Friday, July 31, 2009

HC seeks info on CIC appointment

The Patna High Court on Thursday directed the state government to give details of the steps taken for filling up the post of chief information commissioner of the State Information Commission. A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Shivakirti Singh and Justice Anjana Prakash issued the directive again even as the state government maintained that the former Patna HC CJ, Justice J N Bhat, had been appointed the chief information commissioner in 2008 but had not joined yet. The order was passed on a PIL of Guddu Baba alias Vikas Chandra who said the post of chief information officer has remained vacant for about a year due to which the functioning of the State Information Commission has been hit.

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Employees have right to know details of promotional meetings

The minutes of the meetings held by the departmental promotional committees (DPCs) are not barred under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The information regarding promotional decisions cannot be denied to government employees by the departments on the ground that it is barred under section 8(1) of the Act. Instead, the departments, in order to maintain transparency in the administrative system, should grant their employees the right to know about their promotions and the factors that governed them.
The order has been passed by information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma. The order stated that promotions would be a fair deal when departments are aware that information on them can be made public. Further, the move would also satisfy the employees who would know that the promotions were not biased.

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Bihar Officials fined under RTI Act

The Bihar State Information Commission (SIC) on Wednesday imposed fine on two government officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those found on the wrong side of the Act are the block development officer (BDO) of Maner block in Patna district and the public information officer (PIO) of Barh sub-divisional hospital. Both the officials failed to provide relevant information to the applicants who had sought certain information under the RTI Act. The BDO and the PIO would have to cough up Rs 25,000 each as the fine amount.

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26-yr-old visually challenged man will receive first Rahul Mangaonkar award

Ratna Ala, a visually challenged 26-year-old youth, who used RTI to expose the improprieties of the local administration and got development to his village, will become the first recipient of the Rahul Mangaonkar Award for Best Use of RTI for Common Cause. The award was conceptualised to cherish and perpetuate the legacy of TOI journalist Rahul Mangaonkar, who had pioneered the use of Right to Information in journalism. Ala will be felicitated at Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry Auditorium on Sunday at 10.30 am. A native of Rangpur in Wankaner taluka of Rajkot district, Ala is visually impaired. He used the RTI to replace a stony path connecting his village to the main highway by a two-kilometre pucca road. His family belongs to below the poverty line. Ala, a class X passout, used RTI to get information on several schemes that the panchayat had claimed it had implemented but had not done so.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

RTI amendment this session?

The UPA government is planning to bring in a proposed controversial amendment to the Right to Information Act in the current session of Parliament. The proposed amendment is aimed at deleting "file notings" which many in the government believe were never part of the RTI Act as passed by Parliament. The ministry of personnel is reported to have readied the amendment and a stronger UPA government is confident it will be able to get it passed. Senior sources in the law ministry point out that details of the amendment have not reached them. But activists monitoring the RTI assert that past precedent has shown that the government often prefers to hold "informal consultations"
around a controversial draft and then introduce it quietly in Parliament.

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NMC, NIT don't know how much land they possess

How much land does the Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT) in the city owes? Does it have an audit report of its landholding and how much of it has been encroached upon by the land mafia? Shockingly, despite 63 years of existence, the NIT has no clue about its actual landholding as it never conducted its audit. This was revealed by NIT officials to an enquiry made under Right to Information Act (RTI) by social worker Jitendra Ghosekar. He filed a petition in public interest in the Bombay high court's Nagpur bench alleging that government land being unlawfully converted and used by private builders, land mafias and political leaders. In his petition, Ghosekar has claimed that not only the NIT, but Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and district collector as well have failed to conduct audit of their areas coming under their respective jurisdictions.

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CIC fines NCW for not giving info on Nithari, evades delay by own officials

The CIC has slapped a fine on the National Commission for Women for not providing complete information pertaining to tours undertaken by its members after the Nithari serial killings to an RTI applicant. In its decision, the information watchdog, however, chose to remain silent on the delay of over five months by its own officials in registering the complaint of the applicant. Criticising the NCW, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, "Institutions of this nature established to fulfill a basic need of a democratic society, can in their functioning provide merely an illusory service despite even the sincerest endeavours of those at helm.

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No info about Amity University ops: UGC informs CIC

Higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) has said it has no information available about the operations of Amity University in Noida in Uttar Pradesh. The UGC, in a reply to an RTI query, said Amity University has been established by an Act of state legislature of Uttar Pradesh as a private university and
empowered to award degrees as specified under section 22 of the UGC Act with the Approval of Statutory Councils, wherever required.

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Transparency Pune style!

It seems transparency is going to be the buzzword in Pune. That's because of the decision taken by the Pune Municipal Corporation to keep all its offices open on Mondays between 3pm and 5pm for inspection of files by citizens who wish to procure information about civic affairs. This is in accordance with the guidelines of Section 4 of the RTI Act and will be implemented from August 1. Intelligent Pune provides an overview of the steps that led to this transparency along with a peep into how many of our investigative stories have been carried out by the judicious use of Section 4. Also, read on to know what Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Zagade has to say about the process and what it implies for the city's betterment.

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Going to the Right way

The PMC has decided to allow easy access to information on various city-related issues. Moreover, the civic body will voluntarily release information on policy decisions, as per Section 4 of the Right to Information Act of 2005, and host open house on the first Monday of every month to let the citizens walk in and scan through the documents. Sakal Times spoke to some activists to get their views, specifically about the implications of the PMC's initiative Busting the bureaucratic secrecy The Right to Information Act of 2005 has been helpful in obtaining information that is otherwise kept hidden in the bureaucratic closets.

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Medical officer awaits answers

A medical officer with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), who had filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) act last month alleging rampant corruption within the organisation, is yet to receive any reply from the authorities. Patiala-based Dr Sajib Nandi, who was mercilessly beaten up by miscreants earlier this month in front of SAI, Patiala, had filed an 18-page application under the RTI act, raising 144 questions. Dr Nandi sustained damage to the right eye and was referred to the Post Graduate Institute Hospital in Chandigarh for further treatment.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

State govt decisions from 2005 will be public

From September 1, state departments and organisations have to provide you details of all government decisions -- taken after October 2005 -- or face action. Documents will include land records, budgets of departments, concessions, permits, minutes of meetings and decisions taken after October 2005, when the law came into effect. For example, you can find out why the plot next to your house was given to a particular builder and for how much. The state government has asked all its departments to get their act together by August 31, and also regularly update their websites and records, as mentioned in the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005. They can do this through the Internet or newspapers, by keeping records in a public library, or by appointing an officer to maintain a room for such records.

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No more bribes

A group of residents at Sun City near the Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road junction refuse to grease official palms to obtain khata, pay property tax and the like. They used RTI to find out the status of their applications, forcing the officials to act. It’s a model for the rest of Bangalore. In our society, where not many seem averse to corruption and think more about comfort than virtue, the decision of a group of young Bangalore residents to go against the grain is heartening. Under the aegis of the Suncity Apartment Owners Association (SAOA), 250 residents of Suncity Apartments on the Sarjapur-Outer Ring Road junction have paid their property tax for last year, and about 100 of them are in the process of getting the khata of their apartment registered shortly, all without paying a single paisa in bribe, either to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, the Bangalore Development Authority or the revenue officials.

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These govt offices get it all wrong in helping commoners use RTI

It would be a nightmarish experience for those who want to seek some information from some important government establishments in Rajkot, like regional transport office, civil hospital and railway station. Even four years after the Right to Information Act (RTI) was formed, several government offices are completely passive about helping people get information under the Act. TOI visited many offices only to find that RTI seekers were facing difficulties, right from searching for the public information officer. According to RTI Act, public authority should make all the facilities available to citizens for obtaining information that includes names, designations and other particulars of PIOs.

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CIC order a shot in arm for RTI activists

The Central Information Commission's (CIC) recent order to provide compensation to a complainant has evoked a positive response among the Right To Information (RTI) activists across the State. The CIC on Tuesday issued an order instructing the Department of Women and Children to pay compensation to a complainant for the failure by the department in furnishing an information citing the file was missing. "Earlier, authorities who did not want to provide information under the RTI Act could have refused the information stating that the concerned file has been missing. Then, there will be no other option but to close the file. However, with the CIC making it clear that such actions could attract punishment, the authorities might not play similar tricks in future," said RTI activist D B Binu.

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DEO wants Rs 8K to reply to RTI application

A simple application under Right to Information (RTI) Act to know the applicants' names and details for the post of Shikshan Sahayaks in schools in the city, procedures followed by the district education officer (DEO) for hiring them and names of interviewers can cost you thousands of rupees. At least, that is what it seems from the reply given by the DEO's office to an RTI application. Vipul Patel had demanded information about the procedures followed by the DEO in hiring Shikshan Sahayaks (teaching assistants) in secondary and higher secondary schools in the city on July 8, 2009. He wanted to see the list of candidates who had applied for the posts, details of those summoned for the interview and their merit, documents that showed that interviews were conducted and details of interviewers between April 2007 and July 2009.

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What about war crimes? - Kargil hero's family to government

A decade ago Captain Saurabh Kalia and five of his men were captured by insurgents in the icy hills of Kargil and tortured for days before their mutilated bodies were handed back. As India commemorates the military victory, Saurabh's parents plan to use the Right to Information Act to know about steps taken by the government to highlight war crimes. "For the past 10 years, the government is just assuring us that it would
highlight the war crimes committed against our son and other soldiers during the Kargil war at the international fora, but nothing concrete has materialised. Now, my next move will be to seek information under the RTI Act in this regard," N K Kalia, 61, a retired senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, told IANS by phone.

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Is stock exchange a public body?

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has once again moved the Bombay High Court seeking to avoid sharing "confidential" information with the public. The bourse had last year moved the HC challenging an earlier order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing it to furnish information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. BSE had argued that stock exchanges are not "public authorities", which are covered by the RTI Act. While the courts are still to decide whether BSE is covered by the RTI Act, an ex-BSE member ingeniously filed an application with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to get information regarding disbursal of funds by the BSE from the IPF. The applicant, Yogesh Mehta, made an RTI application to Sebi last September. He stated that the information sought by him regarding disbursal of money under the IPF since 1995 was in the larger public interest. The market regulator then forwarded Mehta's application to BSE and asked it to provide the relevant information. The BSE replied that it could not entertain Mehta's application because if Sebi were to obtain information from those it regulates and make it available to a third party, it would effectively extend the provisions of the RTI Act even to those that are not a public authority.

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CCP paid leases, rents at antiquated rates

Even as the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) is in financial doldrums facing a Rs 12 crore deficit and no funds to develop Panaji, businesses such as petrol pumps are paying it annual leases at antiquated rates of around Rs 20,000 per annum. This is in spite of the value of real estate in Panaji having sky-rocketed. A document on CCP's land leases, which was made available by ruling corporator Regina Almeida through the Right to Information Act (RTI), has also revealed that the CCP has several properties in Panaji whose leases have expired years ago, but not renewed. According to the document, a petrol pump opposite the river navigation department is paying the CCP Rs 20,664 as annual rent. Another petrol pump, also on the D B Road, between the old and new Patto bridges, is paying an annual rent of Rs 12,096. The CCP also has properties whose leases have not been renewed since 1983, and in a few cases since 2004.

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Information denied by MC under RTI

Universal Human Rights organisation has been denied information on Ludhiana roads sought from the Municipal Corporation, under the Right to information act in November 2008, the organisation's President Satnam Singh Dhaliwal said. The details sought were the names of the contractors who constructed the roads and undertook further repair. Also, information was sought on the deadline MC provided for the completion of work. However, no information has been provided till date. Satnam has now raised the issue with the information officer asking him to take action against the MC authorities.

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RTI nails IAS officers

15 top IAS officers fail to file annual returns in 07 and 08. Prominent names include former PCMC chiefs Dilip Band and Aseem Kumar Gupta Fifteen officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) are in a sticky situation. A Right to Information Act (RTI) query revealed the names of IAS officers who did not submit their annual returns (it includes movable and immovable property taxes) to the general administration department as on January 1, 2009. The RTI was filed by activist Vihar Durve. Among the fifteen are two well known faces Dilip Band, the divisional commissioner of Pune, also a former Pimpri Chinchwad municipal commissioner, and Aseem Kumar S K Gupta, also a former municipal commissioner of Pimpri Chinchwad. Every year, IAS officers are required to submit annual returns in the month of January as per the All India Service (Conduct) Rules 1968 (Rule 16(1) and 16(2)) . Copies are required to be submitted in two sets, of which, one is to be submitted to the General Administration Department and the other is forwarded by the state government to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), said Durve.

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Exclude judges from RTI Act

Declaration of assets by judges should be excluded from the purview of the Right to Information Act, Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan has said. He told media persons, after inaugurating a guest house of the Madras High Court here on Saturday, that the Act should not be made as a tool to harass the judges. Failure or false declaration of assets by judges would be presumed to be a misconduct under the proposed law. Misconduct was one of the grounds for removal of a judge, he reminded.

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Govt depts cite `lost' files to refuse information

Right to Information applicants have a new obstacle in disclosure of information: missing files. Government departments have conveniently taken recourse to "losing" paperwork to avoid answering queries. Some recent cases that have come up before the Central Information Commission (CIC) demonstrate this.For instance, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) recently informed the CIC that of the 5,259 `tehbazaris' in three municipal zones, it had records of only 1,228. According to MCD officials, the files for 4,031 tehbazaris was "lost". Tehbazaris are street vendors who are given a legal right to hawk their wares through a registration process.

Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi raised the issue with MCD commissioner K S Mehra expressing "shock" at the callousness of the corporation staff. Gandhi asked for an independent investigation to fix responsibility. Urging that the missing files be reported to the police, Gandhi said, "These files have either been stolen or never existed in the first place. If it is the latter, the matter has very serious implications as it means that there are hundreds of hawkers operating in the city who do not have any legal authorisation."

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Cost of CM's concern: Rs 20 lakh per visit

It's entirely justified for a chief minister to try and "tone up the administration", even if the timing of Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's forays to the districts after a string of electoral reverses may be used by his political opponents to score brownie points. Equally, and in the public interest, it is in order given the state of the implementation of the Right to Information Act in West Bengal that people know how much each visit costs. To the end the suspense: The state government is spending anything up to Rs 20 lakh on each chief ministerial visit. Mr Bhattacharjee has so far visited seven districts ~ Murshidabad, Nadia, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum, Howrah and Hooghly ~ at an approximate cost of Rs 1.2 to 1.4 crore, and he has miles to go before he covers them all.

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Govt depts taking the court route to duck RTI

The state government is hitting at a new trend to keep RTI on lesser oxygen. It is approaching the court against RTI rulings to avoid penal action by the commission. Quite a number of rulings of the state information commission have not been implemented because of this emerging new practice. "More and more government departments are taking shelter in the judiciary to avoid penal action for violation of RTI Act", said sources. After court's stay order on the rulings SIC has no option left but to wait till the final verdict. Since there is nothing stopping anyone from approaching the court against RTI rulings, government does it to avoid providing the information sought under RTI.

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City resident questions CHB criteria for issuance of NOCs

Denied information by the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) on the issuance of No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for sale, a resident of the city filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 on Friday.
The applicant, Krishna Kumar, had filed an RTI application on June 24 earlier this year seeking information from the Administration on the number of NOCs for sale issued within one month, three months and six months from the date of filing of the application, during the last five years. The applicant had earlier raised the question of the Board's priority in deciding the issuance of NOCs. He sought information from the CHB on the criteria adopted — whether the NOCs were strictly issued on first-cum-first served basis, or were they issued out of turn, besides other issues.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Cabinet okays bill to keep judge’ assets confidential

The higher judiciary has succeeded in winning the cabinet's approval to keep the wealth details of Supreme Court and High Court judges secret. At its meeting which continued till late on Thursday night, the cabinet okayed the law ministry's controversial draft bill, which while making it mandatory for judges, their wives and children to declare their assets annually, also lays down that all such details will be kept confidential. It was precisely this confidentiality that the judiciary, keen to remain outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act, had been lobbying for. The decision clearly shows that the lobbying has been successful.

Law minister M. Veerappa Moily is likely to introduce the bill in Parliament next week. It remains to be seen whether the legislation will sail through in its present form, given that even Congress Rajya Sabha members led by Rajeev Shukla had harshly criticised the judiciary's opposition to greater transparency during earlier debates. Top jurists slammed the move. Former CJI, Justice J.S. Verma, who had made
assets declaration for judges mandatory in 1997, called the new bill "a joke." "You want to maintain confidentiality only if you are hiding something," he said.

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Judiciary, Govt killing RTI Act: Panel member

The government and judiciary pose a serious threat to the Right to Information (RTI), and if citizens do not step in, it faces the danger of being destroyed, a
Central Information Commissioner (CIC)has warned. The widely prevalent and dangerous trend of resistance to transparency in their functioning by those in power will gradually kill the RTI Act, CIC, Shailesh Gandhi (62), said in a rare outburst while talking to Hindustan Times. Governments across the country, irrespective of which party they belong to, follow a pattern of misgovernance and are opposed to transparency, he said. The judiciary has been granting stays on the orders of the information watchdog to provide information under the RTI Act, this will eventually kill it, Gandhi said. Government departments were rushing to courts to get stay orders against the decisions of information commissions to provide information to common man. Delays in courts in finally deciding such matters will destroy the RTI Act, he said. Questioning the Union and state governments commitment to the RTI, Gandhi said there was no transparency in the appointment of information commissioners.

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Activists want online filing of RTI petitions

Activists want online filing of RTI petitions Have you ever stopped yourself from filing an RTI application just because it requires paper work? People from the IT industry, lawyers, RTI activists and NGOs have now come together to make it possible to file them online. We have invited suggestions from the people in the industry and our team is working on this concept of filing RTI applications online. We will approach the state with a foolproof plan about its implementation, said Vijay Mukhi, Chairman Indian Merchant Chambers. The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Shailesh Gandhi, said converting the entire process online is not feasible at this stage. Most government officials do not know how to use computers. Until we have the computer literacy in place, the online filing would not be of any use, said Gandhi. But experts from the industry have welcomed the idea.

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SSC, HSC answer papers can be obtained through RTI

In a significant development, state information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar on Thursday ordered that the answer sheets of the secondary school certificate (SSC or std X) and higher secondary certificate (HSC or std XII) examinations conducted by the state board for secondary and higher secondary education were not confidential and that it could be obtained through the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The order was given in the case, Abhijit Shripad Joshi vs SSC board.

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Diluting RTI Act: Court seeks reply from government

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday, asking it explain within two weeks why it had removed five subjects from the purview of the Right to Information Act. The notice was issued following a writ petition filed on behalf of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) by RTI activists Sandeep Pandey and Naveen Tiwari. On June 7, the state government had issued a notification stating that appointment of the Governor, High Court judges and ministers, the code of conduct for ministers and the letters written by the Governor to the President will not come under the purview of the RTI Act.

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Aashreya admission info concealed: RTI

Authorities at places like Nari Niketan and Aashreya, places where a destitute is supposed to find safety, have been smugly recording misinformation with regard to their inmates. Such is the extent of callousness persisting at these shelters for the mentally retarded and homeless that two inmates who had never been on the attendance roll of Nari Niketan were shifted to Aashreya by a member of the committee responsible for admissions there.

This was revealed by RK Garg, an RTI activist who had sought information in this connection a few days ago. He had enquired about the visitors’ register and attendance of the inmates at both homes. It was found that on February 24, Vani Ratnam, member of the committee responsible for admissions to Aashreya, which is being run under aegis of Government Institute for the Mentally Retarded in Sector-32, had been one of the visitors in Nari Niketan who had come to shift Girija and Champa, both females, to Aashreya. “However, none of them were enrolled in Nari Niketan, according to the attendance register for the period from January onwards. But these names figured in the record of Aashyera starting March 2, when this home was inaugurated,” said Garg.

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No BMC nod for construction near historic caves

A plea filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has unearthed the fact that the BMC has not granted permission to a private builder to excavate the site near the historic Magathane caves in Borivli. The seventh century Buddhist monument, which even historians and officials of the archaeological department are unaware of, could cave in if work continues. Activist Anita Rane-Kothare, professor of Ancient Indian Culture at St Xavier's College, teamed up with a local `shakha adhyaksh' of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to file a dual, identical set of RTI applications to the BMC, state department of archaeology and the charity commissioner.

The pleas dated July 11 demand to know whether the civic authorities have granted permission to Ekta Builders to construct a 22-storey apartment on the site, whether the archaeology department has attempted to preserve the caves, and why the office of the charity commissioner had allowed a temple and even a few tombs to be built over the caves.

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Petition questions dilution of RTI Act by Uttar Pradesh

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Thursday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to explain within two weeks as to why five subjects have been removed from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The five subjects are the appointment of governor, high court judges, ministers, code of conduct for ministers and letters written by the governor to the president. The court issued the notice to the state government while hearing a petition from the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) by Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey and noted RTI crusader Naveen Tiwari.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

HC moved to look into functioning of Information Commission

A TV programme anchor today moved the Madras High Court seeking appointment of a judicial commission to inquire into alleged malfunctioning or inefficient performance of the State Information Commission. In the Public Interest Litigation, C R Bhaskaran, who anchors "Voice of Justice" programme in a private channel, wanted the commission, comprising one or more high court judges, to submit a report to the court on infrastructural inadequacies and functional hiccups of the commission. The panel should suggest ways and means of revamping the working of the SIC and to recommend possible penal action against erring Commissioners of the SIC, the petition said.

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Govt collects Rs 39,750 under RTI Act

A total of 28 government officers were penalized by the Goa state information commission since its inception and a total fine of Rs 39,750 collected from them mostly for delay in providing information to the applicants. The above information was provided by chief minister Digambar Kamat in an unstarred question by opposition leader Manohar Parrikar in the legislative assembly on Tuesday.

In his written reply, Kamat said that there is no provision in the Right to Information (RTI) Act for appeal against the orders of the Goa state information commission but in some cases, writ petitions have been filed by the public information officers. Kamat said that out of the eight cases in which writ petitions were filed in the high court by the affected government officers, the high court had quashed and set aside only one order of the information commission. Of the remaining seven, interim stay was granted in six cases and interim relief was granted in one case.

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Info on teachers' attendance records sought under RTI Act

To ensure presence of the teaching faculty in University School of Open Learning (formerly known as the department of correspondence studies), Panjab University, a city resident and former PU student, Dr Manpreet Singh, keeping in view the larger interest of students, has sought information on attendance records of the faculty in an application filed on Tuesday under the RTI Act, 2005. Dr Singh said he filed the RTI application following many complaints from the student community and his personal experience with University School of Open Learning.

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MC seeks Rs 4 lakh from NGO to provide details under RTI

In order to discourage an NGO to seek more information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (MC) has asked the organisation to deposit Rs 4 lakh. The Anti-Corruption and Crime Investigation Cell, a registered NGO, had recently sought information from the MC about the embezzlement of bills which are less than Rs 5,000 and do not require clearance from the Finance and Contract Committee (F&CC) of the MC.

The NGO wanted to know whether such bills needed to be sanctioned by the F&CC or
any other competent authority. Apart from seeking details of the total money
spent by various officials and departments of MC in the last two and half years,
the NGO had also sought a copy of rule/bylaw/notification if bills less than Rs
5000 did not require any sanction.

In reply to the application, the Assistant Public Relations Officer (APIO) of the MC said the information could not be provided in the table form. The APIO said that there were approximately 30,000 petty works amounting to Rs 5,000. The APIO said at least five to six months time is required to give this information but copies of bills may be provided after Rs 4 lakh was deposited with the MC. Reason: there are 2 lakh pages that needed to be processed.

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Unaware of video-conferencing facility, many RTI activists skip hearings

T Sadagopan, an RTI activist in the city, had sent his written arguments by post to the Central Information Commission (CIC) when he was asked to appear before the commission in connection with an appeal he had filed. The reason: Sadagopan could not go all the way to Delhi for the hearing. Moreover, he was not aware that he could participate in the hearing from Chennai, using the video- or audio-conferencing facility available at CIC. Even two years after CIC started using audio- and video-conferencing to hear cases, many RTI activists in Chennai do not know the existence of the facility. They complain that CIC has not publicised the facility through newspapers or on its website. "The Commission did not even inform me in its notice that I could represent my case using the facility. Had they informed me, I would not have missed a chance to argue the case myself at the hearing,'' Sadagopan said.

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ESI, EPF scam at PMCH alleged

The money in the ESI and EPF accounts of the employees engaged in sanitary and security services at PMCH is not being deposited properly. This was alleged by Humlog Trust which sought information about it under RTI Act. The sanitary and security services at PMCH have been outsourced. Trust secretary Parveen Amanullah, who is also convener of Bihar Right to Information Manch, said after getting information from the information officer of the PMCH she cross-checked with the offices of ESI and EPF and was surprised to detect huge irregularities in deposit of money in the name of the employees. She said less than the actual money has been deposited through challan and alleged scam by agencies which have been outsourced by the PMCH. She said due to negligence and inaction by the hospital superintendent and health department officials, the earning of the employees was being plundered for the last two years.

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Officials fined for violating RTI Act

The State Information Commission (SIC) on Tuesday imposed fine on two government officials for violating the RTI Act. Those fined are Dhanarua block education officer of Patna district and public information officer (PIO) of Madhubani DM office. The erring education officer failed to provide relevant information to one Satyendra Prasad Singh for which he would have to cough up Rs 250 per day effective from May 1 this year with the upper limit of fine amount being Rs 25,000. The SIC fixed August 25 as the next date of hearing of the case and directed the erring official to provide relevant information to the applicant latest by August 18.

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New RTI Act rules by J&K govt not 'people friendly': Experts

The new rules under the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009 notified by the State government is attracting strong criticism from RTI activists, who have alleged several discrepancies in it. "There are lot of loopholes in these rules. It clearly reflects that it is not people friendly, the BPL category have been completely ignored," Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, access to information program, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said.

The state government has listed the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Rules, 2009 on its website (www.gadjk.nic.in). The fee for any RTI application has been kept at Rs 50 as against Rs 10 which is taken as fee in the rest of India. "The BPL category will not be able to exercise their Right to Information. And the standing parliamentary committee is already considering to exempt the Centre's RTI Act 2005 of the Rs 10 charges too," he said. "The information officer will charge Rs 10 per page as cost of providing photocopies of the actual document as against Rs two per page in rest of India. For inspection of records also, there is no fee for the first hour and a fee of Rs 15 for each subsequent hour (or a fraction thereof)," Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat, convener J-K RTI movement in Kashmir said. "As per RTI Act 2005, no fees are charged for inspection of records," he said.

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Just 10-mnts and you are through!

It is `instant' justice that the Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) metes out to each aggrieved RTI applicant approaching it. No gratitude to technology here. The effort is rather driven by huge number of cases received each day. At least 300 cases coming up each day for hearing, `ten minutes' is the average time spent on each case by Information Commissioners (ICs). "The time can vary, at times more or less than this but mostly this is the average and we do not have a choice," said sources. An applicant might have waited for months to get the information sought under RTI from public authority that he approached. He might have also waited for months to get hearing fixed at the commission. But once his case gets fixed for
hearing, it is all a matter of ten minutes or even less for the commission to make its point in his case. The fact is well supported by figures, ICs and even applicants. Every day the commission gets to hear at least 300 cases and there are nine ICs to dispose of the cases and mete out justice to complaints and appellants. Coming down to simple arithmetics, each commissioner should be taking care of at least 33 cases on any working day. Every IC has six-hour shift, from 8 am to 2 pm thus making each complainant or appellant a slightly more than ten-minutes available for hearing.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RTI brings out discrepancies in admission at Aashreya

An RTI application regarding the admission criteria in Aashreya, a home for the
mentally challenged in Sector-47, has revealed startling discrepancies. A shocking response to an application has borne out that the number of persons accepted for admissions was 16 while the number of occupants is 14 and there is no information about the ‘missing’ two. Also, the ward of one of the applicants was refused admission on the grounds that he was both mentally ill and retarded, while the home was for the mentally retarded, having some beds for the mentally ill. The information was sought under RTI by Kabir Aggarwal, a resident of Zirakpur, on April 27. An advertisement regarding admission to orphans who were mentally challenged, was published in January.

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SPIO directed to compensate complainant under RTI

Chief Information Commissioner of the Manipur Information Commission, RK Angousana has directed the SPIO/DC Imphal East district to compensate Ningombam Ngangbi, wife of N Nanda Meitei of Khongman Zone V with Rs 6000 for failing to furnish information sought under RTI Act. According to a statement issued by the MACHA LEIMA RTI coordinator, N Gunileima, Ngangbi had submitted an application on November 7 last year to the SPIO/DC
Imphal East requesting him to furnish information under RTI Act regarding the implementation of NREGS in Khongman Gram Panchayat. It stated that Ngangbi was threatened to withdraw the application from various quarters which she ignored.

Complete Article

Punjabi University under scanner for appointing lecturers without issuing ads

The Punjabi University in Patiala is yet again in trouble on account of ‘illegal’ appointments, this time in the teaching department. According to information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it has come to the fore that as many as 68 lecturers were appointed by the university without issuing any advertisements. The information was sought by advocate H C Arora of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It has been revealed that the appointments were made during the tenure of former vice-chancellor S S Boparai, without issuance of any advertisements and continue to remain in service. A scrutiny of related documents, received under the RTI, reveals that 68 lecturers were directly approved by issuing orders on the applications itself. Some of them were appointed on the basis of recommendations made by Heads of Departments while a substantial number of appointments were made on the basis of recommendations made by principals of colleges under the university.

Complete Article

Riverbed plans raise stink in Noida

ith the dust from the mammoth Mayawati memorial being constructed in
Noida yet to settle down, the Noida Authority has come up with yet another
proposal that has raised the hackles of residents. The authority is planning to
designate an area of 20.77 acres on the Yamuna river bed as commercial/industrial and recently invited objections and suggestions from residents on the proposal. However, an RTI query to the UP irrigation department has also thrown up that the area was transferred the authority on the condition that it would be developed as active flood zone/pond area.

The public notice announcing the proposed land use for the plot located in the middle of the DND toll road and the old Pushta Road was published in newspapers on May 28, asking residents to come up with suggestions and objections. Those who went for the meetings say the department did not even have the requisite clearances for such a proposal, considering that the land is within 10 km of a protected area Okhla Bird Sanctuary, 10 km of a critically polluted area Yamuna and 10 km of a state boundary Delhi, all requiring an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

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Missing files no ground to reject RTI plea

Refusal to provide information under the Right to Information Act citing missing files can now evoke punishment. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has reprimanded the Delhi government's department of women and children for allowing a critical file linked to the purchase scam to go missing and ordered that the appellant seeking the file as part of a reply to an RTI be compensated with Rs 10,000. The CIC also directed that appellant Raj Mangal Prasad be compensated before August 31, failing which a penal interest of 12% will be applicable. The CIC noted that the appellant had asked for the status of action taken by the department in the matter of the purchase scam which involved essential items bought for inmates of state run homes. The government replied and indicated the action taken based on available records.

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Rajasthan State info panel not effective

The right to information campaign might have begun in Rajasthan, but the state information commission doesn't seem to be an effective tool in implementing the RTI Act. A recent study conducted by Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA), an NGO, has
claimed that the decisions taken by the SIC in the last one year has shown that the first appellate authority is not performing its role and did not take any action in most of the cases.

The study, titled "Evaluation of decisions of Rajasthan Information Commission," prepared by a legal expert team under the guidance of former chairman Law Commission Justice V S Dave, observed that if the first appellate authority does not perform its duty in an appropriate manner, it will result in a backlog of cases in the commission and also the objective of appointing the first appellate authority will be defeated. While the study was carried out under the supervision of Dave, others in the committee included Swati, Vishnoi, Manju Dave, Nishant Mandawra and Chandra Prakash.

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'It's not yet time to amend the RTI Act'

While RTI activist may be staging arrest to oppose any amendments being made to the Right to Information Act, 2005, a report submitted last year by information commissioners spread across the country decided that the legislation needs to be given more time to evolve. The committee, constituted by the Central Information Commission, consisted of nine chief state information commissioners covering all regions of the country and a central information commissioner. The report was submitted in latter part
of 2008 to the Prime Minister. This year too, a committee has been constituted to suggest amendments but has met only once for its preliminary meet. While the objectives of the meeting were to coordinate the suggestion received from state commissions, and review the suggested amendments in the Act, it unanimously decided that more amendments be considered later.

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Info commission orders inquiry into missing files

The State Information Commission has ordered the director of municipal administration to hold an inquiry into the missing files that contained lists of owners/allottees of shops, stalls and gaddas in phase I, II and III of the Corporation of City of Panaji's new market complex. The order passed on July 14 by the state information commissioner Afonso Araujo also directed the DMA to submit his report within three months of the inquiry following a complaint filed by Ronnie Rodrigues from Porvorim.

The commission also ordered that a compensation amount of Rs 5,000 be paid to the complainant for harm and injury' caused to him by the delay in providing information regarding shop number 26 in the market, allotted to him by the CCP. The complainant had also sought a copy of the list of all shops, stalls, gaddas, owners and allottees in phase I, II and III of the new market. The compensation amount is to be paid from CCP's funds.

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Bureaucrats send RTI petition for a jaunt

Should you seek information from the Centre through a Right to Information (RTI) petition, you better be conversant in all Indian languages. Even so, chances are you may still not get what you have asked for. M.K. Haridas of The Proper Channel petitioned the Election Commission of India (ECI) for information on the sum accrued by the government by way of forfeited security deposits of candidates in the 2004 and 2009 general elections. For want of nation-wide data on the same, the ECI promptly forwarded the request, as per Section 6(3) of the RTI Act, to election commissions in all States and Union Territories.

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B-Schools may have to show GD, interview scores

A right To Information (RTI) appeal by a student in Delhi may bring in more transparency for those appearing for competitive exams. A recent order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) is likely to change the examination model in government-promoted institutions such as IIMs and university affiliated B-Schools. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on Thursday slammed the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi University, for not giving out the break-up of marks scored in written test, group discussion and personal interview to the student. As per the existing practice, students get to know only written test scores and percentiles. However, their scores in group discussions and personal interviews (GDs&PIs), a stage that comes after the written tests, are not disclosed.

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SIC plagued with complaints on face of poor redressal at local levels

No speculations on RTI's tardy pace in UP. The monthly records of State Information Commission (SIC) speak for a bleak picture on RTI's health in the state. Every single commissioner at SIC receives not less than 2,000 complaints a month against public authorities for not providing information. The figures for May this year show that each of the nine information commissioners (ICs) received complaints between 1,500 and 3,000 under Section (18) of the RTI Act. In a single month alone, there have been total 18,068 complaints received by the commission.

The maximum complaints have been received by IC SC Pandey -- 2,863, the other ICs who follow are RHV Tripathi (2,701), SK Chaudhary (2,615), VK Saxena (2,287), RS Awasthi (2,025), Major Sanjay Yadav (1,978), AK Gupta (1,814) and BK Mishra (1,329). The only exception, however, is IC Gyanendra Sharma who has received minimum of 456 complaints in May. It is not a month-specific trend but a general projection for every month. In April the commission received 17,514 complaints with each IC receiving complaints between 1,200 and 2,800 a month. The worst is that the number of second appeals filed with the ICs has been meagre, not even in double digits for these months.

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DN Dutt to be new Chief Information Commissioner of Assam

Proper use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act can bring down the level of corruption by a great extent, said DN Dutt, who will take over as the Chief Information Commissioner, Assam, soon. Talking to The Assam Tribune, Dutt, a former Director General of Assam Police, said that proper use of the Act would also be beneficial for the Government to improve its performance. He said that the Act would bring transparency in the administration, which is vital for improving the performance of the Government. Dutt, who is now a member of the Police Accountability Commission, would resign from his present job before taking over his new assignment.

Complete Article

'40% rural info seekers complain of harassment'

Over 40% of rural respondents of a major RTI survey said they had faced harassment and threats from officials while filing an application to obtain information. Nearly 30% of respondents from villages said Public Information Officers had discouraged them from filing the application. About 50% of the rural PIOs did not have a copy of the RTI Act readily available with them.

The survey brings out the great rural-urban divide in the implementation of the RTI Act. Only 15% of the urban respondents cited harassment and lack of co-operation from officials. And just 5% of urban PIOs who were interviewed did not have a copy of the RTI Act available with them. These findings emerged in a survey conducted across 10 states, and NCR Delhi, in 2008. The states were Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Orissa, Rajasthan, UP and West Bengal. Over 35,000 people were interviewed; 1,027 public authorities' offices were inspected in rural as well as urban areas. The survey was conducted by RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and National Campaign For People's Right to Information (NCPRI).

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Over 1.11 lakh petitions under RTI Act in TN

Over 1.11 lakh petitions were received seeking information under RTI Act till June end this year from Tamil Nadu, believed to be the highest in any state in the country, a top official said today. Replies were given by concerned departments to over 82,360 applications, R Perumalsamy, State Information Commissioner, told reporters here. Under the rules of the Act, which came into effect in 2005, the Information Commissioner has issued 1,200 showcause notices to various departments for "deliberate" delay, denial and also failure to answer queries, while penalty of Rs 25,000 each has been imposed on 40 officials, Perumalsamy said.

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Disclose Sino-India war report: HC to centre

The Delhi High Court Thursday directed the government to place before it the report of Lt Gen Henderson Brooks on the reasons behind the 1962 Sino-India war to decide whether it could be made public. Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to the government and asked it to file its response on a petition filed by noted journalist Kuldip Nayar, seeking the court's direction to the centre to disclose the report. Advocate Rajiv Nayar, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the report was more that 45 years old and it could not remain classified. "It is now 43 years old and should have been formally available in the Archives of India, some 30 years after it was submitted to the Government of India. I hope I can use my right under Right to Information to get a copy," the petition said, adding that in the US, the papers relating to the Vietnam war were made public. The court after hearing his arguments asked the government to file the report in a sealed envelope and posted the matter for further hearing on Oct 22.

Complete Article

RTI not bureaucrats’ preserve, says report

A recent report on the Right to Information Act has busted the myth that the Act was used mainly by government employees interested in accessing information relating to their careers. The report, ‘The People’s RTI Assessment-2008,’ said only 15 per cent of the urban applicants and 6 per cent of the rural applicants were government
employees. It also dispelled the notion that only the educated better-off accessed the Act: almost 60 per cent of the rural applicants and 40 per cent of the urban applicants were not even graduates. Further, 30 per cent of the rural applicants and 15 per cent of the urban applicants were from below the poverty line families. However, the RTI users were overwhelmingly men.

Brought out jointly by the Right to Information Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), the report was based on interviews with 35,000 people in villages, towns and cities across 10 States.

Complete Article

'Disclose instructions on unclaimed cheques'

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to clarify if it has issued any instruction regarding a private bank's alleged practice to credit amounts of clearing instruments, like cheques and drafts, having insufficient details of account holders to a suspense account. "...Give a comprehensive reply stating categorically if RBI had ever issued any instruction on the subject and if, according to available information with them, such practice is being followed in other banks, including public sector banks," Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said.

Mishra was hearing the plea of Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had earlier filed an RTI application with the Ministry of Finance to know if it was aware of the practice by ICICI Bank. Agrawal said, "...The amount of cheques having insufficient details of customers is often transferred to suspense accounts. The person has to run around to claim it. My RTI was about the practice followed in ICICI Bank and a directive, if any, on the subject."

Complete Article

Open CIC offices across the country: PwC report

Taking note of the difficulty for RTI applicants from across the country to come to New Delhi for appeal hearings at the Central Information Commission (CIC), a report commissioned by the Central government has recommended the CIC to open offices at locations across the country. The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), titled ˜Understanding the key issues and constraints in implementing the RTI Act, says that as appellants do not have enough time and money to reach Delhi for second appeal, the CIC should open offices at other locations so as to reach out to the masses.

PwC has recommended that CIC should seek approval of the Central government to open offices under Section 12(7) of the RTI Act.This section states, The headquarters of the Central Information Commission shall be at Delhi and the Central Information Commission may, with the previous approval of the Central government, establish offices at other places in India. The report has also called for similar steps to be taken by State Information Commissions (SIC).

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CIC is a dumping ground for ex-babus

A study of constraints in implementing the Right to Information ( RTI) Act has criticised the government for treating the Central Information Commission (CIC) and its state counterparts as a dumping ground for retired bureaucrats. The government was rapped on the knuckles by a panel that it had commissioned.The most ambitious study yet on limitations in implementing the RTI Act recommends that 50 per cent - if possible, even more - of the information commissioners must be appointed from nonbureaucratic backgrounds. It took exception to the ' norm' that most appointees are retired bureaucrats.

The study admits that former bureaucrats do bring in administrative or quasi-judicial expertise as information commissioners. But it asserts that civil servants are seen as " soft" while passing orders on principal information officers who are government servants. The department of personnel and training ( DoPT) had commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers ( PwC) to conduct the study. The final report, prepared in association with IMRB International, was recently submitted to the
government.The report says more people with knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism and mass media should be appointed commissioners.

Complete Article

RTI inactive in PAU

It appears queries regarding the Right to Information Act at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), do not hold much importance for the information officer and assistant information officer, because most people don't know about their whereabouts.
the Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005, requires that every public authority should display the names, designations and telephone numbers of its information officers in a conspicuous place, near their offices within 120 days of the Act's implementation, so that people know where to find them. however, two years after the RTI Act was enforced, no such signs are found near the office of the PAU registrar, who is also the university's public information officer (PIO).

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RTI exposes chinks in Delhi Metro's working

Like every other worker working at metro construction sites, Shamsher too is at risk. He uses a gas-cutter almost everyday but without wearing any safety equipment.
However, he isn't complaining, but that could only be because maybe he just doesn't know any better. "I leave everything to God. Whatever will have to happen will happen," says he. workers like Shamsher are hardly aware of their rights as daily wage labourers - a fact clearly revealed by an RTI query. In the last 10 years, more than 69 people have lost their lives in various metro accidents but none of them have received compensation packages as per the Workmans' Compensation Act of 1923. Supreme Court lawyer, Rajesh Tyagi says, "The payments that the Delhi Metro RaiL Corporation (DMRC) is making is only ex-gratia payment, which in no way absolves DMRC of its liability." The DMRC set up a labour welfare fund in 2003, but lawyers say it seems that this was done to evade civil liability.

Complete Article

Official fined for RTI breach

For the first time since the implementation of the Right to Information Act in Tripura, an official in the education department of the Autonomous District Council has been slapped with a fine of Rs 25,000 for delaying dissemination of information to an applicant. The chief executive officer of the ADC, Kumar Alak, has been directed by state information commissioner B.K. Chakraborty to realise the amount from the officer
and deposit it in the treasury.

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Batla House encounter: Information commission stays its own order

The CIC wrote to AIIMS asking not to execute its order to furnish autopsy reports of those killed in the Batla House encounter till the matter is decided by the high court.
Mohd Reyaz Delhi Hardnews. In a surprise move, the Central Information Commission (CIC) asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to withhold the autopsy reports of those killed during the Batla House encounter on September 19, 2008. In a letter addressed to Prof MC Misra, chief public information officer (CPIO)
of the JPN Apex Trauma Centre of AIIMS, LC Singhi, registrar and joint secretary (law) of the CIC asked the CPIO to hold back the order of the commission pertaining to providing autopsy reports of the deceased in the Batla House encounter.

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New Chhattisgarh RTI rules draw flak

The Chhattisgarh government's move to frame Right to Information (RTI) Rules 2009, imposing a word limit and fixing the number of subjects to be asked in a single application, has drawn severe criticism. The state's General Administration Department finalised a notification late last month, framing state RTI (Presentation of Application) Rules 2009 under which a request seeking information could contain questions only about one subject and the total words in the application could not exceed more than 150 words. It will come into force after its publication in the state gazette.

An official spokesman said any applicant keen to seek information about separate subjects would have to file separate applications with the Public Information Officers (PIO). If any application contained questions pertaining to more than one subject, the PIO concerned will only reply to the subject mentioned first in the application, he said, adding the PIO could then advise the applicant to file separate applications for securing information on other subjects.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers on RTI

DoPT had engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for assessing and evaluating the level of implementation of the Act with specific reference to the key issues and constraints faced by the Information Providers and Information Seekers. The report has been prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in association with IMRB (market research partner). This study takes into account the feedback of over 2000 information seekers and over 200 information providers across public authority (PA) at Centre, State, and local levels in 5 States. It also includes feedback of 5000 citizens with respect to their awareness of the RTI Act.

Report

'Government and judiciary are threats to RTI Act'

Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on Saturday said the government and the judicial system are threats to the Right to Information Act (RTI). Gandhi urged the common people to unite and save the Act which guards their sovereignty and ensures that participatory democracy prevails. He was delivering the second Prakash Kardaley memorial lecture, 2009, on Bad governance hinders RTI'. "The government, which can amend the law and make the RTI Act weak, is a threat to the Act, as is the judicial system where in the garb of writs, appeals are filed frequently and stays are obtained on decisions, which then get stuck in the legal web. Also, the process to appoint information commissioners should be impartial and RTI activists, as opposed to retired bureaucrats, should be appointed as commissioners".

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AP HC: RTI not right forum to appeal against court's verdict

The Andhra Pradesh High Court today upheld Chief Information Commissioner C D Arha's order that if the appellant is aggrieved by the verdict of a judge, he should appeal it in a court of competent jurisdiction and Right to Information(RTI) Act is not the forum for redressal of his grievances. Dissatisfied with the orders of the first Appellate Authority in a case, K Gandaiah had appealed before Mr Arha on April 7, 2007 and raised some queries. The CIC in his order, dated November 20, 2007, had rejected the appeal, maintaining that RTI was not the right forum for redressal of his grievances. The Appellant, however, filed a writ petition in the High Court, challenging his order, a press release here said.

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Education directorate fined under RTI

Chief Commissioner of Manipur Information Commission (MIC), RK Angousana today ordered the director of education schools to pay Rs 11000/ as compensation to Thounaojam Raseshwar of Top Khongnangkhong, Imphal East on or before July 31, 2009 for failure to provide required information sought by she. A statement of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) issued by its director, Meihoubam Rakesh stated that Raseshwar submitted an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005 on July 07, 2008 last to the State Public Information Officer (SPIO), Secretariat: Education (S) Department seeking certain information relating to pay revision of his deceased wife namely K Tejbati Devi, who was a regular head mistress of Top Khongnangkhong Primary School. However, the concerned SPIO failed to provide the required information.

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Championing our right to information!

As a part of an initiative on good governance, a group of RTI activists and civil societies in the city came up with RTI Clinics for citizens of Bangalore. The Clinic is a joint initiative of RTI activists groups, community-based organizations and grassroots social justice campaigners. The idea behind coming up with RTI Clinic is to create awareness on the Act, provide procedural guidance and assistance to obtain information from government bodies. (Social justice campaigners are people who campaign for the fundamental rights or grievance redressal of the marginalized such as domestic workers, child labourers and internally displaced riot victims, independently or through support networks.) Attend the RTI Clinic at Cubbon Park (opp. the Bangalore Press Club entrance) on the last Saturday of every month between 2 – 4 PM. Can't wait until then? Contact Manohar Ranganathan (of SICHREM, Bangalore) on 94498 16942 (or) Anand (of Anti-Corruption Forum, Bangalore) at 92410 12730.

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Letters of support by parties to be under RTI ambit: CIC

Letters of support by political parties given to the president pledging their support for forming a government at the Centre has been brought under the ambit of Right to Information by the CIC. In a recent decision, the Central Information Commission held that the information provided to the president by various political parties cannot be
treated as one emanating from "fiduciary relationship" and thus cannot be denied under the Act. Exercising his Right to Information, Kerala-based advocate T Asaf Ali, in 2007, had asked for a copy of letters given by CPI-M, DMK, RJD and other coalition partners of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to then President APJ Abdul Kalam extending support to Congress leader Manmohan Singh for forming a government at the Centre.

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PCS exam answerscripts to stay in the dark

State Information Commissioner Gyanendra Sharma has rejected appeals for showing answerscripts of examinations conducted by the state Public Service Commission on the grounds of it becoming an "unending process". The order came following the complaint of one Ruchi Chaudhari, who had asked for a copy of answersheets of the UP Judicial Services Civil Judge Mains Examination. Sharma said public service commissions conduct largescale exams. If they are asked to show answerscripts of these examinations, it will become a never-ending procedure. The commissioner, however, said the UP Public Service Commission should develop an examination pattern that is transparent and in which complaints can be handled more practically.

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Mumbai serial train blast accused uses RTI to expedite trial

An accused in serial train blast case of 2006 has chosen the RTI in a bid to put the stalled trial in the case back on track. Abdul Wahiuddin, an arrested accused in the case, has filed an appeal under RTI before Registrar of the Supreme Court seeking details about the pendency of terror-related cases. According to his plea, he wants to find out how long he had to remain behind bars before facing the trial in the case since he was arrested in September 2006. This way, according a counsel in the case, the accused wanted to know as to when his number would come and may be he could get the trial expedited. Wahiuddin wanted to visit the national capital also to pursue his RTI application and had filed an application before special MCOCA judge Y D Shinde seeking permission to go to Delhi.

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Justifications not part of info under RTI: HC

In order of the high court of Bombay at Goa, stating that the definition for information under the Right to Information Act cannot include answers to the question "why", which would be the same thing as asking the reason for a justification, has been circulated to Central ministries and departments. Bringing relief to public information authorities, the high court of Bombay at Goa held: "The public information authorities cannot expect to communicate to citizens the reason why a certain thing was done or not done in the sense of justification because the citizen makes a requisition about information. Justifications are matter within the domain of adjudicating authorities and cannot properly be classified as information." The judgment was circulated by office memorandum dated June 1, 2009 to all ministries, departments and state information commissions of the government of India by the Centre's department of personnel and training. The judgment has also been circulated in the Rajya Sabha, the Lok Sabha, and offices of the President and Prime Minister.

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Maya's pet project in Noida to cost Rs 187cr

The lid is finally off the mega UP government project facing Sector 15A of Noida that irked residents because of its encroachment on the Yamuna riverbed and alleged destruction of green areas. Replying to an RTI query, Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Ltd has said that under the scheme to beautify the Sector 95 Park (official 'address' of the Yamuna bed in front of Sectors 14A and 15A in the land records) a Central Park Plaza is being built at a cost of Rs 187.20 crore. It says the plaza will have statues of three "great leaders", B R Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, among others. This is the first time the UP government has admitted to Maya statues in the park.

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SAI employee seeks information lands in hospital

A little over a month after he exercised his right to information to unearth 'wrongdoings' at his work place, a Sports Authority of India (SAI) official is left fearing for his life after an attack on him in Patiala on Monday night. On 26th May, SAI medical officer Sajib Nandi made 244 enquiries through an 18-page application to SAI's principal information officer, SS Chhabra, who's also the secretary of the organisation. Nandi's letter sought information on different administrative aspects of the SAI ranging from appointment of staff to existing vigilance cases against senior officials.

"I had gone to SAI office on Monday for some work. Later in the evening while I was coming back to my residence, somebody hit me on my head with a hard object. I could not see the attacker as the area was not well lighted, though street lights were there. I lost consciousness and some colleagues took me to hospital," he told TOI on Tuesday from a hospital in Patiala, the city where he's based.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Over 13300 cases disposed off by CIC

The Centre on Wednesday said a total of 13,322 cases were disposed off by the Central Information Commission during 2008-09, almost double the cases resolved by it in the previous year. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, union minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions Prithviraj Chavan said a total of 7,722 cases
were disposed off by the CIC in 2007-08 as against 4,074 cases in 2006-07 and 682 such cases in 2005-06. A total of 8,924 cases were pending as on April 1, this year, he said.

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Disposal of cases by KIC for May 2009

Dear All,

Disposal of cases by KARNATAKA INFORMATION COMMISSION for the month of May 2009
is posted for the information of the Activists:-

Cases pending at the end of April 2009 is 4983
No. of Complaints and Appeals received during May is 2425
No. of Complaints & appeals disposed during May is 770
No. of cases pending at the end of May is 6638
No. of cases heard during May is 1527
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 2742
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 3776
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 120
Number of Commissioners at present 4

With regards,
Anil

AI gave Rs. 22 crore for Praful for campaigning

Crisis-ridden Air India might have contributed a substantial amount to the advertising campaign of the Civil Aviation Ministry on the eve of the General Elections in April-May 2009, says D. Sudhakara Reddy, president of Air Passengers Association of India, based on a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by him. In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue, Mr. Reddy said a series of advertisements featuring Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and the achievements of the Ministry were released on the eve of the elections with a caption containing the names of different partners with whose association the advertisements were released. Among those mentioned were, Air India, the Airports Authority of India and other companies of the aviation industry.

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RTI Effect: He used RTI to prove varsity wrong

For 24-year-old Ankit Joshi, all hell broke loose when he found himself declared failed in all the five papers of Certificate in Computing (CIC) from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University (BAOU), Ahmedabad. He was failed on the ground that he remained absent for all the papers. Ankit did not lose hope and resorted to Right To Information Act and showed the lacunae in the BAOU examination process. Ankit said, "It was shocking to find myself marked absent. I had appeared for all the five papers at my examination centre at SV College on Relief Road for the CIC examination held in October 2008. I reasoned with BAOU authorities about technical glitches in their examination process but nothing came out of it."

The CIC result was out in January 2009 online. Ankit said, "I ran from pillar to post for the correction in my results as my whole academic career was at stake. I was completely stressed out as my six-month of study would be in vain." After unsatisfactory replies from BAOU authorities, Ankit filed an RTI application demanding the attendance register records of him appearing at the examination centre. The reply that he got under RTI showed that he was present for all the five
papers. Pankaj Joshi, Ankit's father said, "RTI is a boon for us. Otherwise my son's academic career would have been affected badly. RTI proved the anomalies rampant in BAOU."

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RTI application can be filed under Power of Attorney

The Right to Information Act (RTI) has come to the rescue of a person who has been fighting for the last 13 years to procure financial details of shares worth lakhs of rupees lying impounded with the Investor Protection Fund (IPF) constituted by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). The Central Information Commission (CIC), in a landmark order, directed the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to procure information from the BSE's IPF, and provide it to the RTI applicant. The CIC order came after BSE filed two appeals with the CIC, contending that this was third party information and thus could not provided. But CIC--while dismissing both the appeals--quoted an earlier directive which said that within three months of the receipt of the order, the SEBI chairman shall ensure that "detailed instructions are issued to the stock exchanges in respect of transparency in the functioning of the stock exchange, especially in respect of investor protection and protection of ordinary public which come in contact with these exchanges in multiple capacities''.

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RTI application can be filed under Power of Attorney

In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that the power of attorney (PA), given by anybody, could be used to obtain RTI information. The order has come on the heels of a petition filed by a Chennai-based RTI activist R Natarajan who was denied information on the ground that there was no specific instruction under the RTI Act for providing information to anyone with a power of attorney. Natarajan had moved an RTI application using power of attorney to obtain information regarding status of his relative’s application to the regional passport office (Chennai) seeking a duplicate passport as it was delayed. The CIC order allowing people to seek RTI information using power of attorney was an eye-opener for many government offices, which continuously dodge RTI applicants on one or another ground to evade information, Natarajan told Express.

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IC keeps applicant waiting for 7 months

It is not just the government departments that keep RTI applicants waiting for information. Even the state information commission (SIC) puts them on hold. At times for as long as seven months or even more to begin the proceedings. Sample the case of an applicant MU Khan who had submitted an appeal at the commission in December 2008, requesting an information which was not provided to him by Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad and concerned her daughters answer sheets. It is seventh month on but his case is still to get its first hearing. The delay has already wasted the girls academic year.

"I enquired at the commission recently and they told me that I might need to wait for one more month at least," he said. The man had filed an appeal after he was not provided the desired information by the UP Board for high school and intermediate examination. His daughter Maria Ushshaque, student of intermediate in IT girls intermediate college had cleared the examination of Uttar Pradesh Technical University in June last year. But she could not make to it due to lower marks obtained in intermediate. "She had applied for scrutiny but is yet to know what has happened on that," said Khan.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Assam Public Service Commission asked to furnish answer scripts

In a significant order, the State Information Commissioner, Assam, BK Gohain has directed the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) to furnish photocopies of answer scripts and mark sheets to Safique Uz Zaman, Asrafuz A Zaman and Nilav Dev Goswami, who had appeared in the competitive (main examination) held in July 2008. The order was in response to RTI applications filed at the AIC. Further, the Commission has also laid down that the order will be applicable to all such cases where public examinations are conducted by the APSC or any other authority for selection of candidates for any posts or in the case of HSLC/HSSLC/ University examinations. This was stated in an official communication issued to the media.

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RTO charges TMT for running 'unfit' buses on the road

fter Thane Plus did a story on the poor condition of the TMT buses last week, the RTO has stepped forward and questioned the transport authorities on why they are still running the buses, despite the fact that the TMT had been told to stop running them. The RTO authorities have assured that they will run an inquiry and will charge the TMT for running poorly managed buses.

The issue was brought into the limelight after Naninesh Dolas filed an RTI against the TMT demanding to know why the buses were in such poor condition. According to the RTI, the TMT runs 143 buses, which are over 15 years old. Out of these buses, some have outlived their fitness certificate and should be put to scrap.

Speaking to Thane Plus, NC Naik the assistant RTO said that after the issue was published, an inquiry was conducted to see how the TMT was running its fleet. "We discovered that 49 buses were running without fitness certificates. One of these buses was running on the road. Since the other vehicles weren't running, we haven't charged them. The sole vehicle has been charged under the Maharashtra Motor Vehicle Act 1989, Section 56."

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Friday, July 10, 2009

'Divested cos have to provide info'

This landmark order will pave way for greater transparency in public sector companies which have divested their stake in a substantial manner and over 50% of its equity are with private players.The State Information Commission (SIC), in its order, has said SICOM Ltd, which had divested its stake up to 51% of its equity shareholding in 1994, be deemed as a public authority. The case came up for hearing after RTI applicant Jagdish J Doshi filed a compliant with the SIC after SICOM said they did not fall under the category of a public authority.SICOM's contention was that it was not a public authority under the Companies Act as the firm had divested 51% stake. "The company was privatised in 1994. As per Section 617 of the Companies Act, it does not fall under the purview of a government company,'' SICOM had stated

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Man thrashed for seeking info under RTI

In this village called Memka in Wadhwan in Surendranagar district, seeking accountability from government authorities on the public money spent on development activities is a crime. There are gag orders against anyone who dares to question the village sarpanch Bharat Raval on such issues. A farmer Purshottam Chauhan,50, wanted to break this shackle of fear that clung to every villager and filed an RTI to seek accountability for the Rs 24 lakh-project that the Memka panchayat claimed it had undertaken under the Hariyali and watershed programmes since 2005. Despite the collector being alerted and the superintendent of police (Surendranagar) being intimated about the threat Purshottam faced, there was no action taken and finally the farmer fell prey to a gang of hooligans who badly thrashed him and his wife. Purshottam, who is even more determined now, claimed that in the first lot of information that was given to him under RTI, the seriousness and magnitude of corruption in village development activities could well be gauged.

"The panchayat is yet to give me the 900 pages of information. The first set of
information contained fake vouchers of works, check dams that were poorly made and some only on paper and bori-bunds that appeared to be many in number on paper and showed that vouchers for these works were photocopied. These people are not serious of the responsibilities they are entrusted with. I have sought information about the gram sabhas and how many villagers attended it. I had sought answers on basic governance issues. Imagine the taxpayer's contribution towards farmers who expect that the money gets utilised in proper development activities that enhance farm produce. Watershed and Hariyali programmes are well-intended and we farmers want to reap benefits out of these programmes," said Purshottam.

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A continuing struggle for info under RTI Act

For two years, K Bharathi, a fisherman of Nochikuppam in Mylapore, has been struggling to get details on the scholarship being given to tsunami-affected students from class I to X from the Chennai Collectorate and the educational department under the Right To Information Act. He filed application after application and also appealed about 10 times under the RTI Act since March 2007 and even obtained an order from the Tamil Nadu
State Information Commission directing the collectorate to provide him the details he sought. But Bharathi is yet to get information on how many students applied for the benefit under the Prime Minister's Scholarship for Tsunami Affected Children (PMSTAC) scheme in government-aided, government and private schools in Chennai, their names and the schools where they are studying. Last month, the education department sent a reply which only said district-level educational offices in Chennai were instructed to give details to the applicant. There was no other information.

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Right to have officials on record

RTI activists want CCTVs in State Information Commissioner's office to ensure transparency in hearings, so that public authority can be made accountable. Activists fighting to make Right To Information (RTI) Act a potent tool, are now demanding that all the hearings and interactions that the State Information Commissioner hold with activists, appellants and public be recorded to ensure accountability and transparency in hearings.This demand is a part of the Charter of Demands that activists have prepared for proper implementation of the RTI Act in Maharashtra.

A delegation of five prominent RTI activists in the city, which Andheri resident Mohammed Afzal led, handed over the same to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan early this week. Accompanying the activists was Mumbai North MP Sanjay Nirupam, who the activists feel is convinced that Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 was not being properly implemented in Maharashtra.

Bombay Times (West Mumbai supplement)
July 4th 2009

One More PIO Fined Rs 25000/-in Karnataka

Activist Friend from our RTI study centre Mr K Ramesh Today succeded in Ensuring that SCIC Mr K K mishra Impose penalty on The thasildar Anekal (adjoining Blore city) Mr B Mallikarjuna being imposed a Full Penalty of rs 25000/-

The case Is KIC 8204/08/Com in which Sri K ramesh has Provided a Plan Sketch of an Housing Layout and a Survey reoprt Made on the Layout a Year Back without Indicating as One of the neighbours & adjoining Property owner Ms Kiran mujumdar shaw of Bicon Fame and also a Mud Road Existing to the Bicon Property and the layout Where Mr Ramesh has an Site of 30x40 . The surveyor who conducted an very shabby and Fradulent Survey in Collussion with several Land grabbers is From the Office of the Thashildar Anekal . The RTI Was Made on 7.11.08 , A reply that "The matter does come under the Jurdicition of his office" hence No Information can be Provided was the Reply received by Mr ramesh on 5.12.08 after 35 days , Though Ramesh Had obtained a copy of the letter /order of the thashildar Instructing the Surveyor in his office to Conduct the survey Vide No HB/300/07-08 . a complaint was Filed in KIC on 12/12/2008 the First Hearing on 17/4/09 the thasildar remained Absent we Argued that the entire process Becomes Infructous when the respondent absents Himself , The KIC Awarded Rs 500/- Compensation and adjorned hearing to 2/7/09 In the meanwhile One Mr Md. Atualla Shirestdar of the Anekal Taluka office Appeared in KIc at about 6.30 Pm and Stated that he came for the Hearing , The information commissioner Read out the Orders and Stated that Hearing is over , The Hearing Today Once again the Respondent remained Absent , After waiting For more than one Hour The KIC telephone the Anekal Office and Could not get the Thasildar or the shirestedar . subsequently one Srinivasa another Shirestdar Telephoned From Mobile No 9480022441 and stated the Reply In the matter to Kic Notice will be Sent within 7days . In view of the Callousness and repeated absence of the Respondent PIO , KIC ordered Imposing Rs 25000/- penalty on the PIO to Be recovered from his Salary. From august 2009 in 5 instalments of Rs 5000/- KIC also ordered that Me G N Naik Deputy commissioner Blore rural to Ensure recovery of penalty , Payment of Compensation already ordered and discplinary action on the PIO The case is adjorned to 8/10/2009 for Providing Correct information to the Petioner. This For the information of all. the Orders will be received only after 15 days after Correction
We Thank Mr K ramesh for his Continious Pursuance and Getting the survey order
Copy which ensured Penalty for False information

N vikramsimha , Trustee RTI study Centre & KRIA Katte

CIC calls for transparency in dealing with RTI pleas

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) to ensure maximum transparency while dealing with Right to Information (RTI) applications. The CIC order came on an RTI application of activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal who had sought the file notings of the decision taken by the government first time in 1990 on declaring close day (rather than a holiday) on April 14, the birthday of B.R. Ambdekar.During the course of Agarwals plea, a controversy had erupted when the DOPT had refused to remove the controversial entry on the departments website which said file notings were not to be disclosed under the RTI Act.

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CIC says no penalty on DoPT officers in 'file notings'

The CIC on Tuesday decided not to impose any penalties on two officers of the department of personnel and training who were issued showcause notices for "knowingly violating and disobeying" orders of the Commission related to disclosure of "file notings" under the RTI Act. The decision comes a week after DoPT agreed that file notings can be made public under the RTI Act. The notices were issued to Dr S K Sarkar, Joint Secretary and Deputy Secretary Anuradha Chagti of DoPT for violating and disobeying Commission's order for removal of controversial entry on the department's website which said "file notings" were not to be disclosed under the RTI Act.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

They exposed corruption in Chiranjeevi scheme

The popular Chiranjeevi scheme, which was meant for poor women, who could not afford costly deliveries in nursing homes, too was tainted by corrupt private doctors, who managed to bag lakhs dubiously forging records and gobbling funds meant for a noble cause. The scheme, which was to bring down infant mortality, lay exposed soon after these two individuals, Shirin Patel and Nadiad-based activist Michael Mackwan, exposed the unholy nexus of corrupt doctors and government officials through RTI.

Patel, a local businessman in Dariapur, for instance, came to know about a gynaecologist in the neighbourhood, who used to charge poor women for deliveries despite signing an MoU with the health department. "Under the scheme the gynaecologist was supposed to offer free services and the government was supposed to pay him his fixed Rs 2,000 for normal deliveries and Rs 8,000 for complex surgeries. Instead the doctor made a killing from nearly 300 families and did not mention on his signboard that he was a signatory to the scheme. This doctor also claimed the requisite funds from the health department too. This was it. I filed an RTI in February 2008 to know the number of women who delivered at his nursing home. Everyone of them complained that the doctor had charged," says Patel. Patel represented the case before the health department, which forced Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to conduct an independent inquiry. "The issue was correct and the doctor's licence for the scheme was cancelled in May 2008."

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