Sunday, July 24, 2016

Call to make better use of Acts

The Hindu‎‎‎‎‎: Kakinada: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
Calling upon women to make better use of the Acts promulgated for them by the government, Central Information Commissioner Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu on Saturday said that many women were unaware of the protection provided to them by the law and it was time for them to have knowledge about various Acts, including the Right to Information Act. He was the chief guest at a workshop on the RTI Act organised jointly by the NSS wing of the JNTUK and the women’s wing of the RTI Aikya Vedika here. Speaking on the occasion, he highlighted the need for improving literacy rate among the women and wanted the educated men and women to take the lead. RTI Aikya Vedika women’s wing president Nalam Andal was present.

RTI: Let it be implemented in spirit

The Sunday Times‎‎‎‎: Sri Lanka: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
It is some irony that information on the status of the Right to the Access of Information (RTI) Bill that was passed unanimously by Parliament a fortnight ago is itself so hard to access. What has now transpired (having to ferret out the information the old fashioned way) is that after the passage of the Bill and the Speaker ready with his pen to give his assent to make the Bill into law, some niggle on the wording cropped up and his hand was stayed.
The Bill with the amendments moved on the floor of the House at voting time had to go back to the Legal Draftsman for ‘cleaning up’ and no one is now sure what the end product will look like. The Speaker meanwhile had to be rushed to Singapore for medical attention which was a drama of its own with him being involuntarily offloaded by an airline. So as of today, the RTI is still not law.
For 12 long years since 2004 when a then Freedom of Information Bill was presented to Parliament, successive Governments under two Presidents kept this law, which gives every citizen of Sri Lanka the right to access certain official information hitherto kept away from their eyes, in cold storage. If that effort had been successful back in 2004, Sri Lanka would not only have ranked as the first in South Asia to have such a then modern law, but half the corruption that is being highlighted now in the media and in court may, arguably have come to light long before, or in fact, been prevented.
The National Unity Government must be commended even belatedly, and despite some feet-dragging post January 2015 when it promised this law in 100 days, for pushing the Bill through Parliament. In particular, the Prime Minister’s personal interest in ensuring the enactment from the time that he headed the drafting committee himself in 2004 is noteworthy, even if his interest waned in recent years. The fact that the Bill was passed unanimously by a generally quarrelsome House is a rare feat. More so, as its positive features, such as the right of the public to demand the disclosure of information from state agencies “in the public interest” even in regard to all the otherwise exempted information (common to such laws across the democratic world) were left untouched in the passing.
It is unfortunate, however, that, despite the best efforts of the drafting committee finalising the Bill, the RTI Commission established under the law was not vested with more efficacious power in regard to directly ensuring the implementation of its orders and to ensure the release of public documents in the public interest. Across the Palk Strait, the Indian RTI Commission is in a better position. Indeed, the RTI experience in India has transformed the functioning of the government largely due to the courage of RTI advocates, some of whom have even died in the process at the hands of those who want to conceal information for their own personal gains at the expense of the nation.
It is also necessary that the RTI provision in the 19th Amendment that was rushed through Parliament last year in a crazed frenzy unprecedented in the passing of laws in this country, be reviewed at the earliest opportunity. Its generalised and vague restrictions must be tightened. Otherwise, there exists the possibility for the constitutional restrictions to prevail overriding the RTI law, confusing its interpretation and undermining its thrust.
That said, the worth of a law, lies not in the letter but in the spirit of its implementation. We have a sad tradition of good laws lying unused in our statute books. The RTI law must not be allowed to fall into that uninspiring lot. Further, laws contemplated to be passed in the future by Parliament must not be put out of reach of the RTI. This will violate the citizen’s trust and the public interest. We may hasten to add moreover that this law is not for the sole benefit of the Media as is sometimes wrongfully perceived.
This basic misapprehension on the part of some must be erased from the public psyche.
In this region, and elsewhere, RTI has been most frequently used by ordinary villagers in demanding accountability regarding the expenditure of public funds as well as by public spirited citizens in exposing corruption scandals, especially in countries where there is a culture of secrecy rather than transparency. As Sri Lanka enters the information age, even as a late entrant due to the follies of its politicians, this fact may be kept in mind.
Once the Speaker returns, we hope he will make haste to sign this Bill into Law, for he was one who took a personal interest in promoting this very Bill that was presented to Parliament in 2004 and on a later date as a Private Member’s Bill when the then Government made it clear it had no interest in its passage for reasons that are obvious given the corruption scandals during its tenure that are getting highlighted on a weekly basis now.
What will follow is a gigantic task for the Media Ministry tasked with its implementation and the Government in appointing the right people, not its stooges, to the all-important RTI Commission so that this law will be spiritedly employed for the benefit of all Sri Lankan citizens.

Govt employees unaware of RTI

Himalayan Times‎‎‎‎: Kathmandu: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
Government employees seems to be unaware about the Right to Information (RTI) Act, even after it is going to be a decade that the country’s Constitution guaranteed it.
While sharing their experiences at a seminar organised in the Capital on Friday, RTI campaigner and employees at the public agencies said that the government employees did not behave properly with the service seekers.
According to Narayan Rai, a reporter of Dhankuta District, government employees still worry over the disclosure of information, arguing that they could face risk.
“Information seekers are taken as a ‘stray dog’ in the beginning. We are quite mistreated at the government offices,” he said, adding, “Constant follow ups on the information requests obviously prodded them to disclose the information on various topics.”
RTI campaigner Raju Shrestha from Morang district said, “Corruption is democratised because the government offices still hide information for public.”
Bishwojit Rai, Information Officer at the District Development Committee (DDC), Udayapur accepted that he had rejected information sought by various persons time and again in the past.
“We take the oath of office and secrecy. This oath urges us not to disclose information. So, keeping secrecy in the government offices was normal,” he said

Cabinet notes too to become public

Times of India‎‎‎: Thrissur: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
The LDF government, which had appeared reluctant to include cabinet decisions within the purview of RTI Act, seems to have undertaken a major course correction. Chief Secretary S M Vijayanand confirmed to TOI on Saturday that cabinet decisions as well as cabinet notes will be uploaded on the government website along with the government order (GO) issued by the respective department. The chief secretary pointed out that with cabinet decisions available in the public domain, there won't be any need to file RTI queries to know these decisions.
Vijayanand, who was here to deliver a talk organised by Thrissur Management Association, told TOI that respective departments issue GOs usually within 48 hours of cabinet decisions. The orders and related documents will be published mostly on that day itself, he said.
The chief secretary clarified that decisions of the cabinet would become public documents once the respective department issues the GO.
The objective of approaching the court was to seek clarifications on these points, he said.
Vijayanand revealed that the government has also taken a decision not to take up 'out-of-agenda items' in the cabinet unless in special situations like announcing relief for disaster victims. Out-of-agenda items delay issuing of GOs because they often need to be referred to various departments like law for legal validity and feedback.

Lost at DD, Sunil Gavaskar’s 10,000 feat, historic tied Test between India and Australia

Indian Express‎‎: New Delhi: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
For any lover of Indian cricket, among the most memorable moments of the game’s sepia-tinted days would be the historic tied Test with Australia, the 1987 match in Ahmedabad with Pakistan when Sunil Gavaskar went past 10,000 Test runs and, later that year, the World Cup, the first to be played outside England.
Curiously, Doordarshan, which at that time had monopoly over producing and broadcasting these matches, has no footage of any of these landmark moments.
Asked by The Sunday Express under the Right to Information Act whether Doordarshan had archival footage of the “match where Sunil Gavaskar became the highest run-getter in the world (India vs Pakistan, March 4 to 9, 1987), tied Test match between India and Australia (September 18 to 22, 1986) and the 1987 Cricket World Cup”, the national broadcaster replied: “Not available”.
A few grainy highlights of these matches are still available online, but it isn’t much. Nor does DD’s apathy appear to be restricted to these matches, or even to cricket after hockey legend Mohammed Shahid passed away this week, among the biggest regrets his peers expressed was about the unavailability of footage of his playing days in the 1980s, when he had millions mesmerised by his stickwork.
No one in Doordarshan seems to know why the original archival footage is unavailable. Doordarshan also couldn’t say for sure what its oldest sports archival footage was. Its archives department is reported to have more than 50,000 tapes in various formats, but apparently barely a dozen sports titles are available.
The 1980s was a monumental decade for Indian cricket, and is still seen as the most engrossing decade for the game internationally when every cricket-playing nation could boast at least one global superstar.
Months after leading India to its maiden World Cup title, Kapil Dev recorded the then best figures by an Indian bowler, taking 9/83 against the West Indies in Chennai. At the same venue in January 1986, Gavaskar surpassed Don Bradman’s record of 29 Test centuries. In 1988, leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani took a debut record 16/136, again in Chennai.
Six top officials of Prasar Bharati, including its CEO Jawhar Sircar, DD director general Supriya Sahu and senior office-bearers from DD Archives, DD Sports and DD News failed to tell The Sunday Express where the missing tapes might be.
Sircar said he maintained an “arm’s length from direct operations”, while the other officials were not forthcoming with answers. A senior Doordarshan official said, “Asking the reason is none of your business.”
Prasar Bharati Archives’ deputy director general T S Ramakrishna, who is also the appellate authority for RTI matters, said he had forwarded the query to DD Sports, who are responsible for keeping sports archives. DD Sports officials, however, said maintaining archives was “not their duty”.
For years now, players from the 80s have expressed their disappointment over the lost footage of their historic achievements and speculated about the fate of the tapes. Australia’s Greg Matthews, who bowled the last ball of the engrossing tied Test, said in an interview to The Indian Express last year that despite several attempts, he had been unsuccessful in locating the original tapes.
“I have been told there is no tape of the game. I have also heard that they taped a ping pong tournament over it. Imagine, the tied Test, the second one in the history of the game, and there is no original tape.”
Former Australian batsman Dean Jones, who scored a double hundred in that Test at Chennai, when contacted, said “no one has the tapes of the game.”
A senior DD official did not deny the possibility of the “historic tapes” getting overwritten. “Nowadays, we digitise the tape to ensure there is a backup in case we have to reuse a tape. But earlier that was not an option and since there were no proper guidelines, it was easy to overwrite a tape,” he said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Regarding Gavaskar’s feat, the official said the “importance of his milestone would not have been realised back then”. “In the 1980s and 1990s, there was no concept of keeping archives. We started that only in 2006, and that too mainly for cultural shows and news events,” he said.
Gavaskar himself, who is in the West Indies commentating on the ongoing Test series, said it was “unfortunate” that the tapes weren’t available. “But back in those days, the technology was not as advanced and so they couldn’t have archived it. Because of that they must have lost quite a lot of files and papers. But from at least now on, they should ensure that they archive the stuff properly,” Gavaskar said.
Former captain Kapil Dev was philosophical. “If a glass is broken, what can you do? There’s no point fighting over it. I know the BBC and Australian Broadcasting Corporation archive their sporting past very well. Here they don’t have it and yes, some golden cricketing moments like Sunny’s 10,000 Test runs, my world record or the tied Test are gone. But there’s no point being sad or lamenting over it. Doordarshan doesn’t have those clippings, so okay, it’s fine…,” he said.
Kapil added he had once approached DD for tapes of the Haryana vs Mumbai Ranji Trophy final. “I was told they didn’t have the tapes.” In that thrilling 1990-91 final, Kapil had led Haryana to an emotional win over mighty Mumbai on the last ball at the Wankhede stadium.
Incidentally, Doordarshan does have tapes of some sports other than cricket from the 80s. In its RTI reply, DD said footage of the 1982 Asian Games, Geet Sethi’s 1985 World Billiards Championship match against Bob Marshall, and the 1987 Davis Cup tie between India and Sweden were available.

Body looking after Andheri Sports Complex under RTI: Info panel

DNA: Mumbai: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
Henceforth, all details that you need to get from the Shahaji Raje Krida Sankul (SRKS), Andheri, will be available under RTI. The state information commission has ordered that the SRKS is a public authority and will have to provide information under the RTI Act.
Shahaji Raje Bhosale Krida Sankul, which is close to Azad Nagar Metro station in Andheri, was started in the year 1988 by the MCGM and has an area of 11 acre under it. It was created under Brihanmumbai Krida Ani Lalitkala Pratishthan (BKLP).
The order was given after the Sankul rejected an application that sought details of compensation paid to a victim who had drowned in its swimming pool. Dated July 5, the ruling was passed by a joint bench of Ajitkumar Jain, information commissioner (Brihanmumbai bench), and Thanksy Thekkekara, information commissioner (Konkan bench), on an application made by one Thane-based Umesh Bhosale.
Sankul includes sports facilities like swimming pool, badminton, gymnastics, fitness/aerobics, football, gymnasium, jogging, KUDO, lawn tennis and karate among others. It also has a facility for cultural programmes, an art gallery (A/C) and a banquet hall.
"I have worked in the place and there has been lack of transparency in its functioning. They had removed me once and did not take me when they were hiring again. They have been renting out the place too often instead of looking after it," claimed Bhosale who said he has worked there as a peon.
The public information officer (PIO) did not give any response and the first appellate authority (FAA) did not hear the appeal. During the second appeal, officials of the Sankul contended that it does not come under RTI Act.
During the second appeal hearing, the applicant said he was given information under RTI from the Sankul earlier. He has in his possession a letter from the advocate for the organisation, saying that it falls under RTI. It gets land from BMC, has eight of 13 trustees from BMC and also it gets some funding.
During the hearing, the commission relied on the definition of public authority and competent authority to determine whether SRKS was a public authority. While the applicant gave his say, SRKS did not come up with any explanation.
The commission order stated that BKLP came under RTI and that the applicant be given information within 30 days. When contacted, its managing trustee Aadesh Bandekar said, "We have appointed a public information officer and are giving information."

Include RTI Act in school curriculum: CIC chief

Indian Express: Kakinda: Sunday, July 24, 2016.
The RTI Act should be included in school curriculum so that students would know its prominence.
In fact, every individual, particularly women, should come forward to question the injustice being meted out to them, to ensure transparency in governance and administration, Central Information Commission commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has felt.
Addressing a seminar on ‘Women Empowerment with RTI Act’ conducted by the NSS unit of JNTU-K and the women’s wing of Samachara Hakku Prachara Aikya Vedika (SHPAV) here on Saturday, Sridhar explained that the RTI Act is a powerful weapon and helps women to empower themselves and protect their rights. It also facilitates the public and various organisations to raise their voice against the scams in governments and other anti-social activities in private organisations as well, he said.
SHPAV president Naalam Aandaal presided over the meeting. JNTU-K rector Prabhakar Rao, registrar Prasad Raju, JNTU College of Engineering principal Ramachandra Raju, Kakinada Rural MLA Ananthalakshmi and representatives of various NGOs also attended.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

All the qualifying examinations and degrees are public information and every member of public shall have access to it: CIC

Live Law‎‎‎‎: New Delhi: Saturday, July 23, 2016.
The Central Information Commission has categorically held that academic/educational qualifications at land mark stages like 10th class, Intermediate, Graduation, Post-Graduation or Ph.D. and clearing of every annual examination, which promotes the student into next year, arepublic documents and every member of public shall have access to it.
The Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu has held that, if the information being sought is about passing/failure/clearance of examinations or possession of the Degrees/ certificates after passing the examinations, such details need to be provided under RTI Act. But if the information sought is about failures, such as memorandum of marks or details of about number of appearances, the PIO can straight away reject the same, unless the applicant pleads and establishes larger public interest or comparative public interest.
This observation by the Commission is on an appeal by one Subhash Chandra Tyagi whose application seeking information relating to candidate Mr. Kamal Tyagi was rejected by CBSE stating that that the information pertains to third party and is personal information of third party, without whose consent it could be given.
The Commission observed: “Once a student passes an examination and qualifies to secure a degree, the degree and passing details cannot be treated as private or third party information.Passing an examination is a qualification and awarding the degree such as 10thClass, 12thClass or Intermediate, graduation or post-graduation, is a public document generated by a public institution.The academic institutions awarding such degrees underastatutoryauthorityaredischargingtheirstatutorydutiessuchasregisteringthe qualification details and degree related information. “
The Commission also observed: “When there is an apprehension or doubt about validity or existence of a qualification, it is necessary to verify genuineness of the same.If verification proves that it is a genuine degree, it vindicates the qualification of the candidate.If it is proved to be a wrong degree, it will serve a larger public interest.Hence the degree or academic-qualification-related-information need to be accessible to the citizen.”
To prevent cheating, the transparency is the proper method’
The Commission held: “academic/educational qualifications at land mark stages like 10th class, Intermediate, Graduation, Post-Graduation or Ph.D. and clearing of every annual examination, which promotes the student into next year, are the public documents.If a student is suspected to have manipulated his promotion from one to next year, another has every right to seek its verification and it is the duty of the public academic body to clear the apprehension and take necessary action, if apprehension is proved correct.If educational details are protected as personal information, it leaves lot of scope for manipulation, corruption and misrepresentation. It is in larger public interest, we need to avoid it. To prevent cheating, the transparency is the proper method. “
The commission further observed: “How can a graduate consider his degree as private and personal information, and why it should be considered as someone’s personal data. There is no basis for such understanding. If BA degree is a requirement for studying MA, the student who wants to study MA has to prove that he graduated. If he does not have that qualifying degree and manipulates to secure admission MA, every genuine graduate has a right to doubt the admission and to demand the disclosure of graduation details.For higher education or employment, he has to reveal his details of education details. If a candidate wants to treat the patients as doctor he has to prove medical graduation. Every person has a right to know genuineness of his degree or education. Hence, all the qualifying examinations and degrees are public information and every member of public shall have access to it.”
Disposing of the appeal, the Commission held: “The Public Authority/CBSE and its PIO is directed to take guidance from the above reasoningandverifywhetherappellantisseekingtheinformationaboutpassingofthe candidate or failure, and if the information being sought is about clearance of examinations or possession of the 10th and 12th class certificates after passing the examinations, such details need to be provided under RTI Act, to the appellant.If he is seeking information about failures, such as memorandum of marks or details of about number of appearances, the PIO can straight away reject the same, unless the appellant pleads and establishes larger public interest, as required u/s 8(1) (j) or comparative public interest, as mandated under section 8(2) of RTI Act. “

Information commission, high court at loggerheads

Bangalore Mirror‎‎‎: Bangalore: Saturday, July 23, 2016.
A case pertaining to the provision of information by a former judicial employee has brought two legal institutions of the state - the state information commission (SIC) and High Court of Karnataka - at loggerheads. While the high court's state public information officer (SPIO), who is also a deputy registrar (of the rank of a judge), took a stand not to provide information on an inquiry report, the SIC overruled it and passed an order directing him to provide info within 30 days. SIC passed an order to this extent in two cases.
However, the appellant and the respondent in these cases are the same. While Basavaraj S Munoli, a former CMO with the judicial department, who claims to work as defence assistant in cases, is appellant in both cases, the PIO and deputy registrar, High Court of Karnataka is respondent in the two cases.
On August 13, 2014, Munoli sought information with the SPIO on two subjects. He had sought a certified copy of inquiry report dated 12-3-2014 of the specially empowered authority though DE No: 16/12 (HCE-1046/2012) of the High Court of Karnataka, Bengaluru. The was a certified copy of inquiry report dated 15-3-2014 of the specially empowered authority in DE No: 07/2012 (HCE-821/2012) of High court of Karnataka, Bengaluru and office note and final orders passed thereon.
As information was not provided, he had then appealed to the information commission on 18 11 2014 in both cases. The commission had issued notices to both the appellant and defendant. The matter had been appealed before the first appellate authority prior to it reaching the info commission. The SPIO had defended his action stating that the applicant's request was not acceded as the information sought by Munoli was related to persons other than him.
However, Munoli had argued that it didn't come under the exemption under Section 8 of the RTI Act and that he was a retired CMO (judicial department) and acted as defence assistance on behalf of the official in the said inquiry.
But the first appellate authority had dismissed the plea. Following this, Munoli had filed his appeal before the commission.
The SPIO had maintained the same before the commission and had prayed to reject the application as the disclosure of the information was not associated with any public activity or in public interest and may cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual concerned.
However, relying on several orders including SC order in Ramachandra Deshpande vs Central Information Commission and others, besides other instances, the information commission overruled the SPIO decision and the first appellate authority's order, to rule in favour of the appellant.
"I feel the information sought by the appellant is not a personal information of the officer and it directly relates to public activity and in the decision referred above, it is clearly held and given the guidelines how to act in such matters, I feel and I am of the opinion that the required information sought by the appellant/applicant has to be furnished by the respondent No 1 to the appellant/applicant in the interest of the justice and equity:" the commission ruled on July 15. In both cases, the SPIO has been asked to provide information within 30 days.

Anthyodaya, Annapurna cards cut down drastically in Telangana

The Hindu‎‎: Hyderabad: Saturday, July 23, 2016.
“2.11 lakh cards issued under the two schemes have been cancelled since 2014”
There has been a drastic cut in the number of ration cards under Anthyodaya and Annapurna schemes in Telangana in the last two years.
Over two lakh ration cards issued under the Anthyodaya Anna Yojna and more than 11,000 under Annapurna scheme have been cancelled since 2014, after formation of Telangana state, as per the information obtained under Right to Information Act by the CPI(M) Greater Hyderabad Committee.
The Anthyodaya cards are issued to poorest of the poor, single persons and the disabled, under which 35 kg of rice is given per month at Re.1 per kg.
The Annapurna cards are issued to senior citizens with no other means of survival, under which 10 kg of rice is distributed free.
The greatest cut in Anthyodaya cards was experienced by Karimnagar district, where the number of the cards was reduced to 66,786 from 1,44,579, closely followed by Mahabubnagar down to 70,124 from the 1,41,308 cards earlier.
On the whole, the Anthyodaya cards were cut down from 7,91,521 in 2014-15 to 5,64,771 while the Annapurna cards were reduced to mere 5,008 from the 16,740 earlier, as per the data provided by the Civil Supplies department.
In a strange case, the Annapurna cards in Khammam district were cut down to mere eight, from 1,641 earlier.
CPI (M) city secretary of Greater Hyderabad M. Srinivas alleged that many people who lost the cards were eligible for the ration.
While distribution of new cards was yet to begin, people were put to untold hardship due to the culling of ration cards, he said, at a press conference here on Friday.
There were a total of 3,78,542 applications pending for issue of new ration cards, as per the information obtained under the RTI. The Civil Supplies vigilance committees were yet to begin functioning, Mr.Srinivas said.
He demanded that the cards of the poorest of the poor be renewed, and the ration issued be expanded.

College fined for not replying to RTI queries

Hindustan Times: Mumbai: Saturday, July 23, 2016.
A Khar college has been fined by the Maharashtra State Information Commission because it refused to reply to queries filed under the Right To Information Act.
Hansraj Jivandas College of Education has been asked to pay Rs2.25 lakh for not replying to nine queries sent to the institute, even after repeated reminders.
“There have been rumours about the institute misusing the monetary grants that they receive and I have filed a total of 12 RTIs since June 2015. Nine of them have not yet been replied to,” said Krishnan Kutty, an advocate.
He added that the commission had sent the institute several reminders including show cause notices since January 2016, but to no avail. These RTIs have sought information on the institute’s usage of government grants and seminar grants as well as the number of holidays allowed to professors as per UGC rules.
While the commission has sent a notice to the institute informing them of a fine of Rs25,000 on each of the RTI query they defaulted on, the college told HT that they had been framed.
“The college has received 90 RTIs over the past few years and we have replied to each and every one of them well within the time frame,” said principal Anita Swami.

Friday, July 22, 2016

HC asks government to file affidavit

Times of India‎‎‎‎‎: Ahmedabad: Friday, July 22, 2016.
Gujarat high court on Wednesday asked the state government to file an affidavit in response to a PIL complaining that no disabled person has been appointed in the 3% quota in government jobs since 2002.
The state government submitted before the HC that a similar issue is pending before the Supreme Court. The petitioner advocate KR Koshti replied by stating that merely on the ground that the issue is pending before the SC, the state government cannot refrain from implementing its own policy decisions.
The petitioner claimed that while the government makes a propaganda for support to physically challenged people, but the fact remains that Gujarat government has failed to fulfill its obligation towards them. It has not made a single appointment since the year 2002 under the 3% quota for the disabled under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. This information was revealed by the government under RTI queries.
The PIL mentioned that there is a population of 2.68 crore disabled people in India and Gujarat has over 10 lakh persons with disability. Most of them unsuccessfully strive for jobs because the state government's apathy towards them.

How Akali Dal showered 25,000 tubewells to cronies ignoring common man

India Today‎‎‎‎: Chandigarh: Friday, July 22, 2016.
After the sand it is water which the Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) showered on its cronies.
The information accessed by Dinesh Chadha, a Chandigarh-based advocate and co-convenor of Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) RTI Wing, under the Right to Information act, has revealed how Akali Dal MLAs recommended nearly 25,000 tube well connections to the cronies.
The connections were released by ignoring four lakh applicants who were waiting for the connections from decades. These out of turn connections were released on the recommendations made by the Akali Dal MLAs under the garb of a discretionary quota.
"The nefarious move of the government is not only violative of the Constitution but is a cruel joke with more than 4 lac applicants of the state, who have been waiting for tubewell connections since 1996," Dinesh Chadha said.
Terming it a 'backdoor gimmickry' AAP leader and Spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira said that the connections were recommended by MLAs to please their party workers. He said each MLA and constituency in-charge was authorised to recommend 250 tube-well connections under the 'discretionary quota'. Most of the connections were recommended by the Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife's brother Bikramjit Singh Majithia.
"It is even more astonishing, that the Sukhbir-Majithia brothers in law duo have allotted 1055 and 1461 connections respectively in their constituencies by arm twisting the Chairman of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL). While one copy of the sanction letter goes to the SE cum Nodal Officer of the district, the other copy is given to the local Akali MLA or Constituency-Incharge, so that they can influence the applicant in their favor by handing it over in person," Sukhpal Singh Khaira said.
The Aam Aadmi Party has also accused Akali Dal of playing a cruel joke with the poor farmers by compelling them to use the material supplied by the PSPCL besides the fat installation charges.
"The common farmers who have deposited money decades back have been denied the connections.Moneyed people having political influence were given connections. Not only this, the farmers are also compelled to buy the tube well equipment from PSPCL which smacks of rampant corruption," Sukhpal Singh Khaira said.
The AAP leader said that the unconstitutional allotment of tube wells not only smacks of nepotism, favouritism but is gross discrimination with the poorest of poor four lakh applicants, who have deposited their requisite fees with the PSPCL for decades.
"AAP vehemently condemns this discriminatory, autocratic and blatantly unconstitutional politically motivated decision of the Badal government, to grant illegal tubewell connections to Akali workers and office bearers on the recommendations of Akali MLAs and constituency incharges. It warns the Badal government to immediately scrap the so called discretionary quota of the Chairman PSPCL and urges it to accord precedence to the original 4 lac applicants waiting for their turn since decades," Sukhpal Singh Khaira said.
Khaira threatened to take the matter to the court if the Punjab government did not cancel the unconstitutional tube well allotments.

Disclose every action on misconduct of lawyers: CIC to the Bar

Economic Times‎‎‎: New Delhi: Friday, July 22, 2016.
The Central Information Commission has directed the Bar Council of Delhi to proactively make public the cases of professional misconduct, both proved and not proved, against advocates at regular intervals or as and when the decision was taken.
"If a client complains against the professional misconduct of advocate, the bar council has a duty to examine it and to pronounce its decision not just to the complainant. Such a decision has to be in there public domain. Transparency requirement does not allow Bar Council of Delhi to keep its decisions secret," Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
The case related to Tapan Chaudhary who sought information regarding the order passed in a complaint by the Bar Council of Delhi wherein advocates as Directors of the company have been allowed to file civil suits. Chaudhary wanted to know whether such an order could be reported in print and broadcast media but did not receive any response.
The Information Commissioner said any public authority has a mandatory duty to disclose reasons for its quasi judicial or administrative decisions to the affected persons as per Section 4(1)(c) of RTI Act voluntarily.
He said Bar Council being a public body has an obligation to report its decisions along with reasons.
Acharyulu said every professional body like Medical Council of India, Press Council of India and Bar Council of India has to report its decisions.
"The Commission agrees with the justifiable contention of the appellant and directs the Bar Council of Delhi to report/publish the cases of professional misconduct, both proved and not proved, at regular intervals or as and when the decision was taken in compliance of Section 4 (1) of RTI Act in their official website or journal or by any other means of publication convenient to it," he said. Acharyulu said it is important to remember words of Krishna Iyer, "Indeed, the monopoly conferred on the legal profession by Parliament is coupled with a responsibility- a responsibility towards the people, especially the poor" and that responsibility has to be practically visible in functioning of every advocate.
"If not people should know action against him. Right to know of the people arises out of this responsibility of Bar Council," he said.
Acharyulu said Section 4(1)(d) of RTI Act, mandates the public authority to "provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons".
"Bar Council should understand the purport of above referred judicial pronouncements is properly understood, the Bar Council has to publish these reports because generally the entire people are positively affected by the good conduct to some extent and harmfully affected by misconduct of the advocates, and if the Bar Council punishes them or brings out genuineness of service, it will neutralize the impact.
"For that purposes it has to publish the reports of the disciplinary proceedings," Acharyulu said in the order which had citations of number of Supreme Court judgments.

No let up in crimes against dalits, RTI data shows

Times of India‎‎: Ahmedabad: Friday, July 22, 2016.
The brutal flogging of four dalits, who were skinning dead cows near Una town of Gir- Somnath, has sparked a massive outrage across Gujarat. Gujarat police figures suggest that atrocities against the dalits have not recorded any decline in the past one-and-a-half decade.
According to the figures obtained under the RTI Act from Gujarat Director General of Police office, Gujarat, oft-quoted for its development model, had registered as many as 1,033 cases of offences including murder, grievous hurt, rape and arson against the dalits in 2001. In 2015, the situation remained more or less same with the state registering 1,052 such cases.
The RTI figures also contradict Union home minister Rajnath Singh's statement in Lok Sabha on Wednesday that atrocities against the dalits in Gujarat have declined since 2001. Singh had, in fact, lauded the state government for its swift action in the Una incident.
The RTI filed by a Mehsana-based right activist, Kaushik Parmar, has revealed that 409 offences against the dalits have been recorded in the state by April this year. According to the activists, the state, on an average, registers at least three cases of violence against the dalit community everyday.
The violence against the dalit women has also risen from 14 rapes in 2001 to 58 rape cases registered in 2015. By April this year, as many as 27 cases of rape against the dalit women have been registered in the state.
According to the RTI reply of the state police department, the dalits in 116 villages are given police protection after the incidents of atrocity. Bhavanagar district has the highest 37 villages where in the dalits are living under police protection, while Rajkot and Banaskantha districts each has 12 villages having police deployment after offences against the dalit community were registered.
Parmar said that these are the figures which were registered by the police, but in many cases, cops refused to file FIR in offences against the dalits. "Under fear, the dalit community has migrated from 19 villages of Gujarat," Parmar said, stressing that the BJP-led state government should initiate stern actions to stop atrocities or else they would face a jolt in the 2017 assembly election.
Minister of state for home Rajnikant Patel and social justice and empowerment minister Ramanlal Vora were not available for their response on the issue despite several attempts.

Ambedkar Bhavan demolition: State information chief should resign or be sacked, say RTI activists

Indian Express: Pune: Friday, July 22, 2016.
AFTER Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday said that his government would send a factual report on the role of State Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad in the Ambedkar Bhavan demolition in Mumbai, RTI activists said Gaikwad had no option but to resign or else he would be sacked.
“The post of a State Information Commissioner is a constitutional post and the state government cannot make any appointments or dismissals. Only the Governor has these powers, so we will prepare a factual report about Ratnakar Gaikwad’s involvement and send it to the Governor’s office,” the chief minister had said.
When contacted, Gaikwad’s office said he was not available. Gaikwad did not respond to calls or text messages.
According to RTI activists, Section 17 of RTI Act, subject to the provisions of sub-Section (3), says that the Chief State Information Commissioner (CSIC) or the State Information Commissioner (SIC) can be removed from office only by order of the Governor on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity, after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the Governor, has after inquiry reported that the CSIC or the SIC ought to be removed on such ground.
As per Section 17(3) (e) of RTI Act, the CSIC or the SIC can be removed if he has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect his functions.
As per Section 17(4), the CSIC or the SIC can be removed if he or she, in any way, is concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the government of the state or participates in any way in the profit thereof or gets any benefit or emoluments from there, according to RTI activists.
In the present case, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said, Gaikwad not only took an active part in the demolition of Ambedkar Bhavan, but also openly oversaw and defended the demolition which took place at midnight.
Kumbhar said Gaikwad had told a section of the media that he wasn’t connected with the trust that allegedly carried out the demolition and was merely “advising” the office bearers. “But he was seen on television, citing the reason for the demolition at midnight…,” Kumbhar said.
Kumbhar said Gaikwad’s behaviour in the Ambedkar Bhawan demolition case clearly showed that he had taken a lot of interest in it.
“It was not just a passive advice, it was definitely an active participation which falls under Section 17 of the RTI Act. There may be counter arguments on whether information commissioners are allowed to give advice to NGOs or people while in office. However, they are definitely not allowed to take an active part in any organisations’ matters directly or indirectly.”
Kumbhar said if the government reported Gaikwad’s involvement in the Ambedkar Bhawan demolition case to the Governor, the Governor might start his removal procedure. “Looking at the increasing pressure on the government and the assurance given by the chief minister in the legislature, the government will definitely send such a report. In that case, the Governor might suspend Gaikwad from office and if deemed necessary prohibit him from attending office during the inquiry. To avoid all this embarrassment, Gaikwad has an option to resign immediately, or else, he is in for a sack.”

Thursday, July 21, 2016

'Set up human rights forums in Puducherry'

Times of India‎‎‎‎: Puducherry: Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Civil society organizations have urged the Puducherry government to establish full-fledged state human rights commission, state commission for protection of child rights and state SC/ST commission in the Union territory.
Presently only committees have been set up to probe into complaints of violation of human rights, child rights and SC/ST rights.
A resolution to this effect was passed during 'Universal periodic review' undertaken by 35 representatives from various forums civil society organizations including Holistic approach for people's empowerment (Hope) and Institute of Human Rights Education (IHRE).
The organizations also resolved to urge the government to implement the Right of children to free and compulsory education act and extend 25% reservation for children from economically weaker sections in all private schools.
They sought extension of minimum age of employment to 18 years to ensure free, compulsory, quality and equitable education.They insisted the government to take effective measures in preventing child trafficking and to implement the Protection of children from sexual offences act (Pocso) in letter and spirit and ensure prosecution of offenders.
Pointing out that Puducherry does not have exclusive programmes for rehabilitating child labourers they sought for implementation of Puducherry national child labour project.
Insisting for setting up of internal complaints committees to deal cases of sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act in all central and state government and also private organizations.
They advocated imparting human rights' education in all schools in Puducherry to ensure gender justice and equality and to prevent crimes against women.
They also pressed the government to set up LGBT community resource centres to reinforce their rights in Puducherry. They sought for complete immunity and fool proof protection for the whistle blowers and human rights defenders and crusaders and ensure relief and rehabilitation of victimized activists.
They insisted for establishing a state information commission in Puducherry by amending the RTI act to ensure full protection to the life and liberty of RTI activists.
Urging government to implement National security act, they sought for promoting agro-based livelihood activities and creating climate-friendly job opportunities.
Stressing for the rehabilitation of displaced communities including dalit and nomadic community (Narikuravas) they insisted the government to take effective steps to implement the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act with amendment rules, 2016. They also urged that the budgets earmarked for special component plan and sub-plan must not be diverted.

NGT issues notice to govt on illegal stone mining

Times of India‎‎‎‎: Aurangabad: Thursday, July 21, 2016.
The National Green Tribunal, Western Zone Bench, Pune has issued notices to the respondents, including the state government, directing them to remain present by the next hearing in the petition alleged illegal mining at Rampuri village, about 20 km from Aurangabad.
The next hearing in the matter is scheduled on August 9, 2016. The direction came after an application was filed with the green tribunal by Ajanta International Vipassana Samiti and some farmers demanding environmental protection in the vicinity, which was disturbed by the illegal mining taking place in the village.
The NGT bench comprising justices U D Salvi and Ajay Deshpande in its order on July 4, 2016 issued notices to the respondents, including Popatlal Chordiya, Krishna Bankar, Maharashtra government, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the Aurangabad district collector and the Aurangabad deputy director of directorate of geology and mining and directed them to remain present at the next hearing which is scheduled to be held on August 9, 2016.
The applicants, Ajanta International Vipassana Samiti and five farmers from Rampuri village, with the help of advocate Asim Sarode raised the serious issue of illegal mining. The petition said the activity is in violation of various laws and rules related to environmental protection, such as the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the respondents, Chordiya and Bankar, started illegal mining business of stone crushing without obtaining any permission or licence from any of the competent authorities.
The petition said this illegal mining business in gut number 41 in Rampuri village is causing air and noise pollution and the calmness and quietness of Vipassana centre is being disturbed. Heavy machineries like compressor, drilling, earth moving machine and blasting operation are being carried out causing noise pollution, said the applicant.
The applicants also said that due to air pollution and spreading of dust particles, the agricultural produce and standing crops in the field have got affected and agricultural income of the farmers reduced to a great extent.
The applicants also claimed that they obtained information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) from the office of Aurangabad district collector, the deputy director, directorate of geology & mining, regional office MPCB Aurangabad and environment and forest departments, Aurangabad, that revealed that no permission has been granted to anybody for mining stones or excavation of stones in gut number 41 of Rampuri village.
Despite registering complaints with the district collector and MPBC, no action was initiated to stop the illegal mining activity, said the petition, adding that the competent authorities too were responsible for environmental damage caused as they turned blind eye to the issue.
The petition said that vipassana can be used to develop a healthy mind and is actually a mental training. Therefore, for going to the stage of Vipassana Meditation, silence is very important. Even slight noise can break the concentration and disturbs the disciples of Vipassana. In the hall of meditation, no one is allowed to talk with each other. However, with stone crushing activities in nearby areas, all the processes of Vipassana have been disturbed, said the applicants in the petition.
"The dust generated by the stone crusher industry is not only limited to causing health hazards to people in the vicinity and causing adverse effects on agriculture but it also is detrimental to the Bio-Diversity to some extent," said advocate Sarode.

Ratnakar Gaikwad had no authority to meddle in Ambedkar Bhavan

Mumbai Mirror‎‎‎: Mumbai: Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Land records accessed by Mirror show the IAS officer was never a part of the trust that owned the historical Dadar structure.
Senior IAS officer and former state chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad, who is at the centre of the Ambedkar Bhavan demolition row, had no authority to decide the structure's fate, an investigation by Mumbai Mirror has revealed.
Applications filed by this newspaper under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that State Information Commissioner Gaikwad held no position in the People's Improvement Trust founded by Babasaheb Ambedkar, which owned the 72-year-old Dadar structure. Gaikwad, claiming to be an "advisor" to the People's Improvement Trust office-bearers, got the Ambedkar Bhavan demolished in the middle of the night on June 25, leading to nationwide protests and a massive march that brought south Mumbai to its knees on Tuesday.
He attended the trust press conferences after the demolition, gave interviews, and insisted that the structure was dilapidated. He claimed that the demolition was carried out after the BMC issued an eviction notice, to which the civic body clarified that it had nothing to do with the action.
The documents accessed by Mumbai Mirror show that the land where the building stood was purchased by Babasaheb Ambedkar, and the current trustees were AS Upshyam, SS Dhaktode, SN Gaware, VM Dhavare, VA Wagh and SA Gaikwad.
These documents include the land records from 1943, when Babasaheb Ambedkar owned the plot, to the present day, showing the People's Improvement Trust's ownership of the land parcel, and the names of its officebearers.
Ambedkar's grandson Prakash, who led Tuesday's morcha and who has been demanding Ratnakar Gaikwad's arrest, said, "We have been saying for the long time that he has nothing to do with the People's Improvement Trust."
Gaikwad admitted on Wednesday that he wasn't connected with the trust, and was merely "advising" the officebearers. "I am not on the board of trustees or even connected with the trust. The trust's office-bearers came to me for advice, like so many organisations and NGOs do, and I helped them."
He chose not to comment on the controversy, but insisted that the structure had to be demolished after its portion collapsed.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, speaking at the Vidhan Bhavan during the state legislature's monsoon session, slammed the process that led to the demolition. "The trustees should have informed the BMC, the police, and the fire brigade," he said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that a report on Ratnakar Gaikwad's role in the Ambedkar Bhavan demolition will be sent to the Governor, Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao. If found guilty, Gaikwad is likely to be removed as the state information commissioner. When asked whether Gaikwad could be arrested, the CM said, "It's a process wherein we will send a report to the Governor, who will advise on the course of action."
Gaikwad, meanwhile, was defiant, saying only the Supreme Court had the authority to sack him.

Online RTI application on MCD websites remain non-functional

Indian Express‎‎: New Delhi: Thursday, July 21, 2016.
The Right to Information application on the website of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has been non-functional for more than six months now.
The website states that submission of online RTI applications are suspended due to ‘updation of software.’
The condition is same across the three websites of MCD- South Delhi Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation and North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Speaking to, SDMC Public Relations Officer, Mukesh Yadav said, “Since we are trifurcating the applications, the upgradation process is still going on. It is a fairly lengthy process. ” He, however, could not specify the date of disruption of this service.
Media law expert, Dhiranjan Malvey said, “The law is very clear when it states that any person can make a request in writing OR through electronic means. It is imperative for government organisations to provide both these options to people. ”
He further explained how the law is very clear in its wording. “The facility to file online RTI must be provided else it would tantamount to violation of the Act itself.” said Malvey.
Additional Director of IT department, MCD, Sonu Gupta told the that the submission of online RTI applications had been suspended since ‘last year.’ However, Gupta too could not specify the actual date when the online submission of RTI on MCD websites stopped working.
When asked about the reason behind the delay in upgradation, Gupta said, “When applications are trifurcated, it needs to be customised on the basis of requirement. A lot of training goes behind it and that takes a lot of time. We are still working on it.”
Citing arbitration issues, Gupta did not mention how much more time it would take to get the online RTI application running.
According to a 2015 report by DNA, the online submission of RTI on MCD’s web portal had been non-functional for over two years.
In 2013, Hindustan Times had also reported that the online filing of RTI was yet to take off after the trifurcation of the website. The Hindustan Times report had quoted the NDMC PRO as saying that “it would take three-four months for the process to be over.”
The MCD website has over 100 applications and is maintained by Tech Mahindra. Currently, if any person desires to fill an RTI application, the only option is to file it offline.