Thursday, December 31, 2009

CIC order for making PDS system transparent

In a far reaching ruling that will inject much-needed transparency in the functioning of fair price shops, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued directions to the food secretary and 10 assistant commissioners of Delhi. All such shops will have to display information such as entitlement of essential commodities for all types of ration cards, stock of essential items received during the month and opening and closing stock of essential commodities, etc.

Chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi issued the order on December 21 after Rajiv Kumar of Pardarshita, a transparency advocacy group, filed a compliant with the CIC that fair price shops in Delhi were not complying with the government order. The order has to be implemented by January 31 and a compliance report has to be filed before the commission before February 5.

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Disposal of cases by KIC for the month of November 2009

Dear All,

The Statistics of disposal of cases for the month of November 2009 @ Karnatak Information Commission is given below for the information of the Activists:-

Cases pending at the end of Oct 09 is 7237

Number of Complaints and Appeals received during Nov 09 is 1340

Number of Complaints & appeals disposed during Nov 09 is 917

Number of cases pending at the end of Nov 09 is 7660

Number of cases heard during Nov 09 is 1684
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 3140
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 4347
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 173
Number of Commissioners at present 4

With regards,

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'Reveal House panel records'

Parliamentary committee records can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act after the report has been tabled in the House, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled. It said records could be made public except in exempted cases where documents are declared confidential. RTI applicant Patanjali Sharma had sought a certified copy from Rajya Sabha of a rule of the Central Secretariat Services furnished to a parliamentary standing committee on home affairs by department of personnel. He said there were gross factual errors in the report which were adversely affecting his career advancement.

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Activist's fight brings aided schools under RTI's ambit

A Right to Information activist's campaign has exposed the reluctance of the school education department to disclose information pertaining to the functioning of government-funded schools. General secretary of the Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams India T Retna Pandian had to file a series of RTI applications before four different agencies and pursue them with appeals before the State Information Commission to achieve the task of bringing state-aided schools under RTI ambit.

Lourdhu High School at Pattabiram in Tiruvallur, which refused to accept two RTI petitions from Pandian has now been slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 by the commission. The school had dismissed RTI petitions on the grounds that aided schools need not have a public information officer (PIO), thereby defying the authority of the commission.

The commission's order said, "Since the school is aided, as per the RTI Act and judgement of the high court, it is a public authority. It is directed to appoint a PIO and supply information within 2 weeks. If they fail, the district educational officer is directed to take necessary action under Section 20 (2) against the school."The PIO at the Directorate of School Education, who had claimed in an RTI reply sent to Pandian that all schools in the state were following mandatory requirements in terms of infrastructure, has been asked by the commission to explain why a penalty should not be imposed.

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Parliamentary Committee proceedings don’t come under RTI purview: CIC

The Central Information Commission (CIC) on Tuesday held that the proceedings of a Parliamentary Committee did not come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act and would remain confidential unless a report of its findings was on record before Parliament. The CIC was deciding on an RTI appeal filed against the Rajya Sabha Secretariat for information on inputs supplied by the Department of Personnel & Training to the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, on the basis of which the latter prepared its 83rd Report on Central Secretariat Services. The report was submitted before Parliament on December 19, 2001.
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Documents on Rs 550 crore Balco disinvestment 'cannot be traced'

Tender documents and minutes pertaining to the Rs 551.5-crore divestment of Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) in Chhattisgarh's Korba district eight years ago cannot be traced by the ministries concerned, according to a response to an Right to Information (RTI) application, seeking details of the same. In its order on an RTI query filed by advocate Arjun Harkauli on the issue, the Central Information Commission (CIC) observed, "In response to the request for information relating to disinvestment of government's 51 per cent stake BALCO, the Chief Public Information Officers of the respondents have stated that they have made attempts to search and trace the desired documents but to no avail." In its reply, the government of India has nowhere stated that the documents have been destroyed or that it cannot be supplied due to any bar under Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rs 4.5 crore down the drain in Mohali?

Money has been flowing into the works of public health department here. However, a Right to Information Act query by municipal councillor of Ward No. 27, Kuljeet Singh Bedi, has raised worries that it might just be going down the drain.Bedi has written a letter to Punjab’s director (local bodies) alleging the department had spent Rs 4.5 crore from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009, in the name of maintaining sewerage and water supply lines, without properly informing the civic body about where the amount had been utilized, which was in complete violation of rules. He has demanded a probe into the matter. Bedi had submitted the RTI query and sought to know about the spending till September 30, 2009. He said the details for the expenditure till March 31, 2009, were not made available. He mentioned that the MC house’s approval should
have been taken before spending such a large amount.
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Meghalaya officers penalised for RTI failure

Seven public information officers of Meghalaya have been penalised for failure to provide information under provisions of Right to Information. Disciplinary action was taken against two of them, while five others, including an Inspector of School and a Project Director of DRDA, were slapped with fines ranging from Rs 2000 to Rs 7500, according to the 2008 annual report of Meghalaya Information Commission released recently. According to the report, out of a total number of 360 requests received under RTI Act, 335 were disposed off during the year and the remaining 25 were pending. PWD department received the highest number of 63 requests, followed by Forests and Environment (47) and Health and Family Welfare (28). The number of complaints relating to refusal of information by government departments in the year was 59.
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Corporate groups' tax statements can be given under Right to information

Tax-statements of a corporate group may be given under the RTI Act as its privacy clause is limited to individuals and does not extend to organisations, feels Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. "We have given a decision that tax details of political parties can be disclosed under the Act. Corporate groups are more or less similar organisations. The privacy clause in the RTI Act section 8(1)(j) deals with privacy of 'individuals' but does not extend to organisations. But the disclosure has to be decided on basis of merit in each case," he told PTI.
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HC seeks info from govt on RTI PIL

The Patna High Court on Tuesday directed the state government to file a counter affidavit to a PIL that has challenged the validity of the amended provision of the Right to Information Act for realising fee at a concessional rate from the people below poverty line (BPL) for filing an RTI application. A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Shyam Kishore Sharma issued the directive on a PIL of petitioner Chaitanya. Petitioner's counsel Dinu Kumar submitted that the RTI Act did not provide for any fee from the BPL people. But the amended rule says that a BPL person seeking information under RTI would get a relaxation of Rs 10 for filing every application. The amendment brought in on November 19, 2009 is bad in law as this would discourage the poor from seeking information under the RTI Act, Kumar submitted.
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Right to Information Act a sham by the government – MPs

Speaking at the debate on right to information act, Mohamed Thariq, MP for Manadhoo has said that the bill is important to make the government accountable, no matter which government it is. Generally all the MPs who spoke during the debate highlighted the importance of the bill in a transparent and democratic society. Speaking further Thariq, an MP of ruling MDP, also said because of the absence of such a bill, public has found it difficult to get information on corruption within the government and some of the related documents had even disappeared. Such a bill is important to make the governments accountable, even if it is previous government, current government of future government, he noted. He even said that since media is the fourth power of the state, such a bill is important for the media as well.
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Arrest warrant against official for delaying info

In an unusual move to ensure compliance by a public official under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Arunachal Pradesh state information commission issued an arrest warrant. Needless to say not only was the public information officer present at the next date of hearing but also gave the requisite information after some delay. Applicant Tago Pai Camdir had asked for information regarding details of appointments in the state art and culture department in June 2009. With no compliance by the department, the information commission asked the department's deputy director J Siram to furnish the information within three days and also explain why the Civil Procedure Code should not be invoked against him for causing "unreasonable delay''.
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GIC Housing moves High Court on RTI obligation

GIC Housing Finance (GICHFL) has moved the Bombay HC against an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), which held that the housing finance company is obliged to respond to information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is a “public authority”. A “public authority” means an institution or body established under the Constitution of India or a law enacted by Parliament or State Legislature or a government notification. A Delhi resident, V Shekhar Avasthi, had in April last year sought certain information from GICHFL under the RTI which the company did not respond as it did not consider itself a public authority. Mr Avasthi then filed an appeal before the CIC.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

SPIO Senapati DC fined under RTI

Naga People’s Organization has stated that the SPIO/Deputy Commissioner, Senapati has been fined a sum of Rs25000 by the State Chief Information Commissioner, Manipur for her failure to furnish any information sought by one D.Kanmi in his RTI application dated July 8 submitted to her under the RTI Act, 2005.

A press release of the Organization has stated that D.Kanmi in his RTI application had sought information regarding the list of beneficiaries including names addresses, ages and fathers/husbands names of the Indira Awaj Yojana in Senapati for the period of 2008-09 and 2009-10; along-with their APR copies. The application had also sought a report on whether low cost latrines, smokeless chullah and free power connection were provided to the beneficiaries or not. And if not to give reason why it was not given and if yes to provide the list of beneficiaries.
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RTI Act: Official asks reason for seeking info, fined

The little knowledge Punjab officers have of the RTI Act even four years after its implementation can be gauged from the response of the office of Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner (AETC), Amritsar. The AETC office asked an applicant to provide his identity and residence proofs, such as PAN and ration cards, to prove that he was genuine, and also sought to know the reason for seeking information. Irked by the lax attitude, State Information Commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover (retd) asked S S Brar, Financial Commissioner, Taxation, to take cognisance of the lapses, and penalised the PIO. The SIC said, “The respondent has shown utter disregard for the RTI Act. It is amazing to observe that the officer wanted to check the identity of the applicant, authenticity of his address and the purpose for which information was demanded.” Applicant Yogesh Mahajan of Pathankot had sought information regarding evasion of excise duty and sales tax on October 23, 2008. After he did not receive a proper response, he filed a complaint with the State Information Commission in July.
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78 MLAs never asked Q's in Assembly!

How serious our MLAs are attending the legislature session? Are they really debating the peoples problems on the floor of the Legislature? Says no a study conducted by a Bangalore based organisation. It has come out with a disturbing data on attending session and their participation in the debates.

As many as 78 MLAs have never asked a question during 46 days on which the House met. About 31 have asked less than five questions, while 35 have asked 20 or more questions. Only one MLA (Ishwar Khandre from Bhalki) has asked more than 100 questions.

These statistics compiled through Right to Information queries are revealed by a review of governance in Karnataka from June, 2008, to November, 2009, conducted by Daksh, a NGO, and released on Friday. Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde released the report.
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DU students sensitized about RTI Act

Delhi University's Hindu College, College of Business Studies, Amity Law School and two South Campus colleges are hosting workshops organized by the United Nations Development Programme and The YP Foundation on Right to Information.

Hans Raj College was the first venue chosen by the organizers where it started its first series of six workshops to be held till February 2010.

Explaining its role in increasing awareness about the Right To Information (RTI), UNDP Assistant Country Director (Democratic Governance) Sumeeta Banerji said, "We have been spreading awareness about the RTI among the people and also building capacities of public information officers as part of a programme between the UNDP and the Indian Government. This year the UNDP and theUnited Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also became part of a global campaign against corruption."
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Principal Secretary designated as first Appellate Authority in J&K Secretariat

Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra on Saturday designated his Principal Secretary Raj Kumar Goyal as the First Appellate Authority in the Secretariat under the Jammu and Kashmmir Right to Information Act 2009. The Governor also designated Pankaj Magotra, the Deputy Secretary in the Governor's Secretariat, as the Public Information Officer (PIO) under the Act. An order to this effect was issued by the Raj Bhavan here, an official release said. The Governor had directed the First Appellate Authority and the PIO to strictly ensure compliance of the provisions of the J and K Right to Information Act and the time-bound disposal of valid applications received under the law.
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Campaign on RTI launched in Dharwad

The Right to Information Act-2005 is a major step towards empowering the citizens of the country and the people should utilize its provisions to be well informed, said assistant commissioner Mahantesh Bilagi.

Inaugurating the Right to Information campaign launched by the department of information and symposium on the provisions of the Act at Vidyaranya PU College here on Saturday, he said: "Being informed is strength and not having information is weakness. In a country like India, where the government announces and implements several projects for the welfare of the people, it is important that the people have the proper knowledge about them so that they can avail of benefits of various schemes."
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Emails ids of Mah State INfn Comners provided by NIC

Dear All,

Foll are 8 emails ids of Mah State INfn Comners provided by NICs State Informatics Officer .

Trust, atleast now (after 4 yrs of RTI) ,these ids would be displayed by all ICS in their contact details & reply to the e mails received by them from Citizens.


No. PROFILE E-mail address
1 State Chief Information Commissioner
2 State Information Commissioner, Greater Mumbai
3.State Information Commissioner,Pune
4.State Information Commissioner, Aurnagabad
5. State Information Commissioner,\Jagpur
6.State Information Commissioner, Amarawati
7.State Information Commissioner, Konkan
8.State Information Commissioner, Nashik

Report reveals States Poor RTI rating & MLa's Performance

The findings of NGO DAKSHA show that karnataka Finished second last among the states in the implementation of Right to information act . lawmakers performance was equally bad as many kept away from assembly sessions and were least involved in the proceedings whenever they were present The report on Review of democracy and performance of the Government of karnataka during june2008 to november 2009 released by Lokayuktha N santhosh Hehgde gives an insight into poor performance of MLAs Here is another bolt from the blue to shake public trust in the elected representatives . Karnataka faiered poorly in the implementation of RTI Act Karnataka scored 29% on the response satisfaction levels and finished second last among the states central and the national agencies Surveyed (on RTI implementation)several departmental websites are not in compliance with RTI requirements Further Karnataka ranks very low in a a survey conducted by an independent NGO on the rate of satisfactory responses Said the report.

State govt committee against Essar thermal project at Jamnagar, reveals RTI

A three-member state government committee from the Department of Forest and Environment had recommended against permitting Essar Bulk Terminal limited to set up a thermal power project at the Marine National Park `eco-fragile' area in Jamnagar district on December 31 last year, an RTI filed by Pankti Jog from the Ahmedabad-based NGO Janpath has revealed.
But, according to the official communiqué — to Essar Power Gujarat Limited — by the Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forest, environment clearance was given to the 1,200 MW coal-based power project at Nana Mandha, Jamnagar district on July 17, 2009.
According to the Forest Department officials, the state government had formed a committee on November 10, 2008 to find out the status quo, as the project fell under the Marine National Sanctuary. Pradeep Khanna, the then Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Wildlife; H S Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest, Land; and J K Vyas, Director Environment, were members of the committee. They had recommended against giving a go-ahead to the project.
The RTI said: "It was desired that the area that is required to be dredged be examined for the presence of corals. In the first meeting, representatives of the applicant company were also called, who had the area photographed by the divers. But the report made available by Essar to the three committee members remained inconclusive in the first meeting."
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Awareness prog on Human Rights and RTI held

The Salesian sisters of Don Bosco, Sechu Zubza under the initiation of Sr. Rensali Yanthan had organised an awareness programme on "Human Rights" and "Right to Information" at Sechu Zubza for the western Angami women through Western Angami Women Organisation (WAWO) on December 15 last. Lightening of candles was done by Rosemary Dzuvichu. The resource persons of the programme included Sr. Annie Inphenat, Sr. Elizabeth Vallyil, Kezevisie-u Mor, president WAWO and Aba-u Junyu, general secretary WAWO. Speaking on the occasion, Rosemary said that one should not develop a mis-concept of rights. Rights means the right to get what we ought to have, ought to receive, ought to possess and also our rights to express, share, exercise with the right treatment and respect.
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Excise dept in Rs 40cr scam: Opposition

Opposition leader Manohar Parrikar on Thursday alleged that the state excise department is involved in a Rs 40 crore alcohol scam spreading across three other states. Parrikar told the assembly during Question Hour that he had evidence to prove his allegations. He demanded that the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). He said he would depose only before the CBI.

"I have done research over the last three months. I have got excise gate passes and have also availed information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about gate passes issued by the excise department. None of the gate passes in my possession have been mentioned in the information given through RTI," he said. Parrikar further alleged that the Goa excise department has been carrying out the scam in connivance with the excise departments of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
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AMC fails to deposited PF money

The provident fund money of the employees of AMC had not been deposited in their accounts for the past few months. The authorities of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation are mum over the issue and not replied to the RTI filed on the issue.

About Rs 40 lakh are being deposited in the provident fund of the employees every month. However, the provident fund money has not been deposited from February 2009 to September 2009. As a result, about Rs 2.80 crore had not been deposited. The employees are worried about their money.

An employee, Alok Sand, has sought information regarding the provident fund under RTI (Right to Information Act) on November 10, 2008. However, the the authorities have maintained silence over the issue and not replied to his queries under the RTI.
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Govt may amend RTI Act to stop 'frivolous' queries

The Union government is contemplating a bunch of amendments to its flagship Right to Information (RTI) Act to stop ‘mischievous and frivolous’ queries through the right that is aimed at bringing more transparency in government services.

The proposed set of amendments would also try to bring a part of the security establishment under the public scrutiny. Top sources in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government suggest the Indian army or armed forces may not come under the purview but some data related to the paramilitary forces can be given out in the public domain.

RTI activists, however are likely to protest against this move. Activists like Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Shekhar Singh and Arundhati Roy had already sent an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to amend the RTI Act either to keep out ‘frivolous’ applications or to keep out “file noting”.

“We strongly believe it is impossible to define vexatious and frivolous applications. It is not completely subjective and can be misused by officials. We also feel that it is a hollow promise to have legislation for ensuring “transparency” and encouraging “accountability” in governance which excludes the basis on which a decision is taken,” the letter said.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

‘Agriculture Development Bank covered under RTI’

Punjab holds share in bank, working capital comes from govt or its bodies, says CIC

The CIC said, “About 2.5 per cent of the respondent bank’s fund is provided by the state government, 2.5 per cent by the Central government and 95 per cent as loan and debentures by NABARD, which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1981. So practically, cent per cent of the working capital of the bank annually comes directly or indirectly from the state and the Central governments.”

R I Singh said, in such a case, “can it be said that government does not ‘control’ the bank?” The very name ‘agricultural development’ suggests that it was carrying on activities that affect the public in general and the weaker sections of the society in particular, and it cannot be argued that it’s not a public authority, he said. “It surprises me that the managing director of the bank, who is a government employee, should seek secrecy and shun transparency. Openness is the essence of cooperation,” he said.

The bank should supply information within 15 days or if it is to be denied on any grounds under the RTI Act, pass a speaking order giving reasons for such a denial, he directed.
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MC again found lax in releasing information under RTI Act

In a significant move after getting a rap from the state information commission (SIC), two assistant public information officers (APIO) have submitted unconditional apology to the commission for delaying information to an applicant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

According to information, Rohit Sabharwal, the president of the Anti Corruption and Crime Investigation Cell had in two different applications sought information from the municipal corporation (MC) regarding the working of Enforcement and Monitoring Committee for removal of encroachments in the city along with action against the poor quality of road constructed by the MC. However, in both the cases, the MC officers had delayed information by 45 days and 120 days.
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Court pulls up government over missing soldier

The Delhi High Court Wednesday pulled up the government for not being able to get any information on a missing Indian soldier suspected to be in a Pakistani jail for the last 44 years. Your (government) attitude shows that nobody cares for the soldier. No information was gained by the government despite so many chances. It is not done,said a division bench comprising Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar.The court directed the government to contact the Ministry of External Affairs and file a status report regarding the information of Anand Patri by Jan 13.

The court warned the counsel appearing for government that if the status report was not filed then the defence secretary should be asked to be present in the court personally on the next date of hearing.In its earlier report the government contended that we have no record of Anand Patri after 1965. Though he took part in 1962 Indo-China conflict and also in the 1965 India-Pakistan war, but after this, he has not been traced and his name has not been found even amongst the prisoners of war of 1965.However, a right to information (RTI) query to the external affairs ministry in 2007 revealed that the Indian High Commission in Pakistan had been informed that an Indian national named Naseem Gopal was lodged in a Pakistani jail.
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Quality of Information under RTI

An independent study on the basis of sample survey has pointed out that 12% of the women and 26% of men were aware of RTI Act.The study has pointed out that more than 75% of the citizens were dissatisfied with the quality of information provided to them.The Government is imparting training to public information officers, first appellate authorities and other stakeholders. It has issued several memoranda clarifying various provisions of the Act and has published five guides on the Right to Information Act.

A Budget Estimate of Rs. 14.16 crore has been made under the Centrally Sponsored Plan Scheme on Strengthening, Capacity Building and Awareness Generation for effective implementation of the RTI for the year 2009-10. Scheme is being implemented, inter alia, through State Information Commissions, State Administrative Training Institutes and Central Government Agencies. Till 11.12.2009, a sum of about Rs. 3.63 crore has been spent. Financial proposals for utilizing additional funds are under examination/approval.

This information was given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Shri Prithviraj Chavan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.
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Govt has no info on ministerial conflict of interest in gas row

The Prime Minister's Office does not have any information whether cabinet ministers who were part of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) to decide on the price of gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin had declared if they had any conflict of interest with regard to Reliance Industries Ltd or the late Dhirubhai Ambani. The PMO has said so in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query.Is it not mandatory for ministers to declare their conflict of interests if they are part of an EGoM whose decisions may "economically benefit a corporate group," Arun Agrawal, author of a book that refers to controversies surrounding the Reliance group, wanted to know. The PMO's answer was `No'.
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43 corporators didn't ask even 1 question

These are the men and women who're supposed to better our life in Mumbai. Provide us with good roads, clean water and cleaner surroundings. However, all these BMC corporators have done is kept quiet. Of the 227 corporators, 43 did not raise a single query between January 2008 and June 2009 in the Ward Committee meetings of the BMC. That's what the Praja Foundation found through several RTI applications. While six of them can be excused, as they have been suspended, the others have no justification for keeping quiet. The notorious corporators include Congress's Rajhans Singh from the L ward, BJP's Ujjwala Modak from the K-East ward and E ward's Geeta Gawli.
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BMC outstanding water bill is Rs 741 crore

The BMC is still waiting for Rs 741 crore, outstanding water dues from various government and private organisations, says the reply to an RTI application by activist Milind Mulay. Domestic users are suffering amid a 15 per cent water cut but private organisations owe the BMC Rs 351 crore, nearly half the total. Of the dues from State and Central agencies, MHADA tops the list with Rs 101 crore, followed by Western Railway with Rs.57 crore. The state owes 5.78 per cent of the total dues, the Centre 3.84 per cent. Central Railway owes Rs 28 crore. BMC's wards offices and its sister concern BEST also owe money; various civic departments have a pending bill of Rs 7 crore.
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Good news for RTI Campaign in Haryana

Dear Friends

As you are aware that we are campaigning for reducing the RTI filing charges from Rs.50/- to Rs.10/- and per page charge for providing information by the goverenment of Hrayana was Rs.10/-. where as other states charging Rs. 2/-. After our campaign government of Haryana accepted one of our demand and announced on 10th of December that Rs.2/- will be charge for per page report.

This shows that our first demand is also genuine but bureaucrats are putting huddles. As the bureaucrats does not wnat the system should be transparent and partcipatory. Now Asha Parivar & NAPM (Haryana) decided to continue this campaign.This week we are planning to meet all the 15 MP's of Haryana (10 Lok Sabha & 5 Rajya Sabha).

We are looking for your co-operation and support as RTI is the weapon for the common man for questioning the corrupt system.

Thanks & regards,
Faisal khan ,Gurmukh Singh ,Sumit Sihag ,Ramsingh

Nearly 87.5 per cent weights and measures used in Chandigarh are unverified

Out of every eight weights and measures inspected by the Chandigarh Administration, seven are unstamped, unverified and against packaging rules. The facts were revealed in response to an application filed by a local resident under the Right to Information Act. According to the figures supplied by the UT Department of Weights and Measures,
there are around 87.50 per cent weights and measures, which are unverified, unstamped and against the packaging rules. City resident R K Garg, who filed the application under the RTI Act, sought information from the UT Administration on the inspection and checking done to verify weights and measures used in the city.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Faulty info under RTI: Port officer penalised

The Central Information Commissioner, New Delhi (CIC) has slapped a penalty on the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of Kandla Port Trust (KPT) for providing delayed and misleading information to a complainant under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. CPIO K C Vyas, has been asked to pay Rs 3,500 at the rate of Rs 250 per day for the delay of 14 days, and for giving incorrect information relating to the
allotment of land. The CIC has directed the KPT chairman to recover the penalty from Vyas's monthly pay-bill of January 2010 for remittance as per the procedure. The CIC has asked the chairman to submit a report to the Commission after the recovery of the same.
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MPs, MLAs or councillors can't ignore you now

You were promised a school or a drinking water connection by the MP or MLA in your area. Now, you want to know whether the school is coming up at all or how soon the water connection will be up, but can't get across to the MP or MLA for that information. Now, thanks to a directive from the Central Information Commission (CIC), that information will be supplied to you. The CIC has directed the parliament
secretariat, all legislative assemblies and municipal authorities to to accept people's applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act and answer their queries. Though MPs, MLAs and councillors aren't 'public authority' as understood under the RTI, the bodies they represent on behalf of the people are liable to answer queries about any development work that was expected of them in the constituency.
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Revealed: SIC's Pune Bench is sick

The SIC's Pune Bench covers the Pune region including the districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur. The Bench started its work in February 2007. According to the information obtained by RTI activist Sachin Godambe from the SIC, the Pune Bench has received 8,000 applications in the last three years. Out of these, 4,000 appeals have been resolved and half of them are still pending. Interestingly, the Pune Bench has slapped only 25 errant government officers with a fine of Rs 25,000 each in the last three years. The story of Godambe's hunt for information starts when he had filed an RTI application with the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) about the Bhosari flyover.
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Punjab IAS officers told to disclose details of property returns

The Punjab State Information Commission today ordered all serving IAS officers in the state to disclose details of their property returns. Taking up an appeal filed by advocate HC Arora of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the State Information Commissioner (SIC), Lt-Gen PK Grover (retd), observed that the disclosure of property returns was a "step against corruption."

Grover today directed the Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the Department of Personnel to "provide copies of the property returns of IAS officers, who are serving the Punjab Government in respect of the first year of their service and latest property return filed by them in 2008-2009. However, the property returns of IAS officers, who have retired need not be supplied." These directions have to be complied with up to December 24.
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Unhappy with RTI answer? Move the consumer forum

It is common knowledge that public information officers often do not furnish the information sought by the applicant under Right To Information Act (RTI). Is an appeal to the appellate authority of the Information Commission the only remedy? Or would failure to furnish information without valid reason constitute a deficiency in service for which compensation can be sought by filing a consumer complaint? This issue has been decided by the National Commission in a trendsetting judgment.
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CIC show-cause notice to PNB officer

The Central Information Commission, New Delhi, recently issued a show-cause notice to the central public information officer (CPIO) Punjab National Bank, regional office, Kanpur Nagar and asked why a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 for delay in supply of information might not be imposed upon him.

Issuing a warning against the CPIO, Satyananda Mishra, the information commissioner said if written explanation was not received from him by December 18, 2009, the commission would decide the case ex parte and would impose maximum penalty prescribed under section 20 (1) of the Right to Information Act (RTI) Act that is an amount of Rs 25,000.
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UPA wont dilute RTI in name of amendments: Chavan

The UPA is fully committed to ensuring transparency in governance and the proposed amendments in the Right to Information Act are in no way aimed at diluting it, Union Minister Prithviraj Chavan said here on Sunday."The proposed amendments in the RTI are aimed at removing certain legal shortcomings and would in no way render it ineffective. We are working on certain recommendations from the Administrative Reforms Commission with additional inputs from private organisations and NGOs.

"People must not fear that their right to information would be curtailed," the Minister of State for Public Grievances told reporters on the sidelines of a function.Chavan said the government is, "in fact, of the view that all matters of governance other than those relating to national security and hence deserving confidentiality should be made available on respective websites so that people can get the information required by them without even undergoing the cumbersome process of filing an RTI application".
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

UDD acts on SIC order, tells babus to act on complaints

In a rare instance where a government organ has taken considerate view of an observation made by the UP State Information Commission (UPSIC), the state urban development department (UDD) has directed its officials to act speedily on inquiry reports/complaints concerning local bodies like nagar nigams and nagar palika parishads to ensure transparency in governance.

Acting on the SIC observation, the department, by way of an order issued by its principal secretary Alok Ranjan, has also fixed a timeframe within which it has been made mandatory for the departmental officials to act on inquiry reports and complaints or else face disciplinary action.
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Thane civic body to probe illegal constructions

The Thane Municipal Corporation is set to initiate a probe against civic officials for allowing illegal constructions to come up in the Majiwada-Manpada ward. The move comes after Thane-based RTI proponent Nainesh Dolas moved an RTI application seeking information regarding unauthorised constructions in the region. Replying to Dolas’s application the civic town planning department said that the plan for the constructions was not cleared by them. Dolas then sought names of those responsible for checking illegal constructions. “I had official information on unauthorised construction and the names and designations of officers who ought to have prevented this. As this was a blatant dereliction of duty on the part of civic officials I have sought their dismissal from service,” said Dolas.

This is the first time that a citizen has provided proof of dereliction of duty by civic officials and sought their dismissal.
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Elected representatives not covered under RTI Act: CIC

Elected representatives including MPs, MLAs and local bodies members are not covered under the Right to Information Act in 'individual' capacity, Central Information Commission has ruled. The Commission, however, has clarified that information regarding their activities can be accessed from bodies to which they are part of like
Parliament, state legislative assembly or local bodies.

A division bench of the Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Shailesh Gandhi said, "we must conclude that individuals whether MPs, MLAs, Councillors or members of Panchayats cannot in themselves be deemed public authorities. Nevertheless, the organizations and Committees in which they fulfil their obligations under the Constitution are indeed organizations defined as public authorities," the bench held while hearing several pleas that were clubbed together in the matter.
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CIC raps Rashtrapati Bhawan Secretariat over RTI query delay

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the Rashtrapati Bhawan's Secretariat for delay in giving information to a citizen under the Right to Information Act. The Commission has issued a show cause notice to CPIO, President's Secretariat, Faiz Ahmad Kidwai, asking him why a penalty of Rs 4,500 should not be imposed on him for delay in giving information. Under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act-2005, the CIC or the SIC, has the powers to impose a penalty on public information officer if the officer has not produced the requested information within 30 days of receiving the application. The amount of penalty shall be Rs 250 per day and it has to be paid by the PIO from his salary and not by the Public Authority.
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Over 30% of budget spent on official hotel of IFFI

The claims of the Entertainment Society of Goa, which actually should have been named as the Extravagant Society of Goa, that it has curtailed the budget of the recently concluded International Film Festival of India to Rs 6.5 crore, appears pretentious, if the information sought under the Right to Information Act and authentic documentation are to be believed.

The estimated budget prepared by the ESG for the IFFI 2009 stands at Rs 6.48 crore, which is much less than that for the IFFI 2008 – Rs 11.83 crore. But that is only half truth. If the inaugural film festival in Goa, held in the year 2004 is considered, then that film festival had the budget of Rs 6.39 crore, out of which Rs 4.93 crore were spent on cultural programmes like music concerts by noted playback singers, plays performed by actors like Anupam Kher, beach screenings and so on. That makes Rs 1.46 crore as the actual expenditure on IFFI 2004. And to think, IFFI 2009 had no cultural programmes in the city or around the state.
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Allahabad MC fails to deposited PF money

The provident fund money of the employees of AMC had not been deposited in their accounts for the past few months. The authorities of the Allahabad Municipal Corporation are mum over the issue and not replied to the RTI filed on the issue.

About Rs 40 lakh are being deposited in the provident fund of the employees every month. However, the provident fund money has not been deposited from February 2009 to September 2009. As a result, about Rs 2.80 crore had not been deposited. The employees are worried about their money.

An employee, Alok Sand, has sought information regarding the provident fund under RTI (Right to Information Act) on November 10, 2008. However, the the authorities have maintained silence over the issue and not replied to his queries under the RTI.
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Govt to decide on amending RTI after consulting experts

Government will decide on amending the Right to Information (RTI) Act only after consulting civil society organisations and experts, the Rajya Sabha was informed today. Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Prithviraj
Chavan said during Question Hour that there was a proposal to strengthen RTI by
suitably amending the laws to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas.

"The Government is examining a proposal for incorporation of provisions in the RTI Act regarding constitution of benches of the information commission and rejection of vexatious and frivolous applications," he said. The amendment would be done with a view to expanding the scope of RTI and withdrawing exemptions given to some agencies.

It would, however, not be carried out before consultations with NGOs, civil society organisations, experts and information commissioners, he said. If the strengthening of RTI can be carried out without amending the law, it would be done, he said.
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CIC selection questioned

Questions are being raised by RTI activists on the selection process adopted by the Government for the appointment of a new chief information commissioner to succeed Wajahat Habibullah, who is slated to take over as the new head of the RTI panel of Jammu and Kashmir. The activists have alleged that websites of Prime Minister's Office and Department of Personnel and Training have not posted any information about the appointment process which is mandatory under the RTI Act.
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Priority to senior citizens under RTI

The Central Information Commission has issued a notification, inter-alia, stating that the appeals and complaints filed by senior citizens shall be taken up by the Commission on priority basis on production of documentary proof in support of their claim to be a senior citizen.The Commission maintains information about appeals/complaints received from senior citizens online. It received 228 complaints and 27 appeals from senior citizens online till December 1, 2009. Information about disposal of such complaints/appeals has not been maintained. The Commission works autonomously and the Government has no role to play in the matter.
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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Rs 42L lost a day if Houses don't work

How much does it cost to let our lawmakers deliberate questions about our lives? Close to half a crore of public exchequer's money per day. And yet the story of the Karnataka legislature sessions isn't quite happy. In the 52 days of session since the BJP government assumed office (May 30, 2008 to September 2009), the Congress and JD(S) have staged 40 dharnas in the assembly, according to information accessed by The Times of India under the Right to Information Act.
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Reversal Sought in RTI Amendments

Dozens of people in Patna on Monday, under the banner of Right to Information Campaign, sat on a daylong dharna to protest the recent amendments in the RTI Act made by the Nitish administration. Expressing anger over the government's decision to charge a fee for the information, the protestors said such act was undemocratic and was against the true spirit of the Act. Before the recent amendments, a petitioner could seek information on many issues on a single request but the new rules force the information-seekers to file separate requests for separate documents with a price tag of Rs. 10 each. Officials, however, cite growing abuse of the RTI Act leading to increased fee in the service.
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Health dept fiat creates shortage of doctors

As many as 197 doctors in the health and family welfare department and working on deputation in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), some dental colleges and other government institutions, have been asked report to their parent department following a directive from the state information commissioner Dr HN Krishna. S Amaresh had filed an RTI seeking information on the number of doctors on deputation in various government bodies, as there was an acute shortage of medical officers in the health department. Nearly 10 months after a court order following the RTI, the health department recently issued a circular to all doctors working on deputation to return to the parent department as soon as possible. No strict deadlines have been set though.
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Stay on order bringing DVAC under RTI

The Madras high court has stayed the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission's ruling that the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) will come under the purview of the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

The court granted the stay on a writ petition filed by the DVAC recently, challenging the commission's order. The commission, last month, had directed the DVAC to furnish within two weeks the number of investigations completed, the number of accused (in DVAC cases) convicted from 2003-04 to 2007-08, their names and designations and a brief description of the charges to V Madhav, a resident of Porur, who had sought these details under the RTI Act.
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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wajahat Habibullah to complete term as CIC

The Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah has consented to withdraw his resignation from the office to the President of India. Wajahat Habibullah, who had resigned as the Chief Information Commissioner of India, on 20th Oct 2009 was supposed to take up his new assignment as the watchdog to the Right To Information in Jammu and Kashmir on Oct 26.

According to informed sources the development was consequent to the criminal notice issued today by the Supreme Court of India in a contempt of court motion filed against Shri Habibullah by the Solicitor General of India citing 2 recent decisions of the Central Information Commission ordering the court's Public Information Officer to disclose cerrtain information pertaining to the recent appointment of some judges of the court. If Habibullah had taken up his new assignment in J&K he would have had to defend the case in his personal capacity.
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In Punjab schools functioning without principals, staff

In an apparent neglect of the education sector, the Punjab government has appointed only five Principals in the 119 Senior Secondary government schools functioning here.
In 139 High Schools of the district, post of principal is not even sanctioned, the shortage which is showing impact on the quality of education as in some schools not a single student could pass the eighth board examinations and in many the pass percentage is less than 20 per cent, according to figures obtained through Right to Information. Moreover, only eight schools at Senior Secondary levels have full working staff as per the sanctioned strength while most of them are facing acute shortage as
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HC serves notice to state govt for RTI appeals pileup

The Gujarat High Court on Friday issued notices to the state government and the state information commission in connection with vacant posts of information commissioners that has led to piling up of appeals for Right To Information (RTI) during the last couple of years. Acting on a PIL filed by Amit Jethwa, a division bench headed by the acting chief justice sought explanation on why information commissioners are not being
appointed so the appeals related to RTI pleas could be dealt with in speedy manner. Further hearing is kept on December 21.
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Supreme Court won't go public with judges' letters

The Supreme Court has decided to rule in its own favour; as a result, the Court will not have to share details of how judges are promoted to the Supreme Court. The fact that the Supreme Court was even hearing this case, involving its own appeal, was controversial. Earlier this week, the court was asked to make public the correspondence it shared with the government when it recommended five high court judges for promotion to the Supreme Court. The order came from the Central Information Commission, based on an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Commission also said that the Court should share letters exchanged between the Chief Justice of India, and a Madras High Court judge, who had allegedly been approached by a Union Minister trying to influence a case in his court. Unhappy with being asked to place letters on both issues in the public domain, the Supreme Court appealed to itself, and how now won a reprieve. The Court has stayed the Commission's orders.
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RTI activists send legal notice to Prime Minister

A group of RTI activists have claimed to have sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking transparency in the selection procedure of the new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). "As your office in particular and Government of India in general have not met this legal obligation, it is by this legal notice that I call upon you make the mandatory disclosures before proceeding with further appointments, so that further illegalities are not committed," a copy of the notice provided by Advocate Abdul Rasheed Qureshi on behalf of his client Krishna Rao said.

The notice dated November 26, 2009 by Rao was addressed to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Law Minister Veerappa Moily and Minister of Personnel Prithviraj Chavan. The same groups of activists have also filed a Public Interest Litigation in Delhi High Court seeking transparency in the selection process of the CIC which was quashed.
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Cabinet papers can be disclosed under RTI Act: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court has rejected the government's plea that cabinet papers containing the deliberations of the ministers cannot be disclosed under the RTI Act even after a decision has been taken by it on an issue. Justice Sanjiv Khanna rejected the plea by the Centre which contended that the decision by the cabinet can be disclosed but not the cabinet papers which record the deliberations of the council of ministers, secretaries and other officers.

The Court, while elaborating the provisions of the Right to Information Act, pointed out that the exemption to make public such documents is only till the final decision is taken by the Centre. "A limited prohibition for a specified time is granted (under the Act). Prohibition is not for an unlimited duration or infinite period but lasts till a decision is taken by the Council of Ministers and the matter is complete or over," the court said.
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116 posts sanctioned for CIC: Government

Admitting that the problem of manpower shortage was raised by the Central and State Information Commissions at the recently held fourth national Right to Information (RTI) convention, the government Thursday informed Rajya Sabha that 116 posts has been sanctioned for the Central Information Commission (CIC).

In a written reply, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan said: 'The central government has sanctioned 116 posts for the CIC. The Commission has constituted a committee to assess its staff requirement. The government shall examine the report of the committee as and when received.' 'The commission has been allotted space in Delhi. A plot of land has also been allotted for construction of a building of the Commission. Staffing and providing accommodation and other facilities to the State Information Commissions (SIC) are the responsibility of the state governments,' he added.

He further said: 'However, the central government is providing some assistance to the SICs under a centrally sponsored scheme.'
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‘Zero-discharge’ units paint Gomti black

More than the stench of rotten eggs permeating the air it is the black and still water of the Behta nullah that hints at the subtle environmental damage that has set-in in the industrial locality along the Sandila-Hardoi road. Officially, the industrial units functional in the area are said to have a `zero-discharge'. However, when the TOI team visited the place and spoke to the villagers, it learnt new facts. Something of the sort that calls for a thorough reality-check by authorities. More so, because Behta drains into the river Gomti, after traversing some 60 kms or so, near Taat Kheda village on Sitapur-Hardoi road. The Unnao regional office of UPPCB (Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board) maintains that no industrial unit in Hardoi is flouting the pollution control norms. In fact, the office in an information released to Irfan Ahmed,
vice-president, People's Union for Civil Liberties (UP chapter), under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has stated that no industrial units in the area have been closed down for flouting the pollution control norms.
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Retd DG to be West Bengal's second RTI commissioner

After operating with a lone information commissioner for four years, the state is scheduled to get its second information commissioner. Sujit Sarkar, the former Director General of West Bengal Police, will be sworn into the post on Thursday. Sarkar retired as the DG this June. He will be assisting Arun Bhattacharya, the Chief Information Commissioner, a former bureaucrat who is heading the state information commission since 2006. The appointment has had the RTI activists up in arms in a state which is at the bottom of the Right to Information (RTI) Act satisfaction table. They claim this has been done on grounds of favouritism and not transparency.
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Fighting fire with dead equipment

Most of the equipment with the fire department in the city has either never been tested or has already expired the limit for safe use, reveals an RTI application. Reading the newspaper reports on the Thane fire wherein some firemen died in the lift due to suffocation; and the gas leakage from a train tanker, urged me to find out how prepared and well-equipped the Pune Fire Brigade is. I moved an application seeking information from the Fire Brigade under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
I was little aware then that I was about to receive some shocking and disturbing
information. My initiative revealed that most of the equipments that the Pune Fire Brigade has are either not tested or have already expired the time limits for their safe use. Moreover, no information was available on when the equipment was tested the last time and what the plans are to procure new equipment to replace the outdated one.
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Plea seeks RTI payment through postal order

Justice KS Jhaveri of the Gujarat high court has issued notices to the state government and others pertaining to a writ petition seeking to accept Indian Postal Order (IPO) as one of the modes of payment to deposit fees during the filing of applications under Right to Information Act. Bringing the issue to notice, the petitioner Amit Jethwa, a social worker, stated that the state government has not issued a notification to accept fees through IPO despite it being acceptable in all other states of the country. "Payment through draft is expensive for the applicant while IPO is the cheapest way to deposit the amount," said Vijay Nangesh, counsel for Jethwa.
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24 of 40 Applicants for Maharashtra Information Commissioner are bureaucrats

Bureaucrats, virtually synonymous with the very red tape that the Right To Information Act seeks to surmount, are showing interest after retirement in dispelling information of all things. Data provided by the state’s General Administration Department shows that out of the 40 applications the government received for information commissioner, 24 were from retired bureaucrats who served within and outside the state.

More interestingly, some of these applications come with ‘recommendations’ from ministers and opposition leaders, raising questions over their impartiality even before they have been selected. For instance,the data revealed that one of the applicants Rajendra Chaturvedi, who served as the DGP in Madhya Pradesh, was recommended by former human resources minister Arjun Singh. Then there is Bhagwat R Patil, who has declared himself as a farmer and developer, who has been recommended by former state minister Swarup Singh Naik who was convicted in a forest scam case in 2006.Patil was also recommended by former MLA Chandrakant Reghuvanshi. Similarly in another application J S Kharat who said that he was a founder one district cooperative bank was recommended by former state minister Balasaheb Thorat and former central minister Oscar Fernandes. And Rama Das, who was with the Central Administrative Tribunal, was recommended by former opposition leader Ramdas Kadam. The data also show that are a couple of recommendations made by the deputy chief minister.
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Medical body under CIC scanner for endorsement

A right to Information (RTI) battle by a doctor against his colleagues for endorsing two Pepsi products has made the Central Information Commission (CIC) direct the Medical Council of India (MCI), a statutory body to regulate standards of medical practice in the country, to take up the issue with their Ethics Committee. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had, under a cloud of controversy, gone ahead and given its seal of approval to Pepsi's Tropicana fruit juices and Quaker cereals. Dr K V Babu, a native of Kannur district in Kerala and a life member with the IMA, chose to stand back from his fellowmen to question how ethical is it for doctors to support Pepsi's commercial products.
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'Every 5th sample adulterated’

Having a sweet tooth may necessitate possessing a stomach capable of handling adulterated food. That seems to be a logical conclusion for city residents if one looks at data procured through a Right To Information Act query. UT health department has stated in its reply to RTI activist R K Garg's question that every fifth sample taken from sweet shops this year had been found adulterated. Garg said samples that failed the test were of milk, khoya, cheese and curd. "In all these cases, the department has launched legal proceedings against owners of the sweet shops," he added.
The data is related to samples taken since January. Ten samples taken in November failed. Garg said, "Some of the dairies and sweet shops that provided such samples enjoy a lot of consumer trust."
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Bin there, stolen it

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had set up around 250 litter bins a year ago, that cost more than Rs 8 lakh. However, none of these litter bins can be seen on the streets a year down the line. Vivek Velankar, city-based RTI activist, filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to find out the current situation of litter bins in the city. Velankar found that PMC had set up around 250 of these litter bins all over the city. Most of them were installed near bus stops and junctions, with the idea being that people waiting for buses could use them as well as commuters who had just gotten off the buses could throw their ticket stubs in the bins. Also, they were to be used by pedestrians, with the idea to keep Pune `clean and green'. The whole initiative was undertaken before the commencement of the
Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG), which the city hosted in October last year.
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India Today's Shyamlal Yadav wins National RTI Award

Shyamlal Yadav has won the National RTI award given by PCRF-NDTV. Yadav was among 1,130 nominees and is the only media representative in a field full of professionals and RTI activists to be accorded this honour. The award, which includes Rs 1 lakh and a citation, will be presented by Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari, on Tuesday, December 1. Yadav was selected by a high-powered jury consisting actor Aamir Khan, chief mentor of Infosys Technologies N.R. Narayana Murthy, NDTV's CMD Prannoy Roy, danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, Madhu Trehan, Justice (retd) J.S. Verma, former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, Pullela Gopichand and Sanjay Gupta, to name a few.
This is the first year of the award being instituted and Yadav is among the first winners. System of assets declaration in state CM's offices and Assemblies The award is in recognition of path-breaking investigative stories done on the back of information gathered by India Today.
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Clean-up contractor dropped for poor show

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has cancelled the contract of an agency allowed to employ clean-up marshals after Right Information (RTI) replies revealed it had done poorly in the collection of fines. The BMC has now also decided to conduct monthly audits of the performances of the agencies hiring clean-up marshals for the city. The BMC solid waste management department had come up with the idea of contracting independent agencies to deploy clean-up marshals across the city to monitor public cleanliness. The marshals were given the authority to fine people for various offences, including spitting, urinating or littering in public. In January 2008, five private agencies were selected for clean-up contracts. TOI reported on September 22 that RTI replies showed that, as of July 31, 2009, they had collected fines totalling Rs 5.94 crore. Around 65% of the fines were for urinating in public. "The amount collected in 18 months must be a drop in the ocean as people still break laws with impunity,'' said RTI activist Milind Mulay.
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RTI activists demand removal of tainted SCIC

The RTI activists have approached Governor B L Joshi individually and in small groups requesting him to take action against the state chief information commissioner (SCIC) Ranjit Singh Pankaj. A group of activists handed over a memorandum to the governor office on Friday. The opposition against Pankaj started after All India Right to Information Awareness forum submitted a memorandum to governor a fortnight back. The RTI activists and activist organisations wrote to the governor to stop Pankaj from attending the office of the state chief information commissioner in compliance to the section 17 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
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Panel imposes a fine of Rs 20k on Utkal varsity

The Orissa Information Commission (OIC) has penalised the Utkal University for declining information to an engineering student of a private engineering college. A division bench of the information commission awarded a Rs 20,000 penalty on the UU which would be paid to the complainant as compensation. It is the highest penalty imposed by the panel on an agency for making an inordinate delay in providing the information under the Right To Information Act 2005. According to the case, a student of a private engineering college Biswajit Malla had sought information from Utkal University about copy of a document sent by Crime Branch to the Vice Chancellor. However, Controller of the university refused to provide the information to the complainant saying CB is exempted from disclosure of information under Section
24(4) of the Act. However, Information Commission found that CB is exempted from disclosure in certain respects though the facts which Malla had sought were different. The varsity authorities could have disclosed the information to the complainant having no legal impediment since the document was open with no "confidential" mark.
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RTI Act information in eight tribal languages

In a bid to deepen awareness on the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the tribal dominated regions of Orissa, the state information commission has published the information material containing the provisions of RTI Act in eight tribal languages.
Besides, the state information commission has also taken the initiative to make available all the information contained in the RTI Act in the Braille script for the benefit of the visually impaired people. "Our information commission has been the pioneer in getting the RTI Act published in eight tribal languages. Our objective is to make all segments of the people in Orissa aware of the RTI Act and also ensure that the Act is implemented in toto", Jagadananda, the state information commissioner told
Business Standard.
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Principals of 9 DU colleges penalised for RTI non-compliance

The Central Information Commission has imposed penalty on principals of nine colleges under Delhi University for not implementing provisions of "proactive disclosure" section of the RTI Act. The penalty of Rs 5,000 was imposed on each of them after an RTI applicant Rajeev Lala moved a complaint before the Commission claiming that the colleges had not put necessary information on their respective websites as mandated under Section 4 of the RTI Act. The principals who faced action from the transparency watchdog are of Sri Aurobindo College, Ram Lal Anand College, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur College of Nursing, Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, Swami Shraddhanand
College, Aditi Mahavidyalaya, Bharti College, Mata Sundari College for Women, Amar Jyoti Rehabilitation and Research Centre.
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Multiple RTI officials mockery of RTI Act: BJP

The BJP today accused the Pawan Kumar Chamling government for gross violation of the provisions of the Right to Information Act (RTI) by way of appointment of multiple officials in each department. The information seekers under RTI have been made to run from pillar to post to elicit replies to their specific queries as there were too many officials assigned for the job in each government department, the BJP Sikkim unit vice
president Padam Bahadur Chettri told reporters here. For instance, the Building and Housing department has as many as 18 officials assigned with the task of handling RTI queries, he said quoting to the reply of his question under the Act seeking the details of the government buildings constructed by the said department.
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Film 'Ek Cup Chya' brings RTI awareness at Goa festival

A law enacted by Indian parliament that gives its citizens the right to access government records is the subject of a new film screened at the International Film Festival of India, currently underway in the tourist state of Goa. "Ek Cup Chya" (A Cup of Tea), tells the story of Tukaram Sawant, a bus conductor who questions authorities using the Right to Information Act and its provisions when he is slammed with a huge electric bill. "India is a faceless democracy. RTI has the ability to change that, and that is what we wanted to show in the film," national award winner Sumitra Bhave, one of the directors of the film, told Reuters. "We chose to tell this story through the eyes of this family, which is like scores of others in our country."
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CBI refuses to reveal information on Quattrocchi under RTI

The CBI, which has decided to close the case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, has refused to reveal information about him relating to Bofors payoff case under the RTI Act on the ground that it will "impede" the prosecution of the accused. The disclosure "would impede the process of apprehension and prosecution of
accused," the investigating agency said in reply to a plea under the Right to
Information Act.

CBI said as the criminal case against Quattrocchi was still pending in the trial court and that various other petitions relating to the case were yet to be disposed of in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, the documents and the information can neither be provided nor allowed to be inspected. The CBI's reply came on the RTI application filed by advocate Ajay Agrawal seeking all documents, notings and files pertaining to defreezing of Quattrocchi and his wife's accounts at London.
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Driver uses RTI, unearths scam in CM’s housing quota scheme

After waiting for two years for a house under the chief minister's discretionary housing quota scheme when a driver filed a Right To Information query, he unearthed a scam in the scheme. He found that the father of a desk officer in the Urban Development Department (UDD) which handles the scheme, has been allotted a house at a concessional rate under it, while applications of several deserving citizens have been kept on hold. Tanaji Waghmare recently filed a complaint with the UDD with a bunch of
documents obtained under the RTI Act. The documents show how Balasaheb Nikam, a round officer with the Forest Department, a class three post, has been allotted a 560 square feet house in a complex at Ambernath at a concessional rate under the scheme. Nikam happens to be the father of Chetan Nikam, a desk officer in the UDD.
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Babu denies info to RTI applicant, faces pay cut

Refusing information to an octogenarian under the Right To Information Act (RTI) has cost a Delhi government official dear. Around Rs 4,500 will deducted from his salary every month for the next five months as penalty for violating the RTI act provisions. The salary cut was imposed on the official by the Central Information Commission (CIC).
Radhey Shyam Agarwal, 80, had approached the Department of Trade & Taxes of the Delhi government in June to seek a copy of an affidavit that someone had allegedly given in his name to get a VAT number.
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No water in Sharda Sahayak Canal

Around 50 villages of the district where irrigation facility is based on Sharda Sahayak Canal get no water from this canal to irrigate their fields. To make a complaint in this regard, chairman of Right to Information Task Force of UP Congress Committee Shailendra Singh met divisional commissioner Nepal Singh Ravi on Thursday. In his memorandum submitted to the commissioner, Singh mentioned that after entering the district from Jaunpur border, the canal passed through around 50 villages up to Niyar in Varanasi district. However, for the past 10 years, water could not reach even up to the tail end of the canal, he alleged. He added farmers of those villages informed him that the reason for the problem was that water was not released in sufficient quantity from the regulator installed at Jaunpur border. He said farmers in those villages also revealed that there was no crisis of water for irrigation when the canal was linked with Bhaisa pump canal. He informed that due to unavailability of water in the canal, no attention was paid towards its maintenance. He claimed the reason had also led to reducing the yield up to 50 per cent in the past decade due to which the financial condition of farmers had also worsened.
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Noida PIOs pulled up for poor disposal of RTI cases

Concerned over rising disputes of RTI cases from Noida and Greater Noida, the State Information Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh Gynendra Sharma had a marathon meeting with senior district and authority officials on Wednesday and summoned all the public information officers (PIOs) on Thursday in the district headquarter at Surajpur in Greater Noida.

"The disposal of RTI cases in the Noida and Greater Noida is very unsatisfactory which responsible for pile up of RTI litigation in Lucknow. Both the authorities are financially sound and adjacent to the National Capital so they must set standards in RTI disposal by hiring more staff and equipment," said Sharma.

The commissioner also found that the authorities have never displayed the information regarding various development projects in their jurisdiction which is mandatory under section (4) of the RTI Act. "The RTI cases from the district are generally related to land issues, irregularities in allotment of developed plots and flats, non-performance of civic duties by the concerned authorities which are promised from time to time," added Sharma. Several RTI cases in Noida and Greater Noida authority are pending since years and even the first appellate authority has not decided them who have a limitation of only 30 days.
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CIC asks apex court for information on judges' elevation

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Supreme Court to reveal information about the elevation of three high court chief justices to the apex court superseding the seniority of three others. The action came on a Right to Information (RTI) application of activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who sought to know how were Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha elevated and appointed to the Supreme Court, superseding Justice A.P. Shah, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.K. Gupta. Supreme Court judges are selected by a collegium of the five senior most judges of the apex court headed by the Chief Justice of India. However, the court refused to entertain Agrawal's plea, saying that the information sought is "neither maintained nor available" with it. The applicant approached the first appellate authority, which also denied him the information. Agrawal then approached the CIC.
Stating that the "appointment of justices is decidedly a public activity conducted in the overriding public interest", Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah in his Nov 24 order said: "The information sought by appellant will now be provided to him within 15 working days".
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Advani vetoed govt's pick for CIC

The UPA wanted to install information commissioner M A Ansari as the next CIC following Wajahat Habibullah's acceptance of the J&K state information commissioners post but leader of Opposition L K Advani, it is learnt, objected to the government's choice. The process of choosing a consensus candidate for the post will now be taken up at a meeting after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from his US trip.

The PM had called a meeting last week to decide on the CIC, and it was attended by Advani, law minister Veerappa Moily and minister of state in PMO Prithviraj Chavan. The two names that were put forward by the government for the CIC's post were that of the two serving information commissioners M A Ansari and A N Tiwari of which the government's preference was for Ansari, it is learnt.

Advani objected to the names of both Ansari and Tiwari and said that if the government went ahead with any of these, he would not give a dissenting note, that could embarrass the government, but he would abstain from voting.
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RTI Stays Athena Power Plant Clearance

The National Environment Appellate Authority on 17-11-2009 stayed the Environment Clearance granted by Ministry of Environment and Forests to Hyderabad based Athena Chhattisgarh Power Pvt Ltd for establishment of 1200 MW Thermal Power Plant in Chhattisgarh. The decision came as a result of the Appeal filed by Jan Chetana and the "Villagers of Singhatarai" who challenged the environmental clearance on the ground that the Ministry of Environment and Forest approved the project without considering the fact that the Public Hearing held on 15.01.2009 was cancelled by the chairperson in view of the documents not being made available to the affected public and the procedure as contemplated in the EIA Notification was not followed. There was nothing on record to show that the Expert Appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests took note of the concerns expressed by the people and even took note of the decision of the chairperson (additional Collector) to declare the hearing null and void.

The NEAA went through the video recording (Obtained through RTI) of the Public
Hearing for over an hour which was provided by Jan Chetana and was convinced that there was discrepancy in what was recorded in the minutes of the public hearing and what was spoken in public by the A.D.M. Janjgir-Champa S.K.Chand. The video recording clearly showed large scale opposition of the public to the project.

Posted by Ramesh Agarwal on the Humjanenge board

Personal info can be sought under RTI says HC

Can personal information such as an address of an employee or a pensioner be demanded under the provisions of the Right To Information (RTI) Act? Yes, says the Madras high court. Justice K Chandru, pointing out that the writ petitioner M Kaliaperumal of Chennai wanted the personal details only to execute a court decree, said: "A pensioner does not cease to become totally out of control from the government. On the contrary, his conduct and character are continuously monitored by the central government. In that context, the whereabouts of such pensioner is also very much relevant and it cannot be a private information. The authorities are bound to help in the execution of court orders."

Kaliaperumal approached the postal department authorities at Gudur in Andhra Pradesh, seeking information about a man named K Ramachandra Rao, against whom a court order had been passed in a forgery case. Unable to find him at his residence, Kaliaperumal filed an RTI application demanding to know the postal address of Rao as the latter had been receiving his pension from the Gudur post office. However, the RTI plea was rejected on the ground that this was a personal information and had no public interest. His appeal too met with the similar fate.

Pointing out that the address was sought only to execute a court order, Justice Chandru said Kaliaperumal was not able to take further civil and criminal action against Rao as the latter's address was not known. Directing the authorities to furnish the correct address of Rao within 30 days, the judge said the plea did have a public interest as the pensioner's exact whereabouts would clear doubts as to whether such a pensioner really existed on the date of receipt of his pension or whether a fraudulent claim had been made on his behalf. "Such information cannot be denied," he said.
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No decision yet on new Chief Information Commissioner

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today met Leader of Opposition L K Advani and Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily to decide on the new Chief Information Commissioner but the meeting remained "inconclusive". Official sources said no final decision on the new Chief of the transparency Commission could be arrived at during the meeting which took place at the 7 Race Course Road. "The discussion remained inconclusive. It will now be taken up only after the Prime Minister returns from the United States," sources said.
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Changes to RTI in Bihar anger opposition, activists

Opposition parties and activists have slammed restrictions imposed on the Right to Information (RTI) Act by the Bihar government, saying the move is aimed at shielding corruption. The opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), Congress and Left parties are up in arms against the changes. 'Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is hell bent on discouraging people from seeking information but we will expose him,' RJD leader Ram Kirpal Yadav said. Congress state president Anil Kumar Sharma said the changes were anti-constitutional.
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HC: Can't ask govt to frame rules for CIC appointment

Though sympathetic towards the clamour for a transparent procedure in appointing the next Chief Information Commissioner of the country, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday expressed its inability to intervene, saying "such changes can't be initiated by the judiciary." A division bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar
declined to give any directions to the government to change the procedure for appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner, saying it was not in its jurisdiction to lay down criteria in this regard. "Court can't ask the government to frame rules to bring transparency. You can raise the issue before the government and before Parliament," the bench observed while hearing a PIL on the issue.
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RTI activists want Advani to skip CIC selection meeting

Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejariwal today wrote to Leader of Opposition L K Advani asking him not to attend the selection meeting for the post of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) till the process is made transparent. Kejariwal and a few RTI activists have also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi demanding that the next CIC be appointed through a "transparent, inclusive and participatory" process. The selection committee comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition L K Advani and Law Minister Veerappa Moiley is likely to meet on Friday evening to decide on the appointment, official sources said.
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