Wednesday, February 10, 2016

PIO fined Rs1.25 lakh for denying info to applicant's 5 applications

DNA: Mumbai: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
A public information officer (PIO) has been fined Rs1.25 lakh for not providing information to an applicant for five of his applications. For each, a maximum fine of Rs25,000 can be slapped on a PIO as per the Act, and that's the amount that the errant PIO has been penalised. The fine will be taken from his salary over a period of time.
The fine was levied in five different orders dated January 28 by state chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. The PIO, who is from the building and factory department, did not give information to RTI applicant Rego Dias.
A resident of Kalina village, Dias, through his five applications filed last April and May, had sought to know the details of action taken on illegal construction in a four-storey building. He had asked for fine and notices slapped, permission based on which the structure had come up, copies of complaints received, and the log book.
"I had filed the applications because there are too many illegal constructions sprouting up every now and then in the area. One keeps complaining but there is no action taken. I had sought details on the action taken on the complaints and the copies of the records they have," said Dias, who added that he has also filed a public interest litigation on illegal constructions in the area.
"The order is good and it should be implemented, because even after complaining, the officers do not take any action. Such officers need to be penalised. In this case, the PIO did not even turn up for one of the hearings."

Sickle cell patients yet to get travel concessions

Times of India: Nagpur: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
In March 2015, a government resolution was issued that allowed patients suffering from genetic blood disorder sickle cell disease (SCD) to travel for free in state transport buses. It took almost a year for two government units, the public health department (PHD) and the transport authority, to work on the first step towards implementing the order. In the meanwhile, it is a mystery where the money allocated towards this end in the last financial year has vanished.
As per the GR, the data related to the number of patients availing the facility was to be collected by the transport authority while the expenses towards this end will be borne by the public health department. Despite repeated reminders for several months, it was only a month back that the PHD forwarded a sum of around Rs37 lakh to the National Health Mission (NHM) to be forwarded to the transport authority. This was only a third of the amount that was asked of them. Sources from the health department said that the scheme is expected to be implemented within the next couple of weeks.
Another GR of the state government dated January 11, 2016, informed that a sum of Rs37,66,700 has been forwarded by the health department for the year 2015-16. For financial year 2014-15, Rs15.11 crore was forwarded to the public health department to cover concessions accorded to patients, an information that came forward through an RTI query filed by activist Sampat Ramteke last year.
"In answer to the same RTI query, I was also told that NHM had received Rs12.56 crore from the department of tribal development and Rs1.88 crore from the department of social justice, with Rs0.66 crore contributed by the department itself towards the travel concession. I fail to understand where all this money has gone because the scheme is yet to be implemented on ground," said Ramteke, the president of NGO Sickle Cell Society of India (SCSI). He wonders what it would take to ensure the concession is availed by the needy patients.
SCSI has been demanding that the concession since fifteen years. "Several of the poor tribal patients of the disease live in remote areas. There have been many deaths in these areas among the patients because of not having enough money to reach the hospital on time. This facility was supposed to save lives," said Ramteke. He expressed sorrow that the government kept denying poor people who really needed their aid.
TIMELINE
2000 — Demand for travel concession for SCD patients in ST buses first made
2002 — State government initiates an assessment study to see if the concession is feasible
2010 — Maharashtra Lokayukta directed the state's public health department to execute a ten-point programme in three months' time. One of the points in the programme was making ST travel concession available.
2011 — Lack of any action on the issue was raised by State Information Commissioner
2013 — Postcard andolan was started by SCSI which enlisted several demands including the travel concession
2014 — Following a discussion on the issue in the Vidhan Sabha, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announced that the travel concession would soon be made available
March 2015 — GR allowed free travel in ST for SCD patient and one companion
May 2015 — state transport authority asked the health department of the state government to deposit Rs1 crore towards covering the concession cost
Feb 2016 — Rs37 lakh given to National Health Mission to be forwarded to state transport authority
WHAT THE GR SAYS
       A patient suffering from SS pattern sickle cell disease, along with one aide, can avail free travel in ST buses for getting required medical examination or treatment from his native place to rural hospital/subdistrict hospital/district hospital/government hospital.
       The expenses on the government because of this facility must be looked into every three months
       This concession will also be applicable for those wishing to go for prenatal test for SCD

Online petition to CM looks to revive ARAI-tekdi issue ; Move comes after activists find in RTI that forest dept recommended what they demand.

Pune Mirror: Pune: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
For years now, localites especially green activists have been staunchly opposing the acquisition of forest land by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) on the city's beloved tekdis or hills. In fact, the demand has been for these 53.74 hectares of additional land to be returned to the forest department, which has also been recommended in December last year by chief conservator of forests, Jeet Singh, to the principal chief conservator of forests, A K Nigam. Now, in a bid to revive and strengthen this fight in the face of this revelation, citizens have started an online petition on activism portal Change.org, addressed directly to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Dr Sushma Date, one of the citizens who has been fighting for the land on Vetal tekdi, said, "The expansion of ARAI activity had received sustained opposition from local residents, even backed by senior scientists like Jayant Narlikar and Madhav Gadgil. Consequently, ARAI had not utilised the land for the purpose it was taken for."
Documents obtained by protesters under the Right to Information (RTI) Act around two months ago indicate that CCF Singh, in a letter dated December 4, 2015, had told PCCF Nigam in Nagpur that only two hectares that house the offices and laboratories of ARAI should remain with them. The online petition is trying to highlight and support this recommendation to make its case stronger.
The petition also claims that in January last year, ARAI levelled approximately two acres of forest land for constructing a parking lot without obtaining the necessary environment clearances, indicating that it has scant knowledge and respect for the precious biodiversity of the forest land it is occupying. Moreover, though the land was given to them in 2009, no use of it has been made in the last six years.
The petition is of concern given that this hill is one of the last remaining green spaces in the heart of the city, which activists insist needs to be preserved for future generations. The petition adds that although there is a need for automotive research and testing, such industries need to be given alternative land in industrial belts around the city, rather than in the midst of valuable forests, where activities could impact fragile ecology and wildlife in the area.

Bengaluru City Students Say PU Department Shirking Responsibility

Indian Express: Bengaluru: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
City PU students think the new rules introduced by the Pre-university Education Department, including one that says second-year students cannot go to court over marks, are unconstitutional.
A circular issued by the department also says students cannot use the RTI Act to access answer scripts, that the department is not responsible for delays, and that students should not share scans with the college or media.
City Express spoke to some PU students from the city on their views on this development.
“The new guidelines show that the department is incapable of handling any responsibility. The board also forgot about middle and lower rungs of the society when it increased the revaluation and examination fees,” said Tejas Rajashekar, a student at ASC Independent College.
He also said asking the student fraternity to not to go to court over answer script evaluation was unconstitutional. “We students will protest against this order,” he added.
This notification is an attempt by the department to snatch away students’ rights, said Mount Carmel College student Vallari Parashar. “If the process of revaluation is not transparent, I don’t see the point in having the option,” she said.
Nagabhishek of Jain College called the notification highly inappropriate. “The PU department is simply trying to escape responsibility. If they cannot take responsibility for delay in providing copies of the answer script, who can help us get admission into colleges for higher studies?” he questioned.
Megha Srinath from the same college agrees with her batch mates. “We should be provided a platform to get justice, to claim what we deserve,” she told City Express.
Another Jain College student Sriniketh Dayalu thinks the department cannot evade responsibility for mistakes in evaluation. “We study hard and answer the questions. If they (the department) make mistakes in valuation, it is their fault,” he said.
Those unhappy with their results should be free to approach the court, he added. “But if they make it mandatory for us to sign an undertaking that we won’t before we appear for the exam, students will not be left with much choice.”

Attorney General’s office different from other public offices, Union tells Delhi HC

Bar & Bench: Mumbai: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
With the Attorney General’s office under the RTI scanner, the Union Government told the Delhi High Court that the AG’s office, while performing duties under the Constitution, was not performing a public function.
The submissions came in the background of an appeal filed by the Union Law Ministry against a Single Bench order of the Delhi High Court which had held that the AG’s office was a ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act.
Standing Counsel for the Union Government, Jasmeet Singh argued that the AG shared a fiduciary relationship with the Government and his duty was restricted to advising and defending the Goverment’s actions in Court.
“The AG’s office is very different from any other public office firstly because of the [fiduciary] relationship he shares with the government and also because of the nature of [confidential] information that rests with him.”
ASG Sanjay Jain, who built upon his submissions from the last hearing, argued that the judgment of the Single Bench had not referred to Section 4 of the RTI Act, which listed out certain attributes of public authorities.
“The definition of a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Act draws parallel flavor from Section 4. As much as I agree with the learned judge that the AG’s office is contemplated under the Constitution and that the Constitution itself defines the work of the Attorney General, it should additionally be noted that Section 4 provisions must also transpose themselves with the scheme of Article 76 (2) because the Constitution itself cannot be ignored.
By no stretch of imagination, does Section 4(1)(a) includes the office of the AG.”
The Bench seemed to agree with the submissions made by Jain and Singh when it observed that ‘it was apparent that the AG’s functions had to be discharged by him, on his own’ and that he could not delegate his duties.
After hearing the Union’s submissions at length, the Bench adjourned the matter to February 15.

Have clear policy to protect witnesses: HC

The Hindu: Mumbai: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
The Bombay High Court on Monday told the State to make up its mind and come up with a clear policy to protect whistleblowers, RTI activists and witnesses who depose in criminal trials.
The statement was made when the advocate appearing for the State submitted yet another revised draft of the Witness Protection Bill to a division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and CV Bhadang. The bench was hearing a suo motu petition after Satish Shetty, RTI activist known for exposing land scams in Maharashtra, was killed.
In the previous hearing, the court had suggested that the ambit of the Bill should also include protection of police witnesses, who depose in the court and also investigating officers who face threats.
The bill draft submitted on Monday did have the addition point that the names of witnesses will not be disclosed till the filing of the charge sheet.
It also stated that an investigating officer or any other officer, who has the knowledge that the witnesses needs physical protection, but overlooks it, can be punished with imprisonment up to a year and a fine of Rs 5,000.
Chalking out the procedure for providing protection to the witnesses, the draft bill also states that once an application is filed seeking protection, the designated committee will look into the threat perception, do a detailed inquiry into it, and submit a report in seven days. After that, the assistant commissioner or deputy district superintendent of police will decide the category of protection.
The court, however, told the State government to have some clarity and make up its mind on the policy.

Unsettled Right to Privacy can unsettle RTI ? : Prof. Madabhushi Sridhar

Live Law: New Delhi: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
Government agencies are using right of privacy to stonewall the requests for information. Privacy of a person need to be protected but public interest is higher than the private interests. Apex court and several High Courts’ verdicts also offered this protection to individuals working in public offices, at the cost of people’s right to information.
In a common capital where two chief ministers existed, both were making statements mutually leveling serious criminal allegations. When one Chief Minister’s voice was tapped in an episode of offering a bribe to a legislator to buy his vote, he and his state raised a hue and cry over ‘privacy’. The ‘trap’ was countered by ‘tap’ allegation. The people do not know what happened thereafter. They believe that investigation is going on and on.
The issue here is not which Chief Minister was correct. Whether privacy is so fundamental that it can even prevent law enforcing machinery from investigation? Whether public interest has any role to deny privacy?
Can ACB enter bed rooms of the official or personal residences of the Chief Ministers in India, where there are several established instances of stuffing currency notes in beds, cots, and walls of these private rooms? Should ACB officers stop at the drawing room and sincerely protect the privacy of the Chief Minister?
Let us read what Right to Information Act, 2005 says: 8(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, (j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.
Besides larger public interest defence mentioned above, there are two more general provisos to this right of privacy: 1. If that personal Info could be given to Legislature, it can be given to citizen also, (Proviso to Sec 8(1), 2. If the public interest in disclosure is comparatively better than public interest in protection. [Section 8(2)]
The Supreme Court in Girish Ramachandra Deshpande v CIC, held: ‘Income tax returns, immovable property statements, show cause notices, charge-sheet and service records of an employee are personal information whose disclosure has no relationship to any public activity or interest. They may not be disclosed unless there is a clear overriding public interest in disclosure.’ (2 Judge Bench of SC [(2013) 1SCC 212] SLP (Civil) No. 27734 of 2012, decided on 03/10/2012) This is more or less similarly coached in language of Section 8(1)(j).
The SC pointed out that immovable property statements; show cause notices and chargesheets are personal information. It is not correct proposition. They cannot be said to be parts ‘right to privacy’ of the individuals who are corrupt, chargesheeted, received show cause notices and admonition for misconduct. Those public servants will be either suspended or dismissed or their increments are cut. How could they be private information of those persons whose corruption or irresponsibility of misconduct is proved? Whether privacy is a cover to protect criminals?
IT Returns & Privacy
Delhi HC held in Naresh Trehan vs Rakesh Kumar Gupta and related matters, W. P. (C) 85/2010 24/11/2014 – (SB) “33. … where the nature of income tax returns and other information provided for assessment of income is confidential and its disclosure is protected under the Income Tax Act, 1961 it is not necessary to read any inconsistency between the Act and Income Tax Act, 1961. And information furnished by an assessee can be disclosed only where it is necessary to do in public interest and where such interest outweighs in importance, any possible harm or injury to the assesse or any other third party… 37. The CIC had proceeded on the basis that the income tax authorities should disclose information to informers of income tax departments to enable them to bring instances of tax evasion to the notice of income tax authorities. In my view, this reasoning is flawed as it would tend to subvert the assessment process rather than aid it. If this idea is carried to its logical end, it would enable several busy bodies to interfere in assessment proceedings and throw up their interpretation of law and facts as to how an assessment ought to be carried out.”
The question is why the tax paid by an individual to the Government as income tax or some other tax be considered as ‘confidential’? What is the reasoning? Whether all IT returns are private information or this rule will apply to a particular case? It is against the rule of law to make it a general rule. IT returns are private only when there is no public interest in its disclosure. Information Commissioner has to examine this public interest in each and every case.
Caste certificate is pvt?
According to another order of Delhi HC, the Copy of caste certificate of an employee is personal information and cannot be disclosed unless there is an overriding public interest and that too only if that employee consented to the disclosure as third party. (Harish Kumar vs Provost Marshal –cum-Appellate Authority & Ors., LPA No. 253/2012, on 30/03/2012 – (DB) [(2012) ILR 5 Delhi 41]
It is most unreasonable to say the caste information is private or personal information. If the caste certificate is fake or manipulated, there is public interest in knowing it and probing it. If it is genuine, there is no need to hide. We are not a casteless society. Reservations have given enormous life to castes and we are still being divided by caste. It cannot be personal information, especially some mischievous elements are using corruption prevalent in system to get false caste certificates to enjoy reservation benefits. Poor and deprived sections are further deprived by this corruption.
Delhi HC held Union of India vs R Jayachandran, W.P. (C) 3406/2012, on 19/02/2014: ‘Passport details, copies of birth certificate and copies of record of educational qualifications are personal information the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individuals unless there is an overbearing public interest in favour of disclosure.’
In Union Public Service Commission vs R K Jain, LPA No. 618/2012, on 06/11/2012 – (DB) [196 (2013) DLT 170, held: ‘An RTI applicant seeking personal information of a third party has the obligation of proving that disclosure would serve the public interest better than keeping the information confidential. 111… The protection of privacy principle, on the other hand, holds in part at least that individuals should, generally speaking, have some control over the use made by others, especially government agencies, of information concerning themselves. Thus, one of the cardinal principles of privacy protection is that personal information acquired for one purpose should not be used for another purpose without the consent of the individual to whom the information pertains. The philosophy underlying the privacy protection concern links personal autonomy to the control of data concerning oneself and suggests that the modern acceleration of personal data collection, especially by government agencies, carries with it a potential threat to a valued and fundamental aspect of our traditional freedoms…
Public servants & privacy protection
In Secretary General, Supreme Court of India v Subhash Chandra Agarwal (2010), Delhi High Court says: 114… The nature of restriction on the right of privacy, however, as pointed out by the learned single Judge, is of a different order; in the case of private individuals, the degree of protection afforded to be greater; in the case of public servants, the degree of protection can be lower, depending on what is at stake. This is so because a public servant is expected to act for the public good in the discharge of his duties and is accountable for them…” (3-judge Bench) This is a saving ruling. Public interest should override in all these so called private information cases. (Professor Madabhushi Sridhar is a Columnist, Media Law Researcher and Central Information Commissioner.)

Gurgaon official fined for stonewalling RTI query

Business Standard: Gurgaon: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
The Haryana state information commission has imposed a Rs.5,000 fine on Gurgaon's District Development and Panchayat Officer (DDPO) Narender Singh for not replying to an RTI request.
Sudhir Yadav had sought information, through a request made on January 31, 2015, about how much money was drawn and spent by members of the Zila Parishad and the Block Samiti in the last financial year.
He was called on first appeal but DDPO Singh missed the meeting without any justified reason and kept him waiting for over two hours.
Yadav then filed a complaint with the state information commission about the behaviour of officials in the DDPO office.
Acting on the complaint, the commission issued show cause notice to Singh who failed to respond.
The commission called the DDPO for a final hearing on February 1, 2016, and imposed the fine after the officer failed to present himself personally.

RTI culture

Daily Excelsior: Jammu: Wednesday, 10 February 2016.
The Right to Information Act was passed by the Parliament way back in 2002. It was extended to the State of Jammu and Kashmir also. Over the years the influence and functioning of the RTI has been closely watched by observers and agencies in civil society. General impression is that RTI has been highly beneficial and has contributed to the creation of culture of openness and transparency. The fact of the matter is that Right to Information is an important instrument to strengthen the roots of democracy and also to work towards good governance.
A succinct and objective summing up of the RTI was given by Governor N.N. Vohra while addressing Regional Conference on Right to Information organized by J&K Institute of Management, Public Administration and Rural Development (IMPARD) in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission and sponsored by Department of Personnel and Trainings (DoPT), Government of India. He said that he had been closely watching the advancement of the Act of RTI in the State and he was convinced that after overcoming initial hiccups, the Act has become part of the administrative culture of the State. Initially the departments were loath to give out information in public interest because the culture of secrecy and keeping away from the public any facts and figures about the performance of the Government was long standing culture most probably coming down to us from the days of British Raj. But now departments were more open and forthcoming and the stage of disclosing knowledge voluntarily had been reached.
The Governor was very right in saying that even if we did not have the law, still the people of the State and the country enjoyed the right to information as it is vested in the constitution of the country. It is true that departments are now voluntarily posting information on their respective websites and the need is that they update their websites regularly to make RTI operative in letter and in spirit. Civil society is also reacting constructively towards the Act. Lawyers, advocates and legal luminaries are taking up PIL cases and pursuing them and thereby the RTI is further strengthened. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has further strengthened the Act by interpreting many of its clauses in the right spirit keeping in mind the fundamental principal that the people of this country have a right to know how they and the country are governed. The governance has to be transparent and not in secrecy.
Though some achievements have been made by the civil society in promulgating the reach of RTI, much remains to be done still in this regard. There are still pockets in the administrative structure of the State where the rights of the people to transparency and accountability have to be streamlined.
Morality and ethics form the base of transparency and accountability, which in turn strengthen the Right to Information. This is an intertwined affair and has to be dealt with comprehensively.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Public interest vs right to privacy : By Madabhushi Sridhar

The Hans India: New Delhi: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
It is most unreasonable to say that the caste information is private or personal information. If the caste certificate is fake or manipulated, there is public interest in knowing it and probing it. If it is genuine, there is no need to hide. We are not a casteless society.
Reservations have given enormous life to castes and we are still being divided by caste. It cannot be personal information, especially when some mischievous elements are using corruption prevalent in system to get false caste certificates to enjoy reservation benefits
Government agencies are using right of privacy to stonewall the requests for information. Privacy of a person needs to be protected but public interest is higher than private interests. Apex court and several High Court verdicts also offered this protection to individuals working in public offices, at the cost of people’s right to information.
In a common capital where two Chief Ministers exist, both are making statements mutually levelling serious criminal allegations.  When one Chief Minister’s voice was tapped in an episode of offering a bribe to a legislator to buy his vote, he and his State raised a hue and cry over ‘privacy.’ The ‘trap’ was countered by ‘tap’ allegation. The people do not know what happened thereafter.
They believe that investigation is going on and on. The issue here is not which Chief Minister was correct. Whether privacy is so fundamental that it can even prevent law enforcing machinery from investigation? Whether public interest has any role to deny privacy.
Can ACB enter bedrooms of the official or personal residences of the Chief Ministers in India, where there are several established instances of stuffing currency notes in beds, cots, and walls of these private rooms? Should ACB officers stop at the drawing room and sincerely protect the privacy of the Chief Minister?
Let us read what the Section 8(1)  of the Right to Information Act, 2005, says: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen (j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”
Besides “larger public interest defence” mentioned above, there are two more general provisos to this right of privacy: 1. If that personal Info could be given to Legislature, it can be given to citizen also (Proviso to Sec 8(1); 2. If the public interest in disclosure is comparatively better than public interest in protection [Section 8(2)].
The Supreme Court in Girish Ramachandra Deshpande v CIC , held: “Income tax returns, immovable property statements, show cause notices, charge-sheet and service records of an employee are personal information whose disclosure has no relationship to any public activity or interest. They may not be disclosed unless there is a clear overriding public interest in disclosure.” (2 Judge Bench of SC [(2013) 1SCC 212] SLP (Civil) No. 27734 of 2012, decided on 03/10/2012)  This is more or less similarly coached in language of Section 8(1) (j).
The Supreme Court pointed out that immovable property statements; show cause notices and charge sheets are personal information. It is not correct proposition. They cannot be said to be parts of the ‘right to privacy’ of the individuals who are corrupt, charge sheeted, and received show cause notices and admonition for misconduct.
Those public servants will be either suspended or dismissed or their increments are cut. How could they be private information of those persons whose corruption or irresponsibility of misconduct is proved? Is privacy is a cover to protect criminals?
IT returns & privacy
The Delhi High Court held in Naresh Trehan vs Rakesh Kumar Gupta and related matters, W. P. (C) 85/2010 24/11/2014 – (SB)  “33. … where the nature of income tax returns and other information provided for assessment of income is confidential and its disclosure is protected under the Income Tax Act, 1961, it is not necessary to read any inconsistency between the Act and Income Tax Act, 1961.
And information furnished by an assessee can be disclosed only where it is necessary to do in public interest and where such interest outweighs in importance, any possible harm or injury to the assessee or any other third party…  37. The CIC had proceeded on the basis that the income tax authorities should disclose information to informers of income tax departments to enable them to bring instances of tax evasion to the notice of income tax authorities.
In my view, this reasoning is flawed as it would tend to subvert the assessment process rather than aid it. If this idea is carried to its logical end, it would enable several busy bodies to interfere in assessment proceedings and throw up their interpretation of law and facts as to how an assessment ought to be carried out.”
The question is why the tax paid by an individual to the government as income tax or some other tax be considered as ‘confidential’? What is the reasoning? Are all IT returns are private information or will this rule apply to a particular case? It is against the rule of law to make it a general rule. IT returns are private only when there is no public interest in its disclosure. Information Commissioner has to examine this public interest in each and every case.
Caste certificate is private?
According to another order of Delhi HC, the copy of caste certificate of an employee is personal information and cannot be disclosed unless there is an overriding public interest and that too only if that employee consented to the disclosure as third party. (Harish Kumar vs Provost Marshal –cum-Appellate Authority & Ors., LPA No. 253/2012, on 30/03/2012 – (DB) [(2012) ILR 5 Delhi 41]
It is most unreasonable to say that the caste information is private or personal information. If the caste certificate is fake or manipulated, there is public interest in knowing it and probing it. If it is genuine, there is no need to hide. We are not a casteless society. Reservations have given enormous life to castes and we are still being divided by caste.
It cannot be personal information, especially when some mischievous elements are using corruption prevalent in system to get false caste certificates to enjoy reservation benefits. Poor and deprived sections are further deprived by this corruption.
Delhi HC held Union of India vs R Jayachandran, W.P.  (C) 3406/2012, on 19/02/2014: “Passport details, copies of birth certificate and copies of record of educational qualifications are personal information the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individuals unless there is an overbearing public interest in favour of disclosure.”
In Union Public Service Commission vs R K Jain, LPA No. 618/2012, on 06/11/2012 – (DB) [196 (2013) DLT 170, held:  “An RTI applicant seeking personal information of a third party has the obligation of proving that disclosure would serve the public interest better than keeping the information confidential. 111… The protection of privacy principle, on the other hand, holds in part at least that individuals should, generally speaking, have some control over the use made by others, especially government agencies, of information concerning themselves.
Thus, one of the cardinal principles of privacy protection is that personal information acquired for one purpose should not be used for another purpose without the consent of the individual to whom the information pertains. The philosophy underlying the privacy protection concern links personal autonomy to the control of data concerning oneself and suggests that the modern acceleration of personal data collection, especially by government agencies, carries with it a potential threat to a valued and fundamental aspect of our traditional freedoms…Public servants & privacy protection.
In Secretary General, Supreme Court of India, v Subhash Chandra Agarwal (2010), Delhi High Court says: 114… The nature of restriction on the right of privacy, however, as pointed out by the learned single Judge, is of a different order; in the case of private individuals, the degree of protection afforded to be greater; in the case of public servants, the degree of protection can be lower, depending on what is at stake.
This is so because a public servant is expected to act for the public good in the discharge of his duties and is accountable for them…” (3-judge Bench)  This is a saving ruling. Public interest should override in all these so called private information cases.

Rail-related accidents claim 50,000 lives in 13 years

DNA: Mumbai: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
Rail-related accidents have claimed 50,000 lives in Mumbai from 2002 to 2015, an RTI query has revealed.
As per figures provided by the railway police commissionerate, during the same period, an equal number of people were injured.
The RTI application was filed by Chetan Kothari. The central railway, which has approximately 200 km of route under it, saw as many as 30,351 deaths. The western railway, which has a 120 km network, followed with19,852 deaths.
The maximum number of deaths, at 31,515, occurred while crossing railway lines. That was followed by death due to fall from trains.
Falling from trains accounted for maximum injuries.
Kurla on the central line and Borivli on the western line saw the maximum casuaties. Over 6,591 people lost their lives in Kurla for different reasons in the 13- year period while the figure for Borivli stood at 5,494. An RTI application had earlier revealed that Kurla is the fifth most-populated station on the central line and Borivli the most populated on the western line.
While 28,267 people were injured in the central line, 22,236 people were injured in the western line.
"It is high time the railways did something to address the issue. The railways need to have wider foot over bridges (FOB) and regulate track-crossing. They need to keep the FOBs clear and not cancel or move trains to other platforms that gets commuters to cross tracks," said Kothari.
While the divisional managers of central and western railways were not available for comment, Prabhat Sahai, chariman and managing director of Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation, said: "Railways are working towards reducing causalties and injuries. As per MUTP 2, 12 stations have been identified where work on FOB, boundary walls, fencing between tracks and escalators are being taken up. The work on all of them will be over by December. That apart, as per MUTP 3, we have selected 22 locations where work will start."

Surplus doctors in Panchkula: Health Minister seeks report

Indian Express: Chandigarh: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
HEALTH MINISTER Anil Vij Monday sought a report from the Health Department about state government doctors being posted in Panchkula on demand.
The Indian Express Sunday reported how the Haryana government had made “adjustments” for these doctors either at the office of Director General Health Services or General Hospital, Sector 6, Panchkula, while other districts did not have doctors.
An RTI enquiry filed by a health department official revealed in detail that some doctors got approval from the office of the Haryana Chief Minister and, in one case, a recommendation came from the Panchkula MLA.
Vij said Additional Chief Secretary Health P K Mahapatra has been directed to submit the report within two days.
“Taking cognizance of the news report, I have called for all the facts as to who all are posted at various departments in Panchkula, their stay, at which all places they were transferred and when they returned,” said Vij.
Adding that the details reported by The Indian Express were shocking for him, Vij said, “Gadbad to kar rahe hain (There is hanky panky). Once I get the report, then my office will personally verify all the facts told by these officers so that they may not be able to conceal all the facts.”
After the directions, the Health Department was on its toes. Additional Director General Health Kamla Singh called Chief Medical officer (CMO) V K Bansal and all other doctors, who had come back to Panchkula even after their transfers.
The RTI also detailed how the Haryana government ensured that spouses of those in high positions in the government and senior bureaucrats were “adjusted” in Panchkula and around.
Rekha Singh, MD Radiology who is posted as Deputy Director at the head office since 2009, is the wife of IAS official Avtar Singh. She told The Indian Express that her’s was a “couple case” government jargon for posting a husband and wife in the same place.
Dr Usha Gupta, wife of Principal Secretary in Haryana government T C Gupta, spent 15 years at the Panchkula general hospital, first as Senior Medical officer and later as Principal Medical Officer. In July 2015, she was posted at State Institute of Health and Family Welfare, also in Panchkula. But as Sonia Khullar, wife of Principal Secretary to Chief Minister RK Khullar, was to be adjusted there, Gupta was transferred to the office of Director General Medical Education Research in Sector 2 Panchkula. Khullar is at SIHFW.
The doctor who replaced Usha Gupta as principal medical officer at Panchkula general hospital, Dr Veena Singh, is the wife of IAS Devinder Singh.
Bhawna Chaudhary, who was at the office of DGHS, was transferred to MLA Hostel dispensary as senior medical officer in Chandigarh last year. The hostel has provision for only one such officer, now there are three. She is the daughter of politician K V Singh. The Indian Express called her but she disconnected after hearing the question.
Another doctor who has been at Panchkula for the last 15 years, the RTI details revealed, is SMO Sarita Saroop Yadav. She has been the medical officer at general hospital since 2001 and then SMO since 2009 till date. She too is the wife of an IAS officer. Yadav told The Indian Express that she has already been to various places in Haryana before her posting here.

Deptts yet to fix nameplates of PIOs

Greater Kashmir: Srinagar: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
Officials designated as Public Information Officers (PIOs) under Right to Information Act (RTI) to assist in dissemination of information have failed to use name plates for easy accessibility to public.
Most government departments have not fixed nameplates and designation on the office doors of these PIOs. The ‘omission’ causes inconvenience to information seekers in locating and accessibility to these PIOs office.
The institutions including various city and district hospital, Directorate of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Public Service Commission, Service Selection Board, Directorate of School Education, Geology and Mining, Handloom, Horticulture, Transport, Tourism, JKPCC, JKPDC, J&K Board of School Education, Directorate of Health Services, Directorate of Rural Development and DG Accounts & Treasuries, Information Technology and others have not fixed nameplates at door offices of PIOs.
In absence of these plates, the information seekers feel it hard to find the officer. “An individual has to ask other officials in departments as who is PIO. The officials sometimes are themselves unaware as which official has been designated as PIO,” said Sajad Ahmad, who was in Tehsil office Panthachowk to file an RTI application.
He added that he had to visit every room in the office to find the PIO. “It was after long efforts that I came to know concerned Tehsildar has been designated as PIO and I have to file my application before him,” he said. The information seekers said that not fixing name and designation plates on PIO’s office doors amounts to denial of information itself.
“The officials who are supposed to provide information to public under RTI act have hidden themselves. In fact, the office of PIO must not have only name and designation but the banners, posters and hoarding also to aware general public about the act and its benefits,” said Muhammad Ashraf, who was in Tehsil Office Srinagar, to seek information about flood relief, under the Act.
The authorities though have made available information and contact numbers of PIOs on their official website but the information seekers said that nameplates and designation are more important on PIO office doors to locate them easily. “Public authorities need to understand that government is for the people and the activities, funds, schemes, information etcetera of the government is for the people. Hence should make locating PIOs office easier. The RTI Act is for dishonest officers, and such officers will hide or try to hide,” said Abid Gul, an RTI activist of Habba Kadal.
“The seriousness with of authorities in implementing the RTI Act in state can be gauged from the fact that they have not installed any display board in departments or in offices which gives information about the contact person for the RTI.

Net bad assets of govt banks a third of their net worth

DNA: Mumbai: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
The net non-performing assets (NPAs) of state-owned banks gross NPAs less provisions at Rs 1.74 lakh crore at the end of September 2015 is equal to almost a third of their total net worth. In other words, if banks have to fully provide for all their bad debts, it would wipe out 33 per cent of their paid-up capital plus reserves and surplus.
In response to an RTI query by The Indian Express, the Reserve Bank of India disclosed that 29 public sector banks wrote off a combined Rs 1.14 lakh crore of bad debt between 2013 and 2015. This is more than one-third of the total gross non-performing assets of Rs 3.06 crore for public sector banks.
Looking at gross NPAs in isolation doesn’t give the full picture. Banks set aside money in the event of default or non-payment these are called provisions. The net NPA numbers hide some unpleasant details.
One, for some banks such as Indian Overseas Bank, they make up as much as 83.3 per cent at the end of the September quarter, according to Capitaline database. For 16 out of 25 public sector banks for whom data is available, this ratio is more than 33 per cent. The average for private sector banks is 4.9 per cent.
Under the fractional banking system, banks need a certain amount of capital to lend. If a large portion of its equity capital and reserves are wiped out, then a bank will not be able to lend freely, or it will have to wait for capital infusion from the government, which might not be forthcoming in times of a fiscal squeeze.
Two, banks have been able to reduce their NPA numbers by not only writing off assets, but also by restructuring or refinancing them. While this might save them temporarily from being classified as bad loans, they might turn irrecoverable if investment demand doesn’t revive.
“For banks, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It is going to get much worse. Especially when some of the big companies in the power and infrastructure sector face more problems,” Hemendra Hazari, an independent analyst, said.
After an asset quality review undertaken by the RBI in December, bad debts of some private sector banks rose sharply. For instance, ICICI Bank’s gross NPA jumped Rs 5,291 crore during the December quarter, the highest in nearly five years and that of Axis Bank increased by Rs 1,273 crore. Most large PSU banks are yet to report their December quarter numbers and it is only to be expected that their bad debt numbers will go up, experts said.
According to rating agencies, loan write-offs are likely to rise in the coming quarters. Rajat Bahl, Director, CRISIL Ratings, said, “Loan write-offs by banks in India have shown a rising trend in the last few years. They reached a level of Rs 50,000 crore for the public sector banks in 2014-15. Another Rs 25,000 crore were written off in the first half of the current financial year, 2015-16. While the pressure on banks to write-off will continue, the extent of write-offs is unlikely to rise significantly due to two reasons first, PSBs usually write-off to the extent of cash recoveries that they have made during a year, and the recoveries are unlikely to be buoyant due to continued stress in the corporate sector. Second, their ability to take large write-offs will also be constrained by their weak profitability.”
“The quantum of provisions for loans that banks need to make, however, will continue to be high, reflecting the ongoing asset quality challenges,” Bahl said.
Vibha Batra, Group Head Financial Sector Ratings, ICRA, said, higher write-offs are on account of around 3.5 times increase in the pool of gross NPAs to over Rs 3 lakh crore, even though write-offs as per cent of opening gross NPAs have remained in the range of 20-23 per cent. Considering further likely increase in gross NPAs and large stressed accounts, write-offs in absolute amount may continue to increase over next 12-18 months.
“With bad loans increasing over time, banks have been working towards lowering the same. While better credit practices and economic stability helps in controlling incremental NPAs, banks have also been writing off bad assets to strengthen their books. This in turn puts pressure on the profit and loss account, but can be considered to be necessary as a prudent practice. This will, to my mind, continue to increase until books are put in order,” said D R Dogra, Managing Director & CEO of rating agency CARE.

Who changed the street name in Vile Parle? BMC clueless, reveals RTI

DNA: Mumbai: Tuesday, February 09, 2016.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation responding to a Right To information (RTI) query has revealed that they do not have any documental proof of changing the name of Hanuman Road number 2 in Vile Parle to Samartha Marg.
To know the correct residential address and avoid the confusion that has been going on from three years, a resident of Hanuman Road in Vile Parle and social activist, Leena Prabhoo, filed the RTI application with BMC’s Assistant Commissioner of K/E ward.
According to the residents, the name of the Hanuman Road number 2 street was changed to Samartha Marg around three years ago. Leena Prabhoo filed a RTI application in the first week of January requesting for the information about the final status of the name change so that the residents are clear about the address.
While talking with Iamin, Prabhoo said, “If the name of the street has been changed, the residents need to know so that we change the address in the government documents also that serve as a valid address proof. Before changing the name, they should have at least consulted the residents.”
The BMC’s K/E ward Public Information Officer, Nanda Dalvi in the response to the application stated that there is no such street as ‘Samaratha Marg’ in K/E ward because of which the information asked cannot be provided to the applicant.
“I will be applying for the appeal first as well as start a signature campaign so that the street can get its previous name back as the boards have been changed to Samartha Marg. This will help us get rid of the inconvenience residents have been facing from all these years,” added Prabhoo.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Mortgaging lakes: Startling revelation from BBMP

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Monday, 08 February 2016.
Most city lakes were not yours until the agency repaid the loan it had borrowed.
Not only has BBMP mortgaged KR Market and other properties of the state for undertaking developmental works in its jurisdiction, it also has taken a loan of Rs 23 crore to develop 14 lakes in the city. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) claims it has repaid Rs 22 crore of the loan, and that by March 2016 all lakes will be debt-free.
In fact, the civic agency took the loans from Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Corporation (KUDIC), a government-run nodal agency that co-ordinates the Central and state governments, and local urban bodies. Though the loan was obtained in the year 2010 when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled the BBMP, it has only come to light now, after a resident of Jayanagar, Puneeth T, sought the information under RTI (Right to Information) Act. Puneeth wanted details of loans obtained by BBMP in the last 10 years.
In its reply dated January 12, 2016, BBMP said that it had taken a loan of Rs 23.19 crore from KUIDFC under 'Mega city revolving fund' for the development of lakes. Out of this, Rs 22.01 crore has been repaid, which also includes the interest. Around Rs 1.37 crore, BBMP goes on to state, is yet to be repaid but will be paid during the next instalment, in the month of March, 2016.
BBMP also claims almost all lakes for which it obtained loan, have been developed. The loans were obtained during 2010 for eight years and the civic agency has repaid most of them before they were due to be repaid. According to officials, BBMP submitted a project report for 17 lakes. Of these, 14 have been developed, while two - Kalkere and Nayandanahalli lakes - work is in progress. Another lake, in Puttenahalli, has been handed over to the forest department.
BBMP chief engineer (lakes) BV Satish revealed the loans were attained only to develop lakes, and were made available to it at an interest of 5.5 per cent per annum. In fact, he said, a project report was submitted to obtain a loan of Rs 43 crore for the 17 lakes but only Rs 23 crore was taken for their development. "We have already repaid Rs 22 crore, while the remaining Rs 1.37 crore will be paid March," he added.

Demands of trade union before employer fiduciary info: CIC

Economic Times: New Delhi: Monday, 08 February 2016.
The demands placed by a trade union before its employer is submitted in fiduciary capacity exempting it from disclosure under the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has held.
Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad rejected disclosure under the RTI Act the demands placed by each trade union for fresh ninth round of agreement of National Joint Committee for the Steel Industry along with file notings.
The case relates to R K Mishra who had sought the information from Steel Authority of India in his nine-point application.
Along with other information, he wanted complete information on demands placed by each trade union for fresh (after expiry of eighth round, MOA on April 29, 2010) round of agreement on NJCS.
He also demanded all the records related to nine round of agreement on NJCS.
"... Demands placed by each trade union for fresh ninth round of agreement of National Joint Committee for the Steel Industry and file notings...can't be given as it holds information related to economic interests of state and the respondent is in fiduciary relationship with workers," Azad said.
He said demands place a trade union is a matter of concern between employer and employee.
"The divulgence of information on demands placed by trade union and minutes of meetings will prejudicially affect the economic interests of the public authority(SAIL)...Commission considers the information sought...is exempted as per section 8(1)(e) (fiduciary clause) under the RTI Act," he said.
Azad also pulled by NJCS for its resolution passed in its 247th meeting in 2007 saying decisions taken at these meetings cannot be shared as they are for internal use of the member.
"The resolution taken by NJCS in its 247th meeting is not in conformity with the provisions of the RTI Act. Public Authority cannot deny information on the behest of any resolution taken by them unless it is exempted under Section 8 of the RTI Act," he said.

Rs 1.14 lakh crore of bad debts: The great government bank write-off

Indian Express: New Delhi: Monday, 08 February 2016.
Twenty-nine state-owned banks wrote off a total of Rs 1.14 lakh crore of bad debts between financial years 2013 and 2015, much more than they had done in the preceding nine years.
In response to an RTI application filed by The Indian Express, the RBI disclosed that while bad debts stood at Rs 15,551 crore for the financial year ending March 2012, they had shot up by over three times to Rs 52,542 crore by the end of March 2015.
Asked about the details of the biggest defaulters, whether individuals or business entities, whose bad debts to the tune of Rs 100 crore or more had been written off, the RBI said: “The required information is not available with us.” Banks are required to report the bad debts on a consolidated basis, it said.
Even as the government has been trying to shore up public sector banks through equity capital and other measures, bad loans written off by them between 2004 and 2015 amount to more than Rs 2.11 lakh crore. More than half such loans (Rs 1,14,182 crore) have been waived off between 2013 and 2015.
Only two banks, State Bank of Saurashtra and State Bank of Indore, have shown zero bad debts in the past five years.
In other words, while bad loans of public-sector banks grew at a rate of 4 per cent between 2004 and 2012, in financial years 2013 to 2015, they rose at almost 60 per cent. The bad debts written off in financial year ending March 2015 make up 85 per cent of such loans since 2013.
The RTI reply also disclosed that bad debts have declined only four times since 2004. The last time was in 2011.
An analysis of the information available with the RBI till 2012-13 also shows that between 2009 and 2013, both the advances by public sector banks to individuals and business entities as well as their amount of bad debts written off doubled. From 0.33 per cent of total advances in 2009, bad debts rose to 0.61 per cent in 2013.
Bank-wise break-up shows State Bank of India, India’s largest bank, is way ahead of others in declaring loans as unrecoverable, with its bad debts shooting up almost four times since 2013 from Rs 5,594 crore in 2013 to Rs 21,313 crore in 2015.
In fact, SBI’s bad debts made up 40 per cent of the total amount written off by all other banks in 2015 and were more than what 20 other banks wrote off. In 2014 too, the bank’s bad debts alone comprised 38 per cent of the total of all banks. The figure of bad loans for 2014 and ‘15 combined, Rs 34,490 crore, was Rs 10,000 crore more than that for between 2004 and 2013, Rs 23,992 crore.
The country’s second-largest public sector bank, Punjab National Bank, has also witnessed a consistent rise in bad debts since 2013. These grew by 95 per cent between 2013 and 2014 but climbed by 238 per cent between 2014 and 2015 from Rs 1,947 crore in 2014 to Rs 6,587 crore in 2015.
Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan has repeatedly expressed concern over the health of public-sector banks, and pushed for steps to ensure that banks classify certain stressed assets as non-performing assets (NPAs) and make adequate provisions to “strengthen their balance sheets”, besides working out schemes of merger.
With public sector banks sitting on over Rs 7 lakh crore stressed assets, including NPAs and restructured loans, Rajan recently said the estimates of NPAs being 17-18 per cent are bit on the high side and that entities should be careful not to treat NPAs as total write-offs but see if they can change promoters and repay as the economy recovers. He also said that some banks would have to merge to optimise their use of resources.
Gross NPAs of public-sector banks rose to 6.03 per cent as of June 2015, from 5.20 per cent in March 2015. RBI has asked banks to review certain loan accounts and their classification over the two quarters ending December 31, 2015, and March 31, 2016.

Govt officials’ travel bills subject to RTI – CIC tells NTPC

Real Time News: New Delhi: Monday, 08 February 2016.
The Chief Information Commissioner the highest authority under India’s Right to Information law has ruled that the bills submitted by a government official for getting travel allowance are not covered under privacy safeguards.
Government officials are allowed to claim TA or travel allowance in lieu of expenses incurred while traveling on official business or for approved holidays under ‘leave travel allowance’.
In case that came up before the CIC, a person by the name of Sanjeev Kapoor from Jaipur filed a request for all the travel bills submitted by A Chidambaram, General Manager in charge of Human Resources at NTPC Ltd, a state-owned power company.
The request covered a period of over two years and was rejected by NTPC on the ground that it would invade the privacy of the individual, and also that it would put unnecessary pressure on the company to collect and forward the records.
According to the RTI, no one needs to divulge any information “which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has not relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual” subject to certain conditions.
The CIC rejected the privacy argument and ruled that information relating to travel details of a public servant is not exempted per se.
However, the commissioner found some merit in the company’s argument that it would be too onerous to collect and forward all the details for the entire period and modified the request.
“The CPIO (of NTPC) is directed to divulge the information sought for any 3 months only. The Appellant shall refocus his query w.r.t. time period and inform the CPIO regarding same who in turn, shall furnish the information free of cost within 4 weeks,” it ruled.