Friday, July 30, 2010

RTI activists seek Court intervention- Kochi

As a final resort, Right to Information activists in the state are planning to approach the court against the appointment of Sony B Thengamam as the State Information Commissioner. The RTI Federation of Kerala has already taken an in-principle decision to approach the Kerala High Court once he assumes office. With Governor RS Gavai giving clearance to the appointment of Sony Thengamam as the Information Commissioner overcoming huge protests, the RTI activists are left with no choice other than moving the court. Sony was appointed based on the recommendations by a committee consisting of the Chief Minister, Home Minister and the Opposition Leader. There were protests against the appointment as Sony Thengamam was an office-bearer of the CPI. However, the name was cleared by the Governor based on the contention that currently Sony Thengamam is not holding any official position in the party

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RTI applies to Central govt bodies in J&K: HC

In a verdict that blows away the immunity clause availed by Jammu and Kashmir-based central government organisations like the Indian Army while refusing to disclose information under the RTI Act, the Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that such establishments were not precluded from the transparency law and were obligated to disclose information to the family of those posted in the state. Directing the Indian Army to hand over court of inquiry, post-mortem and other reports relating to the death of Shaurya Chakra awardee Capt Sumit Kohli to his mother Veena Kohli, the court made it clear that the RTI was not applicable to J&K because the state, due to its peculiar conditions, had to have its separate law for public disclosure.

Indian Express
Utkarsh Anand: Sat Jul 31 2010
New Delhi

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Common man empowered, fights for rights

For the past 15 years Sanjaykumar Pande, a resident of Rakhial in Ahmedabad, was forced to live with drinking water shortages, bad roads and a non-existent drainage in his area. After being a silent witness for long, he decided to act. He filed a Right to Information (RTI) application regarding the state of basic civic amenities in his municipal ward. His application, however, was rejected by the authority concerned. Sanjay decided to appeal in the State Information Commission. Although there were 3,500 appeals pending at that time, it did not deter him and he patiently waited for his turn, which came after one and half years. During the appeal proceedings, he was called six times and the authorities did not have replies to his questions.

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Streetlights to cost city more

Sixty-five days before the Commonwealth Games begin in October, right to information (RTI) applications filed by HT questioning the benefit of replacing streetlights, revealed Delhi spent Rs 378 crore on new streetlights that consume more energy than their predecessors. Both the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have admitted their electricity bill will increase because the new bulbs are more powerful and offer higher illumination. The RTI findings are in contrast to the climate change action plan — that entails energy efficiency — adopted by the Capital ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit in December 2009.

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Orissa tapped 417 phones from 2006 to 2008

Orissa tapped 417 telephones in the state from October 2006 to December 2008, a lawyer and right to information activist said Friday. According to the written information provided by the public information officer of the home department, telephones of three people were intercepted from October to December in 2006, Biswapriya Kanungo told IANS.
Kanungo obtained the information from the state government under right to information act Thursday. He informed that 111 and 303 telephones were intercepted in 2007 and 2008 respectively. According to law, the home department can intercept telephones in situation of public emergency and safety. The officer said the telephones were tapped after approval from the competent authority, he said.

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Information Commission raps veterinary university official

Rapping the public information officer of the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Science University (TANUVAS) for failing to supply information to an applicant under the Right To Information (RTI) Act within a fixed timeframe, the Tamil Nadu Information Commission has ordered action against him. "The registrar, TANUVAS, Chennai, is directed to take appropriate action against the concerned public information officer. The registrar of the university is directed to give an opportunity to the public information officer to explain his indifference and negligence and forward the explanation to the commission within 30 days from the date of receipt of this orders, failing which action will be initiated by the commission to effect recovery of the fine amount," state information commissioner G Ramakrishnan has said.

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Appointments of senior officials not under RTI: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court Friday said that information pertaining to appointment of top bureaucrats cannot be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Justice S. Muralidhar passed this order while dismissing the plea of RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal, seeking disclosure of the information on the ground that people had the right to know as to what was the grade assigned to an officer who was empanelled. The court also set aside the order of the Central Information Commission which had held that information relating to appointment of secretaries in different ministries falls within the ambit of the transparency law.

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Cochin airport asked to post SPIOs

Maintaining that the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) is a ‘public authority' the State Information Commission (SIC) has asked it appoint State Public Information Officers (SPIO) within 15 days. The commission, on an appeal by six persons, including the RTI campaigner D.B. Binu, decided that CIAL is a `public authority' as defined under Section 2(h) of the Right to Information Act 2005, thus making all its records accessible to the public. Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas rejected CIAL's contention that the company was not controlled by the government and nor was it substantially financed by the government, and ruled that it is a public authority and hence its records and information should be made available to the public if requested under the RTI Act.

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Case diaries of CBI not accessible under RTI: CIC

The case diaries of CBI cannot be accessed under the Right to Information Act as
disclosure of the information may adversely affect the prosecution process, the
Central Information Commission has held. The case relates to an RTI application filed by Vinod Kumar who sought from the Central Bureau of Investigation the Final reports (FRs) prepared by the prosecution during the investigation of a case. The agency said investigating officers make the gist of day to day probe in the case diaries. The summary of these case diaries are presented to higher officials in the form of Final Reports.

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RTI activists to meet Kerala Governor over appointment of Info Comm

A delegation of RTI Kerala Federation will meet the Governor, R. S. Gavai, on Thursday to complaint against the appointment of Sony B. Thengamom as State Information Commissioner under the Right to Information Act. The Federation asserts that Mr. Thengamom is a politician who is not qualified to be appointed as Commissioner. The Governor had earlier returned the recommendation of the Selection Committee headed by Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan for the appointment of Mr. Thengamom as Commissioner in view of the objections raised by various quarters. (Mr. Gavai is understood to have accepted the recommendation for appointment of former IAS Officer M.N. Gunavardhanan as Commissioner). It had been pointed out that Mr.Thengamom was assistant secretary of the CPI at its Kollam district unit which barred him from becoming the Commissioner.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home guard killed for seeking info under RTI

In a first of its kind incident, a UP police home guard was done to death allegedly for daring to seek information under the RTI Act about government funds and work done by his village pradhan in Bahraich. The accused pradhan's husband and four others have been arrested in this connection. The police say the murder is fallout of a 40-year-old dispute between the two sides over a piece of land. The incident took place in Katghar village under Ranipur police station of Bahraich on Sunday afternoon. According to reports, ex-pradhan of Katghar Mohan Singh, his son Vijay Pratap (32) alias Babbu Singh, who is a home guard and had come home on a holiday, and brother Satyadeo Singh was supervising some construction work on a piece of land in the village when one Indrajeet Singh and his cohorts reached the site.

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RTI activists apply for info heads post seek transparency

Taking a leaf from a nationwide campaign carried out by eminent citizens, right to information (RTI) activists in Tamil Nadu have adopted a novel method to make the government ensure a transparent selection process while appointing a successor to the state's central information commissioner — they have launched a campaign asking all those who are interested in RTI issues to apply for the post.

With TN chief information commissioner S Ramakrishnan's term coming to an end next month, the idea is to flood the government with applications so that it is forced to come out with eligibility criteria and selection process for candidates. Also, activists whose applications get rejected could then move court to challenge the appointment if it does not come across as transparent. As per Section 15 of the RTI Act, the chief information commissioner "shall be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance."

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BJP MP, suspect in RTI activist's murder, missing

Bharatiya Janata Party's Junagadh MP Dinubhai Solanki, who is suspected of being involved in the murder of Right to Information activist Amit Jethwa, is still missing. Solanki skipped the monsoon session of Parliament on Monday and instead issued an advertisement in three Gujarati newspapers claiming innocence. The BJP MP has not been seen since Jethwa was gunned down by two unidentified men outside the Gujarat High Court on July 21. Jethwa's father has claimed that Solanki role to play in his son's murder as the RTI activist had named the MP in his PIL on illegal mining in Gir Lion Sanctuary. Jethwa was reportedly coming out of a building after meeting his lawyer and
about to enter his vehicle when he was fired upon. Even though he was hit in the abdomen by the bullets, he tried to grapple with his assailants, who fled from after leaving behind their motorcycle.

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Food grains rot in FCI godowns across India

Heaps of food grains are rotting in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns across the country due to apathetic attitude of the authorities concerned, reveals a right to information (RTI) query. The finding shows that as on Jan 1 this year, 10,688 lakh tonnes of food grains were found damaged in FCI depots, enough to feed over six lakh people for over 10 years. Between 1997 and 2007, 1.83 lakh tonnes of wheat, 6.33 lakh tonnes of rice, 2.20 lakh tonnes of paddy and 111 lakh tonnes of maize were damaged in different FCI godowns. "The FCI godowns have enough space to store food grains properly. Yet the grains are rotting in open spaces on their premises while millions are starving. It's a national shame," said Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, who filed the RTI application on January 6, 2010.

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'Registered documents are beyond RTI'

The State Government on Thursday (22-07-2010) contended before the Karnataka High Court that documents relating to registration of property, including sale deeds, which are with the office of the Sub-Registrars, cannot be obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Government made this submission when the court was hearing a petition by a sub-registrar challenging an order of the Commissioner, Information Commission, directing him to furnish to a resident of Bangalore, sale deed of a property under the RTI Act.

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RTI activists demand appointment of Lokpal, Lokayuktas

Calling for a systemic change in the anti-corruption mechanism in the government, RTI activists have demanded setting up of independent and effective institutions like Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each State with complete powers to enquire into and prosecute culprits, without needing permission from any other agency. The demand was made at a rally held in the Capital on Monday (26-07-2010) to protest the murder of eight RTI activists in 2010 and the repeated attacks on such activists in the country.
Protesters marched from Gandhi Peace Foundation and assembled at Samta Sthal opposite Raj Ghat where they held a meeting which was addressed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and social activist Madhu Kishwar.

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IIT-Kharagpur kept aside illegal quota for staff

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur was secretly — and illegally — keeping aside a discretionary admission quota for children of its teachers and staff for over four decades, admitting dozens of students to seats they failed to secure through the IIT-Joint Entrance. Documents accessed by HT using the RTI Act show the country's oldest IIT — started in 1951 — blocked 25 per cent of its seats in popular five-year
integrated science courses (up to M.Sc level) for handpicked nominees, even as students from the rest of India had to clear the IIT-JEE for admission. IIT wards merely needed 60 per cent marks in their Class XII Board examination and should have appeared in the IIT-JEE to be eligible for the quota seats, doled out at the institute director's discretion.

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State info commissioner slaps fine on erring PIOs

State Information Commissioner Shakil Ahmad has slapped a fine on public information officer (PIO)-cum-executive engineer (electricity) of Rohtas for his failure to provide information to an applicant. As per a press release issued by the information and public relations department (IPRD), the PIO not only failed to provide information to the applicant Kripa Shankar Tiwary, he also did not respond to the State Information Commission's notice. The commission has imposed a maximum fine of Rs 25,000 and directed the PIO to provide information to the applicant by July 29. The commission has also directed the Rohtas DM to deduct the fine amount from the PIO's salary and inform the Commission about it.

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66 'medical' outings for Vikas Yadav in 2 years

Jessica Lall murder convict Manu Sharma went partying after a benevolent Delhi government let him out frequently on parole but his partner in crime, Vikas Yadav, is not doing too badly either. Yadav, who is also convicted in the murder of Nitish Katara, has been in and out of Tihar Jail no less than 66 times in less than two years.
An RTI reply from Tihar Jail revealed that Yadav, serving a life term since his conviction by a trial court on May 28, 2008, made the trips between May 30, 2008 and February 8, 2010, averaging five trips a month. The visits, according to the RTI reply, were to hospitals as varied as Deen Dayal Upadhyay, AIIMS, Maulana Azad Dental College and Tibbiya College, all "for treatment". And interestingly, all trips were made by a "court order".

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Widow demands police inquiry against in laws

A widow from a reputed zari industrialist family submitted an application to the city police commissioner on Wednesday with a demand to register a complaint against her in-laws. Falguni Jariwala, mother of two children, has alleged that soon after the death of her husband, her in-laws attempted to throw her out of the house and their family business in which she was one of the owners. The police commissioner on Thursday handed over the inquiry to the crime branch. "Considering the nature of the complaint, the case has been handed over to the crime branch. Initially, a preliminary investigation will be carried out based upon which a complaint will be lodged," police commissioner Shivanand Jha said.

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Bank defaulters' names to be made public

In a huge boost to transparency in banking sector, Chief Information Commission (CIC) has asked banks to make public the details of their loans write off. So far banks were not revealing the names of defaulters saying it would result in breach of trust with the borrower. The ruling may lead to bank's customers and public knowing who was causing losses to banks and even lead borrowers to demand an equal treatment with defaulters whose loans had been forgiven. A person who makes the query under RTI Act, will now have to be provided all details like name and address of the borrower, names of partners/directors, date and amount of loan written off as well as the name and designation of the official who sanctioned the loan and who decided to write it off.
Observers say that similar data for the loans other than those mentioned in the query may also have to be put on the public domain by the banks though their website or any other medium accessible to the public also.

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'No fixed time' for Ministers to attend office

It is not mandatory for ministers to attend office "at a fixed time", the cabinet secretariat has told a right to information (RTI) activist. Dev Ashish Bhattacharya had in an RTI application asked whether it was "compulsory for each minister to attend his office?". Filed to the Prime Minister's Office March 22, the application was transferred to the cabinet secretariat. "There are no rules that a minister has to attend office at a fixed time," said Rajive Kumar, joint secretary and first appellate authority of the cabinet secretariat, in reply to the query.

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RBI may use CIC ruling

CIC Satyananda Mishra ghas ruled that banks will have to henceforth provide information about all the details of their loans write off. The CIC said "the decision to write off a loan, obviously at the cost of the bank itself needs to be taken in an objective and transparent manner and so such information should be, as far as possible, in public domain." Though the ruling right now affects only public sector banks as RTI Act applies only to them, the principle enunciated in it may well be used by Reserve Bank of India to make even private banks part with the data as customers' money is involved.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Dinakaran report can't be made public: Panel

In the case relating to land encroachment charges against Karnataka high court chief justice P D Dinakaran, the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has ruled that the Tiruvallur collector's report on the issue cannot be disclosed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. Its disclosure "at this stage" would amount to "breach of privilege and also hamper the investigation," it said. State information commissioner T R Ramasamy gave this ruling while dismissing an appeal by V Madhav of Alwarpet who filed an RTI application with the Tiruvallur collectorate in October 2009 seeking a copy of the report. Initially, the public information officer told Madhav the "report was confidentially sent to the government" and could not be furnished.

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Rally in Delhi to protest killing of RTI activist

Social organisations from across the country will hold a rally in the capital Monday to protest the murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa in Ahemdabad. The rally will start from the Gandhi Peace Foundation at ITO here at 6 p.m. and move towards the samadhi of Babu Jagjivan Ram at Rajghat. It is being jointly organised by a group of organisations under the banner of National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI). Jethwa was shot dead Tuesday night outside the Gujarat High Court. He had filed a public interest lawsuit against the illegal limestone mining mafia operating in the Sasan Gir area.

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RTI powers change in Chhattisgarh villages

For the two villages that had fallen off the development map and were infamous for their violent conflicts, it's been an impressive turnaround. Taking the help of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a determined group of youngsters have changed the negative narrative of Moch, a two-village panchayat in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur district, into a positive script — greater political accountability, transparency and social change. Earlier, elected officials avoided the area. "The conflicts and clashes, mostly caste-based and political, were so frequent that the administration was forced to set up a police chowki here," said Shiva Dhruve (35), a resident of Moch, the larger of the two villages, around 140 km east of Raipur. The light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel came in the form of a campaign by the NGO Chhattisgarh Citizens' Initiative.

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Accused BJP MP goes underground in RTI activist murder case

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Dinubhai Boghabhai Solanki, the man suspected to be behind the murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa is reported to be underground just 24-hours after the incident.

Amit Jethwa's father Bhiku Jethwa had accused Solanki for the murder, as he claimed that his son had recently filed an RTI application and PIL in the Gujarat High Court against Solanki.

"I believe that Dinu Solanki is behind the killing of my son. He had many times threatened me also on phone," said Bhiku Jethwa in his interaction with the media on Wednesday.

Prominent RTI activist Amit Jethwa was shot dead by unidentified assailants near the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday night.

Jethwa was campaigning against alleged illegal mining in the Gir Sanctuary in Saurashtra, which is allegedly backed by some politicians.

Jethwa had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court, which alleged that mining activities were being carried out in the Una and Kodinar areas of Saurashtra with the support of Junagadh BJP MP Solanki and his relatives.

Jethwa had further alleged that the Solankis were also running illegal mines and stone crushers in a village on the border of the Gir forest.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

RTI activist shot dead in Gujarat

Leading Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa was shot dead opposite the high court building here Tuesday night, police said. Jethwa had just come out after meeting his lawyer and was getting into his vehicle parked near the office of the state bar council, opposite the Gujarat High Court, when two unidentified people on a motor cycle fired a single shot at him.

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Green activist shot dead near High Court

An environmental activist, Amit Jethava, was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday night. The incident took place at 8.45pm when Jethava, who had come out of the bar council’s office in Satyamev complex — situated opposite the High Court — was getting into his car. According to the Sola police station officials, the assailants had come on a bike and shot him with a crude revolver.

"Two assailants, each armed with a country-made revolver, were waiting next to Jethava’s car," said a police official who is investigating the case. "One of them shot him in the back. Eyewitnesses say Jethava turned back and lunged at the bikers. A scuffle ensued and the duo fled the spot on foot, leaving their motorbike and dropping one of the revolvers. The bike’s number is fake."

Sniffer dogs were put to work and the trail led towards Jethava’s house at Vishwas City in Ghatlodia. On the way, cops found two 12-bore cartridges and a slipper.

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Tribal RTI body floated

With a view to pursue social justice, equality, transparency and to maintain quality works among others using Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005 and to get legitimate benefits, a new union has been floated in the state christened as Union for Transparency and RTI (UTRTI), Manipur. Disclosing this through a communiqué, the UTRTI said that the body was born following the meeting of RTI tribal activists hailing from various tribal communities which was held at MBC Hotel in Imphal on July 15 last where the tribal representatives unanimously decided to form an RTI based organization known as UTRTI. It stated that the jurisdiction of the union will cover the entire state of Manipur with TK.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Riot victim exposes Riot Relief Scam in Gujarat

The agony continues for survivors of the 2002 riots in Panderwada, whose houses were razed by killer mobs. Even the much-delayed compensation for them was systematically pilfered and they are left pinning their hopes on the judiciary now. A taluka of 60-odd villages, Panderwala now awaits the Gujarat High Court’s verdict — expected on Monday — on five taluka development officials who allegedly siphoned off funds from riot rehabilitation packages meant for the victims. Earlier, the High Court had passed orders in favour of a petition filed by one Dr J B Panesuria, an Ayurvedic practitioner who is also an observer of the All India Anti Corruption and Human Rights Watch. Based on the petition, the court had ordered an inquiry. In 2005, Panesuria filed an application under the Right to Information Act with the Taluka Development Office and Postal Department after suspecting a scam in the distribution of the relief funds. The family of one of his associates, Shamshuddin Ahmed Saiyed, who passed away in 1989, had suffered during the riots. The family home and a tea stall set up by his wife were burnt down by a mob on February 26, 2002. Although, Shamshuddin’s son Mayuddin Ahmed received Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation he was aghast when people who were left untouched by the mobs started getting cheques.

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GU registrar faces ire of info commission

The state information commission is losing its cool over errant public information officers. In the most recent case, the information right enabling body has imposed penalty on and asked the erring official why it should not recommended disciplinary action against him. The officer in question is registrar and public information officer (PIO) of Gujarat University, MS Shah, who despite having being imposed upon with penalties in earlier instances for denying information to citizens, managed to dishonour orders of the state information commission. In a recent order, state's chief information commissioner RN Das has even sought a written explanation from the registrar as to why a "disciplinary action be not recommended against him." The commission insisted that though Shah's was an apt case for imposing penalties under section 20(1) of the RTI Act, the repeated dishonour of the commission's decisions also made it a fit case for a disciplinary action.

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Mumbai varsity does not have record of ‘in-charge’ principals

The Mumbai University does not have any information on the colleges who do not have full-time principals. This despite a Supreme Court deadline to fill up vacant principal posts within six months. An Right to Information (RTI) application by the student wing of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) revealed this information. While the university has an account of the colleges with full-time principals, it replied to the RTI saying that in-charge principals are only for a period of six months to a year so they do not have the information. The MNS has now written to the university vice chancellor.

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Car breakdown or accident on toll highway? Seek free help

The next time you lose your way or suffer a car breakdown on a toll highway, don't panic. You can contact the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) which is duty-bound to come to the rescue of motorists on toll roads, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed. It's not just route patrol services that you can use. A tow-away crane, ambulance and fire tender too have to be provided by the agency that collects toll from motorists in need, the query revealed. The RTI application was filed by Vedpal, a resident of south Delhi, after he was charged illegally by the NHAI authorities for getting his vehicle removed from the toll road after an accident

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

‘None to answer RTI queries in Ambala MC’

People seeking information under the RTI Act are being harassed by the Municipal Corporation, Sadar Zone, Ambala, said sources. Many people rue their applications were not being accepted by the MC authorities. Applicants have been told that the authorities dealing with the RTI have not been appointed. Under the RTI rules, it is mandatory for all public authorities to display the names of these officials along with the first appellate authority, but this has not been done in the MC office. Even those who were provided with the information complained that they have not received the exact information that they had applied for.

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RTI Act comes to engineer's rescue

The information obtained under the RTI Act has come to the rescue of an aspirant for an assistant engineer post in the STC. The land belonging to the family of P Kumaresan, a BE degree holder of Chinnasalem, was acquired by the government. Thereby he became entitled to be considered under the `priority category' for employment. The TNSTC, Salem, invited him for an interview on June 6, 1998. But he was not permitted to attend the interview on the ground that he did not possess first class in BE.

Senior advocate K Doraisamy argued that the very same contention was raised and the single judge rejected it. The Corporation was not able to produce any proof for the amendment. The information furnished under the RTI Act would clearly establish that there was no amendment and, consequently, the corporation could not insist upon first class in BE.

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'Flaws in selection of rupee symbol'

Days after its selection by the finance ministry, the symbol of the rupee has got embroiled in a controversy. Two of the unsuccessful candidates have claimed that the selection process to choose the new rupee symbol is full of discrepancies and is flawed. The duo — Anil Khatri and R K Singh — have used RTI replies given by the finance ministry to assert their claim. Designs of both were short-listed, but they didn’t make it to the last five. Replying to a RTI application, the Union finance ministry told them that a total of 3,331 designs were finally put up for selection of which five designs were short-listed. The process that had started in February last year culminated after the Union Cabinet selected the entry by D Udaya Kumar.

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Inquire into 'threat' calls to RTI applicant

The Central Information Commission has directed the Central Public Information Officer of the CBI to use his own 'sources' and look into the alleged threatening calls made to an RTI applicant who had sought asset details of the agency's director.
"CPIO Saurah Tripathi will in the meantime, through his own sources, verify the origins of the calls made to Shri Bhatnagar (RTI applicant) from the number cited above and if criminal intent is discovered, will take remedial action," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. Delhi-based RTI applicant Manish Bhatnagar had sought to know from the CBI the details of service records, property statements, details of mobile connections and benefits enjoyed by CBI director Ashwani Kumar.

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Activist seeks info from CBI, gets threats instead

Just a day after a Right to Information (RTI) activist in Mumbai was beaten up for filing a case against Pubic Works Department officials, another activist alleges harassment, this time by the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's premier investigation agency. Manish Bhatnagar, an RTI activist, had sought information on the expenses incurred on CBI Director Ashwini Kumar by the government. However, what he allegedly got were threats and intimidations. Bhatnagar's RTI application seeks details on benefits like car and travel allowance, HRA and Medical benefits besides water and electricity, which is provided to the CBI director. It asks CBI furhish all the records and file noting related to the appointment of Ashmini Kumar to the post of the Director, and a certified copy of each and every page of the service book of Kumar.

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RTI activist seeks details, attacked

RTI activist Ashok Kumar Shinde was beaten up by some unknown people for his RTI followed by a PIL against Public Works Department officials making money on the pretext of repairs in Bombay High Court premises. Shinde was attacked right outside the Public Works Department building in Mumbai on Wednesday. Shinde had earlier taken on the PWD with a string of RTIs and a PIL and alleged that PWD officials had illegally made around Rs 24 crore, in the name of repairs at the Bombay High Court premises. "They have indulged in corrupt practice and made money in the High Court project. I found this out by using RTI," says Shinde. Shinde alleges that the attackers threatened to kill him.

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Postings under RTI Act ad-hoc

Over the next six months, 22 information commissioners, including 11 state chief information commissioners (SCICs), would retire. The impending mass vacancy has turned the spotlight on the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). It turns out the department has been filling these posts without any policy guideline. Documents accessed by activist Arvind Kejriwal through Right To Information (RTI) Act show the DoPT is enjoying powers never vested with it.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Plot thickens over missing heritage items

The startling claims of city’s first chief architect MN Sharma, who worked closely with Le Corbusier, that the former professor of Chandigarh College of Architecture (CCA) Kiran Joshi had a hand in the disappearance of valuable heritage items and drawings has found another ratifier. A former colleague of Joshi, Bipin Malik ‘ who was also a professor at the college ‘ has moved an application under Right To Information Act, seeking to know why Joshi hadn't returned the heritage material that she had borrowed from CCA before retiring in 2007.

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No chemical disaster plan with GSDMA, reveals RTI application

The Gujarat Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), it seems, doesn't think that chemical industries have potential to cause disasters in the state. Despite the Bhopal gas tragedy that killed thousands of people two decades ago, the Gujarat government doesn't seem to have learnt anything. A right to information (RTI) application made to GSDMA on June 26 has revealed that they don't have any chemical disaster plan for the state that has a large number of chemical industries.

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Panchayati Raj Ministry runs out of 5-star hotel

There is nothing 'cattle class' about this. The Panchayati Raj Ministry, responsible for decentralisation and local governance in states, but more importantly, empowering the rural poor, has been spending crores every year as rent on space acquired at a 5-star hotel in south Delhi. The 5,500 sq ft space on the sixth floor of Samrat Hotel in Chanakyapuri was hired from the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) on August 30, 2006, due to an 'acute space crunch'. Interestingly, the ministry is also functioning from a 4,406 sq ft office at Sardar Patel Bhawan and 1,800 sq ft of space at Krishi Bhawan in New Delhi. This information came to light in reply to an RTI application filed by a Delhi-based activist. The 5,500 sq ft space at Samrat Hotel originally came with the price tag of Rs 195 per sq ft as rent per month, for a period of two years commencing from September 1, 2006, to be extended further with an increase of 8 per cent after expiry of the tenure. After the period lapsed on August 30, 2008,
the present rate of rent became Rs 210.60 per sq ft, from September 1, 2008. The total adds up to more than Rs 5.22 crore spent as rent so far.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CBI refuses to reveal info on MEA's extradition letter about Anderson

CBI has refused to part with information on a purported letter of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) asking it not to pursue extradition proceedings against then chairman of Union Carbide Warren Anderson after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. "The case is still pending prosecution vis-a-vis Anderson, who is an absconder in the case. I am convinced the disclosure of information as asked by you (applicant) would impede the process of his pending extradition and prosecution," CBI said in a response to a query filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Denying the information to applicant Ajay K Agrawal, an advocate, Chief Public Information Officer of CBI, Rakesh Aggarwal said his response under the transparency law could be challenged before a superior authority within 30 days.

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City activist forwards Bhorade appeal for protection to state home dept

Ganesh Bhorade received threat calls following RTI query on Sangamner land transfer
Pune-based Right To Information (RTI) activist Vivek Velankar has submitted a memorandum to the state government seeking protection for Ahmednagar based RTI activist Ganesh Borhade. Borhade has submitted an appeal to the Sangamner police station in Ahmednagar of having received threats. He had submitted a copy to Velankar. With the state government having earlier assured the Bombay High Court that it was keen on providing protection to genuine activists fighting for causes, Velankar has forwarded the appeal to the state home department.

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SC cannot provide I-T return info of judges under RTI: CIC

In a rare instance, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has agreed with the Supreme Court and said that its Registry could not be asked under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to provide details of the income tax returns filed by its judges.
In earlier instances -- be it declaration of assets by the judges or revealing the details of the Collegium meeting process for appointment of judges -- the CIC's ruling advocating transparency had been challenged by the apex court first before the Delhi High Court and then before the Supreme Court. But, on the income tax return details of the judges, the CIC saw reason to agree with the SC's response to an RTI quesry and agreed with its counsel Devdatt Kamat that the Registry did not have the details of the information sought by RTI applicant Dr Lal Bahadur.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

3-yr wait for surgery at govt hospitals

Patients hoping to get surgeries done at Delhi's two premier government-run speciality hospitals may have to wait for a period ranging between six months and three years.
While the general surgery department at AIIMS has a minimum waiting period of three to five months, in gastro-intestinal surgery the wait is from six months to one year. The longest waiting period is in the neurosurgery department — 18 months to three years. All major departments — general surgery, gastro-intestinal, paediatrics, orthopaedics, nephrology, cardiac and neuro — have long waiting lists for surgery, reveals an RTI reply. According to data provided by the hospital, AIIMS performs about 329 surgeries every day, adding up to about 1,20,000 a year. In cardiac surgery the waiting period is six months to one year, in orthopaedics about one year. In reply to the RTI application, Dr Shyam Lal of the Cardio-Neuro Sciences Centre at AIIMS accepted that "in unit one of the neurosurgery department, priority cases can get admission on November 2011, while the gestation period for routine cases is till August 2013."

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Right to Information: A tool for change

In the NDTV's series on people who have made Right to Information (RTI) their mission in life, NDTV profiles Dr Atul Fulzele from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Atul is an MBBS doctor and also a police officer. Dr Atul Fulzele, the runner up in the best public information officer category 2009 is an MBBS doctor who joined the Indian Police Service due to his interest in criminal investigation. As the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, Fulzele responded to 193 RTI applications within 30 days despite many barriers. To this Dr Atul Fulzele, Best PIO Award 2009 Runners Up says "There was initial resistance from the investigating officers. They didn't give any information and said that we don't give information during Investigation. Then we took an initiative to break this kind of mentality."

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Conviction rate in graft cases dips over 10 yrs

Out of every 10 cases of corruption pursued by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in 2009, only 1.9 cases resulted in a conviction. The rest, including public servants caught red-handed by the ACB, were all acquitted. This is in stark contrast to the ACB's performance 10 years ago, when 5.4 out of 10 cases resulted in conviction. Information btained under the Right to Information Act (RTI), 2005, points to a steep fall in the conviction rates of the cases pursued by the ACB. In a rapid decline from the past standards that it set, the conviction rate of the ACB has fallen from 63 per cent in 2001 to a mere 16.12 per cent in 2010, till April. Even 2009 registered a dismal 19 per cent conviction of ACB's cases. An RTI query by Opera House resident Jeet Ghadge (28) brought this information to light. Incidentally, it was Ghadge's curiosity that prodded him to file a query. The information the RTI got, Ghadge adds, "helped me clear the misconceptions about the ACB."

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Majority of effluent plants don’t follow norms

As many as 20 of the 26 Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP) in Gujarat are not following norms, it has been learnt. These plants were set up to curb the inflow of hazardous effluents in the water reserves. Now, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) is pursuing various upgrade plans of the treatment facilities owned by various companies in a bid to rectify the situation. Most of the upgrade for CETPs and FETPs (Final Effluent Treatment Plants) in Gujarat, including the ones situated in the critically-polluted Ankleshwar and Vapi talukas, were in matters of size. But now the waste management companies are considering upgrading the facilities wherein the toxic waste can be treated at the source itself. “It is true that 20 of the 26 CETPs are not following norms set by Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). They have now submitted various models for upgrade and we are going through them,” said GPCB Member Secretary R G Shah.

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RTI applications draw a blank, govt school heads clueless of duties

The city government schools are making a complete mockery of the Right to Information Act, even after five years of its implementation. While some school heads and principals are not even aware of the fact that they are the appointed Central Public Information Officers for their respective schools, others do not entertain a RTI application at all. Picture this: While it took almost a year for one of the applicants to receive information sought under the RTI pertaining to balance sheet records from the government schools, other applications were not even accepted on the premise that the school does not have a receipt book. “I approached not one but many schools, including model and non model schools. Every time, I was asked to approach the UT Education Department or the e-sampark centres to submit the RTI application, as the school authorities were not aware of how to accept a RTI application. Most times, heads or principals were not aware that they were appointed as the CPIOs,” shared V B Khanna, one of the applicants.

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RTI activist has ‘proof’ of Assam Health Minister's ULFA past

RTI activist Akhil Gogoi Sunday claimed to have dug out two files that reveal Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma was arrested in 1991 for his alleged links with outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The two files containing case diaries of two TADA cases involving Sharma were reportedly missing from police stations since 1996. Gogoi said he would soon submit the the case diaries to the Supreme Court and petition it to re-open the TADA cases against the Sharma, who is said to be the most powerful minister in Assam. Gogoi also claimed that he possessed “a lot of documents” pertaining to the 1991 murder of Assam Congress general secretary Manabendra Sharma and “copies of confessional statements” made by “some of the minister’s accomplices in ULFA”.

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Tihar inmates revel in RTI freedom

The applicant, Khalil Ahmed Subrati, wrote in Hindi on an A4-size sheet: 'How many of my cell mates have a violent bent of mind, and what specific safety measures has the administration taken to protect me from them?' Subrati asked questions of the Tihar jail authorities in his newfound profile of a citizen exercising his rights under the Right To Information Act, 2005. Subrati also wanted to know why he was shifted to a high security ward, which is under 24-hour surveillance, from a general ward?
From a handful of queries received by jail authorities in 2005, RTI has come a long way within the boundaries of Tihar's 400-acre campus. Between March 2009 and February 2010, the inmates filed a record 402 applications.

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

I felt empowered after receiving the RTI award: Rajesh Bissa

Rajesh Bissa, the runner up to the best Right to Information (RTI) citizen category award last year, used the Right to Information Act to expose large scale corruption in selection of a private partner for a road project in Chhattisgarh. The government had selected a private firm to upgrade 1500 KMs of roads, but signed an agreement for 2500 KMs. After the revelation, the government rectified what it said was a mistake. Bissa is now using the provisions of the Right to Information Act to expose factories that are openly violating environmental norms. "Using RTI, we were able to take out information for more than 150 industries which were violating serious environmental laws. Among these were 40 big industries, which without environmental clearances had set up their industry and also were running it. Authorities were doing nothing about it. Today almost all such industries are facing enquiries," said Rajesh Bissa.

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Your house can’t be taken forcibly under TDR

There is much anguish and hand wringing in the city about people losing valuable parts of their cherished homes to road-widening. The most vocal of the affected 40,000 have been lambasting the BBMP’s move meant to smoothen the flow of traffic in a very congested city. They can all breathe easy. No acquisition can be done without the owner’s consent, according to the current law, under transferable development rights (TDR). Simply put, if a person doesn’t want to give his/her property for road-widening, then he/she need not.

Right to Information (RTI) documents in possession with TOI have thrown up the surprising and hitherto well-hidden clause which states that properties can be acquired for road-widening only under TDR. The catch — which favours the home owners — comes in the next clause; TDR can be enforced only if the owner is willing. If he isn’t willing, the only option open to BBMP is to forcibly acquire the property by paying current market rates under the Karnataka Land Acquisition Act. A process that is very expensive, tedious and time-consuming and as such not a route preferred by BBMP to acquire land for road-widening.

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1,375 murders unsolved in Delhi

At least 1,375 murder cases here are yet to be solved by Delhi Police, and almost half of them are over five years old, a right to information (RTI) activist has said.
In their reply to RTI applicant Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, police said 644 of the 1,375 unsolved murder cases took place more than five years ago. 'The number of unsolved cases is definitely much higher than 1,375 (because) some police stations denied providing details stating that it's a time-consuming procedure. Some gave confused details,' said Bhattacharya, who filed the RTI application to the home ministry in March.

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CIC asks UPSC to disclose merit list of candidates

Transparency watchdog the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to disclose merit list of persons and the criteria applied for selection in different government jobs. The CIC order can have implications for UPSC as now the candidates can seek information regarding the process of selection in the government jobs, which the commission had not been willing to disclose. The commission recruits employees for most of the Central government organizations. The UPSC has declined providing the merit list of the lecturers appointed in Medical College, Chandigarh, on the ground that the information pertained to “the core areas of the commission and the same will not serve any public interest or activity”.

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HC stays BIA verdict, declares it a public unit

A division Bench stayed the single Bench verdict which not only affirmed the Karnataka Information Commission's findings but also declared that BIA is a public authority. The division Bench, headed by Justice K L Manjunath, passed this interim order on a writ appeal filed by BIA, which had challenged the February 9, 2010, order of the single Bench.

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CIC can peruse oil-for-food scam file: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has dismissed the Enforcement Directorate plea seeking exemption from production of documents related to investigations into the “oil-for-food” scam before the Central Information Commission. The Commission had directed the ED to produce the file of the probe into the scam for its perusal to decide on its disclosure under the RTI Act. The scam led to the ouster of former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh from the Cabinet in 2004 for his alleged role.

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No work, yet House secys paid Rs 15 cr

Chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSs) in Punjab have enjoyed ministerial perks and perquisites worth Rs 15 crore over the past three years though they have had little to show by way of work. This came to light through a Right to Information enquiry. This stratum of office-holders comes below ministers and above secretaries. It comes in handy in accommodating politicians who could not be given ministerial berths owing to Constitutional restrictions on cabinet size. However, ministers often resent their presence because they are seen to be encroaching on the former’s area of operation.
CPSs hold office during the pleasure of the chief minister. They are supposed to scrutinise files as they move from secretary to minister, but seldom get a chance to do so. The CPSs, 13 in number, have not been allocated specific work by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. This has been a reason for unhappiness among most of them.

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'Soft drinks firms flouting rules by not printing ingredients'

Soft drink companies are openly flouting rules by not printing ingredients on glass bottles despite being asked to by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, an RTI activist said Friday. Right To Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal filed an RTI application with the food processing industries Nov 17, 2008, seeking to know if it was compulsory for soft drink companies to print ingredients on glass bottled drinks. In a reply received July 7, after a delay of almost 17 months, the ministry said it was compulsory for the companies to print ingredients on bottled drinks from March 19, 2009. 'None of the companies print ingredients on the refilled bottles despite the orders. Stringent action should be taken against those violating the rules,' Agrawal said. Taking note of delay by the ministry in providing information, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a fine of Rs.25,000 on the ministry's information officer.

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SIC puts Noida authority in dock for delay in RTI implementation

Noida has finally fallen in line with the order of the State Information Commission (SIC). After the commission's repeated notices, one of the richest public authorities of the state, Noida Industrial Development Authority, has put in place the mandatory provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. "They have complied with the order of the commission", said information commissioner (IC) Gyanendra Sharma. The commission had asked the authority about how many schools and hospitals were given the land on concession and under what terms and conditions. The public information officer (PIO) in his response has stated that more than 60 schools and few educational societies and 18 hospitals have been given the land. The authority has stuck to terms and conditions by asking schools and hospitals to cater to economically weaker sections and lower income groups.

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IB, RAW refuse to part with information on human rights

The country’s intelligence agencies — RAW and Intelligence Bureau — have refused to make public the information on cases related to human rights violation and corruption against their personnel though the RTI Act states otherwise. Interestingly, both the agencies wrongfully cited section 24 of the RTI Act for denial of response to the petitioner. According to the section, Central intelligence and security organisations have been kept outside the ambit of the RTI Act except for allegations of human rights violation or corruption. “As per the provision of the RTI Act 2005... the Intelligence Bureau has been exempted from providing any information or detail. Hence it is regretted that the information sought cannot be provided,” said the Public Information Officer of IB in his reply. Exercising his Right to Information, petitioner Ashwini Shrivastava, had asked for information related to cases of corruption, human rights violation and sexual exploitation in IB, RAW and Central Paramilitary Forces. In its reply, Assam Rifles said it has registered 39 cases related to alleged human rights violation and two cases of corruption in the past ten years. No such cases were witnessed by National Security Guard (NSG) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force personnel. However, four other Central paramilitary forces — CRPF, CISF, SSB and BSF denied to make public the information.

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RTI applications: Govt agencies adopt evasive stance

The Right to Information is a tool in the hands of the people to extract information from the government agencies. But in most cases, the authorities adopt tough stance and refuse to furnish information on flimsy ground. In one such case, a government agency has not given information to an RTI applicant, stating that he should deposit fees per point asked in the application and then only his queries would be answered.
Sadiabad corporator Rajiv Arya has asked numerous questions from Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) through RTI but the latter did not answer to various queries raised by him. The corporator has submitted the money through a postal order. But the agency refused to answer, saying that Arya should submit the money according to the number of points asked in the application.

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Commonwealth Games officials duck RTI on serving beef

It refers to recent RTI response by Organising Committee for Commonwealth Games 2010 wherein their Public Information Officer has utilised all means to evade a clear reply on aspect of serving beef during forthcoming Commonwealth Games to be held at New Delhi. TO A simple query, ‘Will beef be allowed to be served/used in any form during forthcoming Commonwealth Games 2010’ seeking reply only in ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, an unnecessary lengthy, confusing and out-of-context reply was given by the Commonwealth Games officials. The response stated that Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games has decided to provide nutritious meals to participants during the games-time as per guidelines of Commonwealth Games Federation, thereby evading any reply on serving beef.

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Ad row: HC slams Thane collectorate for inaction

The Thane collectorate's refusal to clear the air on the norms for selection of newspapers and channels eligible for securing advertisements and tender notices, has invited the ire of the Bombay high court. Officials at the collectorate continued to play ball with an RTI application filed by resident Pradeep Indulkar in December 2006, seeking details of the criteria for newspapers and TV channels to qualify for securing advertisements as well as tender notices issued by the Thane municipal corporation (TMC).

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Show cause notice to lekhpal for assuming role of PIO

UP never fails to churn out RTI surprises. In the latest, it is the case of an `over-zealous' lekhpal which has left everybody at information commission flummoxed. A lekhpal at Usarna village in Bakshi-ka-Talab assumed the role of a public information officer (PIO) and responded to an RTI application. In a move more audacious, he rejected the application claiming that questions therein are vague and incomplete.

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Information Commissioner lambasts SEBI for providing misleading information under RTI Act

The order was issued in connection with an appeal filed seeking information about all communication received by the market regulator from the capital markets division of the finance ministry MS Sahoo, whole-time member of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been issued a show-cause notice by the Central Information Commission asking him to show cause as to why an appellant should not be paid Rs25,000 as compensation for the detriment caused to her on account of the perfunctory manner in which her Right to Information (RTI) application and appeal was heard and disposed of. Information Commissioner AN Tiwari issued the order in connection with an appeal filed by Seema Kashyap to SEBI seeking information about all communication received by the market regulator from the capital markets division of the finance ministry on norms for approval of new stock exchanges, currency derivatives, SME exchange, interest-rate derivatives, corporate bond markets and ownership guidelines for stock exchanges.

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CHB told to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation

For deficiency in service and causing harassment to a complainant, UT consumer forum has directed Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) to pay him Rs 50,000 as compensation, along with Rs 5,500 as costs of litigation. Complainant Tarsem Singh, a resident of Sector 40-A, here, had alleged that he was allotted house number 911/1, Sector 40-A, Chandigarh, by the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB) on October 1, 1978, for which he had deposited the full and final payment in lump-sum. He was accordingly issued No Dues Certificate in November, 1979. In June, 2006, the complainant had applied for conversion from leasehold to freehold and submitted the required documents, along with a draft of Rs 2,870. Thereafter, he repeatedly visited the office of respondents and also submitted letters and reminders umpteen times to know the status of his application. Then, he filed an RTI plea for his application and in its response, he received a letter in June, 2009, from the respondents, stating that the original application could not be traced. He later issued a legal notice, but to no avail. In their written reply, the respondents admitted that the original file with respect to house number 911/1, Sector 40-A, was missing from the record since 2006 and could not be traced despite best efforts. The forum in its order said, “It is very unfortunate that important records of title are not being properly maintained in the office of CHB and at the top of it, the respondents are taking no action against the officials responsible for maintaining the said records or causing the loss thereof.”

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RTI disclosure reveals NRHM funds remained unused

Startling revelations have come to light on how crores of rupees allocated by the central government to Himachal Pradesh go down the drain without being utilized. Facts disclosed under the RTI Act to the local ‘Bureau of RTI’ revealed that a sum of Rs 4.58 crore had been allocated for Mandi district health authorities under the National Rural Health Mission for the year 2008-09 for refurbishing rural health services, but out of this amount only Rs 1.78 crore could be utilized and the remaining amount lapsed.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

CIC asks BSF to disclose info of missing Kashmiri youth

The Border Security Force has been directed to disclose information under the Right to Information Act about a youth who went missing from Kashmir 20 years ago. The decision is first of its kind as paramilitary forces, including BSF, are kept outside the ambit of RTI Act except for disclosing information related to corruption and human rights violation."Nevertheless it is conceded by all parties that in the present case the request is an allegation of disappearance in custody of a civilian working in a government department in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and therefore amounts to an allegation of human rights violation, which makes the BSF answerable," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in his order.

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Andhra Pradesh CIC row: Babu to lodge protest with Governor

Leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu will meet the Governor to lodge his dissent over the government's decision to appoint a bureaucrat as chief information commissioner. Speaking to reporters here today, Naidu said he would write a dissent letter to the government and meet the Governor. ``The appointment of chief information commissioner should not be made like a `political appointment' The Right to Information Act was introduced for better transparency. But there is no transparency even in appointing the CIC.''

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File on purchase of substandard bullet-proof jackets found

State Home Minister R.R. Patil on Friday said the police department has found a file pertaining to purchase of substandard bullet-proof jackets, one of which allegedly claimed the life of senior police officer Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terrorist attacks. The file was missing for more than a year. Slain Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Karkare’s wife had demanded information about it through the Right To Information Act. The matter is in the court now.Patil told media that the commissioner of police would provide details about the documents. But the information was not made until late Friday night.

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City builders now fear RTI ‘blackmailers’

he dreaded extortion call from a bhai is unsettling for any construction tsar, but Mumbai’s builders are now quivering before much lesser mortals. The violations they indulge in, they gripe, are being ferreted out by a bunch of "professional complainants" with the help of the RTI Act, not to expose corruption, but to blackmail them. Builders manipulating floor space index (FSI) or carrying out gross violations in their projects find themselves more susceptible to this phenomenon. "Unscrupulous builders flouting construction regulations are easy targets and are sometimes forced to shell out a couple of crores to keep extortionists off," said an industry insider, who claimed that even those builders who tried to work within the ambit of the sanctioned plans found themselves at the receiving end. Advocate-activist Y P Singh, however, said this was "inevitable collateral". When the statutory authorities themselves are sanctioning illegal plans, naturally, all kinds of unscrupulous people will want to jump on to the bandwagon," he said. He added that sometimes tenants in redevelopment deals also dug out details of government-builder misdemeanours to get a better deal.

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