Saturday, October 22, 2016

CIC rejects plea for inquiry report on INS Vindhyagiri collision, sinking

DNA‎‎‎‎‎: Mumbai: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) in its order has rejected a plea of providing inquiry / investigation report of the collision and sinking of INS Vindhyagiri, that capsized off Mumbai harbour on January 31, 2011.
The RTI application was filed by DNA. Also denied by CIC is the information sought on the action taken against officers and people responsible for the collision and sinking. INS Vindhyagiri, a war ship had collided with a Cyprus flagged Merchant Vessel M V Nordlake. The public information officer (PIO) of the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy) denied information citing section 8 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, 2005. The section reads: "information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence."
The order which does not have a date of decision taken - the information commission office when contacted stated that the date of hearing is date of order - was passed by central information commissioner, Amitava Bhattacharya. It was received on October 18 after several follow ups from the commission which held the hearing on August 23, 2016. The order comes weeks after another order from central information commissioner, D P Sinha, which the navy to provide details of the inquiry report in which an aviator died. Father of an aviator who died had sought details of the inquiry report from the navy, which navy had denied.
The RTI application of May 29, 2013 sought action taken on officers and people found guilty, the year, price and whether the ward ship was made indigenously, the present status of it and its future plan, and initiatives taken by government to ensure no future collisions happen.
Upholding PIO's reply, the commission order stated: "On perusal of record, the commission came to be satisfied with the CPIO's plea about the exemption claimed u/s 8(1)(a) of the Act. It observed that parting of information about the investigation / inquiry report on the collision and sinking and action taken on such report may have a deleterious impact on the strategic interest of the country in this sector as stipulated in section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act."
"It is a very bad order. What is the point of having a second appeal if the commissions are just going to parrot what the public information officers say. There should be some explanation as to how the sections were applied. There are two possibilities in such a case. Either commission is convinced that authority should provide details, then it should direct the same. In other case, if they feel that strategic interest will be harmed, and that is what is told to them by the officers - even if privately - they should state that sharing the reasons too would damage the country. The order like this is a very bad order. In my case also two appeals have been rejected due to lack of understanding of the law," said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner.
Info provided by PIO
INS Vindhyagiri is a frigate and falls under the category of 'Major War Ship'. The ship was designed in Mazgaon Dock Ltd, Mumbai and was commissioned into Indian Navy on July 8 1981 at a cost of Rs 32 crores. The ship was decommissioned on 11 June 2012 (post collision) and subsequently disposed off as a 'target' at sea.

APIC regrets inadvertent headgear incident

The Arunachal Times‎‎‎‎‎‎‎: Itanagar: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The Arunachal Pradesh Information Commission (APIC) on Friday regretted the distorted headgear incident during decennial celebration of RTI Act that was held on Wednesday here. Nyishi Elite Society (NES) and Nyishi Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society (NIFCS) strongly condemned the incident and had called for early replacement.
Regretting the incident, State Chief Information Commissioner Dr. Joram Begi in a press statement on Friday clarified that incident was inadvertent and had no intention to hurt the community sentiment by using religious symbol nor any attempt to distort any traditional attire of Nyishi community was made. Dr. Begi further informed that realizing their oversight, the commission has already started the replacement with a proper headgear.
He went on to clarify that the commission had decided to felicitate the dignitaries coming from outside the State to attend decennial celebration function with traditional items of Arunachal Pradesh.
” During the felicitation, my name was announced by anchor to present the traditional items to guests including Chief Guest Tamiyo Taga. I did not notice the religious symbol on headgear while doing the honour nor did any other member” Dr. Begi added.
He further stated that on being inquired, it was found that the staff who bought the traditional items did not even notice the symbol.
“We did not have any intention to use symbol of any particular religion in the programme nor to distort any traditional attire of Nyishi community” Dr Begi said while regretting the incident.

Irrigation scam: Bombay HC notice to Ajit Pawar, NCP MLC

Business Standard‎‎‎‎‎‎: Nagpur: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The Bombay High Court has issued notices to Maharashtra's former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and NCP MLC from Yavatmal, Sandip Bajoriya, in a PIL alleging irregularities in irrigation projects in the state's Buldhana and Amravati districts.
A Nagpur bench of Justices Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Atul Chandurkar on Thursday directed them to reply before November 25, the next date of hearing in the case.
The petitioner, Atul Jagtap, alleged that contracts for completing the Jigaon and Lower Pedhi projects, in Buldhana and Amravati respectively, were awarded to the MLC's Bajoriya Construction Company at the behest of Pawar during the earlier Congress-NCP rule.
Jagtap filed an application seeking to add Pawar, who was then state irrigation minister, and Bajoriya, as respondents.
The cost of the Jigaon project rose to Rs 5,700 crore from Rs 394 crore in 15 years. The cost is expected to further cross Rs 7,000 crore by the project's deadline in 2019.
He also sought constitution of a high-powered committee to investigate the alleged corruption and illegalities in allotment of tenders to Bajoriya's firm.
The PIL alleged that tender conditions were tweaked to favour the construction firm controlled by Bajoria, a big name in irrigation construction sector, allegedly at the behest of Pawar. Bajoria's firm got the contract for both the projects only due to his proximity with Pawar, the PIL alleged.
The petitioner, who obtained details under the RTI Act, alleged that forged and fabricated documents were submitted by Bajoria to meet the eligibility criterion.
The PIL also slammed the respondent contractor firm for not completing project work despite availing mobilisation advance from the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.
Work order of Jigaon project was issued in 2008-09 while that of Lower Pedhi was issued way back in 2006-07.
Till date the work was not completed, the PIL claimed while demanding high-level probe into the irregularities and scrapping of the tender process and issuance of new tenders.
Advocate Shridhar Purohit appeared for the petitioner.
The Bajoria construction firm was represented by advocates Pravin Deshmukh and NB Kalwaghe.

Mumbai firm got Rs5k cr metro deal despite adverse note?

Times of India‎‎‎‎‎: Mumbai: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
Eyebrows are being raised over Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA) decision to award a Rs5,000crore contract for Metro projects to a blacklisted firm despite associate advocate-general Rohit Deo's critical observations.
Congress general secretary Sachin Sawant said that in view of Deo's observations, it was wrong on the part of MMRDA, headed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, to grant such a huge contract to J Kumar Infraprojects Ltd (JKIPL). BMC had on May 15 initiated the process to blacklist the firm due to substandard work. MMRDA had sought Deo's opinion on whether JKIPL can be considered eligible for opening of financial bids, if it is successful, whether it can be awarded the contract, and whether the four companies involved in alleged irregularities would be considered ineligible to participate in bids issued by MMRDA for its work.
Sawant invoked the RTI Act to secure a copy of Deo's opinion. "I have carefully gone through Deo's opinion. Had MMRDA read the opinion, it would not have given the contract to JKIPL. Congress has demanded a probe into the allotment of the contract to JKIPL. Since Fadnavis is committed to eradicate corruption, I am sure the CM will cancel the contract,'' Sawant said.
In his seven-page opinion, Deo said, the scope of the opinion was restricted to explain the broad principles and parameters of the legal position and the decision on opening the financial bid of the contractor concerned would be in the executive domain of MMRDA. "Even a cursory perusal of the clause pertaining to disqualification of the bidder would reveal that a bidder who qualified in the technical bid evaluation can nonetheless be disqualified from further participating in the tender process in the event the bidder has a bad record of poor performance... a bidder whose technical bid is found to be in order can nonetheless be disqualified and MMRDA would be more than justified in not opening the financial bid if material suggests a record of poor performance in respect of work,'' Deo observed.
Deo stated that the poor performance was obviously not restricted to work done in pursuance to a contract that may have been executed on behalf of MMRDA, a record of poor performance would suggest that MMRDA would be more than justified in taking into consideration the assessment of the work of the contractor by any other employer, organization or corporation. "The purpose of the disqualification clause is to ensure that even if a bidder is technically qualified, MMRDA should not be compelled to open a financial bid should there be material to suggest that the capacity or ability of the contractor to deliver the goods is suspect,'' Deo said.
Deo observed that MMRDA could refuse to open the financial bid of JKIPL; however, before disqualifying the firm, it must make an objective assessment and conclude that the contractor has a record of poor performance, and his further participation in the tender process could be subversive of public interest.

Constitution Club pays rent of Rs. 100, earns Rs. 2 crore a year

The Hindu‎‎‎‎: New Delhi: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
It can’t get more ironical. The 70-year-old Constitution Club of India (CCI) here serves as a forum for “interaction amongst the past and present members of Parliament,” and on an average rakes in Rs. 2 crore annually by renting premises that is owned as well as maintained by the Government of India. The club pays a nominal rent of Rs. 100 per month.
In a significant ruling on October 14, on a complaint filed by RTI activist Subhash Agarwal, a Bench of the Central Information Commissioners Sudhir Bhargava and Sridhar Acharyulu declared that the club, a stone’s throw from Parliament House, was a “public authority” under the Right to Information Act.
It was originally set up in February 1947 for members of the Indian Constituent Assembly which framed the Constitution.
Post-Independence, it emerged as a platform for meetings between the present and previous members of Parliament. At the moment, the club has four conference halls, indoor and outdoor catering services, coffee shops, billiards room, four lounges, a gym, spa and a unisex salon.
Queries under RTI
As a consequence of the decision of the CIC Bench, the club will now be answerable to queries under the RTI Act.
In his petition, Mr. Agarwal, who has made extensive use of the RTI provisions to dig up details about public bodies had sought information about whether the club was receiving funds from the exchequer, details of the ownership of the properties, lands and other assets used by it. Advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for Mr. Agarwal. Mr. Agarwal knocked on the doors of the commission when he did not receive any response from the central public information officer of the club. In its ruling, the CIC held that the government was rendering administrative assistance to the club and it survived solely on the state property.
“The submissions of the officers reveal that the Central government was rendering administrative assistance to the club and it is under the control of the government. The club is located on government land and using its buildings and claimed to be paying Rs. 100 as rent per month, which was not reflected in some of their annual statements. Either they are not paying rent or it could be no rent at all. Sometimes they referred to it as licence fee of Rs. 100 or Rs. 250 per month. For some months those details of licence fee payment were also claimed to be missing. Neither CCI nor the government offices produced any lease deed. The CCI is surviving on the lands and properties of the Union Government and is entirely dependent upon the state property with no other known source of income of its own,” the CIC Bench said.
“The club makes income of more than Rs. 2 crore on rent by using the land and buildings of the Union Government, repaired and maintained by the Government, in the heart of the national capital by paying a nominal amount of Rs. 100 or 250. Besides this they have monopoly over ‘assistance’ to MPs relating to the research, academic, sports, conferences and entertainment needs of MPs, former MPs and others. The submissions by various authorities reveal that the Ministry of Urban Development, office of the Speaker, CPWD, etc. are wielding complete control. Their claim about absence of control is not correct.”

Suspended secretary fined for denying information

Times of India‎‎‎: Nasik: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The Right to Information (RTI) commissioner imposed a Rs-3,000 fine on Milind Jahagirdar, the Nashil Public Library former general secretary, for denying and delaying information sought under the RTI Act.
Jahagirdar was suspended from his post at the library, also known as the Sarvajanik Vachanalaya Nashik or SaVaNa, three days ago for the alleged involvement in misappropriation of library funds. He was found guilty of purposefully delaying the information sought by former library member Shrikrishna Shirode.
"I was a SaVaNa member for the last 55 years. One fine day, my membership was cancelled without any prior notice. I was told that trust executives passed a resolution to cancel my membership. So, I had asked for a copy of the same resolution under RTI. Being the first appealing officer, Jahagirdar rejected by plea," Shirode said.
According to Jahagirdar, as Shirode was not a library member when he filed the RTI plea, it was impossible to share the minutes of the library's internal meetings with him.
"Finally, Jahagirdar's senior, Vilas Aurangadkar ordered him to hand over the copy of the document to me. It took him 65 days to get the copy. I registered a complaint at the RTI office because of the delay. The office found Jahagirdar guilty and asked him to pay the fine," Shirode further added.
According to RTI Commissioner Ravindra Jadhav, said, "Jahagirdar was fined under section 20 (1) of the RTI Act for not furnishing information within the specified time and for purposefully denying the request for information."
This decision came as a blow to suspended members as their fate will be decided at a meeting scheduled on Sunday. Jahagirdar was not available for comment.

RTI reveals mirage of 2BR houses

The Hans India‎‎: Telangana: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
The much-publicised programme of two-bedroom houses for the poor in Telangana has turned out to be a mirage. The information gathered by an activist Ganji Srinivas Rao through the Right to Information Act proved it beyond doubt.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao announced on May 31, 2016, that two-bedroom houses project had been undertaken for the poor to live with self-respect and a target has been set to construct two lakh bedroom houses during 2016-17 financial year.
Subsequently, the Housing Department has sent proposals to the Finance Department for the allocation of Rs 13,000 crore for the construction of houses.
However, the poor people did not know how to apply for the two-bedroom house and if at all applied they do not know how to get the allotment of house under the scheme.
RTI activist Ganji Srinivasa Rao in a series of applications under the provisions brought out the startling truths regarding two-bedroom housing scheme.
It appears that there is a wide gap between the objectives of the Chief Minister and the implementation by the officials if one goes through the information Srinivasa Rao received from the office of the Project Director (Housing).
The information reveals that there are hardly any guidelines from the government to receive applications from the beneficiaries for two-bedroom houses.
The RTI activist has sent applications to the public information officers of ten districts under the RTI Act demanding information regarding two-bedroom housing scheme.
However, the very few district officials responded immediately and not a public information officer has given identical information. It shows that there are no clear guidelines regarding the housing scheme at all.
For instance, the public information officers (PIOs) of District Project officer (Housing) provided information in all the districts except Medak. The PIO of Medak informed that the information was available with the Executive Engineer of TSEWIDC, Medak. In Warangal district, the information regarding the beneficiaries was available with Tahsildars and municipal corporation officials.
The RTI activist wanted to know as to how many applications were received for the two-bedroom houses, the eligibility of applicants, the government guidelines to receive applications, the criterion including guidelines, rules and regulations taken up by the Revenue officials.
According to the PIO of Hyderabad Collectorate in their reply on 28-04-2016, they received 45,000 applications for two-bedroom houses. The beneficiary should be white ration cardholder and all the members of the family should be below the poverty line and they should not own a house.
It was also stated that the government did not issue guidelines to receive applications. However, for the guidelines, the applicant may see the GO 10 of 15-10-2015, GO 12 of 26-11-2015.
The Ranga Reddy Collectorate after receiving the RTI application forwarded to the project officer of Rajiv Griha Kalpa (RGK). However, the project officer never responded to the RTI application.
The Medak Collectorate reacted in a different way. The PIO forwarded the RTI application to the Project Director (Housing) on 18-04-2016.
The Project officer on 27-04-2016 informed the RTI applicant that the information could be obtained from the executive engineer of TSEWIDC, Medak and forwarded the application to that office.
Surprisingly, the officials of the district represented by the Chief Minister did not know information regarding two-bedroom houses.
The Mahbubnagar Collectorate promptly forwarded the RTI application to the Project Officer (Housing) who stated in his reply that his office do not receive any applications for housing directly from people.
However, the people may submit applications to the Tahsildar concerned or municipal officials during the Gram Sabhas. He also stated that rules under the GOs 8, 10 and 12 are applicable for two-bedroom houses.
In Karimnagar, the Collectorate forwarded the application to the Project Director (Housing) who collected Rs 76 for sending the GOs 8, 10 and 12. He stated in his cryptic reply that they have received 93,435 applications for houses throughout the district.
The Adilabad Collectorate forwarded the RTI application to the Project Officer (Housing) who did not respond to the application so far.
In Nalgonda, the Project Director (Housing) who received the RTI application forwarded by the Collectorate stated the number of applications they received constituency-wise.
In Khammam district, the project director, after receiving RTI application from the Collectorate, stated that they have received 672 applications for two-bedroom houses as on March 31, 2016.
In Warangal district, the Collectorate forwarded the RTI application to tahsildars of all mandals and the municipal commissioner of Warangal Municipal Corporation and the Project Director (Housing) on 23-04-2016.
The project director simply sent the GOs. Only three Tahsildars Chennaraopet (3,364), Govindarao Pet (6,000) and Parvatagiri (4,080) responded to the district collector orders and supplied information. In Nizamabad district, the project director responded stating that they have received 81,392 applications.

Took seven years to correct RTI Act’s Hindi version

Indian Express: Noida: Saturday, October 22, 2016.
It took seven years for a Noida- based RTI activist to get the Hindi version of the RTI Act corrected.
Ironically, he had to use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to push officials of the PMO, DoPT and the Law Ministry to get the desired result.
Activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retired) used the act to get 34 mistakes in the Hindi version corrected.
In 2009, Commodore Batra sent numerous e-mails to the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) and the prime minister’s office and a plethora of RTIs to alert the government about the 34 mistakes in the Hindi version of RTI Act, 2005.
Commodore Batra said that in the Hindi version, Section 2(h) (d) and (i) had grave translation errors.
The section conveyed
(i)Body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Central Government.
He pointed out that the aforementioned clause is only applicable to central government which is not the case. He said this serious mistake needed immediate correction.
In a separate letter addressed to the prime minister, Commodore Batra said, “This is a serious mistake and needs immediate correction. Hindi speaking states can make full use of this mistake to their advantage. Sir, I  request  someone in  the government to  immediately go  thru the translated  Hindi version of  the RTI Act  2005 to  ensure that there are no more mistakes. In the meantime government needs to issue notification to correct this mistake.”
Afterwards, he filed another RTI to seek status on his email to which he did not receive a reply.
When the First Appellate Authority and the office of PMO’s response did not give satisfactory answers, Commodore Batra approached the CIC.
During the hearing, it was said that a virus in PMO’s computer system was the reason for not receiving the e-mail of 10th April 2008.
When the mistake still persisted, Commodore Batra filed an RTI to seek an inspection of the files.
He received intimation that the DoPT had taken up the matter with the Official Languages Wing of the Ministry of Law and Justice.
Consequently,   the Legislative Department of the Ministry of   Law   and Justice issued a notification on 22 June, 2009, regarding the 34   mistakes/corrections in the Hindi version of the Act.
Thereafter, it took several reminders and a further period of 10 months for the DoPT to upload the corrected version of the Hindi RTI Act on its website.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Over 50 percent buildings inspected issued notices

DNA‎‎: Mumbai: Friday, October 21, 2016.
A day after fire in a high rise building that claimed two lives, fire safety standards in the buildings continue to be abysmal as per reply by the Mumbai Fire Brigade department.
The fire brigade department replied to an RTI application by issuing notices to over 50 percent of the buildings it inspected between 2010 and June 2016 in south and north region.
The information was provided to RTI applicant Jeetendra Ghadge. In his application, Ghadge had sought information about the number of inspections done by the department, the number of buildings that were issued notices and the cases that were filed against premises that were issued notices.
Between January 2010 to June 2016, the fire brigade department inspected around 8,840 buildings in city. Of these 4,592 buildings were issued notices under Maharashtra Fire Prevention and Life Safety Act, 2006.
Of the 14 court cases, that were initiated with the help of legal department, the fire department asked the building proposal department to revoke occupation certificate for two floors of a building in 2015.
The fire department also directed the Brihanmumbai Electricity supply and Transport (BEST) to cut electric supply but the city civil court gave interim relief. The matter is pending since a year without any action on the building. "It is extremely difficult for the fire department to make the developers and owners of the building fall in line. Sometimes these offenders take shelter in court proceedings or manage the Building Proposal department," said Ghadge.
Chief fire officer, P Rahangdale said that reason for fire and other issues will be clear by tomorrow. "No letter has been sent to the society yet and nothing has started as of today. We will start the work from tomorrow and collect all evidences and record statements too as a part of our investigation," said Rahangdale.

4 Bihar PIOs fined for not providing info

Business Standard‎‎‎‎‎: Patna: Friday, October 21, 2016.
Bihar State Information Commission today imposed fines on four Public Information Officers (PIOs) for not furnishing information or not doing it timely to applicants under the RTI Act.
The fines ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 were slapped on two Block Development Officers (BDOs), one Circle Officer (CO) and one Station House Officer (SHO) for either not furnishing information or failure to provide timely information to the applicants.
The four officials are also PIOs.
The case pertains to 2012-13 and 2013-14 when the applicants had sought information from these PIOs, the State Information Commission said in a statement.
Information Commissioner V K Verma imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on Danapur CO in Patna district for not furnishing information.
He also slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on Barauni Refinery police station SHO for his failure to provide timely information to the applicant.
The Commission fined Rs 20,000 on Kusheshwar Asthan BDO in Darbhanga district for not providing timely information and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Goh BDO in Aurangabad district for not providing information to the applicant.
The Commission said that copies of the order have been sent to District Magistrates of the four districts so that the amount of fine can be deducted from the PIOs' salaries.
The matter would be heard on April 3 next year.

RTI application via sewa kendras to cost Rs 200 more

Times of India‎‎‎‎: Ludhiana: Friday, October 21, 2016.
The sewa kendras set up by Punjab government in rural and urban areas are seeking an extra fee of Rs 200 for an RTI application as "facilitation charges".
The charge is being levied across the state at all sewa kendras even as the Right To Information (RTI) Act has prescribed a fee of Rs 10 for filing an application. The boards displayed outside sewa kendras, or service centres, mention the fee for various services. According to RTI activists, even though the facilitation fee is not illegal as it was cleared by the state government, the amount is too high. The fee for an RTI application is Rs 10, while the facilitation charges mentioned on the dispolay boards is Rs 200.
RTI activists protested outside a sewa kendra in Garhshankar town of Hoshiarpur on Wednesday , alleging that this was an attempt to discourage the use of RTI Act. "It is clearly against the spirit of the RTI Act, which prescribed a reasonable fee for procuring information.However, levying Rs 200 as facilitation charges will make its use prohibitive," said RTI activist Jai Gopal Dhiman, who covered his face with a black cloth to register his protest.
"When RTI Act clearly prescribes a fee, it is illegal to levy any additional costs and that too 20 times the original fee. Clearly, the intention is to discourage people from filing RTI applications," he said."There are several other services where facilitation charges are less," he said. It is learnt that infrastructure of the sewa kendras has been raised by the government and staff would be paid by a private company which has also arranged computers, printers and token machines. Official sources revealed that facilitation charges would be levied by the private company .
Incidentally , establish ment of 2,147 sewa kendras in Punjab, out of which 1,758 are in rural areas, are being high lighted as a major step by the state government towards ensuring governance reforms in the state. "These centres would act as a catalyst to help people in getting their routine administrative works done in a speedy manner," chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had said while inaugurating the first such sewa kendra in Jalandhar on August 12.
"When most sewa kendras are in villages, RTI Act would be very expensive for rural folks," Dhiman said.State e-governance secretary Rakesh Verma said he would check the issue with the director, governance reforms department.
`Underprivileged sections will be hit'
Institute for Development and Communication (IDC) director Pramod Kumar, who had chaired the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission (PGRC) for ushering in governance and administrative reforms in the state, said the facilitation charges for the RTI applications sought by sewa kendras were on the higher side. "Higher facilitation charges will adversely affect the underprivileged sections seeking information through the RTI route in Punjab," he said.

High court stays SIC order declaring PCA under RTI

Times of India‎‎‎‎: Chandigarh: Friday, October 21, 2016.
In a major relief to Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday stayed the orders of state information commission (SIC) Punjab that had ordered to consider PCA as public authority under as 'public authority' under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Justice GS Sandhawalia has passed these orders while hearing a petition filed by PCA against the July 20, 2016 orders passed by SIC Punjab.
HC has also issued notice to the SIC and the complainant who had sought information about PCA under the RTI act, seeking their replies on issue by December 12.
In its July 20 orders, the SIC had held, "PCA would have struggled had it not been in possession of the land in Mohali, which has been leased on a nominal amount coupled with a substantial grant of the government to convert it into a cricket stadium".
The commission had passed these orders on the ground that the PCA has been allotted 11 Acres of land by the state government on a very less amount for construction of the stadium as well as the grant of Rs 11.05 crores has also been given by the government to the association.
Challenging these orders, the PCA has argued that the funding of state government to the tune of Rs 11.05 crores was only given in the year 1994 to 1996 and thereafter not even a single penny has been given by the state to PCA and the association is doing everything on its own.
Counsel for PCA, senior advocate Gurminder Singh and Vikas Chatrath argued that the association has spent an amount of around Rs 118 crores on the construction of the stadium. It was also brought to the notice of the court that the land was allotted by the government to the association under the scheme to promote the games and to develop the Mohali city at that time and more land was also given to other sports by the state.
It was also submitted that some exemptions were also given by the state on taxes like entertainment tax and the same was only for the promotion if the games and the said exemption as given to 21 other games also. Further it was argued by the counsel that the association has also purchased the 42 acres land for construction of new stadium at Mullanpur from private land owners and the Government has given nothing in that case for purchase of land.
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Steel flyover: BDA declines info sought under RTI Act

Deccan Herald‎‎‎: Bengaluru: Friday, October 21, 2016.
In a bizarre interpretation of law, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has denied information about the controversial steel flyover, saying it is “private” and “not in the public interest”.
A Right to Information (RTI) Act activist Saidatta had sought details over the tender notification for the proposed Basaveshwara Circle-Hebbal steel bridge, the firms that took part in the tender process and the cost quoted by them.
In its three-page reply on October 13, the BDA stated that the information sought did not meet the definition of ‘information’ under the RTI Act.
The civic agency stated that it cannot provide information as “the documents sought will have to be created and the details come under the terms and conditions between the BDA and private companies”.
The reply also stated that the information sought was “personal” and its disclosure had no relationship to any “public activity or public interest”.
Quoting Section 8 (1) (j) of the Act, the BDA’s letter states that the information sought was about a “third person” and that it may have to create certain documents to provide information sought by the applicant.
The agency’s information officer has cited the Central Information Commission’s order stating, “As per Section 2 (j) of the Act, no public authority can create any document.” Citing an order by the Tamil Nadu Information Commission, BDA said information about any project in the initial stages may not be revealed. The steel flyover project is still in its initial stages, it stated.
“Besides, the information sought is bulky in nature and its disclosure would involve disproportionately large diversion of resources. This also means the section concerned will have to spend too much of time to elicit information,” the letter stated.

Vemulaghat villagers seek details of Mallannasagar under RTI

The Hindu‎‎: Telangana: Friday, October 21, 2016.
Seeking information on Mallannasagar project, the farmers of Vemulaghat in Toguta mandal of Siddipet district submitted an application under the Right to Information Act to mandal tahsildar on Thursday.
The details sought by the farmers included detailed project report (DPR) of Mallannasagar, permissions taken so far for the construction of the project, the reservoir’s capacity, how much land and how many houses were purchased under Government Order (GO) 123 from farmers and the compensation offered, land acquired under Land Acquisition Act- 2013 and compensation being offered to farmers and details of farmers who have signed Farm 1 and 2 to sell their land under GO 123.
The petition was signed by Sheripally Upender Reddy, a farmer.
In another petition, the farmers sought details of the number of tanks and the land being irrigated under those tankscrops being cultivated and bore-wells in the area. This petition was signed by Sheripally Yellam Reddy, another farmer from the village. Petitions were also submitted at the Collectorate, RDO office, to District Forest Officer, and EE of Kaleswaram project.

RTI activist Bhupendra Vira murder: Shocking developments in the case

Mid-Day: Mumbai: Friday, October 21, 2016.
RTI activist Bhupendra Vira was shot dead on October 15, in what was a cold-blooded murder. Here are some significant developments that have taken place from the time of his killing till now.
Brutal murder
Kalina RTI activist Bhupendra Vira was shot in the head when he was watching TV. Vira’s wife Ranjana was present in the house when the murder was committed, yet she didn’t hear a thing. The incident happened between 9.15 pm and 10 pm, when the victim was watching TV; his wife was in the other room. The police suspected that the shooter used a silencer on the firearm so that no one would hear it being fired. A police source said, “He was shot from a close range, on the left side. The bullet exited from the back of the head. We suspect it was a foreign-made gun fitted with a silencer. The area where Bhupendra stayed has four entry-and-exit lanes; the shooter may have escaped through any one of them.”
The last conversation
Ranjana recalled her last conversation with her husband just minutes before he was killed. “It was around 9 pm after he reached home. He changed his clothes and sat on the plastic chair in front of the TV and was watching a pravachan (religious lecture). When I went to close the main door, he told me to keep it open, saying he had told the kids playing outside to be careful with the ball, and he wanted to see if they would heed him. He said to me that if the ball entered the house, he would not return it to them to teach them a lesson. I then went to the bathroom, and a few minutes later, a local passing by saw him bleeding and alerted me. I checked on him and found him breathing. So we rushed him to VN Desai hospital, but doctors declared him dead. When the police reached the hospital, I found out that the wound from where he was bleeding was a bullet injury,” she said.
Arrest of ex-corporator and son
After Vira was shot dead at his residence, his family suspected that local politician and former Congress corporator from Kalina, Razzak Khan could be behind the killing because of a long-running feud between them and in retribution for Vira’s activism. Subsequently, the Vakola police arrested Razzak Khan and his eldest son Amjad under Sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention).
Lost-standing feud
The police found that there were several disputes between the deceased activist and Razzak. Bhupendra had also complained to the police that his life was in danger following an attack on his son Mayur and his cousin brother Rajat in 2010. Sheila Vira, Mayur’s wife, told mid-day, “Razzak Khan and his son had forcefully taken over my father-in-law’s steel goods godown. They also attacked my husband and his cousin brother. They also arrested in the matter in 2010 and were in Arthur Road Jail for over a week before they got out on bail.”
Mayur added, “He had life threats from Razzak Khan and his sons after I was attacked in 2010 with a sword. Just two-three days before the murder, he had spoken to me over the phone and told me that he wanted to visit me in Goa. He was to come to Goa after Dussehra but had delayed the plan for some legal proceedings. Then, on Sunday, I received a phone call from a relative that he had been killed.”
One-man army against illegal constructions
Armed with the Right to Information Act, Vira fought against illegal construction in Kalina. In the past six months alone, he was responsible for 100 notices and demolition orders being issued against illegal structures most of them allegedly belonging to the ex-corporator who was arrested in connection with Vira’s murder.
The arrested accused
Who is Razzak Khan?
A former Congress corporator, Razzak Khan has seven cases registered against him — six at Vakola police station and one at Azad Maidan police station. The cases include charges of physical assault, trespassing and intimidation. He allegedly also grabbed several patches of land in Kalina and built illegal structures on them. His local clout is indicated by the fact that the neighbourhood in which Vira lived is called Razzak Compound.
The confession
Four days after Vira was shot dead in his home in Kalina, Razzak Khan’s son, Amjad, confessed that he was the one who pulled the trigger. Razzak and Amjad were arrested on connection with the murder. On the very day the case was transferred form the Vakola police to the Crime Branch Unit 8, Amjad cracked during the interrogations, and admitted to shooting Vira with a pistol. Cops also found a pistol and five live cartridges at the Khan residence in Vakola. In his statement to the police, Amjad said this was the murder weapon. This was a major breakthrough in the investigation, as so far, the police had suspected that the murder was executed by a hitman.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No formal proposal from J&K Govt to withdraw AFSPA: RTI

Kasmir Monitor‎‎‎‎‎: Srinagar: Thursday, October 20, 2016.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has not submitted any formal proposal for the withdrawal of the controversial AFSPA Act from the state, according to an RTI reply.
“There is no formal proposal from the state government of Jammu and Kashmir for revocation of AFSPA,” Ministry of Home Affairs said in reply to an RTI query. Human rights activist M M Shuja had filed an RTI to the Union Home Ministry seeking information about the state government’s demand for revocation of AFSPA from the state.
The Home Ministry also said that the revocation of the AFSPA has been reviewed from time to time. “It has been decided that time is not appropriate for withdrawal of AFSPA from J&K.“Revocation of AFSPA has been on the agenda of both ruling PDP and opposition National Conference, which ruled the state in coalition with Congress from 2008 to 2014,” it said.
PDP has been in power in the state since 2014 after forming a coalition government with the BJP. The RTI reply said the issue of revocation of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir has been raised by various sections of the society and individuals in Kashmir valley from time to time. “Omar Abdullah (then chief minister of J&K) also raised this issue in meeting with then Union Home Minister (P Chidambaram) on November 14, 2011 and during Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security on June 5, 2013,” it added.
In July, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that in order to improve the situation in the state AFSPA should be revoked from some areas, beginning with 25 to 50 police stations, as an experiment.
In reply to an earlier RTI query in June, the Home Ministry had said that no written request regarding revocation of the AFSPA has been received from government of Jammu and Kashmir state in the last two years. “The situation is reviewed in the Ministry from time to time. However, no formal meeting (has been) held regarding revocation of AFSPA in J&K during last two years,” the ministry had said in response to the earlier RTI application.

Pune: In last 5 years, 2015 saw highest number of rejections of RTI pleas

The Indian Express‎‎‎‎: Pune: Thursday, October 20, 2016.
The annual report of the State Information Commission (SIC) reveals that at least 95.66 per cent of RTI (Right to Information) users are supplied with the information they ask for. However, a closer scrutiny of the data also shows that in 2015, Public Information Officers (PIO) rejected the most number of RTI applications in the last five years. RTI users say the high rate of rejection, and the shuttling of applications between offices by PIOs, are among the major issues plaguing the RTI Act in Maharashtra.
In 2015, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of applications received under RTI 8,38,778 since the implementation of the RTI Act. In the year before that, the state had actually recorded a dip in the number of applications received since 2006.
The annual reports of the SIC show that over the years, there has been an increase in the number of RTI applications that were rejected at the PIO level. Section 8 of the RTI Act allows for the rejection of applications with a large number of riders. Only matters of national security and legal cases, among a few other issues, can be rejected. In case an application is rejected by the PIO, the applicant has the power to appeal against it.
In 2015, out of 8,38,778 applications, 31,067 were rejected 3.7 per cent of the total received. In 2014 and 2013, respectively 2.25 per cent and 2.13 per cent of the applications were rejected. The average rate of rejection has been at least 2 to 2.25 per cent in the last five years. On paper, this might not be a very large number, but RTI activist Vivek Velankar said the methodology used for calculating the information is wrong.
“In case an applicant does not go for appeal, the authorities assume that the information supplied is sufficient. In reality, at least 20-25 per cent of the applicants either do not know about the appeal procedure or do not avail of it due to frustration,” said Velankar. He said the high number of rejection is just the “tip of the iceberg” in this case.

Death toll of RTI activists goes up to 56

Times of India‎‎‎: New Delhi: Thursday, October 20, 2016.
With the recent murder of RTI activist Bhupendra Vira's, the death toll of those using the transparency law to target corruption and malpractices has gone up to 56. In fact, there has been more than 311 instances of harassment of citizens including murder, attacks and intimidation from the time the law came into force in 2005, according to an analysis by Delhi-based advocacy group CHRI.
Reports indicate at least 51 murders and five suicides have taken place between October 2005 to 2016. Maharashtra tops this list with 10 alleged murders and at least two suicides (12 deaths) followed by Gujarat with eight alleged murders and one suicide (nine deaths) and Uttar Pradesh with six alleged murders and one suicide (seven deaths).
In addition there have been at least 130 instances of attacks or assaults including attempts to murder RTI users during this period. The total number of persons attacked or assaulted could be more because more than one person was attacked in some incidents. Again Maharashtra tops this list with 29 incidents, followed by Gujarat (15 incidents), Delhi (12 incidents), Karnataka (10 incidents), Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (9 incidents each).
Meanwhile, the whistleblowers protection law which was passed by Parliament in February 2014 has not been enacted till date. The BJP government had told Parliament that it planned to amend the law.
"The current status of the WBP Amendment Bill is not clear. On April 28, MoS to PMO Jitendra Singh in Parliament said that the Whistle Blowers Protection Amendment Bill had been sent to a committee. However, in response to an RTI application, the Rajya Sabha secretariat has stated on August 16, 2016, that the bill is not pending with any parliamentary committee,'' Anjali Bharadwaj of NCPRI said.
National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) has demanded an inqu iry in to the murder of Vira. In a letter written to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, the NGO has asked for Vira's RTI applications and the replies placed in the public domain. According to reports, he had filed several RTI applications and was leading a campaign against the land mafia for unauthorised structures and encroachments in and around Kalina, Mumbai.
"The NCPRI strongly condemns the attack. We urge the Maharashtra government to ensure a thorough investigation into the murder of Bhupendra Vira. The state government must ensure that all the information sought by Mr. Vira is put in the public domain and widely publicized, which would act as a deterrent against such attacks in the future. Further, the state must look into the various cases of wrongdoing exposed by him and take stringent action against the guilty,'' the letter said.

State information commission denies Make in India MoUs

DNA‎‎: Mumbai: Thursday, October 20, 2016.
The state information commission has ordered that Memorandun of Understandings (MoU) between the Maharashtra government and the various firms are not be given to an applicant. The order, upholding the reply of the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the First Appellate Authority (FAA), stated that it is exempted as per sub sections of section 8 (1) as per the RTI Act.
The order was passed by Ajit Kumar Jain, State Information Commissioner (Brihanmumbai bench) after a second appeal was filed by Pune based Vihar Durve. Durve in his application had asked copies of the Memorandum Of Understanding (with file notings) as announced by Chief Minister of Maharasthra in Make in India program held in February 2016 in Mumbai.
He further demanded total amount mentioned in the MOUs in the event, the amount actually invested, the time limit in which it is to be invested, name and designation of the officer who is supposed to supervise actual amount invested, and the information on the amount spent on the program among others.
In a reply, the PIO stated that MoUs cannot be given because it can pose threat to the competitiveness of the party and it is not for public interest. The PIO also stated that 2,603 MOUs were signed of Rs 8.04 lakh crore investment. These would create 30 lakh employment opportunities.
All the investment has to come in five to seven years and will be monitored by the Chief Secretary. Industries ministry spent around Rs 52.46 crore for the program.
The commission order stated that the purpose of RTI Act is to have transparency, and simultaneously, ensure that sensitive information be kept secretive. Such is the dual purpose of the Act. It went on to up held the exemptions under the Act.
"Thirty lakh people are likely to get employment as per what government claims and government will be giving land and water which is our natural resources. The Supreme Court in the 2G case had stated that the public interest is above government policy. The PIO and commission did not apply their mind. All these are registered and limited companies. All the information is shared with their shareholders. The information that cannot be denied to legislature cannot be denied to applicants as per RTI Act. The government should be declaring all this information because it is in public interest," said Durve.

393 elephants have no ownership certificates

The Hindu‎‎: Thrissur: Thursday, October 20, 2016.
Illegal custodyleading to torture of elephants.
Kerala has 393 captive elephants which do not have valid ownership certificates.
The Forest Department has given the information in reply to an RTI inquiry by the Thrissur-based Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF).
The task force said that according to a document submitted by the department in the Supreme Court in January 2016, the State had only 289 elephants without proper ownership certificates.
Details sought:
“The Forest Department called for applications for issuing new ownership certificates on February 23, 2016. We sought details of people who submitted application for ownership certificates through the RTI,” V.K. Venkitachalam, secretary, HATF, said.
Amnesty scheme:
However, the Supreme Court stayed the Kerala government notification dated February 26, 2016, which offered an amnesty period to those who kept the 289 elephants without ownership certificates. It had directed the government not to issue any fresh ownership certificates.
According to the RTI document given by the Forest Department on October 16, 2016, 393 people have given application for ownership of 393 elephants, Mr. Venkitachalam said.
The list included 35 Muslims, 59 Christians, and 299 Hindus.
Of the elephants, 329 are tuskers, 60 are female elephants and four 4 are makhna (male elephant without tusks).
Devaswom elephants:
The HATF pointed out that according to the RTI information, 19 elephants of the Guruvayur Devaswom, 32 of the Travancore Devaswom Board, 11 of the Cochin Devaswom Board, and two of the Malabar Devaswom Board do not have valid ownership certificates.
“As per the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, keeping elephants without ownership certificate is a non-bailable offence. Such a crime may fetch an imprisonment of seven years and a fine of Rs.25,000.
But the State government has not taken action against anyone so far.
This illegal custody has been leading to indiscriminate violence against captive elephants.
‘‘In 2016 alone, 19 captive elephants died in the State,” Mr. Venkitachalam said.