Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Activists to monitor information commissioners' appointments

Right to Information (RTI) activists have kicked off a campaign to bring transparency in the selection process of state and central information commissioners that head the commissions dealing with grievances related to the RTI Act. The RTI Act enables citizens to obtain information about government functioning. The activists will be flooding government offices with applications for the posts of the Central Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioner of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

“Typically, these posts are filled in by retiring bureaucrats and there are no open advertisements to apply for them. We want the recruitment process to be transparent and democratic,“ said Mumbai RTI activist G.R. Vora.

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CIC seeks funding pattern of All India Football Federation

The CIC has directed All India Football Federation to present its funding pattern for last three years to clarify on the money received from various governments, following which a decision would be taken if it came under the RTI Act. The Federation, in a written submission before the Commission, had claimed it does not receive substantial funds from the government and hence it is not a public authority defined under the transparency law and not liable to answer RTI queries. The case relates to a Delhi-based RTI applicant Anil Jain who sought details pertaining to the appointment of the General Secretary and the Chief Executive Officer of I-League of the Federation. The Commission had directed the federation to provide the desired information to Jain December last year, but it was not provided.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Judges' appointment: Govt differs with itself

The government has tied itself in knots over the criteria of judges' appointment. The department of justice, in two separate responses under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has given differing criteria for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court. While one response said that "merit, ability, suitability and seniority" of the recommendees was kept in mind when elevation of chief justices of high courts to Supreme Court was considered, another response from the same department ruled out seniority as a criteria for appointment to the SC. The government also denied that there was supersession in denying elevation of former Chief Justice of Delhi HC Justice A P Shah to the SC.

Pointing to this contradiction, activist S C Agrawal has asked the CPIO for a clarification. Agrawal had asked the justice department why Justice Shah was not elevated to the SC despite his seniority. In response in February, the government said seniority was not a criteria. "Seniority is not a criteria for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and therefore, the question of supersession does not arise," S K Srivastava, deputy secretary in the department of justice, said.

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RTI activist sent notice in 2008 bomb blasts case

Shaikh Shafi Ahmed, an Right to Information (RTI) activist from Gulbarga who has filed more than 500 RTI applications, has been summoned by the Bangalore police for investigations in the 2008 bomb blasts case. According to Shafi Ahmed, he is being targeted by the police since they do not want to furnish information that would show the state's police in poor light. ACP HM Omkaraiah of Sheshadripuram served a notice on Shafi Ahmed under criminal procedure asking him to appear before him and give a statement regarding the blast cases. "We have information that Shafi Ahmed has some information related to the Bangalore blasts case," said Omkaraiah. Shafi Ahmed had filed an application under the RTI Act on August 22, 2009, seeking information on the communal incidents in Karnataka between 2006 and 2009.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

CIC summons 3 IIT officials to fix responsibility on delay in giving

In an unusual case, the Central Information Commission has summoned three senior officials and academics from IIT Kharagpur to fix responsibility for delay in providing information to an applicant. The CIC has asked the institute's dean, registrar and assistant registrar to appear before the Commission on May 24 to inquire into the veracity of their statements. Applicant Prof Rajeev Kumar has asked for information relating to honorarium received by people from IIT. Not only was there a six-month delay in giving information but the Commission felt that the officials were passing the buck.

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English-subtitled Marathi Film on RTI to be screened in Mumbai

You are cordially invited to a free screening of *Ek Cup Chya, *an inspiring Marathi feature film with English subtitles. This movie tells the story of one family’s quest for justice through use of Right to Information. A cup of tea, traditionally a symbol of hospitality, is now synonymous with corruption.

The two-hour film tells of a humble State Transport bus conductor who is suddenly slapped with a huge electricity bill. His family, trapped by circumstances and humiliated by a corrupt bureaucracy, fight to keep their honour and teach the faceless system to respect citizens, and not as mere numbers.

The movie will be followed by audience interaction with the award-winning directors Sumitra Bhave & Sunil Sukthankar, and producer Yeshwant Oak.

*Venue:* Auditorium, S P Jain Institute of Management & Research,
Inside Bhavan’s College Campus,
Munshi Nagar, Andheri West, Mumbai.
*Date & Time: *Wednesday, 28th April, 6 to 9 pm.
*Chief Guest:* Narayan Varma, author of “RTI Route to Good Governance”, Trustee, Public Concern for Governance Trust

· You are invited to bring along friends who are interested in knowing about the power of Right to Information.

· This film is open for all members of the public. Auditorium has seating capacity of about 300. Seating is strictly on first-come-first-serve basis, so please be seated before 5.45 pm to avoid disappointment.

Krishnaraj Rao
98215 88114

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3 ICDS Workers resigned

Three ICDS workers of Gop Block have resigned,when the reality came to light through RTI that they have used fake certificate during appointment process. This is to inform that in 2009 & 2010 a number of ICDS worker have been appointed in Gop Block. In illegal nexus between the concerned officials & applicants some of the applicants had used fake educational certificates & got appointment. In Odamba ICDS centre of Ganeswarpur GP, Dihuda ICDS centre of Andhara Ichhapur GP & Gundi ICDS centre of Banakhandi GP the reality came to light through RTI that the appointed ICDS workers have used fake certificates. Based upon the information some have complained before vigilance & high court. So to escape from further legal action the ICDS workers have resigned.
N.A.shah Ansari
Young India

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Appointments by DOPT in RAW be Made Public: CIC

The appointments above ranks of Joint Secretary in country's external intelligence agency RAW made by the Personnel Department should be made public, the Central Information Commission today ruled. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah directed the Department of Personnel and Training to provide the names of such officials to RTI applicant Maj Gen (Retd) V K Singh, who held the post of Joint Secretary in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Habibullah, however, exempted the appointments which were directly dealt by the snooping agency with Appointments Committee of the Cabinet without consulting or informing the DOPT. "All the appointments in RAW above the ranks of Joint Secretary made by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet through DOPT will be disclosed," Habibullah said.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

RTI threatens to make Shashi Tharoor run for cover

The response to an RTI query seems to disprove his contention that he had nothing to do with a Rs3.27-lakh purchase of books authored by him by the foreign ministry when he was junior minister. However, the response doesn't strongly imply that Tharoor was necessarily aware of the decision. On January 16, Tharoor went to town on Twitter blasting a media report which said he had misused his ministerial clout in making his ministry purchase his books for Indian missions abroad. "Truth is irrelevant 4th (for the) bash ST (Shashi Tharoor) brigade," Tharoor wrote. In the tweet, Tharoor also wrote: "Just for the record, my staff & I have nothing to do with MEA book purchases & I was completely unaware of mine being amongst those bought." The matter was treated as closed after Tharoor's rebuttal. But activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal has received documents (in response to his RTI query) by the ministry's publicity officer KG Kaushik which show that the ministry placed the order for the books on September 29, 2009, four months after Tharoor's swearing-in.

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Track status of RTI appl at RDSO online

The right to information (RTI) seekers at RDSO can now track the status of their application online. This after Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) made the details of application received under the RTI Act web-enabled. The organisation has done it on the directions of KBL Mittal, the new director general (DG) of RDSO. "By making it online we have made it friendly for applicants", said AK Mathur, executive director, administration and public relations, RDSO. The matters related to RTI Act are looked after by a public information cell at RDSO. The cell is situated in the administrative building of RDSO. People wanting information under RTI from RDSO will have to contact the receptionist at the administrative building and submit the application with the receptionist on the prescribed proforma obtainable from the receptionist.
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RTI helps Ram-Rahim duo keep eye on govt projects

They are called the Ram-Rahim jodi of RTI in Baleshwar village of Songadh in Surat district. Mohammed Bilal and Hemant Patel, both 28-year-old, have made it a mission of their life not letting a single paisa of the taxpayers' money go waste. Last year, the duo made the state government coffers richer by Rs 1.28 crore after they noticed that a certain mining company was drawing minerals more than their approved quota. Recently, they even got their sarpanch suspended for illegally siphoning of village grants and now they are keeping a close watch on village development works, especially road construction and RCC paving of internal roads in neighbouring villages, and even ensure that a certain minimum balance is maintained in the village accounts. They have even forced villages to ensure that gram sabhas are held at regular intervals.

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Madhya Pradesh Govt concealing facts: Bhopal gas victims

Bhopal gas tragedy victims on Thursday accused the Madhya Pradesh government of concealing facts, and said it continued to deny publicly that 16,000 people had died in the aftermath of the tragedy and 5,000 women were widowed. Representatives of four organisations of Bhopal gas disaster survivors presented information obtained through the Right to Information Act here. They pointed out that in its Rs 982-crore action plan submitted to the central government, the Madhya Pradesh government had accepted that 16,000 people had died and 5,000 women were widowed in the gas disaster and due to the toxic waste that polluted the environment in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory. Bhopal tragedy: UCIL grossly violated safety norms, says CBI.

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Citizen in Nagaland threatened for using RTI

A citizen who sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has been threatened with dire consequences if he does not withdraw the application. One Holuvi Shohe of Phishumi village, also the NPF youth wing president of Akuluto area constituency, issued a note today claiming he has received phone calls from a person who threatened to kill him. According to Holuvi Shohe one person called him on April 16 at 10:10 a.m. threatening his life," the note said. Shohe filed an RTI last month questioning the quality of construction of National Highway 61.

On further enquiries, Shohe said that the person who threatened him is a `contractor' of NH-61. But the person is not known to him personally, he added. On the NH-61 construction, Shohe said the RTI has revealed that the standard norms for construction of the highway was not applied. "I have filed the RTI in the interest of the public and development of the area," Shohe said. The note further added that "if anything happens to me or my family and relatives ... the person must be held responsible for any eventualities." Shohe has, however, not yet filed an FIR against the accused.

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RTI activist killed in group clash

An RTI activist who had exposed irregularities in a village school in Beed was killed following a clash between two groups on Sunday. The rival group, which inflicted serious injuries on the activist, was led by the son of the president of the educational society that runs the school, Sainath Vidyalaya, the police said. The activist, Vitthal Gite (39), was a farmer and a flourmill owner in the village, Waghbet. He, along with another activist, Brijmohan Mishra, had sought information under the RTI Act and exposed irregularities in the functioning of a few other schools in the village as well.

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RTI Act provisions not implemented in HP

The state failed to implement the provision under the Right to Information Act (RTI), which enables an applicant to inspect the site of an ongoing public work and draw samples of construction material being used, said RTI expert and former state law secretary J N Barowalia. He said the state had framed rules for the amount of fees to be charged and laid down a procedure to apply for information under the RTI Act and also the inspection of records. "However, there is no rule framed on the amount of fee to be charged from an applicant who wants to inspect a site of public work being carried out by the government or a government-funded NGO or take certified samples of construction material procured with public money. There is a need to fully implement the Act by specifically providing for these rules," said Barowalia, during a seminar on RTI Act organised by the Public Relations Society of India (PRSI), Himachal Chapter, on the occasion of Public Relations Day in Shimla.

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2 MCD officials held for threatening RTI applicant

Two MCD engineers have been arrested in northeast district after they allegedly threatened an activist who had filed an RTI application seeking details of illegal construction in Shahdara (North). "We have arrested the engineers — assistant engineer Umesh Singh and executive engineer B M N Rao. Our investigation revealed the two had gone to the house of the complainant in Dilshad Garden and threatened him. The third accused — junior engineer Hari Singh — is yet to be arrested. We have certain leads and will arrest him soon," said S S Yadav, DCP (northeast). The arrests came after the victim approached the information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, seeking help when the local police did not take him seriously. Incidentally, a few policemen from the area were recently suspended by senior officers after they allegedly helped a trader kill his maid in Ghaziabad. Sources said when the activist approached Gandhi, the local policemen feared action against them and some progress was made in the case.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

HC tells govt to give info on withdrawal of case against 3

The Madras High Court has directed the state government to give information under the Right To Information Act to an applicant on why it dropped criminal proceedings against three officials of the Indian Rare Earths Limited for indiscriminate mining in Kanyakumari. The state government had refused to part with the information. Even after the Chief Information Commission upheld the applicant's right to demand information relating to the withdrawal of the case, the government moved the Madras High Court against the order. Justice K Chandru, dismissing the writ petition filed by the government, said the information would not be covered by the exemption clauses under the Act and that the exemption was available only when it is considered to be an impediment to the process of investigation.

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He gives power to people, literally

He brings forth shocking truths about the four state-owned power companies using Right to Information (RTI) Act and stops them from squandering taxpayers’ money. Today, if your electricity company charges you Rs 100 to Rs 750 less as late fee, you should thank KK Bajaj, 72. Bajaj is the most feared by the electricity companies in the state. Having spent 35 years in the power sector working for private companies, Bajaj diligently files RTI applications to monitor transmission and distribution losses (T&D), monitoring metering of electricity connections and the number of electrocutions of humans and animals caused by high tension wires. Today, he is trying to expose alleged financial irregularities and squandering of taxpayer’s money by Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL).

In a case of late fee charges, Bajaj says, “The state electricity Act gives a customer 10 days grace period and another 15 days notice period for paying up the bill. One needs to just pay 0.5% interest for being a day late. It is only after the 25 days that companies are supposed to charge you re-connection charges which is anywhere between Rs 100 for residential, Rs 200 for commercial and Rs 750 for industrial connections. I asked all the four power companies as to how much re-connection charges were collected and also demanded the dates of collection. The truth came out.” The Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (GERC) ordered all the four power companies to pay back Rs 7.2 crore to the customers.

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Farmer uses RTI to jump start Girl Child Scheme

This farmer was responsible for resurrecting a defunct programme — Balika Samruddhi Yojana (BSY) — which for the betterment of the status of girl child in Patan, one of the worst district in terms of skewed sex ratio in the state.
Naresh Parmar’s RTI proved to be a boon for 4,000 mothers of girl children who will get financial assistance from the government in the form of a fixed deposit between Rs 40,000 and Rs 50,000.
The fixed deposit can be encashed once the girl completes matriculation.
Envisioned to give girl child an incentive, BSY was announced in 1997, three years before the 2001 census declared Patan district as one of the worst affected by female foeticide problem.
Under the scheme, government deposited money every month in mother’s account to ensure education and development of the girl child.
But the village-level health workers failed to inform the locals of such a programme and the state health department did not bother to go ahead with the scheme.
Parmar, however, came to know of such a programme and filed an RTI to know whether the programme was in force.
“BSY was an election promise and once elections are over, the promises are forgotten. I wanted to ensure that the promises are met. I filed an RTI to know how many mothers in Patan availed benefit of the scheme. None — I was told,” says Parmar.
He later filed an RTI asking names of officers and departments responsible for overseeing the implementation of the programme in the district.
“The officer incharge immediately informed me that the programme would be implemented the following day. Also in the first lot, nearly 400 women were given the benefit,” adds Parmar.

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After 2 yrs struggle, Rakesh Shah gets a job thanks to RTI

This man smashed the walls of the charity commissioner’s office using RTI, paving the way for many unemployed commerce graduates in the state for a career as ‘authorised auditors’. After two years of persistent struggle Rakesh Shah, 32, found that it was on a mere suggestion by an outgoing commissioner that had led to the charity commissioner office in Ahmedabad turning down per-mission to audit minor trust bodies for qualified persons.
Any commerce graduates with five years experience in a chartered accountancy firm and having cleared the government diploma in co-operation and accountancy (GDC&A) exam, were eligible for this job.
After repeated refusals, Shah filed an RTI in February 2007, seeking reasons as to why applications are being denied. The rule was clear — under Section 32(2) of the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950, persons who are not chartered accountants can also be approved by the charity commissioner as authorised auditors.
And, they can then audit accounts of trusts whose income is up to Rs 3,000. Shah wanted to know whether any amendments were made to this law and even sought a copy of the file noting (suggestions of bureaucrats) that may have affected the change and a copy of the notification if the amendment was made.
“There were no amendments to the law, there was no notification, but after an 18-month pursuit I was told that the previous commissioner had made a suggestion in the file noting that commerce graduate should not be allowed to audit accounts till their capabilities are thoroughly scrutinised. The charity commissioner’s office instead of scrutinising applications conveniently, threw them in the dustbin. This was pure denial of our right,” says Shah.
Armed with the copy of the file noting, Shah approached the legal department of the state asking whether the charity commissioner’s file noting affected change in the law. The legal department immediately contacted the charity commissioner’s office. In June last year, Shah was awarded authorised auditor for three years in two districts.
‘Since last July, I have earned at least Rs 40,000 through this work. Thanks to RTI. I today, advice many young unemployed commerce graduates to start applying for authorised auditorship.’’ Shah proudly says.
Shah had spent two years seeking a certificate for the GDC&A examination which was held in November 2003. Its results were announced in May 2005.
“But officials were not giving my certificate. Despite several calls and visits to Gandhinagar, I was told to come later. I needed this certificate to get a job as panel auditor in my district. It was then that I filed an RTI application in March 2006. Within 30 days I received this certificate. I owe my entire career to RTI,’’ says Shah.

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RTI gets water supply to 13 tribal villages

Though 67, Surji Vasava’s presence at any government office in Uchhal taluka is enough to send chill down the spine of the officials. He has helped 13 villages of Uchhal to get regular water supply by filing applications under Right to Information Act (RTI). “I want to get young again. Despite working for so many years for the tribals, I could not do much. However, with RTI I can make a lot of difference,” says Vasava of Mohini village in Uchhal taluka. Vasava had asked in an RTI application to the water supply board about overhead water supply tanks in villages of the taluka. “The most important question was how many of them are working,” he adds.
“Like always, the government officials were reluctant to reply to the question and I had to appeal to the appellate authority at Vadodara. Fortunately before the hearing at the appellate authority, I got a response from the local office which informed that 10 tanks were operational and 13 non-operational,” says Vasava. In his application, Vasava had also inquired by when the non-operational tanks will become functional. The office had replied that within two months all the tanks would be repaired which were not in use because of faulty electric pumps.
“The repair work started and majority of the tanks were operational,” says Vasava, who has studied till old SSC. Vasava throughout his life had fought for the rights of the tribals. Vasava had sought the information under RTI due to water scarcity in the region. The residents of the villages of Uchhal taluka have no source of regular water supply and the situation turns worse in the summer months.
“It is an issue affecting thousands of life in the tribal region of Tapi district. So Surjibhai thought of using RTI to fight for water and succeeded,” says Rajesh Valvi, an RTI counsellor at Shakti – Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre.

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Right to Information helps CRPF man receive "invalidated" pension

Arif Sheikh, a CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel from the 37th Battalion ran from pillar to post for the last one year to get his invalidated pension, until the Right to Information (RTI) Act came to his rescue. He was sanctioned his monthly pension of Rs 4,810 from CRPF headquarters in New Delhi within a month of filing a query under RTI with the assistance of city-based Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahal (MAGP).
Sheikh sent his application to CRPF principal information officer on March 25 and again a clarification on April 10. On April 16, he received a letter informing him that his invalidated pension had been sanctioned with effect from May 1, 2009.

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'Order for PP's ouster stalled for 2 years'

Winnie Coutinho's services as public prosecutor (PP) were terminated by a government order on February 14, 2008 in public interest, and on the same day, another order was passed keeping the former in abeyance until further notice. More than two years later, though her termination order was never revoked, Coutinho continues to be the PP of the high court as the direction was kept in abeyance. Though there is no official information on why her termination has been kept in abeyance for more than two years, information obtained by social activist Aires Rodrigues, under the Right to Information Act, has revealed that then chief secretary J P Singh, justifying the need to terminate her services, noted, "She claims incomparable success in her cases but there is no supporting data. On the contrary, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence which shows that she has been claiming expenditure running into many thousands of rupees from many departments."

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PIO fined for delay in providing info

A public information officer (PIO) in Kolhapur district has been ordered to pay a fine for the delay in providing information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. State information commissioner, Pune bench, Vijay Kuvalekar recently passed the order to fine the PIO. The PIO as well as sub registrar of cooperative societies of Hatkanangale taluka (Kolhapur district) BR Dongale has been fined Rs12,750 for the delay of 51 days in providing information to Prabhakar Salunkhe

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Politicians seem enamoured by foreign-made confiscated weapons

Politicians appear to be the main buyers of weapons confiscated by enforcement agencies. A reply to a `right to information' (RTI) query has revealed that over 100 leaders procured such weapons at throwaway prices in the last 10 years. Among the politicians who acquired confiscated weapons include coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Vinod Khanna. This information was given by the government to social activist Ramesh Verma. Mr Verma had sought details about members of Parliament (MPs) who had purchased confiscated foreign-made firearms. The government said there was a long waiting list of leaders for buying confiscated foreign-made weapons. Compared to their costs in the international markets, the confiscated firearms are available at much cheaper prices. The weapons are confiscated by Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Customs and police, and are meant to be used for use by government officials or are given to personnel authorised by the finance ministry.
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70 Lok Sabha MPs yet to reveal assets

At least 70 Lok Sabha MPs, including former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, have not yet disclosed details of their assets, a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed. The information was obtained in reply to an application filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal with the Lok Sabha secretariat, seeking names of the members who have not disclosed details of their assets and wealth to the Speaker. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, his party colleagues Avtar Singh Bhadana,
Deepa Dasmunsi, Deepender Singh Hooda, Rao Inderjit Singh and Shruti Choudhry; the Bharatiya Janata Party's Arjun Munda and All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen's Asaduddin Owaisi are among the 70 who had not submitted any information regarding their assets and liabilities till Feb 24, 2010. However, the reply said that no action was being taken against these MPs because there was no complaint.

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Can answer sheets be disclosed? CIC to review own ruling

The Central Information Commission (CIC) will set up a seven-member bench to assess whether evaluated answer sheets can be disclosed to citizens. The commission will be reviewing its own decision not to make answer sheets public. The move comes after a St Stephen's student approached the CIC demanding that she be able to access her answer sheets. The student, Sarah Cyriac, alleged that Delhi University (DU) had inadvertently
mixed up her answer script with someone else's. Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, "We have decided to set up a seven-member bench to review the decision to not disclose evaluated answer sheets." No date has been fixed yet. The case against DU, however, points to the apathetic state of affairs in public institutions.

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RTI activists up in arms agaainst state govt in Orissa

RTI activists in Orissa are up in arms against the state government appointing yet another babu as a commissioner in the State Information Commission. With a panel comprising chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh and industry minister Raghunath Mohanty appointing Pramod Kumar Mohanty, now special secretary in CM's office, as the next information commissioner, activists are now asking the government to clarify how it zeroes in on persons while making such appointments. Despite having a forgettable tenure in CM's office, the faceless bureaucrat would now get to work as information commissioner in the State Information
Commission for next 5 years with a monthly remuneration of Rs 1.1 lakh with a status equalling that of chief secretary, said RTI activist Pradip Pradhan. Mohanty, who would assume charge soon after he retired from government service on April 30, would serve as commissioner for next 5 years. The Orissa Information Commission can have 10 commissioners and 1 chief information commissioner. With the appointment of Mohanty, there would still be vacancy of 8 commissioner posts.

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'Bourses must reveal info under RTI'

Allowing public scrutiny of the functioning of stock market, the Delhi High Court has upheld the ruling of the Central Information Commision that stock exchanges are public authorities and are bound to disclose information under Right To Information Act. The court dismissed the plea of National Stock Exchange and Jaipur Stock Exchange which submitted that they cannot be forced to reveal information to public under the transparency law as they are autonomous bodies incorporated under Company Act and not controlled by the government.

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Bihar Info commissioner slaps fine on BDO

Information Commissioner Shakil Ahmad has imposed a penalty on the Block Development Officer of Khodavandpur, Begusarai, for not responding to the notice sent by state information commissison and not giving information to an applicant Shilendra Thakur. The BDO has to pay Rs 250 per day from April 12, the maximum penalty being Rs
25,000. The BDO has also been directed to give the information to the applicant by May 5 and inform the commission accordingly. The commission has also penalised the district horticulture officer of Saharsa for failing to provide information to an applicant Kameshwar Rajak.

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CIC to examine if papers of 1963 Indo-Pak talks can be disclosed

The Central Information Commission (CIC) will peruse through documents related to the Indo-Pak foreign minister level talks held in 1963 to decide if the information can be made public. The commission in a recent decision asked the ministry of external affairs to produce the classified documents. A full bench of the Commission directed the ministry to produce all eight files related to the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan -- Swaran Singh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto respectively -- held in 1963 in the wake of India-China war in October 1962. The ministry had earlier refused to disclose any piece of information to veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar who sought details under the RTI Act.

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RTI activist's murder: Role of info officer under scanner

The Andhra Pradesh Information Commission has ordered an inquiry into the death of Sola Ranga Rao, an RTI activist, in Krishna district. The activist was found murdered near his house earlier this month and his family members had alleged that he was killed because of the RTI application he had filed with a district office regarding funding of the village's drainage system. The 30-year-old activist, resident of Sitaram village, had filed various RTI applications seeking information from the mandal parishad development office (MPDO) on the fund sanctioned and utilised for the village's drainage system. Family members of Sola Ranga Rao alleged he was murdered by miscreants who were involved in siphoning of funds allocated for the drainage system.

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5 chargesheeted, one discharged in Shetty murder case

The Pune rural police on Tuesday chargesheeted a lawyer and four others in the sensational murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty and discharged a suspected conspirator. While filing a report along with a 404-page chargesheet before judicial
magistrate first class P H Bansod of the Wadgaon-Maval court, the police recommended that the suspect, Parshuram Telgu, be discharged as there was no evidence against him.
The chargesheet was filed against Talegaon Dabhade-based lawyer Vijay Dabhade, his clerk Pramod Waghmore, Dongrya Hanumant Rathod, Navnath Shelar and Sham Dabhade under sections 109, 120 (b), 302 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

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Pune Municipal Corporation sets up RTI Library

The enthusiasm with which residents have made use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has led a query-burdened civic body to decide on a dedicated RTI centre to make life easier for itself as well as applicants. Allocating Rs 50 lakh for the RTI centre, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has claimed the facility will be the country's first such in a civic body. The idea is to stock all documents at the centre that RTI applicants may need for the information they seek, and to eventually digitalise these documents. Then, there will be no need for those who seek information to apply for it as they can simply walk into the centre and access it.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

RTI query leads to Balco report

A Union government body is in the dock for allegedly conducting improper tests in the Balco chimney collapse case, in which 40 people died, and providing the report to a citizen under the Right To Information Act before it was submitted in a court hearing the case. Chhattisgarh police have arrested three top officials of the Faridabad-based
National Council for Cement and Building Material on the charge of destroying evidence and hampering the process of natural justice. "Facts and evidences show they (NCCBM officials) were fully aware and confident that it is a false report, and on the basis of which the accused (Balco officials) can save their skin," said Korba district SP Rattan Lal Dangi in a reply to the Central Information Commission.

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HC quashes CIC order on spying software

In a blow to an indicted former R&AW official seeking detail of the agency's snooping software, the Delhi High Court has set aside the CIC’s directive to the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to disclose information, which he claimed was necessary to prove his innocence in the espionage case. Asking the CIC to hear the matter afresh, Justice S Muralidhar held the Commission erred in passing the order without hearing R&AW contentions, being the third party for which the C-DAC developed the software under a contract. “In as much as the software of the ‘Project Anveshak’ has been developed exclusively for the R&AW, the question of disclosure of any such information had to be decided only after hearing the R&AW,” the court noted further, observing that the intelligence agency figured among the list of the organisations usually exempted under the purview of the RTI Act.

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In letter to PM, CJI sought RTI exemption for judiciary

Contents of a four-page letter from Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shows the country's top judge recommending the inclusion of a specific clause in the Right to Information Act, 2005 to exempt judiciary from the transparency law's ambit. The CJI in his letter dated September 16, 2009 pointed out how the "framers of the RTI Act" failed to visualise the extent to which the RTI would intrude into the independence of the judiciary. So he recommended the inclusion of a specific clause in Section 8, which deals with the variety of information not meant for public eye.

Some of the different kinds of information already exempted from RTI have to do with those affecting the sovereignty of India or foreign relations, those whose disclosure would be a breach of privilege in Parliament or state legislature and progress on a police investigation. "Quite frequently, information of highly confidential and sensitive nature of matters handled by the Chief Justice of India is being sought to be disclosed under the provisions of the RTI Act by applicant-citizens, but such information has to be refused," the CJI wrote.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

AP police warns dowry accused

A man from Bengaluru, who was booked by the women’s police station in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, for dowry harassment has been warned by the Tirupati police to stop making attempts to make queries through RTI on the case. The man’s sister had been picked up by the Tirupati police from Bengaluru last year for questioning and he wanted to get details about the detainment under the RTI Act. In a reply to the letters written by Rajesh, of Jalahalli, in the first week of this month, the SI attached to the women’s police station in Tirupati, said that his repeated applications seems to be a plot and therefore they are keeping a close watch on his movements.

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DDA asked to compensate Rs.15,000 to RTI applicant

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to pay Rs.15,000 as compensation to an RTI applicant who "suffered" because the housing agency provided the information after a delay of about four months. The decision came on an application filed by Govind Prasad Aggarwal, a resident of Haryana, who had sought some information under the Right to Information (RTI) regarding a DDA flat in Mayur Vihar area of east Delhi. Aggarwal had filed the RTI application Feb 29, 2008 but got information only after July 28, 2008.

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Woman uses RTI to get salary details of cheating husband

The pay particulars of a government employee cannot be considered personal information, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled, while upholding the right of a "betrayed" woman to get details of her husband's salary. "The Commission holds that the pay particulars of a government employee cannot be considered as personal information by any means and directs the PIO (Public Information Officer) to provide the same to the appellant," Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit noted in her order while backing Chhattisgarh resident Shivkumari Kashyap, whose husband got married for the second time. Kashyap, who believed that her husband Baldev Singh, an employee of South East Central (SEC) Railway, had entered the name of his second wife in his service book, used the Right to Information (RTI) act to get justice.

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CWG budget for 5 stadiums up almost 250%

The cost of construction and renovation of five stadiums to be used during the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) increased by almost 250 percent of the original, a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application revealed. The application filed under the RTI Act by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had sought details of the initial and revised budget for the CWG-related projects taken up by the central government. According to the reply, the initial planned amount was Rs.1,000 crore but later it was revised to Rs.2,460 crore. The 2010 Delhi CWG are scheduled to take place Oct 3-14 later this year.

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Satish Shetty murder case given to CBI

Nearly three months after Pune-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty was brutally murdered, the case has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “We are now optimistic of getting justice,” Shetty's brother Sandip Shetty told Sakaal Times on Wednesday. Earlier, the Pune-Rural police was investigating the murder case. Satish Shetty, who has uncovered many corrupt land deals in Talegaon-Lonavla region, was murdered on January 14 this year. The Maharashtra Government has told the Bombay High Court that it has decided to transfer the investigations to the CBI and a notification to this effect was issued on Tuesday. Government pleader N Deshpande informed the court on Wednesday about the
government's decision to hand over the case to CBI.

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No code breach in posting information officer: Poll panel

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has said that there was no violation of the model code of conduct in appointment of a new information commissioner in the transparency commission on May 13, 2009 - the day votes were cast for the fifth and final phase of general elections. The ECI said this in a reply sent April 4, 2010, to right to information (RTI) activists Girish Mittal and Krishnaraj Rao who alleged violation of the code that was in force from March 2 to May 28, 2009, in view of the general elections. The Election Commission reply, signed by Under Secretary K.N. Bhar, said: 'I am directed to state that there was no violation of the model code of conduct on appointment of Omita Paul as central information commissioner as appointment of central information commissioner or information commissioner is governed by the statutory provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.' Constitutional expert and Supreme Court advocate M.L. Lahoty disagrees with the stand taken by the ECI in the matter. 'I entirely disagree with this, and there is no question of such appointment being ousted from the model code of conduct,' Lahoty told IANS.

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Indian Olympic assn. doesn't want government funds

The Indian Olympic Association will not accept grants from the government, a move aimed to keep it outside the laws governing public authorities that receive public funds. "The Indian Olympic Association would like to desist from receiving any further financial support from the government," IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh said Tuesday in a letter to the Sports Ministry. The IOA had filed a legal challenge against the Sports Ministry's order, which classified all associations receiving funds from the government as "public authority" requiring to fulfill mandatory obligations under laws governing the public's right to information.

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CBI is harrassing me says RTI activist

All he did was exercise his right, the Right to Information (RTI). But now RTI activist Mannish Bhatnaggar claims he is being harassed, by none other than the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Bhatnaggar who filed the complaint on March 31, 2010 in the office of Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah shared his plight. "Little more than a month ago I had filed an RTI application with the CBI but instead of providing me the information, CBI officials have been visiting my house and meeting my neighbours," he said. While Bhatnaggar himself is trying to take the issue lightly, he says his family members, relatives and neighbours have never been so scared. "My family members are asking me to go out of Delhi for sometime and my neighbours are worried about several strangers roaming around in the neighbourhood and enquiring my whereabouts," he said.

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School aided by BBMB bound to give info: CIC

Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has ruled that since the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) is run by the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, a school financed by it is a public authority and covered under the Right to Information Act. Gandhi directed the BBMB DAV Public School, Nangal, to appoint a public information officer and the first appellate authority. Manju Bala Dhiman of Anandpur Sahib had sought information in August last year regarding the number of posts sanctioned and created in the school's Nangal and Ganguwal branches since April 1985 and the names and qualifications of teachers appointed on ad hoc basis among other things.

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‘Attendance of ministers in Cabinet meeting confidential'

Information on the attendance of ministers during cabinet meetings is beyond the purview of transparency law, the Cabinet Secretariat has held. It has said that attendance of ministers during cabinet meetings is exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act as it is part of `deliberations of Union Cabinet' which is an exempted information. "The information is denied in terms of section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act as this is part of deliberations of the cabinet," Director at the Secretariat, Meera Ranjan Tshering said in an RTI reply to applicant Abhishek Shukla.

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PMPML cancelled hundreds of trips daily

Even as Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) faces flak for the poor frequency of buses on its several routes, especially in outer parts of the city, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed that it had cancelled average 160-170 trips daily against its scheduled trips in the last 14 months till February. Of late, the transport utility had cancelled average 183 trips per day in January and 144 in February this year with number of such cancellations even crossing 200 mark in August (297), September (211) and October (251) last year. Jugal Rathi of PMP Pravasi Manch, who had sought these details from PMPML through an RTI plea, has blamed poor planning on behalf of the transport utility that has been resulting in disparity in implementation of its own schedule.

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RTI applications flood education department

The successful implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, might have come as a boon for Indian democracy, but it is fast becoming a "menace" for the department of school education in Tripura. During the past week, the department has released altogether 4,712 offers of appointment for graduate school teachers out of 4,856 targeted. The remaining 144 offers are being kept in abeyance because of lack of candidates for the reserved categories of physically handicapped and ex-servicemen. The job bonanza, however, has sparked statewide resentment because in most of the cases the beneficiaries have turned out to be CPM cadres or relatives and family members of party leaders. But those deprived have now turned the heat on the school education department by flooding it with letters under the RTI Act, 2005, seeking a variety of information on job offers, including details of beneficiaries. "Till yesterday we received 206 such letters," said K.D. Das, deputy director of the department officiating as state public information officer. He said more letters were anticipated next week.

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Fraud by BSNL employees in Aligarh unearthed

Many of the taxis hired by the state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) office in the past decade for official reasons have turned out to be scooters and tractors, pointing to a massive fraud, a Right to Information Act activist has discovered. Bimal Khemani, an RTI activist, claims to have uncovered a multi-crore rupee fraud in hiring taxis for official transport by BSNL authorities in Aligarh between 1997 and 2008. "It is a very curious case of embezzlement of funds by the BSNL authorities," Khemani told IANS. He claimed that BSNL officials fudged records to embezzle funds. "They used fake
and fictitious registration numbers for taxis to embezzle crores of rupees of public money," he said.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Are even our cops scared of Pujari?

Gangster Ravi Pujari and his associate Kishore Bhavangir, who are wanted in several cases by Mumbai police, are a threat not just to the common man but to the cops as well. At least that is what crime branch officials have to say in a Right to Information (RTI) case. Richie Sequeira, president of Protection of Rights Association (PORA) had filed a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking the names of police officials who cleared the proposal to prosecute a builder Mahendra Agarwal under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Activity (MCOCA). Agarwal was acquitted by the Sessions Court in the case in March 2009. In response to this application, the police took refuge under the provisions of RTI that states that information which endangers lives must be denied. The RTI order states, "Even though Agarwal has been discharged under MCOCA by the court, Ravi Pujari and his associate Kishore Bhavangir are still wanted. The information might hamper the investigations and might endanger lives."

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Make RTI chairmanÂ’s appointment transparent

The Tamil Nadu Right to Information Campaign, demands that the appointment of RTI Commissioners be made more transparent. As the top three positions, Chief Commissioner and two other Commissioners would soon fall vacant, the TN RTI activists have planned to present a framework of guidelines for the appointment of commissioners to the Chief Secretary and the Deputy Chief Minister. Oosie Fernandes, Member of TN Right to Information Campaign, said: "So far there are no guidelines regarding the appointments of these commissioners. People are selected at random and appointed. We need people, who completely understand the law and the administrative aspects which are important in making the RTI implementation effective. If our recommendations are not accepted we will be left with the little option other than going to the High Court. Most of RTI activists, who spoke at the round table discussion on Wednesday, aired their opinions of how politically motivated all these appointments are."

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Kerala's CIC appears before Assembly panel

Kerala's Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas today appeared before an Assembly panel which had summoned him for alleged breach of privilege over a direction in a case relating to providing videotape of a speech made in the House by a member. The case pertained to a State Information Commission directing the Information Officer of the Legislature to provide video footage of a speech made by former minister T M Jacob on a no-confidence motion against the Oommen Chandy Ministry during 2005-06 to a lawyer who had filed an RTI plea. The matter was referred to the Privileges and Ethics Committee of the state Assembly by Speaker K Radhakrishnan as the SIC threatened to take action against the Information Officer of the Legislature, whose contention was that video footage was not part of the official documents of the House.

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How money is parked by "lax" civic officials

While the civic authorities slap parking charges on citizens for parking on the city's roads, which as per the parking policy should be free, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has failed to recover outstanding dues from parking lot contractors. At least Rs 8 lakh is outstanding with various contractors and PMC officials are not keen about collecting it. This information was revealed via an RTI (Right To Information) plea filed by Vijay Kumbhar and Sandip Khardekar. The period within which the charges should have been collected is long over. The PMC has smartly sidestepped the issue by saying that its officials have given"verbal warning to contractors" about the pending dues. It has "promised" to recover the money soon.

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Now, Nagpur info boss puts state board in fix

The Maharashtra state board of secondary education is in a quandary following Nagpur information commissioner Vilas Patil's order to provide answersheets to a student. Disposing of an application filed by the student, Patil accepted his plea that "answersheets are not confidential" and said that the boy's contention to go through his own papers under the Right To Information Act was justified. Well over a year ago, Pune information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar too had asked the state board to provide answersheets to a student, Abhijit Joshi. Then too, the board had strongly objected to the proposal, saying "it will set a bad precedent''. The board had contended that answersheets were confidential and not covered under the provisions of the RTI Act.

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Get BCCI under RTI too

Amidst the euphoria of the IPL competing strongly with the weepy prime time serials, the hysterical media has almost ignored a very significant move towards forcing our sports federations to become accountable and transparent in their functioning, especially in matters financial. Sports Minister MS Gill needs to be complimented for bringing all the federations into the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) Act, which in turn means the public will now have the right to know how and where the money given to them by the government (tax-payer) goes. Is the money being spent for the purpose it is meant for or does most of it get siphoned off, as is alleged by many? However, the sports body which generates enormous revenues and profits that could be the envy of any rich corporate body, unfortunately, does not fall under the gambit of this Act. The reason for the exepmtion presumably being it is a private body which does not take a single pie from the government and hence cannot come under governmentor public scrutiny. This is a false presumption, if one goes by the 2004 High Court ruling in the PIL filed against the Board by Rahul Mehra, a lawyer by profession, but an inveterate sports fan by nature. By admitting the PIL, the Court had in its judgment clearly said that the BCCI may be a private body, but it performs a public function and therefore comes under Article 226 of the Constitution (public scrutiny).

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Dav College gives 1.5-acre land to IITM for new courses

The governing body of DAV College-10, Chandigarh, a government-aided and affiliated college of Panjab University, has allotted 1.5 acres of college land to a private institute — Institute of Information Technology and Management (IITM) — for introduction of MCA/MBA programmes. Not only the land transfer but also the institute remains under the scanner as PU has issued notices to the college and raised objections for not having adequate staff, infrastructure and even a Director. The revelation comes from a document procured from Panjab University under the Right to Information Act by Dr Rajinder K Singla. This allottment of land/building for the proposed IITM under the aegis of DAV College was effected by a resolution on March 18, 2009 passed by GP Chopra (chairman) and RS Sharma (secretary) of the college governing body which has, through the resolution, foregone any right to revoke the allottment at a later date for whatever reason. The resolution confers upon the new yet-to-be established institute an inalienable right to possession of the piece of land, the building constructed on it and its use in whatsoever manner it chooses to decide.

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Civic body "takes it easy" on RTI applications

The officials of municipal corporation continue to show laxity in extending replies to queries submitted under Right to Information Act. During the year 2009-10, of 752 letters received under RTI, MC provided information to only 416 applicants. As many as 336 are still under scrutiny. The civic body has even failed to submit replies sought the state information commission in as many as 23 cases, due to which it has even been penalized. As the financial year drew to a close, officials were seen trying to finish as much work as possible. According to information, of 336 pending cases, the time limit of extending replies to 145 cases has already lapsed.

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More than 3 lakh cases pending in Bombay HC: RTI

Over three lakh cases are pending in the Bombay High Court, according to an information revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The details, dated till December 31, 2009 were given after local social worker Omprakash Sharma sought information in this regard. According to the RTI reply statement, there were as many as 3,38,183 cases were pending in the Bombay High Court and the sanctioned number judges in the court is 75 while the working strength presently is 63. Also, the figures of the division bench vary as per the assignment of judicial work. During the present assignment there are ten division benches at Bombay, three at Nagpur, three at Aurangabad and one at Goa, it said.

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CIC slams MCD, Delhi Police for non-cooperation

In a scathing indictment of MCD and Delhi Police, Central Information Commission said in a recent order that RTI Act had been rendered ineffective by the "non-cooperation" of the two agencies in stopping illegal encroachment in the Capital. Exercising powers of a civil court, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had ordered an inquiry into allegations of assault on an RTI appellant during a site inspection for encroachment. Instead of submitting a report, Delhi Police filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court while the MCD commissioner did not even respond.

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Punjab orders probe into multi-million agriculture scam

The Punjab government Monday ordered a high-level enquiry into the multi-million-rupee scam in the agriculture sector revealed through information obtained by an NGO through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal directed Chief Secretary S.C. Aggarwal to enquire into the scam and submit a report within one month.
As per the information obtained through RTI, senior officials misused their position to splurge public money in four special purpose vehicle (SPV) projects, namely Council for Citrus and Agri-Juicing in Punjab, Council for Value-Added Horticulture in Punjab, Organic Farming Council of Punjab, and Viti-Culture Council of Punjab.

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HC warns DFO for threatening advocate

Wondering how a forest officer could resort to threatening tactics against an advocate for filing an application under Right to Information Act, Justice C V Nagarjuna Reddy of the high court on Monday expressed displeasure at the attitude of the Sunder, district forest officer of Chittoor. The DFO was charged for threatening the advocate, K Ajeya Kumar, who had filed an application for information regarding the action taken under the Forest Act against his client.

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Sports Min brings National Federations under RTI Act

National Sports Federations can no longer avoid public scrutiny with the Sports Ministry today bringing them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, making it mandatory for them to appoint Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities.
The government today issued an order asking all the NSFs to immediately designate Central Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities according to Section five of the RTI Act 2005. "The government has decided to declare all National Sports Federations receiving grant of Rs 10 lakh or more as Public Authority under Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005.

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RTI reveals cops' neglect over dead bodies

A year after Rajasthan's Ganganagar police allegedly sold off the body of his 19-year-old son to a medical college, Rajkumar Soni is still fighting for justice. However, a Right to Information (RTI) application he filed has exposed big irregularities in how police here deal with unidentified bodies. Rajkumar Soni said, "If the police had cooperated the body could have been identified but they gave no notification in the newspaper...they have been running this racket for a while." Soni's son Rahul had died on May 26 last year under mysterious circumstances. The same day the police gave away the body to a local private medical college for research without notifying in any newspapers or making any other efforts to identify the body as per the law.

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Court tells Kerala CIC to appear before house panel

Kerala's Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Palatt Mohandas was Monday told by the state high court here to appear before the state assembly privileges and ethics committee over his order slapping a penalty on the house's information officer. A division bench of the Kerala High Court headed by Chief Justice J. Chalameshwar, hearing the CIC's petition questioning the house panel's power to summon him, asked him to appear before the panel as his petition can be taken up after he does so.

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"Threat" to whistleblower IIT teacher

An IIT Kharagpur administrator has warned a professor who revealed discrepancies in the 2006 admissions that he was "cutting" his hand by challenging the institutes, triggering charges of threatening the whistleblower. The "threat" was made before the Central Information Commission (CIC) as it heard Right to Information appeals by the professor, Rajeev Kumar, and has been recorded in the CIC's order — a copy of which is with The Telegraph. It is extremely rare for the CIC — India's apex RTI Act umpire — to record specific comments made by parties during hearings. "By doing this, you are cutting your hand," IIT Kharagpur officiating registrar T.K. Ghoshal told Kumar at the March 19 hearing at the CIC here, according to the order. The case is being heard by information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. The admission discrepancies revealed by Kumar — a computer science professor at IIT Kharagpur — denied at least 994 deserving students seats at the IITs in 2006, as was exposed by this newspaper.

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'Only 25 percent properties in Delhi pay tax'

Only 25 percent of the properties in the national capital are paying property tax, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) told the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has termed the revelation 'startling'. The revelation was made during a hearing of an appeal filed by an RTI applicant, Naved Ahmed, who sought information regarding property tax of a particular property in Okhla village. Municipalities levy tax on properties within their jurisdiction on the basis of their value. It is a major source of income for the civic agency.

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Notice issued to PMO for failing to reply to RTI

The Central Information Commission has issued a showcause notice to the Prime Minister's Office for not replying to an RTI query filed nearly one and a half years ago. After receiving a complaint from applicant Virendra Singh Sirohi, the Commission
had issued notices to the PMO on February 26 to explain their case. "But no comment was offered by the Central Principal Information Officer (CPIO). It may be presumed that the CPIO has nothing to say in this regard," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. Sirohi had sent a plea to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007 for conducting a fair inquiry into a case in which four individuals, as alleged by him, were falsely prosecuted. About a year later, he filed an RTI application seeking the status of his application, action taken and related information. "The Commission hereby directs the CPIO, PMO, New Delhi to respond to the request for information of complainant Virendra Singh Sirohi within 15 working days from the date of receipt of this decision," Habibullah said.

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Activist to fight for info on cases awaiting verdict

The Supreme Court’s refusal to share information regarding the number of cases awaiting pronouncement of judgments after completion of hearing is all set to reach the Central Information Commission (CIC). After his appeal against SC Chief Public Information Officer’s decision not to part with any information on cases awaiting verdict was dismissed, RTI activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh K. Batra has decided to move the CIC. “How can the Supreme Court say that it does not have the information when similar information is available in the Delhi High Court?” Batra told HT, adding
he would challenge the order before the CIC. “If the SC does not have this information how would the judges concerned track these cases?” he said. Batra had sought to know from the apex court CPIO the number of cases pending for judgments where arguments have been heard prior to December 31, 2007 and judgments were reserved. He had sought similar information regarding such cases in 2008 and 2009.

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State makes full use of RTI

The annual report of the AP Information Commission, submitted to the State Government on Friday, brought to light some interesting facts. In 2009 alone, a staggering 65,973 applications were filed under the Right to Information Act seeking information from government departments — six times more than the 8,864 filed in 2006, the year in which the commission was set up.The Revenue Department received the most number of applications at 27,442 and many of them were regarding land records and government revenue. However, therise in the number of applications was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of appeals and complaints. The Commission received 13,151 appeals and complaints during 2009. They are made when applicants are either denied information or provided with insufficient information.
Significantly, appeals from the rural public went up by 11 per cent from 2006 to 42 per cent in 2009. Information Commissioner R Dileep Reddy attributed the sharp rise to increased awareness about the RTI Act among the rural population. However, during the same period, the media and political parties did not seem to have much to complain about. Of the total number of complaints/ appeals, the media's share was just about 6.79 per cent while that of the political partieswas 0.21 per cent. The general public made 89.32 per cent appeals against 2.51 per cent by non-government organisations. 1.71 per cent of the appeals were made over service matters.

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State ill equipped to handle asbestosis: RTI report

For the first time in the state, the Industrial Health and Safety Department (IHSD) has said on record that there are about seven companies dealing with asbestos-related products, in reply to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act filed by Ahmedabad- based activist, Raghunath Manwar. Asbestos is a hazardous material that causes asbestosis. The IHSD has refused to disclose any information about precautions taken against the killer disease. In another RTI reply to Manwar on March 24, the IHSD has admitted that it has no equipment to detect asbestosis in the state. Recent replies to Manwar's RTIs by IHSD and Employees' State Insurance Corporation India (ESIC) have shown discrepancies in the number of workers or labourers working in companies dealing with asbestos.

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