Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Police beat up RTI activist in Budgam

An RTI activist was manhandled by police in district Budgam and lost one tooth besides sustaining a fracture in his mandible. Nazir Ahmad Ganaie, 32, a resident of Branwar-a far flung village, around 40 Kilometers from Budgam, is an RTI Activist associated with Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Movement. He was ruthlessly beaten by the police on March 29, at 3:30 PM. Ganaie is also the chairman of Awami Insaaf Committee, a local association of some respectable citizens who act as a watchdog on the government sponsored developmental works in the area. "The attack on me was so severe that my left side of the head including ear and mouth is severely aching. Besides sustaining a fracture in my mandible, my left arm is paining. I am sure that this attack is due to my association with the RTI movement," Ganaie said.

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Plz send emails to following
CM Omar Abdullah: omar.office@gmail.com

A R Rather Finance and Law Minister he is also MLA of the area
Email:arrather@gmaiul.com cell no:9419000659,9858094031

Chief Secretary Mr S S Kapoor: kapstiger@yahoo.co.in

Monday, March 30, 2009

Committee approaches SIC for action against GMADA

Once again, the issue relating to provision of paying guests facility in residential areas of Mohali has brought Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) and the coordination committee against PGs face-to-face. After failing to get information through RTI, the committee has now approached State Information Commission, Punjab, demanding action against GMADA authorities for failing to provide information. In a complaint moved before the state information commission, Punjab, PS Virdi, chairman of the coordination committee against PGs, has submitted that he had sought information from GMADA on the issue through an RTI application filed on October 13, 2008, but till date, no information has been supplied to him.

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Batla House Encounter case: Delhi Police challenges CIC order in HC

The Delhi Police today moved the High Court challenging the Central Information Conmmission (CIC) order directing the police to disclose the documents relating to the controversial Batla House encounter here to a lawyer under the Right to Information. On March 9, the CIC also directed to reveal the names and details of the officials and persons involved in the probe. Filing a petition through counsel Mukta Gupta, Additional Commissioner of Police today submitted that when the prime investigation in the matter is pending, the police cannot supply any document to anybody.

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The UTVI channel has used the RTI Act to collect data on income tax

The UTVI channel has used the RTI Act to collect data on income tax returns filed by political parties. The figures are sometimes for 2007-08, sometimes for 2008-09. So we know, the largest donors have been Aditya Birla group, Torrent Power, Videocon, Salgaonkar, Dempo, Chowgule, Charitable Trust, Jubilant Enpro, Kamaljit Singh Ahluwalia, Timblo, Prime Builders and Developers, Honda Siel, Trans Indian Freight Services and United Phosphorus. Why shouldn't corporate India donate to political parties for the democratic cause? I am told some corporate boards insist donations should be evenly spread out, not necessarily equally, but perhaps in some proportion to seats in Parliament. But that's not what this list shows. Aditya Birla prefers Congress, Kamaljit Singh Ahluwalia prefers BJP and Honda Siel prefers Samajwadi Party. Are these donations altruistic, because one subscribes to ideologies of concerned political parties, or is there some quid pro quo? The quid pro quo needn't be immediate and can also be negative, in the sense that there is plenty of arm-twisting any Government can do. How else does one explain the phenomenon of the donation cup flowing over whenever a party is in power, at the Centre or the in States? Rather interestingly, this also applies to the CPM.

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Non-compliance of CIC orders will attract Rs 25,000 as fine

Ignoring Central Information Commission's orders may prove costly for public authorities as non-compliance of the same will now be treated as "obstruction of information" attracting a maximum fine of Rs 25,000 under the RTI Act. "We will treat the non-compliance of our orders as fresh complaints. It will be treated as obstruction of information thus liable for a maximum penalty of 25,000," Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah told PTI. Habibullah said though the Commission has not penalised any authority for non-compliance till now, but there have been instances where the CIC's orders were not followed and it has been decided that such public authorities would be dealt with strongly. The Commission, however, does not have any mechanism to know if its orders are followed by public authorities or not. In such a situation, petitioners will have to file a follow-up appeal with the CIC, which takes its own time to come up for hearing.

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Info panel slaps fine on two tahsildars

Acting on an RTI petition seeking to expose the forgery of revenue records by a person who had encroached upon a lake at Pallavaram, the state information commission has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on two ex-tahsildars of Tambaram who not only failed to remove the encroachment but also provided false information to the petitioner. The issue dates back to 2006 when RTI activist T Retna Pandian brought to the notice of the Kancheepuram district collector that a new encroachment had come up on the Ramasamy lake near Pallavaram railway station. He pointed out that A Jameela, who had earlier constructed a shop on the lake land and been evicted by the revenue officials once, had returned to the same spot and put up another construction and also applied for a power connection from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board using a forged NOC from the village administrative officer. The forgery came to light when revenue officials, responding to a query from Pandian, dismissed the NOC. Pandian also found that the seal on the document produced by Jameela did not match the official seal of the VAO. Also, the fake NOC was signed in green ink; VAOs are not authorized to use green ink since they are non-gazetted officials.

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RTI activists irked by cumbersome filing procedure

T Sadagopan, a consumer activist in Pattabiram, was surprised to see his appeal under the Right To Information Act returned four months after he sent it to the Central Information Commission (CIC). The CIC sent him a four-page communication explaining how to file an appeal. Stating that his appeal was not in accordance with the procedure prescribed, the CIC put a condition that the appellant, before sending an appeal to the commission should give a copy to the public information officer of the department about which he had sought information and a copy to the head of that department, who is the first appellate authority, An acknowledgement of this should be enclosed with the appeal to the CIC. The commission insisted that the appeal should also have documentary proof of the fee paid along with the original application. It should also contain two sets of copies of all the documents to get the appeal admitted for hearing.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Activists question move to appoint new info commissioners

Civil rights activist Aruna Roy has opposed the government's move to appoint new information commissioners and has sought the Election Commission's intervention to halt the process. Terming the move "regrettable", Roy pointed out that appointment of information commissioners while the model code of conduct was underway would raise concerns over the process of recruitment.

Sources added that there was no real need or urgency for new commissioners. In fact, the present set is facing a staff crunch and is unable to handle the workload due to that. According to estimates, a commissioner costs about Rs 25 lakh per year including salary, house and transport facilities to the public exchequer and the decision to appoint people should not be taken lightly. The Central Information Commission has an average disposal of 1,300-1,400 cases per commissioner while it is expected to be 4,000-5,000 cases.

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Mahanagar Gas Limited refuses to acknowledge CIC's order

In a gross violation of an eight-month-old CIC order, leading consumer gas company Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) has refused to put in place required infrastructure for implementation of the RTI Act. The Central Information Commission in its order of August 1, 2008 had declared that MGL comes under the definition of Public Authority and it should appoint a Public Information Officer and an Appellate Authority as mandatory under the RTI Act.

"In view of the shareholding pattern of MGL and in view of the control that is apparently exercised by the government and the nature of the functions performed by them it leaves no room for doubt that it is declared as a public authority within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act," the CIC had said in its order.

MGL's Chief Manager Neera Asthana, however, maintained a version contrary to the
CIC's order. "We are not a public authority. We give public utility services for sure but we don't come under the definition of Public Authority," she claimed. The company is a Joint Venture of GAIL (India) Ltd, BG Group, U K and the Government of Maharashtra and was set up in 1995.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Whether SC is a public authority or not?

The Delhi High Court heard the arguments of an RTI activist who said the Supreme Court is a public authority and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as its head is part of the Institution, therefore, the Right to Information Act is applicable on him. Justice Ravendera Bhat of the Delhi High Court was hearing a petition filed by the apex court challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) order directing that the assets of the judges be made public. The petition was filed by the chief public information officer of the Supreme Court challenging the January six order of the CIC. The next date of hearing is April 13 Solicitor General G E Vahanvati had earlier stated the RTI Act was designed only to obtain information from those under the control of public authorities.

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State PSU paying Rs 60L to idle drivers

Bhupesh Dave of Nadiad, fed up with his neighbour's misbehaviour, did just that. Using Right to Information (RTI) Act, he asked Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Ltd (GETCO), where his neighbour was employed as a driver, details about drivers employed and their salaries. The reply brought out astonishing facts. There are 40 drivers without a vehicle, costing the state-run company more than Rs 60 lakh per year. "As per new pay scales, the salary bill of this idle staff will be more than Rs 1 crore," he says.

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Info chief invites activists' wrath for going soft on babus

Pandemonium broke out at a public meeting on governance and Right to Information Act (RTI) on Saturday when activists accused state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari of soft-pedalling appeals filed by citizens. The activists burst out in outrage when Tiwari said he showed leniency to public information officers (PIO) who did not provide data within the prescribed 30 days because he felt that even they had families to look after and levying a penalty of Rs 5,000 would be too heavy on them. He was participating in a question-answer session with RTI activists, who urged the state information commission to tackle the issue of huge pendency of appeals that is "slowly
killing the RTI Act''.

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Disposal of cases by KIC from August 2008 to January 2009

August 2008
Cases pending at the end of July is 2369
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Aug is 1097
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during Aug is 550
No. of cases pending at the end of Aug is 2916
No. of cases heard during Aug is 856
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 2017
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 877
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 22
Number of Commissioners at present 3

September 2008
Cases pending at the end of Aug 2008 is 2916
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Sept is 871
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during Sept is 486
No. of cases pending at the end of Sept is 3299
No. of cases heard during Sept is 848
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 2372
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 903
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 24
Number of Commissioners at present 3

October 2008
Cases pending at the end of Sept is 3299
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Oct. is 1119
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during Oct. is 439
No. of cases pending at the end of Oct. is 3979
No. of cases heard during Oct. 2008 is 794
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 2935
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 1015
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 29
Number of Commissioners at present 3

November 2008
Cases pending at the end of Oct. is 3979
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Nov.is 1057
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during Nov. is 550
No. of cases pending at the end of Nov. is 4486
No. of cases heard during Nov.is 1122
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 3359
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 1063
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 64
Number of Commissioners at present 4

December 2008
Cases pending at the end of Nov. is 4486
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Dec. is 1006
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during Dec. is 605
No. of cases pending at the end of Dec. is 4887
No. of cases heard during Dec. is 1007
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 3507
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 1293
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 87
Number of Commissioners at present 4

January 2009
Cases pending at the end of Dec. is 4887
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during Jan. is 818
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during January is 603
No. of cases pending at the end of January is 5102
No. of cases heard during January is 1018
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 3453
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 1549
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 100
Number of Commissioners at present 4

Posted by Anil Kumar on Humjanenge

Two govt officials fined under RTI Act

The State Information Commission (SIC) on Wednesday imposed fine on two government officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those found on the wrong side of the Act are an executive engineer of electricity supply division in Saharsa district and secretary of Vishunpur Panchayat in Madhubani district. Both these officials failed to respond to the applications filed seeking information under RTI Act. In both these cases, the SIC imposed a fine at the rate of Rs 250 per day with upper limit of fine being Rs 25,000. The SIC also directed the erring officials to provide information to the applicants by May 11 and fixed May 18 as the next date of hearing of the cases.

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PETA takes RTI route to protest against AIIMS

Refusing to give up even after twice being denied police permission to protest outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), NGO People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has now filed a Right to Information (RTI) application to know the reason for the denials. Dharmesh Solanki of PETA, who filed the RTI plea, said they were twice denied permission to stage an awareness campaign on animal cruelty outside AIIMS, and despite being in constant touch with the police, they were clueless as to why permission was denied.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

'Don't treat judges like politicians on assets issue'

The Delhi high court observed on Tuesday that judges should not be treated like MPs, legislators and other representatives of the people on the issue of assets declaration, because such information may be misused. "Public interest standards for the judiciary have to be different from other institutions. So judges have to be treated differently from people's representative on the issue (declaration of assets)," justice S Ravindra Bhat said. He was responding to a Right to Information (RTI) applicant who contended that judges should declare their assets like MPs and MLAs. It may be noted that the Supreme Court itself held in the Justice Veeraswamy corruption case that apex courtjudges are public servants. Joining the debate that sparked off after the information commission's order and judges' reaction to it, former chief justices MN Venkatachaliah and JS Verma said:"It's shocking." They had recommended to the prime minister that the reinstatement charter should be codified into a law and said the disclosures made by judges to the CJI fall within public domain.

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Judges can't reveal assets like netas: HC

The Delhi high court on Tuesday observed that judges couldn't be put on the same footing as MPs and MLAs on the issue of asset
declaration since such information may be misused. "Public interest standard for the judiciary has to be different from other
institutions. So judges have to be treated differently from people's representative on the issue," Justice S Ravindra Bhat said while hearing an RTI applicant who argued that that judges, like MPs and MLAs, should declare their assets. HC was hearing a petition filed by the Supreme Court challenging the January 2006 order passed by the CIC directing the apex court to reveal information
pertaining to assets declared by its judges before the Chief Justice.

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MC's jt commissioner tenders apology

In an unprecedented action, the joint commissioner of the municipal corporation (MC) tendered an unconditional apology to the Punjab State Information Commission (PSIC) over delaying the information asked under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. According to information, Rohit Sabharwal, an RTI activist had asked for information regarding designation, salary, date of joining, the advertisement branch and list of assets of officers before and after the joining the branch. However, the MC had not bothered to disseminate the information to the applicant, after which he had moved the PSIC against the public information
officer (PIO) of the civic body. But, after being summoned by the commission, the MC officers said they do not have the list of assets of non-gazetted officers posted in the branch, due to which they cannot tender information regarding it.

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HC notices to Centre, Admn on promulgation of RTI rules

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, on Monday issued notices to the Ministry of Home, Ministry of Personnel and the Chandigarh
Administration, on a civil writ petition filed by social activist Hemant Goswami. The writ has been filed on the issue of promulgation of separate rules under the Right to Information Act, by which the Chandigarh Administration increased the RTI application fee and the cost of documents, to be obtained under RTI, by 500 per cent. The case will come up for hearing on May 21. The petition states that the action of promulgating new RTI rules under Section 28 of the RTI Act by the Chandigarh Administrator is illegal and creates a parallel governance system outside the purview of the law established by the
Constitution and the Parliament.


Lessons on RTI for the visually impaired

The National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (Kolkata Regional Chapter), in collaboration with the district mass education extension department, organised a one-day workshop in Jalpaiguri today for the visually impaired on the Right to Information Act, 2005. According to the officer-in-charge of NIVH RC Kolkata, Mrs Baby Dutta Chowdhury, such workshops for the visually impaired are being held for the first time in North Bengal. "We have found that most of the people of our country are not fully aware of the Right to Information Act. This lack of knowledge is a considerable problem for the visually impaired. The Central government formed this institute on 2005. The institute's workshop today contained 55 visually impaired people, including
students, professors and lawyers. Various NGOs were involved in the program. We organised a similar event last week in Kolkata and got a huge response," said the official.

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Frequent stays in RTI cases prompts CIC to meet Delhi HC CJ

In the backdrop of some of its decisions being stayed in the court, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah is likely to meet the Delhi High Court Chief Justice to convey that such orders were hampering citizen's rights to seek information. The decision to undertake such a visit was taken during an internal meeting of the commissioners at the Central Information Commission where the issue of writ petitions being pending in the Delhi High Court were discussed. "Commission suggested that Habibullah may like to pay a visit to Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and present before him the concern," minutes of the meeting said.

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Activists for uniformity in RTI procedures

Right to Information (RTI) activists have demanded that procedures pertaining to the RTI Act be made uniform across the country to make it a smooth affair for people seeking information on inter-state issues. Addressing mediapersons on Friday, Sajang Nagrik Manch (SNM) president Vivek Velankar said, "Lakhs of citizens submitting RTI applications face problems due to varying procedures being practised in different parts of the country." He said it is imperative that the government comes up with a common RTI stamp, appoint information commissioners in consultation with citizens panel and also allocate adequate budgets for RTI implementation. And these demands are easy to implement as per the preamble of the RTI Act and the Indian Constitution, said Velankar.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Henderson-Brooks report on Indo-China war still classified:CIC

The Henderson-Brooks report, an analysis of the 1962 Indo-China war, will remain confidential as the CIC has ruled against its disclosure under the RTI Act "at this stage". A bench of Central Information Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Information Commissioner M L Sharma said in its order -- "this division bench agrees that no part of report might at this stage be disclosed." Former Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar had sought the report, which was submitted three decades ago to the government, from the Defence Ministry under the RTI Act but was refused saying that the report was classified and contained information which was sensitive.

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UPSC student gets access to factual sheets

A student who appeared for the Union Public Services Commission’s (UPSC) civil services examinations, has been allowed access to the marked factual summary sheets (FSS) prepared by UPSC before his personal interview. The Central Information Commission (CIC) dismissed UPSC's arguments as “unacceptable” and allowed access to an applicant seeking copies of summary sheets of his exams under Right to Information (RTI) Act.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Mah Info chief for faster RTI implementation

In his yearly submission made to the state government and the legislature, Dr Suresh Joshi, chief information commissioner, has recommended appointment of senior officers as appellate authorities in various government/local self government bodies so that "wiser decisions" could be taken at that level. Submitted on Thursday, Joshi's recommendations focus on making disposal of RTI applications speedier. "We feel that if there are senior people they can take better and wiser decisions," said Joshi. He added, "I have also asked that they impose fine to be levied on PIOs even though the Act does not authorise them to do so."

Amongst other recommendations is voluntary disclosure of information by the authorities, which he feels as the most important step for the success of RTI Act. "We feel that if this starts happening, the RTI applications will reduce and people will have more faith in the system," he added. What he means by voluntary disclosure is that through websites and other means of communication, the government/semi-government bodies should disseminate maximum information, without having to ask for it.

For faster movement of appeals, Joshi has also asked for appointment of dedicated assistant PIOs so that there is always a person to guide and accept the appeals. "The idea is that appeals should reach the PIO the very same day," said Joshi.

Among other recommendations are better record management at all government departments and computerisation of records. "Not finding file and improper record management leads to unnecessary delay," said Joshi.

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Over four lakh applications received under RTI in Maharashtra

"Maharashtra received 4,16,090 applications under RTI last year, whereas in Britain 60,000 queries and in Mexico 94,000 queries were filed under the RTI," a report released by the State Information Commission said. The state implemented the Act from October 2005 before the Centre promulgated it. The Act became so popular that the state got 1,23,000 queries in 2006, and the number went to 3,16,000 in 2007, the report said.

Elaborating on the applications received by various state government departments, the report quoted the department of Urban Development has received the highest number of questions (1,04,766) followed by Revenue Department (70,419) Home Department (45,363) and the least applications in Forest Department (9,676). The government replied to 3,97,662 applications last year.

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Implementation of RTI Act not on right track in Gujarat: CHRI Survey

The implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in Gujarat has been dismal and the compliance, especially at the taluka level, is much weaker as compared to offices at the district level. These findings have emerged in a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the Nagarik Adhikar Kendra, Kalol, in Panchmahals district.

The CHRI said that Panchmahals was the district of choice as it was handpicked by the state government in 2006-07 for intensive capacity building of the public authorities under a UNDP-sponsored programme. So, the survey was an exercise aimed at evaluating the performance of these public officials in terms of their duties described under the RTI Act, the CHRI added.

About 71 offices at the taluka level and 24 offices in the district administration were identified to test their compliance under the RTI. But the findings are shocking to say the least.

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CHRI Survey

Digitisation of records needed: CIC

Lauding Karnataka's leadership in Information Technology (IT), Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said that the state must pave the way for an across the board implementation of e-governance. Speaking in the city on Wednesday, he said currently the level of awareness of the Right to Information Act (RTI) is around 10 to 12 per cent in the country. He pointed out that if a billion people begin to use the Act, the only way to go forward is to use IT for organising records. The CIC pointed out that the primary reason for delay in providing information was the difficulty in accessing records. "We are still using the Mughal system of maintaining records," he said.

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Seeking information from PMO gets easier

Seeking information from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has now become easier, thanks to a recommendation of the Chief Information Commission (CIC). Hearing two RTI cases related to the PMO, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah recommended that people no longer be made to shuttle between the PMO at South Block and the Rail Bhawan to submit their RTI applications. Habibullah said that Assistant Public Information Officer (PMO) M S S Nair, who is stationed at the Rail Bhawan, be authorised to receive RTI applications
together with the fee for any of the forms prescribed under rules. Earlier, appellants had to deposit the fee at the PMO in South Block and were asked to visit the Rail Bhawan for inspection of documents.

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RTI Act guidance clinic launched in Pune

To boost transparency in governance, city-based Non-Government Organisation (NGO) Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS) in association with Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) has unveiled a new Right to Information (RTI) guidance clinic here on Wednesday. RTI guidance clinic is located in Flat No 301, 2nd Floor, Kanchanjunga Building, near Krishna Dining Hall, off Law College Road.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Speaker's nod must to make netas' assets public, says CIC

Wealth owned by ministers and their kin can only be made public if the Speaker allows it, the Central Information Commission ruled and asked the Prime Minister's Office to seek the Speaker's nod for making public ministers' assets. For those ministers who are Rajya Sabha members, the commission has advised a similar procedure with the presiding officer. The controversial issue of disclosure of minister's assets has been hanging fire for over a year. Applicant Subhash Chandra Agarwal had asked for information related to assets owned by Union ministers and their kin.

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CIC rules out amendment to RTI Act

Ruling out any amendment to the Right to Information Act (RTI), Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah on Tuesday said that the Ministries of Finance and Urban Development received the maximum number of queries, seeking information under the Act. Responding to questions at a news conference here, he said the RTI is still in its "nascent stage" and he was against any move to amend it. Amending the Act
would mean going against its very concept, he said. Mr. Habibullah said it was the inherent right of every citizen to access information.

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Three high officials fined under the RTI Act

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 (SIC) 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.

Bihar News | Jai Bihar

Civic chief issues notice to BJP corporator

Municipal commissioner Praveensingh Pardeshi has issued a show-cause notice to sitting corporator Medha Kulkarni, asking her why her membership of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) should not be cancelled. Pardeshi has sought an explanation from Kulkarni within a week on this issue. Kulkarni, when contacted, however, said she was yet to receive a copy of the show-cause notice. Kulkarni has been in the news after civic activist Vijay Kumbhar had registered a complaint against her with the municipal commissioner and mayor Rajlaxmi Bhosale, alleging that the BJP corporator had taken a civic body's property on lease. Kumbhar, in his complaint said this action by Kulkarni
is illegal as per the Bombay Provincial Municipal Council (BPMC) Act, 1949. As per the provisions of the act, an elected representative cannot take a property on lease which directly benefits his family members. Pardeshi said a show-cause has been issued as there is prima facie evidence against Kulkarni in this case. Mr Kumbar got the information using the RTI Act

DNA Correspondent

CIC wants video link in PMO to help RTI applicants

The Central Information Commission has suggested the Prime Minister's office to have a video conferencing facility at its public information officer's office to help the public have easy access. Addressing a news conference in the city, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said common people were finding it difficult to approach the public information officer in the PMO since it was a high security zone. "If the PMO's information officer has a video conferencing facility, people can reach him without hassles," Habibullah said. Responding to a query, he said the CIC was mulling a suggestion to the Union government to bring MPs as 'public authorities' under the RTI Act so that they will have public information officers to reply to RTI applications. On the demand from right to information activists that CIC should have benches in other parts of the country, he said people could utilise the video conferencing facility available in about 450 districts in the country through which the CIC could hear the cases.

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'RTI on wheels' turns one

The country's first 'RTI on wheels', a mobile multi-media van for creating mass awareness on the Right to Information (RTI) Act in far flung areas completed a year on Tuesday. The van has reached about 80,000 people in 450 villages and 13 cities. Launched by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), contribution from Association for India Development (AID), USA covered the alteration and retro-fitment cost of the vehicle.

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Voters can monitor politicians through uploaded RTI data

If you feel dissatisfied with governance, here's your chance to make a difference with just a click of a mouse. Praja.org, a website launched on Monday, not only allows citizens to closely monitor elected representatives, but also allows them to lodge complaints and demand answers from the politicians. The Praja Foundation launched the website after two years of collecting information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The site enables voters to keep a close watch on corporators, MLAs and MPs by
providing comprehensive details about their work, attendance, issues raised during crucial meetings and money spent on projects. "The idea is to allow a direct dialogue between citizens and leaders. It will provide a base for people to raise issues and complain about their problems,'' said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of Praja. "This will involve people in political activities."

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Monday, March 16, 2009

RTI activists take to streets for speedy disposal of cases

A group of organisations working for the right to information took out a demonstration in the city on Monday demanding speedy disposal of cases pending with the State Information Commission. Activists from eight organisations including Anti-corruption Movement, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group and Makkal Sakthi Iyakkam staged the agitation, saying that the Commission was taking at least nine months to take up appeals for hearing. It was also not strictly adhering to the provisions of the Right To Information Act to impose penalty on officials who refuse to disclose information to RTI applicants, they charged. The number of hearings conducted by the Commission was about 1,000 last year and the disposal rate came to an average of only 19 cases per month by each of the seven commissioners. As of February this year, the Commission was hearing only appeals that were filed in June 2008, the organisations said.

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Ministers' assets case referred to Lok Sabha Speaker

The Central Information Commission (CIC) Monday referred the case regarding public disclosure of assets of union ministers, who are members of Lok Sabha, to Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. The decision of the CIC came on an appeal filed by a Delhi-based businessman Subhash Chandra Agrawal who had sought information related to the assets owned by union ministers and their kin in the past two years. The hearing was conducted Friday after which the Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had reserved the order. 'Under the Lok Sabha rules, such information is not disclosable except with the permission of the speaker. The matter will be referred to Somnath Chatterjee, speaker of the Lok Sabha,' Habibullah noted in the order.

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GIC raps MSU for denying info to reader

M S University's poor track record in handling RTI issues has come to the fore yet again. Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) has directed MSU authorities to furnish
information sought by an applicant way back in 2007, regarding a teacher's selection and her subsequent promotion over a short span of time. The information has to be furnished within 15 days. MSU information officer had denied the details and so did the then vice-chancellor Manoj Soni, who was the appellate authority. Soni in his reply had stated that the information sought was personal and confidential. On denial, the applicant Dr Leena Mehta, a reader in Faculty of Social Work, approached GIC. GIC has also dubbed the reasons given by Soni as "unjustified".

Complete Article

Were RDSO departmental exam results fudged?

Were the results of a departmental examination held by Research Designs and Standards Organization (RDSO) in 2007 for Class II officers fudged? It might be difficult to say so till it is proved officially. But the information accessed through RTI has already raised a controversy over the results of the examination. The appellants, R K Biswas and Brijesh Kumar of Lucknow had filed an RTI application with the PIO of RDSO on December 10, 2007 seeking information about the model answers to objective questions set in the group B examination of S and T (Signal and Telecom) cadre in RDSO Lucknow zone held on October 27, 2007. But, after the PIO and the appellate authority of the organisation could not respond to their satisfaction, the two filed a second appeal with the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi about a year back in February 2008.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Despite RTI, information remains forbidden

RTI is apparently the `road to infinite' wait for common man before he gets in the know of not-so-common knowledge. Meant to assure a peep into the forbidden corridors of power within 30-days time, the Right to Information Act is far from achieving its motive in the state especially when even half-a-dozen hearings held by information commission fail to help the cause. The case of an applicant, Naresh Dikshit firmly meets the aforesaid. He had sought information about the allocations made from the chief minister's discretionary fund every year over a period between January 1991 and July 2007, people and organisations who had been the beneficiaries and also about the rule book, if any, followed while disbursing money from the fund over the said period.

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PM couldn't email for three months

The prime minister's office email system was under the grip of a computer virus for three months last year, forcing officials to replace the software. The technical glitch plagued the email system, based on Microsoft Outlook Express, from February to April in 2008. Although the extent of damage is uncertain, the PMO said most emails addressed to it were not received. The problem was detected only late April, after which the software was replaced. The matter came to light when the Central Information Commission heard a plea of retired air commodore Lokesh Batra, who had complained to the PMO in an email about discrepancies in the Hindi version of the right to information act, circulated by the department of personnel and training. "What is surprising is the fact that otherwise prompt IT experts posted in the PMO failed to diagnose the problem for three long months," an IT expert said.

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Cops' RTI reply on missing kids costs Rs 78,927

How much could asking for information on missing children under the RTI Act possibly cost? Well, if the questions are addressed to Delhi Police, it could be as high as Rs 78,927. That's exactly how the office of DCP (southeast) responded to an application filed by the NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), seeking details of Delhi's missing children (2006-08). In a reply to the BBA application, the DCP's office said, "We have to suspend our regular work in order to furnish the requisite information sought by you for which considerable manpower will be utilised/diverted to discern this information. Hence, as per provisions of Sec 7(3)(a) of RTI Act, 2005, the requisite details/information can be provided on payment.'' The letter then provides the project's financial details. For instance, one head constable each from 15 police stations in the district would work for three days at the rate of Rs 840 per day costing Rs 37,800. Similarly, one constable each from the 15 police stations working for the same would cost another Rs 36,945. Similar charges for the sub-inspector associated with the work for three days adds another Rs 4,182 to the cost.

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Suchna Yatra on Right to Information Act in Mandi, Himachal

C. P. Verma ADM, Mandi flagged off the Suchna Yatra on Right to Information Act. This Suchna Yatra will spread awareness about RTI in 10 development blocks of District Mandi in Himachal Pradesh covering the remotest areas . The Yatra is being taken out by Centre for Sustainable Development under Capacity Building for Access to Information (CBAI) Project of Govt. of India and UNDP. In the 1st phase declamation contests in Schools and colleges has already been organised by Censud in association with My Himachal. In the 2nd phase cluster meetings, nukkad nataks (street thetre) are being organised besides putting up RTI Stalls in local melas where common masses are educated about various provisions of RTI and ways to use it. It is worth mentioning that RTI has changed the way India is governed. As more and more people are using RTI to get information the movement of files has speeded up in the government departments.

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Information on Judges Appointment Can't be Revealed Under RTI: Court

The Delhi High Court on March 4 stayed a Central Information Commission order after the Indian government pleaded that documents relating to appointment and transfer of judges could not be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Challenging the order of CIC which had asked the government to disclose documents and file-notings on appointment of Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh, Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra pleaded that such informations are beyond the purview of RTI Act. The Commission on January 19 had directed the Center to disclose all information
and file notings on appointment of Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh Jagdish Bhalla, whose promotion file was returned by former President APJ Abdul Kalam.

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Illegal structures dot Mohali, no check

Mohali Reply to RTI plea reveals over 30 such buildings operating in city Seven illegal resorts, marriage palaces, country clubs, farmhouses and educational institutes in Greater Mohali area have sought regularisation even as at least 26 other such structures continue to operate without any check. While the applications of Palki Palace, Chashme Shahi Resort (both in Balongi), Mata Sahib Kaur Public School (Sohara), Guru Nanak Dev College (Makkrian), Balbir Singh Sidhu Marriage Palace (Sohana), IPF Bikram India Ltd and Chimney Heights (Dayalpura) are under consideration, no action has been taken against other illegal establishments, mostly owned "benami" by senior politicians and bureaucrats. Official information procured by Newsline from the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) under the Right to Information Act revealed that the Change of Land Use (CLU) procured by Bikram India and Chimney Heights has already been cancelled by the state government.

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Under draft J&K RTI law, Indians outside state can't access info

The draft Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information bill, likely to be tabled in the state legislative council this week, has some key anomalies, say RTI activists. The bill was cleared by the legislative assembly on Monday. According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), the draft bill does not allow Indian citizens living outside J&K access to information on public agencies within the state. Incidentally, J&K residents can use the central Act to get information on central ministries but the central legislation is not applicable in the state. Another issue that CHRI has raised but was ignored by the state government was the schedule for operationalisation of the Act. Under the present rules, the law will come into effect at once and this is likely to cause chaos, the NGO said. The opinion was echoed by chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. He said, "I have suggested to J&K CM Omar Abdullah that there should be staggered implementation of the legislation for smooth changeover to the new system." The NGO had also suggested that application fee be removed and applications be allowed in Ladakhi and Kashmiri. Under the draft bill, English, Urdu and Hindi are the languages in which an applicant can file his or her appeal.

Complete Article

J&K set to have RTI law

With the passing of Right to Information bill by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Monday, the border state which has a special status under Article 360 , is all set to have the RTI law similar to the legislations at the Centre and other states. The Legislative Council of the state is scheduled to discuss and vote the bill on Thursday, which is likely to make it an Act. "The public of J &K will be empowered further with the passage of the bill" Law minister Abdul Rahim Rather told Sakaal Times on Tuesday.

Complete Article

Jury out, IITs shred scripts - Documents crucial to 2006 exam row destroyed unusually early

Organisers of the 2006 IIT entrance exam have revealed that they shredded answer scripts of students even while some candidates were pursuing allegations of manipulations in their scores. IIT Kharagpur, which organised the exam that year, has said it destroyed answer scripts that could have helped establish whether scores in that subject were manually altered after the test. The revelation, made in a Right to Information reply available with The Telegraph, also discloses that the IITs chose to break with their own tradition in 2006 to destroy answer scripts earlier than they normally do. That year, the IITs used subject cutoffs starkly different from the ones they claimed to have used. The irregularities, reported first in this newspaper, led to a denial of opportunities to 994 students who had cleared the cutoffs the IITs claimed to have used.

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Govt site contradicts info commissioner

Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah might have passed an order stating that file notings and decisions made by bureaucrats and ministers should fall under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) does not think so. The DoPT website's "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) section states that access to file notings are denied under the act. DoPT is in charge of training and funding government officials on RTI awareness programmes and is also the nodal agency appointing information commissioners. Central information commissioners expressed shocked at this. "It is deplorable that the government's website continues to provide false and misleading information to PIOs and citizens. The government must accept the repeated rulings of the commission, show respect for the rule of law and stop spreading wrong interpretations of the RTI Act,'' information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi told TOI.

Complete Article

Show cause notice to Hescom under RTI Act

The Karnataka Information Commission has issued a notice to Hubli Electricity Supply Company (Hescom), to show cause why its principal information officer (PIO) should not be penalized for delay in providing information sought under the Right to Information Act. Hescom general manager and PIO U S Nayak had taken 100 days instead of the maximum stipulated period of 30 days for furnishing information to an RTI
applicant on steps taken by it to conserve energy in view of the prevailing power shortage in Karnataka. Even after so much delay, applicant A S Kulkarni, power secretary of the Hubli Citizens Forum, was given what he called vague information without specific details only when he filed a petition with the state information commission after lapse of the stipulated period.

Complete Article

Interviews were 'fixed' by UoP officials, alleges topper

One more skeleton has stumbled out of the closet in the recruitment scam at the University of Pune (UoP). A topper in the written test for post of porter (hamal) has alleged that the selection process had many irregularities and interviews were fixed by the administration. The allegation concerns the selection process for government-approved posts. Complainant Sunil Dalvi had appeared for a written test and interview for post of porter reserved for other backward class category. In a complaint to Vice Chancellor Narendra Jadhav on January 29, he alleged that the section officer, now in judicial custody, had called him on January 21 after interview was over and had informed that he had been selected, but backtracked within 10 minutes. However, Dalvi obtained details of the selection process through a query under the Right To Information Act and again sent a complaint to the V-C on March 9. According to the information received under the RTI query, Dalvi had secured
60 out of 75 marks in the written test, but could score only 6 marks in the interview, which was for 25 marks. The candidate who was selected for the post obtained 48 marks in the written test, while the interview fetched him 21 marks. Dalvi claimed that as per the government decision on recruitment for posts with minimum qualification of matriculation, physical test and interviews were necessary. Even in that case, the rule said that 50 marks should be allotted for written test while 40 marks and 10 marks should be for physical test and interview respectively, Dalvi claimed. The UoP administration allotted 25 per cent marks for interview with the foul intention to favour the candidate of its choice, which in this case was the ward of an electrician working in the varsity, Dalvi alleged.

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Under RTI Act, Scarlett's mother questions murder probe

Fiona Mackeown, the mother of slain British teenager Scarlett Keeling, has filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking details of the Goa police's investigation into her daughter's mysterious death February last year. The application was received by the police early this week. Police authorities, who have been target of Fiona's criticism for bungling the investigations into Scarlett's murder, are not sure how the RTI application should be handled. A senior police official maintained foreigners do not have the right to apply under the Right to Information Act. "Only citizens can ask queries under RTI. Foreigners cannot. Plus she has sent it across from UK by e-mail without paying the mandatory court fees," the official said.

Complete Article

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Demonstration against TN Information Commission's functioning

Please join the demonstration. Also spread the word.

*Date:* 16th March 2009, from 10 AM - 1 PM
*Venue: *Memorial Hall (Opposite to Government General Hospital. Near Chennai Central Railway Station)
*Purpose:* Demonstration against the poor functioning of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission.

To see why the functioning of the Information Commission is a huge problem, the reasoning is straightforward. The three most important problems in the functioning of the State Information Commission are
1. Huge delays in disposal of cases. (close to 10 months)
2. Lenient attitude towards officers violating the act
3. And lack of follow-up of orders.

*For more details please contact:*

Suo-moto disclosures - Center fares better than states

According to a quick assessment of the degree of compliance to the suo motu Disclosures Provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, conducted by the Public Affairs Centre, an NGO here, Central ministries and departments averaged a score of 53 per cent. This is against 28 per cent by the states. The Union Territories scored 19 per cent. Suo motu disclosures involve facilitating transparency and accountability of governments. The RTI Act also requires that suo motu disclosures be made within 120 days from the enactment of the law concerned. It has been observed more in its violation. The report was released by Mr Justice Venkatachalaiah, former Chief Justice of India today. Providing suo motu information through websites is the easiest thing for
governments to do. The poor performance of most state governments on this score simply reflects their indifference to empowering people with information. The study found that the department of commerce and ministry of panchayat raj top
scored with 87 per cent in terms of compliance, closely followed by the ministries of agriculture and cooperation and urban development, both with 80 per cent. The lowest score was logged by the ministries of environment and forests at 11 per cent and the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation at zero.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Hiring of private staff in CIC not under govt norms:Habibullah

Unwilling to be bogged down by lack of staff, an officer of the Central Information Commission (CIC) hired interns on his own to help in speedy disposal of appeals but the commission's chief has said the act is not in accordance with government norms. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah felt that Information Commission Shailesh Gandhi's hiring of interns on his own to help in speedy processing of appeals was not in accordance with the Government's norms. "Shailesh Gandhi did what is restricted by government rules. You can't do that really. But he has hired someone on his own cost. If he wants to do that, he can do it but its normally not the norm of the government," Habibullah told PTI. Gandhi, the only commissioner who is not from bureaucratic background in the CIC, is known for his out-of-the-box thinking and stern decisions against the government officials who do not adhere to the RTI Act.

Complete Article

IT dept refuses to disclose info on IAS officials

The Central Information Commission feels that details of property belonging to government servants and even judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court are subject to the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act but some government departments, including the Income-Tax deparment, seem to think otherwise. The Income-Tax department, the Regional Passport Office, Chennai and also the State Secretariat are reportedly opposed to disclosing the names of officials who had bought immovable properties in the last two years. V Gopalakrishnan, an RTI activist, sought this information quoting Section 16(3) of the All India Service (Conduct) Rules, 1968, which stipulate that the officials should not acquire any immovable property except with the previous knowledge of the government and should intimate the government about their transactions if the value of the said property exceeded Rs 15,000.

Complete Article

Sarpanch charges over Rs 50,000 for "irrelevant" information under RTI Act

Mehda (Bhiwani) Ram Mehar Singh, a resident of Mehda village, Dadri II block, Bhiwani, had to shell out more than Rs 50,000 for information, provided under the RTI Act regarding developmental activities in his village carried out in the last three years, which, he says, is "totally irrelevant to the issue". The village sarpanch, who, under the Panchayati Raj Act, is also the Public Information Officer (PIO), charged him Rs 52,220 for the information and that too, after the expiry of the maximum period of 30 days, as stipulated under the Act. Ram Mehar has complained to the State Information Commission (SIC) and asked for refund of the money and the correct information.

Complete Article

Only 1,000-odd trains have cushioned seats for women-only bogies: RTI

Railway minister Lalu Prasad cannot stop talking of how he has turned around the ministry's financial fortunes and how it earns cash surplus of thousands of crores of rupees every year. But there is one relic from the past that the ministry is clinging on to, much to the discomfort of millions of women passengers who travel by long-distance trains: the wooden seats in unreserved compartments that are no different from the third-class mode of travel that was scrapped 33 years ago. A Right to Information (RTI) query filed by Nashik-based activist Balasahib S Kurup has revealed that, till last year, only 1,258 unreserved coaches had been retrofitted with cushioned seats. "The railways run 11,000 trains every day across the country. It is shameful that till date, only 1,000-odd trains have cushioned seats. The railways are charging the general second class fare while giving the comforts of third class travel,'' Kurup said.

Complete Article

'Pending cases biggest threat to RTI'

Central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on Sunday said that the three-and-a-half year old Right to information (RTI) Act has given the average citizen some hope in providing better governance, compared to the long-drawn legal system in the country. "I feel today the greatest threat to the survival of the RTI Act is the mounting pendency of appeals. If the applicants are not provided correct information within the stipulated period, then they will lose faith in the Act,'' Gandhi said during an interaction with senior officials with the state information commission and RTI activists at Wadala.

Complete Article

Plan to increase RTI fee: Pune Division IC

"We are planning to increase the fee of the application form used for seeking information under the right to information act (2005) as it is being observed that the act has often been misused," said State Information Commissioner for Pune division Vijay Kuvalekar in the city on Saturday. "I was surprised when I saw the huge number of pending cases transferred to us by the mumbai division," he said and cited inadequate staff and lack of skilled officers are some of the reasons for the high pending cases. Kuvalekar said that he is taking every step for the speedy disposal of cases. "within two days, I have examined 300-350 cases and dispatched nearly 250 out of these," he said.

Complete Article

Criminal Record : Man's RTI Plea Rejected, Appeal upheld, Information given

Siddaramappa Shivaraya Mali Patil was told that he could not be given information because he has a criminal background. Hailing from Peta Shiroor Village, Chittapur Taluka in Gulbarga, Patil had applied for information under RTI, last year in July at the taluka Panchayat office , seeking the number of houses constructed under the Ashrya Scheme, under the Indira Awas Yogjana at his village. His enquiry included beneficiaries allotted the houses or plot in the last 5 years, status of afforestation in the village, audit report of the village panchyath , balance in the ledgers and cash books and the list of works done in the last ten years. The Taluka Panchyat Forwarded the application to the Village panchyat. The baffeled Village panchyat Members summoned an emergency meeting on september 18 ,last year and passed a resolution "unanimosly" that siddaramappa is unfit to use the provisions of RTI because he comes from a Criminal Background. He was also told that he and his uncle had not paid the property tax to the village panchyat.
Unsatisfied he appealed to the KIC. The Panchyat Secrtary & Bill Collector Appeared before the KIC and have Apologised for the unwarrented Resolution and Passing Records that the Applicant is from Criminal Back ground. They have also Provided Nearly 800 Pages of Information free. The applicant has been advised to File defamation cases on all Officers & Panchyat Members. KIC has also Advised RTI Study Centre to Take up such Matters Before the High Power Committee on RTI. It also Lamented that No representation from Organisations such as RTI Study Centre is available in the High Level committee to tackle such issues.

Deccan Herald,
Sunday March 8, 2009,
Bangalore Page 4

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

CIC directs Delhi Police to submit Batla encounter dossier

The CIC has directed the Delhi Police to submit all documents pertaining to the Batla House encounter before it by Thursday to decide whether the information can be disclosed to an RTI applicant or not. A bench of the commission comprising chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ordered a "representative of the DCP (Special Cell) presents the documents, copies of which have been sought by appellant Prashant Bhushan, before this Commission on March 5, 2009 for inspection by the Bench". The CIC said after an inspection of the documents by the Bench, it would give its decision on the matter of disclosing the contents to RTI applicant and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing one of the suspected terrorist Zia Ur Rehman, son of caretaker of the L-18 Batla House

Complete Article

CIC admonishes Chandigarh Administration

The Central Information Commissioner held a special hearing on Right to Information complaints under Section 18 against various departments of Chandigarh Administration. A total of nearly fifty five complaints were filed by the members of the NGO Burning Brain Society and Citizens' Voice under the "Mission Zero Tolerance" initiative to make the public offices more transparent and accountable.

The conference room of the UT Guest House where the commission conducted its hearing got overcrowded with more than 100 Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities appearing in the said cases. The cases argued by social activist Hemant Goswami pertained to December 2007 and January 2008 when a group of young law students visited various offices to submit RTI applications. The complaints mentioned that in more than half of the cases either the CPIO was not available or the RTI applications were not accepted. The mandatory Section 4(1)(b) and (c) disclosures were also neither displayed on the notice board nor were they provided when demanded by the complainants. Since Section 4(1)(b) & (c) information is to be provided to any person so requesting, free of cost and also displayed on the notice board, so non-availability of the same was a violation of the RTI Act.

Complete Article

National Consultation on RTI

Dear friends

I am writing this mail on Behalf of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) Delhi. HRLN, in collaboration with National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information (NCPRI), Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Parivartan, Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) and Kabir, is organising a “National Consultation on Right to Information” in Delhi on 21st and 22nd March 2009. The venue of the consultation is Speaker Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, Central Secretariat, New Delhi and the sessions will begin from 09 am and will continue till late evening.

During this consultation, we plan to discuss about leading cases on Right to Information decided by different High Courts on Right to Information and their implication on the Right to Information Act. Apart from this, we will also be discussing about the problems being faced while accessing information- be it because of unresponsive Public Authorities or because of lackadaisical approach of the Information Commission in implementing the Act. Non- imposition of penalty by the information commissioners and very slow pace of their disposal will also be discussed. We will also discussing about the rules framed by different Public Authorities including by different High Courts which are in contravention to the Right to Information Act. We will make an attempt to develop a road map to find out solution to these problems.

A book titled “Leading cases on Right to Information Act” written by Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar and Jayshree Satpute, Advocates will also be released during this consultation. This book is an attempt to bring together leading judgments of different High Courts and to analyse these through RTI movements’ perspective. We are dedicating this book to our beloved “Masterji” Mr Prakash Kardaley.

A detailed schedule of the programme will be sent shortly.

In this consultation, RTI Activists, Lawyers and other stake holders are invited to participate. It will be appreciated, if you confirm your participation through email or through phone, or through website registration before 15th March 2009. Details of registration ia given at the end of this mail. Please also make appropriate arrangements for your travel and accommodation in Delhi as fund constraints does not allow us to reimburse these expenses.

With warm regards
*Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar*

Registration details:

*Through email*: send confirmation mail to divyajyoti@pcrf.in and jsatpute@gmail.com with a copy to righttofoodsccase@hrln.org.

*Through phone*: call National RTI Helpline +91-9718100180 and confirm your participation

*Through website*: visit www.pcrf.in and register. Details of this consultation and registration link can be found on Events page of the website.

Leaves should be disclosed under the RTI Act, not a personal matter

Leaves availed during the service period are not personal and private matter of the employee and should be disclosed under the RTI Act, the CIC has held. "Leave taken by an employee from a public authority is a matter of exercise of the discretion vested in the public authority to grant such leave. There can be no bar on the disclosure of an information which is about how the public authority exercises its powers to grant
leave to its employee," the CIC said in its ruling. Information Commissioner A N Tiwari was hearing the plea of one Raj Kumar who sought information about the leave account of an employee of the New India Assurance Company Limited.

Complete Article

Officer flouting rules to face strict action - Maharashtra CIC

Letter to chief secretary gives guidelines Taking a strong pro-citizen stance, Maharashtra's Chief Information Commissioner Suresh V Joshi has written to Chief Secretary Johny Joseph clearly stating that all the Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) must act strictly in accordance with the RTI Act.

"The reason for writing all this in detail is that henceforth, it will be considered very important that the PIO should be strictly in accordance with law in giving information. Also, this is to clarify that apart from the PIO, whosoever is required to assist the PIO for giving information can also be prosecuted under this law," Joshi said in the letter dated February 24.

The letter, available with Sakaal Times said that all the officers must be informed that the Information Commission is going to adopt a very strict adherence to the rules as regards the time limits for providing the information and the quality of information provided.

"Sakaal Times"
Pune, Monday, March 02, 2009

CIC stresses need for proactive disclosures

Expressing concern over official unease with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah on Saturday said that there was need for proactive disclosure. "Unless government officials increase accessibility to information, the system will start showing signs of strain,'' Habibullah said. He was speaking at the first sub-committee meeting on RTI to assess the adequacy of facilitation process for accessing information and to identify best practices being implemented and outline an action plan for adaptation by public authorities. "There is a sense of rivalry in giving information or exempting it. Everyone should realise RTI is part of governance and not forced on the government,'' Habibullah said.

Complete Article

Govt plans to hire more info commissioners

Days before the dates for the Lok Sabha elections are announced and a code of conduct prevents fresh official appointments, the government is looking to name at least two new commissioners at the Central Information Commission (CIC). Currently, the number of appeals disposed by each commissioner varies wildly (see Box). Leading information activists oppose fresh appointments. Shekhar Singh of The National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information — a network of groups who lobbied for the RTI law — is writing to the government against more appointments.

Singh said, “The current com missioners can comfortably end the pendency if they dispose 250 300 appeals per month. Commissioners are akin to Supreme Court judges, expensive posts funded by the taxpayers’ money. If the existing commissioners are equipped with adequate support staff and infrastructure and their performance is monitored, pendencies can be tackled effectively.” Earlier this month, the government had turned down Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi’s request to equip existing commissioners with more staff instead of appointing more commissioners. It said the Department of Expenditure had placed a bar of seven staff per commissioner.

Complete Article

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