Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rita case: UP no to RTI query

The Uttar Pradesh government has refused to give details of the money spent on the special helicopter ride that helped special prosecution officer IB Singh and his team reach Moradabad overnight on July 17, 2009 to oppose bail to state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, taking the line that the information is secret and not covered under the Right to Information Act (RTI). Singh was rushed in to oppose the bail application of Joshi who was arrested for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Chief Minister Mayawati. The bail was rejected by Additional District Judge, Moradabad, and Joshi was sent on 14 days judicial remand.

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No childs play,this , Class III Student Uses RTI To Stop Garbage Dump

To Aishwarya,an eight years old, RTI is an Act that can work wonders.Especially since it helped her to bring to the notice of civic authorities,the presence of a garbage disposal site in front of her school.Not only this.The little one feels the Act has done the expected rectifying the wrong for her.They (those who were dumping garbage) have stopped throwing it there, she shared more than happily. Aishwarya is a student of Class III of a school in Rajajipuram in Lucknow.The sight of a dumping ground right across the main gate of her school was distressing for her each time she passed by.So much so that she wrote to the chief ministers office requesting her to get the site removed from the place.There was a swine flu scare then and our school had asked us to wear masks, she said.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Denied vital information, corporators turn RTI activists

It is now the turn of elected representatives to tap Right to Information (RTI) Act in an attempt to get information that they believe the civic body is not making available to them when sought through `proper channels'. A number of corporators of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) are awaiting answers to their queries on development issues of their interest. "A lot of elected representatives have started using the RTI Act for seeking information. The corporators from all the parties use the RTI Act but the most
are from the Opposition parties," said a civic RTI officer. This trend is new to the civic body, he said, adding, "They might not be satisfied with administration's response to their queries in the normal course." BJP corporator Anil Shirole said, "There is lack of transparency in the working of the civic administration. The officers tactfully try to avoid giving straightforward information when we seek answers on critical issues."

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CIC order for disclosing Sharm-e-Sheikh files stayed

The Delhi High Court Tuesday stayed the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to disclose the file notings related to the India-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm-el-Sheikh. Following two Right to Information (RTI) petitions, Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit, in a Jan 4 order, had asked the external affairs ministry to disclose the files related to the July 16 India-Pakistan joint statement issued at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. The ministry earlier failed to provide the names of the officials who drafted the statement, as well as file notings. Hearing the appeal against the CIC order, Justice S.Muralidhar stayed it and issued a notice to RTI activist S.C.Agrawal for July 23. The central government had challenged the CIC order that directing scrutiny of documents is beyond its jurisdiction.

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Kerala Assembly Privilege Committee move raises questions

The decision of the Committee on Privileges and Ethics of Kerala Assembly to summon the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioner to answer breach of privilege of the House raises fresh questions relating to the privileges. The issue arose over the State Information Commission's order issued to the State Information Officer of the Assembly V. Jayalekshmi Amma directing her to furnish a copy of the video recording and printed record of the speech of Kerala Congress (Jacob) leader T. M. Jacob in the Assembly in 2005 to an applicant under the Right to Information Act. The Information Officer supplied the applicant -- Kochi based advocate D. B. Binu, with a printed copy of the proceedings but held that the video recording was privileged material. The charge against the Commission now is that it was encroaching upon the privileges of the House by trying to enforce the order. The Legislature Secretariat despatched the Committee's summons to Palat Mohandas, the Chief Information Commissioner of Kerala, and P. N. Vijayakumar, who was State Information Commissioner when the Commission decided the case, on Monday.

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Info on 'cash at judge's door' case confidential: SC

In the midst of a raging controversy over closure of the 'cash-at-judge's-door' case, the Supreme Court, which had denied that CBI had approached the Chief Justice, now says the information is "confidential". The Court's interesting reply came on an RTI petition seeking details whether the Chief Justice of India was approached by the CBI wanting permission to prosecute Justice Nirmal Yadav of Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case. "I write to inform you that the information sought by you ... is confidential and is exempted from disclosure under the section 8 (1) (e) and (j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, you have no right to access the said information." "Further as the information is not held by or under the control of the CPIO, Supreme Court India, your request cannot be acceded to..." Raj Pal Arora, Central Public Information Officer of the Supreme Court said in an RTI reply. The reply is in sharp contrast to a statement earlier issued by its Secretary General M P Bhadran who said CBI did not approach the Chief Justice of India in the case.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Officials making a mockery of RTI Act

By coming up with ridiculous excuses to block information to the public, the Government departments and its officials are making a mockery of the Right to Information Act. Sample this. Some information was sought from the Public Information Officer of Regional Transport Office, Thiruvananthapuram. How many foreign nationals have registered in their names any kind of vehicles? Whether any foreign national has been issued driving licence? The reply: For collecting the details the service of staff in the office could not be spared as it would affect the day-to-day functioning of the office. You may directly come to the office and verify the records and collect the details. This was the experience of P K Raju an activist who sought the information.

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Maharashtra SIC betters its performance

This is for your information citizens. The state information commission has disposed of more appeals and complaints in 2009 than it did in 2008. From 221 to 291, it has been a big leap of more than 30%. The marked improvement can be attributed to an additional hand sharing the work load. In 2009, seven information commissioners, including the state chief information commissioner, worked to clear the appeals and complaints. In 2008, there had been a six-member team, including the chief. "The figures state that our performance has been better than the central information commission," state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi said. Joshi added that he was not happy with the implementation of section 4 of the right to information (RTI) Act, which deals with voluntary disclosure of information.

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Most jails overcrowded in state, says RTI plea

Jails in various districts of the state are plagued with the problem of overcrowding with a total prison population of 83,805 against the authorised capacity of 44,439, an RTI plea has revealed. Urvashi Sharma, an activist, filed the RTI plea following the National Human Rights Commission’s recent report observing that overcrowding in jail was a result of “unnecessary and unjustified arrests” coupled with slow judicial process. Admitting that the overall overcrowding ratio is 1.89, the information released by the department of Jail Administration and Reform Services indicates that in
majority of the jails the occupancy is almost double the sanctioned strength.

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GSIC dismisses RTI request for being 'vast'

The Goa state information commission (GSIC) has dismissed a GBA member's request for details of the total number of construction permissions issued by the town and country planning department in Goa from July 2008 till date. V A Kamat, a core committee member of the GBA, is set to file a writ petition in the high court challenging the GSIC judgement. Goa state information commissioner Afonso Araujo dismissed the application on the grounds that, "the information sought by the appellant is too vast and spread across the entire state of Goa, and would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority".

[Madras High Court decision stating Admin difficulties can’t be cited to deny info under RTI http://judis.nic.in/chennai/qrydisp.asp?tfnm=22544]

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Answers beget more questions

A question under the Right To Information Act posed to a public information officer: "Will you please provide me the list of Non Vocational Teachers in GFC with four hours weekly workload in various aided vocational higher secondary schools in Ernakulam region?''. The answer was "Yes''. After waiting for weeks, the applicant files an appeal before the appellate authority and then the State Information Commission as he did not get a proper answer. The officer informed the Information Commission that she had answered the query! "The State Public Information Officer submitted that she was under the impression that he did not seek any information, and hence, the information need not be provided. He just wanted to know whether the information would be provided to him,'' remarked Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas and State Information Commissioner K Rajagopal in their order on the appeal.

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Kashmiri H R groups did not file even a single RTI application: Wajahat

The human rights groups in Jammu and Kashmir did not file even a single application under Right to Information to the national RTI commission despite being told that this was a forum to address this issue. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah made this disclosure in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times Sunday. He was surprised that no one ever came forward to list the issue of the human rights before the commission under RTI. " Not even a single application was filed by the human rights groups to the RTI commission in the past five years. In fact, I was surprised as even I told some of them that they could utilize this forum to seek information on these issues", Wajahat Habibullah said. According to him, the alleged case of the mass graves in north Kashmir, which the human rights activists have been raising and seeking international attention to that, was a "fit case to seek information under the RTI." Kashmiri political leaders of all parties, whether separatists or mainstream have always been alleging gross human rights violations by security forces and petitioning the global human rights watch groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for their intervention.

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2008 Delhi encounter is no dead matter

The country's human rights watchdog has absolved the police in the Batla House encounter in Delhi but the controversy over the death of two alleged terrorists refuses to end. Alleged Indian Mujahideen militants Mohammed Atif Ameen and Mohammed Sajid were killed in a gunfight with the police at Batla House in Jamia Nagar on September 19, 2008, five days after serial bomb blasts in Delhi. Friends and relatives of the dead men allege police faked the encounter. Now, the post mortem report--accessed by activists with the help of a Right to Information (RTI) Act application--on the two men raises nagging questions about the encounter. The post mortem report says that Sajid had three gunshot wounds on the top of his head and one on his right shoulder. Ameen had 10 bullet entry wounds--eight of which were on his back. He also had multiple abrasions on his lower back.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

RTI on Wheels - 2nd Anniversary

RTI On Wheels completed two years on 17th March 2010. It has been developed with support from JANPATH and Association for India’s Development (AID), and was launched in 2008, jointly by GSIC, SPIPA, and MAGP. This event was marked by Information Commissioner, TN Shri Deelip Reddy as guest of honour.

This innovative model was studied by South African History Archieve (SAHA) , an organization working on freedom of Information In S. Africa and has produced a film on RTI On Wheels. The photos and film can be viewed on www.mahitiadhikar.blogspot.com

Fact Sheet about RTI On wheels:
· No of state visited : Gujarat Rajasthan, Maharastra
· No of blocks covered – 103
· No of districts covered - 34
· No of villages to which RTI On wheels has reached - RTI On Wheels covered 1.45,000/- km till date. It has conducted 242 outreach programmes covering 103 blocks of 34 districts of Gujarat, Rajansthan and Maharastra.
· No of film screening done on RTI - 143
· No of Gramsabhas Attended - 88
· No of public authorities visited – 93
· Population covered by RTI On wheels is 2.8 lakhs
· Campaigns Conducted

o Dissemination of Information coming under 4(1) b in association with Disability Advocacy Group (DAG)
o RTI Awareness Campaign in Narmada District in association with AKRSP
o Strengthening Village Health Committees through RTI in association with AKHS
o RTI Awareness and 4(1) b preparation and Dissemination through Gramsabha in Panchmahal as part of Panchmahal Mahiti Adhikar Abhiyaan
o RTI awareness in Dahod district in Association with Bandhkam Majdoor Sangathan
o RTI Awareness Campaign in Bhilwada, Alwar, Udaipur, Jaipur districts in association with MKSS and Saathi org.
o Outreach Programme in Pune, Thane, Kalyan and Mumbai in association with Public Concern for Governance Trust.

MAHITI ADHIKAR GUJARAT PAHEL
B-3 SAHAJANAND TOWERS,
JIVRAJPARK CHAR-RASTA,
AHMEDABAD - 380051
GUJARAT (INDIA)
PHONE : 079 26821553, 26820719

http://mahitiadhikar.blogspot.com/

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RTI Programme on FM Radio

Jinana Vani, FM Radio is launching 1 Hour Programme every week for about 13 weeks. The intrested persons who would like to participate can register me.

Anand S.
Anti Corruption Form - Bangalore
Cell No: +91-92410-12730
or +91-98450-39699

[Posted on the HJ yahoogroup]

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Torrent Power refuses to provide information under RTI Act

Torrent Power, the sole electricity distributor in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Surat, has refused to furnish certain information sought in an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, saying the Act is “not applicable” to the company. The applicant had sought information regarding the types of power failures, power outages, shutdowns, interruptions at Rajnagar complex, Narayan Nagar road and Paldi areas in Ahmedabad between January 1, 2009 and November 20. The applicant, identified as Jayshree Nagar, a resident of Paldi, had also asked as to what actions were taken to check power failure in the application filed in December last year.

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Difficult to answer RTI queries regarding judgements: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today said its officials handling RTI matters cannot be expected to answer queries relating to judgements passed by it because of “limited resources” available with them. “As far as the Central Public Information Officer is concerned, it may be very difficult to comment on a decision or give a report whether a thing has been done in a judgement or not. It is the job of a lawyer.” “The CPIO may not be in the best position to actually understand the import of the decision,” counsel for Supreme Court Devdutt Kamat said during a hearing at Central Information Commission.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Call for state level RTI users’ forum

Vasant Brahmbhatt-a resident of Ahmedabad-had filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005 in connection with the Sabarmati riverfront project. He had asked for information on the project report, the cost, whether the tenders were issued before allotting the work or not, and who all were assigned work of more than Rs 25 lakh. He is yet to receive any reply from the State Information Commission. Vishram Laxman Dodiya had filed an application under RTI to get details about the illegal electricity connection by Torrent Power. He could not get any information. On February 11, 2010 he was found murdered. He had met the company officials the same day. Three people were arrested in the case. His son is yet to receive the information under RTI.

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Need to set up state-level panel to promote RTI use in Gujarat

Over 350 RTI users from 25 districts shared their experiences The need for a state-level citizens’ organisation was voiced by users of the Right to Information (RTI) Act at a convention held by the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel in the city on Wednesday. Arvind Kejriwal, who had won the Magsaysay award for his contribution to the RTI movement, and Jagdeep Chhokar, founder of Association for Democratic Reforms in India, were the guests of honour. More than 350 RTI users from 25 districts shared their experiences. They lamented how it took years to lay hands on time-bound information. “The first appeal mechanism is weak due to which cases are piling up at the Gujarat Information Commission office in Gandhinagar. Authorities still feel reluctant to release data,” said a participant.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Activists protest harassment: Lal Chowk - 16 Mar. 2010

Activists of J&K RTI Movement protesting at Press Enclave Lal Chowk Srinagar on 16th March 2010 against harrasment of RTI Activists and their arrests in Budgam district by Government machinery.

See the following previous blog posts for more information on the concerned events:

1. Text of Letter to CM concerning arrest & and harassment of 8 RTI activists at behest of National Conference figure
http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=1753

2. Letter from JKRTI Movement to IGP Kashmir Re: Attack on RTI Activists on 26/27 Feb. 2010
http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=1746

3. Criminal Attack on RTI Activists in Branwar village in Budgam district J&K State – 27 Feb. 2010
http://criminal%20attack%20on%20rti%20activists/
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Fighting corruption, RTI activists land in jail in Kashmir

he activists of Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement (RTIM) today took to the streets near here in protest against the arrest of their five colleagues by police on the ‘directions’ from some politicians. Demanding immediate release of RTI activists who are lodged in police station Chadoora in the central Kashmir district of Badgam, they seek the intervention of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in their fight against corruption in the state. ”Stop state terrorism”, the RTI activists were raising alleging that they were being made victims for raising their voice against the corruption. ”We are alive because of police intervention,” said a spokesman of the RTIM, winner of CNN IBN citizen journalist award for their work against the corruption. He gave details about how a family of ruling National Conference (NC) leader at Branwar which was also very close to Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather tried to kill them last month. Spokesman said they exposed the NC leader’s family for committing fraud in construction works as they were managing to get most of the contracts because of their political influence. He said because of this the members of the family along with their relatives and other NC activists attacked them.
Because of the political pressure, police arrested five RTIM activists and lodged them in police station Chadoora on false and fabricated charges filed on March 12. The charges included theft, robbery and assaulting women, which are totally false, he said. He said there are misappropriation of funds and most of the works have been given to this family in Brainwar.
–UNI
March 17th, 2010

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Surat mock drill: Five advocates seek details of incident under RTI

Five Surat-based advocates have sought details under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of the mock drill incident that took place on February 24. Surat DCP Subhash Trivedi had “accidentally” shot ATS police inspector Shabbirali Saiyed injuring him grievously during the drill. The applicants identified as Ravikumar Dhivare, Alpesh Jariwala, Jignesh Bharuchwala, Jitendra Patil and Rajesh Dhobi, are lawyers and practise in Surat District court. The lawyers on Monday filed an application through RTI Act and sought answers to 35 questions in details with certified copy from the Surat Police Commissioner Shivanand Jha.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Right to information helps tribes

Church workers are using a government freedom of information law to help illiterate people get payments and help that are due to them. The Right To Information (RTI) Act, passed in 2005, forces government officials to give information on pay and other entitlements within a fixed time frame. Few tribal people know how to access it, however, so a drive to educate them on their rights is being led by the social service wing of Raipur archdiocese, called Seva Sadan, or house of service. Father Joshy Abraham, a lawyer and social activist who trains the villagers, says “secrecy breeds corruption. Transparency is vital to the government.” The state government has several schemes to help the socio-economic development of “primitive and backward” tribes but “due to bureaucracy, the programs do not reach them.” The Church help is delivering some dramatic results.

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In 5 years, 41 cops booked in graft cases

In the last five years, 42 personnel of the Chandigarh Police were booked in various corruption cases. In the period, 33 cases were registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The information was revealed under the Right to Information Act. As many as 22 cases were investigated by the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and others were probed by the Vigilance Wing of the Chandigarh Police. Most of these policemen booked for graft charges have been convicted. Further, in eight cases, two officials each were booked, indicating that these cops operated in coordination with each other. In most such cases, a sub-inspector and a head constable or constable have been booked together.

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MCD engineers threatened to kill me, alleges RTI applicant

A Right to Information (RTI) applicant Monday alleged that two engineers of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) threatened to kill him if he pursued his quest for information. Mohit Sharma, 33, a resident of Dilshad Garden applied for information about illegal construction in Shahdara area. However, when he didn't get information, he approached the Central Information Commission (CIC). He runs a confectionery shop in Dilshad Garden area. Though the CIC ordered the MCD officials to provide him the information, till date he claims he has not got the information. 'In the past, I got a few threats not to pursue my application but I never paid heed to them.

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Tax refund delayed? Use RTI to know why

Life just got better for millions who have ran from pillar to post for years to secure their tax refunds from the income tax (I-T) department. In a landmark ruling, the Central Information Commissioner has passed an order which says information on refunds is covered under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. L Lakshmi Narayanan, an assessee, had filed an RTI petition with the (I-T ) department in Chennai, asking for information as to why was there a delay in the payment of his IT refunds for 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2008-09, amounting to Rs 3,32,457.

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Holes in CIC office monitoring system

Days after Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said the Commission has put in place a monitoring system at its office, it has emerged that the instructions are not being followed in letter and spirit. While hearing a complaint by RTI activist and retired Naval officer L.K. Batra in 2009 about National Commission for Women, Habibullah had recommended some steps to be taken by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. “This exercise may be completed within 30 days of the issue of this decision notice under intimation to P.K.P. Shreyaskar, Joint Registrar of Central Information Commission,” Habibullah had said. However, when Batra tried to find out if it has been complied with, his query with the Commission met with several hurdles. “I send my applications by post instead of going to far off offices. The Commission’s office counted the 30 days mandatory period (for giving information) from the date when the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) received my application,” Batra said.

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A papad seller fights for his rights - for 28 years

Mohammad Samad Khan, a papad seller in West Bengal, has been fighting for his rights with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), the energy giant, for the past 28 years but has not lost hope. It started in 1982 when the NTPC acquired the land of Khan and others for the Farakka thermal power project in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. The NTPC had then promised all those who had given their land a job under its
rehabilitation scheme which laid down that any one family member would be given employment in the corporation on the basis of educational eligibility and technical experience. Khan, alongwith 1,000 other people, had given their land to the NTPC, hoping to get a job. But he was not among the lucky ones who got a job. Khan got a letter from the NTPC in 1984 saying he will get a job soon, but despite repeated reminders nothing happened. In 1988, the NTPC called him for the post of store keeper, but his candidature was rejected. In 1991, he again knocked at the NTPC's doors, but in vain. He then decided to take the help of the Right To Information (RTI) act for justice.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Authorities blink as illegal homestays mushroom

Kochi may be on the radar of terrorist organisations, but the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye to the flourishing illegal homestay resorts here, jeopardising the security of the city. There have been widespread complaints from various quarters that certain homestays are not complying with the foreigners registration rules and resorting to illegal methods to attract foreigners to their resorts. According to information sourced by Kerala Homestay and Tourism Society (Hats) under the Right to Information Act, there were only 94 licensed homestays in Ernakulam district. The information received from the Tourism Department also revealed that though 559 homestays got licences between 2007 and 2009, just one of them had renewed the licence.

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Classification of documents a top secret, says CIC

How does the government classify documents as "confidential", "secret" and "top secret"? That's "top secret" information according to the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has refused to disclose documents outlining classification procedures. The CIC's decision backs the government's plea that "individuals hostile to the nation" must not get to know the details of security strategy. The manual of departmental security instructions contains instructions and procedures and guidelines for classification of documents for the competent officers. The government thinks it unadvisable to open such documents to public scrutiny. Information commissioner Sushma Singh ruled that the manual is a "kind of code for security classification".

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RTI User Convention - 17th March at Ahmedabad -Gujarat

Dear Saathis,

Warm greetings.

RTI Users of Gujarat are getting together on 17th march 2010, on the occassion of 2nd B'day of RTI On Wheels." at Ahmedabad between 1 to 4 pm for sharing their experience and to discussion on.

Making state level federation on RTI users - what should be its objective.
Use and misuse of RTI - what is the reality.

Shri Arvind Kejriwal (Parivartan), Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar (ADR) will join us on this occassion.
With regards,
Pankti

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Gujarat gets two new RTI commissioners

The Gujarat State Information Commission (GSIC), which was functioning only with a chief information commissioner so far, has got two new information commissioners following the high court's intervention. The new information commissioners are Netra Shenoy and Arvind Shukla. They have been appointed to help out Chief Information Commissioner R.N. Das. Shukla is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official of the 1983 batch who retired as principal secretary to the governor, while Shenoy belongs to the 1969 batch and retired as additional chief secretary, planning department. The appointments Friday evening follow the intervention of the Gujarat High Court on a public interest litigation (PIL) last year wherein the state government was directed to finish the process of recommending names to the governor within two months. The file of names for approval had been lying with Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

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Ahmedabad lawyers join protest against SC's move on RTI

A forum of former judges, lawyers and social activists have voiced their protest against the decision of the Supreme Court to move an appeal against a Delhi high court judgment regarding disclosure of assets of Supreme Court judges under the Right to Information Act. A meeting of former judges and other luminaries of the legal fraternity was held at the residence of justice TU Mehta, former chief justice of Himachal Pradesh high court, on Friday evening. The members, who attended the meeting, later passed a resolution objecting the decision and also formed a three-member committee to decide the future course of action."We have decided to form a three-member committee and they will forward a resolution to the Bar Associations in the state to protest the decision of the apex court," said Girish Patel, senior lawyer and human rights activist. The committee consists of justice (retired) RA Mehta, Girish Patel and Kanan Dhruv.

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Ex-judges criticise SC move to challenge order on RTI

A Group of former judges of High Courts, senior lawyers and activists today passed a resolution criticising the Supreme Court’s recent move pertaining to disclosure of assets of judges. The apex court has decided to appeal against the judgement of the Delhi High Court about assets’ disclosure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

In a statement, the group said the action “would not be in the interest of the highest ideals of Justice for the highest court to be a petitioner and litigant before itself in a case involving own actions”. “It will shake the confidence of the people in the highest court,” it added.

They have resolved to send a copy of the resolution to the Bar associations across the country and form a public opinion on the issue.

The group comprises former Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court T U Mehta, former Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court A P Ravani, former judges of the Gujarat High Court R A Mehta and R C Makad, former SC judge M B Shah, former Advocate General of Gujarat K H Kaji, senior Gujarat HC advocate Girish Patel, and some social and legal activists.

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J&K RTI Activists illegally arrested

from Muzaffar Bhat
to omar.office@gmail.com, omar.office@airtel.blackberry.com
date Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 9:13 AM

Mr Omar Abdullah sahib
Chief Minister J&K State

Sir,

Five of Our RTI Activists have been lodged in Chadoora police station of Budgam on false charges of robbery,assault etc.They were arrested today. The Police is being pressurized by the ruling local National conference leadership. We have been working on good governance and transparency in the area and this is the end result.On one hand CNN IBN confers Citizen Journalist award to our work and on the other hand we are being treated like criminals and booked under theft,robbery and other cheap cases.Our image has been tarnished by the workers of National Conference in Charai sharief constituency.The wife of Chowdhry Saifudin Numberdar (village head man) of Branwar in Chararisharief assembly constituency went to magistrate and levelled false charges against our RTI Activists including myself and Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool. She says that we beat them in the house and stole gold ornaments,Rs 30,000 etc. Can any civilized person believe this?I swear i even don't know that lady who might be of my mothers age. We were nearly killed if the Police or CRP would not have reached the spot on that fateful day ie 27th Feb 2010. I appeal Mr Chief Minister to answer me? RTI law is a new born baby in J&K.Less that 5% people are aware about this act. This all is happening with us who are the pioneers of RTI Movement in J&K,what can you expect with others? RTI will be a total failure Mr CM if you would not control these disgruntled elements who do not want to see J&K a corruption free state. We have exposed some bungling in Branwar area. We are fighting against timber smuggling and we are being rewarded with such awards. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this sacred cause but your workers cannot muzzle our voice. The people who are in Chadoora police station are common poor young boys of Branwar village. I want an answer from you. We will otherwise protest at Jantar Mantar, India gate in the days to come and other RTI Activists of India will be supporting us for this.

Dr Muzaffar Bhat
Convener
J&K Right to Information Movement

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Law ministry unaware of judges' files: RTI reply

The law ministry has no list of judges whose files for being elevated to the Supreme Court were returned at least once by the president. Nor is it aware of who might have this information, a reply under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had asked the law and justice ministry for the list of judges whose files for being elevated as judge of Supreme Court oras judge/chief justice of a high court were returned at least once by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He has also asked for information regarding the names of judges who were ultimately elevated as judge of Supreme Court or as judge/chief justice of the high court after their files for elevation were returned at least once by Rashtrapati Bhavan. 'The CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) informed the applicant that no
such list is maintained by this department and therefore no information can be furnished,' said Ramesh Abhishek of the justice department in his reply to Agrawal. 'I am not aware of any other public authority who might be having the information sought by the applicant.'

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

‘MGREGS not a solo campaign for selfish personal gain’

The ACCC presidents of Pfutsero, Chizami, Chozuba, Phek and Meluri have flayed the NPF, Phek for the “personal attack” on PDCC President, Mikha Kenye. The ACCC presidents clarified in a rejoinder that the Phek District Congress Committee (PDCC) carried out the monitoring of Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGREGS), based on the information received from Public Information Officer (PIO) and Project Director (PD) through Right to Information Act (RTI) application. “It is not a solo campaign for selfish personal gain,” it affirmed. The note stated that the monitoring was a Congress party’s general campaign for the “poor and down-trodden”, who are deprived of their due wages. It also added that the VDB Secretaries are semi-government servants because they are appointed by the State Government. So, VDB Union of Phek district opposing the Congress party by taking the role of another political party is viewed seriously.
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Case at judge’s door: CBI denies info under RTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has denied information to a lawyer under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with regard to non-grant of prosecution sanction of Justice Nirmal Yadav in the controversial Judge Bribery case. Last month, Advocate Navkiran Singh had sought the information under the RTI Act from the offices of Chief Justice of India (CJI), President of India, CBI and the Law Ministry. In its reply, which the advocate received on Wednesday, the premier investigating agency said “disclosure of information would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders”. After completing its detailed investigation, the CBI has already filed a closure report of the case in a special court of the CBI, Chandigarh, on December 17, 2009.

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RTI fee: District courts follow two rules

Utter confusion prevails in the district courts over the fee charged for applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Public Information Officer (PIO) designated with the court of District and Sessions Judge charges Rs 10 per RTI application. But the PIO designated with the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate charges Rs 50 per application despite a notification by the Chandigarh Administration last year, which reduced the rate to Rs 10 per RTI query. The anomalies came to light following a few RTI applications filed by Newsline in the district courts. An application seeking information about a particular case was accepted by the PIO of the Court of District Sessions Judge with Rs 10 as the fee. But another application in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate was dismissed, as the fee of Rs 10 was “not acceptable”.
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Want your CAT score re-evaluated? File RTI

The Right to Information Act seems to be holding out hope for candidates unhappy with their scores in Common Admission Test (CAT) 2009. Speaking to the media, Satish Deodhar, convenor of CAT committee, a pan-IIM body, said on Wednesday that a re-evaluation of CAT scores was possible only if candidates asked for their score details through RTI application. He maintained that the CAT 2009 scores were not flawed. At the upcoming IIM directors' meet, however, the online test is likely to be reviewed. A total of 2.17 lakh candidates across the country took the first online CAT this year. "We cannot allow students to take a look a their test papers. It is not done in any test, be it an entrance test or university exams. But if students file RTIs in case of any doubts about their scores, we can ask Prometric to conduct a re-evaluation," said Deodhar. About Prometric continuing with the contract for online tests, he said, "The decision to take the test online and choice of the agency was done by IIM directors collectively. So, they will decide the fate of the online test and that of Prometric."

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IIMs pass the buck on RTIs to Prometric

The Right to Information (RTI) applications filed by CAT aspirants may finally end up revealing nothing. In reply to a couple of RTIs, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) said Prometric, the testing and assessment institute, has the answers. But, Prometric is not covered under the RTI Act. “We appreciate your concerns. IIMs have assigned the technical job of delivery of CAT and scoring to Prometric. We only have scaled scores and percentiles, which have been communicated to all candidates through the official CAT website. The CAT centre itself does not have any other records or information you seek,” said IIM Ahmedabad, in reply to two RTIs filed by aspirants. IIM-A also said that to facilitate quick communication in the matter, it has made an arrangement to respond through its candidate-care service. “Prometric will give an appropriate response on behalf of IIMs,” the RTI reply added. Though Charles Kernan, chief operating officer of Prometric, yesterday admitted to the lapses and delays in the CAT process, he said, “It is the IIMs that are subject to anyone filing the RTIs.”

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

MBBS in 11 yrs, but makes it to PPSC merit list

These are a few of the surprising entries in the PPSC merit list of doctors — the list comprising of “chosen ones”, Punjab’s rich and powerful, desperate for the elusive government job. A Tribune investigation has found that the selection of 312 doctors last year by the PPSC was done through a process that barely veiled the intentions of those involved in the selection process, with 50 per cent marks allocated for the interview alone. Sources have told The Tribune that the posts were up for sale and anything between Rs 12 lakh and Rs 20 lakh per post was gathered by several conduits across the state allegedly on behalf of those running the show at the PPSC. The most used channel for the purpose, as per sources, was an ASI-level cop who worked in connivance with a revenue department official, who allegedly had an access to those who mattered. A senior vigilance bureau official, too, reportedly had his men contacting applicants, offering “competitive” rates. Several senior doctors of the state, as also some candidates, are also said to have turned into “middlemen”. A former MLA of the state, it is alleged, charged a fee for getting names of certain candidates into the “sifarish list” — allegedly drawn up by the state’s political bigwigs.

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Haryana Info panel's orders stayed

Justice K Kanan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday stayed till further directions the orders of December 4, 2009, and January 27 of Punjab Information Commission vide which the latter had asked Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to provide information sought by private respondents. The SGPC, through its assistant secretary Avtar Singh of Chandigarh sub-office, had sought directions to stay the information commission orders which it argued were without jurisdiction and against the norms governing its minority education institution status.

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Over one lakh liquor bottles mount up at police stations

Even Bachhus — the Greek God of liquor and intoxication— may be taken by surprise when the statistics pertaining to the amount of liquor stored in different police stations as case properties is revealed. The total number of liquor bottles lying in different police stations of the city touches a whopping 70,625. These bottle— seized under the Excise Act have been lying at police stations as case properties. Some of these have been lying for over 20 years. Information received under the Right to Information Act reveals that apart from the 70,000-odd liquor bottles, there are 2,381 half bottles and 12,869 quarters or nips stocked in all police stations put together. The number of pouches seized by the police adds up to 12,834. Date for the Sector 31 police station, however, is not available. The maximum number of liquor bottles are lying at the Sector 39 police station whereas 40,625 bottles are lying at the Industrial Area police station. The Chandigarh police registered as many as 234 cases under the Excise Act in
2008 and 245 cases in 2009.

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Contradictions appear in 'DTU Bill 2009' after RTI petitions

As students protest and agitation at the Delhi Technological University (DTU) intensify, questions continue to be raised about the upgradation of the technical institution from Delhi College of Engineering (DCE), which used to be under the umbrella of Delhi University (DU). Various recent Right To Information (RTI) petitions filed by students and alumni of the institute reveal contradictions in the 'Delhi Technological University Bill, 2009' passed by Delhi Assembly. Stating their objections to the 'statement of object and reasons of DTU Bill' students stated the reason to be constrained growth due to lack of autonomy. The information was sought to obtain a copy over the proposal of DCE to overhaul the syllabus for all its engineering programmes in the past ten years on the stated reason that DCE's affiliation with DU has curtailed its academic growth. DTU, in its reply said that it has no records regarding such information and referred the applicant to consult the Faculty of Technology at DU.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Maharashtra State has no reply to RTI plea on grass beds

Although the state chief information commissioner has asked alert citizens to monitor government projects through the use of RTI, not many are satisfied with the way their efforts have found support. The experience of Bhaskar Prabhu, an RTI activist and a member of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, an NGO that monitors government spending, has not been good enough. Prabhu filed an application to monitor the money spent on grass beds at tree bases on Dr Ambedkar Road in F/South ward. He also sought information on the expenses on iron guards around the trees. The details sought were for work orders worth Rs7.26 lakh that were passed in October 2008 and January 2009. The work was to be completed by March 2009.

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CIC orders Rs 1 lakh relief to man denied info under RTI

In an unusual RTI case, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered that compensation of Rs 1 lakh be paid to an applicant whose request for information from the Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax Department in Raipur was rejected by its RTI officials on the ground that they could not seek details from those senior in rank to them. P K Agrawal had filed an RTI application, seeking to “examine certain files pertaining to the loss of revenue” to the Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax Department in Chhattisgarh. The department’s CPIO did not respond to his RTI applications and the appellate authority rejected his appeal against the refusal to accept the applications on the ground that “the applicant had demanded direction to be issued to the Commissioner”, who was senior in rank to him.

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Amending RTI won't help govt, judiciary

The genesis of the government becoming allergic to the existing Right to Information (RTI) Act can be traced to the day when the Central Information Commission took head-on the ministry of personnel, which is in charge of the entire senior bureaucracy of the country. It wouldn’t be correct to say that the Centre’s zeal in changing the laudable law has been tailored by a series of judgments that has brought the superior judiciary within the purview of this transparency and accountability-centric legislation. No doubt, the government has gained strength with the superior judiciary. The judiciary had stayed put on its ivory tower for too long. But it started fumbling when it was asked to disclose vital information like selection process of judges, assets of the judges and communication between the Chief Justice of India with other functionaries who are squarely covered by RTI.

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This doesn’t fee too right

What happens when the extra fees you pay your college isn’t used for the purpose it was collected for? This is exactly what a student from Indian Law Society’s (ILS) Law College wanted to know when he filed an application through the Right to Information Act (RTI). But imagine their shock when they received two documents from the institute wth figures that didn’t match up. Written information is considered as strong evidence in any case. But what happens when an institute as reputed as the ILS Law College gives you two documents with different information.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

CJI under RTI: SC ready with appeal to itself

The Supreme Court is set to file an appeal to itself against the January 12 judgment of the Delhi High Court, which said that the office of Chief Justice of India (CJI) falls within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Officials in the apex court Registry declined to confirm or deny the development, but sources within the judiciary told The Sunday Express that the decision to appeal was taken by the CJI just before the Holi break. The appeal is likely to be filed early next week. The window to appeal closes March 12. Sources said the appeal, drafted by Supreme Court lawyer Devdutt Kamat, has already been cleared by the CJI and the Supreme Court Registry. It is learnt
that the CJI discussed the issue with some senior judges. Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati will be asked to argue the SC case.

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Anti-ragging helpline no help

If you call the University Grants Commission's anti-ragging helpline, chances are, your complaint won't even be lodged. Blame it on the near-impossible conditions that have been set for registration of a complaint. The complainant has to be the victim or a blood relative, and has to provide exhaustive details — the contact number, address and email ID of the college/university and vice-chancellor, and the name, subject and year of study of the accused. The toll-free helpline was set up in July 2009, under Supreme Court instructions. Of the 320 complaints it got till December 2009, only 178 were attended to, a Right to Information petition revealed. Of this, only 58 institutions gave any kind of response. And the guilty were punished in a mere 11 cases.

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Activist files RTI application with PMO

Rights activist Subash Chandra Agrawal has filed an application before the Central Public Information Officer, Prime Minister's Office (PMO) seeking complete information together with related documents/correspondence/file notings on the Congress president Sonia Gandhi's reported opposition for amendments to the Right to Information Act. Mr. Agrawal filed the application following reports about differences between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ms. Sonia Gandhi on amendments to the RTI Act. There was stiff resistance from rights activists on the proposed changes in the Act. The government was reported to have put on hold the amendments after the intervention of Ms. Gandhi, who wrote to the Prime Minister about the apprehension of the activists that the proposed changes would lead to dilution of the Act.

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Justice department refuses to give file notings

The Department of Justice under the Union Law Ministry has refused to part with information on the file notings relating to grant of daily allowances to the spouses of judges of Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice of India, on their travel abroad. After the Law Ministry raised certain objections in the grant of allowances to the wife of CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan, on his official visit to London last year, rights activist Subash Chandra Agrawal had in December sought details about the allowances, including daily allowance, available to spouses of Supreme Court judges, including the CJI, when travelling in India or abroad while accompanying the judges/CJI. Mr. Agrawal also wanted to know details of such allowances granted in the last three years; whether any such file was presently pending for sanction with the Government of India; whether the rule for travelling through shortest air-route while on official visits abroad was applicable to Judges and accompanying persons; and the related file notings.

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Deputy Commissioner issued notice for refusing information under RTI

In the first such case of its kind facing the Delhi Government, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has issued a show cause notice to a Deputy Commissioner seeking his explanation in a case of "dereliction of duty." In the order issued on Friday, which came in a case of short-listing non-government organisations for a Bhagidari project, the Information Commissioner has directed the First Appellant Authority and Deputy Commissioner (Central District) Akash Mahopatra, to send his explanation to the Commission before March 30 on "why the Commission should not recommend disciplinary action against him for dereliction of duty." The order assumes significance as disciplinary action is resorted to as a measure of last resort and fines up to Rs.25,000 are first imposed against officials.

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Sonia on activists' side, puts RTI changes on hold

Plans to amend the Right to Information Act have been put on ice, with the Congress leadership taking up with the government the complaint of activists that the proposed changes would lead to dilution of the information law. Senior sources said the amendments will have to wait till the time government has dispelled fears of rights activists of the law being weakened. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh some time ago, drawing his attention to the fear of activists.
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High Court quashes State Information Commission's order

The Uttarakhand High Court has quashed an order of State Information Commission directing the Dehradun-Musoorie Development Authority to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 to an RTI applicant after it failed to provide information sought by him. Justice V K Bisht gave the judgement after the Authority challenged the decision of the Commission claiming that Chief Information Commission had given the order without consulting other members of the body, counsel for Authority said. The applicant had sought information under RTI about the construction of a hotel in Dehradun in February, 2009. The Authority claimed that the concerned file had been misplaced and the information was not available with it. The Commission contended before the High Court that till the date the order was given there were approximately 3,691 judgments given by the Chief Information Commission in absence of other Information Commissioners.

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Sonia, PM split over amending RTI Act: Report

The proposed amendments into the Congress party's landmark legislation the Right to Information Act (RTI) has created differences between none other than Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, claimed reports on Friday. As per reports, Dr. Manmohan Singh is in favour of excluding the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from falling under the ambit of the RTI Act whereas Sonia Gandhi has opposed any amendments in the Act. The changes proposed by the Prime Minister in the RTI Act will keep the office of the CJI out of purview of the Act. It is also believed that Prime Minister Singh has written a letter to Sonia agreeing that that some changes are needed in the RTI Act to "address the concerns of the judiciary." He also stressed that keeping the CJI office out of its purview will secure confidential information related to the appointment of judges and higher administrative decisions from public scanner.

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Ministers run up huge flight bills

If chief minister B S Yeddyurappa incurred Rs 20 lakh as cost to the state exchequer for a trip from Bangalore to Hubli and then on to New Delhi on a single day during the October-November BJP crisis, some of his cabinet colleagues were not far behind. While Murugesh R Nirani ran up a flight bill of Rs 65,450, revenue minister K Karunakara Reddy (from the dissidence camp) spent Rs 67,961 — both for a single round trip from Bangalore to New Delhi on different dates. TOI sourced the information under the Right to Information Act on visits by Yeddyurappa and his ministers to the capital during the crisis period of October 1 to November 8, 2009. While information on the CM's visit was given promptly, TOI had to appeal to the State Information Commissioner to obtain the rest.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

MBA aspirants file RTIs, may move court

Even as many students got calls from the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other business schools for personal interviews and group discussions, many others are upset with their low scores in the Common Admission Test (CAT) and are raising a "transparency" issue with the institutes, besides mulling legal action. The IIMs were just recovering from the uproar over technical glitches during the CAT. Now, at least five students have filed applications under the Right to Information (RTI) law. More are said to be in the offing. Students that Business Standard spoke to did not wish to be named, but said they are also in discussion with lawyers. More, some IIM professors are said to be lending support to the entire initiative, as they were themselves not happy at the manner the first computer-based CAT had been conducted.

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PM, Sonia differ on RTI Act

It's a rare occasion when the Prime Minister has stood firm and refused Congress president Sonia Gandhi's request. In a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi the PM says that RTI amendments are necessary. This in response to Mrs Gandhi writing to him against it. Sonia Gandhi had written to the PM two months ago saying that she is: "Of the firm opinion, like that of the NGOs that there should be no amendments in the RTI Act and the existing Act should properly implemented." But the PM wrote back saying: There is a "...need for RTI amendments" but "...all stakeholders will be consulted", all stakeholders will be consulted before the amendments are moved." The PM explains in his letter explains the need for changes in the RTI.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

CIC notice to education dept for withholding info on Modern School

The Central information commission has issued a show cause notice to deputy director of the education department for not providing information to the applicant about implementation of quota for economically weaker section in Modern School here. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi while issuing a stringent order said the deputy director did not obey orders of his senior officer to provide information to an RTI applicant which "raises reasonable doubt that the denial of information may also be malafide".

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Make blacklist accessible under RTI: Congress MLA

Congress legislator Jassi Khangura has urged the Union government to make the ‘blacklist’ — which prohibits certain people living abroad from entering India — accessible under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He said these people, mostly Sikhs, had the right to know the principal reason for their inclusion in the list. “Specific information may be withheld, but at least the category of offence or allegation should be made available,” he said. In his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the MLA suggested a multi-pronged approach to deal with ‘blacklist’ cases. Addressing the media here, Khangura said there was a need to set up an appeals process, preferably through an appellate authority, for such cases.
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Police fail to check use of parking areas by hotels

About three years ago, the Pune police headquarters had issued a circular to all police stations in the city telling them to prepare a report on use of parking area by restaurants, hotels and lodges. The aim was to find out if the parking area was misused and take action against the guilty. The circular also stated that all hotels must display maps of their hotels at a visible place. However, no such report has been prepared as also the hotel owners have not displayed any such maps. When contacted, Anant Rokde, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), said that he has no idea of any such circular been issued, nor has such a report been prepared. Though the circular was issued by the then in-charge of the same department, Rokde expressed ignorance about the matter. Shantaram Kunjir, a member of Sambhaji Brigade, who sought the circular under Right to Information act said the order was indeed issued but never implemented by any of the police stations in the city.

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Traffic cops ignore Mum's killer stretch

A query under the Right To Information (RTI) Act by a citizen shows how casually the system treats the serious subject of pedestrian fatalities on the highway. Mulund resident Chetan Borwadekar was prodded to use the Act after he came close to running over three members of a family crossing the Eastern Express Highway in January. "The trio, two adults and an elderly woman, was stranded in the middle, dithering, neither turning back nor running across,'' he remembers of the incident which occured on a Sunday afternnon near Kurla. Borwadekar, who was going home from south Mumbai, managed to drop speed and stop but the car behind him failed to react in time. In a bid to avoid ramming into him, the driver of the car crashed into the divider.

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DVAC moves HC again for exemption from RTI Act

A city-based right to information (RTI) activist's year-long struggle to get information from the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) is yet to to see the light of the day. While the State Information Commission as well as the Madras High Court have, separately, directed the DVAC to provide the information sought for by the applicant, V Madhav of Porur, the agency chose to move the High Court for a second time seeking complete exemption from the purview of the RTI Act.

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Overwork, stress claim lives of 99 personnel since 2000 of them

Overwhelming stress, work pressure and long duty hours have claimed lives of 99 serv­ing policemen in the Pune po­lice department since 2000. Of these, 17 died due to cardiac arrest or heart-related dis­eases and an equal number due to accidents. These details were ob­tained by social activist Vihar Durve under the Right to formation (RTI) Act, 2005. Durve said the police de­partment has been facing manpower shortage for many years, which is forcing the staff to work for more hours. The information furnished under the RTI stated around 40 police personnel died due to illness, but it did not specify.

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19 named for Padma by panel after deadline

Barely has the dust settled on the controversial nomination of NRI hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal for a Padma award, the ministry of home affairs appears to have embroiled itself in another controversy. In an indication of the "discretionary" process of choosing Padma awardees, the government has admitted that not only did it accept recommendations well after its deadline of November 20 but as many as 19 of these came from award committee members. Only the President, vice-president, prime minister and home minister can make recommendations after the cut-off date. The home ministry has also admitted that there was no change in process of selection despite a CIC order asking the ministry to be more transparent. The information was given by MHA in response to an RTI application filed by Subhash Chandra Agrawal. When asked how many recommendations were received by the ministry after November 20, 2009, MHA said 31. While 12 names were recommended by either the President, PM, V-P or HM, 19 were recommended by awards committee members after the due date.

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PMO approval not taken for ad featuring ex-Pakistani air chief

The union ministry of women and child development did not seek the mandatory approval of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) before publishing the prime minister's photograph in a controversial advertisement featuring a former Pakistani air force chief, the answer to a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed. The revelation was made by the WCD ministry in a reply given to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had sought information regarding the controversial advertisement released by the ministry before Republic Day last month. Agrawal had asked if the PMO's approval is compulsory before publishing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's photograph in any advertisement of a union ministry and if the WCD ministry had sought it. The WCD ministry agreed that the PMO's approval is compulsorily required but it did not even seek it. "No approval from PMO was sought," the ministry said in its reply.

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Apex court refuses to answer RTI queries

The Supreme Court has refused to answer several queries filed under the right to information law on whether judges of the top court conversant with the affairs of Karnataka High Court had been consulted by the Chief Justice of India before a decision was taken to elevate Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran to the apex court. The collegium, headed by the Chief Justice of India, had recommended Dinakaran's name to the law ministry for elevation but it was stalled after allegations of financial irregularities were made against him by activists pushing for more transparency and accountability in the judiciary. The RTI questions, filed by activist Subhash Agrawal, had specifically sought to know whether Justices Markandey Katju, V.S. Sirpurkar and A.K. Ganguly had been consulted as mandated by an earlier judgment of the apex court. It had also sought a complete copy of records regarding Dinakaran's proposed elevation.

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Call centres soon to handle RTI requests in Karnataka

The State Government, in an effort aimed at better administration and governance, has said that e-governance initiatives will be implemented on a large-scale, and towards this end call centres to handle requests for Right to Information will be set up across the State shortly. The computerised facilitation centres with a 24X7 helpline will handle requests from citizens for information and filing of applications under the RTI Act.

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Transparency sought in SIC commissioners' appointments

Activists and members of civil society have called on the government to hold public consultations for appointing commissioners to the State Information Commission (SIC) in a transparent manner. In a letter to the State Chief Secretary and the Public and Administrative Reforms Secretary, the signatories noted that the Chief Information Commissioner was scheduled to retire in August this year and another commissioner would
retire in October. Another commissioner had retired from service in 2009. Though there was no specified number of commissioners to be appointed, the workload of the SIC had prompted the government earlier to appoint four commissioners in 2008 in addition to the three commissioners appointed in 2006. Hence it could be expected that new commissioners would be appointed, the activists said.

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Call to bring CIAL under RTI Act

The office-bearers of Shareholders' Organisation of Cochin International Airport Limited have condemned the attitude of the airport management in preventing the public, including shareholders, from getting details of appointments, award of contracts and issuance of shares at the CIAL through the Right To Information (RTI) Act. At a press conference held here on Thursday, the office-bearers of the Shareholders' Organisation said there was large-scale corruption at the CIAL. The land for the airport was acquired from poor farmers by paying marginal compensation. The State Government and the Airport Society (present CIAL) had promised that those who surrendered their lands and houses for the construction of the airport, would be given jobs according to their qualification. But, the CIAL authorities failed to keep the promise as only a few persons were given employment, that too temporarily.

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Non-existent companies in BBMP's expert panel

The BBMP claims having 97 companies, including 18 Bangalore-based firms, on their expert panel that decides on civic issues concerning the City. Impressive numbers at first sight! However, Right to Information (RTI) activists have rejected the claim, calling the numbers a farce. About seven of 18 BBMP expert panel members based in Bangalore are nowhere located in the City, say RTI activists on account of them not registering with the Labour Department under the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, 1961. This revelation was made by a conglomeration of RTI organisation, Drive against Bribe, on Thursday. "Information derived from a recent RTI application found that seven of the 18 BBMP employed companies on the consultant panel had either shifted offices or were found missing from the City limits," says J Anand, a RTI activist. M/s BECOM India Pvt Ltd and M/s Wapcos (I) Ltd are two firms that are allegedly "bogus" or "Benami" companies.

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CIC orders disciplinary action against MCD employee

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to take disciplinary action against one of its employees for not fulfilling his duty as prescribed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The decision came on an RTI application filed by Hari Ram who had sought some information from the multi-level car parking section of the MCD. 'The First Appellate Authority (FAA) had received the order from the commission on Nov 20, 2009 by his own admission. He was therefore duty-bound to conduct the hearing and give his order by Dec 20. If there were any special reasons for the delay he could have recorded these and ensured that the decision was given before Jan 5, 2010. He has not done his duty as detailed in the RTI Act,' Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted in his order to MCD commissioner.

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Kerala Privileges panel recommends summoning of SIC

The Privileges Committee of the Kerala Legislative Assembly has recommended summoning of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Palat Mohandas and retired Information Commissioner P N Vijayakumar to reprimand them on the floor of the House. Discussing a breach of Privilege issue involving them, the Privileges Committee found that the duo, through their action, had violated the special privileges enjoyed by the Assembly. The decision followed the summoning of Assembly's information officer by the Information Commission and giving an ultimatum to release the copy of a video tape of the proceedings of the Assembly. Advocate D B Binu had asked for a copy of the video tape of T M Jacob's speech in the Assembly during a no-confidence motion debate. The information officer of the Assembly refused to give the tape citing privilege issues. Hearing an appeal by Binu, the State Information Commission ordered to give the video tape to the applicant.

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Theni Medical College dean fined Rs 25,000

The State Commission for the Right to Information has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Dean of the Theni Government Medical College Hospital for his failure to provide information sought by an applicant and also for not appearing before the Commission.
Veerasamy who was employed in the Siddha medicine department at the Periyakulam hospital in Theni district was dismissed in 2008. Muthupandi of Palanichettipatti had sent an application to the Dean of the medical college hospital, the designated officer under the Right to Information Act, on January 9, 2009, by post seeking details about the dismissal of Veerasamy. The Dean had refused to accept the letter and it was returned to the sender.

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Siddhivinayak trust gets notice for digging road

Following Right to Information (RTI) query filed by a Worli resident, Vinod Desai, the BMC initiating proceedings against the Siddhivinayak trust for digging a paver-blocked road to set up bamboo poles as preparations for Angarkhi Sankashti celebrations earlier this month. Desai noticed that between January 25 and 31, 65 places on S K Bole Marg near the temple had been dug up to set up a bamboo barricade through which devotees were supposed to head for the temple. Desai had a few questions for the of the G North ward office: Did the BMC give permission to the trust to dig the road and put up the barricade? If yes, on what conditions? Was there any follow-up to check that the road had been dug, abiding by the permission?

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Tytler, Renuka among former MPs still occupying government flats

As many as 22 government bungalows or flats are occupied by high profile politicians and VIPs, the union Urban Development Ministry said in reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application. The latest list of 22 persons features several politicians like Congress' Jagdish Tytler and Renuka Chowdhury, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, ex-Samajwadi Party MP Saleem Sherwani, lawyer Ram Jethmalani, and the family of former prime minister V.P. Singh, among others. The list was given in a reply to RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal who sought a list of unauthorised occupants of government bungalows and flats from the ministry. Agrawal had asked what steps have been taken to throw the goods of unauthorised occupants like was done in case of former parliamentarian Ramdas Athawale, who was evicted from hisgovernment bungalow last year after he lost the Lok Sabha elections.

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