagar, a local journalist, presented the register before the media here Friday. Nagar said he submitted a written request before the inspector general of police (IGP) at Meerut in November, seeking information on six points related to car
thefts during 2008.

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Student right to scan script - Order binding on all exam agencies

Students have the right to take a look at their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with their marks in major examinations. A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Thursday went by the judgment of Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the same court and held that agencies conducting exams are bound to show the answer script if an
examinee demands it under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. All agencies from Calcutta University to ICSE/CBSE and various school authorities will come under the purview of the order. The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Dipankar Dutta in their 50-page ruling said: "The examination conducting agencies will have to show the answer scripts to the candidates within four weeks of their filing the application under Right to Information Act."

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Student right to scan script - Order binding on all exam agencies

Students have the right to take a look at their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with their marks in major examinations. A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Thursday went by the judgment of Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the same court and held that agencies conducting exams are bound to show the answer script if an
examinee demands it under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. All agencies from Calcutta University to ICSE/CBSE and various school authorities will come under the purview of the order.

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Calcutta High Court directs varsity, board to show evaluated answer

In a significant decision, the Calcutta High Court today directed that all examinees, including those of the CBSE and the Calcutta University, be allowed access to their evaluated answer sheets. A division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice Dipankar Dutta dismissed an appeal by the University and four other writ petitions that pleaded against showing evaluated answer scripts, citing several constraints. The bench upheld Justice Sanjib Banerjee's order of March 2008 that an
examinee was entitled to see his evaluated answer sheet under Article 19 of Constitution that guarantees Right to Expression and the Right to Information Act.

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RTI Act not implemented by most civic bodies: study

A majority of the City Municipal Councils (CMCs) in the State have not effectively implemented the provision of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 dealing with mandatory disclosure of information to be made by public authorities on their own. A study conducted by the Consumer Rights Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT) found that the information disclosed by the CMCs was sketchy and did not serve the intention of the legislation.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Funds cut off, RTI benches may close

the offices of two state information commissioners at nagpur and aurangabad may not be able to function in the near future due to a severe shortage of funds. the funds are required for the day-to-day operations and to pay stationery, telephone, electricity and travel bills of the office. the state information commissioner's office allocates funds to the regional bureaus. the commissioners, vilas patil of the nagpur bench and vb borge of the aurangabad bench, have written to state chief information commissioner suresh joshi saying that their offices are cash-strapped and will have to close down
for want of funds. both patil and borge along with information commissioner of the pune bench vijay kuvalekar have openly accused joshi of laxity in allocation of funds for day-to-day administrative expenses.

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Kuvalekar flays CIC's style of functioning

state information commissioner (sic), pune bench, vijay kuvalekar has alleged in a letter to the state chief information commissioner (cic) suresh joshi that the cic has failed in establishing a basic system for the coordinated and effective functioning of the information commission and in taking the initiative for disposal of the pending right to information (rti) appeals. kuvalekar had sent a strongly worded letter to the state cic a few months ago. a copy of the correspondence between kuvalekar and cic was procured recently by rti activist vijay kumbhar.

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BMC moves to punish officer for RTI delay

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's city engineer has issued a show cause notice to a public information officer - in this case, the deputy chief engineer (planning and development) - asking why his increment for next year should not be withheld. The order comes after state information commissioner Suresh Joshi levied a fine Rs 25,000 on the officer for not despatching a Right To Information (RTI) application to the department concerned in time. The state information commissioner had also urged the municipal commissioner to investigate the delay and to take action as necessary. The case came up for hearing at the state information commission after RTI applicant S K Nangia complained that both the urban development department and the BMC denied him a copy of the report on a state committee's investigation into the collapse of Laxmi Chhaya building in Borivli.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

State info panel outperforms Central in disposal of appeals

Despite having a lesser number of information commissioners in comparison to the Central Information Commission (CIC), the State Information Commission (SIC) has been able to dispose of a higher number of appeals and complaints in the year 2008 than the CIC, State chief information commissioner S V Joshi said. “In 2008, we disposed of 15,026 appeals in comparison to 9,920 appeals settled by the CIC, which is 5,106 appeals more.

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Right To Information Act is being misused: Law Minister

The Right To Information (RTI) Act is being "misused" in many cases under the garb of seeking information for public interest, Law minister H R Bhardwaj said on Saturday. Speaking at the inauguration of a two-day All India Conference of the Central Administrative Tribunal here, the minister said, "the Right to Information has still not settled and it is being misused in many cases and there are characters who are not interested in RTI getting into it." "But slowly this law will get settled. It would get over the teething problems and this law will also be strengthened," Bhardwaj said.

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RTI activists get a stall in fair play

For the first time in the Kolkata Book Fair, an NGO — National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), West Bengal Chapter — has set up a stall for educating people about Right to Information Act (RTI). Proper implementation of the RTI Act is yet to be done in the state due to the lack of transparency in government offices, which dissuades the information officers to disclose all the information one has asked for. Even people are not aware of the procedure of filing an RTI and its operations. Several NGOs have, therefore, initiated public awareness programmes.

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BMC moves to punish officer for RTI delay

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s city engineer has issued a show cause notice to a public information officer - in this case, the deputy chief engineer (planning and development) - asking why his increment for next year should not be withheld. The order comes after state information commissioner Suresh Joshi levied a fine Rs 25,000 on the officer for not despatching a Right To Information (RTI) application to the department concerned in time. The state information commissioner had also urged the municipal commissioner to investigate the delay and to take action as necessary.

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Assets of ministers, kin exempt from RTI: PMO

At a time when pressure is mounting on the judiciary to disclose its assets, the executive wing of the government has come into the limelight for its attitude towards transparency. In a decision that could have a far-reaching impact on administrative
accountability, the PMO, widely seen as leading the government towards transparency has decided to withhold information related to assets of ministers and their relatives.
Responding to a query by applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the PMO termed the information as exempt under clauses 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) which relate to immunity granted to "documents fiduciary relationship" and "Cabinet documents" under the RTI Act.

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24X7 call centre, new RTI, assets list each yr: Omars open govt

A call centre, an Omar Abdullah blog, a legislation to strengthen the Right to Information Act in the state and a directive to his Cabinet to disclose their assets. These are among J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's plans to make his Government "open and transparent" and he plans to do them before his fledgling government completes 100 days in power. "I want every member of my government to disclose their assets every
year. I will start with myself," he told The Sunday Express in an exclusive interview.

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CIC makes it easier to access court records

In a ruling that promises to make it easier for litigants to access judicial files/records from courts, the Central Information Commission has made it clear that courts can't rebuff RTI pleas on the ground that the information asked should be asked for via Evidence Act. The Act requires a person to apply for "file inspection'' and leaves it to the discretion of courts to approve the plea. If allowed, a litigant is granted certified copies of a case document, having legal sanctity. The Central Information Commission's ruling takes out this discretion of courts and says under RTI Act, court administration will have to provide the information demanded, unless it is exempted from disclosure under RTI itself.

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Bureaucrats thrive in opaque world

Transparency is a bureaucrat's worst nightmare. That is what Pune-based financial consultant Vihar Durve (49), and many thousands of other across the country, has discovered to his disgust. Durve has filed more than 15 right to information (RTI) requests and appeals over the last year, but he still hasn't received information on the annual property return statements filed by Maharashtra government officials and the state's information commissioners.

Under service and conduct rules, "all officials are supposed to submit these declarations detailing their property ownership as well as financial investments to the General Administrative Department of their government". In March 2008, the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled that central and state governments could not keep such documents confidential, and that making them public could help "contain corruption". But government departments in Mumbai have consistently stonewalled Durve's requests. Their reasons range from "the information is in sealed envelopes which the information officer cannot open" to "the information has been destroyed", to "the information is personal, and disclosing it has no relation to public interest".

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CIC members not willing to disclose assets in public

Information commissioners have chosen not to disclose their own assets' declaration on the CIC's website, in a development which may cause many to wonder whether the transparency watchdog has trouble following what it preaches to others. In a candid admission, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, "All information commissioners have declared their assets but they felt that this information should not be put on the commission's website. They did not want it on the CIC website." Queried further why the transparency watchdog was not keen on disclosure of its assets, Habibullah said, "The commissioners felt that they could put up the information on their personal website." Crucially, none of the eight commissioners have their own website.

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