Monday, January 24, 2011

Tripura appoints new information commissioners

The Tripura government Friday made new appointments to the state's Information Commission constituted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. But the move was rejected by the main opposition Congress. Former Tripura chief secretary Shashi Prakash and former principal secretary Shyamalima Banerjee, both retired IAS officers, have been appointed as chief information commissioner and information commissioner respectively, according to an official announcement. Main opposition Congress rejected the appointments, blaming the Left Front government for 'appointment of yes-men in the constitutional body'. 'The Left Front government has been selecting yes-men in the chairs of Information Commission to ensure illegal secrecy and suppress information from people to cover up corruption, misdeeds, nepotism and irregularities conducted in the government departments and other local government bodies,' opposition leader Ratan Lal Nath told reporters.

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All public interest info covered under RTI, rules Punjab and Haryana High Court

In a crucial judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today made it clear that "only that information is exempted, the disclosure of which, has no relationship to any public interest" from the purview of Right to Information Act. Justice MS Sullar today delivered the judgment while dismissing an appeal filed by one DP Jangra, District Food and Supplies Controller, Yamuna Nagar, Haryana. The appellant had sought quashing of an order of the Haryana State Information Commission which had allowed a petition filed by one Shamsher Singh.

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RTI penalties for delay in information are rarely imposed

Even five years after the enactment of the pioneering Right to Information Act (RTI), penalties for delays in providing what has been sought under the law are imposed in less than 4% of the cases, an independent audit shows. The Act, which empowers citizens to demand information from the government, provides for the imposition of penalties by the Central or State Information Commission in case of delays without reasonable cause. The landmark legislation was passed during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s first term as part of its efforts to make officialdom more accountable.

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CIC orders HPCL to publicly disclose list of LPG consumers

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) has been directed by the Central Information Commission in order to make public the list of its consumers of commercial and domestic cooking gas connections. "This is to ensure that all information regarding any subsidy or concession given by the government is widely known so that any possibility of selecting wrong beneficiaries or diverting, scarce and costly resources meant for certain class of people can be prevented," Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said.

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HC stays CIC order asking govt to publish EWS admission data

The Delhi High Court has stayed an order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the city government to make public the admission criteria for children of economically weaker section (EWS) followed by private schools for last three years. The court also stayed the CIC order to put on the government website the details about the annual returns placed on record by the schools. Justice S Muralidhar recently stayed till April 7 the directions passed by CIC on an application for information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The order came on an appeal filed by the association of city''s private schools -- The Delhi State Public School Management Association -- challenging CIC''s order passed on December 12 last year.

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RTI activists up in arms against AMK Nayak’s appointment as CIC

Right to Information (RTI) activists have registered their strong protest against former senior bureaucrat AMK Nayak as the state chief information commissioner (CIC).
The state government, in its order on Friday, had announced the selection of Nayak as the CIC. However, DNA, in its report had disclosed that Nayak was an ardent opponent of the RTI Act and did not deserve to be heading the information commission. The RTI activists, advocates and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) spoke in unison opposing his appointment. Responding to the DNA report, a group of advocates under the banner of Mahithi Hakku Horata Kenrda Samithi, said they would oppose Nayak’s appointment. Their representation before Governor HR Bhardwaj stated that five names were recommended by the chief minister to the post of CIC and information commissioners.

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Goa minister booked for land scam

Goa's Tourism and Housing Minister Nilkanth Halarnkar was Tuesday booked by the vigilance department in connection with a multi-million rupee land scam, police said.
The first information report (FIR) against Halarnkar follows written directions from a local court, which instructed the state government to file an FIR after hearing a petition filed by right to information (RTI) activists. Superintendent of Police (Vigilance) Bosco George told reporters that the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) legislator had been booked under section 409 of the Indian Penal Code (criminal breach of trust by public servant).

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Landmark directives from Tripura RTI

In a first of its kind initiative, the Tripura Right to Information Act (RTI) Commission recently introduced an online system for registering complaints and second appeals. The commission has also given three landmark directives that allow government employees to see their Annual Confidential Report (ACR), Departmental Promotions Committee (DPC) minutes as well as the caste status of public servants. "These three judgments have set precedence in the country and are now being considered in other states as well," said B K Chakrabarty, chief information commissioner (CIC) here.

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Draft amendments may sound RTI death knell

Proposed changes to the Right to Information (RTI) Act threaten to render it
ineffective to a large extent. The amendments include restricting questions per RTI query to one and word count to 250 per query, and levying a 'hire' charge. If the Department of Personal and Training's proposed draft comes into effect it would be applicable to all central government agencies and respective state commissions can follow suit and adopt these rules accordingly after issuing state resolutions. RTI activists said the draft rules would kill the Act and citizens will not get adequate responses. "The manner in which the DoPT is pushing the draft rules without asking for suggestions shows they want to dilute the Act and make it ineffective. The DoPT just gave 17 days (December 10 to December 27) to invite suggestions and comments. The draft rules suggest major changes that need to be debated. The Centre should have given more time for people to respond and given far more coverage to the rules in public forums, informing everyone of these changes. After all this is a people's Act," Bhaskar Prabhu, convener of the Mahiti Adhikar Manch said.

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NAC differs with govt on new rules for RTI Act

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) is on collision course once again with the government. This time the bone of contention is the new draft rules framed for Right to Information (RTI) Act which make it mandatory for applicants to file questions on a single subject in 250 words. NAC’s sub-group on transparency and accountability, headed by social activist Aruna Roy, has sent a strongly-worded critique of the draft rules to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) saying the draft rules were against the “spirit of the RTI Act” . According to sources, NAC discussed the issue for 15 minutes in its meeting on Monday and adopted the sub-group’s views

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Still no mechanism to ensure errant PIOs pay fine

Five years after the Right To Information (RTI) Act was enacted, there still does not appear to be a proper mechanism in place to ensure that public information officers fined by the Tamil Nadu Information Commission (TNIC) comply with such orders. While most officers directed to pay a fine for their refusal to reply to RTI queries or for giving incorrect or incomplete information obtained stay orders from the Madras high court, RTI activists complain that there is no one to vacate the court stay.

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Bring PPP projects under RTI: CIC

The Central Information Commission, the final appellate authority for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has asked the Planning Commission to include disclosure norms in all future public-private-partnership (PPP) projects undertaken by the Centre and the state governments. Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra has written to Planning Commission deputy-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to incorporate disclosure norms, so that any project which has the participation of private firms and concessionaires come under the purview of the transparency legislation. A full Commission meeting on December 28, after a detailed discussion, viewed that private companies undertaking government projects should be brought under the RTI Act. All information commissioners agreed that a specific disclosure clause should be included in the model concessionaire agreement (MCA) between the government and the private party.

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City fathers fail to disclose assets, liabilities

Civic representatives in Gulbarga, Bidar and Yadgir ditsricts under Hyderabad-Karnatak region face the threat of disqualification as they have failed to submit their assets and liabilities. The Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976 19(1) Act mandates that members of the city corporation or municipality should declare their assets and liabilities before the mayor. However, councillors are ignorant of the Act.
In the Gulbarga Muncipal Corporation (GMC), so far only four corporators, including deputy mayor Syed Sajjad Ali, have filed their assets and liabilities. An RTI filed by former minister S K Kantha has revealed that of the total 55 corporators, only four have declared their assets and liabilities.

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Irregularities detected in Pune pay-n-park scheme

The parking contractors engaged by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) at five city gardens continue to levy parking charges on four-wheeled vehicles for road-side parking facilities even after the expiry of their contracts. The matter came to light after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) worker, Mahesh Sambhus, filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, seeking details about the tenure of the parking contractors hired by the PMC.

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Missing law commission file traced

The file pertaining to the formation of Goa Law Commission headed by Ramakant Khalap which had gone missing has now re-surfaced. The under secretary, law, N P Signapurker has informed social activist Aires Rodrigues under the Right to Information Act that the file was received by the law department on January 5 from the debt management division of the finance department. The debt management wing of the finance department is headed by Anupam Kishore. The law department had earlier informed Rodrigues that it came to the notice of the department that the file was not traceable on October 20, 2010, on the very day he had sought information under the RTI Act.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Private developers to be subject to RTI

In an effort to stem the tide of corruption and keep the builder lobby "on a tight leash", a number of checks and guards have been introduced in the new coastal zone regulations. But the one that is likely to cause much consternation among developers is the Centre's insistence that private companies undertaking any redevelopment of koliwadas (fishing villages) within 100 m of the coastline will come under the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI). This is also seen as a move the government's part to protect its interests, given that it will now be mandatory for the state to partner with builders in redeveloping slums and hold a minimum stake of 51%. The announcement was made by Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh at a press conference on Saturday.

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City fathers fail to disclose assets, liabilities

Civic representatives in Gulbarga, Bidar and Yadgir ditsricts under Hyderabad-Karnatak region face the threat of disqualification as they have failed to submit their assets and liabilities. The Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976 19(1) Act mandates that members of the city corporation or municipality should declare their assets and liabilities before the mayor. However, councillors are ignorant of the Act. In the Gulbarga Muncipal Corporation (GMC), so far only four corporators, including deputy mayor Syed Sajjad Ali, have filed their assets and liabilities. An RTI filed by former minister S K Kantha has revealed that of the total 55 corporators, only four have declared their assets and liabilities.

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Karnataka's next information commissioner is not a votary of RTI Act

Former senior bureaucrat AKM Nayak, who is being appointed the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), once opposed transparency in governance. The government’s decision to appoint him as CIC has shocked many activists, who feel it would result in defeating the very purpose of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A letter which is in DNA's possession written by Nayak on February 27, 2002, to Raju Prem Kumar, the then principal secretary of the department of personnel and administrative reforms (DPAR), is ample proof about Nayak’s proclivity. “During the past two years (that is, prior to 2002), the government has been acting in a hurry and repenting at leisure, be it the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurements Act of 2001 or Right to Information Act. It should not create one more problem for itself,” writes Nayak.

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Gogoi involved in embezzlement: KMSS

Peasant organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti today alleged that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is involved in embezzling the public money of the State and part of the money laundered by him has been siphoned off to the US to procure property there in the names of members of his family.
The peasant organisation also demanded a CBI inquiry into the allegation and dared the Chief Minister to make a public statement on the source of the money used in procuring property in the US. Addressing mediapersons at a press conference here this afternoon, KMSS secretary Akhil Gogoi alleged that the Chief Minister has several houses in the US in the names of his wife Dolly Gogoi (12700 W Dodge Road, Omaha NE 69154), daughter Chandrima Gogoi (701 Berry Ave, Los Angeles C A 94024) and son-in-law Prasenjit Phukan (178 Ownes Ct Mountain View C A 94043; 143 Albany St, Cambridge MA 02139 and Los Altos CA 94022).

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RTI queries on only 1 subject at a time: CIC

Even as the Centre is considering amendments to the Right To Information rules, seeking to restrict RTI applications to one subject at a time and to 250 words, the Central Information Commission (CIC) in New Delhi seems to have gone a step ahead by implementing the draft proposals. To an RTI application filed by this reporter on December 6, 2010, which raised 20 queries seeking details pertaining to follow-up of fines imposed against public authorities, court stay obtained by public information officers against commission's order, disposal of cases and pending final appeals, the CIC chose to reply to only to ten questions.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

AKM Nayak is new Karnataka RTI chief

Former additional chief secretary AKM Nayak has been chosen as the state chief information commissioner of Karnataka Information Commission, the top Right To Information watchdog in the state.

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RTI activist questions roles of ex-MMRDA bosses

Right to Information (RTI) activists tracking investigations into the Adarsh housing scam have demanded that two previous chiefs of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) should be grilled about the irregularities. RTI activist Anil Galgali has said that previous metropolitan commissioners Suresh Joshi and T Chandrashekhar are responsible for signing the Commencement Certificates (CC) at various stages of the construction of the Adarsh building since 2005.

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Tripura launches RTI website

To facilitate prompt filing of complaints, hearing and disposal of cases under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, the state information commission of Tripura has launched a website — www.rtitripura.nic.in. The outgoing chief information commissioner, B.K. Chakraborty, said this today while interacting with the media at the state information commission’s office.

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Government sends letter to governor for Ramanand Tiwari’s removal

The government on Friday sent a letter to governor K Sankaranarayanan seeking the removal of information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari in connection with the Adarsh Housing scam. “The government has started the process of Tiwari's removal," an officer from the Mantralaya said. "As per the norms, it is mandatory for the government to recommend the sacking of Tiwari to the governor." A source at Raj Bhawan said that the governor was out of town till January 11. But that is unlikely to come in the way of Tiwari's removal. The process might take some time though as the papers will be thoroughly scrutinised.

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Give details of action taken in Hussain's painting issue: CIC

The Central Information Commission on Friday directed the Home Ministry to disclose whether it had sought a report from Intelligence Bureau on the controversial art work of celebrated painter M F Hussain and the final decision taken by the Ministry over the intelligence reports. Considering that reports from the intelligence agencies are exempted from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, Information Commissioner Sushma Singh asked the Ministry to at least inform whether it sought any report from it. The Commission said though IB reports are exempted from disclosure, it cannot be said about the final action taken by the Home Ministry on the basis of those reports.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Karnataka RTI watchdog likely to get new head today

A three-member committee headed by chief minister B S Yeddyurappa is scheduled to meet on Friday to appoint the next State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and at least four information commissioners to the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), the right to information watchdog in the state. The committee which has higher education minister V S Acharya and leader of opposition in the legislative assembly Siddaramaiah as other members is to meet at 4pm to select the next SCIC.

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Karnataka tourism takes Golden Chariot for a ride

Complimentary trips and free passes granted to as many as 439 passengers over two years has rendered the pride of Karnataka tourism, The Golden Chariot (TGC), a major loss-making project.
According to details procured by DNA based on a Right To Information (RTI) application filed by an activist MZ Ali, TGC—designed on the lines of Rajasthan’s famed Palace On Wheels— has recorded a dismal Rs10.88 crore in total income since its inception on August 2, 2008, while incurring an expenditure of Rs23.19 crore till March 31, 2010

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Goa State Information Commission summons Goa's Advocate General

Goa State Information Commission has today issued notice to Goa’s Advocate General Subodh Kantak directing him to personally appear before the commission on 21st January at 10.30 am in connection with the complaint filed against him by Aires Rodrigues for non- complying with the Right to Information Act. The notice to the Advocate General Subodh Kantak follows the petition filed by Aires Rodrigues against Subodh Kantak for his failure to comply with the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

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Petitions pile up before Andhra Pradesh info panel

The Andhra Pradesh State Information Commission (APIC) has about 6,000 cases piled up before it. The four-member commission is left only with the chief information commissioner (CIC), Mr Jannat Husain, as the terms of three other commissioners expired last November. As the government is yet to appoint new commissioners, the commission is still handling appeals and complaints filed in early 2009. Currently, appeals and complaints pertaining to home, general administration finance and planning, energy, revenue and relief, infrastructure and investment, industries and commerce, and law department are being looked into by the CIC. The commission has 6,560 cases pending before it as on November 30. Under Section 15 (2) (b) of Right to Information Act, 2005, up to 10 commissioners could be appointed. However, officials in the commission hope to dispose of all the appeals and complaints within six months. They have sought the appointment of five information commissioners.

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Punjab rules not in sync with RTI Act: CIC

Taking on the Department of Information Technology and Administrative Reforms, under which the state information commission falls, Punjab CIC RI Singh asserted that the rules framed by the Punjab government were in conflict with the RTI Act. “The powers to make the rules have been vested with the government to carry out the provisions of this Act and not to thwart them,” he said. Singh said although a formal direction to the government may be beyond the jurisdiction of the commission, nevertheless, keeping in view the clauses of the rules, which violate the RTI Act, it was imperative to direct the Department of IT and AR to make suitable amendments so that continuous violation was rectified at the earliest.

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Adarsh scam: Information Commissioner Tiwari's leave application rejected

Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan on Wednesday refused to grant leave to Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, whose son owns a flat in the controversial Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai. "Tiwari had sought leave from January 7 to March 31. The Governor has not granted leave to him," a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said. Tiwari had submitted his leave application to the State Governor, amid a demand by the opposition for his ouster. Earlier on Monday, former IAS officer Subhash Lalla resigned as a member of Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission following allegations of his involvement in the scam.

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Adarsh scam: Maharashtra Information Commissioner submits leave application

Maharashtra Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, whose son owns a flat in the controversial Adarsh Housing Society here, has submitted his leave application to the Governor, amid demand by the opposition for his ouster. “Tiwari had submitted leave application to the Governor, who is yet to take any decision on the matter,” a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said. Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai has said that the government should sack Tiwari, a former IAS officer, for his alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam.

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Give clarifications sought by Prez about Justice Prasad: CIC

The Central Information Commission today directed the Rashtrapati Bhavan Secretariat to make public clarifications sought by the President before clearing the name of Justice C K Prasad as a Supreme Court judge. Justice Prasad was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge in February 8 last year. The collegium had in November 2009 recommended the elevation of the Allahabad High Court Chief Justice as the SC judge. However, the government returned the file seeking clarifications on allegations of corruption against Prasad.

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Bogus ration cards issue: Gondia admn shielding employees?

If the information given by tehsil office at Gondia under the Right to Information Act is any indication, then the administration seems to be shielding its officers and employees involved in giving bogus ration cards. The racket was exposed by the activists of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in May. Mahesh Wadhwani was caught red-handed with relevant documents. Local MNS activists had on May 19 trapped Wadhwani, one of the touts operating from the local tehsil office, with 23 ration cards, a pan card, 20 election identity cards, 21 applications for new ration cards, one blank ration card, several rubber stamps and a chalan book.

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RTI activist who took on Shiv Sena man beaten up

In the continuing attacks on Right to Information (RTI) activists, Yashwant Gavand (42), who took on a Shiv Sena corporator over alleged encroachments and undeclared assets, was severely beaten up by over two dozen people in a city locality on Sunday. Gavand, who is recovering at Mulund General Hospital for multiple injuries, said he had evidence proving that Bhandup corporator Suresh Shinde had several assets, which he had not declared to the Election Commission during the last elections. ‘‘Using the RTI documents, I filed a writ petition before the high court in 2010,’’ Gavand told The Times Of India. Police said the attack came after the municipal commissioner on December 15 ordered the ward officer to complete an inquiry by March 15 this year against Suresh Shinde against whom the victim had filed writ petitions. ‘‘Gavand availed of RTI that showed the corporator’s links to illegal structures and activities in Bhandup,’’ said Gavand’s friend Taranath Shetty.

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RTI activist survives attack near Pune

Noted Right to Information (RTI) activist Arun Mane was attacked on Sunday by unidentified assailants in a town near here, nearly a year after his friend Satish Shetty, another well-known RTI crusader, was murdered. The assailants came on motorbikes and attacked Mane with sticks in Talegaon Dabhade, around 30 km from here, the police said. The attackers fled as soon as Mane fell unconscious. He was later taken to a hospital and is stable. Thane had previously worked with Shetty, who was murdered on January 13 last year for blowing the whistle on land scams around Lonavla, Pimpri and Chinchwad areas. “Post Shetty’s death, I continued to carry forward his work and was trying to procure information on some land deals,” Mane said.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Top MP babu's fake certificates exposed

In a first of its kind, the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha has asked its Principal Secretary AK Pyasi to submit certificates relating to his educational qualifications and date of birth within the next 10 days. Pyasi rose to power by allegedly using fake certificates. Madhya Pradesh Assembly Principal Secretary AK Pyasi is in the dock - not on charges of corruption but for allegedly producing fake educational certificates to get into the post of Chief Muncipal Officer in 1977. Pyasi is due to retire in May 2011 as Principal Secretary. But the state Vidhan Sabha is caught in a strange situation as it does not have Principal Secretary's service record
The man who first alleged that Pyasi had manipulated records and obtained jobs through fake certificates is advocate Sanjay Nayak. Nayak first asked for the service record book of Pyasi from the Vidhan Sabha under the Right to Information Act.

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Tripura introduces online RTI plea filing

Tripura Friday became the first Indian state to introduce online filing of Right to Information (RTI) complaints. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar launched the service of the Tripura Information Commission (TIC) here. 'The National Informatics Centre (NIC) developed a software for the National Information Commission to operate the 'Online System' of getting information, filing complaints by the people and their processing under the RTI Act,' Tripura's Chief Information Commissioner B.K. Chakraborty told IANS.

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