Sunday, September 27, 2009

RTI Awareness Week from Oct 6 to 12

As Right to Information Act, 2004 will complete 4 years of its operationalization on October 12, 2009, the Government of India has decided to organize an awareness week all over the country from October 6 to 12, 2009. In this regard, the Chandigarh Administration has chalked out a series of activities to make people aware of RTI Act and take benefit of it.

The series of events include Essay Writing Competition in schools on October 6, Declamation Contest in colleges on October 7, Quiz Contest in schools and colleges on October 8 & 12 respectively. Debate Competition in colleges will be organized on October 9 and an Awareness Rally of school children would be taken out on October 10. Winners of the various competitions would be awarded suitably. Printed posters containing information regarding the Act will be displayed in Sampark Centers and Government Offices.
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PM's health is personal info, can be withheld under RTI: CIC

Unlike the US where the state of the President's health is made public annually, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that no information of any ailment of the Prime Minister can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act. It is personal in nature and disclosure will be an invasion of privacy, Chief Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah held on an RTI application by Mumbai-based Chetan Kothari. Kothari had sought details of ailments of Prime Ministers and expenses incurred on treatment on the ground that no information on the same was provided by the Prime Minister's office. The Commission, however, said expenses incurred during the treatment should be disclosed since they are made from the public exchequer.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tamil Nadu DVAC under RTI purview

Hi All,

There was an order passed at a hearing hearing yesterday at the SIC, which in effect brings DVAC (Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption) back under RTI, in spite of the GO No.158 by P&AR which exempted it more than a year back. This is what happened.

Close to a month after DVAC was exempted, I filed an RTI application with the DVAC, seeking information about completed cases of investigation into corruption complaints. I had also sought details of those who were convicted. There was no reply to the RTI application and the first appeal. So I filed an appeal with the Commission. This appeal was filed last december and the hearing came up today. The argument I took up was, that the proviso to section 24(4) says "Provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section:" and since the information I had asked for was related to corruption, DVAC has to disclose the information.

The Commission (which had the Chief and GR sitting today) ordered that since the information I had was related to corruption, this has to be disclosed since the proviso is clear. If at all, information can be exempted only under 8(1)(h) which says "information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension of offenders;". The commissioner also notes that if the information would cause embarrassment to the official concerned before the investigation is complete, then such information has to be exempt from disclosure. The commissioner also pointed out that if the organisation has any "intelligence and security" related information then that can be exempt from disclosure. Of course, I am yet to get a copy of the order since the hearing happened only yesterday, but this decision, in effects, blunts the effect of the GO, since this still keeps DVAC under RTI act when it comes to corruption related information and since the DVAC is all about corruption cases, they have to disclose most of the information. The commission has ordered the PIO to give me the information.

DVAC might still challenge the decision in the high court. But the fact that the SIC has given such a decision shows the absurdity of the GO in the first place. For your reference the case number is 39170/08.

Madhav.

Leader of Opposition Comes Under RTI Act: CIC

The office of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha is covered under the RTI Act and should provide information as per its provisions, the Central Information Commission ruled today. Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said, "office of Leader of Opposition is a public authority" as it is created by a notification of the
government but reserved his decision whether it is part of Lok Sabha secretariat or an independent office.

Habibullah was hearing the plea of an RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal who sought detailed information from L K Advani on the letter written by former Home Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of black money stashed in Swiss banks and Finance Minister's reply to it.

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RTI query reveals over 3,500 original land records missing in Sanand

Ahmedabad Over 3,500 original land records of as many plots of land have gone "missing" from government custody in Sanand, which has turned into a real estate hotspot with the Tatas setting up their Nano project there. Revenue officials have admitted that no effort has been made yet to find and restore these records or to fix responsibility. Sanand talati (officer in charge of land records) Hari Vaghela revealed this in his reply to an RTI application by Newsline. The reply says the Records of Rights of land from No. 1 to 3,036 and from No. 5,046 to 5,564 have simply gone "missing". The records contain the change of rights over different plots in
Sanand. Vaghela said that till date, no effort has been made by any officer to restore
these records, adding that they were sent to the mamlatdar's office, but were never returned.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jailed, RTI activist takes up languishing convicts' case

It was in May this year that RTI activist Vijay Chauhan was sent to Arthur Road prison after the State Information Commission complained that he and six other RTI activists had prevented state information commissioner Suresh Joshi from carrying out his duty. Chauhan, however, turned even that jail stay into a window of opportunity. In prison, he came across a convict who said he was serving time in jail despite completing his decreed term of 14 years. That was enough to set Chauhan's activist spirit ticking again.

"I realised how difficult it was for a man to stay even a day in prison and here I was talking to someone who was doing time in jail despite serving his conviction period,'' Chauhan said, recalling his encounter with the prisoner. After he came out of jail, he filed another RTI query asking for the status of 264 prisoners whose term in jail was to be scrutinised and released in accordance with a Bombay High Court order early this year. "I also asked the state home department to furnish the list of prisoners across the state languishing in jail even after serving their term,'' he said.

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CIC hearing today on denial of information by Advan'’s office

The Central Information Commission is to take up on Thursday a petition filed by activist Subash Chandra Agrawal on the scope of certain information he sought from the Office of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha under the Right to Information Act.
On a petition from Mr. Agrawal, the CIC in May asked the office to explain denial of information about the correspondence among L. K. Advani, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the issue of black money stashed away in Swiss banks. Mr. Agrawal had demanded a copy of the letter, its reply, file notings and other relevant documents on the issue.

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Two new Information Commissioners to take oath tomorrow

Former media adviser to Prime Minister Deepak Sandhu and former secretary in government of India Sushma Singh take oath as Information Commissioners at the Central Information Commission tomorrow.

Sandhu was the principal director general of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in the ministry of information and broadcasting before taking over as the first woman media adviser to the Prime Minister.

Sushma Singh, a 1972 batch IAS officer from Jharkhand cadre retired from the post of Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in May this year.

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Reason for city trees’ free fall

Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) hired a man for a key post without putting out any advertisement or looking for the eligibility criteria. The man went on to take many decisions that hampered the city's environment. This was brought to light by documents received through Right to Information (RTI) Act. Vinod Jain, an environment activist, had filed the plea on July 20, 2009. He wanted to know if any advertisement had been published in any newspaper for the post of Garden Superintendent, heading the Garden Department of PMC.

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Divested of all powers, registrar allowed to occupy office

M S university (MSU) authorities have allowed Registrar A V Gupta to occupy his office after it was sealed on September 16. The university has divested Gupta off all powers after he was found involved in financial irregularity. In reply to an RTI application dated September 14, Senate member Narendra Ravat had confirmed that Gupta had misappropriated funds. “After all the official files were removed from Gupta’s office, he was given the office keys,” said MSU Vice-Chancellor Prof Ramesh Goyal. He added: “We have taken all the official files, but as Gupta still remains the registrar, so we have given him the office.”

According to the RTI, Gupta was using furniture from Gulab Baug, which belongs to MSU, at his residential bungalow Malti Baug without taking any permission for the same. He has also accepted that he did not give rent for the furniture and that he had deployed security guard at his residential bungalow originally allotted for Gulab Baug.

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RBI against loan prepayment penalty

The Reserve Bank of India has frowned on the practice of banks slapping penalty charges on premature repayment of loans, saying it did not approve of such charges. However, it stepped back from any role in actually enforcing its point of view. Replying to a query filed under the Right to Information Act, the central bank said, "RBI does not approve of charging penalty or foreclosure charges. We have... advised banks to lay out appropriate internal principles and procedures so that usurious interest including processing and other charges are not levied by them on loans and advances." The central bank also admitted that it had received complaints on charging of penalty on premature payment of loans by banks who had been "suitably advised". But RBI was silent on what action had been taken against banks who refused to follow the advice. The charges disadvantage those wanting to either pay off a loan or move to one offering better terms.

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J&K State Vigilance Organisation wakes up to its RTI obligation

The State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) has taken a lead in ensuring transparency in dealing with the applications received by it under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. It has posted the details of the action taken on these applications on its website.Overall, the applicants were provided the requisite information in 27 out of 28 cases. In one case, case no SVO-PE-SLK-2/05, regarding cancellation of liquor licenses, the applicant was not provided any information. Even this fact that the information was not provided to the applicant has been given on the website.Most of the cases pertain to alleged acts of omission and commission against government officials. The officials range from patwaris of various halqas to Chairman of Jammu Central Cooperative bank.

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Special Section on RTI in Dainik Jagran

In the 20 Sept. (Sunday) edition of Dainik Jagran for J&K, a special section on RTI was included, featuring 5 articles related to RTI, including one by Muzaffar prepared with help from Hemant Yayavar. The details of these 5 articles are given below.

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PIOs given formula for making RTI work

It is a 13-step formula for the PIO to get their RTI dealings right. The Public Information Officer (PIO) is one of the three prominent levels of tripartite arrangement that RTI Act is. Any information seeking application has to be disposed by the PIO. If PIO does his job well, the other two levels -- first appeal authority and State Information Commission (SIC) -- will be relieved to a great extent.

Unfortunately many PIOs are still to get their act right. The information booklet printed by the SIC has laid out finer points (steps) on what should be the role of the PIO. The first being that PIO should personally receive RTI applications coming to his office. This would keep him informed about the number of applications received and information that has been sought in them.

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Charity chief takes cover under Official Secrets Act

Can the charity commissioner (CC) refuse to divulge information to a public charitable trust by taking cover under the Official Secrets Act? Mumbai CC, M K Choure, quoted the Official Secrets Act when the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) asked for a copy of the CC's preliminary report, which looked into the punchayat's alleged misuse of funds. The punchayat, which will move the Bombay high court this week against the CC, wrote to Choure, expressing its shock that the report cannot be given under the Official Secrets Act.

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Banks shy away from revealing big defaulters' names

Although a Union finance minister had once described the rising non-performing assets (NPA) of nationalised banks as a loot, public sector banks are unwilling to divulge the names of those who have defaulted on huge loans. None of the 25 public sector banks who were asked to name big defaulters under the Right to Information did so. Sixteen of these banks merely gave figures of the outstandings while nine refused to even reply. According to information provided under RTI, the banks have written off over Rs 15,000 crore in the period 2003-2008. The banks reasoned that furnishing the names is not in public interest and is an invasion into the privacy of borrowers.

The RTI application was filed by Borivili resident Richie Shoaib Sequeira on the directions of the Bombay high court. On Thursday, chief justice Swatanter Kumar and Ajay Khanwilkar, while hearing his PIL, directed that notices be issued to Union of India, RBI and other banks. The court also directed Sequeira to make the state crime investigation department a party to the PIL. The matter will come up for hearing on October 15.

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Public-private partnership deals no longer confidential

The details of agreements signed by governments with private organisations to execute projects can no longer be kept secret, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled. If a right to information (RTI) application is moved seeking the relevant information, it will have to be provided. The decision is likely to have far-reaching and potentially damaging implications as private companies may well shy away from such close scrutiny of their financial arrangements. So far the text of PPP agreements could be kept confidential, citing business interests.

The PPP model has been increasingly used in recent years to finance and build infrastructure — from highways to ports, from Metro lines to industrial facilities. Industry estimates say 20 per cent of India's infrastructure projects fall in this category. The CIC has ordered the state-owned Mumbai Port Trust to release in its entirety the agreement it signed with a consortium led by Gammon India Ltd, to construct an off-shore container terminal along Mumbai's coast.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Doubts about RTI Act dispelled

An in-depth discussion on Right To Information (RTI) Act and its perceived inconsistencies with the Bombay Public Trust (BPT) Act were discussed at Gujarat Vidyapeeth on Sunday. State information commissioner RN Das and in-charge state charity commissioner Amrish Upadhyay participated in the meeting.

Participants at the meet raised queries on the extent of influence of RTI Act on the charity commissioner's office. To this, Upadhaya claimed that under the BPT Act, any information sought by a citizen is for a nominal fee and is provided within the stipulated seven days and in some cases immediately. However, participants claimed that though BPT Act appears more people-friendly, the RTI Act ensures that the information is provided as it involves penal provisions. This is unlike the BPT Act where it is left to the discretion of the charity commissioner's office to provide information to the applicant or not, they pointed out.

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MP bunglows cost Rs 100 cr

Upkeep of VVIP bungalows in the elite Lutyens Zone has cost the public exchequer around Rs 100 crore in the last five years. In reply to an RTI plea, the government said that in the last five years, Rs 93.50 crore was spent on maintenance and renovation of the bungalows let out to Members of Parliament and ministers.

"An amount of Rs 93.50 crore has been spent towards upgradation, ordinary repair and superior repair of these bungalows by CPWD responsible for upkeep of the MP bungalows," the Directorate of Estates said in its reply. "MPs are provided with free accommodation throughout the term of office. However, a normal licence fee of Rs 105 is charged on a bungalow," it added. A total of 77 bungalows have been alloted to different ministers here.

According to the reply, nearly Rs 11 crore was spent on upkeep of these bungalows in 2004-2005, Rs 9 crore the next year followed by Rs 20 crore in 2006-2007 and Rs 33 crore in 2007-2008. CPWD has spent Rs 21 crore till June 2009 on the maintenance of these bungalows.

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NGOs asked to declare assets under RTI

In a move aimed at bringing accountability and transparency in the functioning of NGOs in Gujarat, Janpath – a network of 217 NGOs in the state – has decided to ask the trustees of all member NGOs to declare their assets, which will be put on a website. This was declared by Harinesh Pandya, the secretary of Janpath, at their Annual General Meeting at Gujarat Vidyapith on Sunday. He told Newsline: "Today, we passed the resolution at our meeting asking the trustees and managing trustees of all member NGOs to make their assets public. We will design a detailed form to declare the assets, which will be sent to all member NGOs across Gujarat. We expect the concerned trustees to send back the form filled with the details of their assets so that it can be put on the website."

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Fined for messing with RTI

Ratan Kumbhar almost lost his ancestral property to the people in power in the village of Avandhi in Sangli. However, he did not lose hope, he sought help of the Right To Information (RTI) on April 14, 2006 and asked for information regarding the certified documents of the house building permission and the year-wise 7/12 extracts of Savita Tanaji Kodag's place of residence. Savita is the one who had encroached on Kumbhar's ancestral land.

In a landmark judgement, the State Information Commissioner (SIC) Vijay Kuvalekar fined the Gramsevak Public Information Officer (PIO) G L Salunkhe Rs 25,000 and ordered the CEO of the Sangli Zilla Parishad (ZP) to make a note of the case in his service book as well as prepare a confidential report. Kuvalekar further ordered the PIO to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 as compensatory loss to Kumbhar.

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PU refuses student info under RTI Act

A law student of Panjab University had sought information under the RTI Act on ‘poor students’ welfare fund collected over the last five years, how much mess or canteen servant welfare fund was collected from hostellers in the last nine years and how much money under medical aid for mess and canteen staff was collected by hostellers in the last 15 years. However, the university recently refused to provide him some information, stating “the applicant, being a resident of a Panjab University hostel, is aware of the rules”. The information he has sought was in the rule book of the university, the authorities said.

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'MC officers splitting work to favour contractors'

In a testimony to alleged corrupt nexus of officers and contractors in MC, officers of the civic body have been found to have extended largesse to their blue-eyed contractors by splitting the estimate amounts of numerous big works, into parts, so as to evade the necessity of conforming to the clause of giving advertisements, in order to avoid competition.Social activist Kuldeep Singh Khaira had, under Right To Information (RTI) Act, asked the civic body about the details of all contracts entered into by MC in respect of which the notice inviting tender was not published in the newspaper. Replying to the query, MC officers had told him that tenders for works having an estimate amount of less than Rs 49,000 are not solicited in newspapers and its notice is pasted in MC for sake of knowledge of the contractor.

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Conference to discuss RTI

The problem of poor implementation of RTI might not get better in a day or two but forming a consensus on how should that be done is the need of the hour. Some success on this front might be achieved at the 4th All India conference of chief information commissioners (CICs) and information commissioners (ICs). UPSIC (Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission) will also have its representation in the conference. Though it is still not decided who will represent the commission.The conference, proposed to be held in October, will have discussions on issues like RTI in the developing world, role
of public authorities (PAs) and political class in RTI and role of media in propagation of RTI culture. "The discussion will help to formulate further strategy on strengthening RTI," said sources.

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You can now get info from courts under RTI

Citizens will now be able to obtain information from courts in the state under the Right to Information Act, 2005, following a notification issued by the government on September 17, 2009.The new rules published in the notification will be applicable mutatis mutandis , to the industrial and labour courts, administrative tribunal and all other subordinate courts and tribunals in Goa.The rules to obtain information under the RTI Act from courts in the state have been framed by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, exercising powers conferred by Section 28 of the RTI Act.As per the rules, the public information officer (PIO) has to decide whether the information asked for by applicants can be provided or if the inspection of records can be carried out as per rules.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

No secret answers

How secret can an answer sheet be? Well, it took a lot of effort for Dattatreya Shripati Davri, who had filed an RTI application to seek the photocopy of his answer sheets for an exam for Gramsevak recruitment in Kolhapur district, to find out that they aren't. His application was initially rejected by the appellate authority on the grounds that the answer sheets were `secret documents'. After appealing to the State Information Commissioner (SIC), the SIC ordered the appellate authority to give Davri the photocopies of his answer sheets as they did not fall under the purview of secret documents.

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'Fine' example of civic support for illegal slums

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has done little to rein in unscrupulous officials found abetting illegal construction in slum enclaves, where more than half of the city lives. Of the 108 officials, against whom departmental probe was initiated since April 2007 for being involved in extortion, allowing encroachments on government land and renting out illegal structures, the BMC let off 67 with fines ranging between Rs 1,000 and Rs 5,000. The fine collected from these corrupt officials comes to only a little over Rs 2 lakh and they have resumed work at their old posts. "This is not a huge price to pay as there are allegations of even some junior engineers charging nothing less than a few lakhs for turning a blind eye to illegal development,'' activist Simpreet Singh said. Ten of the 108 officials were acquitted and the others are still waiting for their sentences pending the probe. The information was revealed following a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by Singh of the NGO, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan. "These illegal activities have resulted in suburban areas being pockmarked with hundreds of unauthorised structures and shanties,'' Singh said.

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RTI applicants sore over info commission's silence

V Santhanam, a social worker from Chromepet, is upset with the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (TNSIC). And with good reason — the Commission, which passes orders everyday directing various public authorities to reply to queries raised under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, has failed to respond to Santhanam’s RTI application even though seven months have passed since he filed it.

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File another RTI, lose job

What do you get for seeking your lawful right? A threat of dismissal from his job is what S O Ahire got, much to his disbelief. The agricultural assistant working at Varkhedi in Ahmednagar district has been threatened to be dismissed from service for using the Right to Information Act (RTI) to seek information which authorities were obviously not willing to disclose. After seeking the information under RTI 12 times, Ahire was told, through a letter, that he was `breaching office discipline' and could be relieved if he persisted.

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Disposal of cases by KIC for the month of August 2009

Dear All,
The Stastics of disposal of cases for the month of August 2009 @ Karnataka Information Commission is given below for the information of the Activists:-

Cases pending at the end of July 09 is 6441
Number of Complaints and Appeals received during Aug 09 is 991
Number of Complaints & appeals disposed during Aug 09 is 820
Number of cases pending at the end of Aug 09 is 6612
Number of cases heard during Aug 09 is 1896
Appeals & Complaints pending less than 3 months is 3011
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 6 months is 3461
Appeals & Complaints pending more than 12 months is 140
Number of Commissioners at prsent 4

With regards,
Anil

CIC pulls up IIM-A for incorrect information under RTI

India’s premier B-School Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, on Thursday faced the wrath of Central Information Commission for withholding and providing incorrect details on information sought under the Right To Information Act (RTI). Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, in his order, warned the institute’s public information officer (PIO) of penal action under Section 20 of the RTI Act if any information, unless classified, was withheld.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MSU registrar's office sealed

MS University (MSU) registrar's signing authority has been revoked and his office has been sealed, for the first time in the history of university. Vice-chancellor (V-C) Ramesh Goyal gave the order after a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by a senate member revealed that registrar A V Gupta has been drawing excess salary by not disclosing the actual amount of pension that he received as a retired colonel.

Goyal had sought Gupta's clarification after receiving information that had surfaced after the RTI application made by senate member Narendra Ravat, but when the registrar refused to divulge details, Goyal called an urgent meeting of all section heads on Wednesday.

The RTI reply had stated that every month Rs 8,827 was deducted from the registrar's salary in lieu of the pension he received. Ravat, then, produced Gupta's bank statement that showed that he was getting a pension of Rs 11,216 since 2006, of which Gupta had not informed the university.

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Expenses soar on upkeep of CM’s grounded fleet

Unlike Uttar Pradesh which boasts of a fleet of five planes and three helicopters, Tamil Nadu is less extravagant, owning only a modest pair — a Cessna Citation V plane and a Bell helicopter. However, with chief minister M Karunanidhi not sharing Mayawati's penchant for flying, the two aircraft are left mostly unutilized in the hangar, costing the state exchequer crores of rupees towards maintenance. Information made available on Right To Information applications reveal the state has spent roughly Rs 17 crore on the upkeep of its air fleet between 2003 and 2009, with the cost mounting to an all-time high this year.

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Students launch an exclusive website for RTI applicants

The Right To Information (RTI) Act, seen as a powerful tool in the hands of the common man, can now be accessed at the click of a button, thanks to the efforts of a group of students. The not-for-profit website,rtination.com, designed to make applying simpler, was launched on August 15 by Rahul Gupta and Prateek Kumar, alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; Vineesh Kumar and Vinay Kumar, alumni of IIT Delhi; and Rasaal Dwivedi, currently at the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. It already has over 5,000 registered users and has facilitated more than 100 applications.

'The inspiration for the website came when one of our friends spent over three hours in two days in a government department trying to file a RTI application. The result is that he will probably never file an RTI application. rtination.com envisages facilitating the entire process and will be a platform for discussion of all issues pertaining to the Act,' Rasaal told The Times of India.

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AMC admits no dredging done for Sabarmati project

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has admitted that while designing the Sarbarmati Riverfront Development project, neither did it make an attempt to increase the depth of the river nor made any provision for dredging. In reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by former state home minister Gordhan Zadafia, the corporation has said that the distance between two retaining wall was 283 m which earlier ranged between 329 m and 679 m. The civic body said it had not made any changes in the depth of the river. It revealed that no suggestion was taken to increase the depth of the river during the construction of the project and even after its completion. The corporation has said that floods wash away the silt which is already deposited in the river. And due to this, the depth of the river actually increases during floods, it added.

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Janane ka Haq on Fm Rainbow

Continuing our efforts to make maximum people aware about right to information, Kabir is starting two shows in a week on AIR FM channel called *“Janane Ka Haq”.* The programme would be aired at 5 pm every Wednesday and Sunday on AIR FM's *Rainbow channel and* would be relayed in following cities:

- Programme coverage :-
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu
Kashmir, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Kerala and Goa
apart from Delhi.

- Broadcast stations : -
Delhi, Aligarh, Kanpur, kasauli (uttaranchal), Madhubani, Jammu, Kochi,
Kurseong, Mussorie, and Shillong.


The show is being hosted by Manish Sisodia and Ruchi Jha of Kabir. *The first
Wednesday show would be on air on 16th September, 2009 at 5 pm.*

Regards
Bibhav
RTI Helpline No. +91-9718-100-180

Chief Justice under RTI? SC officials yet to act on judgment

Nearly two weeks after Delhi High Court ruled that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Supreme Court officials are yet to decide how and where they intend to challenge the judgment. “Right now we are preparing a draft containing our comments on the high court judgment. It will be decided later whether to file an appeal in the high court or in the Supreme Court,” said a source in the Supreme Court. “No deadline can be put at this point in time on when and where would the appeal be filed.” Supreme Court officials had made it clear soon after the judgment was pronounced that they were not inclined to accept the HC ruling and would challenge it.

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Police stalls info seeker

Mahabala Anthony Kunder (47), a businessman living at Gokul Plaza in Viman Nagar, is facing a strange situation. His wife's 18-year-old nephew died under mysterious circumstances in August 2009 and Mahabala suspects it was a murder. However, the police, who has filed a case of accidental death, refuse to lodge his complaint of murder and he cannot file a case directly in the court for want of evidence. Also, the police are stalling his attempts to get copies of the relevant reports spite Mahabala filing a requisition under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.

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Retd officer takes home file of Pujari threat case

A query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has again exposed the inept and casual manner in which the Mumbai police handles even cases related to the underworld. Personnel at the Dindoshi police station reportedly misplaced an entire bundle of important papers relating to a case in which gangster Hemant Pujari and his associate, a Vinodbhai, were the accused. Even Chhota Rajan's name figured in the case.

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Man pays fortune for RTI, ends up with useless info

Three years ago, armed with the Right to Information Act (RTI), Amba Ram from Chajeli village in Barmer took up cudgels against corruption at the Panchayat level in the NREGA works in his village in Barmer. But hurdles began cropping up soon. Even an appointment with the sarpanch was beyond his reach. Amba Ram said, "They don't let us into their houses because they're Rajputs and we're Meghwals."

The RTI was found wanting. It was only after many hearings and appeals, the state information commission directed the officials to comply but asked Amba Ram to pay for it. Amba Ram is below poverty line and the Panchayat had crossed the deadline. But his appeal for free of cost information went unheard. The Panchayat bullied him into paying Rs 5 per page for 13,000 pages.

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Act against those sitting on RTI appeals, says Mah SIC

The State Information Commission (SIC) chief, Suresh Joshi, has directed the Thane municipal commissioner, Nandkumar Y Jantre, to take action against all appellate authorities in the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) who have been sitting on RTI appeals even after the mandatory 30-day period.

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RTI activists fear move to dilute open e-governance

A move by the Department of Information Technology to bring in an intellectual property rights-based regime in e-governance services is being opposed by activists who fear the shift will dilute the Right to Information Act. Right to information (RTI) activists, under the aegis of the National Campaign for People's Rights to Information (NCPRI), have written to the DIT opposing demands made by industry bodies to allow adoption of multiple and royalty-based technological standards, which will determine access and affordability of future public e-services.

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RTI reveals State sitting on Laxmi Chhaya report for 22 mths

The urban development department has been sitting on the inquiry report submitted by the state-appointed committee that investigated the causes of the Laxmi Chhaya building collapse for the past 22 months, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed. The Laxmi Chhaya building in Borivli collapsed on July 19, 2007, killing 30
residents. The flowchart procured from the urban development department revealed that the inquiry report went through 21 officials and finally reached the office of the chief minister who heads the ministry after seven long months. This showed, said the RTI activist who filed the query, the government was not serious about pursuing the matter or taking steps to prevent such incidents.

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Public authorities seek legal recourse to keep UPSIC at bay

Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) is finding it an uphill task to get its orders implemented. To be blamed here is the attitude of the public authorities (PAs) -- government departments and registered bodies -- who are making all possible attempts to escape the information dragnet. In the past three years of commission's functioning, at least two dozen PAs have gone to the court against orders of the commission.

"Ever since we have started maintaining a record here, the number of such PAs must be about 25," said sources. UPSIC had started functioning around April, 2006 and in the past three years taking recourse to law to avoid penal action has been a common practice with the PAs. "In fact, in most of the cases court has refused to interfere or has upheld RTI rulings," said sources.

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Private varsity wants no scrutiny

An RTI application was filed on August 12 this year after activists were informed that students who had quit mid-stream were not refunded their fees. The activists asked Christ University to inform them of the number of students admitted, the number of those who quit mid-stream, and details of the repayment of their fees for academic year 2009-10. The University flatly refused to respond to the application, claiming it does not fall within the purview of the RTI Act.

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RTI means Right to Intimidation Act for babu

Filing an RTI application is every citizen's right and it can be used to derive information and maintain transparency in a system. But Ashok Halagali of Belgaum received more than he asked for when he filed an RTI application seeking information on a bureaucrat's personal assets and liabilities.

Rajeev Chawla, an IAS officer and commissioner, Survey and Settlement and Land Records, government of Karnataka, reportedly misused his power to restrict the petitioner from pursuing the case. He passed on the information of the petitioner to the principal secretary of the revenue department.

The Karnataka Information Commission was set up to investigate such cases discovered malpractice and irregularities in the case which eventually led to the declining of information sought by the petitioner.

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Minefield of false claims

Information obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows three years back the Union environment and forest ministry had brought illegal mining to the notice of the state government, but the latter for mysterious reasons kept mum. There were also reports recommending closure of the mines engaged in excess production flouting rules and mining in non-lease areas. That too did not move those holding the reins of power.

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Workshop on Right to Information Act held

The Academy of Administration in coordination with NGOs CNRI, Prayatna, and Samarthan organised a workshop on 'Different Facets of Corruption and Right to Information Act' at the Academy of Administration premises on Saturday. Central Government officers who undergo basic training and representatives from the NGOs attended the workshop. Academy of Administration Director General Dr Sandeep Khanna said that the subject was selected to see how corrupt practices prevailed in the society could be contained through the Right to Information Act.

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Stranded without admissions, polytechnic passouts file RTI

Not given admission by the now instituted centralized admission process, students graduating from M S University's Polytechnic College have filed a Right to Information (RTI) application with the Admission Committee for Professional Courses (ACPC), asking for information about the admission procedure to degree engineering colleges.

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Just 2 officers to handle 24,000 cases at SIC

The petitions are piling up at the State Information Commission (SIC) here. But there are only two information commissioners (ICs) to handle the cases. For, the post of chief information commissioners (CIC) has been lying vacant for almost a year now.
Patna High Court directed the state government more than once to appoint the CIC and fill up the vacant posts of ICs. Earlier, the state government informed the court that it had appointed J N Bhatt, retired chief justice of Patna High Court, as the CIC. But, early this week, when the court was hearing a PIL, advocate-general P K Shahi said Justice Bhatt had been appointed. But now, he has expressed the inability to accept the post. The office of the CIC has been lying vacant following the retirement of Justice Shashank Shekhar Singh last September. Since then, only two ICs, P N Narayanan and Shakil Ahmad, both retired bureaucrats, have been in office.

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HDMC pulled up again: RTI

Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) has once again pulled up the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation (HDMC) for providing incomplete information to an RTI applicant. Hubli-based doctor M C Sindhur had filed an RTI application to the HDMC seeking copies of catalogues and the list of files maintained as per section 4(1) (a) of Right to Information Act-2005, in electronic format. After getting no response from the HDMC within the stipulated 30 days, the latter lodged a complaint to the KIC. In its interim ruling, KIC served a show-cause notice to HDMC, asking why it should not be fined for the delay.

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Pinarayi accessed Cabinet docs on Lavalin under RTI: VS

Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Wednesday informed the state assembly that CPI (M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan had accessed the Cabinet documents on the SNC Lavalin case as per the Right to Information Act. The Chief Minister was replying to an adjournment motion moved by Kerala Congress (secular) member P C George who alleged the government had leaked out the Cabinet notes to Vijayan, the seventh accused in the case. Vijayan had submitted the Cabinet documents along with his review petition in the Supreme Court last month, pleading to quash the governor's sanction to prosecute him in the Lavalin scam.

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UP SIC working to be streamlined

State chief information commissioner (SCIC) Ranjit Singh Pankaj assured that he would streamline the working of the UPSIC and would solve all the problems faced by applicants in the next six months. The assurance came on the inaugural day of the two-day convention on RTI and NREGA on Wednesday organised by the National Alliance of People's Organization and National Campaign for People's Right to Information. Information commissioner Virendra Saxena also participated in the event. There were several issues raised by activists and citizens on the first day like no response from PIOs within 30 days, lack of proper information and training of PIOs, inactive role played by first appeal authority and harassment of applicants by PIOs.

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Rs 12 million dues pending against 10 Lok Sabha MPs

Dues amounting to nearly Rs 12 million are pending against 10 sitting and former members of the Lok Sabha, a Right to Information (RTI) applicant has found out. "There are dues outstanding from some former and existing members of Lok Sabha," the Lok Sabha Secretariat said in its reply to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had sought information on dues owed to government departments, agencies, and companies by former and sitting parliamentarians.

He had also asked about the steps taken to recover dues, including those taken after concern expressed by Delhi High Court over the issue. In its reply, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said as per the instructions of Delhi High Court, "steps have been taken to recover outstanding dues to NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) and MTNL (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited) from concerned MPs by way of deducting equitable amount from their salary."

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RTI application gets simpler, goes online

To make filing Right to Information (RTI) application online, the India's Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has advocated allowing credit cards for submitting the fees with the government departments. "With internet penetration improving, we have to look at new ways for filing RTI applications including payment through credit card," he told HT, after inaugurating a Central Information Commission portal for filing complaints and second appeals online. The new portal is disabled-friendly for lodging complaints and appeals. The new web page will help applicants file the complaint and second appeals online along with all the attachments in digital form. The system will work in tandem with the manual one where RTI applicants send their complaints and appeal through postal mails.

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CIC directs schools to make govt assistance public

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered all the government schools in the capital to display information of financial assistance for students provided by Delhi Government. "All Delhi government schools will now display the entitlements of the students and all welfare schemes for them," Shailesh Gandhi, Information Commissioner,
CIC said. The information, according to the CIC, must be displayed in both languages --
Hindi and English, and should be on the website of the Department of Education by September 25. The decision comes following a complaint by an NGO, Pardarshita, which found that financial schemes for students extended by the Delhi government to 950
schools run by it did not reach them.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

CIC Disposal Rate


Graphical view of the Appeals and Complaints disposal rate at the Central Information Commission

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

RTI Activist Venkatesh's murder solved

Central Crime Branch (CCB) officers have arrested Lohit Raja alias T C Raja for the supari killing of RTI activist Venkatesh in April. Police first thought Venkatesh was killed in an accident but the post mortem report revealed it was murder. Venkatesh of Eranapalyta had sought information under the RTI Act regarding encroachment of government land in Jnanabharathi. This angered some people involved in land grabbing there and to eliminate him, they paid Lohit Raja. Police said Raja and his associates murdered Venkatesh and made it look like an accieent. But when the post mortem revealed it was murder, the case was handed over to the CCB which arrested Raja. The case has been trensferred to Kamakshipalya police station which has been asked to find out who gave the supari. The police said there were atleast six warrants pending against Lohit Raja, who was also involved in a murder in 2000.

Times of India - Bangalore Edition Dt. 8.9.2009

CIC launches new disabled friendly complaint website

The Central Information Commission today launched its new disabled friendly dedicated website for lodging complaints and appeals. The new website 'www.rti.india.gov.in' has been designed in such a way by National Informatics Centre that even the visually challenged can hear the instructions and details on the portal through speakers in their computers. "With the help of screen reader, any visually challenged person can go through the entire web site. The system will prompt them to file the details and read out the instructions to them. It has been designed keeping the latest international guidelines for such web portals," Neeta Verma, Senior Technical Director with NIC said.

Complete Article

Monday, September 07, 2009

CIC orders release of minority report

After targeting the judiciary over assets disclosure, the Right to Information (RTI) Act may singe the executive, too. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the government to make the Ranganath Misra commission report available to anyone who wants it, though it has not been laid before Parliament.

The commission studied quotas for linguistic and religious minorities, and its suggestions may upset caste and communal equations. The CIC has ruled the government can't claim immunity from disclosing the report when it is available to others.

"If the government does not place any material or report before Parliament or legislature, it cannot claim exemption from giving it to citizens exercising their fundamental right to information,'' the CIC, comprising chief commissioner MM Ansari and commissioners Satyananda Mishra and Shailesh Gandhi, said.

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Ex-CJ's no to CIC post

Advocate general P K Shahi on Monday informed the Patna High Court that former Patna HC Chief Justice J N Bhatt has refused to join the post of chief information commissioner of the State Information Commission. The state government had earlier issued a notification regarding his appointment as CIC. A division bench of Chief Justice P K Misra and Justice Anjana Prakash directed the state government to look for a suitable alternative.

Complete Article

State bar council comes under RTI

State chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi and the Central Information Commission (CIC) recently directed that the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa do come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The directives put state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari in the spotlight for the wrong reason, because he had earlier ruled to the contrary.

Worli resident Rajan Alimchandani had filed an RTI query two years ago, asking the bar council about provisions under which he could take permission from the appropriate court to take penal action against an advocate before the council. The officials representing the bar council as the public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority, rejected the query, stating that the bar council did not come under the purview of the RTI Act.

"The bar council may not be getting any financial assistance. But it is constituted by law made by Parliament and that is sufficient to bring it within the ambit of public authority. The Bar Council of India, which is the apex body, is responding to the RTI applications and there is no reason why the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa should not follow them,'' Joshi said. Joshi also added that the bar council should appoint a PIO and appellate officer and decide all RTI applications according to the provisions of the Act.

Complete Article

RTI's penalised PIOs escape paying fines

A majority of Public Information Officers (PIO)s appointed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act who have been penalised by central information commissioners for providing incomplete or delayed information have escaped paying fines thus far.

Only around 38.66% of the fines levied by the seven central information commissioners over the past four years October 12, 2005 to August 24, 2009 have been recovered by the treasury. The CIC had imposed total fines of Rs 35.85 lakh, out of which only Rs 13.86 lakh has been recovered.

Records with the central Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) also show that eight penalties were set aside, writ petitions were filed against seven penalties and high courts stayed fines in three cases.

This non-recovery of penalties, which will make the RTI Act ineffective, was discussed at a meeting held by the central information commissioners recently. The commission observed that in many cases action had not been initiated as the status of orders was not known. "The compliance to the decision of the commission about recovery generally takes 3-4 months. In some cases, where the commission has directed the recovery in instalments, it even takes up to 8-9 months,'' the commission noted. The commission has now decided to review the recovery of penalties every quarter.

Complete Article

PCMC allows inspection of records on all working days

After granting permission to accept payment for information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) through postal order, the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) has allowed inspection of records for two hours everyday on all working days. The people can also meet civic officials, inspect ongoing projects and take samples of the materials between 3 pm and 5 pm on any working day. The citizens
can file an application regarding inspection of documents of projects at the enquiry counter between 10 am and 5.45 pm. The officials of all departments including the emergency services cell will have to be available on the phone even after office hours.

Additional commissioner Subhash Dumbre said, "The facility was started on August 17 and many people have availed of the opportunity." Shriram Pande, president of Right To Information (RTI) Forum for senior citizens said, "I met municipal commissioner Ashish Sharma on August 6 and also informed the civic officials about the need to make the records available to the public for inspection on all working days."

Complete Article

Dont dare to encroach

There is something about encroachments that 65-year-old Ravindranath Guru cannot stand, especially when public space is concerned. And with illegal constructions in Bangalore being what they are these days, Guru has turned into a oneman army, fighting unscrupulous builders and their bureaucratic cohorts. As an ordinary citizen, Gurus modus operandi is simple: He uses the Right To Information (RTI) Act to expose violations of building plans.Ever since the RTI Act was enacted four years ago, Guru has filed over 300 applications before various civic agencies including the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) seeking information about building plans. What is more, he has had a superb success rate: In around 275 cases, he has managed to point out various building violations, forcing the BBMP to crackdown against those who have encroached on public space.

Complete Article

Information on MLA local area development funds to be made public

In a landmark judgement that will ensure transparency in the utilization of MLA local area development funds, the Central Information Commission has ordered the Delhi Government to put up information on utilisation of these funds on its website.Taking strict notice of the Delhi Governments non compliance with the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act which requires the Government to proactively provide information on utilisation of public funds to citizens, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has issued a show cause notice to the Public Information Officer of the Urban Development Department, which is the nodal agency for disbursement and monitoring of funds under the Delhi MLALAD scheme.In his order issued on September 2, the Commissioner noted that the PIO is guilty of not making any effort to meet the Section 4 requirements (of the RTI Act). The PIO has been ordered to ensure that this information is put up on the website of the Delhi Urban Development Department within 15 days.The CIC ordered this disclosure in response to a complaint filed by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, an NGO that works towards promoting transparency in the functioning of elected representatives.

Complete Article

Civil Aviation dept out of RTI ambit, case drags in HC

Following the death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy in a chopper crash, questions regarding the state air fleet and its security system gained momentum. But with the Civil Aviation department being kept out of the RTI Act’s purview, those will remain unanswered. Uttar Pradesh is the only state in the country where the Civil Aviation department has been put outside the purview of the RTI Act, said activists. According to the state government, since the department deals with VVIPs and senior officials, any queries about this department could hamper the state security.

Complete Article

RTI helps Ramgarh's women fight for water

The women of Ramgarh village in Chhattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh's drought-affected Bundelkhand region have battled administrative apathy and non-cooperation by elected representatives to find a solution to the severe water problem they are facing.
The women of Ramgarh village in Chhattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh's drought-affected Bundelkhand region have battled administrative apathy and non-cooperation by elected representatives to find a solution to the severe water problem they are facing. With the help of PACS Programme CSO, Mahila Samiti, the women used the right to information (RTI) to get relevant information to press for their demands.

Complete Article

Tamil Nadu High Court judges to declare assets by October 31

Judges of the Madras High Court will declare their assets to the Chief Justice by October 31.The details furnished by them would be hosted on the High Court website.A decision to this effect was taken at a Full Court meeting here on Thursday with Chief Justice H.L. Gokhale presiding, a senior official said.With the Judges of the Supreme Court agreeing to make their assets public,the Madras High Court decided to follow suit.As of now, judges of the Supreme Court disclose their assets to the Chief Justice of India as per the procedure in the 1997 ‘Restatement of values.’The details would henceforth be accessible to the public. Full Court meeting Earlier, Mr. Justice Gokhale had said the High Court also would decide on its Judges declaring their assets on receipt of modalities from the Supreme Court.

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Rajasthan HC judges to disclose assets

Rajasthan High Court judges on Thursday unanimously decided to disclose their assets. The decision followed a nationwide move for disclosure of judges' assets. Chief justice Jagdish Bhalla told journalists that all the judges have decided to disclose their wealth. It was also decided that the assets of dependents and spouses of judges shall also be made public. The details will also be made available on the court's website. The CJ has asked the judges to make the disclosures as soon as possible.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

MC again penalized for lapse

The failure of the municipal corporation (MC) in supplying informations under the Right To Information (RTI) Act continues to land it in embarrassing situations. Attributing the lapse to failure of the civic body working machinery, the State Information Commission has directed it to work out a system strictly incorporating provisions of the RTI Act in order to ensure that information seekers are not harassed.

Complete Article

Omar wants Wajahat to head J-K info panel

Five months after the Jammu and Kashmir government brought the state's Right to Information (RTI) Act on par with the Central Act, it is setting up its State Information Commission. According to government officials, while the state has begun its search for an official to head the State Information Commission, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is keen on Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah heading the organisation. In fact, officials said, Omar has also talked to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibuallah will retire on September 30 next year when he attains the age of 65. Habibullah, however, said he will decide on joining as the Chief Information Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir only when he gets a formal offer. “Let the offer come from the state government,” he said.

Complete Article

Come clear on one-ways, says activist

After J M Road and F C Road were converted into one-ways by the city traffic cops last week, civic activist Vijay Kumbhar said that the motive behind this move should have been voluntarily made public as per section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, as a number of people have been directly affected by this.

Kumbhar said that section 4 of RTI says that while framing policies that affect a group of people or community, it is mandatory to bring the motive behind such a move public. Even if the decision meant for a limited period or on experimental basis, the section should be followed. “What kind of factors were taken into consideration? Who carried out the survey if any? Was the views of the residents along these roads taken into consideration?” he asked Kumbhar has suggested that if there were any proposals to convert two-way roads into one-ways, they should be made public before they were actually implemented and public opinion sought.

Complete Article

Committee to finalise rules for speeding up RTI working

Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) has finally taken up the task of expediting its day to day functioning. The much awaited Rules-2008, a set of recommendations towards improving the commission's functioning, have got some serious consideration from the state chief information commissioner (SCIC) finally. Notably, this has come after a news item concerning the delay in the process was published in the Times of India dated August 25.

A five-member committee has been constituted on the direction of SCIC, Ranjit Singh Pankaj to look into the recommendations and give them a final shape. The committee comprises information commissioners (ICs). When contacted the then chief information commissioner (acting) Gyanendra Sharma, who is now the part of this committee as an IC, said, "They are set of tentative rules which need to be finalised."

Complete Article

Bombay High Court judges to make assets public

Taking a cue from the Supreme Court, the Bombay High Court judges have decided to make public their assets. A resolution to this effect was passed by the judges at A special meeting convened yesterday, said I A S Cheema, Registrar General of Bombay High Court. Cheema said "modalities of declaration would be decided in due course".

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Activists hail high court ruling on RTI purview

Right to Information (RTI) activists on Wednesday hailed the Delhi High Court's ruling that judges should declare their assets and that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the purview of the RTI Act. "I am very very excited. I want to compliment Delhi High Court Justice S Ravindra Bhat. He is the best judge in India," said an emotional Subhash Chandra Agrawal, an RTI activist.

It was on Agrawal's petition that the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled that the office of CJI is a public authority. The Supreme Court had through its registry filed an appeal against that order in the high court. The high court on Wednesday upheld the CIC decision that judges should declare their assets and the office of the Chief Justice of India would be the public authority to assess those assets. In a historical judgement, Justice Bhat said judges are accountable but they are also subject to some constraints. "The dignity of the judges adds value to democracy. The judges are under public attack and revealing assets and other information may increase the reputation of the judges," Bhat said.

Agrawal said: "May god make him the chief Justice of India. His judgement will take forward the torch of transparency and accountability in the country." In his petition, he had asked whether all the judges are declaring details of their assets, including those of their dependents, to the chief justice.

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SC judges under purview of RTI Act: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday upheld the Chief Information Commissioner's order stating that Chief Justice of India's office is a public authority and is under the purview of the Right To Information Act. Justice S Ravindra Bhatt said that a person can seek information about declaration of assets by SC judges. This comes under the Act. The petition initiated intense debate on the subject throughout the country, whether SC judges will disclose asset or not.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

HC verdict on Judges assets declaration likely tomorrow

The Delhi High Court is likely to pronounce its judgement tomorrow on the plea by the Supreme Court challenging Central Information Commissioner's order which held that CJI's office comes within the ambit of Right to Information Act and directed it to reveal information on judges' assets. The verdict would assume significance as the apex court has consistently maintained that CJI'S office does not come within the purview of RTI Act but under pressure from outside and within the judiciary, its judges have have agreed to make public their assets.

Complete Article

International RTI Film Festival in Delhi in October

Aimed at highlighting the common man's struggles and the role of Right to Information (RTI) in bringing a change in his life, an International RTI Film Festival (IRFF) is being organised by a team of NGOs and civil society groups here next month. "The films made on RTI have played a major role in spreading awareness about its importance and usage among people. This usage of Right to Information and its effect on the life of the common man has been beautifully taken up by various filmmakers," Neeraj Kumar of Kabir, an NGO, told IANS Tuesday. "The main motive of this film festival is to bring all such films (dealing with work done in the direction of achieving a transparent system) in front of public and to make them realise that the crying need of the hour is not to complain but to act," he said.

Complete Article

RTI does cover chief justice, says info panel chief

National transparency watchdog ” the Central Information Commission (CIC) ” has contradicted Chief Justice of India (CJI), KG Balakrishnans views that the Right to Information (RTI) law did not apply to his office.The countrys Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah told HT: There should be no confusion at all. It is an office created under the Constitution and does not fall in the list of those exempt from providing information under the RTI.According to the RTI law, only 18 organisations are exempt from providing information on Indias security related issues, the Supreme Court (SC) does not figure in the list.The comments by the CIC come two days before Delhi High Courts verdict on whether the RTI Act is applicable to the office of the CJI. The apex court had refused to accept a CIC order in January to provide information under RTI on whether judges declare their assets to the CJI, and had challenged it in the HC. Habibullah was responding to CJI Balakrishnans comments on Friday that his office was out of purview of the RTI Act, the transparency law.

Complete Article

Free access to PMC records: So far so good

The Pune Municipal Corporation's move to give common citizens access to civic records every Monday elicited a good response in the first month of its implementation.Between 20 to 25 people have turned up each week seeking information from offices like that of the building permissions or development plan departments.Citizens have expressed satisfaction with the response and say that civic officials willingly shared information with them. Last month, the PMC decided to give common citizens open access to civic records from the first Monday in August. The civic body also decided to start a separate cell to streamline RTI applications and facilitate information dissemination.

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Top PWD official fined for ignoring RTI query

The State Information Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the principal secretary of the state Public Works Department for disregarding its order on providing information to an RTI applicant and failing to appear before the commission. The authorities have been asked to get the fine deposited in state treasury before September 14, the next date of hearing.

Complete Article

Heritage Structures go 'missing' from AMC records

Civic body which runs a full-fledged heritage department has no idea about the number of heritage buildings in the city. The 12,500 buildings which come under Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) have suddenly gone missing from its records. At least this is what AMC's heritage department replied when asked 11 questions under Right to Information Act (RTI) by Nilay Trivedi, a resident of Nagar Wado, Khadia. In its reply, the department denied having any information about heritage buildings in the six municipal zones of civic body, including central zone which has the highest number of such buildings in the city. Areas including Khadia, Kalupur, Jamalpur, Raikhad, Dudheshwar, Madhupura, Girdharnagar, Dariapur and Shahpur comprise the central zone.

Complete Article

Most of Delhi schools keep their accounts under wraps

Most of the private schools have kept their fee structures and audited annual balance sheets under wraps for many years thus violating the norms laid down in the Delhi Education Act, Deputy Directorate of Education has told the Central Information Commission.

Even more surprising is the fact that the Directorate, which is supposed to play the regulatory role, has been caught napping when it comes to seeking the above documents from the schools for the last many years.

The facts emerged during the hearing of the Commission where the directorate not only admitted that it had no information about the annual balance sheets of the schools but also said that "it has not bothered to take these in the last many years" from the erring schools.

Complete Article

Man denied information under RTI, commission summons Jagraon SSP

The State Information Commission (SIC) has summoned Jagraon Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Bhullar after he reportedly denied information sought by Universal Human Rights Organisation secretary Iqbal Singh Rasoolpur under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In its order, the SSP is to be present either in person or send a gazetted officer in court on September 3.

Complete Article

Most citizens complaints are about illegal constructions choked drains

Unauthorised constructions are the number one complaint made by citizens across all six Mumbai parliamentary constituencies. This is followed closely by choked and blocked drains. The NGO Praja used Right to Information (RTI) queries to find out the various complaints made by citizens to the BMC across Mumbai. "What's shocking is that of the total number of civic complaints, 75% were marked as miscellaneous, indicating a collapse in the complaint recording system,'' said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja.

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Delhi High Court judges to declare assets

Following in the footsteps of Supreme Court judges, a full bench of the Delhi High Court judges Friday decided to declare their assets as well. According to court sources, 'A full court bench of the judges decided to declare their assets to the Chief Justice of Delhi in terms of the May 7, 1997, resolution. However, the modality and manner of declaration are being finalised.' On Wednesday, apex court judges agreed to make their assets public. The high court bench meeting that lasted for over two hours saw unanimity among the judges to declare their assets at the earliest.

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Kerala High Court judges to declare assets

Judges of the Kerala High Court, including the chief justice, would declare their assets on Sep 30 and put the information on the website of the high court for scrutiny. 'The strength of the Kerala High Court is 38 and right now there are 33 judges, including the chief justice. All the 33 judges have decided to declare their assets and this would be put up on the website of the Kerala High Court,' D. Sree Vallabhan, registrar general of the high court, told IANS.

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My office out of RTI Act's purview: CJI

Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on Friday asserted that his office was out of the purview of the country's transparency law, the Right to Information Act. "The office of the Chief Justice is privy to so much of information like privileged communication between various constitutional authorities, complaints against judges etc. How can all this information be disclosed (under the RTI Act)?" he asked during an interaction with reporters here.

He made the assertion when asked if the Supreme Court would withdraw its lawsuit from the Delhi High Court against the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling on the disclosure of the judges' assets now that the apex court judges have decided to make their assets public.

Complete Article

Bihar SIC website heading for a major revamp

Viewing the latest decisions of the State Information Commission (SIC), Bihar, would just be a mouse click away soon. For, the SIC website is heading for a major revamp. It entails uploading of SIC decisions the day they are delivered. The Centre for Good Governance (CGG), Hyderabad, will provide technical support for the upgradation. Launched in February 2007, the SIC website (www.bsic.co.in) currently carries just about 150 important decisions delivered by the commission. The new system would ensure uploading of all the decisions.

Complete Article

PMO has 28,685 secret files, none made public this year

What steps does the government follow while deciding to declassify its old secret documents? You may never get to know since the manual that details the declassification process in the country is itself marked confidential. Meanwhile, the PMO has admitted it has 28,685 secret files but has not declassified any this year.

The Indian government's arbitrariness and complete lack of transparency regarding classified material is in sharp contrast to the international practice of making secret files public after 25-30 years. Some countries declassify their documents after just 10 years.

While the government says it makes files public after 25 years, the policy remains largely on paper. In response to an RTI query, the PMO said it had declassified 37 files in 2007, 25 files in 2008 and none in 2009.

Complete Article

Government launches 15-day online RTI course

Aimed at creating awareness about the Right to Information (RTI) among citizens and government officers, the central government is starting a 15-day online
certificate course on the RTI Act on a pilot project basis. The course by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions will start next month. 'The 15-day course will be taken by various stakeholders on both the demand and supply sides of the RTI implementation regime. The first (pilot batch) course would begin on the 7th of next month,' said an official statement.

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Supreme Court judges agree to disclose assets

Collegium of Supreme Court judges have voluntarily decided to disclose their personal assets. Earlier, a Punjab and Haryana High Court judge had voluntarily made public the
list of his properties while advocating setting up of an in-house mechanism within the judiciary to regulate its conduct. Justice K Kannan was the only judge of the High Court who responded to a letter from lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan to judges in January suggesting that they should voluntarily disclose their assets. Bhushan said he had sent his letter to about 600 judges of various High Courts in the country, but only
Justice Kannan declared his assets.

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Delhi's green tale uncovered

* Over 38,000 trees have been cut in Delhi since 2005 for various projects, an RTI application filed by The Indian Express finds
* Ten trees should be replanted as “compensation” for each tree cut, says the law
* At least 3,80,000 saplings should have been replanted, says simple mathematics
* Only 57,584 saplings have been planted instead, RTIs and investigations reveal
Cut to the chase: that, in effect, is Delhi’s green story.

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SC stays Delhi HC order to disclose Volcker report before CIC

After being snubbed by the Delhi High Court for seeking exemption from the inspection of records in the oil-for-food scam by the CIC, the Enforcement Directorate has approached the Supreme Court which has given "interim stay". A division bench comprising Justices B N Agarwal and G S Singhvi of the Supreme Court last week issued notices to Arun Kumar Agarwal, the petitioner before the CIC, and allowed the interim stay order on a Delhi High Court order directing ED to provide the file of Special Envoy to UN Virendra Dayal in the oil-for-food scam for inspection.

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Govt keen to bring in pvt firms to help in RTI info dissemination

The government is keen to bring in private firms as partners to help in dissemination of information under different ministries under the Right to Information Act. The selected company will also suggest additional categories of information which can be "proactively" disclosed by different agencies and a number of multinational companies (MNCs) like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Grant Thornton are already in a queue to try and bag this prized assignment. The ministry of personnel recently invited them along with three others -- JPS Associates, PRIA and Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad -- to explain what their exact role would be as "knowledge partner" of the government. The six companies have been shortlisted as potential "knowledge partners".

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SCIC to directly hear RTI appeals concerning commission

The RTI complaints and appeals dealing with the State Information Commission and its nodal department -- administrative reforms department -- will be heard by the state chief information commissioner (SCIC) Ranjeet Singh Pankaj himself. The new SCIC, who was appointed on June 27 this year, has re-allocated the government departments and districts among the 10 information commissioners, including himself.Not only the information commission but other prominent offices and departments too have been put under the SCIC's jurisdiction. In fact, there are 21 such offices and departments which are under SCIC's authority. The appeals and complaints of RTI applicants regarding these 21 offices and departments will be heard by him.

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Treeless ‘green drive’ costs state Rs 148.87 lakh

As part of a national afforestation project involving villages, Rs 148.87 lakh were spent in 12 Forest Development Agencies (FDA) in 12 districts between 2003 and 2006, without a single tree being planted. This was revealed in a reply to an RTI query by Paryavaran Mitra, an environmental NGO. Forest officials, however, say that it is the complex afforestation process that can explain where the money was spent.The RTI reply mentions the "total cost of tree plantation" in the FDAs at Rs 148.87 lakh, but not a single sapling was planted in Valsad (South), Dahod, Surat and Kutch-Bhuj in 2003-2004; in Vadodara, Kutch-Bhuj, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Kheda in 2004-2005; and in Vadodara, Rajkot, Junagadh and Bhavnagar in 2005-2006.

The project details of Rajkot (2005-2006) show that Rs 48.23 lakh were spent, not on planting new saplings, but on starting nurseries and maintaining the standing trees. "The FDA and Joint Forest Management schemes cannot be analysed through data stretching over a short period of time because it takes at least a year, even 18 months, to prepare a sapling for plantation," said R V Ashari, Additional Principal Conservator of Forests, Gujarat.He added that like any other government scheme, progress reports and accounts determine the time and amount of money released. These reports are, however, not always the first priority of villagers, not the least because they do not have much idea behind such processes, he said.

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RTI Effect: Number of VVIP squatters reduces to 17

It is indeed shameful that still 17 former Union Ministers have not vacated palatial government-bungalows as on August 10, 2009 according to Directorate of Estates. However, it was media-exposure of earlier response to RTI petition from the Directorate about a month ago that 18 such VVIP squatters had to vacate their bungalows while George Fernandez could retain by managing new membership of Rajya Sabha.

Our VVIP squatters should be made to follow British tradition where new Prime minister directly enters official residence at 10 Downing Street (London) because system there does not allow retaining government-accommodation even for an extra day after losing entitlement. Apart from amending Section 441 of Indian Penal Code as suggested by the Apex Court, Government should stop pensions of retired Parliamentarians for overstaying apart from disqualifying them from contesting elections or having some official post like of Governor or Chairperson of a Commission. Heavy penalty much-more than the market-rent, should be charged for every additional day of over-occupation.

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No dues pending against any Rajya Sabha MP, finds RTI plea

There are no pending monetary dues against any sitting or retired member of the Rajya Sabha, a Right to Information (RTI) applicant has found out. 'As on Aug 13, 2009, there are no outstanding dues of this secretariat on members of the Rajya Sabha, sitting or retired,' said the Rajya Sabha Secretariat in its reply to an application of RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. He had sought information on pending dues to government departments, agencies, companies, bodies by former and existing parliamentarians, ministers or prime minister, past and present. Agrawal had also asked about the steps taken to recover dues, including those taken after concern expressed by Delhi High Court over the issue.

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RTI helps expediting justice for elderly women

An elderly lady thrown out first by family and later by a Sr. Citizen home in
Noida gets relief through NCW. RTI helps in expediting the case.

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MEA protecting individuals with criminal past: CIC

Ministry of External Affairs has come under severe criticism from the Central Information Commission (CIC) for trying to avoid sharing information regarding a red corner alert issued by the Interpol in regard to two Indian nationals and protecting them from being prosecuted. The condemnation came from Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit as the MEA refused provide information on an application filed by one Ashwini Kumar Shrivastava saying that, "disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with a foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence".

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