Sunday, October 26, 2014

State has delivered double blow to RTI, say angry activists

Mumbai Mirror: Mumbai: Sunday, 26 October 2014.
Second punch: Govt issues circular telling officials to hold back any files that they think are not in public interest.
Outraged Right to Information (RTI) activists have railed at two government notifications, issued in the last two weeks, which they say seek to dilute the efficacy of the RTI Act. Some advocates of transparency and the regime of accountability have termed the orders "illegal" and have written letters of protest to the Governor of Maharashtra and the state Information commissioner.
One of the circulars, issued in the last week of September, exempts the state Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from the purview of RTI queries while the other, issued on October 17, constrains all government departments from releasing any information deemed "not in public interest".
The first notification was issued by the General Administration Department of the Maharashtra government a few days before the model code of conduct came into force, prior to the state assembly elections. This order includes the ACB under Section 24 (4) of the RTI Act, which states that nothing contained in the statute shall apply to intelligence and security organisations. Activists said the logic that animates this decision eludes them, considering the bureau investigates cases of graft and is not tasked with matters concerning intelligence or security. "In my view, the order exempting ACB from RTI is illegal," said former Information Commissioner of the Central Information Commissioner's office and prominent RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi. "Section 24 (4) of the RTI Act deals with intelligence and security organisations. But there is no question of putting ACB into that category. I have challenged the order and written to the Maharashtra information commissioner."
RTI activist Anil Galgali said considering the number of corruption inquiries pending against members of the Nationalist Congress Party, which formed one half of the coalition that ruled the state till the elections were held earlier this month, the order concerning the ACB would render any independent inquiry impotent. "This order against the ACB will hide it all," he said.
"The proposal to remove the ACB from the ambit of RTI came from the ACB and was ratified by the home department - former home minister R R Patil and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan," said additional chief secretary P S Meena, of the General Administration Department. "We also consulted the law and judiciary department, which gave an opinion that the ACB can be removed from the ambit of RTI." According to him, one of the principal reasons for this is that those accused by the ACB of graft could misuse the act to extract information about proceedings against them and jeopardise the investigation. "After consultations, we issued the order last month to put the ACB out of RTI ambit.'' Meena said.
The second proclamation issued by the administration of the Governor-ruled state has directed all departments to withhold any information that does not constitute "public interest". The order cites a Supreme Court ruling dated November 3, 2012 stating, "The details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show-cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (J) of section 8(1) of RTI Act. The performance of an employee or officer in an organisation is primarily a matter between the employee and employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression 'personal information', the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual." The order also refers to a verdict by the Karnataka High Court, delivered on August 31, 2012, which states that if information sought by an applicant falls under the "personal" category, officers shall not entertain RTI applications regarding such data. "The circular that quotes the SC and Karnataka HC on personal information is also not correct," Gandhi said. "The order of the SC is specific to a case and does not constitute precedent; it can be followed as law of the land provided it gives reasoning in law and establishes a legal principle. But this particular SC judgement does not do that. In fact I have filed a petition in the Bombay High court challenging this aspect," Gandhi said.
His fellow activist, Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch, agreed. "All of us have been protesting against it. In fact, we have not just written letters to the state information commissioner, but also to the Governor of Maharashtra," he said.

Governor orders inquiry into Mandi MC shop allotment

Hindustan Times: Mandi: Sunday, 26 October 2014.
Himachal Pradesh governor Urmila Singh while taking cognisance of the complaint filed by NGO Mandi Bachao Sangharsh Morcha (MBSM) issued orders to the director of Urban Development, Shimla, to inquire into the allegations and inform her office as well as the complainant. MBSM president Lakshmender Guleria alleged in his complaint that Mandi Municipal Council (MMC) rented out places for shops on nominal rents on the recommendations of high profile politicians. MMC deliberately avoided 25% reservation roster, he alleged.
"MMC built shops to provide livelihood to the unemployed youth, people below poverty line, war widows etc., and also for commercial purposes. But, the state government had issued a notification in1972 and ordered all local urban bodies to provide 25% shops to the needy and deprived section of the society. But the MMC allotted these shops to well-to-do businessmen, in violation of government guidelines," alleged Guleria.
Guleria said the MMC had allotted more than 450 shops in the town area. Information gained through Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed that the civic body allotted shops to former presidents, vice-presidents and councilor's relatives, instead of allotting 25% shops to the needy between 1993 and 2010.
"Shops were allotted despite the fact that all of them came from rich financial backgrounds. The shops were actually built to provide employment to youth and those who had been removed from 'khokhas' in 1993 and 1998. The MC promised to construct shops for them in future," said Guleria.
"As many as 18 such removed 'Khokha' owners from Old Sunkan Market are waiting for shops till date and doing business on reharis (wooden cart)."
He also held that those to whom the shops were allotted managed to get it allotted either in their name or their nominated kins. He pointed out that it was a violation of section 13 (A) of the Anti-Corruption Act.
Guleria said he had sought cancellation of these allotments, and asked for registration of FIR against the MMC office bearers and councillors who passed the resolution to sanction the allotment in the general house meetings of MMC in the past.
He said he would move the high court if the government and urban development department failed to file cases and cancel the allotments.

Akhilesh government Transfers over 500 IPS officers

The Asian Age: Lucknow: Sunday, 26 October 2014.
The Akhilesh government has transferred 524 IPS officers in the past nine months. The total cadre strength of IPS officers in UP is 405.
According to information obtained by RTI activist, Dr Nutan Thakur, the government has been happily violating the IPS Cadre Amendment Rules 2014 which fixes the minimum tenure of 2 years for IPS officers. Dr Thakur said as per information received by her under the RTI Act, the government has admitted to having ordered 524 transfers of IPS officers.
“A total of 86 transfer orders have been issued in the past nine months,” he said.

Study says RTI act being weakened by reluctance to impose penalties

Times of India: New Delhi: Sunday, 26 October 2014.
Information commissioners across the country are using a light touch to tackle RTI complaints sparing imposition of penalty in over 96% of the cases according to an independent study.
Penalties have been imposed in just 3870 or 3.72% of the cases between January 2012 to December 2013 in 21 information commissions across the country. Activists say that commissions are turning a blind eye to delays or complete denial of information which can sound the death knell for implementation of the RTI act.
There are three million RTIs filed every year but only a fraction reach up to the level of appeal. The RaaG-NCPRI study on the RTI act reveals that between January 2012 to December 2013 3.89 lakh complaints and appeals were received by the Central Information Commission and 25 information commissions. Of these 3.06 lakh or 79% were disposed off.
Based on RTI responses from 21 information commissions, the study found that 2.21 lakh cases had been disposed of between January 2012 to November 2013. Analysis of orders suggests that penalty should have been imposed on 1.04 lakh cases but in fact information commissions imposed it only on 3870 cases. The quantum of penalty imposed was about Rs 5.03 crore in 22 states. Shockingly only Rs 85.57 lakh was recovered by 18 states.
Maharashtra imposed penalty in the maximum number of cases (844) while the quantum of penalty Rs 1.27 crore was the highest in Karnataka. Madhya Pradesh imposed penalty only in two cases, Tripura in one case while West Bengal's information commission was equally generous imposing penalty in just three cases. Commissions can impose Rs 250 per day as penalty up to a maximum of Rs 25,000.
Information commissions are also empowered to award compensation to a complainant for the loss suffered. Despite the large percentage of appeals and complaints that result in wrongful denial or delay in providing information compensation has been awarded in only 1339 cases. The amount of compensation imposed was Rs 29.68 lakh of which only about Rs 4.07 lakh was recovered. Karnataka and Haryana information commissions awarded the highest amount of compensation Rs 7.69 lakh and Rs 7.50 lakh.

Sailor put in psychiatry ward for exposing graft in Navy: Wife

Times of India: Madurai: Sunday, 26 October 2014.
A Navy sailor's wife has alleged that that her husband was wrongly diagnosed with psychiatric problems and forcefully admitted in the psychiatric ward at the naval hospital Sanjivini in Kochi as he had levelled corruption charges against his seniors at INS Kattabomman naval base in Tirunelveli.
"My husband, Sunil Kumar Sahu, who is a SWA-3 rank officer at naval base INS Kattabomman, had complained about corruption and dishonesty of officers here. He had informed the same to the commanding officer at INS Kattabomman, who is also the chief vigilance officer. However, soon after he raised the issue, he was threatened by the seniors and asked to keep quiet," said Arthi, a native of Odisha.
She alleged that after he again wrote a letter on October 20 raising corruption charges against senior officials, the commanding officer called him to his cabin and threatened him. "He told him that he will fill form 10 and get my husband declared as a psychiatric patient. After the threat, I decided to lodge a police complaint and even went to Vijayanarayanam police station (in Tiruneveli district) on October 21 to lodge a complaint but was asked to come in the evening as the station in-charge was not there," said Arthi. However, before she could lodge a complaint, Arthi alleged that her husband was arrested for threatening his senior officer.
"I was then informed that they have issued an order to send him to hospital in Kochi for psychiatric treatment and he was shifted here on October 23. He is wrongly trapped here as he dared to fight against corruption committed by his seniors," Arthi said. She came along with her husband to Kochi but is allowed to meet him for only a few hours daily.
"The sailor is posted at INS Kattabomman, the naval base at Tirunelveli, which comes under the Eastern Naval Command headquartered at Visakhapatnam. The details of the case can be known only from the naval officials at Visakhapatnam. He was brought here for some medical examination. The nature of his ailment and his condition can't be shared," said a Navy spokesperson in Kochi.
When contacted, Vijayanarayanam police inspector Paulraj said, "On receiving the compliant from the woman (Arthi), we rushed to the naval office at Vijayanarayanam. But, we were not allowed inside the campus. Their officials spoke only to Cheranmahadevi (in Tirunelveli district) sub-collector. The naval officer told the sub-collector that action has been initiated against the complainant's husband under the Navy Act. Thereafter, we closed the complaint because the Tamil Nadu police could do nothing more."
"My husband graduated in science and served in the Indian Navy for 10 years. He was transferred to Tirunelveli in October last year from Karwar naval base INS Kadamba in Karnataka as he tried to expose corruption," said Arthi.
She said her husband obtained information through RTI about the purchase of television sets and forwarded it to higher officials in Visakhapatnam. The RTI followed an allegation that a private firm had given television sets to the naval base free of cost, but they were shown as having been purchased. This resulted in her husband facing detention and torture, she alleged.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Centre advertises for appointment of new CIC

Jagran Post: New Delhi: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the nodal ministry for RTI matters, has invited applications from the people in a given format before November 24.
According to the Act, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) shall be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass-media or administration and governance.
All the CICs appointed so far have been retired bureaucrats. The position has been lying vacant after Rajiv Mathur, former Chief of Intelligence Bureau, retired on August 22.
In an emailed communication sent to activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra, the DoPT has said the file related to the appointment of the CIC has been pending with the Prime Minister's Office since August 1, 2014.
"Persons fulfilling the criteria for appointment as the Chief Information Commissioner and interested for appointment to the post may send their particulars in enclosed proforma by post to Under Secretary (RTI), Department of Personnel and Training, North Block, New Delhi or through email usrti-dopt@nic.in by November 24, 2014," it said.

68 Indian Drug Mules Doing Time in Malaysia Jails

The New Indian Express: Chennai: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Customs and drug enforcement agencies may have ostensibly intensified their screening at airports, but no less than 68 Indian citizens are languishing in jails across Malaysia after having been arrested and charged with drug trafficking there.
Information obtained from the High Commission of India in Kuala Lumpur through an RTI petition shockingly revealed that 44 of these drug mules were arrested between January and September alone. While 28 of them have been convicted with jail time stretching until 2025, the remaining are in judicial remand, awaiting their day in court.
All of them have been charged under various sections of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1952, with trafficking as the primary charge.
In addition, a few of them have been charged for intent to sell and excessive use. The records sent to the Ministry of  External Affairs reveal that quite a number of the arrested mules are under 30, with a 19-year-old youth also behind bars.
The swift pile-up of drug trafficking arrests could be a result of two things the Malaysian narcotics department’s crackdown on entry of drugs and a general increase in the number of couriers carrying substances from India.
A majority of those arrested are believed to have done their drug run through the Chennai airport.
Activist Jamal S, who sought the information, strongly believes that such a large number of drug mules can’t operate without some inside assistance. “There are people who recruit young men and women who have financial trouble in areas like Triplicane and Mannady. They give a little money and urge them to do the drug running. Their families believe that they are going for some ‘work’ there and come to know the truth only when they are arrested,” he said, adding “I believe this is happening in collusion with customs officers at Chennai Airport who were on duty at that time and allowed them to pass.”

Vasco BDO staff interrogated

Times of India: Vasco: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Vasco police interrogated staff members of the BDO Mohini Halarnkar on Friday after she was suspended for allegedly forging a letter in the name of advocate general and for later tearing pages of the minutes book of the Chicalim panchayat.
The lady staff who accompanied Halarnkar when she visited the Chicalim panchayat was also interrogated.
Sources informed TOI that it was the RTI filed by Narayan Naik asking some details from the Chicalim panchayat which alerted Halarnkar as she was afraid that her misdeeds would come to light.
The secretary of the Chicalim panchayat informed police that Halarnkar had asked him not to furnish any details about the said letter issued by her to the panchayats of Calata-Majorda, Sancoale, Chicalim asking for a sum of Rs 25,000 from each panchayat.
Sources also informed that she drafted the said letter from the Calata-Majorda panchayat computer which is also attached by the police. There was no letter head but only the designation of the advocate general typed along with the address of his office. Also, the signature of the advocate general was a forged one.
What made Halarnkar go to the Chicalim panchayat was to misplace the inward-outwad book and tear off the pages from the minutes book of the panchayat, as the panchayat had taken a resolution on September 30 to pay the said amount to the BDO. On October 15, Halarnkar entered the panchayat during lunch break and sent others down to get some books and in the meantime she is suspected to have torn off the pages.

Navy man held in psychiatry ward for exposing corruption

Times of India: Madurai: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
A Navy sailor's wife has alleged that that her husband was wrongly diagnosed with psychiatric problems and forcefully admitted in the psychiatric ward at the naval hospital Sanjivini in Kochi as he had levelled corruption charges against his seniors at INS Kattabomman naval base in Tirunelveli.
"My husband, Sunil Kumar Sahu, who is a SWA-3 rank officer at naval base INS Kattabomman, had complained about corruption and dishonesty of officers here. He had informed the same to the commanding officer at INS Kattabomman, who is also the chief vigilance officer. However, soon after he raised the issue, he was threatened by the seniors and asked to keep quiet," said Arthi, a native of Odisha. She alleged that after he again wrote a letter on October 20 raising corruption charges against senior officials, the commanding officer called him to his cabin and threatened him. "He told him that he will fill form 10 and get my husband declared as a psychiatric patient. After the threat, I decided to lodge a police complaint and even went to Vijayanarayanam police station (in Tiruneveli district) on October 21 to lodge a complaint but was asked to come in the evening as the station in-charge was not there," said Arthi. However, before she could lodge a complaint, Arthi alleged that her husband was arrested for threatening his senior officer.
"I was then informed that they have issued an order to send him to hospital in Kochi for psychiatric treatment and he was shifted here on October 23. He is wrongly trapped here as he dared to fight against corruption committed by his seniors," Arthi said. She came along with her husband to Kochi but is allowed to meet him for only a few hours daily.
"The sailor is posted at INS Kattabomman which comes under the Eastern Naval Command headquartered at Visakhapatnam. The details of the case can be known only from the naval officials at Visakhapatnam. He was brought here for some medical examination. The nature of his ailment and his condition can't be shared," said a Navy spokesperson in Kochi. When contacted, Vijayanarayanam police inspector Paulraj said, "On receiving the compliant from the woman (Arthi), we rushed to the naval office at Vijayanarayanam. But, we were not allowed inside the campus. Their officials spoke only to Cheranmahadevi (in Tirunelveli district) sub-collector. The naval officer told the sub-collector that action has been initiated against the complainant's husband under the Navy Act. Thereafter, we closed the complaint because the Tamil Nadu police could do nothing more."
"My husband graduated in science and served in the Indian Navy for 10 years. He was transferred to Tirunelveli in October last year from Karwar naval base INS Kadamba in Karnataka as he tried to expose corruption," said Arthi. She said her husband obtained information through RTI about the purchase of television sets and forwarded it to higher officials in Visakhapatnam.
The RTI followed an allegation that a private firm had given television sets to the naval base free of cost, but they were shown as having been purchased. This resulted in her husband facing detention and torture, she alleged.

Compensate families affected by army firing: TBF

Kashmir Reader: Srinagar: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
JK RTI Movement and Toasmaidan Bachao Front Friday while appreciating the decision of handing over of the meadow by Army to state government has sought allocation of compensation for families affected by firing during lease period.
“We demand compensation to the families, whose kin died due to firing drill conducted by Army in the past 50 years. People who got disabled by live shells shall be compensated in the form of a livelihood as they are not able to earn and feed their families. Similarly, people whose homes and properties have been damaged shall also be compensated at an earliest,” said chairman JK RTI Movement and chief patron TBF Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool.
He said that the meadow should be developed on the standards of rural tourism to maintain the ecology of the area.
“We will stand against any move by state if concrete constructions are allowed at Toasmaidan. The mainstream tourism will not be allowed which in turn damages the environment. The state government shall adopt people friendly and eco-friendly policies in developing Toasmaidan and other places in Kashmir. The government should take all the stakeholders in confidence before forming a development authority there and that firing range shall be relocated to such a place in which there is no threat to human life and environment,” he said.

RTI ऐक्टिविस्ट के साथ धक्का-मुक्की

नवभारत टाइम्स: भिवंडी: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
वंडी मनपा शिक्षण मंडल में आरटीआई अपील दाखिल करने गए एक आरटीआई ऐक्टिविस्ट के साथ गाली-गलौच करते हुए धक्का मुक्की की गई। इस पर भिवंडी शहर पुलिस ने आईपीसी की धारा 323504 के तहत मामला दर्ज कर लिया है।
मिली जानकारी के मुताबिक, आरटीआई ऐक्टिविस्ट मुरारी त्रिपाठी ने सूचना अधिकार अधिनियम के तहत चाचा नेहरू हिंदी स्कूल से संबंधित कोई जानकारी मांगी थी। सूचना अधिकार के तहत उक्त जानकारी न मिलने पर वह मनपा शिक्षण मंडल कार्यालय में अपील दाखिल करने गए थे। उन्होंने वहां डाक अधिकारी विट्ठल का 2 घंटे से ज्यादा समय तक इंतजार किया और जब अधिकारी के देर से आने पर त्रिपाठी ने कारण पूछा तो अधिकारी ने नाराज होकर उनके साथ गाली-गलौच करते हुए धक्का-मुक्की भी की थी।

Govt officals owe Rs 4.19 crore to power department

Times of India: Moradabad: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
The power department, which follows a strict policy while realizing outstanding dues from consumers, has failed to follow the same regulations for government departments and officials, including some of its own.
The response to an RTI query filed by a local activist has revealed that the department has a huge sum of outstanding dues, amounting to Rs 4.19 crore, from various government departments out of which about Rs 17 lakh are also yet to be paid by two of its own officials.
As a result, the state exchequer is suffering a huge loss even as the department continues with its drive to make consumers pay up.
The RTI query filed by Pawan Agrwal revealed that 143 state officials posted in the district have consumed electricity worth Rs 4.19 crore without paying a single penny from their pocket. Most officials have not paid their electricity bills since the last 40 years.
Talking to TOI, chief engineer urban distribution, C P Singh said, "Recovery notices have been issued from the department to the officials who haven't paid the electricity bills. If they fail to pay the outstanding arrears, their electricity connections will be cut and restored only after they deposit the amount payable against their own/office's name."
The power department has reportedly sent notices and warnings in the past as well, but the threat to disconnect electricity remains confined to paper.
Among the major defaulters include official compounds of the district magistrate (Rs 18 lakh), senior superintendant of police (Rs 73 lakh), two executive engineers of the electricity department (Rs 17 lakh), DIG (Rs 3.41 lakh), chief medical officer (Rs 70 lakh), district court compound, district jail (Rs 70 lakh), and commandant of police training academy (Rs 13 lakh).

Be reasonable : Editorials, Express News Service.

Indian Express: New Delhi: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
The Central Information Commission has been headless since August 22 and in the interim, the Right to Information is being eroded. A month ago, the Madras High Court invited widespread criticism by ruling that an RTI applicant must state reasons for seeking information, and that she must serve the public interest. Now, the office of the governor of Maharashtra has issued a government resolution empowering officers to ignore requests that do not serve any public interest. The Madras High Court had moved suo motu to review its own order, clarifying that it violated Section 6(2) of the RTI Act, which states that an application does not have to disclose reasons. However, the resolution in Maharashtra remains to be reversed.
These moves appear to stem from impatience about frivolous and motivated requests. As the Madras High Court had explained, the legislatures had not intended that information was to be handed out “like pamphlets to any person, unmindful of the object”. In Mumbai, the Raj Bhavan is particularly disinterested in providing personal information that may compromise privacy, especially in matters which may serve a private interest. However, the authorities cannot ascribe motive or lack of it which is frivolity by another name to applicants with any degree of certainty until the information released is put to use. Or not used, as the case may be. Besides, to declare the motive of an RTI query in advance is self-defeating, alerting the very authorities that it may be designed to catch out. The mechanism came with automatism built in precisely to negate governmental discretion.
The prevention of misuse should not be the first concern in the working of a law. Efficiency in use should routinely trump that argument, specially in laws that effect fundamental changes in human behaviour and public practices. A parallel may be drawn with the anti-dowry law, which is turning the tide on a mainstream but ugly custom. Its provisions are perceived to have been widely misused, but the Supreme Court has nevertheless upheld Section 498A of the IPC, which criminalises cruelty to women, while warning that it should not be used to settle scores. This year, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the new chairperson of the National Commission of Women, admitted that the law is misused, but rejected this as a ground for dilution. The parallel with the RTI controversy is remarkable and by the same logic, the law that exposed the Adarsh scam, and so many others, must not be diluted.

आवेदनों के बोझ में दबता आरटीआइ कानून

दैनिक जागरण: बरेली: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
सूचना का अधिकार कानून-2005 भारतीय संविधान में सबसे लोकप्रिय कानून माना जाता है। अगर किसी कानून भ्रष्टाचारी डरते हैं तो वह आरटीआइ। इस कानून से न केवल देश का हर नागरिक सरकार से सूचनाएं मांग सकता है बल्कि अपने अधिकारियों का संरक्षण भी कर सकता है, लेकिन तेजी से पनपते भ्रष्टाचारी माहौल में यह कानून आवेदनों के बोझ तले दबता चला जा रहा है। इस मामले में यूपी सबसे आगे दिख रहा है। प्रदेश में अब तक 48442 मामले लंबित पड़े हैं। अन्य प्रदेशों का हाल भी बदतर है।
साल 2012-13 में यूपी में 62008, केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग में 62723 और महाराष्ट्र में 73968 मामले दर्ज हुए। लेकिन निस्तारण का स्तर काफी नीचे रहा। अगर 23 सूचना आयोगों की बात करें तो लंबित मामलों का आकड़ा 1,98,739 के पार पहुंचता है। केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग में ही पंद्रह हजार से अधिक मामले लंबित पड़े रहे गए। 25 अक्टूबर को इस कानून को दस साल पूरे हो जाएंगे। इन दस सालों में शायद ही ऐसा कोई विभाग बचा हो जहां शिकायतों का स्तर साठ प्रतिशत से अधिक का इजाफा न हुआ हो। वहीं इस कानून के प्रति विभागीय अधिकारियों का रवैया आज भी बेहद चिंताजनक है। अधिकारी सूचना देने में हीलाहवाली करते हैं और जानकारी के अभाव में पीड़ित राज्य या केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग में शिकायत नहीं कर पाता।
क्या है कानून:
सूचना का अधिकार कानून 15 जून 2005 को संसद ने पास किया और 12 अक्टूबर को पूरी तरह से प्रभावी हो गया। पहला आवेदन 12 अक्टूबर को ही पुणे के पुलिस स्टेशन में शाहिद रजा नाम के व्यक्ति ने दिया था। इस कानून के तहत कुछ विभागों को छोड़कर सभी से जानकारी मांगी जा सकती है। अधिनियम की धारा 6-एक के तहत दस रुपये शुल्क देकर सूचना मांगने का अधिकार है। अगर सूचना अधिकारी बिना उचित कारण बताए या भ्रामक सूचना देता है तो उसपर प्रतिदिन 250 रुपये या अधिकतम 25 हजार रुपये का जुर्माना हो सकता है। अगर कोई विभाग सूचना नहीं देता है तो उसके खिलाफ राज्य सूचना आयोग और उसके बाद केंद्रीय सूचना आयोग में शिकायत की जा सकती है।  
वर्जन:
आरटीआइ को और मजबूत करने की जरूरत है। सरकार को चाहिए जिन विभागों में अधिक मामले लंबित पड़े हैं उनको दंडित करें ताकि अन्य विभाग सीख ले सकें। आरटीआइ का उद्देश्य तभी पूरा हो सकेगा जब हर नागरिक अपने अधिकारों को लेकर जागरूक होंगे।

Central Information Commission devising system to keep tab on defaulting PIOs

Economic Times: New Delhi: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Keeping in view increasing numbers of cases of non-compliance of orders, the central information commission is working on an information management system (IMS) to keep a tab on the defaulting public information officer (PIO).
The IMS which is awaiting DoPT's approval would enable officials to prepare list of defaulting PIOs and also status of other orders passed by the commission, which is the apex body for RTI complaints at the centre. This would help commission take action against frequent erring officials and help applicant get needed information. This apart, the system would send SMS alert to complainants as soon as their complaints gets registered. It would also keep them updated on the progress of the complaint.
In June, the commission sent the proposal to the department of personnel and training, nodal agency for implementation of the RTI act and subsequently held discussions over it. "DoPT has sent us some queries pertaining to implementation of the system which we have replied. We are now waiting for the approval," said a senior official with commission. The commission has already designed the system.
Several orders passed by the commission are not implemented and there is no system to track them to punish the defaulting PIO. This has resulted in increasing number of rejection of RTI applications in recent past. At present, the commission does not maintain any register for non-compliance cases. Thus, the total number of such cases are unknown. However, officials say that it could run in thousands. The commission decides on nearly 60-70 cases every day and during 2013-14 it registered more than 20,000 complaints.
RTI experts opine that such system would put pressure on the officials to comply with orders leading to strengthening of the transparency law. The purpose of the act fails if the applicant does not get information sought even after getting a favorable order from the commission, said Hyderabad based RTI expert CJ Karira. "Commission needs to digitize its work as several cases of complaints missing and getting lost have come up," he added.
The CIC is the second level of appeal for RTI petitioners who are dissatisfied with responses provided by the public information officer and subsequently, the first appellate authority, who is usually the senior officer in the same department. The time limit for responding to both the petition and appeal is 30 days.
The problem of non-compliance of orders was discussed by the commission in its meeting held last month. "A proposal for additional staff may be sent to the DOPT for its consideration as the present staff strength is grossly inadequate to deal with such cases in the registry," said the minutes of meeting.

Seven months on, Assam Information Commission has no Commissioner.

Indian Express: Guwahati: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
For seven months now, since the term of Mohan Chandra Malakar as State Information Commissioner came to an end, the Assam State Information Commission has been “functioning” without any Commissioner. And, appeals have been piling up, with officials in the Commission putting the latest figure at 4147. The last Chief Information Commissioner on the other hand had retired two years ago.
The State Information Commission in Assam, which has provisions to appoint two Commissioners apart from the CIC, has been mostly functioning with just one Commissioner. The list of persons occupying that post comprises only of retired bureaucrats and IPS officers. Malakar however is a former PCCF (Wildlife).
“While the State Information Commission has remained defunct for seven months now, public authorities are least bothered to provide information in response to RTI applications. They know that there is no appelate authority at the top, and nobody can pull them up for this,” said Saito Basumatary, coordinator of the People’s Rights Forum (PRF).
“Common people at the grassroots level have been blatantly denied information related to PDS, food and other benefits for BPL families,” Basumatary said.
Attempts by the Forum to seek the governor’s intervention to make the Commission functional has also found no response. The Forum is now contemplating filing a PIL. “It has been over six weeks that we applied for an appointment with the governor by specifically mentioning the status of the State Information Commission. But there has been no response,” Basumatary rued.
IH Borbora, a regular RTI user however says he is not surprised that the Congress government kept the Information Commission defunct.
“Though the chief minister often takes pride in saying that Assam was one of the first few states to have had its own RTI Act even before the central Act came, keeping the State Information Commission in a non-functioning state only makes it clear that the government either has things to hide or has no respect for law,” Borbora, also a State Resource Person for RTI, said.
Nilima Chayengiya Mipun, recently appointed secretary of the State Information Commission admitted that the number of appeals has been accumulating. “As on date there are 4174 appeals lying with the Commission,” she said. When Malakar term ended in March, there were roughly 1500 appeals pending disposal.
That the state government’s interest towards the Commission has been lackadaisical is also evident from the fact that officers were sent as Secretary to the Commission mostly on a temporary basis until Mipun took over recently. While Md Jiauddin Ahmed retired as Secretary in June 2013 after serving for seven years, three officers were posted on temporary charge one after the other, till Mipun joined.
“It is very unfortunate that the state government has not bothered to let the Assam State Information Commission function smoothly. By depriving the citizens of information, the state government has done a criminal act,” said Debajit Goswami, secretary of the Assam RTI Forum.
“RTI applicants are not just denied information, but are threatened, coerced, assaulted and even killed. But the government is not bothered,” complained Goswami.
While former IPS officers like S Mooshahary, DN Dutt and retired bureaucrats like BK Gohain and MC Malakar have found post-retirement postings as State Information Commissioners in Assam, the name of another IAS officer on the verge of retirement is doing the rounds as the next SIC.
“The selection committee has recently met and an announcement appointing a Commissioner will be made very soon,” Rajiv Kumar Bora, principal secretary, personnel, told The Indian Express today.
Bora said though the state government had made its move to appoint a successor to Malakar in January itself, the announcement of Lok Sabha elections and subsequent election of Sirajuddin Ajmal, leader of AIUDF (the largest opposition group) to Lok Sabha had delayed the entire process.
“The Committee comprising the chief minister, a senior cabinet minister and leader of the AIUDF has already made the selection, and a formal notification will be out soon,” Bora said. He however did not mention the name of the person selected.

Headless for two months, CIC moves to rectify situation

Times of India: New Delhi: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Two months after the Central Information Commission was left headless, the government has sought applications for the post. The absence of a chief information commissioner not only leaves all decisions made by the commission up for challenge in a court of law but has also had an adverse impact on the pending backlog of cases.
The notice issued by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) on Friday gives applicants time till November 24 to submit their resumes. The RTI act provides that the CIC must be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management among other fields. The notice comes after activist Lokesh Batra had sought to know action being taken by the government on the appointment of the CIC and the information commissioners.
Other activists and former information commissioners too had written to President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Narendra Modi seeking urgent appointments to the positions. The Central Information Commission has been headless since August 22, 2014.
Expressing grave concern at the state of affairs activists including Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and former information commissioner Deepak Sandhu Gandhi had pointed to the backlog of close to 25,000 appeals and complaints pending in the commission. "Often people have to wait for more than a year for their appeals and complaints to be heard. The lack of a chief information commissioner will cause the pendency in the commission to further increase," the letter to the President said.

For info panel chief, mere seniority won’t do this time, Govt invites names

Indian Express: New Delhi: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
In a clear departure from convention, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) Friday sought applications for the post of Chief Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission, which is the nodal agency for RTI queries.
Since the post was created with the enactment of the RTI Act and the appointment of Wajahat Habibullah in October 2005, this is for the first time that the senior-most Information Commissioner is not being appointed to the top job.
The post has been lying vacant since August 23 when Rajiv Mathur retired. And, according to the norm followed so far, the next occupant should have been Vijay Sharma. However, it is understood that the NDA government is not keen to appoint him.
The DoPT circular notified Friday has sought applications till November 24. It added that according to the RTI Act, the “CIC must be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance”.
The DoPT is already processing the applications it has received for three vacancies for the post of Information Commissioner for which several serving and retired bureaucrats have also applied, as reported by The Indian Express on October 1.

Right to information online: A "good step", but activists warn it would make whistleblowers "vulnerable"

Counterview: Ahmedabad: Saturday, October 25, 2014.
Controversy has broken out among India's right to information (RTI) activists over the latest order of the Government of India's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), released on October 20, 2014, which allows all ministries and departments to "facilitate uploading of RTI applications and appeals" on their respective websites, even as providing links of replies through a URL. Suggesting that it was being implemented by the DoPT on a pilot basis, and has proved successful, the order says, however, that the "RTI applications and appeals received and their responses relating to the personal information of an individual may not be disclosed if they do not serve any public purpose."
Already, whether to upload the applications, appeals and their response from the officials has been left to the respective public authorities looking into RTI applications, which has become a major source of concern. While some activists suggest that leaving things to the government officials to upload selective applications and their replies is discriminatory, others argue, disclosing names of individuals filing applications would “infringe upon” their privacy. More, it might lead to a situation whereby certain powerful sections may blackmail individuals seeking information.
Even then, many activists say, the order has certain “positive elements”. Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat’s premier RTI organization, believes it is a welcome step in some respect as it would put “lot of information into the public domain.” Jog thinks, the public information officers, knowing well what they are replying, would provide “qualitative replies” as these would be uploaded, adding, “This would also avoid repetitive RTIs.” Further, as the order wants that the first appellate authority’s orders are also uploaded, “their replies will also be accountable.”
Yet, Jog says, “There are some RTI activists who believe that the identity of applicant not to be disclosed. One should understand that when the application and the reply is uploaded with the name of the applicant, that is dangerous. People will not file applications fearing that their names would be put online. We are thinking of requesting the Government of India to think of blacking out part of the name and the address, so that this fear not to file application is not there. But one should also consider another part of the issue that RTI activists even today proactively approach media with their names, and tell the world what reply they are getting.”
Jog further says, “The RTI has been registering names and addresses and information sought for last the last nine years. These registers are disclosed pro-actively. The threats and murders are not because the system discloses the name of the applicants, this will come even otherwise. And, there have been cases when the data, and replies coming in the public domain, are not sought to be disclosed by even RTI activists. With the decision to put the data of public domain on the web, this would end.”
Meanwhile, there is a section of RTI activists with an anti-Narendra Modi slant, who have decided to hold demonstrations and dharna against the Government of India order. “Such elements should understand that in order to make the government transparent, allowing applications and replies to be put online is a good step”, Jog says. “These activists’ reactions seem to be extremely immature.” Of course, she adds, the provision of not allowing personal details to be put on the web would also mean that cases of misdeeds by IAS officials are not disclosed. Also, property documents of public figures may not be disclosed on the web.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Taking help to flood-hit in J&K

Times of India: Vadodara: Friday, October 24, 2014.
A truck travelling across the country to collect warm clothes for the flood victims of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will arrive in the city on Saturday. 'Winter on Wheels' (WOW) is a collaboration of J&K RTI group, J&K flood helpline, Project Heal Kashmir and various organizations for raising clothes and funds for the flood affected.
Akram Feroze, a young social activist, and Poornima Sukumar, an artist, are spearheading the 4,000km voyage from Hyderabad to Srinagar. "As part of the journey, I am also creating awareness on the need for communities to come together in times of natural calamities," said Feroze.
The truck flagged off from Hyderabad on Tuesday will travel to Nagpur, Bhopal, Indore, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Delhi and seven other cities. A city-based group of volunteers have already raised a large quantity of clothes to be donated to WOW.
The team comprising brother-sister duo of Saumil and Sweta Joshi along with a few volunteers managed to create effective awareness about their collection drive through a dedicated page on a social networking site.
"People have showed great interest in the cause and have come forward to help in spite of the ongoing Diwali festivities. We have managed to collect more than 700 kg of clothes in less than a week," said Saumil.
"We wanted the collection to reach the needy and this opportunity came on time," said Jitu Khimnani, who donated over 300 kg of clothes. The team will also be having an interactive session with the locals in the city.