Saturday, June 26, 2010

CIC slaps Rs 250 per day fine on info office

The chief information commissioner (CIC) has slapped a penalty of Rs 250 per day on the information officer of the state home department starting from May 31, 2010, till the time he provides the information sought by an IPS officer under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Prior to slapping the fine, the CIC sought personal appearance of the officer concerned to award him the opportunity to explain the reason behind the delay in providing the said information to the applicant but the officer in questioned not only failed to appear before the CIC but also did not find it important enough to inform the commission about the reason of his absence in advance.
The issue relates to an IPS officer, Amitabh Thakur, who is presently on a study leave for a management course at the Indian Institute of Management - Lucknow (IIM-L). Thakur had reportedly submitted an application to the public information officer (PIO) of the state home department, Madan Kishore Srivastava, on May 29 seeking copies of all the notings, comments, letters, orders and correspondences related to his study leave application that he had applied on April 3, 2008. After the PIO of the state home department failed to provide the information, the IPS officer took refuge of the CIC.

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Suri civic body vice-chairman suspended

Trinamool Congress has initiated an "investigation" into the Suri fiasco by seeking to know under the Right To Information Act which of its councillors voted against its official nominee to the post of chairmanship of Suri Municipality, even as the Pradesh Congress Committee initiated steps to expel councillor Ujjwal Chatterjee, who was appointed vice-chairman by new chairman Ujjwal Mukherjee, an independent candidate. "We have issued a showcause notice to Ujjwal Chatterjee seeking explanation as to why he should not be expelled for violating the party whip on voting and accepting the post of vice-chairman without the consent of the party," PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya said in Kolkata. Chatterjee was given a week's time to reply. The district Congress committee, meanwhile, issued showcause notices to five other Congress councillors who, too, did not vote for the Trinamool nominee. Bhattacharya said they would be suspended.

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ITAT judicial records under RTI

The judicial records held by the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal are within the purview of the Right to Information Act, the Central Information Commission has held. "We cannot accept the argument that because the information held by ITAT is in the form of only judicial record, such record is outside the purview of the RTI Act. The Supreme Court of India and High Courts, all have rules for disclosure of information both administrative and judicial. "The only requirement is that applicant must adhere to the particular rules in making an application under the RTI Act," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Official to pay fine for delayed service

The Karnataka Information Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on A H Bijapur, assistant registrar-cum-assistant administrative officer and public information officer, Dakshina Kannada District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. The Commission has levied the penalty under powers vested in it by section 20 (1) of Right to Information Act and directed that the penalty amount be paid out of the salary of the officer. The action against Bijapur follows for what the state information commissioner K A Thippeswamy, who passed the order, observed was failure on part of the official to discharge his duties as PIO. The officer had unduly delayed in providing the information sought by B Prakash Bhat and furnished the required information only when the president of the forum conducted an inquiry and took strong objection to the delay.

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Security service provider left in the lurch

In a major fillip to Kamal Shirahatti, an ex-serviceman who is waging a lone battle against Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Corporation, which owes over Rs 13 lakh for the security services provided by him, an RTI reply has revealed that the HDMC has not paid some of the bills to him as it has been claiming all along. Kamal, 69, a resident of Tabib Land here, is being made to run from pillar to post since the last 10 years just because of the reason that he is not ready to grease the palms of the corrupt officials there. The officers were telling him that the civic authority owes nothing to him and it has paid all the dues. This prompted Kamal to file an RTI application, seeking details of the payment made to his security agency Mayur Security Pvt Ltd from April 2006 to August 2008. In its reply, HDMC claimed that it has paid a total of Rs 4,26,684 through two cheques 567281 and 567282 during that period.

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RTI Regional Conference in Pune on July 2 and 3

Regional Conference: Media Information and Communication Centre of India and
FRIEDRICH EBERT STIFTUNG, India Office with RTI Forum for Instant Information (RFII)

Venue: Ambassador Hotel, Model Colony, Pune
Date: July 2nd and July 3rd (From 10 am on July 2 to Lunch time on July 3)

DETAILED SCHEDULE at http://www.box.net/shared/sxzc84604h

The two day seminar will focus on relevant issues concerning the RTI Act. The topics of the seminar include `RTI Act and Accountability in Governance', `Major challenges facing RTI with special reference to threat of life to whistleblowers'; Media's role in implementing RTI Act; How to use RTI effectively with special focus on Section 4 – inspection of files. The Seminar would conclude with recommendations and formation/strengthening of Pune RTI Forum.

Traditional chiefs, districts councils under RTI purview

Meghalaya's Chief Information Commissioner G P Wahlang has ruled that the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) and all traditional chiefs of the state fall under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005. The ruling came in the wake of a petition filed by the Federation of Khasi Jaiñtia and Garo People (FKJGP), an NGO, alleging non-compliance of the Syiem of Hima (chiefdom) Mylliem to furnish information on revenue collection of the Hima (traditional Khasi state). While examining the petition, Wahlang, observed that the Syiem (chieftain) was an administrative officer of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) as enshrined by Para 2(4) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and as confirmed by the Supreme Court in a case between T Cajee and Jormanik Syiem.

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MCD clueless about illegal colonies in city

Ever wonder why and how so many unauthorized colonies come up in Delhi, that too, so fast? No prizes for guessing the reason. But now, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) - which controls almost 93 per cent of Delhi's area - has admitted on record that it has no information about the landowning agency when it comes to unauthorized colonies. Moreover, the Slum and Jhuggi Jhopdi (JJ) Department of the civic body has also admitted that they have not carried out any survey in such areas. Sajida (who goes by a single name) from Mandavali, in a series of applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act first filed in November 2009, sought to find out certain details about Shashi Garden, Majboor Garden and Allah Colony in east Delhi.

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Post info on missing minors online: Central information commission

In a decision that could have far-reaching consequences for police establishments in metros, the central information commission (CIC) directed Delhi Police on Tuesday to post information regarding missing or kidnapped minors on their website. Najma Khan had sought information from police regarding boys and girls aged up to 18 years who went missing or were kidnapped between September 2004 and August 2007. She also wanted to know how many of such minors were alive, in how many cases culprits were arrested and the present status of such cases. When Delhi Police didn't provide a satisfactory reply, Najma approached CIC. Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah held the information sought by Najma was a matter of pressing public concern.

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CIC notice to MHA for delay in info on Netaji probe panel

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the ministry of home affairs (MHA) for delay of three-and-a-half years in giving information on the Justice Mukherjee Commission that was set up to investigate Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's death. CIC recently issued a show cause notice to the ministry asking why a fine of Rs 25,000 should not be slapped on it. Applicant Chandrachur Ghose had asked for information on "exhibits" mentioned in the Justice Mukherjee Commission report in November 2006. However, he is yet to receive any information. In an order issued recently the CIC issued a showcause notice asking CPIO S K Malhotra to reply by June 30 on why he should not be held liable for "deliberating obstructing furnishing of information sought despite orders from the Commission". However, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah also added that the CPIO could appear personally with the documents on July 14.

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Ahead of Games, Delhi Police

The Delhi Police is taking no chances as far as safety and maintenance of law and order during the Commonwealth Games are concerned — and it wants Delhiites to do the same.
In an expensive effort to seek public support to check crime and educate the capital's residents against possible terror threats, ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Police will spend over Rs 20 crore on advertising and publicity this year. "The amount is double that which had been spent on advertising and publicity in 2009-10," said a senior police officer requesting anonymity. Out of its total sanctioned budget of Rs 23 crore for advertising and publicity this year — up from the Rs 9.21 crore during 2009-10 and the Rs 10.19 crore in 2008-09, the Delhi Police has reportedly already spent nearly Rs 2.27 crore between April and May this year. The Delhi Police's total budget for the current year is Rs 2,755 crore.

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Dalit families get their land, thanks to RTI Act

Landless Dalit families in a Kancheepuram village have used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to prompt the district administration to hand over land that was originally allotted to them several years ago, thanks to the initiative of a grassroots NGO. A total of 106 Dalit families in Alisoor village were allotted 100 sq m by the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Housing and Development Board in 1998. The local district administration even issued the original patta document with individual plot numbers. However, the allotment remained on paper and the villagers never got the land though they approached the local administration several times. The families were residing in hutments on poramboke land, when in 2008, Kancheepuram-based NGO Hand in Hand started working in the village by forming self-help groups and began development projects.

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Jannath likely to bag CIC job

The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, on Monday decided to convene a meeting on June 30 to finalise the selection of the new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) to head the Right To Information (RTI) Commission. The current CIC, Mr C. D. Arha, will demit office in July having attained the upper age limt of 65 years. It is most likely that the special chief secretary working in the Chief Minister's peshy, Mr Jannath Hussain, will be picked for the post. As per the Right to Information Act, the selection panel must consist of the Chief Minister, the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly, which in this case is the Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, and a senior
minister nominated by the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister has nominated Dr J. Geeta Reddy, the minister for information, as the third member. RTI activists are unhappy with the selection procedure and have urged the state government to make it more transparent and document it properly. Led by the noted RTI campaigner, Mr C.J. Karira, they have submitted a letter to the special chief secretary, Mr S. Bhale Rao.

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Info can be given once probe is over, charge sheet filed: Mah CIC

Once a case is made and investigations completed, charge sheet and other relevant material filed in the court, then that information can be given to an applicant under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005. This was ruled by chief information commissioner Dr Suresh Joshi. CIC to challenge Delhi high court order in Supreme Court Joshi passed the order on June 11 following an application filed by former director general of police (housing) Rahul Gopal. Gopal had sought information under RTI through his application in March 2009 from the state home department, which was denied to him.
He had sought certified copies of the report filed by the then director of anti-corruption bureau (ACB) to the state government explaining interception (tapping) of two mobile and two land line numbers. He also sought the reason that lead to the application Indian Telegraph Act 1885 (of occurrence of public emergency and safety interest) due to which the tapping was conducted.

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CBI request for sanctioning prosecution not fiduciary: Gandhi

The CBI correspondence seeking sanction of prosecution cannot be termed as given in fiduciary capacity, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said in a dissenting note on the decision of a three-member bench of the CIC. It is for the first time where an Information Commissioner has expressed his dissent over a decision endorsed by the majority of commissioners on the bench. The case relates to the plea of C Seetharamaiah whose son, an inspector with Customs, is facing CBI probe in an alleged corruption case. Seetharamaiah had filed an RTI application seeking correspondence of CBI with the Additional Customs Commissioner requesting for sanction of prosecution and related documents.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Home ministry is examining Afzal Guru file

It's official. The file pertaining to parliament attack accused Afzal Guru is with the ministry of home affairs (MHA). In response to an RTI query, MHA confirmed receiving Afzal's file from the Delhi government and said it was "under examination in the home ministry". The query also revealed that the file has not been sent to the president's
secretariat for further action in the matter. This scotches rumours that the file is still with the lieutenant governor for want of clarification. The Delhi government swung into action and moved the file under pressure after the lone surviving 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab was handed down a death penalty by a special court in Mumbai. MHA had sent Afzal's file to the Delhi government in 2006 seeking its opinion on his mercy petition filed before the president. The file remained with the Delhi government for nearly four years despite MHA sending 16 reminders seeking its handover.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Assam Govt offices ignoring RTI Act

A section of those who use the Right To Information (RTI) Act in Assam have voiced concern over omissions and commissions by State Government authorities, which they say have undermined the actual purpose and intent of the Act. They told The Assam Tribune that a strong message has still not gone to government offices and establishments to carry out the provisions of the Act several years after it was adopted as a tool to promote probity in public affairs, including transparency in Government finances. An NGO worker based in Golaghat, who was among the pioneers who made use of the Act said, "From some time we have seen government officials gradually ignoring the provisions of the Act. In most cases these days we do not get the information within the stipulated 30-day period," he noted. He further pointed out that the State Information Commission has failed to rein in erring officials as a result of which they have not bothered to deal with RTI applications with due seriousness.

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W&M dept fails to inspect railway station, bus stand

The Weights and Measures department of the Punjab government has not been doing its job well. The fact came into light when Vishnu Dev, Director of Anand Security and Detective Services, wanted to know through the Right To Information Act whether weights installed at different bus stands and railway stations are regularly checked or not.
Dev was surprised to know that these weights have not been checked for years. More so, the annual fee from the railways as well as the transport department has also not been collected. Sources said weights measuring more than 3,000 kilograms are installed at a
railway station which are used by the parcel booking department. Dev said, "These weights are to be checked by the inspector of the weights and measures annually. But RTI revealed that no checking has ever been done at Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar and Ferozepur railway stations.

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Delhi policemen lack firing practice

Even as the national capital continues to be on the hit-list of terror groups, the Delhi Police has been found wanting for a clear-cut strategy. Headlines Today unearthed damning figures that lay bare a force that could end up inefficient and inaccurate if they were to face a terrorist in the capital. As it happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008-during one of the worst terror attacks in India-when the police force was caught napping, unprepared to take on the enemy, the situation is no different in Delhi even now. The policemen in Delhi lack basic firing practice. The fact came out in reply to a query under the Right to Information Act. Annual firing practice is regarded as the basic drill for every policeman to keep him fit and accurate to counter any eventuality like a terror attack. But in Delhi some of policemen get to fire just 10 rounds, once in a year. Guarding a vital installation in Delhi, the policemen confessed that they seldom get to practise firing. "We fire just 40 bullets once in a year," said the
policemen on patrol.

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3 years on, GIC yet to give final order on RTI dispute

Nearly three years ago, an appeal was made before the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) on an RTI application seeking details of tie-up between Dow Chemicals and the state-owned Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Limited. Now the final order is likely to be out within a month. Appu Abraham, Administrative Consultant with GIC, said the reply has been delayed because there are many pending cases with the Commission. The last
hearing in the case was held on June 23, 2009. Abraham added: "The final hearing is pending. It will be over in a month." On July 2, 2007, GACL had notified the stock markets that it had signed an MoU with Dow Chemicals. A few days later, on July 13, 2007, Chennai-based environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman filed an RTI application with GACL, seeking details of the tie-up.

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RTI plea returns undelivered

The office of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has no Public Information Officer (PIO) to receive applications filed under the Right to Information Act. An RTI application seeking details on who assisted (the then chief of Union Carbide) Warren Anderson, the main accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, to leave the country with full VVIP protocol, was returned `undelivered' to activist Subash Chandra Agrawal stating that "there was no post of PIO in CM's office, hence returned." Mr. Agrawal has approached the Central Information Commission asserting that the return of the application was refusal to furnish information, for which proceedings under Section 18 of the RTI Act should be initiated against the persons concerned. He wanted a direction to the Chief Minister's Office to respond to the queries contained in the June 9 application.

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Bihar ministers indulge in 'wasteful expenditure'

Accusing the ministers in Nitish Kumar cabinet of indulging in 'wasteful expenditure' of public fund, the RJD on Friday, dubbed this as a 'cruel joke' on the face of the ruling coalition's demand for special status for the 'poor state'. "It is nothing but a cruel joke on the people of Bihar...the ministers are pouring money on maintenance of vehicles and sprucing up their official bungalows and offices while the state's NDA government is demanding a special state category for poor Bihar," state RJD President Abdul Bari Siddiqui told reporters here.

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VMC's claim of best water management award falls flat

This January, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation went overboard in announcing its achievement by putting up huge banners which read, `Ministry of Water Resources and UNESCO awarded Vadodara Mahanagar Seva Sadan for Best Water Management and Remarkable Improvement in Distribution Network'. The banners also carried photograph of CM Narendra Modi, a trophy and certificate. But the same award is now haunting senior VMC officials, as a reply to an application under the RTI Act by the Ministry of Water Resources (Indus Wing), New Delhi, has revealed that the ministry does not give such awards and that it is not even aware about it.

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CIC asks LS Secy to give reasons for installation of statues

The Lok Sabha Secretariat has been asked by the Central Information Commission to put on its website details of every statue in Parliament precincts along with the reasons for granting permission for its installation. However, acknowledging that culling out reasons for permitting the installation of statues and posters of various leaders from the records of committee meetings in the entire post-independence period will be a "next to impossible" task, the Commission has given six months' time to the LS Secretariat to finish the exercise. Parliament has 48 statues and busts in its premises.

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MP CM's office returns RTI on Bhopal

A Right to Information (RTI) application seeking details on the escape of then Union Carbine chief Warren Anderson from India in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 has been reportedly returned by the office of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister. The Chief Minister's office has pleaded that it does not have the post of Central Public Information Officer, who deals with RTI applications, media reports claimed on Friday. The application was filed by social activist S C Agarwal, seeking to know if it was true that the then Chief Minister Arjun Singh assisted in the escape of Anderson from Bhopal on December 17, 1984. He had also asked about action taken against Arjun Singh by present Madhya Pradesh government and those guilty for the escape of Anderson.
However, the RTI application has been returned on a ground which stands contrary to the guidelines of the Act.

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CIC: 23 lakh records to be digitised

Nearly 9000 files in the office of the Information Commissioner have been digitised as part of the Central Information Commission's plan to convert 23 lakh pages of old records in digital format. The files of Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi's office have already been digitised while the process is on for the rest of the offices of seven commissioners, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and other officers. In the first phase, 12 lakh (1.2 million) pages are given for scanning and conversion in digital form.

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RTI activists seek details of info panel chief's trips

Right to Information (RTI) activists in the city have asked state governor K Sankara-narayanan to instruct state chief information commis sioner (SCIC) Suresh Joshi to furnish a report of the out come of his foreign tours made with public money If he fails to do so, the amount should be recovered from his salary. RTI activists Vihar Durve, Jugal Rathi, Vivek Velankar, Vijay Kumbhar, Shahid Burney, Ramesh Phondge and SB Repale have jointly sent a let ter to Sankaranarayanan. The activists have pointed out in the letter that Joshi travelled abroad four times between 2006 and 2010 by spending Rs11 lakh. He was expected to file a report about what he learnt from the tours regarding disposal of pend ing RTI appeals and ensuring utility of the law for common people.

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Info panel delivers first split verdict

Transparency watchdog Central Information Commission (CIC) has given its first split decision on whether an accused can seek information on the reasons for his or her prosecution sanctions. Two information commissioners, former bureaucrats AN Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra, said the information could not be provided under the Right to
Information Act, whereas the third commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, an RTI activist before he joined the commission, said it could be provided. RTI applicant Seetharamaih showed records of conversation between customs officials and the Central Bureau of Investigation for initiating proceedings against his son for alleged corruption practices. The Directorate of Customs and Taxation denied the information on the ground
that it was the property of the trial court, which can provide the information as per relevant criminal laws. Not satisfied, Seetharamaih appealed before the CIC.

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Tehsildar penalised for denying information

The state information commissioner has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a tehsildar for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The amount will be deducted from the salary of Tehsildar, Jalandhar-1, Rajiv Verma. Complainant Rabinder Singh had filed an application on February 10, 2009, seeking information on the tenure of Verma's predecessor Harminder Singh and the number of RTI applications receive and dispose of by him. With no reply in over three months, the complainant appealed to the deputy commissioner of Jalandhar on May 18, 2009. But despite orders from the DC, he was not provided with the information.

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PCRF-HT RTI awards enter second year

For the second year, nominations for the Right to Information awards, instituted by Public Cause Research Foundation and Hindustan Times are being invited. The awards are to honour the individuals who are keeping protecting the freedom of information. There are six awards in four categories — an Information Commissioner who enforced RTI Act strictly, two Public Information Officers who provided correct and complete information, and two citizens who used RTI and created public impact. A new category has been added for one journalist who used RTI to report on public issues. A person can apply himself or can be recommended by someone else.

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Health dept fined for delaying info

The failure of Director Health and Family Welfare's Office (DHFWO) in delivering information sought by a resident has led to the State Information Commission imposing a fine of Rs 20,000 on five of its personnel. The information seeker will have to be paid compensation amounting to Rs 10,000. Kuldeep Kaura, a resident of Urban Estate, Focal Point, had sought information on February 29 from Public Information Officer of DHFWO regarding placement of medical officers with effect from January 1, 1996, in the scale of Rs 10,125-15,100. However, the department failed to provide him the desired information and he filed a compliant with the State Information Commission on
June 23, 2008. The department supplied 230 pages of information, but the complainant was not satisfied and wrote a letter in this regard. After that he again got the same information, which he said was vague. Finally, the Sate Information Commissioner Kulbir Singh allowed the complaint of Kuldeep and imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 on PIO Dr Ashok Kumar Khullar and Rs 2,500 each on superintendent (grade II) Mohinder Singh, superintendent (grade I) Vinod Kumar, superintendent Satpal Dang and dealing assistant Manjit Singh.

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"Dow sought to pre-empt judicial outcome"

The Dow Chemical Company, which owns the erstwhile Union Carbide Company that was behind the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, might have systematically sought to pre-empt the judicial outcome of the case by putting pressure on officials at the Indian Embassy in Washington, it has emerged. This was revealed on Monday by non-governmental organisations that shared with media a response from the Indian Embassy to a Right to Information (RTI) application that they had filed in 2007. Earlier RTI applications filed in India had revealed a similar pattern of attempted influence by Dow on the Indian side. The NGOs, including the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and the Association for India's Development (AID), had gathered outside the Indian Embassy at the heart of Washington to protest against Dow Chemicals for its alleged role in the case.

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Alert citizen stops illegal cash flow

Dr Shriram Pande found residents in Sangvi were charged extra for water connections. He called PCMC authorities and asked for details on the same. The money was refunded
The best things in life are certainly not free. In fact, as Sangvi resident Dr Shriram Pande found, even the basic necessities such as running water sometimes cost more than they should. Pande found that contractors of the area were collecting money from people for giving them water connections in Pawar Lane in Sangvi. They asked him for Rs 200 as well. But he found the situation fishy and refused to pay them. Then he decided to apply Section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI) to find out the exact details of the water connection project. Pande said, "We came to know that the workers on the ongoing work of PCMC were collecting between Rs 100 and Rs 450 from the houses in the area. Since charging such money is illegal, I called up Additional Commissioner Subhash Dumbare and executive engineer Sharad Jadhav, and asked for the document related to the terms and conditions of the ongoing work." As a result of this, PCMC Deputy Engineer M V Marne visited the area with the document. According to the document, the ongoing work is part of a Rs 14.03-crore provision for development, out of which Rs 2.53 crore had been allotted for upgradation of water supply lines in Sangvi.

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Industrial effluents polluting Gujarat rivers

The Gujarat Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, a voluntary organisation working for environmental protection, has come out with startling facts on how the badly treated industrial effluents are being dumped in the major rivers in the State and in the sea.
The rivers include the Narmada, Mahisagar, Sabamarti and Damanganga and the sea outlet is in the Gulf of Cambay. Samiti convener Rohit Prajapati said all the shocking figures about the pollution contents in the sewage disposal had been obtained from the Gujarat
Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board through the Right to Information Act.

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Rosaiah strikes deal with Naidu on APIC posts

It’s most likely going to be a fixed match at the Andhra Pradesh Information Commission (APIC). With not only chairman C D Arha retiring but the other three members laying down office by November, a deal has been worked out by chief minister Rosaiah with leader of opposition Chandrababu Naidu, suggest highly placed sources. As part of this deal, Rosaiah’s principal secretary Jannat Hussain will be the new chief but Naidu
will be able to get ‘men of his choice’ as information commissioners.

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Road widening driving citizens to surveying firms

With BBMP not providing complete information in TDR notices they despatch, residents are hiring land surveyors to measure their property for accurate data. Residents of Bengaluru are now hiring private surveyors to measure their property, which is marked for road widening by BBMP. This is because the BBMP's Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) notices do not provide detailed information on how much land will be required for acquisition. In April this year, residents of Golden Corner Apartments on Sarjapur Road received a notice from the BBMP, informing them about acquisition of a portion of their property for road widening. The notice says the road is to be widened by 45 feet and that the Apartment Association should submit land records using the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) form. The notice does not mention anything about the amount of land required to be acquired from the apartment. A marking on a pole outside the apartment indicates '5.3 m' with an arrow pointing towards the building. A subsequent Right to Information (RTI) application to the BBMP revealed that an average of 7.4 metres throughout the length of the property is proposed for acquisition. This again was only an average for the entire stretch of road to be widened.

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Rajasthan Govt Asked to Disclose Info Against Raje

The Chief Information Commission of Rajasthan has asked the state government to disclose reasons that led to the constitution of a commission to look into allegations of corruption against the previous BJP government. Pursuant to an RTI application, the CIC has directed Department of Personal (DoP) to seek information from the Chief Minister's Office on what led to the setting up of Mathur Commission to probe allegations of corruption amounting to Rs 22,000 crore and power misuse by the Vasundhara Raje regime during 2004-2008. The CIC, in its May 10 notice, also sought disclosure of all official notings and decisions taken to appointment Mathur panel including the approval of the Governor. An RTI applicant had approached CIC after the High Court held illegal the constitution of the panel. However, the information was not made available under the provisions of RTI Act.

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Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar allotted 2 bungalows

Conflicting replies from the government relating to the 6, Krishna Menon Marg bungalow has deepened the mystery around the house. Two departments of the urban development ministry seem to have contrasting views on the issue with the Directorate of Estates saying the bungalow, which was allotted to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar during her tenure as a minister in UPA-1, is yet to be allotted to someone, while CPWD has said that it is still in the name of the Speaker. Kumar was allotted another bungalow at 20, Akbar Road after she was elected Lok Sabha Speaker last year. Replying to an RTI query by S C Agrawal, CPWD on June 3 said, "As per office records, bungalow number 6, Krishna Menon Marg is in the name of Meira Kumar."

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Battery run Reva cars eating into police coffers

The battery operated Reva cars, launched in 2006, are proving to be an expensive
proposition for the Chandigarh Police. Eating into its coffers, the environment-friendly cars meant to save on fuel has cost lakhs of rupees to the Chandigarh Police on its repair and maintenance. On November 24, 2006, the Chandigarh Police inducted three Reva Electric cars into its patrolling fleet of cars. The price of each car was Rs 3,26,454 at the time of purchase. An RTI application filed by Newsline revealed that the police has incurred an expenditure of over Rs 4.2 lakh on the repair and maintenance of these cars since the time they were purchased — a figure that would have cost the Chandigarh police another car. In these four years, the cars have been making repeated rounds of the workshop, making the much touted cars a source of trouble for the police. While the ride in the initial two years was smooth, the last 15 months have seen the cars eating into the cops treasury.

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RTI cases piling up, Commission seeks state govt

Alarmed with the rising number of pending RTI complaints, the State Information Commission is learnt to have apprised the state government of the increasing work pressure on Information Commissioners. The commission — where as many as 32,811 cases were pending at the end of March — has also suggested ways to lessen the burden of complaints. The government, in response, has shot a missive to various departments asking them to cooperate. The letter issued by Secretary Anita Singh directs departments to do away with the practice of deputing juniors officers at case hearings and asks Public Information Officers and First Appeal Officer to be present there. This will reduce the pendency of cases as "in the absence of PIOS, we are left with no other options but to further postpone the hearing," said Information Commissioner Gyanendra Sharma.

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Anderson extradition not a high priority for Indian govt

"GOI [the Government of India] officials may feel that, for political reasons, they need to be perceived as being concerned about extraditing Mr. Anderson although this does not currently appear to be a high priority bilateral issue for the GOI," reads a document sent to the U.S. State Department from the U.S. consulate in Mumbai in July 2004. Documents obtained by Bhopal activists from the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act, the American equivalent of the Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act, reveal that the extradition of Mr. Warren Anderson, the then CEO of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), prime accused and absconder in the criminal case against him and 11 others, might be more complicated than it appears.

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UT initiates eviction proceedings against Strawberry fields school

Chandigarh 2.2-acre plot in Sector 24 on which the school functions was resumed 16 years ago. The Chandigarh Administration has initiated eviction proceedings against a city school after a Right to Information (RTI) query revealed that it was functioning
on a plot resumed by the Estate Office 16 years ago. The file of the matter was gathering dust till a Chandigarh resident filed an RTI application recently. Now, after going through the record, Assistant Estate Officer Hargunjit Kaur has initiated eviction proceedings against Strawberry Fields School, Sector 24. According to information obtained under the RTI Act, 2.262 acres of land was allotted in 1967 for construction of the Nehru Study Centre. The land was allotted on leasehold basis.

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CIC asks MCD not to reject RTI missive on flimsy grounds

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) not to reject right to information (RTI) applications on "flimsy" grounds. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has refused to accept an RTI application addressed to its central public information officer (CPIO) saying there was no such post in its office. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said a citizen has no means of knowing as to which public information officer within the Municipal Corporation of Delhi or any other department should be addressed. "It is for the department to ensure that any communication received in the capacity of an RTI application should be accepted and further forwarded to the concerned public information officer," he said while hearing the plea of activist SC Agarwal.

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Government moots amendments to RTI Act

The Right to Information (RTI) Act will be amended to avoid frivolous or vexatious requests and prevent the Centre from disclosing information relating to the Cabinet papers so as to ensure the smooth functioning of the government. The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions gave this information to RTI activist Subash Chandra Agrawal, who wanted to know whether there was a proposal to introduce amendments in the Act. The government also said that the office of the Chief Justice of India would be protected in view of the sensitivity involved. It must be noted that the former CJI, K.G. Balakrishnan, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the Act might be amended so that certain personal information regarding judges need not be disclosed under the RTI application.

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RTI query proves costly, Pune teacher sacked

A teacher was sacked by her school for seeking information on salaries and qualifications of colleagues under the Right to Information Act. The school in Kothrud, run by Raja Shivray Pratishtan Society, also did not give her the information sought, stating it had not received an original copy of her application. Prita Shinde, the sacked teacher, had joined the school on August 1, 1989. Her grouse was that despite being senior and having the necessary educational qualifications, she was not being paid what was due to her. "At the time of joining, I was a commerce graduate and was an MA in Marathi. In 2000, the school board revised the rules for a teacher's qualification and made a DEd certificate compulsory," said Shinde.

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Ex-PP ordered to hand over all case files

The director of prosecution has written to former public prosecutor (PP) Winnie Coutinho asking her to hand over all the case files currently in her possession. "You were directed to hand over all the case files with you along with the list to the undersigned. However, till date you have not handed over the case files with you nor the list of cases as directed. You are required to comply with the government directions immediately," wrote director of prosecution Shobha Dhumaskar in a letter on June 4.

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'Give ministers' assets after taking nod of LS, RS Chiefs'

The Central Information Commission on Monday directed the Prime Minister's Office to declare the assets of Union ministers after getting clearance from Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairperson. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said clearance from both the authorities will also be needed for any other RTI queries seeking details of Union ministers. The matter relates to RTI application of Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who sought information on assets, wealth and income of all the union ministers from Cabinet Secretariat. But the matter kept on shuttling between the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat as to who holds the requisite information. It was finally concluded that the PMO would provide information.

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Study: Former babus stumbling block to RTI implementation

Civil society has launched a campaign to replace outgoing ex-babus in information commissions with non-bureaucrats. The move gains momentum because in 2010 vacancies will come up in not just the Central Information Commission (CIC) but also state information commissions in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Orissa. Krishnaraj Rao, Mumbai RTI activist, hopes that civil society representatives will inundate administrative agencies like the DoPT at the Centre with applications to become information commissioner. Rao and Chennai-based Madhav Vishnubhatta insist that the campaign is not against bureaucrats. All that they want is to see a fair and transparent selection process in place. They are also helped in part by the criterion laid down for information commissioners which only says "eminent citizens from all walks of life" are eligible for the position.

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Depts stave off queries claiming immunity

The Right to Information Act is meant to make all government departments accountable but some have found a way to get around it claiming that the government stake in their outfit is far too less for them to field RTI queries. However, a close analysis of these organisations reveals that they actually enjoy a substantial funding from the government and yet prefer to call themselves RTI-proof. Take for instance, GVK Emergency Medicine and Research Institute (EMRI), which enjoys 100 per cent government stake but has to date not appointed any information officer. "We do not know whether we come under the Act and we do not have a public information officer to deal with queries,'' said Venkat Chengavalli, CEO, GVK EMRI. So, in February this year, when a citizen filed an application with GVK EMRI, seeking information on a patient who was taken to hospital in a `108' ambulance, he was denied the same. He filed a second appeal at the A P Information Commission recently. However, the commission turned down
the application on grounds of it being technically inadmissible.

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Appoint PIO within 15 days, GSIC tells GCZMA

Blaming the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) for showing "total disregard to the provisions of the RTI Act and depriving the citizen of his right to seek information", the Goa state information commission (GSIC) has once again directed the GCZMA to appoint a public information officer (PIO) within 15 days of its order issued on June 1, 2010. The commission also ordered that, on his appointment, the public information officer of the GCZMA should dispose the application of V A Kamat, a Panaji-based member of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan. Kamat had filed the application on July 4, 2009. A copy of the commission's order has been sent to the chief secretary.

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Information panel notice to NU pro-VC, registrar

The Amravati bench of State Information Commission (SIC) has issued show-cause notices to Nagpur University pro-vice chancellor GS Parasher, who is first appellate officer, and registrar (Acting) Debendranath Mishra, who is public information officer, for their failure to follow its directives. They were asked why action should not be initiated against them. The notices were issued after secretary of Civil Human Rights Protection Association Prakash Bansod lodged a complaint in this regard to the SIC alleging that the officials had violated the provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act.

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SDO under scanner for giving wrong information

The Punjab State Information Commission has held Ludhiana civic body officials guilty of providing wrong information. SDO Hakam Singh has been pulled by the commission for giving wrong information to the complainant in the indoor stadium case. As per Kuldeep Singh Khaira from the Vigilant Citizen Forum, the MC had paid Rs 98 lakh as advance mobilisation funds to the contractor for the indoor stadium. This information is clearly mentioned in the account books of the corporation while the MC official allegedly told Khera that no advance payment had been made.

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Contradictory HC verdicts force CIC to knock SC door

Caught between the contradictory judgments by the Delhi and Patna high courts on whether the Central Information Commission (CIC) can frame its rules to hear RTI appeals, the information panel has decided to approach the Supreme Court for a final verdict. The national transparency watchdog, in its weekly meeting attended by all the
nine information commissioners and chaired by Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, decided to move the SC to end confusion on the issue. The move was triggered by a Delhi high court verdict on May 21, declaring that the commission had no power to set-up benches for hearing RTI appeals or form inquiry committees. The court, in its judgment, quashed the information watchdog's 2007 regulation that empowered it to set up benches to hear RTI disputes and appoint inquiry committees.

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J&K HC issues notice to CS

Justice Sunil Hali of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Jammu Wing has sought information from the Chief Secretary regarding steps taken or constitution of State Information Commission. A notice was accordingly issued with a direction to file objections by or before July 20, 2010. This order was issue in a petition filed by one Lalit Kumar in which the counsel for the petitioner submitted that Right to Information Act 2009 had been promulgated and section 12 of said Act provides constitution of State Information Commission. It is further submitted that no such State Information Commission has been constituted as a result of which provisions of the Act have become incapable of being implemented. Upon this Justice Sunil Hali directed the Registry to list this case on July 26, 2010.

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RTI applicant from Draggar Khansahib, Budgam attacked

An RTI applicant from Draggar Khansahib district Budgam Ghulam Nabi Shah (s/o Shamas ud din Shah, r/o Draggar Khansahib Budgam) was attacked after filing an RTI application on 31 May 2010. The applicant has sought details about money distributed under housing scheme for poor call Indira Awaas Yojna (IAY). He also asked information about NREGA works executed in his village. Shah says there is lot of bungling in these schemes especially in Khansahib block of Budgam district. He went to file RTI in BDO's office at Khansahib on 31st May 2010 around 11 am. The BDO told him wait as his clerk was not there. In the meanwhile he was caught hold by some contractora who are political workers of local MLA Hakim Yaseen along with them one one official from BDO office Gulzar who is a Village Level Worker (VLW) of Mujpathree. These people beat him and threatened to kill him along with all the those people who file RTI in BDO office in future. Ghulam Nabi was hurt on face,eye and has got a medical record fo the same.

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City based techie uses RTI Act to bring about

The RTI Act is a revolutionary weapon in the hands of public and if used the right way, it can bring about a change in the society. Vivek Deveshwar, a city based software consultant is doing his bit to popularize the Act among citizens in Bangalore. Only about 10 per cent of India's 1.2 billion population is said to be aware of the Right to Information (RTI) Act which grants citizens the right to access government documents. Nevertheless, its power and potential is unmatched. For a small fee, any Indian, can step up to the government agency and take his or her shot. Vivek Deveshwar an RTI activist is doing his bit in Bangalore to popularize the RTI act. Vivek, who is a software consultant, became an RTI activist about a year ago and ever since he's filed 20 Right to Information (RTI) applications and is now trying to spread awareness in his neighborhood. "The RTI act is a harbinger of change. We can make a difference if we know how to use it. People often complain about the lack of action by government and local bodies but I realized that if we don't take matters in hand, nothing will come out of it. So I started conducting RTI classes in my neighborhood on weekend and so far nearly 10-15 people have benefited from it,"

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RTI Act helps 71-yr-old to settle decade-old fight

He is 71 years old now. For almost 11 years of his retired life, he fought with the management of Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL) for his incentives. Finally, he had to take recourse to the Right of Information Act (RTI) to get justice. Fortunately, the final tussle came cheap as he had to spend only Rs 30. Vasant Pingan, who was working with HAL since 1961, had retired in 1999 after 38 years of service. Thereafter, he had to lock horns with the management, as it refused to part with Dearness Allowance (DA) for its retired employees. As per an agreement between the employees and HAL, the company had to pay DA to employees when it improved its financial condition. But, later HAL disbursed DA only to current employees and ignored ex-employees like Pingan. Pingan objected to the denial of assured DA and complained at various levels, as HAL turned a deaf ear to his protest. When he came to know about the RTI Act last year, he made an application to HAL, enquiring about DA for retired personnel. But the company stonewalled this effort too by claiming that the information sought is a personal one. Finally, he appealed to the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) and posted all documents. This cost only Rs 30. When HAL came to know that Pinjan had approached the CIC, his former employer decided to sign the incentive cheque for him and delivered it to his home.

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Property title deeds can be tracked on net

Citizens trying to procure title deed documents of their residential and commercial properties from offices of the department of registration and stamps across the state will have reason to cheer. State chief information commissioner (SIC) Suresh Joshi last month directed the registration department to put up details of all registered documents on its website, including information like the registrar's office where douments would be available. "If the order is not complied with, the applicant can approach the SIC again and he will be compensated. The public information officer will be penalised,'' said Shailesh Gandhi, central information commissioner. The order followed an RTI query by Borivli resident Deepak Furia, asking for the basic procedure of procuring title deed documents. Officials admitted over 1 lakh original documents prior to 2002 were pending in various offices. The directive, he said, will mean citizens "need not file an RTI query, but take a copy of the registration number to the office and ask them to provide the documents".

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Central information commission fines IIT-Kharagpur officials

The central information commission (CIC) has fined two officials of IIT-Kharagpur Rs15,000 each, to be deducted from their salaries, for giving incomplete information to an RTI applicant and delaying it by 60 days. CIC also awarded a compensation of Rs5,000 to the applicant for the "loss and detriment". Rajeev Kumar, a professor in the elite institute, had sought the RTI Act details regarding visiting, guest or contractual faculty at Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law at the IIT. He also wanted to know the remuneration to such faculty since July 2006. But he didn't get complete information and complained to CIC. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, " ... no reasonable cause has been provided for the complete failure by TK Ghosal and TK Mukherjee to provide complete information ..."

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Tripura transparency panel violating law: RTI activist

A Right to Information activist Wednesday asked Tripura Governor D.Y. Patil to stop the functioning of the state information commission (SIC) in violation of the law. Agartala, June 2 (IANS) A Right to Information activist Wednesday asked Tripura Governor D.Y. Patil to stop the functioning of the state information commission (SIC) in violation of the law. 'After the retirement of the only information commissioner eight months back, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) B.K. Chakraborty passing orders everyday in the name of the state information commission is a violation of the provisions of the Right to Information Act,' RTI activist and former legislator Tapas Dey said in a letter to the governor.

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Fly in fear: 42 pilots found drunk in 2009

As many as 42 pilots were found drunk while reporting for duty for last year and eight of them were sacked. The rest were either grounded or suspended for brief periods. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the regulator responsible for civil aviation safety in the country, on Wednesday released information about the punishment given to drunk pilots without revealing details of crew, airlines or flight numbers.

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CWG OC Struggling To Raise Rs 1,600 Crore To Repay Loan

Will the 2010 Commonwealth Games' Organising Committee (OC) be able to repay Rs 1,600 crore it has taken as loan from the Centre to host the mega event? OC's reply to an RTI filed to find out the amount of money so far raised from the sponsorship of the Games, paints a grim picture. With just four months to go for the Games, the OC has been able to raise just Rs 243 crore through sponsorship deals. Sponsorships, apart from television rights, are expected to form the major chunk of money for the organisers, who are also expecting to raise some money through merchandising and ticket sales. According to OC's reply to the RTI on May 11, it has on board only five sponsors — Air India, NTPC, Hero Honda, Central Bank of India and Coca Cola — for the Games so far. It has raised Rs 143 crores in cash from the sponsors and got Rs 60.70 crore in kind. Another Rs 100 crore has been promised by the Indian Railways.

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Failure to provide info costs babus Rs 80 lakh

Ever since the landmark Right To Information (RTI) Act came into force five years ago, nearly 750 babus have paid a fine of around Rs 80 lakh for their failure to provide documents as per the provisions of law. The performance of information officers and the misuse of the Act prominently figured in a high-level meeting between chief minister Ashok Chavan and chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi. "No doubt, on occasions the RTI Act is misused. However, the performance of our information commissioners is excellent. A total of 98% cases were disposed of and that too, in a time-bound period. We will consider an amendment of the RTI Act to stop its misuse,'' Chavan said.

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Certificate from School using RTI

My staff car driver (Class IV employee) last week approached me for want of a certificate from where his wife did her school in Sivaganga Tamil. The need for the certificate required to apply for the post of Primary School Teacher in Andaman where in a certificate on candidates studied in Tamil medium was asked to enclose. As usual request were made to issue a certificate in this effect. But No takers to give proper reply. Some of her relatives visited the school & got the negative reply. It was also informed that it is not possible now to give such certificate. Again matter refered to me. I advised to to file RTI & drafted a application. It was faxed to some relatives and then the same was handed over to school with fee. On second day, he got the reply from School that she did her studies in Tamil Medium.

Posted by Mr Krishnamoorthi on the HJ group

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Info panel chief seeks govt help

Facing a revolt within, Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, has sought help from the government to avoid a conflict between the higher judiciary and the information watchdog. Habibullah's desperate call comes after some of his colleagues at the Central Information Commission (CIC) openly questioned the May 21 verdict of the Delhi HC, declaring the commission had no power to set-up benches to hear RTI appeals
or form inquiry panels. The court quashed the CIC's 2007 regulation that empowered it to set up benches to hear RTI disputes and appoint inquiry committees. The order has put a question mark over the legality of various CIC benches, apart from the main bench headed by Habibullah. At least four commissioners out of nine have expressed displeasure at the order.

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Another RTI activist killed in Maharashtra

Another Right to Information (RTI) activist has been murdered in Maharashtra. Datta Patil, an activist from Ichalkaranji in the Kolhapur district, was found dead on May 22. This is the latest among the increasing number of attacks against activists in Maharashtra. Less than 6 months ago, RTI activist Satish Shetty, had been killed in Talegaon near Pune. Patil who was well known in his hometown Ichalkaranji in the Kolhapur district for taking on administrators via the RTI act was attacked with a sword. Friend and activist Appa Patil said, "He was involved in a lot of social causes.
He exposed corruption amongst several politicians and bureaucrats."

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NSCS case:RTI reply shows cracks in police theory

Loopholes seem to be emerging in the probe into the 2006 National Security Council Secretariat spying case as an RTI reply said there is no record of Delhi Police seeking NSCS' opinion on documents found in computer of an accused, which later became the basis of his arrest. The Delhi Police had claimed that it had sought the views of the Secretariat on two electronic documents recovered from the computer of one of the accused, retired Navy Commander Mukesh Saini. A director at NSCS, Vinod Kumar Mall, had opined that possession of the said documents was unauthorised and classified which became the basis of Saini's arrest under the Official Secrets Act. However, in an RTI reply to Saini, the NSCS has said there are no entries in its records of receiving such communication from Delhi Police.

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Govt avoids RTI poser on pvt practice of law of law officers

An RTI application enquiring about the norms governing private appearances of senior law officers of the government has elicited an ambiguous response from the law ministry. The half-baked reply from the department of legal affairs, which comes under the ministry, came in response to an RTI filed by well-known activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal. Aggarwal, in his plea, based on a TOI news report, sought to know if additional solicitor general (ASG) A S Chandhiok had sought permission from the government to represent a man facing prosecution in a criminal case. He also sought to know details of distribution of cases between counsels on the government panel, mode of deciding payment of fees, and file notings on the movement of his RTI plea. The ministry sat on Aggarwal's plea, overshooting the prescribed time limit to reply. Then said in its delayed response that it had not received ``any communication" with respect to the case fought by the ASG and enquired about in the RTI.

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Government awards backdoor contract

A local contractor today addressed a letter to the Home Commissioner of Nagaland
expressing deep pain that a contract for wheat was awarded to another contractor-firm which had not even participated in the "tender process." Contractor A Neangba Konyak said in his representation to the commissioner that information sought under the Right to Information Act (RTI) had thrown up this disturbing dealing of the state government. The contract was given despite Konyak being recommended for the contract by the Tender Evaluation Committee, the letter said.

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No right to probe cops: RTI activist harassed in Bikaner

Thirty-two year old Goverdhan Singh has paid a heavy price for running a campaign against corruption in his native district of Bikaner. A 100 Right to Information (RTI) applications filed by him exposed corruption in banks and government departments, but things got uncomfortable for Goverdhan when he asked questions about the properties and assets of police personnel. Overnight there were nine FIRs lodged against him. "As soon as I filed an RTI application against the police, they started putting cases against me, so that I stop my activism," said Goverdhan. The police also raided his house, seized his car and locked his office. Goverdhan's family members say they are being constantly harassed. "The police threaten us. They say they will kill my son in an encounter," says Goverdhan's wife.

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Only 19 sports bodies are RTI compliant

The National Sports Federations (NSFs) always reject the allegations of not being transparent. But when it comes to putting these claims into practice, the NSFs take their own time. This becomes clear from the fact that only 19 out of 45 NSFs have fulfilled their obligations under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 even after the expiry of extended deadline. According to information provided by the Sports Ministry, seven NSFs wrote back saying they needed more time to fulfil the obligation. While the Special Olympics Bharat proposed to appoint the same person as Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and appellate authority, which the ministry turned down, the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) cited a pending case in the Delhi High Court as the reason for not becoming RTI compliant. The remaining NSFs didn't even bother to respond. The Ministry had issued an order on March 30, asking all affiliated NSFs that
get Rs 10 lakh or more as grant to appoint a CPIO and an Appellate Authority (AA) as per the RTI Act. The NSFs were told that grant would be stopped should they fail to comply.

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Court stays CIC order on Delhi Metro pillar collapse

In a reprieve for the Delhi Metro, the Delhi High Court Friday stayed a Central Information Commission's (CIC) order directing it to disclose the design of a pillar which collapsed last year killing six people. The CIC had last month directed the Delhi Metro to make public all the structural drawings related to the pillar at Zamrudpur in south Delhi in larger public interest. Architect Sudhir Vohra had sought details of both the pile foundation and the superstructure, including all steel reinforcement details, foundation details, engineering calculations and soil tests for the cantilevered bracket of metro pillar number 67 on the upcoming Central Secretariat-Badarpur line.

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‘Delhi HC order 'impinged' on the autonomy of CIC'

In a scathing criticism of the Delhi High Court order scrapping the procedure followed by CIC for disposal of appeals, Information Commissioner M M Ansari on Friday said the order has impinged the autonomy in the functioning of the panel. "Not only autonomy in the functioning of the CIC has thus been impinged upon but the future course of action, in respect of protecting the rights of information seekers, has been halted at the costs of jeopardizing the on-going RTI movement launched by the civil society and strongly supported by the UPA Government," Ansari said.

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Answer-sheets covered under RTI: Punjab information panel

In what could be a landmark decision, the Punjab Information Commission Thursday ruled that a candidate appearing in a competitive examination for employment in government service has the right to access evaluated answer scripts after declaration of results.
Ruling that an answer-sheet is "information" within the meaning of Right to Information (RTI) Act and its disclosure is not prohibited under the transparency law, the commission even said this right extends to accessing not only their own answer-sheets but also those of other competing examinees.

Speaking for the five-member full bench of the commission, Chief Information Commissioner Ramesh Inder Singh observed: "Post-declaration of the result, any disclosure will only lend transparency to the competition and thereby reaffirm faith in the fairness of the system, by placing the entire process in public domain".

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

CIC to approach SC as ICs refuse to work

India's FoI watchdog the Central Information Commission "CIC" has decided to approach the Indian Supreme Court next week against a recent order of the Delhi High Court which has caused at least 3 of its members to inform the Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah that they shall not be hearing cases from next week as this would amount to contempt of court. India's federal Freedom of Information law came into effect from 13 October 2005 as the Right to Information Act and over 12,000 decisions have been delivered by the CIC till now usually by Information Commissioners deciding matters independently of each other, and often disagreeing with each other. With over
25,000 matters still pending with the CIC, India's citizens are getting increasingly frustrated with the long delays of over a year for their FoI applications to be decided.

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CIC to seek legal sanction for its benches

The Central Information Commission plans to approach the government for amendments in Right to Information rules to give legal sanction to the benches it has constituted. The Delhi High Court had recently struck down the CIC's management rules and questioned the validity of benches constituted by the commission to hear its cases. Sources said CIC is likely to ask DoPT for changes in RTI rules. Incidentally, the government had proposed this as part of amendments to the RTI Act. However, that is likely to be a long drawn affair as the process of consultation has not even begun.

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2 Information Commissioners Stop Work After HC Order

At least two Information Commissioners at Central Information Commission today postponed the hearing of appeals till the government clears the air on the constitution of benches at the panel. Information Commissioners A N Tiwari and Deepak Sandhu did not carry out hearings today. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah is out of
station at present. When contacted, offices of both the Commissioners confirmed that hearings have been postponed because of last week's Delhi High Court decision on the working of the transparency panel. Rest of the Commissioners carried out hearings of scheduled cases.

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Babus can't charge extra fee for RTI plea

In a decision that will have far-reaching consequences, prime minister Manmohan Singh has given a big relief to right to information (RTI) applicants. He has directed that no fee be charged from an applicant on account of postal expenses or deployment of manpower for supplying information. The department of personnel and training (DoPT) works under the PM. DoPT, which looks into RTI applications, has issued a directive saying a public information officer (PIO) cannot charge any extra fee for supplying information other than what has already been prescribed by law.

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Slain RTI activist had ruffled many feathers

RTI activist Dattatray Patil (47), who was murdered here on Saturday, took on every
powerful lobby in this powerloom town in pros­perous western Maharashtra. After 10 Congress corporators crossed over to the BJP last year, he initiated an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) probe into the sus­pected horse-trading, which meant trouble for everyone of the 57 corporators. "Except for one corporator, who is a neighbour, no other corporator called on us after his death," said Dattatray's elder brother Kshamananda.

Dattatray had also filed cas­es against co-operative handloom societies, which were meant for the disadvantaged but controlled by the rich from the upper castes. There are nearly 350 such soci­eties in Ichalkaranji. "Any of these lobbies could be behind his murder," alleged Kshamananda. As if this was not enough, Dat­tatray had also filed a case against the former superintend­ent of police for constructing a new police station building at Jaisinghpur, partly with 'dona­tions' from the police.

Dattatray stayed in a ram­shackle bungalow at Gandhi Camp with the families of his other two siblings. While the eld­er brother managed the joint fam­ily's jaggery business, Dattatray looked after the 27 acres of farm­land the family owned. He was on his routine evening visit on his motorcycle to a field, six km away at Shivnakwadi, when he was waylaid and stabbed to death around 6 pm. A farm hand called up Dattatray's family on notic­ing his body in the fields.

******* Times of India Page 7 ( Pune Edition) Report by Ani Singh *****

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Maharashtra CIC orders early return of property papers

Residents of Maharashtra who registered their properties before 2002 and have been struggling ever since to get the original papers can now look forward to some relief.
In a decision that is likely to benefit lakhs of householders in the state, state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi has directed the additional chief secretary (revenue and rehabilitation) and the inspector general of registrations to publish details of all registration documents with current status and invite people to take their original papers, duly registered, back. Joshi issued the order at a hearing on May 15 of an application filed under the Right to Information Act by Deepak Furia, who was tired of running from pillar to post to find out the procedure for getting back his original documents submitted at the registration office.

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CIC benches to continue hearings: Habibullah

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah on Tuesday convened a meeting of all the Information Commissioners to discuss the Delhi High Court's stand that the Central Information Commission had no powers to frame rules for its regulation. The Commission was split on the issue with some Commissioners favouring suspension of work till the government cleared the issue of the constitution of the CIC benches. The Chief Information Commissioner held that stopping the hearings would not be in public interest. Habibullah told a news agency that there would be no changes in the working of the Commission. "We will abide by the High Court but the work will continue," he
said.

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RTI applicant gets nod to examine records

An applicant's wait for information sought under Right to Information (RTI) Act from the office of the accountant general, Shimla, four years ago, finally ended with the intervention of the Chief Information Commission. The CIC on Monday gave orders to the principal accountant general, Himachal Pradesh, to let applicant O P Goyal examine the original documents sought by him and also furnish him a copy. Information Commissioner A N Tiwari passed the order from Delhi after hearing the case through video conferencing. The appellant, his counsel K S Samkria and the Deputy A G (Administration) L R Sharma heard the case from the state Secretariat in Shimla. Goyal had sought the original copy of a report prepared by a three-member audit team after examination of documents of the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.

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Poor response to civic body's open window system

Poor publicity, unfriendly attitude of officials keep people away The Pune Municipal Corporation's (PMC) open window system that involves an open access to civic projects and administrative files to citizens under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act has failed to generate response from people over last 10 months. Open every Monday between 3 and 5 pm, the facility is utilised by an average of 15-20 people — about 50 per cent of which involve regular visitors and RTI activists.

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Furnish details of police station diary: Goa Info panel

The Goa state information commission has ordered the South Goa superintendent of police (police headquarters), to furnish copies of written details registered in station diary of police sub-inspector Navlesh Dessai to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the order.
The order was issued on May 6, 2010. Importantly, the commission has warned that this order "is in the factual backdrop of this case and cannot be cited as precedent". In directing that details from the station diary registered from May 1, 2007 till December 31, 2008 be given to the RTI applicant, the commission has set aside the order of the first appellate authority (inspector general of police), who had dismissed the RTI applicant's first appeal.

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Rajasthan Govt Asked to Disclose Info Against Raje

The Chief Information Commission of Rajasthan has asked the state government to disclose reasons that led to the constitution of a commission to look into allegations of corruption against the previous BJP government. Pursuant to an RTI application, the CIC has directed Department of Personal (DoP) to seek information from the Chief Minister's Office on what led to the setting up of Mathur Commission to probe allegations of corruption amounting to Rs 22,000 crore and power misuse by the Vasundhara Raje regime during 2004-2008. The CIC, in its May 10 notice, also sought disclosure of all official notings and decisions taken to appointment Mathur panel including the approval of the Governor. An RTI applicant had approached CIC after the High Court held illegal the constitution of the panel. However, the information was not made available under the provisions of RTI Act.

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Board of Secondary Education, Assam to move court on answer scripts

The Board of Secondary Education, Assam, will move Gauhati High Court to scrap the State Information Commission's order that allows students to see their answer scripts under the Right to Information Act. The state information commissioner, B.K. Gohain, issued an order on July 4 last year which said in any public examination, whether conducted by the universities, SEBA, Assam Higher Secondary Education Council or Assam Public Service Commission, the candidates must be equipped with photocopies of the
answer scripts if they apply under the RTI. The secretary of the SEBA, Dhanadev Mahanta, told The Telegraph that the board had given out photocopies of the answer scripts for the past two years. However, it was not possible to continue, as the exercise disrupted the normal functioning of the board.

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Cops say no to quarters, 1,500 homes lie vacant

Call it an irony. Those who keep us safe are themselves struggling for a roof for their families in this metropolis. The policemen are opting for staying out of police quarters and heading to rented accommodations. There are more than 1,500 police quarters that are lying vacant and policemen do not want to live there. The policemen are staying away from the quarters even as the department says that there is a huge shortfall of houses that is required to accommodate city policemen. The department has only about 18,500 houses for its over 38,000-strong constabulary. According to a reply to a Right to Information Act query, the Mumbai police say that the quarters, each measuring up to not more than 180 square feet in area, are lying vacant. The reply, sought by a social worker, states that the quarters are vacant as most of them are in a dilapidated condition. It also states that the houses are small in size and lack amenities. "Some of them are not connected well to railway stations, bus stops and markets," the reply states. The RTI reply, on the other hand, mentions that there is a shortfall of over 13,000 houses and currently only about 4,200 quarters are being constructed.

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4 yrs on, CIC to hear RTI plea today

Application shuttled between SIC and CIC in confusion over second appellant authority.
It took nearly four years for an appeal filed under the Right to Information Act to find the appropriate authority for its hearing. The confusion over who will hear a second appeal against the reply filed by the central public information officer (CPIO) and the accountant general of Himachal Pradesh (a Central government office) took four years to settle, even though the law is clear on the fact that such a matter comes under the jurisdiction of the Central Information Commission. After the RTI application filed by one O P Goyal of Shimla shuttled between the State Information Commission and the Central Information Commission, the latter has finally decided to hear the matter on May 24, through video-conferencing.

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Now, match-maker RTI

The days of parents of eligible girls visiting a prospective groom's office to find out about his salary and job profile are over. `Informed' parents have now befriended the Right to Information Act to seek such details. The RTI cell of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) recently received some queries seeking details about the job profiles and salaries of its bachelor employees' for matrimonial purposes. Another RTI application received by the DMRC a few days ago sought information about the salary of the employee that is reflected in the pay slip, his security deposit, provident fund details, job profile, service record, etc.

"Some applicants also ask whether the employee has shown himself as married or single," said a DMRC official adding that such queries are apparently for
matrimonial purposes. DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal said, "We provide personal details such as an employee's salary but with the consent of the employee concerned." Delhi Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, however, said that pay details of a government employee cannot be treated as personal information and should be made available in the public domain.

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Haryana Directs Public Information Officers to Implement RTI Act

The Nodal State Public Information Officer, Urban Local Bodies Department, Haryana has asked State Public Information Officers of Urban Local Bodies to comply with the directions of the Government for implementation of Right to Information(RTI) Act in letter and spirit. According to information, State Public Information Officer, Urban Local Bodies Department, Haryana has asked State Public Information Officers of Urban Local Bodies, Municipal Corporations, Faridabad and Gurgaon, Kurukshetra Development
Board, Kurukshetra, Shree Mata Mansa Devi Shrine Board, Panchkula, Shree Mata Sheetla Devi Shrine Board, Gurgaon, Municipal Councils/Committees in the Haryana State and all the improvement trusts to comply with the directions of the Government for implementation of Right to Information(RTI) Act in letter and spirit.

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Bihar punishes 207 officials under RTI

The Bihar Information Commission (BIC) has imposed fines on 207 officials last year for failing to provide relevant details or incorrect information to the applicants who had sought information under RTI. The officials, who were slapped fines, include three district magistrates, five additional district magistrates, one director and secretary each, six police officers, 25 engineers and 11 district education superintendents / officials, BIC Registrar BB Pandey said. The others penalised by the BIC comprised two sub-division officers, 29 block development officers, 13 medical and health officials, 21 panchayat secretaries and 17 circle officers. Pandey said that the district magistrates who were fined were posted in Vaishali, Munger and Madhepura districts.

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Departmental action against Mansa executive engineer recommended

Smelling a scam in the allotment of contract for construction of a judicial complex in Budhlada, the Punjab State Information Commission has recommended departmental action against Executive Engineer, Public Words (Bridge and Roads), Mansa, Joginder Singh.
In his complaint, H C Arora alleged that after the contract was given to a contractor, Singh asked him to reduce the rate by two per cent, which he did. After a few days, the executive engineer asked the contractor to give another letter, offering to reduce the rates by 0.2 per cent. The new letter bore the same number and date as the previous one that offered 2 per cent reduction. The difference between the two figures came to Rs 9.37 lakh, which was the loss suffered by the government and shared between Singh and the contractor, complainant H C Arora alleged.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

RTI Act helps parents get girl back

The Right to Information (RTI) Act came to the rescue of a couple from Sion who had been fighting for the custody of their child for almost three years. The Venkats were left at sea after their 14-year-old daughter Sunita (name changed) was forcibly taken away by her maternal grandfather, showing them an order passed by the state Child Welfare Committee (CWC). Sunita is S Venkat's daughter from his first marriage. He subsequently married a second time, to a woman, Meenu.

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Collectorate fails to update land records, activists seek police probe

The State Information Commission, which had asked the district collectorate to come up with updated land records by May 10, has found its directives go abegging. The collectorate has failed to update the land records, especially those of rehabilitation, for public scrutiny. Peeved at the non-compliance of his order, State Information Commissioner Vijay Kuvlekar has decided to issue a warning to the District Rehabilitation Officer and the district collector. “On Monday, I will issue another order to the district collector. If the collectorate still failed to act, I will decide on an appropriate action.”

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AIR 'whistle-blower' seeks action against seniors for non-compliance with CIC's decision

Nearly 15 months have passed since the bench of Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit directed All India Radio (AIR) authorities to hold an impartial inquiry into a case pertaining to the alleged misuse of the RTI Act, 2005. But so far, nothing has happened. Whistleblower Ravindra Parmar, an AIR transmission executive, has now written to the Information Commissioner and sought action against AIR authorities under RTI rules for "intentional delay and non-compliance with the Central Information Commission's (CIC) decision.

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IAF rejects RTI application on questionable grounds

Four years after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted to ensure easy access to information for citizens, officials are still rejecting applications on questionable grounds, which may make them liable for punishment. The Indian Air Force headquarters rejected an RTI application saying that fee attached in the form of Indian postal order was drawn in favour of "Accounts Officer, Indian Air Force" and not "Air Force Public Fund Account, Air Headquarter, New Delhi" as per their internal rules.

The sub-section "RTI-regulation of Fee and Cost Rules, 2005" under the RTI Act section of Indian Air Force's official web site clearly states that fee can be drawn in favour of Accounts Officer of the Public Authority, which in this case was the IAF. When the concerned Central Public Information Officer, Wing Commander T. Sajan, was contacted, he said, "The information on the web site may be wrong. We don't have any such head to accept the fee."

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HC snubs CIC, says it can't set up probe committees

In the biggest snub so far to the Central Information Commission (CIC) from the higher judiciary, the Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that its chief commissioner had no power to set up benches or inquiry committees. The court quashed the information watchdog's 2007 regulation that empowered it to set up benches to hear RTI disputes and appoint inquiry committees. The court order puts a question mark over the legality of various benches of the CIC functioning in the capital, apart from the main bench headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. It comes at a time when there are at least 10,000 cases pending before the commission. Besides, there are nine information commissioners holding separate sittings at present. The court order implies that all central RTI appeals must now be heard by all Information Commissions sitting jointly, like in the US Supreme Court. "There is no such prescription under the RTI Act or the rules validly made thereunder which provides for such benches of the Central Information Commission," said justices B.D. Ahmed and Veena Birbal.

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First RTI library in Pune, a tribute to Prakash Kardaley

The process to set up a Right to Information (RTI) library, the first in Pune and probably the first in the country, kicked off on Monday with the Pune Municipal Corporation inviting tenders for the contract. Revealing this, civic body Standing Committee chairman Nilesh Nikam, also unveiled his plan to name the library after one of the pioneers of the RTI movement, Prakash Kardaley, the former resident editor of The Indian Express, Pune edition. Nikam on Monday said he would place a proposal to name the library after Kardaley, who had championed for RTI even before the Act had come into existence.

“He was a pioneer of the Right to Information movement in Pune. Naming the library after him will be a tribute to him,” Nikam said. The PMC has made a provision of Rs 25 lakh to set up the library on the third floor of the PMC headquarters. Some officials felt the cost of setting up the library would come around Rs 10 lakh. The library will house the latest resolutions passed by the civic general body meetings and standing committee meetings besides all administrative decisions and proposals.

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