Monday, January 16, 2017

Pench ducks RTI information on tourists data

Times of India‎‎‎: Nagpur: Monday, January 16, 2017.
The Pench Tiger Reserve is trying to duck information about tourists data from Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWS). The information was sought by city-based RTI activist Avinash Prabhune.
On December 19, TOI had highlighted how Pench public information officer (PIO) GS Hingne spent Rs40 towards postal charges for supplying information worth Rs6. This led the Pench officials fuming and they, instead of providing information, routed Prabhune's application to three ranges Paoni, Karhandla and Gothangaon ranges of UKWS.
"This was ostensibly done to evade information. Pench receives tourism data every month from all the sanctuaries under it," alleged Prabhune.
On November 10, Prabhune had filed RTI application with PTR regarding information about number of visitors to UKWS. The details pertained from October 17, 2015 to November 15, 2015 and from October 1, 2016 to November 7, 2016 along with few other queries.
Prabhune says the present matter demonstrates lack of administrative and monitoring control of the field director's office. The information against RTI application of November 10, 2016 has been delayed due to improper handling of RTI by forest officials. As per the Act, information should have been supplied in one month.
However, PIO with field director's office informed that details will be provided by PIOS of Umred, Kuhi and Paoni RFOs, and the officials concerned have been informed about it on November 21, 2016.
Prabhune said over two months have passed but none of the officials has provided any information.
The PTR seemed to be blatantly violating RTI Act by asking field officials to provide information. It is surprising as earlier similar information about Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was supplied by TATR field director from his officer in Chandrapur.
"It is surprising how two field directors can act differently if rules are same," said Prabhune.
PIO of Pench could have easily provided information, but it seems to be a deliberate act. All provisions of RTI Act are with sole object to expedite information within stipulated period and it is felt that officials are not expected to use it to cause delay.
Prabhune has urged field director to initiate action against defaulting officials because beyond 30 days period, RTI applicant is entitled to get information free of cost as per Section 7(6) of RTI Act. "I will have to spend my time and money pursuing first appeal in the matter," he added.

Files On PM Modi’s Foreign Visits Confidential, Exempted Under RTI Act: CIC

Live Law‎‎: New Delhi: Monday, January 16, 2017.
The Central Information Commission has rejected an RTI plea seeking information on costs in relation to the Prime Minister’s foreign travel, observing that disclosure of travel arrangements of the PM, whether foreign or domestic, involve important security concerns.
The commission, perusing the files, said the sought information was of a nature that is exempted under Section 8 (1)(a) of the RTI Act, 2005, and it is also not considered to be possible that after redacting certain information, the rest can be made available, as such information is spread all over the file.
“The information sought by the appellant falls under the category, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India and security interests of the State, and hence attracts the provision of Section 8(1) (a) of the RTI Act, 2005,” said Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur.
Commodore Lokesh K Batra had filed the RTI application with PMO seeking the following information:
       laid down instructions, process/procedure/steps involved in Chartering Flights for PM’s foreign visits and later filing ‘Flight Returns’ and raising bills/invoices and clearing bills on completion of the visit;
       list of file(s)/records with reference number(s) on which bills for the chartered flights for Hon’ble Prime Ministers are processed since 01.09.2013;
       certified copies of ‘flight return’, air travel bill(s) and receipt(s) of an amount of Rs. 2,45,27,465/- paid/cleared in respect of Hon’ble PM’s visit to Bhutan on 15-16 June, 2014.
       To inspect all the file/files/records in respect of his above RTI queries, and at that stage, the appellant will take certified copies of the documents from files/records The commission, however, directed the PMO to inform the complainant the date of receipt and sanction of bills of Prime Minister’s Bhutan visit within 30 days.

Family members use RTI Act to blackmail woman

Times of India: Aurangabad: Monday, January 16, 2017.
The city police have booked four persons, including one woman, for allegedly using documents obtained through Right to Information (RTI) Act to blackmail a woman lawyer and tried extorting Rs 15 lakhs.
The 35-year-old woman lawyer, D D Hafiza Zamani, is a resident of Ganesh Colony. City Chowk police have registered a case against the four suspects for putting a person in fear of injury to commit extortion, for causing intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace and for criminal intimidation.
A police official said that the complainant is the wife of a senior officer working with the revenue department and currently posted in Mumbai. The suspects are their family members, but both the parties are involved in a family feud.
The complainant told the police that the suspects had obtained a series of documents, including those related to her marriage and various properties she owns with her husband.
She said that the suspects have been threatening her that they will approach the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) with a complaint against her husband for allegedly possessing disproportionate assets. They have been allegedly blackmailing her and demanding a sum of Rs 15 lakh.
City Chowk police inspector DS Shingare told TOI, "The complainant has stated that the suspects obtained her marriage and property documents under the RTI Act. They are now allegedly threatening to lodge a complaint against her husband.
The officer said that the police are collecting all the related evidence and documents supporting the complaint. Following this, the suspects will soon be arrested.
A policeman privy to the case said that the suspect as well as the complainant are close relatives, but are have been feuding for long. "The suspects were trying to pressurise the woman lawyer and her husband just to bother them. They allegedly obtained a number of documents under the RTI Act. The police have decided to initiate action only after getting substantial evidence in hand."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

RBI autonomy: Why Urjit Patel must stand up now to reclaim central bank's integrity

Firstpost: New Delhi: Sunday, January 15, 2017.
Of late, particularly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to demonetise Rs 500, Rs 1,000 notes on 8 November midnight, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has become an object of ridicule and has come under sharp criticism for giving up its autonomy. The institution, which is otherwise regarded as among the few in the country that can claim the highest standards of professionalism and institutional integrity, is now facing flak for giving away its independence in functions and operating as just another department of the finance ministry. Not just by social media enthusiasts, but former RBI governors and deputy governors, economists and now, even RBI staff unions, have lamented central bank’s current plight.
A letter written by various employee unions under the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees, to governor Urjit Patel (Firstpost has reviewed the letter), has raised the issue of Modi-government "impinging on RBI autonomy" and has asked Patel to act against the finance ministry’s "unwarranted interference" in its operations. “Apart from showing RBI operations and its gigantic performance in poor light, the government now blatantly encroaches on its jurisdiction, which we cannot accept,” the report quotes the union as saying. RBI's autonomy and image have been dented beyond repair, the letter to Patel says.
“An image of efficiency and independence that RBI assiduously built up over decades by the strenuous efforts of its staff and judicious policy making has gone into smithereens in no time. We feel extremely pained,” the letter says. This isn’t the first instance someone is raising the issue of RBI autonomy in connection with the demonetisation.
Many other noted personalities, including former RBI top brass, have cited the problem of RBI being forced to toe the Modi-government’s line and the danger of an RBI sans its integrity. The chorus began with former deputy governor, Usha Thorat, who in her Op-ed in The Indian Express, wrote. “ “There have been times when the Old Lady of Mint Street was criticised for being too conservative and cautious — for not being able to keep up with innovation and markets — never has she been accused of not knowing her job. Never has she been the butt of as many jokes as in the last few days.” Similarly, Y V Reddy and Bimal Jalan, former RBI governors, too have spoken out in support of central bank’s autonomy.
In separate media interactions, both of them highlighted why the government must strive to maintain RBI’s autonomy in the interest of the larger economy. Jalan was RBI governor between 1997 and 2003, succeeded by Reddy till 2008, followed by D Subbarao and Raghuram Rajan.
The other prominent voice who raised this issue was Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who in his interview to India Today TV, said “I don’t think this is RBI’s decision (demonetisation). This must be Prime Minister’s ...I don’t think RBI decides anything at this time." This is, in other words, Sen’s way of saying that the central bank has been reduced to an institution operating at the instructions of the central government. Such an image of the RBI wouldn’t help the Indian economy to emerge stronger.
But, demonetisation has probably been only a trigger to expose the change in the working style of the central bank post the Raghuram Rajan era. The RBI leadership under Urjit Patel has so far been a near-failure to carry forward the virtues the central bank has guarded over several decades. There have been major shortcomings on many accounts, some of which Thorat has mentioned in her piece.
As this writer argued in an earlier Firstpost column, the issues that led to the deterioration in RBI’s credibility can be summarised mainly into two issues — lack of transparency and absence of effective communication. Beginning late evening of 8 November, government functionaries have dominated the demonetisation scene with the RBI largely reduced to an agency whose job is to only notify what is already there in public domain.
At a time when the common man was gripped with panic seeing closed ATMs/ bank branches, long queues (which continues to an extent even now) and uncertainty regarding how long the cash crunch situation will continue, the RBI should have addressed the public to calm nerves and offer firm guidance, but Patel chose to remain silent for a long time. About 60-circulars in just one month of demonetisation doesn’t give a sense to the public that the RBI had any plan or conviction about the demonetisation rollout.
Recently, the Bloomberg news reported that the RBI refused to share “specific details” on the government's decision to recall high-value banknotes, citing threat to the country's sovereignty, integrity and security besides danger to life.
This response is perplexing since RBI is the guardian of sovereign currency and the only authority equipped to respond on the details of demonetisation, though note ban was largely a political decision. An RTI query on the same subject filed by Firstpost is yet to yield any response. Theoretically, the central bank is not an absolutely independent organisation, it is answerable to the finance ministry.
As former finance minister, P Chiidambaram writes in his Indian Express column, “The word ‘autonomous’ does not occur in the Act but, over the years, the principle of Central Bank autonomy has been raised to the level of an immutable law. Under Section 7 of the Act, the Central government may give such directions to the RBI as it may consider necessary in the public interest, but the power has never been exercised in the 83 years of the Act.”
For the sake of India’s aspiring economy and its larger democratic ideals, it is vital that the RBI’s autonomy is protected. This is the reason some of the former RBI governors, including those who came from North Block, have had to lock horns with finance ministry in the past on matters pertaining to RBI’s independence. Right now, the duty of regaining the central bank’s lost glory primarily rests with current governor, Urjit Patel, who has so far largely remained silent on the issue. Patel must stand up now to save the stature of the central bank and ensure, the RBI doesn’t become just another extended division of the central government, dancing to its whims.

Creating an environment conducive to holistic legal education.

Kuensel : Bhutan : Sunday, January 15, 2017.
Bhutanese legal education will witness an exciting development in the autumn of 2017. The Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law will commence a five-year graduate degree. The diligent students will come out as aspiring lawyers by mid-2022 (the Class of ‘22).
In preparation, the faculty members of JSW School of Law went across the country talking to prospective students about the new opportunity. Such a responsible approach is familiar to some of us. In the 1990s the principal of Royal Technical Institute, now retired Dasho Neten Zangmo, talked students into joining rti. Her succinct briefings helped me realize that I was not tech-institute material.
As batch after batch progresses, cohorts at JSW School of Law may find themselves asking or compelled by circumstance to ask:
Whether they have to take the Bar selection examination, or
Whether a university is the sole authority in law to award a degree certificate or so assumed based on a tradition borrowed from elsewhere.
If the governing council or academic council has the answer, students thinking of a career in law and their financiers would care to know in time. Meanwhile, I will discuss certain aspects of these issues, not so much purporting to know the best solution but to suggest possible means of addressing them.
The Bar Selection Examination
Two Acts regulate the profession of law. The first applies to lawyers or paralegals outside the civil service. Lawyers in the civil service proper or deemed so by any other construct are governed by the second.
The law concerning the constitution of Jabmi Tsogdey, Jabmi Thentshog and the Bar selection examination was passed sixteen years ago. According to which a jabmi must be enrolled with Jabmi Tshogdey to practice before a Bhutanese court of law. A certificate of enrolment—effectively the licence to practise law—will be issued by the Jabmi Tshogdey if the applicant passes the Bar selection examination. There are other conditions including having “undergone the National Legal Course.”
Judicial Personnel Selection Examination is for law graduates aspiring to be civil servants, judges or justices. A bachelor’s degree in law and completion of the one-year Post-Graduate Diploma in National Law (PGDNL) course is the prerequisite for the examination. Prerequisite is not the word to be found in the Act but the quintessential signal of obligation “shall” puts PGDNL before the examination. Whether the practice is consistent with the law is questionable. The Common Civil Service Examination for law graduates appears to serve this purpose. If that was not enough, it is said that today a class of PGDNL has some who did not take or pass the common examination-referred to as private candidates and enjoying lesser state subsidy. Of course RCSC absorbs only those who have passed the examination. The rest, I believe, take the examination after completing PGDNL and then wait for placement till their batch finishes PGDNL.
The post graduate course was chiefly to familiarize those of us, who obtained a law degree outside Bhutan, to the national laws and to better Dzongkha proficiency. A degree course offered in Bhutan, I assume, will give an opportunity to study in Dzongkha the Constitution, the laws of judicial procedure and substantive laws of tort, contract, marriage and property. However, unless the law changes, it appears that everyone needs a PGDNL diploma or the National Legal Course. An authoritative interpretation could, nonetheless, settle the question one way or the other.
The sooner this is clarified the better. Should the law graduates be expected to take the Bar selection examination, which is more likely than not, they deserve to be given adequate notice. The Jabmi Tsogday should not find it arduous to conduct a preparatory test or, at least, familiarize the first group of law graduates with the format of the examination.
Uncertain policy decisions, like a moving goal post, will shatter confidence and bring unintended frustrations. Some batches of PGDNL may be forgiven for being disappointed that the course which they spent 18 months to complete was proven to be doable in 12 months by others before and after them.
Equity with other professional courses matters in deciding the period required to qualify as a lawyer. For instance, there is no guarantee that five years of education will produce nothing but fine architects or that seven and half years will not produce mediocre lawyers. Similarly why should it take less than six years to qualify as a doctor but more to qualify as a lawyer, especially if both courses are offered in Bhutan? Given that students can choose any professional course, it won’t be hard to understand if more than the average prefers a shorter journey to employment. On this point—in particular—I offer a word of caution to the old guards. Nothing is going to be more shameful than lawyers standing in the way of progress of the law or development of the legal profession.
Meanwhile, the absence of Jabmi Thuentshog resulted in the lost opportunity to represent on the governing council of JSW School of Law. The need to appoint a representative makes it clear that the Attorney General, ex officio member of the council, does not represent the Jabmi Thuentshog.
I gather that the Jabmi Tsogday was formed recently. There are still more things to make practising the law effective and the learning experience holistic.
Notification of Laws and Statute Book
If ignorance of law is not to be excused then the state has the responsibility to publish and notify about the ever increasing number of laws.
The existing practice is neither consistent nor effective. There is no regular notification of laws brought into force and no website offers a comprehensive list of laws. Amendments are circulated without consolidation of the texts.
To prevent a well-intended fair criticism being chided for offering no solution, I suggest that:
When an Act is passed the state must notify the public with regard to its date of enforcement and applicability, in a dedicated regular publication such as a gazette;
All Acts ought to be published, both in digital version and print, as a statute book and be updated periodically;
The digital version should be made accessible, free or at very nominal price, from a single internet source. The print copy should be available for purchase at a reasonable price at locations like Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu, and
When Acts are amended or recast the texts must be consolidated. The civil and criminal procedure code and financial services Acts were consolidated whereas amendments of the Marriage Act 1980, like many others, were not.
Compilation should be easier today because there are not many Acts, and some are available in digital versions scattered over the internet. The longer it is ignored the more laws will come into effect adding to the backlog and complicating the compilation. At any rate, the students of JSW School of Law would benefit immensely, even if a digital version of the statute book is made available.
Should the state lack the funds or the inclination to print a statute book, it may appoint a publisher. The state’s interest must be limited to: 1) ensuring a consistent supply in the market of printed statute books and supplementary updates, 2) right to purchase digital versions for institutional use or to make it accessible to the public, 3) option to purchase necessary print copies of the statute books, and 4) the applicable tax. The publisher must expect no more than an accurate, editable, digital version of laws passed by the state, scholarly editors appointed or recognized by the State, and the right to sell its publication at a reasonable price.
As an interim solution, an insert in Kuensel on the last working day of every other month, listing Acts, regulations and executive orders will serve a good purpose. It should specify the future date of enforcement, the designated internet source and locations to buy a print copy. Information on retrospective application of laws will not be appreciated at best, and may, on the other extreme, cause damage. For instance, on September 14, 2015, Kuensel reported on the revision of the National Minimum Wage rate effective September 1. Someone received a few thousands less in alimony because her case was resolved around September 8.
Law Reporters
Law Reporters are journals in which opinion of the courts are published. Reporters will be vital to the development of law and legal education in Bhutan. Without a proper method of reporting opinion and disseminating it, there is no means of verifying that laws were consistently applied in similar circumstances. If an error was made there is opportunity to correct or avoid repetition of bad decisions and to discontinue its effect if the decision itself cannot be undone.
In particular, tort law will benefit from reported opinions on many issues not expressly covered by enacted laws. The legal profession will appreciate how the courts will receive issues like the claim of damage for mental injury in a suit for defamation or liability of state when a fire engine bearing a BG number plate runs a volunteer firefighter over. The recent fire outbreak in Chamkhar should make us wonder who should pay for the two houses deliberately pulled down. Would it matter whether the owners consented or that it was an act of necessity? Studying how the courts in Bhutan apply tort law is as important as studying how the French, English or American legal systems developed it.
Kuensel on December 22, 2016 reported that “…legal representatives should have at least 10 years of experience to practice in the Supreme Court”. It excluded “the legal officers in government agencies.” That decision will be the law till parliament enacts otherwise or till the same court overrules it. Such decisions must be reported and made known to all.
It is not that opinions are not published. Just before judiciary.gov.bt was revamped last month, it had selected cases from 2008 to 2013. Today there are only 11 judgements including two of the High Court. Unfortunately, only two judgements passed in December 2016 are accessible. This is a kind of reporting albeit ad hoc. Reporting judicial opinion in a newspaper is different from reporting in a law reporter. The former lacks the rigour of legal analysis thereby exposing the decision making process and its agents to ill-founded criticism.
Starting from the very first batch, law students of JSW School of Law ought to be given the opportunity to study as many Bhutanese case laws like the one reported by Kuensel on December 22.
Once again, fairly less volume of cases should make it possible to publish opinions from the inception of the Supreme Court. A steady supply of lawyers will be lifelong subscribers of such publications.
Scholarly Publications
As much as we like to adapt to international best practices—some laws are intricately linked to our customs. Legal history, laws of marriage and property are very Bhutanese. Therefore either the state or JSW School of Law has to commission scholarly publications on such branches of law.
A few books are available on Bhutanese law. There is one by former Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye, two by Justice Lungten Dubgyur of the High Court and a few research publications commissioned by the Judiciary.
University: one lonely, two a company, three a crowd?
Anecdotal evidence may suggest that our society has a certain disposition to rumours. To beat the rumour-mongers at their own game, I guess they will say:
That a university is the proper authority to certify a bachelor’s degree. This will make the law students wonder which university will award their certificates; or
That the law faculty deserves a university of its own just like those who opted to teach and study medicine, or
That JSW School of Law will ultimately be affiliated to the Royal University of Bhutan, therefore better affiliate from the very beginning.
Depending on the receiver, such rumours may inspire initiative, ignite irritation or incite inaction.
These questions may be familiar but the debate must sustain in the light of changing circumstances. The state needs to discuss with the public, or at least discuss in public view whether our population or size of the economy requires a college or a university every now and then. Whether colleges should introduce degree programmes without being bothered by the skills the economy is going to demand in the foreseeable future. Whether the universities or the colleges should transcend mere subsistence and embrace the nation building project.
The lessons imparted by JSW School of Law or the Faculty of Nursing and Public Health—I daresay—won’t be any better or worse for the mere fact of affiliation to the Royal University of Bhutan.
Supporting JSW School of Law
The first moot court (mock courtroom trial for academic competition) will be conducted in 2019. Some agencies could sponsor the moot court on legal themes of their interest. It deserves as much support as blood donations, cleaning campaigns, building a temple, sports or song contests. For instance, Tashi Air, Bhutan Air Services, local aviation training licence holders, Drukair and Royal Bhutan Helicopters could jointly sponsor moot court competitions on legal issues concerning rights of passenger and air carrier liability.
Similarly, in mid-2021 law students will seek externships. The JSW School of Law needs support from firms, corporations and the state.
No doubt the administration of the law school will be the primary responsibility of its dean guided by two councils and supported by the staff. Its overall success will depend on the support from the rest of the society.
Allowing up to six months for adjustments, failure to make the Class of ‘22 employable as start-up lawyers by January 1, 2023 may discredit the efforts made to reach there. If issues of law—bar examination; of policy—period to qualify as lawyer; and practice—reporting opinions, are not addressed, the Class of ‘22 will be disadvantaged while in law school and in a Catch-22 situation at the end of it.

How The Government Breaks The Juvenile Justice Laws To Send Children To Jail.

Youthkiawaz: Abhishek Jha: Sunday, January 15, 2017.
When the new Juvenile Justice Act was passed by the Parliament more than a year ago, Union Minister for Women And Child Development (WCD) Maneka Gandhi had guaranteed everyone in Parliament that any juvenile who committed a crime with ‘a childlike mind’ would never go into an adult jail. On interacting with different stakeholders, YKA, however, discovered the abysmal state of implementation of the Act, with juveniles continuing to be sent to jail without any regard for either the new law or for that matter the old one.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 came into effect on January 15, 2016, replacing the earlier 2000 Act. Records available with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) and with the Juvenile Justice Board-II of Delhi, however, indicate that juveniles in conflict with law are still languishing in adult jails in violation of the Act and the guidelines issued by the Delhi High Court in 2012.
Moreover, with a section of the new Act – requiring officials to inspect adult jails to search for probable juveniles lodged therein – not being followed in most prisons in the country, and fake age memos possibly being used by the police to keep juveniles in adult prisons, the state of juvenile justice can only be described as precarious at best.
The Journey So Far
When the WCD minister had introduced the Bill in Parliament, she had claimed that this wasn’t a ‘common or garden bill’. The Bill proposed that children between the age of 16 and 18, who commit offences punishable with a prison sentence of 7 or more years under the IPC, could be tried as an adult and sent to an adult prison after they attained the age of 21. Explaining away the reservations against sending a juvenile to the adult system, the minister had said that juveniles had to be deterred from committing crime and therefore a fear of the adult criminal justice system as opposed to the juvenile system was needed to be driven into them.
Even before the passage of Act though, juveniles were being convicted as adults. The Delhi High Court was, in fact, until January 2015 issuing directions for identifying juveniles in adult jails in a writ petition commonly referred to as 8889, filed after a letter written to court by advocate and child rights activist Anant Asthana. The letter carried an RTI reply that HAQ-Centre for Child Rights had obtained from Tihar containing data which showed that juveniles were anyway being thrust into the adult system.
After the court took cognisance of the petition in 2011, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was asked to constitute a panel of 10 members for visiting jails in Delhi to “find out if there are any persons lodged in such jails who should have been the beneficiaries of the JJ Act”. The NCPCR was to report to the Member Secretary of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA), which was also asked to send its lawyers for inspection.
The number of probable juveniles found in Tihar and Rohini jails in initial visits by the members of the panel, hovered around 100 every month, documents available on DSLSA’s (made nodal authority in the matter) website show. But even in 2016, four years after the visits began, 20-40 probable juveniles were being found every month in these jails.
Table 1: Number of probable juveniles found at Tihar and Rohini jails when the visits began. Source: DSLSA
When YKA called Dharmesh Sharma, Member Secretary of the DSLSA, he said that of those making claims of juvenility, around five to ten percent were actually found to be juveniles after inquiries were made into their age. A total of 258 probable juveniles were found between January and September 2016 in Tihar and Rohini jails. By Sharma’s estimate, around 13 to 26 children can be said to have spent some time in an adult prison in Delhi yearly, a city which child rights activists and lawyers YKA spoke to say has the best JJ system in the country
Table 2: The numbers for each month in the year 2016 and total numbers from 2012-2016. Source: DSLSA
Sharma’s is not the only estimate. Ashish Kumar, a legal aid counsel with the JJB-II of Delhi, after calculating the number of fresh cases the Board received in 2016, told YKA that out of the 1971 fresh cases the Board received, 39 were cases that the Board had received from transfer, most of which are likely to have been transferred from an adult court. JJB-II has jurisdiction over only 6 out of the 13 police districts and he said that such cases may be more if data from the other two JJBs is included.
To be sure, the possibility of cases of juveniles first appearing in an adult court is provided for in the law as long as they are also transferred to the Juvenile Justice Board as per rules. What indicates possible violation of the rules is the production of juveniles first in an adult court for, at the very least 39 cases, in an year coupled with the fact that some children were also being simultaneously found in an adult prison- either by procedural or deliberate error.
When questioned, Prashant Kumar Verma, Officer-in-Charge (Legal) of Tihar Central Prisons, did not outrightly deny the possibility of juveniles wrongly landing up in adult jails. He said that the “jail authorities are supposed to comply” with the orders of the respective court as they are just “custodians” and that most inmates claim juvenility to escape tougher punishment. Dheeraj Mathur, Staff Officer to the Director General of Prisons, asked YKA to direct further queries on email and promised to provide data on number of juveniles transferred out of Tihar to juvenile homes in 2016. There was no reply from him until the time of writing this story.
Jail Visits
The model rules for the new Act notified by the Government on September 21, 2016 mandated regular visits by Principal Magistrates of JJBs to adult jails to find probable juveniles. But as telephonic conversations with Superintendents of several central and district prisons reveal, the visits are yet to begin. Some jail officials did not even appear to be aware of the new provision made in the Act.
“We don’t keep any juveniles. So there is no question of anybody visiting,” Deepak Sharma, District Jail Faridabad told me. Similarly the Superintendent of Central Jail Hisar-I, Haryana said, “In entire Haryana there is no juvenile in any jail. The jail for juveniles is entirely different”. When again asked specifically whether any Principal Magistrate of a JJB had visited the jail since September, he said, “They go there (to the Observation/Special Homes, etc). They can’t come to us. We don’t have any juveniles”. The Superintendents of District Jail, Sivasagar, Central Prison, Vishakhapatnam, Model Central Jail, Nahan, Central Prison, Mysore, Central Prison and Correctional Home, Thiruvananthapuram, Burdwan Central Correctional Home and Central Jail Bareilly- all offered similar replies.
In Delhi too, since the High Court order, the visits have become less vigorous, Ashish Kumar, who has also been a member of the panel visiting the jails told YKA. “On my first day of visit, I found one (probable juvenile). He was convicted. Jail number 4 is for convicted prisoners. This was conducted in 2015. July or August maybe,” he said. Despite this, visits to jails barring Jail No. 7 were discontinued after 2 months, Kumar claimed.
Calls made to NCPCR’s relevant officials did not elicit any response. However, an update on its website about jail visits in April and May 2016 does not mention Rohini district jails, suggesting visits to the jail may have been discontinued.
Police Subverting The Law
Since the High Court issued detailed guidelines in 2012, police has also found ways to subvert those guidelines.
“What is the common thought? Once the accused comes into the adult criminal justice system then only he can be deterred, because juvenile justice is too much friendly for the juvenile,” Kumar told YKA. This has led the police, he alleged, to prepare false age memos. The Court had directed the police to prepare age memos even while apprehending accused between the ages of 18 to 21.
“What the police officer started doing is that even in cases of juveniles who were 18, they started writing 22 in their age memo, because if you are 18-21 years old, you land up in jail number 7 which was regularly inspected then. That is why, only inspecting jail number 7 is not enough. Apart from training of police officials, we should see all the jails,” Kumar explained.
A Sub-Inspector, working as a Juvenile Welfare Officer (JWO) for the past 7 years, told YKA that there is a lot of difference between the theory of the Act and its practice. He said that while there are a lot of rules in the Act, it was not possible to follow all rules. Asked why, he said, “The tendency of the children here has become criminal”. Preparing age memos for children belonging to another state was also a issue, he added, requiring an officer to visit the state and for relevant authorities to conduct ossification tests.
“From the point of displaying important information on the board (at the police station) to the point of regular follow ups (the guidelines are not being followed,” Bharti Ali, the Co-Founder and Co-Director of HAQ, alleged. Ali’s interventions had led to JJBs being empowered to issue delayed birth certificates, something which could have eased the problem police officials face with age inquiries, for instance, if guidelines were being followed verbatim.
Senior police officials this reporter spoke to also told him that there were no lapses on part of officers – definitely an anomaly considering the fact that juveniles can still be found in adult prisons.
“The implementation is the most alarming thing. Even the 2000 Act is still not implemented. And if you didn’t implement the earlier Act, how can you say that the earlier Act was mandated to be amended. How can you say so? You didn’t implement that,” Kumar rued.
Whether the new Act will decrease the incidence of juveniles coming in conflict with law is then anybody’s guess.

Delay in info no ground for late plea, rules HC.

The Tribune: Chandigadha: Saurabh Malick: Sunday, January 15, 2017
Delay in gathering information under the Right to Information Act is no ground for late filing of plea, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asserted.
In a significant judgment, the High Court has made it clear that the clock does not stop while a person is gathering information under the RTI Act.
Filing the petition after the specified time limit on the pretext of searching information under the Act can prove fatal to the case.
The ruling by Justice Rajiv Narain Raina came on a petition filed by Sapna Kakkar against Haryana and another respondent.
Claiming the post of dental surgeon Class II in the state Health Department, the petitioner had questioned the OMR sheet, question paper and answer keys in the written examination.
The Bench was told that the advertisement was issued on November 25, 2013, and the screening test was held on July 6, 2014.
The petitioner appeared in the examination and pursued her remedies under the Right to Information Act, 2005, for supply of documents to help her to file a writ petition.
Taking up the matter, Justice Raina asserted that the request to the Haryana State Information Commission was made under Act for the first time on July 7, 2014.
It was now two and a half years since the request was made. It was undisputed that the recruitment process had come to an end and appointment offered to selected candidates.
“Searching for material under the Right to Information Act does not stop the running of limitation delay and laches. If the petitioner was depending on information to file the petition questioning the questions without the answer keys in hand, she still could have approached this court.
“She could have pressed for directions to the respondents to achieve what she was unable to achieve under the Act since this court exercises jurisdiction of issuing writs of certiorari and can always order the state or commission to supply information, documents and material to the petitioner.
“Not having done that, this petition suffers from delay and laches. Laches is negligence in pursuing remedy for relief from where real relief can come. The remedy provided under the Right to Information Act is not a relief-based remedy.
“The purpose is only to compel the department to supply information without making any comment. I will, therefore, not interfere in this matter at this belated stage in direct recruitment and will dismiss the petition,” the court observed.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jail superintendent fined for delay in providing information.

Times of Inida: Chandigadh: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
The Haryana State Information Commission(SIC) on Friday slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the superintendent of Kurukshetra district jail for the unjustified delay in providing information under the RTI Act. While handing out the order, state information commissioner Hemant Atri also directed the jail department to ensure that the fine was paid out from the salary of the errant superintendent.
An RTI activist Subhash Chand Grover had sought information related to inspection reports of the district judge and judges of the Punjab and Haryana high court. It was in addition to details of some convicts lodged in the Kurukshetra jail. According to information, the application was moved on January 18 last year. The applicant got the information from the jail department in April, which was delayed and incomplete, alleged Grover. Despite direction from the first appellate authority, the Kurukshetra jail superintendent had provided incomplete information, following which Grover filed an appeal before the SIC.
The SIC had directed to provide the information by October 6 last year. As the jail superintendent failed to meet the deadline, the SIC had sought an explanation from him, while directing him to provide information by November last year. While issuing the last warning, SIC had fixed Thursday as the last date of hearing in the matter. After hearing both sides, SIC had reserved the order, which was released on Friday.

Poor children too have Right to Education

Dailyexcelsior: Srinagar: Raja Muzaffar bhatt: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
Recently, a well known private school in Srinagar denied admission to a special child who had lost his lower limbs in a bomb blast more than two years back in Tosamaidan area of Budgam. After our rigorous campaign on social networking site Facebook , the Kashmir Private Schools Association finally offered to admit this kid along with his elder brother free of cost. It is a matter of concern that well established private schools are yet to frame a policy towards admitting students from lower income groups. The judicial guidelines from Supreme Court as well as J&K High Court are not at all respected.
Special child Fayaz :
A seven year old boy namely Fayaz Ahmad Parray a resident of Drang Khag in District Budgam lost his both the lower limbs when he and his sister were fiddling with a live mortar shell in their village in May 2014. The shell had come down from Tosamaidan Field Firing Range (TFFR) sometime back. When the blast occurred Fayaz’s elder sister Simran died on the spot and Fayaz’s legs were amputated at Srinagar’s Army hospital. After a year Fayaz’s father Riyaz Ahmad Parray a labourer (mason) shifted to Srinagar city with this intention that he would admit his son Fayaz and his elder son Arif (9) in a good private school. As well established private schools were demanding huge fees , Riyaz preferred to admit both his kids in a low budget school at Batamaloo area of Srinagar. In June last year I got in touch with Riyaz through my colleague and RTI Activist Bashir Ahmad Malik who happens to be Riyaz’s neighbor. I was shocked to know that Government neither paid any compensation to Riyaz nor was any job provided to him under SRO 43. I along with my friends decided to help this family , but suddenly the summer agitation broke out in July 2016. From last one month I again started pursuing the case.
CM’s Intervention:
I took up this issue with Chief Minister through an email and sent all the details to her, but I was not sure she would act being so busy. The next very day Director School Education called Riyaz Ahmad Parray father of this special kid. He directed his officials to ensure Fayaz gets admission along with his brother in some good school. I suggested Riyaz to seek admission in a prestigious school located it Bemina which is close to Batamaloo where they are putting up at present in a rented room. When Riyaz went to meet school principal they out rightly denied to admit Fayaz. “The officials sitting in the office not only denied to admit my son , but they insulted me and I left the place within no time” said Riyaz. Director School Education Kashmir tried to intervene , but he also failed. Then another school was chosen , but they denied the admission to Fayaz saying he cannot climb stairs . But this is not at all correct. Fayaz has to be admitted in Class 1st and all the primary classes are located on Ground Floor of the building. They instead offered to admit his elder brother , but at the same time they told Riyaz (father of the kid) that if his son does not perform well , he would be rusticated. I was so sad to learn this , how is it possible that a village kid will know everything ? It was just to mount pressure on the poor labourer and Riyaz finally decided not to admit his kid in that school. I was really disturbed with all these developments and decided to go against the management of these schools. We got an overwhelming support when I posted this whole story on facebook. Many journalists contacted me , they filed reports on TV channels and after a few days Private Schools Association came forward. Their President G N Var agreed to admit Fayaz and his brother free of cost and asked Riyaz to contact him so that he would select a school for his kids from a list of 4 to 5 schools.
Some Pvt Schools are Public Authority :
If we go by the definition of Public Authority, the majority of the Private educational institutions especially private schools do not directly fall under the category of public authority because most of them are not substantially financed or funded by the Government directly or indirectly except having some controlling powers. But, there are many educational institutions in our state which are very much funded by the Government directly and even indirectly. Many educational institutions especially the “Christian Missionary” schools have been provided state land on lease by the Government on subsidized annual rent. It is a known fact that only two or three prominent Christian missionary schools of Srinagar are paying less than Rs 20,000 (twenty thousand) towards the Government as annual rent in lieu of the land provided by the Government under J&K Land Grants Act. The state land was provided to these schools many decades back under an agreement that they would provide free education to poor and downtrodden students of the state. These details have not only been revealed by the Revenue department authorities under RTI Act but during October 2012 the Legislative Council provided this information to the then Member of Legislative Council (MLC) from Srinagar Mohammad Ashraf Mir who is present MLA from Sonwar constituency .
The rent these missionary schools are paying towards the Government is 30 times less than the admission fees they are charging from the students. There is one missionary school which has not at all paid the annual rent from the last more than 35 years and from 1980 till date the annual rent is yet to be fixed. These details have been provided by Tehsildar Nazool Srinagar to an information seeker under State RTI Act few years back. The land provided by the Government to three Christian missionary schools in Srinagar on lease alone measures 212 kanals which is located in posh areas of Srinagar city like Ram Munshi Bagh, Raj Bagh and Sheikh Bagh. The market value of this prime land as on date is estimated to be more than Rs 1000 Crores (One thousand crores). Having been given such a huge chunk of land on highly subsidized rent (almost free of cost) by Government, how can the managements of these schools claim that they are not Public Authorities? How can they refuse to provide information under Right to Information Act (RTI) to the citizens of J&K? It is the citizens of state whose land worth Rs 1000 Crores is being utilized by the missionary schools, but when the same citizens demand accountability from the managements of these institutions, the school authorities behave in such a way as if they are the sole custodians of the land which is under their control. We cannot deny the role played by “Christian Missionary” schools towards upliftment of Kashmiri society. They have played a tremendous role and still continue to do so in the field of education but that does not mean they should not be held accountable by the people? We do have the right to ask these school authorities about their income and expenditure. We should be updated about the policies of these schools ? We should know how many admissions are given to students from economically weaker sections of the society annually ? Till date not a single Missionary school has come forward and offered to admit Fayaz?
Conclusion :
Government is supposed to give subsidy and other facilities to non profitable institutions, but why this facility be given to those schools which are highly profitable ? These schools charge hefty admission fees from students plus monthly fees, bus fees etc. Majority of the well established private schools in Jammu & Kashmir are openly violating supreme court directives as well which directs them to reserve 20 % of seats for those students who hail from lower economic groups. We hope J&K Government will frame a clear policy on the pattern of Delhi Government for offering admissions to poor students in private schools of state.

Environment panel against entertaining ‘anti-development’ representations.

Indian Express: Jay Mazgaonkar: New Delhi: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
The committee emphasised that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place.
Blaming public representations for making “sweeping statements” and having “an anti-development attitude”, the expert appraisal committee (EAC) on river valley and hydel projects of the Ministry of Environment has decided “not to take any cognizance of such representations” received by its members. In its December 30 meeting, the committee concluded that once a project proposal reaches the EAC for appraisal, it has crossed the stage of public consultation and “the EAC should not go back in time, and should not reopen it, by entertaining unsubstantiated representations received from the people”.
In case of any clarification regarding action taken on such representations under the RTI Act, the EAC prescribed that a standard reply — “action has been taken in accordance with the decisions taken in the 1st meeting of the EAC for River Valley and HEP on 30.12.2016” — should suffice.
“It was also felt that many of the objections raised are repetitive. Many such kind of representations have an anti-development attitude so that the projects are kept on hold or delayed. This has financial implications to the developers in particular and to the nation in general,” the EAC noted.
The committee emphasised that relevant ministries scrutinised every aspect of a project and proposed it for final appraisal only when all details were in place. If not satisfied that public consultation had been completed properly, the EAC said it could ask the project promoter to do the needful. The committee also made allowance for representations with “new points” and “grave consequences” on which comments from project proponents could be sought.
Environmental activists, however, pointed out the impracticality of the contention that representations should be restricted to the 30-day public consultation window.
“Public hearing is limited to only the state where a project is located. But many projects impact larger populations. For example, downstream impact of hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh on Assam. Moreover, public hearings are seldom publicised widely or conducted fairly. If a submission has no merit, the EAC can record it as such but there is no justification for barring it altogether,” said Neeraj Wagholikar of Pune-based Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group.
Environmental lawyer Ritwik Dutta argued that expert appraisal committees rarely scrutinise proceedings of public hearings. “The EIA notification of 2006 requires that public hearings be video recorded. The purpose is that the members of the EAC view the video and form an opinion. But there is hardly any time for that in the rapid appraisal mode necessary for bulk clearance of projects,” he said.
In the landmark November 2009 judgment in Utkarsh Mandal vs Union Of India, the Delhi High Court observed: “The unseemly rush to grant environmental clearances should not be at the cost of the environment itself. The spirit of the EAC has to be respected. We do not see how more than five applications for EIA clearance can be taken up for consideration at a single meeting of the EAC. This is another matter which deserves serious consideration at the hands of MoEF.”
The EAC considered 13 projects in its December 30 meeting and cleared eight of them.

Former Chief Information Commissioner alleges J&K bank is coning Kashmiris

Inuth.com: Srinagar: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
In a country, where Reserve Bank of India, the apex financial institution, is open to queries under Right to Information Act, the J&K Bank has been hiding every information, which the citizens deserve to know.
J&K Bank is running in losses. To salvage the sinking bank, the state government recently made an equity infusion of Rs 532 crore. Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu on January 11 admitted that the bank was facing governance deficit for years, leading to an increase of Rs 6,000 crore in its non-performing assets (NPAs).
Amid poor state-of-the-affairs, rumor mills are rife that recently the bank made another 400 backdoor appointments. But no one has been able to get an access to the factual details.
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Apart from keeping a tight lid on financial details, the bank has also hidden its recruitment details. For the past decade, the bank never made its list of recruitments public, neither did it disclose their merit list.
There’s equally no information available as to who all were the beneficiary of the hefty loans which led to an increase in NPAs. If a shopkeeper was denied relief during the period of unrest in 2016, how can the government gift the same taxpayer’s money to the bank to recover it from debts?
Amid mysterious silence over this undue secrecy, former Chief Information Commissioner, Ghulam Rasool Sufi has taken to the social media with some startling revelations on how J&K Bank has never cared about RTI over the years.
Sufi, who remained a dynamic CIC for five years, till his superannuation in February 2016, mainly blames the political parties for the mess. He says that the ruling PDP-BJP coalition as well as the opposition, National Conference, is silent over the “death” of RTI in the state. A year later, the office of CIC is defunct as no one was appointed as Sufi’s successor.
During an exclusive chat with InUth, Sufi equally lamented on the role played by the national media. “National media goes hammers and tongs against anything they find ‘anti-national’ in Kashmir. How come are they silent over this systematic death of RTI here?”
Sufi says that the injustice prompted him to take to social media to vent out his feelings and make people aware about the undue secrecy maintained by the J&K Bank and the role RTI could play to bring in transparency.
For some time now, concerned residents of J&K are worried and perturbed by the performance of J&K bank: a financial institution of repute which has earlier shown profits as compared to a number of so-called public sector undertakings which are consistently running on losses. These apprehensions now stand confirmed by the frank admission of finance minister Mr Drabu and the current chairman of the bank. the main reason (see today’s greater Kashmir) of the bank’s downfall is its non-performing assets. The J&K bank not only catered to the small businesses of J&K but had also attracted the imagination of small investors particularly the valley depositors. Even in this age of transparency and accountability, people are debarred for having even minimum information about the bank’s working.
Immediately after NC- Congress government took laudable step of bringing a strong transparency law in the state, a few enthusiastic J&K information seekers had jointly invoked their right to information and sought some information from the bank which was refused to them directly stating that J&K bank was not a public authority and hence does not fall under the per view of J&K state RTI ACT. The matter ultimately landed in the state information
The matter ultimately landed in the state information commission. Keeping in view the important question of law to adjudicate whether J&K bank was a public authority and thus liable to be transparent. The bank stoutly denied its liability under the Act and engaged one of the best legal minds of the state to justify their obstinate stand not to be transparent. The commission heard the bank in several
The commission heard the bank in several sitting and before drafting the order I not only studied the legal position but searched the archives in Jammu archives and found the establishment of the bank was one of the golden achievements of Maharaja Hari Singh who had personally persuaded some sincere rich people of the state to become share holders along with the state government.
The Maharaja had undertaken personally where the bank office should be, who would be manager of bank (presently chairman) allotted the land and with his deep involvement the bank was established. Thus the late Maharaja Hari Singh was really acting as an independent ruler who was sincerely interested to establish a state bank after making a deep and painstaking study of the issue, placing reliance on Maharaja’s proclamations, the Indian companies act , various supreme court and high court decisions and analyzing state governments administrative control, its more than fifty percent capital contribution the commission declared the bank to be public authority and liable to disclose the information as permissible under the RTI ACT and directed bank to comply the order within stipulated time .The bank took no time to challenge this unanimous decision of the commission in the J&K high court. Initially the matter was heard in the court of the then honourable justice Hassnain Masoodi who refused to grant any stay but ultimately the bank was granted stay by some other honourable judge .4 years have elapsed the stay continues , though the information sought was not only relevant for the permanent functioning of the bank but also of the time bound nature that is to say the disclose of the said information has lost the relevance .It was painful to observe that most of applicants from Kashmir valley mysteriously disappeared from the scene They were initially enthusiastic to get the information but did not pursue the proceeding in the honourable high court .The honourable supreme court has in certain decisions declared banks including reserve bank of India to be liable to disclose the information under the RTI act .
One of the reasons for present state of poor financial health of the bank is much guarded secret functioning of the bank , the political interference which has kept under wrap the liberal, reckless and thoughtless sanctioning of loans to non state subjects some of the borrowers have been allegedly friends of politicians. Certain loans have been sanctioned for establishing businesses but allegedly used for erecting huge residential building without any check by bank .Sometime back I had accidental brief interaction with the important politician of present dispensation and had suggested that J&K bank be advised that notwithstanding the bank stand that it’s not under the per view of J&K state RTI Act let the bank voluntarily declare to disclose information sought by residents of state on any point of information as decided by bank and reserve its right not to disclose information on few points .This practice has been followed by number of non governmental institutions outside the state who are not strictly falling under the transparency laws.
This suggestion obviously and understandably fell on deaf ears. I, not in the capacity of former CIC but as a concerned citizen and an account holder and share holder of J&K bank make humble and respectful appeal to the honourable chief justice of J&K high court to fix the hearing of J&K state information commission decision declaring the bank a public authority I would also request civil society to think whether it can become an intervener in the case and approach the honourable chief justice J&K high court with a request to decide the issue at an earliest. It’s nobody’s case to claim that the transparency law is the only remedy for restoring the financial health of J&K bank but it would have definitely acted as a deterrent to curb number of acts of financial indiscipline and curtail the unbridled discretion of the management and political interference .

Sanawar’s Lawrence School comes under RTI purview.

Hindustan Times: IANS: Shimla: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
The prestigious Lawrence School at Sanawar in Kasauli hills of Himachal Pradesh, which boasts of alumni like Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, has come under the purview of the RTI Act.
“The CIC has declared both Lawrence School and the society running it as public authority,” Right to Information (RTI) activist Rajinder K. Singla told IANS on Friday, quoting the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) latest order.
Singla has been fighting for almost a decade to get the RTI Act extended to the school to make it accountable to the public.
He said the CIC, in its order dated December 6 last year, directed the school authorities to appoint a public information officer and First Appellate Authority within a month from the receipt of the order.
Information Commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu in his order observed that to decide whether Lawrence School is public authority, it is required to be proved that the school is substantially financed by the government.
“As the entire land consisting of 127.47 acres with buildings, structures and trees thereon were considered as military lands and the Defence Department transferred all that to the society, it proves that the government has substantially funded the society to run this school by giving land and buildings,” he said.
This fulfils one of the conditions prescribed under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act to declare the school as public authority,” Acharyulu observed.
It said the school was being run by a society registered under Section 19 of the Societies Registration Act of 1860, which imposed an obligation on the society to provide information to any person.
Singla, who was working as senior biology teacher in the school, had on December 28, 2006, sought from the affiliating board, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), information relating to the school like school rules, qualifications of teachers, student fees and members of the school management committee.
However, five days later, the school removed him from service, giving him three months of advance salary in lieu of notice period.
After this, Singla started his fight to bring the residential public school, which also boasts of alumni like Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, under the purview of the RTI Act.
Earlier, the CIC had issued an order in Singla’s favour in 2008. But the school challenged it in the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
On September 19 last year, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan quashed the CIC decision, and directed it to decide the case afresh.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Central information commissioner who gave DU order taken off HRD cases

Times of India‎‎: New Delhi: Friday, January 13, 2017.
Days after he ordered Delhi University to disclose records of BA degrees granted in 1978 — the year in which PM Narendra Modi is said to have received his bachelor's degree, information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has been asked to stop hearing cases related to the HRD ministry.
Chief information commissioner R K Mathur issued the order on January 10, transferring all pending cases except those in which notices have been issued to another information commissioner Manjula Parasher.
In a series of orders, Acharyulu had come down heavily on the university for not providing information, which in his view, was in public interest. BJP leaders had claimed last year that Modi had completed his BA in political science from distance learning programme of the university in 1978. This was later corroborated by Delhi University registrar Tarun Das.
Acharyulu's order, dated December 21, was on the plea of applicant Neeraj who had sought to know from the university the total number of students who took the BA exam in 1978, their names and those of their fathers, roll numbers and marks obtained. Denying the information, DU's central public information officer (CPIO) had said the information requested was "personal information of the students concerned, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest".
Acharyulu, however, said, "The PIO has not put forward any evidence or explained possibility to show that disclosure of degree-related information infringes the privacy or causes unwarranted invasion of privacy." Quoting orders from the United States and others, he held that the information was in fact in public interest.
Earlier, Acharyulu in response to another RTI, had fined the university's CPIO Rs 25,000 for rejecting an RTI application seeking PM's graduation degree. The RTI filed by a Delhi-based lawyer was rejected on the ground that the Indian postal order was not marked in favour of the registrar of the university.

‘Less than 1% MoUs of Partnership Summit honoured’

The Hindu: Vijayawada: Friday, January 13, 2017.
Less than one per cent of the ₹4,78,000 crore for which the Andhra Pradesh Government signed MoUs in the CII Partnership Summit held in Visakhapatnam on January 12 last year has fructified into investments, said former Speaker of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh Nadendla Manohar.
At a press conference at the Andhra Ratna Bhavan here on Thursday, Mr. Manohar shared with the media information he secured using the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
While the Government declared that six lakh jobs would be generated from the Rs 4,78,000 crore investment for which various firms had signed MoUs at the summit, not a single job had been generated till now.
While Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Cabinet members had been boasting about the MoUs as a major achievement for the past one year, the total investment received was shown only as Rs 2,076 crore.
The companies that honoured their commitments strangely included some Central Government establishments and others from Sri City and Vizag Pharma SEZ, Mr Manohar pointed out. He wondered what the connection between these firms and the summit to enable the Government to show them as works in progress.
The Chief Minister should tell the people of the State the truth before holding a second partnership summit this month. The State Government should refrain from deceiving the youth yet another time, Mr. Manohar said.
The State Government spent Rs. 40 crore to organise the summit and thousands of crores were spent for the Chief Minster and other Ministers to visit foreign countries seeking investments in the cash-strapped State, but nothing seemed to have materialised. The Chief Minister should therefore desist from raising the hopes of the youth by going for yet another summit, Mr Manohar said.

Ex-NALSAR Prof, IC, MS Acharyulu relieved of HRD Ministry charge after Modi degree order

Bar & Bench: New Delhi: Friday, January 13, 2017.
Information Commissioner Prof Madabhushanam Sridhar Acharyulu has been relieved of his Ministry of Human Resources Development charge, reports Indian Express.
The move to reassign the cases related to the HRD Ministry from the former NALSAR Professor to another Information Commissioner comes weeks after Acharyulu passed an order directing Delhi University to make public the register containing the list of students who passed the Bachelor of Arts programme in 1978.
What makes the aforementioned order controversial is the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have graduated from the University with a BA in Political Science that very year. As revealed by an answer on Quora, his election affidavit filed for the 2012 Gujarat polls says that he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in the year 1978.
The CIC order stems from an RTI application made by Delhi resident Neeraj, who in 2015, sought information regarding the degree and mark sheets of Prime Minister Modi. After both the Public Information Officer and First Appellate Authority of the University denied the information, the applicant approached the CIC.
The case was heard on November 21  last year by Prof Acharyulu, who directed the applicant to file a write submission, and the public authority to respond by December 7.
During the hearing on December 21, the CPIO of the University, Meenakshi Sahay submitted that the information sought was “personal information” under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005, which the University held in a fiduciary capacity. She also stated that the 1978 results were not available in digitised form.
The applicant then narrowed down his request to the students under the B.A.(Pass) and B.A.(Hons) lists, specifically relating to Political Science, along with the name, father’s name and marks obtained.
While arriving at his decision, the commissioner referred to the recently decided case of the Supreme Court in Mairembam Prithviraj v. Pukhrem Sharat Chandra Singh, where a Bench of Justice AR Dave and L Nageswara Rao held,
“Right to vote would be meaningless unless the citizens are well informed about the antecedents of a candidate… It is also clear from the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1951, Rules and Form 26 that there is a duty cast on the candidates to give correct information about their educational qualifications…”
Prof Acharyulu went on to say,
“The educational qualification of an individual is conferred to that individual in convocation, meaning thereby that such a qualification is publicly celebrated and there is nothing which affects the privacy of an individual by such disclosure.”
He went on to quote a decision of the CIC dated July 21 of last year, wherein it was held,
“…when there is an apprehension or doubt about validity or existence of a qualification, it is necessary to verify genuineness of the same…”
On finding that the University regularly publishes the results of its examinations on the website, the commissioner went on to note that the CPIO’s contention that the information furnished by the students to the public authority is held in fiduciary capacity is incorrect.
The order ends with a direction to DU to allow the inspection of the register where complete information about result of all students who passed the BA course in 1978 along with roll number, names of the students, father’s name and marks obtained. The University was given time until December 30 to comply with this order.
This ruling seems to have ruffled a few feathers in the central government, with Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur performing a volte-face from his order dated December 29, in which Prof Acharyulu retained the HRD Ministry charge.
The latest order dated January 10 has reassigned the charge to Manjula Parashar.
Prof Acharyulu was a faculty at NALSAR, Hyderabad, where he was the MHRD Chair for IPR in 2009-10. He left the University in November 2013, when he was appointed as an officer of the Central Information Commission.