Monday, February 22, 2010

Attack on RTI Activist in Delhi

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has asked the Delhi Police Commissioner and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Commissioner to probe an incident wherein RTI users were allegedly beaten up at the behest of a local councillor in the presence of police and MCD personnel. "Prima facie it appears that there has been serious collusion involved herein," Gandhi wrote on February 18 in his letters. The incident referred to RTI users' NGO Public Grievance and Welfare Society from Kishan Ganj in north Delhi. The members have alleged that around 25 people beat them at the behest of local Municipal councillor Satbir Sharma. Sharma has denied the charges. The society had filed an RTI application with the MCD about alleged unauthorised construction by Sharma. With the civic body not forthcoming, they approached the Central Information Commission (CIC). Gandhi asked the civic body and the appellants to conduct joint inspection on January 12.

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RTI activist with crusading zeal: Raman Sharma

Four years ago, a local youth, Raman Sharma, walked into the office of a senior railway officer here, asking why domestic LPG cylinders were being used at the station. He was shown the door with a counter- question: "What is your authority to ask us?". Raman did not forget that.When the RTI Act was implemented, he went there again with the power of asking a question. Action was taken immediately against those
misusing domestic cylinders at the railway station.

Subsequently,Raman filed 185 applications and became one of the most prolific RTI activists of a state which is yet to fully implement the Act; is without information officers and has no head of the Information Commission. "Of the 185 applications I filed, 10 were sent to different offices in Jammu and Kashmir, but there has not been any response". "I find this disturbing that state politicians harp on autunomy and independence, but when it comes to empowering the masses, there is dilly-dallying". Raman remembers his first RTI application was for an uncle whose landline phone security was not refunded. "He had lost hope after making endless rounds of BSNL offices. But when I routed an application under the RTI Act through the Prime Minister's Office, the security refund came within a few weeks.

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RTI awareness campaign held at Noklak

A general awareness campaign on Right to Information Act 2005 was held at Noklak Town Hall on February 10, 2010 where State Information Commissioner, Rev. Dr. Pongsing Konyak highlighted the concept of RTI as the main resource person. He exhorted the gathering to spread the RTI message to every citizen, specially the backward area people so as to change their perspectives and make them understand that RTI is a powerful tool which can give them the chance to transform the way the government and its officials function. He said that citizens of today are living in an era of new paradigm and one should not watch only but also get involved using RTI Act. The programme was chaired was by EAC, Patso. Heads of offices, Church leaders, tribal leaders, student leaders, women leaders, NTAC, VCC, VDB and GBs also attended the awareness campaign.

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Cabinet's advice to the president covered by RTI: CIC

The advice tendered by the Union Cabinet to the president in any matter can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Central Information Commission (CIC) held today. CIC Wajahat Habibullah quoting a Supreme Court ruling said Article 74(2) of the Indian Constitution implies that such advice "cannot be inquired" into by any court. "It does not mean that the nature of this advice cannot be disclosed," he said while directing the president's secretariat to allow inspection of files pertaining to communication between former president Shanker Dayal Sharma and former prime minister Narasimha Rao on the issue of extending SC status of convert Christians of dalit origin. An RTI applicant Franklin Ceasar Thomas had sought details of action taken by the then president Shankar Dayal Sharma on the ordinance for granting scheduled caste status to convert Christians of enumerated castes.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Political parties not under RTI Act: GSIC

Political parties are not public authorities and therefore, information about political parties cannot be sought under section 6 of the Right to Information Act.
This is the observation of the Goa state information commission (GSIC) which dismissed a recent appeal from a citizen who sought information about the election expenditure of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak party (MGP) for assembly elections of May 2007. In his order dated February 5, the State Chief Information Commissioner M S Keny has also noted that "It is rather strange and curious to note that the laws of the land do not make it mandatory for political parties to disclose the sources of their funding and even less so, the manner of expending those funds. In the absence of such laws, the only way a citizen can gain access to the details of funding of political parties is through their income tax returns filed annually with the income tax authority. So also other authority-election commission authorities."

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leaky pipes leave Mumbai dry

You may be suffering through a 15% cut in supply as the BMC tries to save water for the impending dry months, but leaking pipes are bleeding whatever little stock of the precious liquid the civic body has. It may sound too bad to be true but the fact is that the BMC reported about three cases of burst or leaking pipes every day in 2009. A Right To Information (RTI) query has revealed that there were as many as 1,031 cases of pipes bursting or leaking in 2009, draining the city of millions of litres of water. "Around 20% of water supply is lost in the distribution network due to leaks and pilferage. The civic administration has been trying to solve this problem for years together but to no avail," said a hydraulic department official.

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“CIC need not be made party to writ petition when its order is challenged”

Whenever an order of the State or Central Information Commission is challenged, it is not necessary to make the Commission a party to the writ petition, the Madras High Court has ruled. The Commission is a statutory appellate authority and is expected to function within the four corners of the RTI Act. In his order on two writ petitions challenging an order of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission (TNIC), Justice K.Chandru said if the Commission’s order was challenged, it was not expected to defend it. In a writ for certiorari, the order would have to speak for itself. “If the Commission is made as a party, it will be an unnecessary drain on the Commission to engage counsel to defend its orders.” In no case a court was expected to defend its decisions. More often, the Commission’s orders were being challenged by government departments or information officers at the government’s expense.

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“Semi-VVIPs” seek special slots at Nigambodh Ghat

First there were the VIPs. Then came the VVIPs. Now a new category called “semi-VVIPs” has emerged, courtesy the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). The coinage came to light recently when a Right to Information applicant filed an appeal before the Central Information Commission (CIC) seeking full information on the construction of a block of three “semi-VVIP” pyres at the Nigambodh Ghat cremation grounds. The CIC allowed the appeal on Thursday. The appellant, Subhash Chandra Agrawal, filed an RTI application with the MCD on October 24, 2009. He sought “detailed and complete information,” including “documents, file notings and correspondence,” pertaining to procedures and criteria followed for VVIP cremations.

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In Bihar, death for RTI activist who knew too much

When the government passed the Right to Information Act (RTI) in 2005, it may well have added a statutory warning: exercising this right may be extremely injurious to health. Shashidhar Mishra of Begusarai, who was murdered by unknown assailants last Sunday, is the second RTI activist to be killed in a month for perhaps knowing too much. Attacks on RTI activists have emerged as a disturbing trend of late, especially in light of the murder of noted Pune RTI activist Satish Shetty, who was responsible for unearthing many land scams in Maharashtra. Mr. Mishra, a local RTI activist who worked tirelessly to expose corruption at the panchayat and block levels, was shot dead by unidentified men on motorcycles near his residence in Phulwaria village on the night of February 14.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Files of Ranganath panel report must be in public: CIC

Files relating to the government's action on the Ranganath Misra Commission report which seeks to extend Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Muslims and Christians will now be in public domain as the Central Information Commission (CIC) has allowed their inspection. The case pertains to an RTI application by Franklin Caesar Thomas who sought inspection of "entire files" dealing with action, if any, of the report of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Misra with special reference to the extension of SC status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. In the initial reply received in 2008, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) refused to grant the permission to allow inspection of files related to the Commission,
which was set in October 2004, saying, "Papers for the Cabinet before the Cabinet decision are exempted from disclosure under the provisions of 8 (1)(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005."

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rs 1-cr water reservoir is now home to pigs: DJB survey

A Delhi Jal Board survey has revealed before the Central Information Commission (CIC) that a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) water supply system has become home for pigs and cattle, instead of housing equipment and pipelines taking water to Delhi residents.
Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who presided over the hearing, said: “A discussion with about 15 officers of the Delhi government indicates that the DDA appears to have spent about Rs 1 crore for laying a system of pipes and underground reservoir. The DJB claims that when the joint inspection was done it was found that the reservoir had no pipes or equipment for pumping and it was housing pigs and cattle.”

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Madhya Pradesh to declare assets of all staff

Taking transparency a notch further, the Madhya Pradesh government has decided to display immovable properties of every employee, barring Class IV staff, on the websites of their respective departments by April 30. Failure of employees to share the details will be regarded as a violation of conduct rules. The general administration department has issued directives to all heads of departments, collectors and chief executive officers, telling them that it would be their responsibility to compulsorily update the websites by the due date.

The suo motu action follows a ruling by the Madhya Pradesh State Information Commission, which made the government provide details of immovable properties of IAS and IPS officers under the Right to Information Act. The Commission had sought a compliance report from the general administration and home departments in 30 days. Meanwhile, MP's Chief Information Commissioner P P Tiwari had declared his own assets, along with his salary details, on the commission's website a month before he gave the landmark ruling.

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IndiaGoverns’ RTI initiative

Most of us make decisions based on information we have. Giving key information to people is absolutely essential especially when it comes to governance. Right to Information Act of 2005 by Govt. of India is a big step towards giving people the `right' to get `right information'. It aims at bringing transparency, there by increasing accountability of the government. It is enacted by parliament allowing citizens of India to access records from any "public authority" (of course, classified documents and other security related information can not be accessed). Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act, 2005 also requires public authorities to proactively disclose certain kinds of information and digitization of all the records for wide dissemination. Hence, websites of any government agencies should disclose a set of information proactively. As you might be thinking , the common perception among people like you and me is that rarely our agencies follow this rule. Looking at and experiencing various acts of our government, it is hard for us to change our perception. Most of the web pages either have less of such proactive disclosures or it needs a treasure hunt. Veena (Executive Director of IndiaGoverns Research Institute, New Delhi) discussed this issue with Mr. Shailesh Gandhi from Central Information Commission (CIC). CIC has the responsibility of successful implementation of the act. We, as IndiaGoverns, have taken up a volunteer drive in which volunteers like you and me have an opportunity to provide inputs on the status of the information disclosed in the websites of the Indian government agencies and also suggestions on the additional information that the government agencies should proactively disclose.

Based on the inputs received from volunteers, we will then request the Central Information Commission (CIC) to take up these suggestions with the respective government agencies. Central Information Commissioner Mr. Shailesh Gandhi has agreed to consider these suggestions for recommendation with the respective Public authorities for implementation. We have already sent one set of such suggestions to which CIC acted by sending directions to all the agencies we had provided feedback. We have started to see the change.

Role of Volunteer
The volunteer would identify a website of a government agency from the list of agencies given in this spreadsheet (`List of Govt agencies`). Inform me (my.chappale@gmail.com) the agency (or agencies) he/she interested in reviewing. We had made a template (which we will send you as soon as you contact) which will essentially guide you through the process. The volunteer would go through the government agency website in detail by following the steps mentioned and identify the gaps, if any, in the information disclosure. The volunteer would also document the additional information he/she thinks would be good if the corresponding agency proactively discloses. The volunteer would document all the above observations in "DisclosureByGovernmentAgency.xls" file and share the file with me to be taken up with Central Information Commission and government agencies.

Anyone who takes up this, once finished with at least one review, now has an idea what should be there in a Govt agency web-page. So, you can be cognizant next time you visit any such pages and in case of discrepancies, report to concerned authorities with your suggestions. When we take proactive steps, it motivates officials to take up the work and finish it. So, now i hope to get many emails with your preference to agencies for review.

Any questions, please feel free to contact me (my.chappale@gmail.com).
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Punjab Info Panel may have summer winter vacations

A meeting of the full commission decided that on the pattern of the Central Information Commission, the Punjab panel may also observe summer and winter vacations not exceeding 10 working days each, as notified by the Chief Information Commission. These vacations, as far as possible, may coincide with the summer and winter breaks declared by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to facilitate the legal practitioners. The CIC may make appropriate arrangements to deal with matters of urgent nature during vacations by designating a vacation bench. On sudden declaration of a holiday by the state government, the commission may hold court for cases already fixed for that date to avoid inconvenience to the parties. The commission said the secretary would ensure punctuality of the staff.

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Haldea withdraws RTI application

Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia seems to have prevailed upon his principal advisor (infrastructure) Gajendra Haldea to withdraw an application the latter had filed earlier this month under the Right to Information Act seeking details of highway projects cleared by the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee under the finance ministry. Incidentally, Haldea himself is a member of the PPPAC that is chaired by the finance secretary. Though Haldea declined to comment, government officials said the Plan panel continued to raise objections to decisions taken on award of road projects based on the recommendations of the B KChaturvedi committee appointed by the Prime Minister to fast-track road projects.

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Display names of 1984 riot victims denied compensation: CIC

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Delhi government to display on its website names of 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims whose claims for compensation have been rejected. The decision came on an application filed by Amrik Singh Lovely, a resident of Tilak Nagar, who sought information on victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots claiming compensation on grounds of death, injury and commercial, industrial or domestic loss were. The CIC has asked the names to be put up on the Delhi government divisional commissioner's website.

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Contempt of court petitions on the rise

An application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2006, has revealed that there has been a manifold increase in the number of contempt of court petitions filed in the Madras High Court Bench here alleging non-compliance of its orders mostly by Government officials. The Bench was inaugurated on July 24, 2004. That year, just 30 petitions were filed alleging contempt of court. However, the figure rose steadily every year leading to nearly 650 petitions in 2009. This was in addition to over 103
contempt of court petitions filed in just 27 working days this year. Replying to an RTI application filed by M. Natarajan, an advocate, the High Court Registry had said that 266 contempt of court petitions were filed in 2005, 350 in 2006, 438 in 2007 and 567 in 2008. The maximum number of petitions arose from writ cases followed by criminal and civil matters.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Information Commission Fines Kuvempu University Registrar

Kuvempu University's registrar and public information officer, Krishnappa, has been fined Rs 25,000 by the state information commission, for his failure to provide proper information to the applicant as per the provision of the Right to Information Act. Karnataka State Information Commissioner, Dr H N Krishna, through an order passed on Monday February 15, levied this fine. In the order, the Commission said that the public information officer of Kuvempu University had neither furnished details for 15 different information sought by the complainant, D K Sainath. This was also proved during the inquiry, it added.

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To keep movement alive, state RTI activists to form council

Maharashtra will take the lead in forming a RTI council with activists from various parts of the state to keep the RTI movement alive. Wanting to pursue activist Satish Shetty's death, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar who is leading this movement from the city said that such councils will be formed across the country. "We have coordinated with different RTI activists from the country and have set the deadline as April 30,''said Kumbhar.

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Denied info on roads, Montek's aide files RTI; Kamal fumes

Principal Adviser (Infrastructure) in the Planning Commission Gajendra Haldea has triggered a bitter row between Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the panel. In the first of its kind case, Haldea, a retired bureaucrat, has filed an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act in MoRTH seeking status of highway projects approved by Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC), a body of which he is also a member.

Haldea filed the application before Director (RTI) Anand Prakash on February 6 asking for status of NHAI projects approved by the PPPAC or Standing Finance Committee (SFC) on Build Operate Transfer (BoT) Toll basis between January 2006 and January 2010. In his application, accompanied by a postal order, Haldea asked MoRTH to furnish information in the following format: "Name of project, length of highway in kilometres, total project cost, date of PPPAC/ SFC approval, date of bid, number of bids received, amount of viability gap funding, name of concessionaire and remarks."

Interestingly, Haldea is himself a member of the PPPAC and handles all
infrastructure issues related to roads and highways in the Planning Commission.

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Fix timeframe for action on illegal structures, MCD told

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has said the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) should fix a timeframe within which action has to be taken against unauthorised constructions. The decision came on an application filed by one Birinder Singh who had sought some information from the MCD regarding demolition of an unauthorised construction. But when the MCD's reply did not satisfy him, he approached the CIC. During a hearing held Feb 10, the MCD told the commission that "an unauthorised construction has to be booked within 20 days" but "there is no time limit for taking action in terms of sealing or demolition after this in the norms". "The Commission feels that this is a weakness in the working of the MCD. Section 4 (1) (b) (iv) of the RTI (Right to information) Act requires that norms set by a public authority for discharge of its functions must be disclosed," information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted in his order.

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2 GMP PIOs face action for RTI Act violation

Perturbed over the devil-may-care attitude of bureaucracy, the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) in a rare move has come down heavily on two officers of the Gulbarga Mahanagara Palike (GMP) and has directed the GMP Commissioner to initiate disciplinary action against them and file a compliance report within 30 days. The KIC has also levied a fine of Rs 25,000, the maximum fine provided under the Right to Information Act, against the two. Bearing the brunt of the KIC order are assistant executive engineers Mallikarjun Allipur and Mohis Hussain.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

CIC asks NCM to pay taxi operator for failing to clear dues

The Central Information Commission (CIC) recently awarded Rs 50,000 as compensation to an RTI applicant after he spent two years unsuccessfully chasing taxi bills worth Rs 1 lakh from the National Commission for Minorities (NCM). The information watchdog directed NCM to recover the amount from the salaries of officials who used the taxi services and conduct an investigation into the matter. RTI applicant Rajeev Gupta had provided taxi services to NCM officials between 2007 and 2008. The commission ran up a bill of Rs 1 lakh but did not verify the bills or make payments due to lack of proper coordination between different NCM departments, the order said.

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RTI activist shot dead by criminals in Begusarai dist, Bihar

Unidentified motorcycle-borne criminals shot dead one, Shashidhar Mishra, a local RTI activist, at his Phulwaria village residence under Bararuni-Phulwaria police station on Sunday night. Sources said Mishra had just parked his bicycle and was about to enter his house when criminals riding a motorcycle came and shot him in his head. Mishra died on the spot. Mishra was also popularly known as ‘Khabri Lal’ in the area for his knack to expose scams in the welfare schemes through RTI at the local panchayat and block level. He even earned the wrath of some local body representatives for using the RTI against them. While talking to TOI from the spot, Begusarai SP Vinay Kumar on Monday said preliminary investigations indicate different angles to the killing. He admitted the killing might be a fallout of Mishra using RTI against some persons.

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Banking body comes under RTI, says CIC

The Indian Institute of Banking and Finance (IIBF) is an organisation covered under the RTI Act and must comply with its provisions, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held. The Commission has held that although the institute is a non-governmental organisation, it receives substantial funding from public sector banks which are covered under the RTI Act, thus bringing it under the ambit of the transparency law.

The CIC made the ruling while hearing an RTI application filed by Mukul Srivastava seeking information in respect of the JAIIB Examination held on November 18, 2007, including the complete marks obtained by candidates for both tests of the examination with their respective answer sheets. The 80-year-old institute refused to give any information, saying it was not covered under the RTI Act prompting Srivastava to file a complaint with the Commission.

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Madhya Pradesh to declare property details of ministers, officials

In a landmark decision, the Madhya Pradesh government has decided to make public the property details of state ministers and bureaucrats. The property details of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and other cabinet ministers will be tabled in the coming assembly session, while those of bureaucrats and police officers would be put up on a website. The decision, taken in an unofficial cabinet meeting on Monday, makes Madhya Pradesh probably the first state in the country to make such an effort. All cabinet ministers have agreed to table their property details on the first day
of the coming assembly session. The state government's decision has come following another decision of the State Information Commission regarding the declaration of property details of administrative officers in the state. The decision, in response to an appeal to the commission by the Deputy Leader of Opposition in the state, Rakesh Singh Chaudhary, was given by the presiding officer of the State Information Commission, P. P. Tiwari.

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The Central Information Commission has directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to disclose total number of illegal cellular towers operating in different areas of national capital and asked it to put all the relevant information about the towers on its web site. The matter came before Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi after the civic body did not provide satisfactory reply to an RTI applicant Karam Chand who
sought detailed information about the towers installed by telecom companies. Karam Chand also asked the MCD to disclose the total number of towers for which MCD has given sanction in various zones indicating the company which has put up the tower, address of the location and fees paid for the same.

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MOIA asks MEA to facilitate online RTI applications for NRIs

To make it easy for Non Resident Indians (NRI) to file Right To Information applications, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has asked government departments to provide a link on their websites for receiving online applications and appeals. The ministry has written to Department of Personnel and Training, nodal
department for RTI affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to make guidelines in this regard and make necessary changes in the Act. Its website has a link facilitating reception of online applications.

According to the proposal mooted by the ministry, an NRI will now be able to deposit Rs 10 as RTI fee in the equivalent local currency at the Indian Mission abroad and send their application through email to the concerned public information officer informing about deposit of fee. "NRIs are entitled to seek information from Ministries/Departments of Government of India/States under the RTI Act. In the absence of appropriate arrangement of deposit of requisite fee, they are finding it difficult to seek information," G Gurucharan, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs wrote to DoPT.

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Habibullah to continue as chief information commissioner

Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah today expressed his inability to join the newly constituted Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission as its chief citing the Centre's reservations in relieving him from the post. Habibullah called on chief minister Omar Abdullah today to convey the message, prompting the state government to start a hunt for his alternative as the National Conference-Congress coalition is steadfast in setting up a RTI panel at the earliest. Habibullah had recently met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who advised him to reconsider his decision of joining the first Sate Information Commission of militancy torn Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said.

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Alert citizen uses RTI to nail postal delay

Millions crib about snail mail but one aggrieved consumer used the Right To Information Act (RTI) to hold the postal department accountable for delay and to refund aggrieved customers promptly. Thanks to Dahisar resident Kishanlal Mittal, the Secretary, Department of Posts, has been told to issue instructions to make it mandatory for every Speed Post Centre in the country to prominently display its delivery norms. The instructions came in an order by Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Deepak Sandhu on January 27, 2010.The bureaucrat heading the postal department has also been directed to ensure that there are adequate telephone lines and manpower available to take complaints on telephone. Emails should be responded to promptly with an assurance that the complaint will be resolved in 7-10 days, says the order.To ensure that the customer is not made to run from pillar to post for the refund, the order says that the booking centre should inform the complainant regarding his refund and ensure that he\she does not have to make multiple trips to the post office to lodge a complaint andclaim refund.Mittal's experience is that 90 % of parcels sent by Speed Post reach late and that one has to wait for six months to get a refund for delayed delivery.He is not the only one to say that. Last year, Mahim resident Milind Mulay found out using the RTI that 27,774 Speed Post items booked from the Western suburbs of Mumbai did not reach addresses in Mumbai in time.

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Inordinate delay in giving info, PU gets CIC notice

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has served a showcause notice to Panjab University and asked it to provide certified copies of the requested documents to an appellant. Information commissioner M L Sharma directed the university public information officer (PIO) to explain within six weeks as to why penal action not be taken against him and compensation not be awarded to the appellant, Jaswant Singh Rana, who had filed an RTI application with the University Grants Commission (UGC) on April 19, 2008. Finance and Development Officer (FDO) Vikram Nayyar represented PU and Dr Rajinder K Singla, an RTI activist, argued on behalf of the appellant.

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IAY loan found given to dead man

It has been found that loan under the Indira Awaj Yozna (IAY) was given to a man who, in fact, had died almost 10 years ago. This mystery was unraveled at Hiyangthang Gram Panchayat when a woman sought information using the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the IAY scheme being taken up within the jurisdiction of the Panchayat.

N Gunileima, Machaleima RTI Coordinator revealed in a press release that one of the beneficiaries, selected for granting IAY loan to poor people for construction of house for the year 2007-08, under serial number 5 by the name Huirem Bino Singh was indeed a deceased man. He was the father of the Prardhan of Hiyangthang Gram Panchayat Mrs Huirem Angoubi. It was also found that a man who is at present an Up Pradhan had been selected as a beneficiary of IAY loan. Besides, a number of wealthy persons had also been selected and loan money had been taken away,Ms Gunileima said.

Sarangthem Joy, husband of S Ongbi Bina, who applied for RTI enquire into the discrepancies in the beneficiaries' list, was implicated in an unfortunate incident that happened in the family of the Pradhan, and was interrogated by police.

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CBI probe sought in Shetty murder case

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Right To Information (RTI) activists took out a morcha to the Pune rural police headquarters on Saturday to demand a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the murder of activist Satish Shetty.The protesters submitted a letter stating their demand to police officials. The activists also threatened to go on a hunger strike outside Mantralaya in Mumbai if their demand is not met.The letter given to the police says that the progress of the police investigation so far has been unsatisfactory. The culprits remain at large a month after the murder, it further says.Retired justice B G Kolse Patil, who took part in the morcha, said handing over the case to the CBI would bring greater transparency into the investigation. RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, meanwhile, said the pace of the police investigation has been very slow and that the police have failed to unearth key details. This, he alleged, has created confusion among citizens.Inspector general of police Ashok Dhivare said that special teams have been formed to probe the murder.Members of various social organisations participated in the morcha.Shetty was fatally attacked by unidentified assailants with sharp weapons in Talegaon on January 12.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Habibullah to continue as chief information commissioner

Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah today expressed his inability to join the newly constituted Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission as its chief citing the Centre's reservations in relieving him from the post. Habibullah called on chief minister Omar Abdullah today to convey the message, prompting the state government to start a hunt for his alternative as the National Conference-Congress coalition is steadfast in setting up a RTI panel at the earliest.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

6,703 trees cut, just 4,000 planted

The civic road department felled as many as 6,703 trees in the last five years while widening roads. As per the Tree Act, three trees are required to be planted for every tree chopped. But, instead of 20,100 trees that should have been planted, barely 4,000 have been planted till date. This shocking piece of information was revealed by the Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) garden department in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by activist Vinod Jain. Some of these roads where trees were felled over the last five years include the Pune-Ahmednagar road (1,245 trees), Baner road (675) and Pune-Satara road (477). Notably, the Bombay high court recently denied permission to the PMC to cut trees on the Vishrantwadi-Dhanori road. It directed the civic body to first plant three trees for every tree proposed to be cut on the side of the roads. Only then would permission be given for felling trees, the court ruled.

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PM says no to photo on billboards

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said no to having his photograph on billboards on national highways, a reply to a Right To Information (RTI) application has revealed. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had decided to erect 1,500 billboards with photos of Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Some came up in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh — without the permission of the Prime Minister's Office. Soon after, in December, Sonia reportedly told Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath to drop her photo. On January 19, Singh sent a message to the NHAI that his photos were to be used only with the PMO's nod. The PMO on Monday told RTI activist Subhash C. Agrawal it hadn't till now given the NHAI permission to use his photo. This is the second time in less than a month that Singh's photo has been used without his permission. The first time, it was by the Women and Child Development Ministry.
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Central information panel pays compensation for delays

The "law's delay" may be an old cliché but O. Shanmuganathan, a senior citizen, found that the Central Information Commission (CIC) set up under the Right to Information Act to ensure transparency is no exception to it after it took him nearly three years to get his case cleared. Mr. Shanmuganathan, a retired official of the Chennai Port Trust, filed an RTI petition with the Ministry of Shipping in June 2006 asking for details regarding bunching increments. When the information was not forthcoming, he appealed to the CIC in November 2006. After repeated enquiries with the CIC over the next year and a half, he filed an RTI petition in March 2008 with the CIC asking for information on action taken on his appeal, to which the CIC said that his appeal was not traceable. He was asked to appear in New Delhi before the Commission in May 2008 and the CIC ordered the tracing of his appeal.

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RTI Citizen's Sammelan - March 17th 2010 in Ahmedabad

Dear Friends,
I am glad to inform you about RTI users Sammelan to be organized on 17th March 2010 at Mehandi Navazjan Hall, Paldi, Ahmedabad between 1 to 4 pm. Please foreward to other RTI users in your contact. For registering the name : Kindly contact RTI Helpline - 09924085000 From Monday to saturday between 11 to 6 pm. or write to: magpgujarat@gmail.com
With regards,
Pankti

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Sikkim Information Commission reacts to PCRF "research"

Reference news item `Sikkim one of the worse performers among State Information Commissions' published in this publication dated February 7, 2010, the State Information Commission has today issued a rejoinder stating that the exercise of Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), New Delhi commenting on the performance parameter taken for adjudging the best and worst SIC was `suspect'. Commending the effort being put up by various individual, NGO's and media groups to further strengthen the spirit of the RTI Act for ushering in an era of transparency, accountability and ending the corruption disease in the society, the Sikkim Information Commission has said, the Chief Information Commission, New Delhi has appreciated the comprehensive and scientific study of the functioning of the RTI regime until 2008.

On PCRF allegations that Sikkim Information Commission has not provided the address of appellants despite their repeated efforts, the rejoinder clarified that their website www.cicsikkim.gov.in has a comprehensive order list of all the orders passed by the CIC. "Hence the question of hiding the names and address of the appellants does not arise, which further defeats the very purpose for issuing notices and orders passed by the CIC and the overall functioning of the SIC," the rejoinder read.

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Information Commission asks KSCSTE to refund amount

The State Information Commission has asked the Public Information Officer of the Kerala State Council for Science Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) to refund the entire amount collected from a senior citizen, K.P.Chitrabhanu, within 15 days. The KSCSTE information office had delayed giving information to him, even after collecting money. Further, K.Maheendran Nair, the public information officer and controller of administration, is to be served with a notice seeking his explanation as to why action should not be taken against him as per the rules of the Right to Information Act.

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Website on information under RTI Act

The Centre for Public Policy Research(CPPR) will soon launch a website which will provide information gathered by way of the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The website will provide user-friendly access to the information on a digital platform that can be reproduced in any other form for future analysis. The new interactive website - www.digitalrtimission.com - will be a digital platform similar to Wikipedia, where anyone can submit the information they gathered as reply to the application they filed under the RTI Act.

“With the enactment of the RTI Act in 2005, seeking information has become the right of every Indian citizen. Unfortunately, there has not been any consolidated effort to recognise, acknowledge and dedicate a space for the information generated through the RTI Act,” said Digital RTI Mission project coordinator Sreeja Chandran. The new website is part of the `Digitalisation of RTI’ project, which involves collection of information from all the points where applications are filed under the RTI Act and consolidation of the information.
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Blanket ban on probe details of tax evasion not advisable, says CIC

Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that non-disclosure of feedback on probe in tax evasion complaints filed by whistle-blowers will dissuade them from giving any future information. Acknowledging that the investigation wing of the Income Tax Department was exempted from the purview of RTI act, the CIC said such blanket ban would "dis-enthuse" whistle-blowers which may not be in the "best interest of state revenues".

The case relates to one Brij Ballabh Singh, who had sought information about the action taken on a complaint made by him on a tax evasion case at the Lucknow office of investigative wing of Director General Income Tax (DGIT), which rejected it citing the exemption clause of transparency law. "It is also to be noted that blanket ban on disclosure of information regarding the action taken on tax evasion complaints may not always be in the best interest of the state revenues," Information Commissioner M L Sharma said.

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Bureaucrats assets in MP comes under RTI ambit

Madhya Pradesh has become the first state in the country to bring asset details of bureaucrats in public domain following a recent order of Central Information Commission in this regard. Acting on an application, the income tax department has started giving details of assets of Madhya Pradesh cadre IAS officers. Exercising his Right to Information, social activist Ajay Dubey has asked the income tax department to give information on tax returns filed by about 350 IAS officers of Madhya Pradesh cadre during the past five years. Accepting the application, the Public Information Officer of the income tax department forwarded the application to all its offices asking them to furnish requisite details in return.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Appeal To Attend the Protest March

Dear Friends

I Sandeep Shetty brother of Satish Shetty am very grateful for your support through out the bad times me an my family faced during the last month due to the cowardly murder of Satish.

I would like to appeal you to join the protest march against the rural police for not being efficiant through out the last month in finding the culprits and bringing them to court of law.

I would be realy obliged by your kind participation in this protest march at 4 pm, 13 feb 2010 , start's from Pune University circle (Ganeshkhind Road) upto the Supritendent of Police Rural Office on Pashan Road.

LET'S FIGHT TOGETHER TO SAVE OUR DEMOCRACY

Sandeep Shetty

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Monday, February 08, 2010

SC notice to registrar generals of high courts on RTI issue

The Supreme Court today sought response from Registrar Generals of all high courts on the issue of providing information on appointment and transfer of judges under the Right to Information Act. "We need to have views of the Registrar Generals (RGs) of High Courts as they have been getting applications on the issue," a bench comprising justice B Sudershan Reddy and justice SS Nijjar said while issuing notices to all the RGs.

The court was hearing the appeal filed by the Supreme Court Registry challenging the directions passed against it by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose information on judges appointment to the apex court by superseding seniors. The apex court had also put on hold the operation of the CIC order directing it to divulge communication between chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan and justice R Raghupathy of Madras high court on alleged interference by a Union minister in a sub-judice matter. The court has already issued notice to the RTI applicant on whose plea the CIC has passed the orders.

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Satish Shetty awarded posthumously

Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty was awarded the Sajag Nagrik RTI award posthumously on Sunday. The award was accepted by Satish's brother Sandeep at a ceremony held at the Tata Hall of the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce. The award was to be presented by eminent social activist Anna Hazare, however, organisers announced he would not be able to make it due to ill health. Veteran journalist Shivaji Raut presented the award instead.

Satish Shetty was brutally killed on January 13 in Talegaon. While accepting the award, Sandeep said, "While my brother was doing his work in RTI, we never thought its gravity would be so huge. Now that he's no more with us, we realise the kind of work he used to do. It was for a social cause and a lesson for all." The award, constituted two years ago, has earlier been awarded to an RTI activists Shriram Pande and Vijay Kumbhar.

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Ex-CEC's letter bomb against Chawla released

The law ministry has released former chief election commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami's letter to the President seeking ouster of Mr Navin Chawla from the body for "lack of political neutrality". Mr Chawla, who was election commissioner (EC) when the letter was written and is now the CEC, had asked Rashtrapati Bhawan not to make the January 2009 communication public. In keeping with this, the President's secretariat had declined to disclose the contents of the letter to a Right to Information (RTI) applicant recently.

The appellate authority under the RTI Act in the law ministry, however, allowed Bhilwara resident S S Ranawat's application for the same letter. In his 93-page report, Mr Gopalaswami had cited several instances of "partisan behaviour" on Mr Chawla's part and charged him with a "lack of political neutrality".

Mr Gopalaswami, acting on a petition filed by BJP leader L K Advani and 179 other MPs who accused him of "political partisanship", had recommended Mr Chawla's removal. The issue became controversial at once in the run-up to the 2009 general elections, during which Mr Gopalaswami demitted office.

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CBI refuses to reveal info in Ruchika molestation case

CBI has refused to reveal information on as to why former Punjab DGP S P S Rathore was not prosecuted by it for abetment of suicide of budding tennis player Ruchika Girhotra 19 years ago. In a reply to an RTI query seeking information on the alleged decision of the then CBI director R K Raghavan turning down the recommendation of its joint
director to prosecute Rathore with the serious charge, the probe agency contended such information was exempted under the Act. "Supply of such information is exempted under Section 8 (1)(h) of the Right to Information Act 2005," the CBI replied to the query of Supreme Court lawyer Ajay K Agrawal, who filed the application. Ruchika was molested by 68-year-old Rathore and was allegedly driven to suicide due to harassment by the former IPS officer.

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29 lakh fake ration cards seized last year in Maharashtra

The state government last year weeded out 29 lakh bogus ration cards across Maharashtra, according to information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The highest number of bogus rations cards were found in Mumbai (6.5 lakh), followed by Pune (3 lakh), Nashik 1.5 lakh, Nagpur and Ahmednagar 1.1 lakh respectively. Following the huge number of bogus ration cards, the Election Commission had deleted it from the list of proofs that could be submitted to be allowed to vote. But after protests from political parties, it was re-introduced.

Social activist Anil Galgali, who obtained the information, said the numbers showed how easy it was to obtain a ration card with false proof or none at all. "In the Kurla slums on the airport land, there are several touts offering to make pre-dated ration cards so that a person becomes eligible for a free house,'' he said.

Anil Deshmukh, minister for food and civil supplies, said the scrutiny of ration cards this year is likely to yield another 10 lakh bogus ration cards. "Along with the form that is to be submitted, we ask for the electoral roll number which is unique for every voter, a copy of the electricity bill, house rent bill and income tax receipt. It becomes easy to trace bogus ration card holders,'' he said. With the huge number of bogus cards coming to light, the scrutiny will be made an annual feature.

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Netas top list of those with cop cover

The heydays of gangsters are over but the number of filmstars, businessmen, builders, politicians and others given protection by the Mumbai police has risen by 43 % over the past three years. The number of protected persons jumped from 253 in 2007 to 316 in 2008 and stood at 361 last year, reveal figures obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. Another striking feature is that politicians outnumber the other three chief categories of protected persons. Last year, as many as 111 politicians had police protection as compared with 51 businessmen, 49 builders and 20 film stars.

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RTI won't change for judges

Faced with an aggressive opposition, the UPA government on Monday decided to drop its proposal to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) out of its ambit. "We are not contemplating any such amendment," said Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, contradicting his earlier statement that the government was mulling changes in the transparency law. On January 31, the minister had said: "A proposal is being contemplated. It is in comparison to other judiciaries in the world. But it has nothing to do with the Delhi High Court judgment. It is independent of it." Moily's volte-face followed the BJP-led NDA and the Left parties' threat to veto the government's move to make changes in the RTI Act, reportedly sought by CJI K.G. Balakrishnan. The government needs some support from the opposition to make an amendment since it does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha. "Only when such matters are placed in the public domain will the collegium be forced to record cogent reasons for appointment. It would act as an effective deterrent against wrongful appointments," said Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha.

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Pending verdict: RTI activist challenges SC

A RTI activist has challenged the Supreme Court Central Public Information Officer's (CPIO) order refusing to part with information on the number of cases on which verdicts haven't been delivered. Commodore (Retd) Lokesh K. Batra, who wanted to know the figures for such cases between 2007 and 2009 (up to December 15), had moved the first appellate authority headed by Supreme Court Registrar M.K. Gupta against two orders passed by CPIO and Additional Registrar Raj Pal Arora on January 12 and January 22.

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Delhi HC judges reveal assets

The Delhi high court judges, including the Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, made their assets public on Friday evening. The information has been posted on the website, www.delhihighcourt.nic.in. The declaration of assets by the judges comes after the Delhi high court in its verdict last month had said that the judges' declaration of assets to the chief justices was mandatory and such information should be made public.
The Delhi high court Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah has in his declaration said that he, along with his family members, has assets to the tune of Rs 4.27 crores which also include a flat worth Rs 2.52 crores in Mumbai where his parents live.

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CIC summons Delhi Police to RTI hearing on Batla encounter

The Central Information Commission has summoned Delhi Police to a hearing on an RTI petition seeking details about the Batla House encounter and the Delhi serial blasts accused. The hearing – for which the Commission has taken more than one year against the provision of 90 days – will be held on February 9 on the second appeal of the RTI petitioner. The petition has sought information on six counts: Number of people killed in Batla House encounter with their details; post-mortem report of each of them; copy of FIR if filed on the day of the encounter; number of people picked and
arrested in connection with the Delhi serial blasts with their details (name, father's name etc); from where these people were picked or arrested; evidence of involvement of those picked and not released. RTI activist Afroz Alam Sahil filed the petition with the Delhi Police on September 25, 2008, six days after the encounter. He did not get any response from the police. He filed first appeal on October 29, 2008 and two days later he got a reply wherein he was told about the number of people killed in the shootout and that the FIR was filed on that day. He was not provided any other information nor any document.

Sahil filed second appeal on January 27, 2009 as his queries were not replied
properly. The hearing on this appeal should have been held within 90 days
according to RTI law but the CIC itself took more than one year to conduct a
hearing which will be on coming February 9.

As the Azamgarh visit of Congress leader Digvijay Singh – where he cast doubt on
the genuineness of the Batla House encounter citing the bullet holes on the
upper side of Sajid, a Delhi serial blast accused – it will be interesting to
see if the Delhi police provide post-mortem reports and other details sought by
the RTI petitioner.

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Only 11 inspectors for over 73,000 lifts in Mumbai-Pune region

There are only 11 inspectors to handle and inspect more than 73,000 lifts in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Pune region in Maharashtra, a query under the Right to Information (RTI) has revealed. The RTI application was filed by a Mumbai-based activist Mohammad Afzal in January after his brother Mohammed Farooq, a diabetic with multiple clots in his brain, faced problems with the lift of their apartment building. Another reason that prompted him was increase in number of accidents involving lifts in the state.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Display water-supply timings on your website: CIC to DJB

The denizens of national capital will be able to know the timings of water supply in their area from March onwards if Delhi Jal Board complies with the orders of Central Information Commission in time-bound manner. The transparency panel has directed the Board to post timings of water supply on its website by February 28 and keep updating it if their are any changes. "The Commission directs the PIO to ensure that timings of water supply of all areas are displayed on the website of Delhi Jal Board. If these timings are changed the website is updated accordingly," the directive by the Commission said. Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi was hearing the plea of one Narender Dutt who did not get details of water supply in his area from the Board and
filed an appeal in this regard.

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High Court asks petitioners to move info panel for details on Nano deal

In a breather for two petitioners who had sought details of the agreement between Tata Motors and West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) on setting up of a Nano factory at Singur, the Calcutta High Court today said they could seek approach the State Information Commission for the same. Amitava Chaudhury, an RTI activist, and Partha Chatterjee, leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, filed petitions in 2007 before the State Information Commission for disclosure of the agreement between Tata Motors and WBIDC.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ministry's directive to IOA, OCCG

The Union Sports Ministry has asked the Indian Olympic Association and the Organising Committee Commonwealth Games (OCCG) to immediately designate their Central Public Information officers and Appellate Authorities as per Section 5 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In pursuance to the January 7 order of the Delhi High Court, which declared both the IOA and OCCG as authorities coming under the RTI Act, the Ministry has asked both the organisations to fulfil various obligations of being public
authorities. Under this, they must maintain all their records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner to facilitate the right to information and suo moto disclosure / publishing of information, according to the Ministry.

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Govt did not seriously investigate CD case against Virbhadra Singh

Former Himachal minister Vijai Singh Mankotia fired a salvo against the state government on Wednesday, saying the unprecedented corruption the state had witnessed during the Congress regime had crossed all limits during the present rule. Talking about the CD (originally an audio cassette) that was released by him during the previous Congress regime, levelling allegations of corruption against the then chief minister Virbhadra Singh, he said had the present government seriously investigated the case, some people might have been behind the bars by now. He alleged that the FIR in the case was based on the information he had obtained under the Right to Information Act.

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Jaitley says he got Gopalaswami's letter to Prez under RTI law

It what would come as a rude shock to chief election commissioner Navin Chawla, who maintains that communication between his predecessor N Gopalaswami and the President should remain secret, it now emerges that the letter in question is already in public domain, with leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley claiming he had got it under RTI. On Wednesday, even as Chawla said that "in principle any communication from the CEC to the President must remain a privileged document", Jaitley said he got a copy of the letter through RTI last May. "I had asked for that letter through RTI in March which was denied in April. But after I appealed against it in the law ministry, my request was granted and I received the letter," Jaitley said

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In 80s, 13 city schools got land at Rs 60 per acre: Estate Officer

A day after the High Court asked the Chandigarh Administration to furnish details about the rate at which Carmel Convent was allotted land, a local RTI activist has received information regarding the same. Over the last three decades, the Estate Office had given land to various schools free of cost while some were charged up to Rs 3000 per acre. The Estate Office does not have any information on the price charged from the Carmel Convent School. In reply to an RTI application filed by RK Garg in November 2009, the Estate Office said while the Air Force School was allotted land free of cost, Navodya Vidyalya was given at a token money of Re 1 and Kendriya Vidyalya, Sector 47, was allotted at an annual rent of Rs 100. The reply does not find any mention of the price attached to 28,171 square yards of land allotted to Central School allotted in 1977.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Angry Information Commissioner releases minutes of RTI meeting on Act amendments

The minutes of the stormy October 14, 2009 meeting between Central and State Information Commissioners and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on the controversial issue of amendments to the Right To Information Act, 2005 are now available for the common citizen to see. Among other things, the DOPT proposed amendments to exclude from the Act “frivolous and vexatious” complaints as well as “discussions/consultations” (previously known as file notings) preceding a government decision. Curiously, the minutes were released on Monday, not by the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension of which the DoPT is a part but by Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi resorted to the extreme step after being repeatedly fobbed off by the DoPT on the release of the minute.

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