Sunday, May 31, 2009

15,438 RTI appeals pending in Maharashtra

The serious issue of pendency of Right to Information (RTI) appeals was mentioned in the charter of demands made by the 11 RTI activists who were sent to jail after they sang the national anthem at the state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi's office last week. The issue unfortunately got sidelined in the hurly-burly of events.

TOI has got a copy of the performance records of individual information commissioners across the state which shows that of the seven divisions, Aurangabad information commissioner (V Borge) tops the pendency of appeals with 4,062 and Pune information commissioner (V Kuvlekar) comes a close second with 4,054 pending appeals till April 1, 2009.

The information commissioners for Mumbai and Pune have comparatively less number of appeals that are pending, with the Mumbai division having 1,168 appeals and Konkan division having 1,038 appeals to be heard till April 1, 2009.

The overall pendency of appeals has gone up to 15,438 and according to RTI activists, this is slowly killing the effectiveness of the three-and-a-half year-old RTI Act.

Complete Article

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RTI under threat from pendency of cases, IC conflict

Right to Information (RTI) Act today faces threat from two vicious enemies, believes Shailesh Gandhi, information commissioner of Central Information Commission (CIC).

The increasing pendency of RTI cases in various state commissions, including Central Information Commission (CIC), and stay orders by various courts against information being provided to citizens are responsible for this situation, according to the official. Gandhi, 61, was in the city to deliver a talk on RTI at IIM-A recently. "Gujarat is one of the few states where people are using RTI in diverse ways, both for individual battles and larger issues of governance. It is this diversity that is keeping the movement alive. The act should be used as a tool to bring transparency in distribution mechanism of services by government," says Gandhi.

He adds that pendency and constant conflict of information commissions in courts will actually kill the momentum of the movement. "In an ideal setting, pendency should be maintained at 90 days," he says.

Complete Article

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

UP SIC gets on with the job well

When it comes to disposal of cases Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (SIC) has done a better job than Central Information Commission (CIC). According to the information provided by SIC, CIC got 10,274 cases in 2007. Out of which it disposed off 6,979 cases. On the other hand, SIC got 14,565 cases in 2008 and it disposed off 10,285 cases in the year. The percentage of disposal at CIC was 68 whereas for SIC it was 70.61.

The number of cases filed at State Information Commission is going up with each passing year. The cases coming to the commission are mostly complaints that are filed under section 18 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The reason behind the increase in number of complaints is two fold. There is an increase in awareness among people regarding the RTI Act. Secondly, the appeals filed with the appellate authorities of government departments are not getting due hearing and attention. As a result, complainants are approaching the commission.

The commission has released the total number of cases filed up at the commission for three years separately. The commission was set up on March 22, 2006. Maximum number of cases per month, 2,669 have been filed in 2008. But maximum per cent (87%) of cases were disposed off in 2007.

Complete Article

This village has finally tasted the power of RTI

For about two years, Suvarana Bhagyawant made rounds of the panchayat office to get her grandfather's death certificate. Every time, the official there would tell her to come later or pay a bribe of Rs 500 to get the work done. Suvarana, a resident of the Ambhegaon village, needed the certificate so that her grandmother could apply for the widow pension scheme. Finally, Suvarana filed a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. She got the certificate within eight days. This piece of paper is like a weapon for the powerless to fight against corrupt establishment,'' says Suvarana, pointing to an RTI application. For the villagers of Ambhegaon, the RTI Act has come as long-awaited rain in a drought-prone area, where government files moved only when the villagers were ready to pay bribes.

Complete Article

Guilt trip - No foreign tours for UT officials

A controversy has ensured that it is no longer in for UT officials to go out of the country. The administration, which was accused of spending public money on seemingly pointless foreign trips of UT bureaucrats last year, is apparently showing its guilt, as it has not allowed any such excursion in 2008-09. This data was provided in a Right to Information (RTI) Act reply to a query by social activist RK Garg. Garg had used RTI Act in a similar way last year and created a storm by highlighting the amount of money spent on frequent jaunts by senior officers. He said it could be concluded that compared to last year, the administration had saved Rs 50 lakh, which would be available for development works. This time, Garg had sought copies of sanctions given to IAS, HCS and PCS for flying out of India.

Complete Article

Opposition leaders and RTI Act

Leaders of Opposition in the Parliament and state legislature officially enjoy the status of Cabinet Ministers and as such are under the purview of Right-To-Information Act. But a reply by private secretary to the then Opposition Leader in Lok Sabha on a show-cause notice issued by Central Information Commissioner on non-compliance to an RTI petition suggests that no Central Public information Officer (CPIO) was ever appointed there, despite the RTI Act in force for the last more than three years! Even the office of Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha declined receiving the RTI petition sent by Speed Post at its Parliament House office. Is it the fair approach by a responsible Opposition Leader to an Act passed by the Parliament aimed at transparency and accountability in the system? In a healthy democracy, Opposition should also be equally responsible and accountable in its approach like is expected from those in power.

Complete Article

RTI will be made more accessible: Chavan

The minister added that efforts would be made to make Right to Information Act more accessible. Replies to RTI queries on the Internet and filing of RTI on phone were facilities that were being looked at. "We have already kickstarted work on setting up a call centre so that people can ask for information on the phone. The system is already operational in Bihar and we will introduce some refinements before introducing it in some states. The facility is likely to start in Delhi soon,'' he said. Chavan however refused to specify any deadline on these plans.

Complete Article

Wife to replay Kamte phone calls in bid to prove police lapses

Vinita Kamte, wife of slain ACP Ashok Kamte, has set out to establish that the lives of her husband and other officers could have been saved but for the alleged lapses on the part of some senior police officials on 26/11, undaunted by the clean chit given by the state-appointed Ram Pradhan Committee to the Mumbai Police and the government for their response. She has alleged that there were serious lapses and discrepancies on the part of senior police officials. "All the officers who had not performed their duties have been given a clean chit and will continue occupying their office. The government is supporting their cowardice while my husband, who had no business to be on the spot in the first place, gave his life for the nation." She alleged that certain portions of the call records of the police control room on November 26 were deleted. "There is at least 10 minutes of conversation that has been deleted. I have sought records of my husband's calls through RTI."

Complete Article

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Activists fear further fee' for info may dilute RTI

Three years after the Right To Information (RTI) Act came into effect, the right' of the applicant to seek free' information has become a point of contention, with public information officers in many departments asking for salaries, allowances and maintenance costs to prepare replies to RTI queries.Having delivered contradictory orders on the issue, the Central Information Commission has decided to conduct a full bench hearing on the matter on June 8.

The CIC wrote to 19 government departments and public sector undertakings last week inviting them to submit their views on section 7 (3) of the Act which deals with collection of further fee' from the RTI applicant. "In the case of K K Kishore vs Institute of Company Secretaries, an important question has arisen as regards the ambit and scope of Section 7(3) of the RTI Act which deals with charging of further fee to be determined by central public information officers. The commission decided that the case be heard by a larger bench since the issue is important from the legal point of view,'' the CIC said in its notice to government departments and PSUs.

Secretaries of union ministries of personnel, law and justice, public enterprises and company affairs and chairpersons of 14 public sector undertakings including BSNL, IOC, FCI, MTNL, BHEL, BPCL and GAIL were asked to submit their written submissions and also send a senior officer each to the hearing.

However, many RTI activists oppose the CIC's move to interpret the provision as they think it could dilute the scope of the law. "We don't understand why only a handful of ministries and PSUs have been invited to submit their views and why the CIC did not call for opinions from the general public in the matter,'' said Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a Delhi-based NGO, who made a written submission to the commission opposing the PIOs' demand for special wages.

Complete Article

NGO empowers villagers to use RTI Act

Call it a classic case of mass awakening after facing years of neglect. Having woven many success stories in urban areas, the Right to Information Act (RTI) is reaching rural areas too. And in a first, six villages in the far flung areas of Kalyan have been taught to use the RTI Act to bring about some positive change in their lives.

Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT), an NGO spearheading a pilot project at the six villages adopted by them last year— Ambhe, Kharad, Dhoke, Kushavali, Mangrul and Shiravali— has undertaken the daunting task of reducing corruption in these areas.

"The RTI Act has often been used in urban areas frequently but in rural areas no one is aware about it. Hence, we took this initiative to empower each and every person in the villages above 14 years to use the Act to bring about a positive change in their lives," said former police commissioner and a member of the trust Julio Ribeiro.

Complete Article

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Another bureaucrat for information panel raises hackles

With another bureaucrat on the verge of being appointed as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), a host of citizen groups, civil society organisations and legal activists have come together to condemn the move. Punjab Chief Secretary Ramesh Inder Singh is tipped to take over as CIC,with the government reported to have already got the mandatory approval from the Leader of the Opposition. The top IAS officer is expected to take premature retirement for the purpose, as he is otherwise due for retirement only in October 2009.

Speaking at a press conference here today, many social activists said the appointment would be in violation of the spirit of the RTI Act and the Constitution of India.Vowing to fight against the "brazen and illegal action tooth-and-nail", Hemant Goswami of the Citizens Voice said that under the RTI Act, for the appointment of a commissioner, a committee had to be set up to deliberate on all applications received for the post.

Complete Article

RTI Took Kit - A workshop for Youth in Ahmedabad

SUN. MAY 31 'The RTI Toolkit: Use it effectively'-- a day-long workshop for the
youth on the Right to Information Act

Venue and timings: Kochrab Ashram (Paldi), 11 am to 4.30pm

Charges: Workshop is free of cost; lunch to be brought by participants or provided at venue on chargeable basis upon request

OS-A in collaboration with Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel and Gujarat Vidyapith will conduct an activity-based workshop for youth in the age group 18-35 on issues that affect them directly or indirectly, such as education, civic issues, social welfare etc. Mr. Harinesh Pandya and Ms. Pankti Jog of MAGP will conduct the workshop to demonstrate the effectiveness of RTI, how and where it can be used and how it can help the youth in becoming aware of their rights and in improving their life.

Participants will also be given guidance to file an RTI application during the workshop on a topic of their choice.

Kindly confirm your participation by writing to Raheel Dhattiwala on or call/sms her on 9909008535 on or before May 30. They also need volunteers as coordinators during the workshop.

3 yrs on, he waits for an RTI answer

For over three years, Subhash Nimbalkar, working for the cause of bonded labourers, is knocking the doors of the agriculture department, Aurangabad information commissioner S G Borge and chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi for routine information on the ongoing works under the Employment Guarantee Scheme, but the response has been discouraging. "Since August 2006, I have submitted applications to the authorities under the RTI, but their response is dismal. So far, the agriculture department has failed to give me the information for obvious political reasons. As a result, the RTI
Act has remained on papers,'' Nimbalkar told TOI. In August 2006, Nimbalkar had submitted an application under RTI to agriculture officer S D Bhandari seeking information on the details of labourers working on EGS in one project in Latur.

Complete Article

'RTI is like a magic wand for poor people

The Bihar Right to Information Manch has taken up cudgels to educate the common people especially illiterate villagers about the right to information and how to use it to get their genuine works, buried in the files in government offices, done. Manch convener Parveen Amanullah said, "RTI is like a magic wand and highly helpful for the poor people who are tired of running from one table to another for getting their works done. It help them to get things done without greasing the palms of the corrupt and greedy Babus."

Complete Article

Shanno report given on CIC's directive

In a boost for the family of 11-year-old Shanno, who died on April 17 after being allegedly subjected to corporal punishment by her class teacher in her MCD school in Bawana, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed the plea seeking information under the RTI Act from MAMC Hospital. In its order on May 2, the CIC noted: "The commission directs the dean of Maulana Azad Medical College to give the copy of the postmortem report to the appellant.'' In its observation, the commission, however, accepted MAMC's submission that the matter cannot be covered under section 7 (1), life and liberty clause. But the commission questioned how the PIO could deny information under clause 8 (1)(j). It informed the PIO to give reasons how the medical records of a dead person would be covered under clause 8 (1)(j).

Complete Article

'Chargsheeted appellant can't be denied info under RTI'

The mere fact that a chargesheet is filed against an RTI appellant in the court of the magistrate and he being an offender facing prosecution, does not mean he is not entitled to the information required. This is the recent judgement of the state information commissioner Afonso Araujo, who ordered the superintendent of police (SP), police headquarters (PHQ), Panaji, to furnish the requested information to the appellant within 15 days of the order.

Complete Article

3,350 MCD officials tainted: RTI

While corruption in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is old news, the magnitude can shock. An RTI query has revealed that 3,350 MCD officials are facing corruption charges and inquiries, with some cases awaiting prosecution for almost three decades. Most of the tainted officers are at middle and senior levels, and many are repeat offenders. In reply to the RTI application by Vivek Garg, an advocate and activist, the
Public Information Officer of the MCD's Vigilance department said as many as 4,299 cases were pending against 3,350 officials — the civic body has around 1.5 lakh employees.

Complete Article

Disclose reasons of inviting AHI doctors for PM surgery: CIC

The reasons behind inviting a private doctor to conduct cardiac surgery on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at AIIMS -- which has the facilities and expertise to do it -- should be disclosed under RTI, the CIC has directed. An RTI applicant, Jagdish Chander Jetli, sought details about the rules and reasons of AIIMS under which Dr Ramakant Panda and his team from Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai was asked to carry out the surgery at the Institute. Singh, 76, underwent a re-do coronary artery bypass surgery at AIIMS on January 24 this year.

Complete Article

Retirement dues of these officials stuck in red tape

Fire officer Kiran A Kadam, who had won the President's gallantry award for meritorious service, never found braving even the biggest blaze to be a daunting task. However, getting the BMC to clear his retirement dues has turned out to be tougher than dousing a fire. Every time Kadam, who retired as chief fire officer around one-and-a-half years ago, enquired about his retirement dues he was curtly asked to call up later. Kadam still has not got his leave encashment dues of around Rs 5.16 lakh. He has been doing the rounds of the civic body, calling up babus at the department. They are sitting on the files, he says. "There are many fire officers and firemen like me who did not take leave for months together. Most of us were on duty seven days a week as an emergency can take place on any day. But this is
the way the department has rewarded us,'' he says, calling from his native place in Latur.

Kadam is not the only one. In the Mumbai Fire Brigade alone, 41 firemen and officers have not been paid their leave encashment dues in the past three years. A Right to Information query (RTI) revealed that around Rs 6.81 crore is pending in dues to about 700 employees who retired from municipal wards, hospitals and the fire brigade.

Complete Article

RTI mail should be sent through Speed Post

The Supreme Court spends Rs 27 by sending replies in Delhi through Registered Post instead of utilising Speed Post at just Rs 12. Speed Post tariff is even cheaper than ordinary post if the mailed article weighs more than 40 gm. This refers to the shocking revelation made by the office of the Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that officers in the labour department of Delhi government were leaving blank lines in the despatch-register for misusing, to prove despatch of RTI replies without actually sending any reply to the RTI petitioner. It should be made mandatory to compulsorily send all RTI mail only through economical, fast and safest Speed Post. In areas not covered by Speed-Post centres, such mail may be despatched by Registered Post.

Complete Article

Ban on public smoking up in smoke in Gujarat

Although a ban was enforced on public smoking in the country in October 2008, it continues to go unchecked in Gujarat. Even as ˜No Tobacco Day" will be observed on May 31, the state government has not done enough to enforce the law. An RTI application filed by a Bharuch-based NGO, Sparsh, which works for women and children and also runs an anti-tobacco campaign, has revealed this. The state government has neither assigned any special officers, nor has it strictly implemented the ban on public smoking. Major cities, including Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, have not been able to penalise anyone for public smoking. The NGO in 2008 had filed an RTI application with the state Health Department seeking detailed information about the status of the anti-tobacco law. The
application had asked how many people had been fined and if the government has taken any legal step against the restaurants and hotels where smoking is going on unchecked. It also enquired as to what actions have been taken against shops selling tobacco products within 100 metres of educational institutions.

Complete Article

At CFC, only 13 staffers to issue 1,000 certificates daily

The Citizens Facilitation Centre of the district collectorate has only 13 government employees who issue over 1,000 different certificates to citizens. Every year, these employees issue nearly three lakh certificates. This information came to light on an RTI application moved by Rajesh Shende, president of Janahit Foundation. Expressing his shock, Shende said,"Only 13 employees to clear mountains of documents every day is an injustice to citizens. In addition to 1,000 certificates being issued every day, there are also contract employees who have no authority to verify documents. They are only involved in issuing and taking applications which is another tedious work at the centre," Shende said.

Complete Article

Just 1% of RTI fines recovered in Maharashtra

Information officers appointed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act who do a
shoddy job appear to be getting away with it. The seven state information commissioners penalised 21 public information officers in various departments a total of Rs 2.21 lakh in the past year for providing misleading or incomplete information to RTI applicants. Shockingly, only around 1% of this amount has actually been deposited with the state treasury. Data provided by the State Information Commission (SIC) shows that only Rs 2,500 of the total penalties of Rs 2,21,600 has reached the state treasury in the past year. According to the RTI Act, the department concerned is supposed to deduct the penalty from the monthly salary of the erring public information officer.

"It's shocking that the heads of various departments are sitting on the orders in spite of our directions to impose the penalties,'' state information commissioner Suresh Joshi told TOI. Joshi said he'd take up the matter with the chief secretary and direct the officials concerned to deduct the penalties soon.

Complete Article

Explain the denial of information in "Black Money" case: CIC

The CIC has asked the office of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha to explain the reasons for denying information about correspondence among L K Advani, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister on the issue of"black money" stashed in Swiss banks.
"The Commission directs you to offer comments on this complaint. Clearly giving justification for denial of information," Deputy secretary at CIC Pankaj Shreyaskar wrote to the Public Information Officer, Office of the Leader of Opposition on the complaint of an activist Subhash Agrawal. Agrawal had filed an RTI application in the Office of Leader of Opposition L K Advani seeking detailed information on the letter written by the former Home Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister&aposs reply to it.

Complete Article

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Anna Hazare says, “Get jailed in large numbers!”

“Good work, boys!” said Anna Hazare to us -- the 10 activists jailed for 48 hours on false charges of rioting, assault and trespass by Maharashtra CSIC Dr Suresh Joshi. See video-clip of our conversation with Anna yesterday at Sahyadri Guest House:

“I was told about what you fellows did. Going to prison isn’t a bad thing,” Anna laughed. “Remember, our Freedom-fighters did lots of that. I too was sentenced to three months imprisonment, but they kicked me out after only 8 days when things got too hot to handle for the State government. It rocked the government. We must organize in large numbers to have lots more of this sort of action and really shake these guys to their senses,” he said, soon after his meeting with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

We thanked Anna for inspiring us, and assured him that we would stay aggressive for the cause of proper RTI implementation.

Krishnaraj Rao

All state staffers have to declare assets, says CM

Chief minister Ashok Chavan on Saturday agreed with anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare that it should be made mandatory for the 20 lakh-and-odd state government employees to declare their assets. "We have accepted the plea. If the elected representatives can declare their assets while filing nomination papers, it will be appropriate for the government employees to follow suit. As there is no mention of assets in the service rules, we will amend it after a discussion with the Centre,'' Chavan told Hazare.

Three years ago Hazare first took up the issue of declaration of state employees' assets but it could not be accepted due to a dispute over the rule involving All India Service officials. The state can amend the directives and make it mandatory for its employees to declare their assets, but it cannot do the same with All India Service officials. "We will have to discuss it with the Centre. If the Centre agrees to have such a rule for All India service officials as well, then only we can make it mandatory,'' a senior official told TOI.

24 May 2009, Prafulla Marpakwar, TNN

RTI plea against power project

The BJP district committee has decided to file a petition with the Jharkhand State Electricity Board seeking the status of centre-sponsored Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (APDRP). The saffron brigade decided to take the step under the RTI Act, having conducted physical verification of the slow pace of work under the APDRP being executed by the JSEB in Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharsawan. Shailesh Pathak, a functionary of East Singhbhum district committee, said that the Jamshedpur area board of JSEB had got Rs 132 crore of central funds under the APDRP scheme in 2003-04 for upgrading electrification in urban areas.

Complete Article

Publish officers' add, phone nos on website: CIC to Delhi Police

The Delhi Police will have to publish the residential addresses and phone numbers of its officers on its website in the wake of a CIC's directive dismissing the force's plea that the information was private. The case relates to one R K Arya who sought details of residential addresses and income tax returns under the RTI Act of two Delhi police officers -- Sub-inspector Suresh Lakra of Security Branch and Inspector R K Gulia of Crime Branch.

Arya alleged that these officers had "looted" him while they were posted in the Economic Offence Wing and by getting the residential addresses, he could expose their lavish lifestyle and press corruption charges against them. But the information was denied by the Delhi Police citing it was personal information which was exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. The Delhi Police in its reply said that Gulia was living in a private accommodation and not the one being provided by the government.

"We cannot, therefore, hold that disclosure of the residential address of an official holding public office is private information exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act. This information merits uploading as part of a directory of officials on the website of every public authority as mandated under the... Act," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

Complete Article

Admn rolls back RTI application fee hike

The UT Administration has decided to roll back its decision to hike the fee charged for seeking information under the Right to Information Act. The applicants will now be required to pay Rs 10 for submitting an application and Rs 2 per page for the information received. The applications can now be submitted at all the e-Sampark centres and Jan-Sampark centres in Chandigarh, without any extra fee.

Taking a U-turn from its decision to hike the fee, the Administration announced its withdrawal on Wednesday ¿ a day before it was supposed to submit its reply on the issue in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. However, the government failed to submit its reply today, inviting the wrath of the Registrar General of the High Court, who has granted one last opportunity to the UT Administration and Ministry of Personnel to file their replies against a petition challenging the hike in RTI fee.

Complete Article

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A night at Arthur Rd jail for RTI activists

Metropolitan magistrate S M Chintembakar on Wednesday remanded 11 arrested RTI activists in judicial custody after they failed to produce a surety of Rs 20,000. The magistrate rejected their plea to produce a bail for the same amount.

The activists-Krishna Raj Rao, Gaurang Vora, Mohammed Afzal, Sunil Ahya, Mukund Parekh, Vijay Chauhan, Sanjay Ghadalia, K N Singh, Ravi Haldipore, Dr Shrikant Prabhu and Pramod Kadam-were arrested by the Marine Drive police on Tuesday for creating a ruckus at the office of the state information commissioner (SIC), Suresh Joshi. The police were called in by Joshi after the activists protested against his alleged callous attitude to their grievances. The police had booked them for house trespass, rioting, unlawful assembly and assault on a government servant. "How can meeting someone in an office be termed as a house trespass? This is not applicable in this case,'' said Y P Singh, IPS officer turned lawyer.

Complete Article

Official rues poor RTI awareness - Attitude is not right: CIC

There are two challenges lying in the path of proper execution of the Right to Information (RTI) Act implemented in the country in 2005, feels Central Information Commissioner (CIC) M.M. Ansari. "The first obstacle is lack of knowledge about the act while the second is the negative attitude of people seeking and providing information," he said. Ansari, one of the seven information commissioners of the country, was here to impart training about different aspects of the RTI Act to more than 30 mining and army officers from different parts of the country at Indian Institute of Coal Management (IICM), Kanke.

Complete Article

PMC yet to recover Rs 60 lakh rent dues

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has failed to collect rent totalling over Rs 60 lakh for over 3,600 properties which have been let out for years. Civic activist Vijay Kumbhar obtained the information after filing an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In a letter to municipal commissioner Mahesh Zagade, Kumbhar has said he will take legal action against the PMC if it fails to act against the defaulters within three months. "At the end of March 2009, there were at least 118 properties with a rent of over Rs 50,000 each for which the amount had not been collected. Besides, rent for 3,500 properties with smaller rents had not been recovered. The PMC has not taken any action against any of the lesees," Kumbhar wrote.

Complete Article

BSF has highest number of human right violation cases

Border Security Force has reported the maximum number of human rights violations as compared to other paramilitary forces. BSF, which guards country's porous borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh, received 63 complaints of such violations in 2008, 16 more than the previous year, against its personnel, according to an RTI reply. However, authorities could only process 37 complaints received by the force and found two complaints as authentic, while rejected 35 others in want of evidence. Enquiry in 26 other complaints was still under process, the reply said.

Complete Article

Appoint credible CIC: Experts to J&K CM

Experts and activists of Right to Information Act Wednesday urged Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to appoint credible person as the Chief Information Commissioner and to set a separate investigating agency for making RTI a success in Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking at a seminar, `RTI Act - Role of Civil Society and Media' organized by RTI Movement, the experts suggested a few names to the Chief Minister for the post of Chief Information Commissioners and two Commissioners that include Financial Commissioner, Planning and Development, S L Bhat and DG CID Ashok Bhan. "We have also suggested the names of Prof Afzal Qadri of Kashmir University and Prof Kulwant Singh of Jammu University for the posts of CIC," the experts said. Advocate Faisal Qadri said whatever possible ways were available in a place like Kashmir to make the government transparent should be used.

Complete Article
Chief Information Commissioner R N Das has ordered the Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation (BMC) to refund Kishor Kantariya, a local advocate, the excess fees charged from him to provide information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The BMC claimed that the fees was charged as per its general board rule, while the order by the RTI commissioner made it clear for the local body that it had to follow only the RTI Act.

Kantariya, who sought information over what new names the BMC has been deciding for various schools run by the Nagar Prathmik Samitee, was made to pay Rs 138 for 15 pages. As per the RTI rules, the applicant has to provide Rs 2 per page and Kantariya
was supposed to pay only Rs 30, but was made to pay Rs 108 extra. In an order issued on May 10, Das had told the BMC: Excess fee charged over and above the admissible fees (Rs 2 per page) under rule 5(1) (b) is ordered to be refunded within 10 days.

Complete Article

Update on murder of RTI activist Mr Venkatesh

Dear all ,

An RTI activist Mr Venkatesh Was Found dead on A road Recently and we all suspected Foul play and Had approached The state Human rights commission For an through investigation . we have received Communication from the SHRC that They have instructed The commissioner Of police that the Entire investigation has to be conducted By an officer of Not less than the rank of Deputy commissioner of police (SP Rank) this Fresh developments are For your kind Information

N vikramsimha,
Trustee RTI study Centre & KRIA Katte ,
#12 Sumeru Sir M N Krishna Rao Road ,
Basvangudi < Bangalore 560004.

Disclose details on misuse of fund by Indian envoy: CIC to MEA

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the ministry of external affairs to disclose all details pertaining to the inquiry into alleged misuse of government fund between 2005-06 by the then Ambassador to Turkey. The details of the case, closed by the Central Vigilance Officer of the department saying it may have been procedural error but without any financial loss to the government, were sought by one Balendra Kumar under RTI Act.

The information was denied by the ministry citing the clause of the Act which exempts personal information, which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which could cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual, from disclosure. "There is no merit in denial of information as 'personal information' while invoking section 8 (1)(j) of the RTI Act, since public interest far outweighs any harm done to protected interests," held Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit.

Complete Article

RTI makes housing dream come true for villager

Kashiram Kamabhai Sevana, a resident of Keshavpura village of Viragam taluka in Ahmedabad district, now swears by the Right to Information (RTI) Act. His dream to own a house under Ambedkar Avas Yojana (AAY) has come true after 10 years through RTI. In 1997-98, Sevana had applied for a house under the AAY scheme, but he did not
get any reply from the government till 2004. Later that year, Sevana was shocked
to receive a notice from the Department of Social Welfare, asking him why he did
not submit a certificate of the work completed for the house he had applied for.
The notice further mentioned that the department had already given around Rs
10,000 for the same. After two months the department sent another notice to
Sevana asking him to deposit (Rs 10,000) the amount sanctioned by the department
in the State Bank of India. A three-year-long ordeal to prove that he never got any money from the government then started. This ended with the RTI being filed by an NGO in various governments departments. With the help of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Sevana filed two RTIs with the Social Welfare Department asking for a copy of the work order, date of the cheque posted and the outward copy of the same. "The department couldn't find any information of what was asked in the RTI," said Sadhna Pandya of MAGP.

Complete Article

Eleven RTI activists held for rioting

It was supposed to be a peaceful meeting with state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi for addressing the grievances of RTI activists. But 11 prominent RTI activists ended up getting arrested by the Marine Drive police for rioting and forceful entry. The RTI activists-Krishna Raj Rao, Gaurang Vora, Mohmmed Afzal, Sunil Ahya, Mukund Parekh, Vijay Chuahan, Sanjay Ghadalia, K N Singh, Ravi Haldipore, Dr Srikant Prabhu and Pramod Kadam met Joshi to apprise him of various issues that had been plaguing the RTI Act, on Tuesday evening. Chauhan said he wanted to sing the National Anthem. "Joshi went out of the room after we sang the first line. This is punishable under the Constitution,'' he added. They then found out that Joshi had lodged a police complaint. A State Information Commission official said that this was not the way to register a grievance.

Complete Article

HC to govt: Appoint info officials

The Patna High Court on Monday directed the Bihar government to fill up the posts of chief information commissioner and two information commissioners of the State Information Commission within a month. A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Shivakirti Singh and Justice Mihir Kumar Jha passed the order on a PIL of Vikas Chandra alias Guddu Baba who submitted that the posts were lying vacant for several months. Additional advocate general N K Sinha submitted the state government appointed former Patna High Court Chief Justice J N Bhat as the chief information commissioner in October 2008, but he had not yet joined.

Complete Article

Parking lots at Pune station lack basic facilities

Commuters who leave their vehicles at the three parking lots at the Pune railway station have been demanding better safety and other basic measures. The three lots lack essential facilities like a shed, fencing and the issuance of proper coupons. Admitting to these flaws, the railway administration has now decided to issue a notice to the contractor managing the lots in this regard.

The three parking lots, meant for both two- and four-wheelers, can together accommodate around 1,500 vehicles. They are often packed to capacity on all days. Ajay Darwatkar, a frequent user of the parking facilities, said, "The lots needs a shed and better safety measures. There should also be boards showing parking charges and the staff should charge vehicle owners accordingly."

Civic activist Vivek Velankar filed an RTI application seeking details of the contracts of the agent managing the parking lots. "It revealed that the contractor has failed to execute most of the clauses in the agreement."

Complete Article

Discrepancies in PMPML bus purchase, allege workers' union

The bus purchase orders given by Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) has some discrepancies, said chairman of the Maharashtra Workers' union Dilip Mohite. Seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Mohite found that the PMPML has purchased buses at much higher rate than similar ones purchased by the Navi Mumbai municipal corporation (NMMC).

Circulating copies of the purchase orders obtained under the RTI from both the bodies, Mohite pointed out that there was a difference of nearly Rs 4 lakh in the price quoted by the manufcturer of the bus to PMPML and NMMC.

"While the Navi Mumbai municipal corporation is purchasing the buses for Rs 18.59 lakh, the PMPML is buying the buses for more than Rs 22.94 lakh. On one hand the PMPML says that it is financially weak and, on the other hand, buses are being purchased at higher rates," Mohite said.

Complete Article

HC stays order of disclosing answersheet to CA students

The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed its order directing Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to provide certified copy of answersheet to its students under the Right to Information Act. A Division Bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice N K Kaul stayed the operation of the order passed by a single judge bench on April 30. Senior Advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the Institute, contended that
students have no right to seek disclosure of their answer sheet and it does not come under the purview of the RTI Act.

The single bench had directed the Institute to provide a copy of the answersheet to its students under the RTI Act saying it could not be excluded from the purview of the Right to Information Act and examination authority cannot deny answersheet to students. Observing that the Act confers positive power to a citizen which should not be hindered by authorities, the court dismissed the plea of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India challenging the CIC's order to provide a certified copy of the answer sheet to a student who could not clear the exam.

Complete Article

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remembering Rahul: A comrade and spirited activist

It was 6 am. Rahul's lifeless body lay before our eyes. We stared at it
in disbelief, hoping he would get up and talk to us.

His wife Twinkle wept inconsolably and his son Swaraj, 7, sat by his side in a
daze. He had just come from his grandfather's room and had no idea what had
happened. The boy who waited every night for his father, did not know that he
would never come back.

Rahul was only 36. At 5 am, a massive heart attack claimed his life and before
the paramedics arrived, he was no more. When he was being taken for post-mortem,
I noticed the gold necklace around his neck and bent to remove it. Swaraj
whispered, "Gently please, it will hurt," and the statement shook my heart. My
guess was right: The little boy had no clue his father was gone forever.

The hearse came and as Rahul's body was being hauled, he asked, "But why is papa
still unconscious?" Nobody said anything, as Twinkle gently took her son away.

Rahul's parents were shocked. Their son had gone before them. To lend a shoulder
for own son's funeral procession can be a crushing blow for any parent. But they
did not cry and that worried me. Perhaps they had steeled themselves because
they had to look after Twinkle and Swaraj.

Rahul had joined us at The Times Of India only about 18 months back. An activist
at heart, he had specialised in Right to Information (RTI) Act and used it to
fight for people. He used to train Gujarat government officials on RTI. He would
write about RTI's success stories and be euphoric if he won a case under the

The six-feet tall Rahul was always fighting with the system and had the unusual
ability to fight back after defeat. I remember how he would be lost in thoughts
and smoke one cigarette after another.

On that fateful night of May 4, Rahul seemed in a different mood, at work till
about 10.30 p.m. Normally a quiet guy, that day he was freely cracking jokes. He
even hid a burger brought by a colleague something quite unlike Rahul. The
colleague asked everyone, as Rahul wore a mischievous smile on his face and
said, "You will get it back, but will you give me half?"

The fun continued till late in the night. It was 10.45 pm when Rahul and two
other collegues called up senior AMC officials and pulled their leg on a press
note issued by an animal-rights group that wanted chicken statues to be erected
at busy road junctions to protest non-vegetarinaism. Then Rahul planned to take
the joke a step forward the next day and distribute copies of the press note to
government and AMC offices.

But, the next day at 5,15 am, I got a call saying Rahul was terribly unwell. By
the time I got ready there was another call saying he was gone. I refused to
believe it.

At the besna, Twinkle found it difficult to control her tears. Just then, little
Swaraj suddenly took a handkerchief, wiped her tears and poured her a glass of
water for her. It struck me like a bolt of pain that the little lad suddenly
looked very grown up.

Complete Article

SEBI not obliged to get facts from exchanges for public

Market regulator SEBI on Friday said it is not obliged to obtain information from stock exchanges for sharing it with the public under the Right to Information Act. "SEBI Act gives powers to SEBI to obtain information for certain purposes and not for obtaining such information from the exchange for the sole purpose of providing the same to the appellant," said SEBI's Appellate Authority formed under the RTI Act. The appellate authority made these observations while dismissing an appeal by one Mamta Sahu who sought information from SEBI under the RTI Act about the grounds for delisting of 240 companies by BSE and also sought to know reasons for not delisting six companies.

Complete Article

Compensation to be paid if info not provided under RTI

The Right to Information Act would be followed in a more stringent way in the State. If any department fails to provide the information as sought by the public, the department would be liable to pay compensation to the person. Earlier, the concerned official was only liable to pay the penalty. A decision to this effect was taken at a high level high level meeting on Implementation of RTI held at the State Secretariat on Friday. While the Chief Secretary presided over the meeting, the State Commissioner Jagadananda attended the meeting. Secretaries of all the department all attended the meeting.

It was decided that a special cell would solely be created whose basic job is to provide the information to the public. This scheme has already been introduced in the Bihar and it has been a huge success. Information and Public Relation (I&PR) Department would act as a nodal agency. All the departments will provide the information to the department on a monthly basis. By the end of May 31, a detailed annual report would be prepared.

PNS | Bhubaneswar

Bumai CC to file application under RTI

As the deadlock between the district administration and the residents of Bumai village in North Kashmir’s Sopore continues, the Bumai coordination Committee (BCC) spearheading the agitation for the two slain youths killed by the Army have decided to file an application under RTI act to seek answers from the police for lodging ‘fake cases’ against at least a dozen youth.

Complete Article

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Transparency mandatory for sanction of plan funds

The Planning Commission has in a directive made transparency and accountability a pre condition for sanction of plan funds of all schemes. The Planning Commission in pursuant to the note from Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah issued a circular to all departmental secretaries to maintain all its record duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitated the right to information. The circular called for transparency and accountability as prescribed under the Right to Information Act 2005 in all major developmental initiatives finance by plan funds. The objective was to facilitate public participation in the implementation of these schemes.

Complete Article

CIC criticises PMO for shoddy replies to RTI application

The Prime Ministers' Office has come under criticism from Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah for "summarily" disposing of applications filed by aggrieved citizens. "We find that the disposal of the RTI application and first appeal in the PMO have been done summarily as to make short shrift of an appeal painstakingly prepared by a conscientious citizen exercising what he perceives his right," Habibullah said in a recent decision on the plea of one Vishnu Ratna, an RTI
applicant. "The reply of Vini Mahajan (a Joint Secretary rank officer) does not even attempt to address the issue but is summarily dismissed, an action unbecoming of an appellate authority, particularly so august a public authority as the PMO," the CIC observed to a reply given by Mahajan to Ratna.

Complete Article

RTI only way to get information in VMC, say councillors

Opposition leader at the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC), Chirag Zaveri, has accused the administrative wing of being indifferent to answering queries about status of different projects. He raised the issue at the general board meeting on Tuesday. For Zaveri, RTI (Right to Information Act) seems to be the only effective tool to extract information. But for corporators of the ruling BJP, even RTI has not borne fruit, as they have been asked not to use it since it tarnishes the party image. “Gone are the days when one used to get information by submitting a request letter on their letter heads. Despite being the Opposition leader, I am forced to file RTI applications for even basic information,” Zaveri said. Several RTI applications have exposed the lethargic attitude and level of corruption in the VMC.

Complete Article

CIC to meet govt officials on problems NRIs in RTI applications

Following complaints by non resident Indians on procedural difficulties in filing Right to Information (RTI) applications, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has finally swung into action. The Commission will meet officials from the external affairs ministry and department of personnel and training next week to smoothen issues related to mode of payment and acceptance of appeals. "I will meet officials from MEA and DoPT to discuss procedural difficulties faced by NRIs. At present all rules and regulations related to RTI have been made keeping Indian residents in mind,'' chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. The Indian diaspora has had little luck in accessing information through RTI since the Act came into force due to lack of standard procedures. One of the major obstacles that NRIs face now is that embassies and high commissions accept only applications related to them and not to other public authorities.

Complete Article

RTI activist requests PM to restore Right to review of CIC

An RTI activist has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to restore the Right of Review of the decisions of the Central Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, which has been withdrawn by the CIC few months ago. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, the activist Vinayak Trimbak Gokhale said, "the regulation 23 of CIC (Management) Regulations has been amended w.E.F. October 20, 2008 to the effect that the Review/Appeal of decision given by Information Commissioners of Central Information Commission (CIC) is not possible now and its decision will be final." "I request you to take suitable steps to restore the right of review to the citizens by inserting suitable provision in CIC (Appeal Procedure) Rules, 2005 made by the Government," Gokhale wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister.

Complete Article

CIC frames new rules for RTI applications from abroad

In order to ease RTI application process from abroad, the Central Information Commission has framed new rules enabling NRIs to pay application fees and information costs at the Indian embassies and missions abroad. NRIs will also be able to avail audio-video conference facilities in case of first and second appeals.

"We have finalised new rules and regulations which will help NRIs to easily process their applications while exercising their Right to Information. There will be an easy-to-follow procedure for paying fee against the information in Indian Embassies and audio-video conferencing facility in case of first and second appeals," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah told PTI.

As per the new procedure envisaged, Habibullah said "Embassies may accept only the fee and information cost and provide e-receipts to applicants who can then directly file their RTIs to public authorities in India by email along with proof of payment."

The CIC said, "I will soon meet concerned officials at the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Personnel and Training other stake holders for this."

Complete Article

Monday, May 11, 2009

RTI helpline completes 3 years today

Farmers seem to be the maximum users of Right to Information Act. This has been indicated by the number of calls that the RTI helpline, launched by Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), receives. On May 12, 2006, MAGP, a group committed to spreading awareness about RTI, launched a helpline to facilitate easy access to information and help with consumer queries about RTI. As it celebrates its third anniversary, the helpline has answered 38,269 phone calls on RTI-related issues so far. Pankti Jog, coordinator, MAGP, said, "Rural people know more about RTI. We also receive more queries from them as compared to the urban population. Panchayat members too use the helpline to get answer to their queries. In fact, the helpline has been so successful that even public information officer (PIO) and appellate organisations contact us to ensure transparency in processing the applications."

Complete Article

RTI brings lost cow home

Unhappy with the police for failing to act on your complaint? Well, the Right to Information (RTI) Act can come to your rescue. Gobind Dubey, a resident of north Delhi's Metro Vihar, was recently surprised to find a couple of policemen at his door. They had Dubey's stolen cow with them. All they wanted was for him to withdraw his RTI application. A few months ago, Dubey had complained to the police that the cow, his only source of income, had been taken away by one Raju Tyagi, a dairy owner.
The police refused to register a case, saying Tyagi had bought the animal and had the documents to prove it. On a friend's advice, Dubey filed an RTI application, seeking details of the action taken on his complaint. "About a week after I filed the application, policemen came to my house with Tyagi and returned my cow," he said. "Tyagi apologised to me and the police requested me not to pursue the case further."

Complete Article

Many needy people get succour under RTI Act

Ram Bachan Ram is a happy man today. He is constructing a house on a piece of land he had purchased over six years back. But the sale was caught in controversy as many people claimed rights over the small piece of land and did not allow this Dalit of Yadavchak village under Parsa Bazar in Patna district to construct his house.

Thanks to the RTI Act under which Ram fought a battle and won. But before that he had to run from pillar to post for over six years to settle the dispute and get possession of the land. Ram approached Bihar Right to Information Manch and sought its help. "I was advised to file RTI applications in the offices concerned and seek information on progress report regarding my complaints," said Ram. From the offices of the DM, SP and welfare department he also sought names and designation of the officers sitting over his complaints and departmental action that could be taken against them.

The welfare department informed Ram in writing that he was not involved in irregular purchase and at the same time his application to the DM, Patna, resulted in an order to the deputy commissioner (land reforms) and Circle Officer to measure and demarcate limits of his land and only then this dispute could be settled. Ram's claim was upheld after four hearing by the State Information Commission.

Complete Article

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Wardha agri office pulled up for not providing info under RTI

The State Information Commissioner has pulled up the district agriculture office for not providing requested information to an RTI applicant. The order came after the appellate authority too neglected to remedy the lack of information. RTI applicant Shoyeb Kannauji had on February 25, 2008, asked the information officer of the district agriculture office to provide him detail of works done in the tenure of the present District Agriculture Superintendent Arjun Tandale. The applicant wanted information about the expenses and allotments of funds in various schemes run by the agriculture department, including funds for organic farming or such other schemes under the prime minister's package. He had also asked for details of the schemes for farmers of the district.

Complete Article

Pranab's aide appointed to CIC post

Overruling reservations raised by RTI activist Aruna Roy, the government has cleared the appointment of Omita Paul as a commissioner in the Central Information Commission (CIC). Paul, a 1974 Indian Information Service officer, is currently serving as a close
aide to Union minister Pranab Mukherjee and is expected to join the Commission on May 13.

The move comes at a time when most appointments and transfers are on hold in deference to the model code of conduct. Roy and others had raised the issue that appointments to the information watchdog were not urgent in nature and could wait till the new government was in place. But according to sources, Paul's appointment was cleared after a nod from the highest level giving the officer a five-year tenure and a position that is equivalent to that of the election commissioner.

Complete Article

MHA goofs up, fails to trace petition by noted Gandhian

The Home Ministry has admitted to having failed to trace a petition filed by noted Gandhian Late Nirmla Deshpande, which had been forwarded to it by the Prime Minister's office, on Nithari serial killings issue. The MHA, in its reply to an RTI application filed by Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra, has said that the petition was untraceable despite its best efforts.

"Despite our best efforts... the petition is not traceable in this division," Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Prem Narayan Saxena said. Batra, one of the signatories to the petition, alleged that the procedure adopted for processing the petition was done against the "established" practice.

The letter by former Rajya Sabha member Deshpande was forwarded to the MHA by a junior official-- section officer Jagjit Kumar-- of the PMO without even putting it before the Prime Minister, he alleged.

"As per established practice, any communication coming from the Members of Parliament are placed before the Prime Minister for perusal and then forwarded to respective departments for follow-up action," said Batra, who filed an RTI in the matter.

Complete Article

Traffic cops break too many laws, finds RTI. So, who will police the police?

Here is another glaring example of lawkeepers turning law breakers! Eleven of the 33 tempos hired by the traffic police to lift haphazardly parked vehicles are plying the streets without valid fitness certificates, blatantly violating the law. Moreover, none of the 13 rickshaw cranes hired by the traffic police to tow wrongly parked rickshaws are registered as either cranes or transport vehicles, which means they can be used only as private purposes and not for commercial activities. Similarly, 14 of the 15 cranes used by the traffic cops to tow four wheelers are registered with the Regional Transport Office (RTO) as non transport private vehicles. One of them is registered as a private mobile crane, one as a private delivery van and one a private breakdown van. Still worse, the road tax of at least four cranes expired in April and have yet not been renewed.

This shocking information came to light when RTI activist Sanjay Shirodkar filed
queries with the traffic police and RTO.

Complete Article

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rahul's last RTI story

Power company demands Rs 1.2K for posting RTI reply!
6 May 2009, 0342 hrs IST, Rahul Mangaonkar, TNN

Getting electricity bills much higher than the usual monthly due to a technical glitch is sure to get your blood pressure up.

Imagine how you'd feel if you enforce accountability from the power company under Right to Information (RTI) Act and are told you now have to shell out Rs 1,200 for postage!

This is the situation Shakun Nawab faced. Nawab demanded to know from Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (MGVCL) the number of customers, who had been charged similarly.

But, the company told him other customers are 'third parties' under RTI and to get their consent before disclosure of information he would have to pay Rs 1,200 towards postage charges. An indignant Nawab took the issue to Gujarat Information Commission (GIC). It held that asking an applicant to pay cost of correspondence to third parties is not only inconsistent, but contrary to RTI provisions.

However, it agreed with MGVCL's stand that other customers have to be treated as third parties and their consent is required before releasing such information. GIC noted that being a major public utility, MGVCL needs to address issues such as excess billing and adjustments more effectively. Its customers shouldn't have to knock doors of RTI.

Nawab sought names and addresses of its customers, who were subjected to excess
billing in September 2006, number of units overcharged, amount recovered and
whether the excess amount had been refunded.

MGVCL replied, as a project of moving customers from two-monthly bills to monthly was underway, 100 customers were overcharged.

However, satisfactory remedial action was taken, it said. To this, Nawab replied, this was not true as he was a victim too. And, his grievances hadn't been redressed so far.

MGVCL then said, its outsourcing agency issued a bill for 124 units during August 2006, but due to technical problems, the data was missed or deleted. This had resulted in the excess billing.

GIC held that while explanations had been given to Nawab by MGVCL, calculations of how excess billing in his case was settled should be intimated to him for his satisfaction.

Complete Article


On Monday, at 9.28 pm, when my cell phone rang, I instinctively knew it was Rahul calling. Ever since the election date had been declared, he kept in touch with me, not just to confirm news, but also to continuously assure me that 'this too shall pass'. 'Ma'am, you must remain cool in the face of adversity. That will not only get your work done faster, but keep your family happier too.' He loved telling me this. From today, I can keep on waiting a lifetime for the phone to ring and Rahul to call and it will never happen.

I was struck by Rahul's dedication. It was so infectious. I had to take up the causes he espoused. Then he began spreading awareness about Right to Information Act (RTI) in the state. He became a scribe suddenly and one saw issue-based activism through well-researched articles. That is Rahul for you; rather that was Rahul for you. Rahul took up issues like school building safety, safety of transport for school children, helmets, vehicular pollution, city traffic and BRTS.

Rahul left this earth prematurely. His work remains unfinished. His affable manner and concern for societal and governance issues can never be forgotten. In a short span of just 36 years, he has positively impacted thousands of people. Rahul, this city will miss you but you will live on always in the hearts of every citizen who feels the air is getting cleaner every Diwali, or whose child's life was saved because he heeded your warnings and withdrew him from that overcrowded van, or that poor family that got the benefits it was eligible for because you told them about RTI. Rest in peace, Rahul.

(The writer is the chief electoral officer, Gujarat)


Rahul Mangaonkar awakened citizens through his column 'Jaago Gujarat', but on
Tuesday morning he suddenly went into deep sleep. His death has left RTI users
and promoters across the nation in shock. Rahul's involvement with governance
started long back when he was associated with Loksatta. He had also played a key
role in creating a constructive environment for RTI and establishing effective
co-ordination when he was associated with the RTI cell in Sardar Patel Institute
of Public Administration (SPIPA). Rahul played a key role in taking the RTI
movement ahead in Gujarat. His death is a great loss to the RTI world. Farewell,
fearless RTI crusader

- Arvind Kejriwal (Parivartan), Aruna Roy and Nikhil De (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti
Sangathan) & Bibhav Kumar (Kabir) with other RTI activists.

Since we have been propagating Right to Information, we enjoyed reading Rahul's
sharp articles on this right and on his ability to take on all, with out fear or
favour. The world has truly lost a great journalist and I am sure, that The
Times of India would have lost somebody very precious.

Together in your grief,
Fr Cedric Prakash
and all at PRASHANT

Complete Article

Sunday, May 03, 2009

80 DHS posts lying vacant in Goa

Eighty posts of doctors and specialists in hospitals and health centres functioning under the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) are lying vacant either due to the implementation of the election code of conduct or difficulty in getting medical officers to work in interior regions, according to officials. As many as nine DHS health centres are functioning without even a medical officer who is the key person in charge of overlooking the working of the health centre. The data was revealed by a reply to a Right to Information query obtained by TOI from the public health department of the state secretariat. When questioned about the vacancies, director of health services Dr Rajananda Desai admitted that the absence of a medical officer in nine of the health centres "definitely affects the functioning". The data obtained through RTI reveals that there is no medical officer at the community health centres (CHC) at Valpoi and Pernem, primary health centres (PHC) at Siolim and Betki, rural medical dispensaries at Usgao, Agonda and Molorem, Hospicio at Margao and Cottage Hospital at Chicalim.

Complete Article

BJP, Congress fight for '108' service

The '108' ambulance services of Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) was a favourite topic for leaders this election with both BJP and Congress laying claim on it. While BJP says to have been instrumental behind the success of the service across the country, Congress states that it was the UPA government that sanctioned a fund of Rs 55 crore for the project. During his visit to Ahmedabad, Arun Shourie, BJP leader and former divestment minister said, "The BJP government has done a lot of development work in Gujarat like building roads, enhancing infrastructure and introducing the 108 ambulance services." However, when asked about BJP's claims, Shaktisinh Gohil, Congress leader in Gujarat said, "BJP's claims about introducing the '108' ambulance service are totally false. It was during the UPA government that the project had been
finalised. In fact, we had also filed for an RTI application which has revealed that around Rs 55 crore had been granted by UPA government led by Congress to EMRI for the project."

Complete Article

Khasi body questions Prez Rule through RTI

After over a month of President's Rule in Meghalaya, a local NGO has invoked the Right to Information (RTI) Act to know what prompted the Centre to bring the state under its direct control. The Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) on Tuesday filed an application through the Right to Information (RTI) Act-2005 seeking detailed information from the Governor's secretariat. With this, Governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary has come under the RTI scrutiny for recommending President's Rule.

HNYF president G H Kharshanlor said HNYF sought details of information on copies of correspondence, including those from the Governor's secretariat to the Centre, which recommended President's Rule, copy of correspondence materials from the Centre to the Governor's secretariat that approved the central rule in the state. The Front has also sought information on the copy of correspondence materials sent by various political parties of Meghalaya, both from NCP-led Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) and Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance (MUA), to Governor's office and vice-versa. Citing the Supreme Court judgment of March 11, 1994, HNYF political secretary Sadon K Blah said, President's Rule before proclamation has to be backed by "material considerations" and not merely by the subjective satisfaction of the President. "Therefore, we would like to get the details of the material considerations that the Governor's office had considered before recommending PR in the state," Blah said.

Complete Article

Hospital stonewalls RTI queries on Shanno kin

RTI activists and lawyers on Friday condemned the replies provided to Shanno's wellwishers by two city hospitals Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College in response to the RTI queries which sought more details about the 11-year-old's death. Shanno's parents now want to approach the CIC to plead their case. Shanno was allegedly subjected to corporal punishment by her teacher Manju Rathee at an MCD school in Bawana right before her death.

MAMC, where the postmortem of the child was carried out, in its reply directed all questions to LNJP Hospital where the child underwent treatment before her death. In a letter to LNJP, R C Sharma, deputy director, administration, MAMC said they were forwarding all questions to the first hospital. "This information pertains to your hospital and is being transferred to you for appropriate disposal at your end,'' the letter reads. A copy of the same was handed over to Ashok Randhawa, president, Sarojini Nagar Traders' Association as a reply to the RTI. Randhawa had filed the application two days ago on behalf of Shanno's father, Ayub Khan. The LNJP authorities, in their reply clearly refused to share any information with Shanno's family. "This is to inform you that the life and liberty in this case is dead, hence the provision of section 7 (1) does not apply in this case. Moreover, information asked for cannot be provided as per provisions of section 8 (1) (j) of RTI Act,'' the reply said.

Complete Article

Two war reports, two rulings: CIC seeks clear declassification

In a space of four weeks, the Central Information Commission has given what appear to be contradictory rulings related to matters of national security.

While the information watchdog has allowed disclosure of details related to the 1971 Indo-Pak war spy case, the same commission chose to withhold the Henderson-Brooks report on the 1962 Sino-India war. The ambiguity over which information should be made public is compounded because of a lack of declassification policy in the country.

"There should be a clear declassification policy. It is a logical consequence of the Right to Information Act to have a disclosure policy and a right to privacy policy,'' Wajahat Habibullah, chief information commissioner said.

Denying that the two orders were opposed to each other, Habibullah said that in the Henderson-Brooks report, there was a lot of material on the Line of Control (LoC) which was a "live issue''. "The Henderson-Brooks report deals with issues related to the Line of Control that are still under negotiation. It was felt that it would be detrimental to national interest to be make such information public,'' he said.

Complete Article

Govt dept fined for ignoring petition under RTI Act

State Information Commissioner Biren Gohain has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Social Welfare Department of the State for ignoring a petition made under the Right to Information Act, for supplying information to an applicant. Akhil Kumar Gogoi, general secretary of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, who was the applicant, requested for information on all schemes and budget of the Social Welfare Department and construction of anganwadi centres and requested for information also on the work orders with all relevant documents, from the department. Gogoi said in a statement that he submitted his application to the department on April 28, 2008. The department asked Gogoi on May 28, 2008 to submit a fee of Rs 3,108. But the department had supplied him information worth about Rs 1,182 that too some copies of some legal documents.

The Assam Tribune
April 29, 2009

RTI on cops' returns rejected

The Goa State Information Commission turned down an appeal that sought information on the annual property returns of all police officers right from the rank of deputy superintendents of police (DySP) to the topmost ranking officer. However, the Commission ruled that the applicant may seek the same information "with a proper, specific and resonable request". On July 7, 2008, Shetye had filed an RTI application seeking information on various aspects about the traffic police department. In the same application, Shetye had also sought details of the annual property returns of all police officers with the rank of deputy superintendents of police (DySP) and above.
Shetye also wanted year-wise certified copies of the annual returns from 1998 till date.

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Answer sheet cannot be excluded from the purview of RTI

Students who fail in Chartered Accountant exams can find out their mistakes by going through their answer sheet as the Delhi High Court today directed the ICAI to provide a certified copy of the paper to students under the Right to Information Act. Justice S Ravinder Bhat said the answersheet cannot be excluded from the purview of Right to Information Act and the examination authority cannot deny the same to students under the Act. Observing that the Act confers positive power to citizens which should not be
hindered by authorities, the court dismissed the plea of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India challenging CIC's order to provide certified copy of the answer sheet to a student who could not clear the exam.

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RTI website in Gujarati launched by city activist

If you have trouble understanding the Right to Information Act or using it, then help is just a click away now. To reduce the difficulties faced by people in using this Act and spread awareness about it, a city-based RTI activist has launched a full-fledged website, It is perhaps for the first time ever for an RTI activist across the country to have launched his own website to educate people about the Act.

Vipul Patel, who has been working in the field of RTI, has launched the website with the help of few other supporters. The website (, dedicated exclusively to the RTI Act, has already started functioning and is getting several hits daily.

The website is in Gujarati language and covers all aspects of RTI, its benefits and success stories. "I decided to launch the website in Gujarati language so that everybody can access it and use the information available on it. Attempts have been made to provide as much information on RTI as possible," Patel told TOI.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Shanno's parents file RTI for post-mortem report

Shanno, the 11-year-old-girl who died after allegedly being brutally punished in a Delhi school, is back in the news. Her father, Mohammad Ayub Khan, has now filed an RTI petition to get the details of her post-mortem. The family may also seek legal help in the case. They said RTI applications will be filed with three hospitals - Maharashi Balmiki Hospital where she was initially admitted, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital where she was shifted and Maulana Azad Medical College, which conducted the postmortem. Her parents met Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit last week and sought her intervention for a thorough probe into the incident.

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Delhi rule poser under RTI - NGO asks Mooshahary to explain

Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary, who was once the chief information commissioner of Assam, has come under the scrutiny of Right to Information Act for his recommendation to impose President's rule in the state. An NGO, the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front, has sought information from the governor under the RTI Act on what ground he recommended President's rule in the state. The NGO said the purpose was to know whether the governor had misused his power to favour anyone. The Youth Front's president, G.H. Kharshanlor, told reporters this evening that they had submitted an application under the RTI Act 2005 at the governor's secretariat today, seeking detailed information on the proclamation of President's rule in the state.

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Efficiency in delivering services is one of the arguments made in favour of the increased focus on urbanization. But it is a hard argument to make when a state utility does not even know how much water flows into the city, let alone plug leaks that lead to an astounding 47% of water pumped from collection points in other states not being put to use. Part 2 of a three-part series. The Capital's state-owned water supply utility, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), has a leakage and loss rate of 47%. But to plug a leak, the first step is to know where it is.

According to responses received from DJB under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the utility does not have any bulk water meters at the six major points it received water from. Their RTI reply said that the water that daily flows into Delhi is measured by a weir system, which is archaic. Moreover, bulk meters at input and output points at DJB's water treatment plants have been defunct for five years, said Arvind Kejriwal, who received the RTI, replied.

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