Saturday, October 31, 2009

Railways to handle RTI applications online

Come 2010, the Ahmedabad railway division will handle RTI cases online to cut cost and time wasted in responding to queries of applicants at present. The initiative is aimed at bringing transparency in the process as well. Under the new system, railway authorities will scan RTI applications and forward them to departments concerned online instead of sending them through snail mail. The new process will reduce the average response time to RTI queries and help railways save money it spends on postage. A senior officer of the Ahmedabad railway division said: “Once the new system is introduced, people seeking information under RTI from any department or zone of railways will just have to submit their applications at the RTI cell at the divisional headquarters here.

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A question under RTI can be worth Rs 7 lakh

Government departments have evolved numerous ways to refuse information under the RTI Act. One of them being asking hefty fee for providing the information It happened with an applicant Saleem Baig, who had sought information about the homeguards in the state. All he received in response from the homeguards headquarters was the demand of Rs 7,68,284 for providing the information. The applicant received two letters within ten days, asking him that he needed to deposit the quoted amount of money first and then only information could be provided to him. The first letter dated September 15 had asked a sum of Rs 40,000 for providing the information. The second one, dated September 25, had asked for Rs 7,68,284 for the same information. The content of the two letters is same but the amount of money differs. "The information sought by you is of wider nature and in order to obtain it a big amount of money will have to be deposited," read the letters.

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Right to Information? Now babus seek to cover up

After judges, it is the babus' turn to take a call on disclosing their assets under the Right to Information Act. A confidential memo in TOI's possession shows that senior, secretary-level bureaucrats in the government of India plan to meet on November 3 to discuss assets disclosure public employees. The meeting has been convened by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), a ministry that hasn't supported the spirit of transparency embodied in the RTI Act. Government sources say the ministries and departments whose opinion has been sought have been encouraged to come up with a negative view on assets declaration. Points such as ``intimidation of civil servants by busybodies'', ``mocking media analyses'' could be over-emphasized by bureaucrats at the meeting in order to make a case for non-disclosure, the sources claim.

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Karnataka the best in RTI Act implementation, finds study

Karnataka has emerged as the best example of implementing the Right to Information (RTI)Act in a first-ever study about the efficacy of the pathbreaking legislation, which, however, has also exposed how far away the country is still from becoming a perfect example of giving people access to information. Karnataka tops the country in implementing the RTI Act scoring 55 per cent in Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS), according to draft data compiled as part of Magsaysay Awardee Arvind Kejriwal-led NGO Parivartan's initiative to give out the first-ever National RTI Awards to promote people's right to access information from government organisations. However, while the state tops the list, the fact that only 55 of every 100 people approaching the Karnataka Information Commission will finally get the information sought means that Karnataka, and more so the whole country, has a long way to go in making the RTI Act really successful.

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'Give 26/11 records to Kamte'

The state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi has ordered the Mumbai police to provide Vinita Kamte, widow of additional commissioner of police Ashok Kamte who was killed during the 26/11 attacks, with the details she has sought within 30 days.
The order issued on October 15 said that after receiving the copies, if Kamte is not satisfied with the facts, she can complain to the additional chief secretary (home).
In March, Kamte had filed an application under the Right To Information Act asking for the audio and written transcripts of the calls between her husband and the police control rooms and the call logs of the main control room. However, her first application was rejected on the grounds that investigations were on. She then filed an appeal and was allowed to inspect the copies. Kamte said, "The police should have given us the original copies to inspect, but they didn't. So I filed another appeal in August. I did not want to do all of this. All I want is to know the truth."

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Gujarat Information Commission an overburdened body

The State Information Commission in Gujarat has not been able to look at any new complaint since July. All the new files are packed into shelves in one corner of the Commission's office in Gandhinagar, the administrative capital of Gujarat. While the Commission received 9,667 cases till July from October 2005, when it started work, just 4,990, a little more than 51 per cent, were disposed of. Since October 2005, when the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence on October 13, only the chief information commissioner is there to handle cases in a state of 55 million people.
This state government has not appointed two more commissioners, which it itself sanctioned two years ago.

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TN commission not facilitating access to info, say NGOs

The Tamil Nadu Right To Information Campaign (TNRTIC), a group of NGOs working in the area of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, on Wednesday criticised the State Information Commission for giving false information pertaining to the availability of order copies. Releasing a report here on a national-level study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a Delhi-based NGO, on the functioning of 28 information commissions from across the country, TNRTIC coordinator Ossie Fernandes said that the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission was not included in the study since it had given false information to an RTI application filed by the National RTI Awards Secretariat in June this year.


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It's official: Wajahat Habibullah head of Kashmir's RTI watchdog

Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra has approved Wajahat Habibullah as the head of the state's information commission."Vohra signed the order Thursday," Jammu and Kashmir's Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Sagar told IANS Friday.Habibullah is likely to take oath and join the the new assignment Monday, the minister said. A 1968 batch IAS officer, Habibullah had already submitted his resignation as the central information commissioner to President Pratibha Patil.Habibullah had received an offer from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah earlier this month for the new post.Sagar said names have been short listed for two information commissioners and the supporting staff for the State Information Commission.After taking over as chief minister in January, Omar Abdullah listed implementation of the Right to Information Act as one of his top priorities so the state could be at par with the rest of the country.

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CMC doesnt want more beach shacks

Even as coastal villagers in the north have been striving to obtain permissions for an additional number of shacks on its beaches this season, those residing in Canacona prefer otherwise. They fear that soil erosion along Canacona's beaches could cause a serious ecological imbalance if not tackled by the concerned authorities. Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) reveals that on September 30, 2009, the chief officer of the Canacona Municipal Council wrote to the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) that the shacks allotted are in violation of the Environment Protection Act.

"There is no beach cleanliness system maintained by the tourism department. No lifeguards are available and no sweepers are visible throughout the tourist season (at Canacona), which are the basic requirements before offering the new shack policy. Beach shacks allotted are in total violation of the Environment Protection Act as there is no waste water disposal facility available on the beaches," the letter states.

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Bihar ranks 10th on RTI parameters

Although Bihar has earned laurels at the national level for taking the initiative to provide information under the RTI Act besides establishing Jankari call centre, the state is placed tenth in the country with regard to RTI parameters. There are 28 informtion commmissions in the states and one at the Centre with altogether 94 information commissioners. Bihar is far behind Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab, Orissa, Assam and four other states but ahead of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states. This has been revealed in a survey conducted by the National RTI Awards
Secretariat to assess the performance of information commissions across the country for National RTI Awards 2009. It is based on the feedback from 6,000 people.

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Sohrab case accused file RTI on jail med facilities

Suspended deputy superintendent of police NK Amin and sub-inspector NV Chauhan accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter and Kauserbi killing cases had filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act against Sabarmati Central Jail authorities to know who exactly is authorised to take decisions in case of a medical emergency and what facilities were required to be provided to prisoners. Prison authorities replied to all questions and said that the application was a fallout of a power struggle between IPS and non-IPS officials lodged in the prison. According to officials, the duo wanted to investigate favouritism by the prison staff. Central jail officials said the duo had filed an application last month seeking answers to questions like who takes the final decision whether a patient should be transferred to Civil Hospital or any other competent hospital in the city and who has the right to refuse it.

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Living people declared dead in Uttar Pradesh, reveals RTI

One man's Right to Information (RTI) application has led to the Uttar Pradesh land consolidation department admitting Thursday that living people were declared dead in its records due to irregularities. The matter came to light when Lal Bihari, a man who had been declared dead, sought the records through the RTI Act. "I was declared dead in the records and all my land was grabbed by the influential people of my village using forged documents," Bihari, a native of Hardoi district, said here. "After making numerous efforts to prove myself alive, I decided to file an RTI application to expose the scam." However, Bihari was provided details of only 20 such `dead' people.

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RTI information shows Punjab Governor influenced CBI probe

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken a U-turn in the case of the purchase of sports items at exorbitant rates following a communication from Punjab Governor and UT Administrator Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd). The report is based on an inquiry regarding the purchase of sports items worth approximately Rs 2 crore without tender and in contravention of rules. The earlier report of the premier investigating agency had sought the registration of a regular case against three top officials for the questionable purchase.

Another report had later said “it would be difficult to establish that the equipment was purchased at exorbitant rates or undue gain was provided to the supplier by the officer concerned by using their official position”. The preliminary report had indicted three top officials, S.K. Sandhu, secretary, sports, I.S. Sandhu, director, and J.P.S. Sidhu, joint director, seeking the registration of a regular case. The case had been highlighted by the Burning Brains Society earlier, which complained to the CBI about the scam in Chandigarh’s sports department.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

'Don't dilute Right To Information Act with amendments'

The amendments to the RTI Act proposed by the central government have made activists as well as the public information commissioners (PIO) increasingly unhappy. In a meeting held on Tuesday in the office of Mumbai Chartered Accountants Society at Churchgate, under the banner 'Save RTI Act', activists in Mumbai were briefed by the central information commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on the proposed amendments. The president of India, Pratibha Patil, had first mentioned about the amendments to strengthen the Act in June. The department of planning and training (DoPT) had made a presentation to over 50 PIOs on last week on the proposed amendments in New Delhi.

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'Changes to RTI Act will make it toothless'

This is the second time in the past four years that the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which has made a difference to the lives of millions of ordinary people, is under the threat of becoming toothless. This time around, the Centre has proposed several amendments to the sunshine act, including denial of information about file notings where decision is yet to be taken and adding clauses that allow a public information officer (PIO) to deny information by deeming it as frivolous or vexatious in nature. Former city-based RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi, who is now the Central Information Commissioner, Delhi, emphasised that the RTI Act must not be touched as its provisions empower citizens to procure information without delay and harassment from state officials. "Any kind of change will only cause confusion and it will be used as a ploy by PIOs to deny information.''

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Experts to make people aware of their rights, duties

The state government is contemplating to educate people about their duties and rights in accordance with the law of the land. The services of senior bureaucrats and legal experts would be taken in this regard. The state administrative training institute has taken up the responsibility to educate the people of Jharkhand about the law of the land that affects their daily lives.

Director general of the state administrative training institute A K Singh, the brain behind the initiative, said that a large number of people in the state are not aware of their rights, duties and benefits. "The institute will conduct free classes twice a week for six months to make the people aware of different Acts like the Right to Information Act, forest Act and dowry Act. People can enhance their knowledge on different Acts," Singh said.

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Access to info a fundamental right: HC

Access to information is a fundamental right recognized by the Constitution, and the public authority must interpret the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2005, liberally, the Madras high court has said. A ruling to this effect was passed by Justice MM Sundaresh recently, while passing orders on the writ petitions of three candidates seeking copies of their answer sheets besides the marksheets of all candidates short-listed for motor vehicle inspector posts by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC).

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PIOs make appellant run from pillar to post

The RTI Act is still to ensure common man the right to information in the state. Public Authorities (PAs) have little regard for orders passed by State Information Commission (SIC). There are several cases highlighting the callous attitude of PAs. One such case is of an applicant, Dev Dutt Sharma, who had sought information from higher education department in 2006 but is still to get complete information. His case has been heard by five different information commissioners (ICs) in 18 hearings. "In February this year, the case was finally marked for hearing by chief information commissioner," said Sharma. This is the latest status of my case that I know about, he added.

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Public info campaign in Mohali

To educate rural masses on various flagship programmes of the Central government, initiated for their welfare, the Press Information Bureau has decided to conduct a five-day Bharat Nirman Public Information Campaign in Mohali district. The public information campaign (PIC) will be conducted at Block Majri from October 20-24.

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Panel slaps fine on Collectorate, Corpn staff for denying info

State Information Commissioner S Ramakrishnan has slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 each on three officials, including a tahsildar of the Chennai Collectorate and a public information officer of the Chennai Corporation, for not providing the required information to a petitioner under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

According to R Natarajan of Chamiers Road, he had sought information on the encroachment by a company near the Boat Club in Chennai. The company, according to Natarajan, was illegally occupying 14 grounds of land with an estimated market price of over Rs 75 crore. Seven months after his appeal, the assistant public relations officer (APRO) asked the tahsildar to furnish the information. But he didn't get the required information, Natarajan said.

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Wajahat Habibullah resigns as CIC to go to J & K

Senior bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah has resigned as Chief Information Commissioner to take up his new assignment as RTI watchdog in Jammu and Kashmir. "Yes, I have submitted my resignation to the President (Pratibha Patil) and I am awaiting its acceptance," Habibullah told PTI here tonight. "After acceptance, I will decide when to take over the new assignment," Habibullah, 1968-batch IAS officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre, said.

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Amendment to RTI Act 'an obviously retrograde step'

More than 200 eminent citizens have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to abandon the “ill advised move to amend the RTI Act”. This is the full text of the letter signed by Aruna Roy, Magsaysay Award winner, and others.

Link to the full letter

Deputy Commissioner Sangrur has issued a ‘show cause’ notice to the SDM DHURI, MOONAK & MALERKOTLA

Taking serious note for not providing information in prescribed time of 30 days as well as not appearing in the Distt. RTI court under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Appellate Authority Cum Deputy Commissioner Sangrur has issued a ‘show cause’ notice to the SDM DHURI, SDM MOONAK & SDM MALERKOTLA asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him on this account. In an application dated June 15, 2009 under the RTI Act, JATINDER JAIN, head of an NGO, SANKALP, had asked the Deputy commissioner sangrur for information about the functions, seminars or any other activities done by Sangrur administration or in subdivisions of Sangrur district for promotion of RTI Act 2005, What activities of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual maintenance are supposed to be carried to promote this act?, Brief of activities plan Vs organized during the period from the day of implementation of act to date of filling application & many more question for regarding RTI promotion’s Sunam, Lehragaga & Sangrur provide the information but After more than a month went by and he did not receive any reply from SDM, Dhuri, Malerkotla & Moonak he appealed to the SDM’s first appellate authority cum Deputy commissioner on August 10, 2009.
After which the appellate authority taking the cognizance of the matter issued notices to SDMs on September 24, 2009 & instruct them to be appear personally after providing information to Mr. Jain on October 13, 2009. Though during the hearing the office barer of The SDMs submitted the answer to the asked query.
Jain, though expressing non-satisfaction over the information provided to him, submitted before the appellate authority that the SDMs was not at all serious about the RTI Act and they not appear in the court even after the order of Deputy commissioner. He said the SDMs provide information & that is not correct only after the Deputy Commissioner summoned them for a hearing.
Jain demanded action under section 20 (1) of the RTI act against SDM Dhuri, Moonak & Malerkotla for not supplying the information. He also demanded initiation of action under section 166 of the IPC & demand suitable compensation should be awarded to appellant under section 19 (8) (b) of RTI Act for the "detriment and loss suffered by him" on account of the delay in obtaining the desired informationAccordingly, Deputy commissioner cum appellate authority has also issued a ‘show cause’ notice to All three SDMs, asking him why he should not be penalized for the delay in providing the required information. Deputy Commissioner cum appellate authority ordered them to be appeared in District RTI court on October 27, 2009.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The RTI battle of the NRIs

The NRIs in the US have been leading a campaign for their right to use the Right to Information Act from abroad even as the government admits their “issue” is complex” and may need an amendment in the law.

NRIs, with meagre help from overseas public authorities, remain largely clueless on basic information required for filing an RTI application — from paying the Rs 10 fee to keeping abreast of the different payment modes varying from state to state.

Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah says NRIs can better participate in RTI if an amendment is made in the rules to name the “Ministry of Overseas Affairs as the nodal authority to monitor RTI applications from NRIs”. The applicants currently can file the application fee in the currency of the nations in which they reside. The applications can be submitted with the respective embassies, but a proper mechanism through the amendments has to be worked out for processing the requests. I found the MEA not the right authority to entertain applications,” Habibullah says. But Vishal disagrees with Habibullah, and feels a “simple gazette notification” would do. “Under Section 26 (3)(c)(h)(i) of the Act, the government is empowered to update guidelines on the manner in which requests for access to information shall be made to a Public Information Officer, the notices for fees to be paid and for any additional regulations or circulars. Hence the concerns of the NRIs can be addressed by a simple gazette notification,” his e-mail to Pradhan on October 7 says. The DoPT now also says that the RTI Act would need an amendment for NRIs.

Complete Article

Govt bodies have no websites

A recently conducted review of 67 various government departments, corporations, local bodies and premier institutions, has revealed that as many as 43 of them do not have any website at present. Besides, of those that have websites, most of them are not updated. The review was recently conducted by the chief secretary to verify the opening
of websites in government departments. A circular issued by the IT secretary Uddipta Ray to all government departments on October 10, 2009 reveals, "The chief secretary expressed not only his concern but also displeasure at the tardy way the matter has been dealt with by the various government departments". The circular notes, "The situation has been viewed with greater concern because under the Right to Information Act, it has been made mandatory for all the government departments and other organizations coming within the purview of the said Act to not only set up their websites in a time bound manner but also to keep it continuously updated".

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Should IIT aspirants' details be disclosed?

The Central Information Commission (CIC) will now decide whether details of candidates appearing for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination such as marks, names, addresses etc can be exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information(RTI) Act. The CIC will tackle the question on November 6, when it will hear a case to decide whether IIT Guwahati — the organizing JEE for 2009 — should disclose this data. The case is being viewed as an important test of IIT-JEE's credibility, as disclosure of 2006 JEE data showed that formulas for calculating subject cutoffs did not tally, and irregularities were alleged in marks scored by wards of faculty members.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interactive meeting with Shailesh Gandhi Mumbai Oct 20th

BCAS Foundation, Mahiti Adhikar Manch & Public Concern For Governance Trust Invite you to participate in a Interactive Meeting With

MR. SHAILESH GANDHI, Central Information Commissioner.

Where He Will Also Explain Proposed Ammendments To Rti Act 2005.

At the BCAS FOUNDATION office,
Jolly Bhavan No.2, Ground floor,
Opp. Nirmala Niketan College, New Marine Lines, Mumbai 20.
Nearest Station Churchgate,

On Tuesday 20th October 2009 at 2.45 p.m.

Leave the RTI alone

The Right to Information Act can be regarded as an aberration in view of the government's longstanding penchant for secrecy, which is a colonial-era legacy.
Although it had beaten a retreat in a moment of unusual open-mindedness to enact it, there have been occasional efforts to recover what it apparently considers lost ground. One such attempt is again being made with a proposal to amend the legislation on the grounds of excluding vexatious and frivolous complaints. It takes little perspicacity, however, to see that this may well be the thin end of the wedge, which will prove to be a convenient tool in the hands of bureaucrats to rule as out of bounds those inquiries which pry too deeply into their closed world.

A second attempt in similar vein has been to revive the old official reluctance to disclose file notings. Although this move has been camouflaged this time by a circumlocutory reference to keep out of the RTI's purview those
"discussions/consultations that take place before arriving at a decision", the political and bureaucratic objective is clear. Yet, it is these very confabulations which tend to give the game away, for they reveal the identity of those behind the moulding of the final decision as well as their not always laudatory motives.

It goes without saying, therefore, that these dubious endeavours to tamper with the RTI Act should be resisted. In a country where the Official Secrets Act is still very much in force and the Henderson-Brooks report on the border conflict with China remains under wraps nearly half a century after the event, the RTI Act should be left strictly alone.

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Information on appointment of judges under RTI refused

Information pertaining to appointment of judges to the Supreme Court could not be provided under the Right to Information Act as it was confidential, the Central Principal Information Officer of the Supreme Court has said. Raj Pal Arora, CPIO said this in his letter dated October 10 sent to rights activist Subash Chandra Agrawal, who sought information relating to elevation of Chief Justices of various High Courts as judges of the Supreme Court. The information he sought included complete correspondence and a copy of the letter sent by 10 senior lawyers to the Chief Justice of India and reply by the CJI and/or his Secretariat on the proposal to elevate the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, P.D. Dinakaran.

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RTI Act gets poor response

Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 mandates timely response by authorities concerned to citizens' queries on government information. This law was passed by Parliament on June 15, 2005, and came into force on October 13, 2005. The Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir. It is applicable to all constitutional authorities, including the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature. But four years hence, people are yet to get the benefits of the Act due to lack of awareness and non-cooperation of the officials.

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Trial run of video conferencing at state

The much-awaited video conferencing facility at the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (TNSIC) is likely to become reality next month. With the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) scheduled to complete installation of equipment at a cost of Rs 15 lakh at the commission's headoffice in Teynampet by October 31, officials in the commission said that the new system would be put on trial for ten days once installation is complete. "ELCOT has already demonstrated how the system works and it is now coordinating with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and BSNL. We have reminded ELCOT to complete installation as per schedule. Once it is over, the system will be interlinked with the existing video conferencing facility in the other district headquarters in Tamil Nadu in a few days for trial run,'' official sources in
the information commission told The Times India.

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Information on appointment of judges under RTI refused

Information pertaining to appointment of judges to the Supreme Court could not be provided under the Right to Information Act as it was confidential, the Central Principal Information Officer of the Supreme Court has said. Raj Pal Arora, CPIO said this in his letter dated October 10 sent to rights activist Subash Chandra Agrawal, who sought information relating to elevation of Chief Justices of various High Courts as judges of the Supreme Court. The information he sought included complete correspondence and a copy of the letter sent by 10 senior lawyers to the Chief Justice of India and reply by the CJI and/or his Secretariat on the proposal to elevate the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, P.D. Dinakaran. Mr. Agrawal in his application dated September 14 sought information on 12 points including the subsequent action taken on aspects raised in the letter by 10 senior lawyers.

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Fine slapped for flouting RTI

State information commissioner Shakeel Ahmad on Thursday slapped a fine on block development officer (BDO), Lalganj and panchayat secretary, gram panchayat Rajjalalpur, in Vaishali district. As per a press release issued here by the information and public relation department, the commissioner slapped fine on both the aforesaid officials as they failed to provide timely information to one Naveen Prakash and also failed to reply to the notice of the commission. The commissioner slapped a fine of Rs 250 per day on both the BDO and panchayat secretary. It would be effective from September 17. The maximum amount of the fine would be Rs 25,000.

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Govt for change in RTI law, activists call it death knell

The The government on Wednesday proposed key amendments in the four-year-old Right to Information Act, which the activists called the death knell for the transparency law. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which administers the law, discussed the proposed changes with Information Commissioners, two days after President Pratibha Patil called for a stop to veracious and frivolous RTI applications. The government has proposed that the reasons for taking any Cabinet decisions should be disclosed only 60 days after the decision has been made. At present, the timeframe is 30 days.

The second amendment proposed by the DoPT is not to allow information regarding issues on which the government is yet to take a final decision. At present, the restriction is applicable only for Cabinet proposals. "It would essentially mean that no file notings will be disclosed," a Central Information Commissioner, who was not willing to be quoted, said. "A person would not be able to seek simple public information like whether a road is being proposed in his or her locality or not". The department also wants to give the Public Information Officers (PIO ) the discretion to decide which RTI application is frivolous. The department has, however, not explained that which form of application can be termed as frivolous.

Complete Article

Move to exempt ‘file notings’ from RTI

The Government is once again trying to sneak in an amendment which would exempt disclosure of file notings under Right to Information (RTI) Act. Unlike its failed attempt in 2006, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has carefully worded the proposed amendment without mentioning the term ‘file notings’ anywhere.

The fact came to light when DoPT had a day-long interaction with Central Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners at Delhi Secretariat on Wednesday to get a feedback on the proposed amendments to RTI Act. In a presentation, DoPT mentioned that it wanted to include some exemptions under RTI Act. The exemption as proposed in the presentation was, “Discussion/consultation that take place before arriving at a decision have no relevance for general public. Disclosure of such discussion/consultation will hamper free flow of thought within the Government.”

With this sentence, the Government steered clear of the word ‘file notings’ but still conveyed that whatever a bureaucrat notes down on the side of the file, which is defined as discussion and consultation, should not be divulged under RTI Act. There has been a long-drawn face-off between DoPT and Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for RTI Act, over disclosure of file notings. Within a year of RTI Act enactment, DoPT had tried to amend it to exempt file notings. However, this attempt failed completely as civil society waged a battle against the move. This year, CIC forced DoPT to issue a circular to all departments clarifying that file notings have to be divulged under RTI Act.

Complete Article

Info panel resists bid to dilute RTI

The government's attempt to `dilute' the RTI Act was met with stiff opposition from information commissioners at a meeting organised by the department of personnel and training on Wednesday. While there was no final word on the issue, information commissioners including Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah have been upfront in their view that amendments like the power to reject frivolous and vexatious complaints by public information officers and constitution of Benches were
unnecessary.

Habibullah raised both issues in his keynote address on Wednesday. "Rejection of requests for information on the basis that they are frivolous or vexatious is a delicate issue. I think any amendments will be premature as the limits for the RTI Act are yet to be established,'' he said. Sources said there is stiff opposition from some quarters of bureaucracy and polity regarding the freedom to seek any information and they had suggested clauses to curb the practice. Incidentally, the issue of "frivolous" applications was also raised by President Pratibha Patil during her inaugural address of the fourth convention of the CIC recently.

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Karnataka spends Rs 1cr on one Cabinet meet

Austerity wasn't quite the political rage a year ago, but even by easier standards this was rather extravagant. On September 26 last year, the state BJP government chose to make a big show of its concern for north Karnataka and decided to hold a cabinet meeting in this city. Guess what they ended up doing? Spend Rs 28 lakh on decoration alone — most of it on flowers. A glimpse of this floral tribute to north Karnataka (rather, to the notables of Yeddyurappa government notables) emerged from an RTI query put by TOI under the Right to Information Act. The decoration expenditure included putting up many buntings and welcome arches for 34 ministers, their secretaries and staff, who had taken the trouble of travelling 623 km from Bangalore. The total expenditure for this one meeting was a shade lower than Rs 1 crore — Rs 92.39 lakh. The meeting was touted as a move to impart confidence to the people of north Karnataka regions, who had felt neglected by previous governments, that this government cared. So, no effort, human and financial, was spared to hold it.

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Irregularities in recruitment of Lecturers in colleges

In India, Education institutes are given utmost respect and equated as "Vidya Ka Mandir". But corruption in educational system right from recruitment of teachers to their promotions and admissions of students to their examination have now become a major challenge to the Education System in India. Bringing one such case of embezzlement to light, Senior BJP Leader and Punjab State Chief BJP Investor Cell, Sukhminderpal Singh Grewal rued massive irregularities in appointments and otherwise in Khalsa College for Women. Grewal stated that Khalsa College for Women, Civil Lines, Ludhiana advertised a position for the post of Lecturer in Business Management on regular basis as per the qualifications and conditions laid down by the University Grants Commission on 15th March, 2009 through various vernacular dailies.

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MC dares to ignore govt request

Hinting at an oblique testimony to the alleged corrupt nexus between contractors and officers in the municipal corporation (MC), civic body officials have reportedly not bothered to submit their report to the state government regarding the poor construction of Gill Road, despite the fact that the government had issued innumerable reminders to the MC. According to available information, irked over the poor construction of Gill Road, social activist Kuldeep Singh Khaira had lodged a complaint with the state government regarding it. After that, a number of investigating agencies of the state ? the vigilance cell of the local bodies department, the vigilance bureau and the high-powered technical advisory committee of Punjab Government ? had taken samples of the road and found discrepancies.

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HC: No law to make MLAs declare assets

The Madras HC on Tuesday dismissed a PIL seeking directions to the Tamil Nadu assembly to ask MLAs declare assets on the ground that there was no such law. The petitioner, V Madhav, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, said the assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution in August 1969 to declare assets and update their status every 12 months. Chief minister M Karunanidhi, the force behind the resolution, filed his declarations for about 20 years, till 1989, the petition said. Citing the assembly secretariat's response to RTI inquiries, Madhav said only a handful of MLAs declared assets during the past 40 years. His counsel Krishna Ananth submitted that though candidates contesting in elections are mandated to declare their asset particulars, there is no mechanism to ascertain as to what was their wealth status after they become
MLAs.

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Pvt firms getting govt grant should come under RTI, says CIC panel

Citing "unchallenged" rulings by state information commissions (SIC), a sub-committee of the Central Information Commission (CIC) has suggested that private sector enterprises getting "substantial grants" from central or state governments should come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. "Private sector enterprises receiving monetary aid from the government must be under the ambit of the Act. The onus to divulge information the grant should in such cases not just be on the government giving the grant but also on the private sector body receiving it, since it would be better equipped to inform citizens on how that grant or subsidy was utilised," CD Arha, convener of the sub-committee, constituted to explore ways to strengthen the "information regime", and chief information commissioner of Andhra Pradesh, said. He said this applied more to companies that had joint ventures with governments.

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RTI amendments on govt menu

With the government keen on amending the Right to Information (RTI) Act, controversial issues like the constitution of Benches and filing of `frivolous and vexatious requests' for information are likely to be discussed at a day-long consultation with information commissioners on Wednesday. Among other issues on the agenda are amendments to schedule II that includes agencies like Intelligence Bureau, RAW, ITBP and others which are exempt from the Act unless the information sought deals with human rights violation or corruption. Constitution of Benches has become a bone of contention between the department of personnel and training (DoPT) and the Central Information Commission (CIC).

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School dropout is watchdog of public funds

Education is not necessary for empowerment, as many success stories related to the Right to Information (RTI) Act have shown. Take the case of school dropout Dilip Kataria, 31, from Dhavadia village in Khambha taluka of Amreli district. This spunky villager is doing his bit to ensure that public money is not misused in his village, but utilised for the government schemes it's meant for. Kataria, who works as an electrician earning daily wages, has filed as many as 1,000 RTI applications in various government departments. They have been mostly related to basic civic amenities like roads and water, and irrigation facilities.

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Vice President's valedictory address at 4th Annual Convention of CIC

The Vice President of India Shri. M. Hamid Ansari has said that in any democratic society, a level of dissatisfaction among the citizenry towards their government should be taken as a given. Delivering valedictory address at the "4th. Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC)" here today, he said that far from being a nuisance to the process of governance, it is such dissatisfaction that propels government to improve its functioning, be sensitive and empathetic to the problems of citizens and ensures efficient allocation and spending of public resources.
He opined that it is no surprise that the Right to Information Act is no exception to this trend. When passed in 2005, it was hailed as a revolutionary step aimed at fundamentally altering the balance of power between the government and citizens. Four years hence, dissatisfaction is evident.

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RTI turns four, but is not a strong tool yet

Four years have passed since the UPA government enacted the Right to Information (RTI) Act, but implementation of the landmark legislation has been heavily flawed, a survey has found. The survey found that only 13% of the rural population and 33% of the urban population was aware of the RTI act's existence. It was commissioned by the Centre's Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) and conducted by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. It took feedback from over 2,000 information seekers and 200 information providers, and studied the act's level of awareness among 5,000 citizens. "The awareness level of citizens regarding their rights as an appellant under RTI is minimal," said SK Sarkar, joint secretary, DOPT, at the annual convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC). The survey report says: "Over 75% of information seekers were dissatisfied with the quality of information provided [under the act]... 26% of citizens had to pay more than three visits to submit applications and 47% said there were no signboards to help them with the process."

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RTI Act turning toothless, protest citizens

Instead of working for the successful implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the State, the State Information Commission (SIC) has been working against it by delaying the disbursal of information to applicants, the United Forum for RTI Campaign said. Speaking to mediapersons at a silent protest conducted by United Forum in the premises of the APSIC on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of enactment of RTI Act, the State convener of the forum N Nagendra Babu, accused the SIC for delaying information to applicants, which subsequently led people to avoid contact with government offices. The Forum said that this potent weapon in the hands of citizens is not being allowed to be used extensively by various organisations in the State.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Ask for data on JEE and mum's the word at IIT-G

The bungling of the 2006 Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) may have undermined the reputation of Indian Institute of Technologies for holding one of the toughest entrance exams in the country; but the premier engineering institutes have decided to fight tooth and nail against any measure to open JEE to scrutiny. Misuse of data by coaching centres has now become the latest ruse which IIT-Guwahati (IIT G)— which organised the 2009 JEE— is using to refrain from full disclosure of JEE 2009 data.

In an email to Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on October 2, IIT G director Gautam Barua said, "We (IITs) are apprehensive that this request for electronic data is to profit from it by using the data for IIT-JEE coaching purposes (planning, targeting particular cities, population segments, etc)." Subsequently, on October 3, Barua wrote, "If private details of all candidates appearing in exams are to be released as a matter of course, then there will be serious repercussions on privacy, issues of profit-making, possibly even property rights may come in." On property rights, he said that the JEE data has monetary value, and the "IIT system may wish to price it." Barua was responding to a charge that IIT G had failed to comply with a Central Information Commission order to release JEE data to Right to Information applicant Prof Rajeev Kumar of IIT Kharagpur.

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RTI has created virtual parliament of people: Prez

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil today said the Right to Information (RTI) Act had in a way created a virtual “parliament of people” where every citizen through a simple method can seek information from the authorities. Inaugurating the fourth annual convention on RTI, the President said the Act gives every individual citizen the means to question and avail an answer. The RTI could be instrumental in bringing about improvements in the public service, delivery systems and mechanisms, she added. The theme of this year’s two-day convention is “Strengthening Right to Information”.
for assessing deliverability, citizens need information on how their government is functioning, the President said, adding that the rights given under the Act were extensive and, therefore, it was important that there were a deep sense of responsibility while exercising them.

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Is UT stingy with providing information?

Taking birth to empower people, the Right to Information Act, 2005, completed four years on October 12. But even as it ushered in a new era of enlightenment, with facts buried in files surfacing and government functioning coming under the scanner, many activists claimed UT administration still had a long way to go in living up to the spirit of transparency. Broadsiding the administration for its indifferent attitude, social activist Hemant Goswami claimed that in the last six months, over 450 applications had been sent to various administrative departments, especially home and finance. "But in 95% cases, they have not bothered to reply," he added.

Blaming the chief information commission for not penalizing its officers for failing their duty, Goswami added, "The lapse of a year in many cases in hearing appeals has also rendered the whole procedure ineffective." Activists said that various sections like 4(1)(a) which directed officials to voluntarily disclose information on websites and 6(3) which made it necessary for the public authority to whom an application was made to forward it to the department concerned and inform the applicant immediately about its transfer were not followed by the administration.

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Claiming that many a time wrong inputs were provided, RTI crusader RK Garg
added, "Appellate authorities are still quite biased and do not like to part
with information."

PSIC strikes down HC's secrecy rules

Upholding the essence of Right To Information Act four years after it was formed, authorities rejected the rules framed by Punjab and Haryana High Court that empowered it the denial of administrative information. The Punjab State Information Commission (PSIC) observed that certain rules framed by HC — that allowed the court to withhold information — were not in the spirit of the Act, under which disclosure is the rule, and `secrecy' an exception. Chief information commissioner R I Singh made these observations in a recent order against an appeal filed by retired judge Ranjit Singh. The applicant had moved a plea to HC's public information officer for copies of full house and administrative committee proceedings.

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Activists want private bodies under RTI Act

Private bodies should also be brought under the ambit of the right to information (RTI) Act, Bombay high court judge justice Dhananjay Chandrachud said on Monday. "We cannot disempower ourselves, thinking that private bodies do not come under the purview of the Act." Celebrating four years of the sunshine act, RTI activists appealed that its scope be widened by including the private sector in the public services under it. "When the Act is for fighting corruption, why not have it for the private sector too?" Ashok Rawat, an activist, asked.

"Disinvestment and deregulation have seen the government handing over public services to private hands. Now, private players are just as important as the government. The RTI Act is not a code to give information, but a constitutional right of a person to know about something. Right to information is now beyond the scope of disclosure," said Chandrachud.

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Noida officials openly flouting RTI rules, alleges activist

While the nation is celebrating four years of Right to Information (RTI) Act, officials of Noida authority seem to be working to stop the information flow to people, an activist alleged Monday. "Under the RTI Act, a first appeal has to be heard by the appellate authority within 30 days. This time can extend up to 45 days if supported by a proper reason. However, Noida authority is openly flouting this rule," Commodore (retired) Lokesh Batra told IANS.

Batra filed an RTI application with Noida authority seeking details of first appeals disposed of between Jan 1 and May 29, 2009. He filed the application on May 29 and after going to first appeal appellate and complaining, he finally got the information Sep 23, which is over 110 days after filling the application. "The reply revealed that during the particular period, the Noida authority heard or disposed of 94 first appeals. Of those 94, 73 were heard or disposed after the 45-day period," Batra said.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Instant justice gives heartburn to appellants

It has been four years since the implementation of RTI Act in the state. Its implementation has still a lot to ask for. The commonest complaint of the applicants being the little time allotted to them while their cases are heard at the commission. "It was slightly more than ten minutes of shuffling through my case file and the order was passed," complained one of the applicants, who has his case listed for further hearings and wished not to be quoted.

"Sometimes we are not even heard fully," added another. The complaint is not exclusive to one person, but as already said, commonest among RTI applicants. The State Information Commission (SIC) receives at least 300 cases for hearing each day. It is not more than `12 minutes' on an average which is spent on each case by information commissioners (ICs).

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Goa: Swearing of new Chief Information Commissioner, Monday Oct 12

October 11, 2009

Governor Dr. S. S. Sidhu will administer the oath of office to Shri Motilal S. Keni as the chief Information Commissioner under Right to Information Act 2005 tomorrow, October 12, 2009. As per the programme chalked out by the Department of Information & Publicity, the swearing in ceremony of the new Chief Information Commissioner will be held at Durbar Hall Raj Bhavan at 4.30 p.m. tomorrow to be attended by Chief Minister, Shri Digambar Kamat, chief Secretary, Shri Sanjay K. Srivastava, Secretary, Information and Publicity, Shri Narendra Kumar who is also functioning as secretary to the Governor.

Presently the Commission under Right to Information Act 2005 has only on State Information Commissioner, Shri Afonso Araujo

DI/NB/MP/SM/JA/2009/

--
DIRECTORATE OF INFORMATION AND PUBLICITY.
THIRD FLOOR,UDYOG BHAVAN,
NEAR AZAD MAIDAN, PANAJI GOA
PHONE-0832-2422675
0832-2226047
0832-2426168
FAX 0832-2224211

NRIs to have easy access; more agencies to come into ambit

As the Right to Information (RTI) Act completes four years of enactment on Tuesday (October 13), here is some good news. The Government is planning to introduce amendments to make it easier for NRIs to seek information, reduce the number of organisations exempt from the Act and make it mandatory for Government departments to voluntarily disclose certain types of information.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed Minister of State in PMO Prithviraj Chavan to get feedback from the Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for RTI Act, on the proposed amendments. Chavan would hold this interaction with all Information Commissioners on Wednesday after the conclusion of a two-day convention on RTI in the national Capital.

Speaking exclusively to The Pioneer on the eve of fourth anniversary of the RTI Act, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, “I met the Prime Minister over the proposed amendments. I discussed with him in detail the need for consulting Information Commissioners over this move. Now, the Minister of State will have an interaction with the Central Information Commissioners on Wednesday after we are done with the two-day convention.”

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4 years on, sorry tale in Gujarat

For a state that extols virtues of transparency in governance and proclaims to be a progressively pro-people, it is disheartening to see that its information commission has just one chief information commissioner for the last four years. This single authority is shouldering the responsibility of hearing 9,173 cases. Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) along with Sikkim, West Bengal and Rajasthan happens to be among the three states in the country that functions with a single commissioner. Tiny states like Goa have four information commissioners!

Today, the pending cases have gone up to 4,554 at GIC with a minimum waiting period of seven months to a year. But, this has not deterred applicants from filing complaints. The silver lining is that the number of complaints has been rising from 197 complaints and appeals in 2005-06, GIC's complaints and appeals have risen to 3,105 in March 2008-09. Against this enthusiasm, there is hardly anything being done to equip GIC with adequate software, staff to manage its office and information commissioners for conducting hearings.

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Honour for RTI crusaders - 50 citizens felicitated in Ranchi

Social activist Bindubhushan Dubey's quest for information had exposed how the state's lone chopper Dhruv was being misused by VIPs and their kin. Shashibhushan Pathak, also a social activist, was instrumental in unveiling the pathetic plight of rural schools where forces were stationed to fight Naxalites. Both Dubey and Pathak were among 50 responsible citizens who were felicitated today for wisely using the Right to Information (RTI) Act for the larger good. The Jharkhand RTI Forum honoured them with its prestigious RTI Citizens Award at a function in the capital. Some of the other noted citizens who received the award were former MLA from Jamshedpur (west) Sarayu Roy, Ranchi-based businessman Deepak Lohia, senior lawyer Lalit Bajla and CPI leader Ramendra Kumar. Journalist Balbir Dutt, who was the chief guest, and acting chief information commissioner Ram Bilas Gupta handed over the awards.

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Bring paramilitary forces under RTI Act: CIC

The paramilitary forces which are enjoying exemption from disclosure under Right to Information Act should be brought under it on the lines of defence forces like Army, Navy and Air Force, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah says as the Act completes its four years into being. The first Chief Commissioner of the transparency watchdog feels that RTI Act can be strengthened if some organisations are taken-off from those listed in section 24 of the Act which gives blanket cover to 18 intelligence and security agencies from any disclosing any information. "Yes. The matters concerning national security are already exempted from RTI disclosure. What happens is that matter of personnel management in these forces also get exempted from disclosure," Habibullah told PTI when asked whether paramilitary should be brought under the RTI Act.

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Right to Information Act needs to be used more effectively in Karnataka

Despite years of struggle for a law like the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005, activists and public officials agree that its implementation, especially in the State, has been disappointing. The s uo motu disclosure under Section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act, which was supposed to have been implemented in 120 days of the Act coming into being, has not taken place even after four years, members of various civic and
organisations pointed out at a review “RTI: where do we stand?” here on Saturday. mong the civic agencies in the city, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has furnished the most details on its website, and the Bangalore City Police (Traffic) the least.

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Assets of judges - Public Disclosure Can Reinforce Integrity

A bill on the disclosure of judges' assets has triggered a controversy. In the reckoning of the Chief Justice of India, the legislation is inconsistent with and derogatory to the status of judges. However, some judges have voluntarily made public their assets through the court website. Should judges be beyond suspicion?
To the ordinary people, justice is divine and the judge is the symbol of truth and righteousness. There is no denying that the judiciary in India has cleansed our socio-political life. M Hidayatullah, a former Chief Justice of India, has observed in his Democracy in India and the Judicial Process that "the citizens look to the courts for the redress of any grievance they may have". On occasions, however, some judges have unfortunately failed to act scrupulously. It is true that judges too are men of the world and, hence, they may be subject to human frailties. But because they judge the conduct of others, they must remain above suspicion.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not yet a strong tool

While the Right to Information Act has done its bit to ensure India is a successful working democracy, its implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Sadly, many citizens are still unaware of how to file applications. The suo motu disclosure should have been implemented within 120 days of enforcement of the Act, but it's still pending. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), along with organizations like CIVIC, CREAT, Kria Katte and PAC, organized a discussion on Saturday to assess how well the Act has been utilized in the past four years. CHRI programme coordinator Venkatesh Nayak said a study is needed to find out if it has affected government operations. RTI has worked best in tackling corruption and holding officers accountable, he pointed out. "The first two objectives of creating informed citizenry and transparency in government functioning haven't improved much."

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PMPML's death squad returns

About fifteen days ago, a 15-year-old boy called Atharva Sathe met with an accident. He was hit by a Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) bus. He died yesterday in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital due to head injuries he had sustained. This made us ask, "Is PMPML back to its reckless ways again?" The answer was provided by activist and PMP Pravasi Manch president, Jugal Rathi. PMPML hasn't yet dealt with their set of reckless drivers yet. To make things worse, 11 of the 31 drivers who were involved in major accidents are back on the road again. This, without any action taken by the body. These drivers have not been cleared of the cases they were involved in, and are back on the road. They have not been suspended either.

Shortly after the death of a six-year-old on J M Road last month, we had carried a report based on a Right to Information Act (RTI) filed by Rathi. The report, published on September 9, showed how the authorities have not been taking any steps to curb the reckless driving of their staff.

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Delhi dedicates week to RTI on fourth anniversary

As the Right to Information (RTI) Act Monday completes four years of empowering the people of India through access to hitherto privileged information, the Delhi government has been celebrating the run up to D-day as the RTI week. Posting a circular on its website, the Delhi government asked all government offices to organise lectures, workshops, publicity campaigns on RTI in celebration of the week which began Oct 6. The RTI Act was passed by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in June 2005 after years of struggle by NGOs and civil society groups.

The act ensures a timely response to citizens' requests for government information, promoting transparency and accountability. For the benefit of the people, the circular also suggested that all offices and organisations set up a separate counter to receive RTI applications and the requisite fee.

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An RTI user gives Zero rating to RTI ACT

Recently, I was asked for an opinion on (Right To Information) RTI, while filling a form sent to me by PCRF (Public Cause Research Foundation) for their RTI awards section on SIC (State Information Commissioner). I had filed an RTI application in the Building Proposal Department (Bandra Western Suburbs) thrice. However in all the cases, my request for information was denied, either by charging me with excess fee or asking me to go on my own to an inspection of the building concerned.

When, I had appealed against these denials (in the first appeal), I was shocked and surprised with the way the First Appellate authority dealt with me. I felt that I had made some big mistake by using the RTI. The authorities were not ready to listen my version and defended the PIO instead.

Then I had gone ahead and lodged a complaint with the SIC, regarding the behaviour and the way the appeal was taken. In this second appeal, I had gone to the office of Dr Suresh Joshi (SIC) and attended about 10 hearings in the matter concerned. The commissioner was not punctual and the process took more than a year to complete.

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Four years on, RTI a powerful weapon for ordinary Indians

Thanks to Right to Information (RTI) Act 30-year-old daily wager suffering from kidney stones was finally able to get himself operated at a government hospital after doing the rounds of the place for nearly a year. Haroon, who lives in a slum cluster in northeast Delhi, had been going to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital for one year to get his stones removed, but in vain as doctors would put him off with one excuse or another.

"He was sent back from the hospital four times - once he had to return home from the operation theatre. With our help he filed an RTI application seeking the details of his case," said Rajeev Sharma of the NGO Pardarshita. Exactly four years after it came into force, Haroon is among thousands of people who have used the RTI Act for securing not just information but also getting things done. While Haroon didn't get a reply to his application, it was enough to fix responsibility. "A few days later, when he went to the hospital for a checkup, the doctor didn't allow him to return home and did the operation," said Sharma.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Staff shortage at State Info Commission delays orders

V Madhav, an RTI activist in Porur, recently appealed to the Tamil Nadu Information Commission seeking a direction to the state public department to disclose the status of declaration of assets by IAS and IPS officials. On August 25, the Commission pronounced that the department provide the required information to the appellant within two weeks. Madhav is still waiting for the department to respond to the Commission's directive. Reason: The commission has not been able to deliver the order copy for want of adequate staff. Madhav is not alone. Several others who have filed appeals before the Commission have not got the copies of the orders even a month after they were pronounced.

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Govt asked to furnish chopper details

For over a year now, the civil aviation department of Gujarat has been nervously holding back information on the Rs-42 crore Dauphin N3 helicopter bought two years ago. For the first time last week, during a hearing at the state information commission, it was ordered that information pertaining to the helicopter deal, including contractual agreements and pilot proficiency training be made public. The issue came forth under an RTI application filed by Lt Col D Hingorani, a helicopter pilot employed by Indamar, the company which had the operations and maintenance of Gujarat government's flying machines.

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Home secy faces RTI fire

The state information commission has summoned home secretary J.B. Tubid for not providing information under the Right to Information Act. Prakash Chandan of Bagoder had asked the home secretary on June 23, 2009, the reasons why Giridih, a Naxalite hotbed, had not been included in the Centre's pilot project for Maoist-hit districts.

It would probably be the first time during President's rule in the state that the home secretary would have to be present before the commission. "Since the new state was born, hundreds of people, including MLA Mahendra Singh and Babulal Marandi's son, had been killed but when the Centre planned a project for 10 rebel-hit districts, Giridih was not included, as officials apparently ignored it," Chandan told The Telegraph.

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Information commissioners to get more powers

State Information Commissioner P N Vijayakumar has said that the Central and State Information Commissioners will soon get the power to declare compensation on erring Government officials who violate the law. Inaugurating the seminar on Right to Information Act and its achievements, organised by the district information office in association with the district administration as part of the Gandhi Jayanti Week celebrations at collectorate conference hall here on Thursday, Vijayakumar said that steps were taken to give independent powers to the Central and State Information Commissioners to impose fine on those who violate the law. Vijayakumar said that the applicants, who seeks information under the law, should be treated in a friendly manner.

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Bihar officials to be booked for torturing RTI petitioners

The Bihar government has announced to initiate stern action against officials found guilty of torturing petitioners seeking information under the Right to Information Act, a senior state official said today. "Any official found guilty of serving threats to the information seekers or implicating them in false cases will be suitably punished", the Home Secretary, Bihar Aamir Subhani has said. The Home Secretary said he was also writing to the district magistrates and district superintendents of police asking them to strictly follow the government's directives. The Home Secretary's action follows a huge complains by the information seekers that they are being constantly threatened, tortured and implicated in false cases for seeking information under RTI from the officials.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Demolition drive: Civic body asks for force

In order to remove encroachments from Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar locality, where MC had met with vehement opposition by the councillor and residents of the area, the civic body has asked for force from the district police to initiate action on October 27. Information given to Rohit Sabharwal, president of the Anti Corruption and Crime Investigation Cell, by the MC under the Right To Information (RTI) Act reveals that on orders of the MC commissioner, the assistant town planner had written to the deputy commissioner and senior superintendent of police (SSP) urging both the officers to provide duty magistrate and police force on October 27 so that they could carry out the anti-encroachment drive in BRS Nagar. Citing reason, the MC officers had said that during the drive a situation concerning law and order could arise due to which police was needed on the spot.

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DF MLAs top unspent fund list

When it comes to utilising MLA funds, don-turned-politician Arun Gawli of the Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) has spent every penny of the Local Area Development (LAD) funds he received over the last five years. The Congress and the NCP, however, have the highest percentage of funds unspent - 5.7% and 7.6% respectively.

These are just a few of the figures that Praja, an NGO working for good governance, released on Thursday as part of a white paper analysing the various functions undertaken by Mumbai's 34 MLAs. The paper groups the city's MLAs according to the political party they belong to, giving Mumbaikars something to chew over before the elections. Praja's managing trustee, Nitai Mehta, is quick to point out that the NGO is not ranking parties or MLAs, but simply putting out "information that's relevant to citizens''. The data was collected through the laborious process of filing Right to Information (RTI) queries over the last two years.

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RTI findings: Maharashtra witnesses one communal riot every 20th day

Maharashtra has witnessed on an average one communal riot in about every 20 days during the last five years, according to the state police data. Replying to an RTI application, Maharashtra police said a total of 96 riots have happened in the state between the period April 2004 to 2009. "A total of 525 cases have been registered in this regard of which investigations have been completed in 298 cases," said Rashmi Shukla, first appellate authority, office of the Director General of Police said. In the RTI query, applicant Ajay Marathe had sought reports of frequent riots from different districts of state.

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Goa chief minister sought police transfers: RTI activist

Information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) act by a social activist indicates that the Goa chief minister's office "interfered" in transfers of police officials. Chief Minister Digambar Kamat Thursday admitted he might have requested the transfers.Then Goa Director General of Police B.S. Brar in his file notings, obtained through RTI by social activist Aires Rodrigues, shows that the chief minister wanted four senior police officials transferred in February last year."Placed in the file at page 38/c is a letter dated 25/02/08 received from special secretary (home) enclosing herewith a note dt 25/02/08 from honourable chief minister of Goa requesting to issue transfer orders in respect of police officers mentioned at serial number 1 to 4," Brar's note reads.

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Coastal security cited for not disclosing info

The next time you file an appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to know the status of a piece of land near a coastal area, chances are that the Public Information Officer (PIO) may cite coastal security as the reason for not providing information. The Mumbai terror attack could be a plausible reason for PIOs withholding information in this regard.

Pankti Jog, an activist with the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehal had filed an RTI application to know whether environmental clearances were granted to Essar Group for its company Essar Bulk Terminal Ltd in Salaya Creek near Salya village in Madhna of Jamnagar district. But Hardik Shah, PIO, Forest and Environment Department, Gandhinagar, withheld the information saying it came under Section 8 of the Act and could not be disclosed.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

High court forms three judge bench to hear apex court's RTI plea

The Delhi High Court Wednesday constituted a three-judge bench to hear an appeal filed by the Supreme Court challenging its earlier ruling that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) act. A division bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar, after constituting the three-judge bench, fixed the matter for Nov 12. The court also asked S.C. Aggarwal, on whose RTI query the Central Information Commission gave its verdict that the CJI's office is under the act, to file a reply to the apex court's plea.

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HC Ruling on SC Judges Assets challenged

In appeal was filed in the High Court (HC) here on Monday October 5, against a single bench verdict of the HC, relating to the declaration of assets by the Supreme Court judges. Through the impugned order, one of the judges of the HC had held that the information about the declaration of assets owned by the Supreme Court judges,
which is being filed by the judges with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, fall within the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Through the order, the judge had directed the Public Information Officer and the registrar of the Supreme Court to release the information sought for by the plaintiff, Subhash Chandra Agarwal, within four weeks. Agarwal had wanted to know as to how many judges of the Supreme Court had declared their assets as per a resolution passed on May 7, 1997 by the full bench of the Supreme Court.

The Chief Information Officer has contended that the Chief Justice of India is not a public authority as defined in the Right to Information Act. He further said that the Chief Justice is not required to designate the Central Public Information Officer to supply information held by it. He also argued that the declaration of assets by SC judges is not covered under the RTI Act and that the applicant does not have any right to seek such information under the Act.

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RTI festival kicks off with Bulgarian documentary

Bulgarian documentary 'Media and Access to Information', which follows the investigative stories by the journalists who used 'Access Law' to uncover corruption in the government machinery, kickstarted the first international RTI Film Festival here. The five-day event will screen a number of movies detailing how common man in the country is using RTI as a tool to get things done.

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RTI camp kicks off in capital - Information fair to receive direct complains

A four-day Right to Information (RTI) Act camp organised by Jharkhand RTI Forum and Citizens' Club began at Vikas Bhavan near Ranchi headquarters today. The awareness camp, inaugurated by Ranchi deputy commissioner Kamal Kishore Soan, will receive public complaints and applications as well. Soan has deputed officers to receive applications, which would be sent to district offices for processing. Today, the commissioner received two applications at the camp, during inauguration. There were eight other complainants by the end of the day. The camp saw 500 visitors seeking RTI details. Organisers expect similar number of people to turn up in the next three days. "Only when the people seek information on government's policy matters will we consider the RTI Act to be a success," said Soan.

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Artistes stage street plays on RTI

The Administrative Training Institute (ATI), under a Government of India-sponsored programme, has roped in artistes of Rangayana to stage street plays on the Right to Information (RTI) Act. As a prelude to the formal staging during the RTI Week (between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12), the artistes staged the plays in the premises of the Mysore Zilla Panchayat and Karnataka Police Academy here on Monday and in the premises of the Deputy Commissioner's office here on Saturday. The street plays portrayed how information can be accessed from government departments and what could be done if the information was not made available in the stipulated period.

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Civil Hospital warns RTI applicant of legal action

Ask a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and get threatened with legal action for daring to approach the appellate authority. Not only that, a copy of the threatening reply is forwarded straight to the Chief Minister and the minister handling the department concerned. This is what the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital authorities did recently with an inconvenient query. A query was sent to the hospital superintendent on August 10 asking why the hospital continued to buy suture material (polyglactin 910) used in surgeries despite receiving complaints about its quality from half a dozen surgeons.

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All our judges are declaring assets before CJI: SC

Five days after the deadline given by the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court today said all its "sitting" judges are declaring their assets before the Chief Justice of India.Earlier, the Supreme Court Registry had resisted sharing any information with RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had sought to know how many judges were complying with the 1997-resolution of the Full Court of May 7, 1997 in which it was had decided to declare judges' assets before the Chief Justice of India.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

To show or not to show is SSC board's dilemma

Failing at the SSC exams was just the beginning of 17-year-old Hemant Kantaria's ordeal. Expecting 70% marks, Hemant and his family were shocked when the results showed him to have failed in four subjects. Hemant's world was turned upside down. Instead of seeking admission in college, he began doing the rounds of the office of the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education to find out if he had really failed to clear the exams. Hemant had appeared as a private student.

The distraught family applied for verification. But the results were the same as before. The family then demanded to go through the answer sheets under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to find out where Hemant had erred. But two contradictory orders on the issue have added to Hemant's woes.

While a three-year-old order of the state's chief information commissioner says answer sheets cannot be given to students for reasons of logistics, a recent one passed by Pune's information commissioner says it is the right of students to know where they have erred. The state board has challenged the latter order and filed a petition in the Bombay high court. Meanwhile, Kantaria's appeal with the state's chief information commissioner is also expected to come up for hearing this week.

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RTI activist refuses Rs. 1 lakh bribe to withdraw RTI application

Dear All

I had gone to Mujpathree a tribal village in Budgam yesterday ie 19.09.2009. We had a meeting of our RTI activists there.Bashir Ahmed Ganai RTI Activist from Gurwaith had gone to DC Budgam last month with sub standarad construction material (cement sand mixture) being used by Irrigation dept contractors for construction of an Irrigation canal at Zain Khansahib Budgam. He said to DC "i am an RTI activist.This is the sample of material being used.I want to file an RTI".DC Budgam immediately called Chief Engineer Irrigation to stop the work at the village.He was told not file RTI as action was immediately initiated. Next day Irrigation deptt contractors offered Bashir 1 Lack rupees.Fifty thousand were given to his wife at Bashir's house in absence of Bashir.The lady lambasted contractors and she refused the money.She called Bashir later on and contractors were black listed ultimately and the canal was dismanteled and work again started as per proper specifications.
Bashir is a poor man.He is a daily wage labourer.Earns hardly Rs 3000 per month but has not compromized with the contractors.Bashir also ensured transparency in allotment of houses to poorest under Indira Awaas Yojan[IAY] in his area. This year Rural Dev Department gave houses to really needy.Bashir had filed three RTI applications with BDO of Khansahib Bolck recently.I appeal media to cover these success stories of these un sung heros.We need to applaud Bashir.

Regards
Muzaffar Bhat
Convener
JK RTI Movement

Best regards,
Muzaffar Bhat
J&K RTI Movement
muzaffar@jkrtimovement.org
http://blog.jkrtimovement.org
www.jkrtimovement.org

RTI exposed large scale corruption of Maharasatra's aid to cyclone victim of Orissa

Right to Information Act has exposed the district administration's serious mismanagement and large scale corruption of Maharasatra government's aid to cyclone affected people of Jagatsinghpur district in which RTI applicant cum social activist has urged vigilance enquiry to unearth the racket.

During last super cyclone of 1999, the Maharashtra Government extended his cooperation and assistance to worst hit Jagatsinghpur district also adopted this district to recovery from great disaster. After adopting this district, Rs 50 crore has been spent for relief, restoration, reconstruction and rehabilitation work for this district. Locals suspected the large number of irregularities and misappropriations of fund in which one social activist Mr Arun Acharya applied near RTI authority to give detail information towards expenditure of Mahrarashtra fund. Meanwhile, he has obtained the detail report from the district administration in which such reports said that Rs 45 crore was spent on as many as 23 college buildings, 86 multipurpose cyclone-cum-school centers, housing for 662 families including gratuitous relief distributions.

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Tata Steel teams up with Orissa Information Commission on RTI awareness

In an innovative initiative, Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) has begun empowering the communities through awareness on the Right to Information Act (RTI) at the grass root level under the direct guidance of Orissa Information Commission. TSRDS is the flag bearer of Tata Steel’s community initiatives. Lauding the maiden move by a corporate house, State Information Commissioner, Jagadanand on Saturday said, “This initiative of creating RTI awareness at the village level by TSRDS will take the highest principles of Corporate Social Responsibility to the next level and stand as both example and inspiration for the Corporate Sector in India”.

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Manipur CS urges public to be RTI conscious

A one day workshop on the Right to Information Act, 2005 was held today at the conference hall of Manipur state secretariat. State chief secretary DS Poonia, who was chief guest at the opening session said general public can seek any information from the government through the RTI. Government officials deputed for furnishing information to the general public should work in the interest of the people, he said.

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'Charity chief can't deny info in age of RTI'

In the age of the Right to Information Act, the charity commissioner could not refuse to furnish documents under the cover of the Official Secrets Act, said the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) on Saturday. Charity commissioner (CC) M K Choure was hearing an application by the BPP, which opposed his decision not to supply the charitable trust a copy of a preliminary inquiry report ordered by him to look into the BPP's accounts. On the basis of this inquiry report, Choure had ordered a special audit of the BPP's accounts and directed the trust to immediately shell out a fee of Rs 1.2 crore to an auditor appointed by him. When the BPP refused, Choure warned that he would suspend the entire board comprising the seven trustees.

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NGOs, govt, to spread RTI message in Gujarat

For the first time without confronting each other, members of civil society groups and government agencies would jointly celebrate four years of implementation of Right To Information (RTI) act in the state. The event is being pepped up with traditional art forms of puppet shows, streetplays and community sheri garbas to convey the importance of the law. Harinesh Pandya of Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel, a member partner of the festival, said, "The whole RTI campaign will focus on proactive disclosure by government organizations under RTI and mass sensitisation programme for all the stockholders in RTI."

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RTI reveals Air India leased defective aircraft

Thanks to Right to Information, shocking instances of mismanagement over the years are now coming to light that show how Air India's Maharaja has now been reduced to a pauper. A query filed by RTI activist S C Agrawal has led to confirmation of what was till now a whisper — expensive aircraft lease (rent) deals being made by the airline with these agreements favouring rental companies and not AI. The airline has admitted to renting at least two aircraft that did not prove to be airworthy or safe to fly and then losing over $29 million while terminating the lease agreement prematurely.

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Veteran Wajahat back to J&K on work

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah is returning to the Valley on a new assignment in which he is expected to bring the formidable weight of his experience to a range of issues of governance.Habibullah confirmed to The Indian Express today that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has personally requested him to come to Srinagar as the states Chief Information Commissioner and he has accepted the offer.His appointment was cleared on Thursday by a three-member panel in the state headed by the Chief Minister and which included Deputy CM Tara Chand and Opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP. His office will be on the payroll of the state government.

Ostensibly, his brief is to strengthen the Right to Information systems in the state. Because of the states special status, the RTI Act enacted by Parliament in 2005 was not applicable to the state which passed its own version in March 2009. As the states Information Commissioner, Habibullah, 64, will interact with all government departments. Its not clear when he will step down as CIC.His move could have wider implications at a time when the Omar Abdullah government has been criticised for its knee-jerk responses to a string of recent crises including the Shopian tragedy. Omar has also been under attack for being a non-resident CM.

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Multistakeholders Open House in Gujarat

We are happy to announce that on the occasion of 4th B'day of RTI, Multistakeholders Open House is being organized at SardaR Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA), on 6th October 2009, between 3:30 to 7:00 pm.

Time Topic Speaker/attendants
3:30-4:00 Registration Citizens, representation from VOs,CBO, PIOs,Applet Authority

4:00-5:00 Key not address on RTI Shri R. N. Das, Chief – 4 years of RTI Information Commissioner, Gujarat State Information Commission

5:00-5:15 Tea and snacks

5:15-5:30 Role of Civil society Harinesh Pandya - MAGP

5:15-6:45 Difficulties in RTI Open discussion experience by citizen,
organizations, PIO, Applet authorities.

6:45-7:00 Valedictory address Shri C. S. Upadhyay, Joint director- SPIPA

The objective of the open house to bring PIO, Applet authority, Citizen, State Information Commission and Media on one platform for sharing of experiences and difficulties in implementation of RTI . Such dialogue will create enabling environment for RTI.

I appeal to all of you to kindly select one (maximum) two case studies which can be shared in the open house. It need not be success story, or a positive or negative story. Difficulties faced by citizen or how information is used for resolving the issue, or even experiences with public authorities can be shared. There is no restriction on number of participants. But at the most two person from each organization/group can be given an opportunity to share their experiences/cast stories.

Organizations are requested to consolidate the issues and experiences of their region, or area of working along with major hurdles in implementation and if any policy level issue.

Kindly confirm your participation on
janpath@vsnl.net or janpathnetwork@gmail.com
9924085000 (M), 9909006791 (M)
079-26821553/0719
with regards,
Pankti
JANPATH
Website:www.janpathnetwork.org

NRI RTI issue

Latest effort in the NRI RTI issue

http://ibnlive.in.com/videos/102614/rti-filing-process-to-get-simpler-for-nris.html

No lawyer wants to touch this case

t's the kind of lapse the Supreme Court wouldn't have allowed the government to get away with. But this time, the shoe is on the other foot. For, it's none other than the Supreme Court itself that has defaulted for four years on a statutory obligation that makes it mandatory for the court to make disclosures regarding its powers, duties, budget, processes - almost all the things that tell you how the wheels of justice turn in the country's apex court.

Under the four-year-old Right to Information (RTI) Act, the court was required to make these disclosures way back in October 2005. There have since been two chief justices, but neither took the trouble to make the disclosures required under section 4(1)( b), indicating a certain disregard for the law, which in any other case would have made the Supreme Court furious.

Finally, an organisation, Youth for Equality (YFE), got sufficiently agitated about this lapse and decided to file a petition - where else? - in the Supreme Court, naming the Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan as the sole respondent. YFE ran into difficulties straight away. None of the advocates-on-record - the community of lawyers who can file pleadings in the court - agreed to take on the case.

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Mahatma Gandhi Adhayasan at UoP remains vacant

Even as the country celebrated Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on Friday, a right to information (RTI) application revealed that a total of nine chairs out of total 20, including the Mahatma Gandhi Adhayasan, at the University of Pune (UoP) remain vacant. The RTI application was filed by activist Vivek Velankar two months ago.

Besides the Mahatma Gandhi Adhyasan, other chairs that are vacant include the Sant Tukaram Maharaj Adhyasan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Adhyasan, Padmashree Vikhe Patil Adhyasan, Biotechnology chair, Bank of Maharashtra Energy Studies chair, Shantanu Kirloskar Adhyasan, Savarkar Adhyasan and also the Lokmanya Tilak Adhyasan.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

SC to contest HC order on judges’ assets disclosure

In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court has decided to challenge the Delhi High Court's decision directing it to disclose information on judges' assets under the Right to Information Act. The apex court judges had already unanimously resolved to make public their assets and the SC's move to challenge the High Court order is primarily to settle constitutional questions relating to "institutional integrity of the court", "independence of judiciary" and "office of the Chief Justice of India". The Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Supreme Court would file an appeal by Monday in the Delhi High Court, which would be heard by a Division Bench comprising a minimum of two judges.

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