Saturday, November 28, 2015

CIC offers apology on Priyanka’s contempt petition

The Hindu: Shimla: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday closed the contempt proceedings against the state Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioner on a petition filed by Priyanka Gandhi following an unconditional apology tendered by them.
The Division Bench, comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice P.S. Rana passed the orders on the writ petition filed by Priyanka Gandhi relating to their order on summoning records of land purchased by her at Chharabra, 14km from Shimla.
Issuing the contempt notice on the petition of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on September 11 last, the Division Bench had also directed both the respondents Bhim Sen, the state Chief Election Commissioner and Information Commissioner Kali Dass Batish to appear in person.
Ms Vadra had alleged that despite the stay order passed by the High Court in her writ petition, the Information Commission proceeded with the matter and had summoned the records relating to the land purchased by her.
The Information Commission had on July 23 rapped government officials, including Deputy Commissioner Dinesh Malhotra, and summoned them for not providing the desired information.
On the other hand, the respondent state had filed a reply to the writ petition of Pryinka Gandhi which was taken on record by the court.
RTI Applicant Dev Ashish Bhattacharaya, who is also one of the respondents, had filed an application seeking permission to bring some additional documents on record.
The Court directed the respondents to file reply to the said application, if any, within three weeks. - PTI

Do cooperative housing societies come under RTI ambit?

Moneylife: Pune: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
Some recent decisions by Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu mention that the President and Secretary of Co-operative Housing Societies are deemed PIOs under the RTI. The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that only cooperative societies owned, controlled or funded by the state fall under RTI ambit. Let’s take a look at this ever controversial and much discussed issue
Case 1:  
CIC Decision: 21 October 2015
Ashok Sardana vs Registrar of Cooperative Societies 
Right to Information (RTI) appellant Ashok Sardana had sought information regarding Nav Sansad Vihar Cooperative Group Housing Society. He wanted copy of the complete noting of case in respect of Vijay Sardana membership case, under Section 25 of Department of Registrar Co-operative Society Act (DCS).
Having received no information from the PIO and claiming non-compliance of Order from the First Appellate Authority (FAA), he approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) with his second appeal. During the hearing, Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar), passed the following order which mentions the President of the co-operative housing society (CHS) as the deemed Public Information Officer (PIO).
The order states:
The Commission having heard the submissions and perused the record, directs the President of the Nav Sansad Vihar CGHS, considering him as deemed PIO under the RTI Act, to furnish the information…”within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Commission also directs the PIO/ARCS concerned and the President of the said Housing Society to be present before the Commission…”
“… In response to the above notice, the PIO, BK Puri, ARCS was present before the Commission and made submissions that they had directed the Housing Society on 1-10-2014 to provide information to the appellant.  But they have not complied so far.  The society is also not represented by any of its representatives as directed by the Commission in its earlier order.  In view of this, the Commission directs the Secretary/deemed PIO of the Housing Society to show cause as to why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for not complying with the Commission’s order and for not furnishing the information to the appellant within the prescribed period.  His explanation should reach the Commission within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.
Case 2:
CIC Decision: 21 October 2015
Mohan Lal Jain vs GNCTD
Mohan Lal Jain, through his RTI application had submitted that his flat was on the top floor and the seepage coming through the roof, has to be taken care of by the Society as per rules. The CHS has not taken any action. The respondent authority summoned the President of the society on 18-6-2014 and the Society assured the Assistant Registrar of Co-operative Societies (ARCS) to attend to the Appellant’s grievance. But nothing was done. In view of this the Commission directed the President of the CHS to show cause as to why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for not furnishing the information to the appellant within the prescribed period as directed by the FAA. His explanation should reach the Commission within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.
Case 3
CIC Decision: 12 December 2014
Ramesh Hirani from Baroda filed a RTI application dated 27 August 2012 seeking information with respect to compliance of the CIC Order dated 4 May 2012, regarding his expulsion from the CHS that he was residing, that is, the Navkunj Co-operative Housing Society. The PIO, during the hearing before the Commission stated that in spite of writing four times to the Navkunj Cooperative Group Housing Society, in 2013, the said Society has not sent the files concerning the expulsion of the appellant.  Hence, they replied to the appellant that unless his expulsion is approved by them, he does not stand expelled from the Society as per law.
When the Commission queried the representatives of the Registration of Co-operative Societies, as to what penal action they can take against the Society for not replying to them, they stated that they can only supersede the Management Committee of the Society under Section 37 of the DCS Act and appoint an Administrator for the same.  They cannot derecognise the society. They suggested that the President or Secretary   of the Management Committee of the Society should be held responsible for obstruction of the information to the appellant.
The order stated: “The Commission, therefore, holds the President/ Secretary of the Management Committee of Nav Kunj Cooperative Group Housing Society as deemed PIOs as far as the breach of Right to Information of the appellant is concerned as they refused to respond to four letters written by the Registrar of   Cooperative Societies, who is the regulator. The Commission considers this as a deliberate obstruction on continuity of information to the appellant and hence the Commission issues Show Cause Notice to the President/Secretary of the Nav Kunj CGHS to explain why maximum penalty cannot be imposed against them under Section 20 of the RTI Act, considering them as deemed PIOs of the Society.”
Case 4
CIC Decision: 30 September 2015
BC Raana vs Registrar of Co-operative Housing Society (RCS)
Raana is a member of the Himachal Pradesh Co-operative Group Housing Society. He had, by his RTI application, sought to know the action taken by the RCS on his complaint dated 12 July 2012, against his housing society which had allegedly misappropriated Rs5 crore. Having received no information, he filed first appeal. Claiming non-furnishing of information, he approached the Commission in second appeal.
The CIC order stated that, “The RCS is under an obligation to take action against the Society based on the inquiry report. But they are silent on this and also not furnishing any information to the appellant in this regard. The Commission having heard the submissions and perused the record directs the PIO to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed on him for not furnishing information to the appellant within the prescribed period. His explanation should reach the Commission within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.”
The Commission further directed the PIO of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies to furnish the information to the appellant within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. (Which implies that the RCS is duty bound to get information from the relevant housing society as it comes under the RTI Act.)
According to RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, with the enactment of the 97th amendment to the Constitution of India and its inclusion in Article 19 of the Constitution, formation of cooperative societies has become one of the fundamental rights of an Indian citizen. “Besides, they have been given the status of local self-government like rural and urban municipal bodies in Part 9 of the Constitution. Cooperative societies have thus come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Some recent CIC decisions show that the President and the Secretary of housing societies have been termed as Deemed PIOs,” he said.
He says, “As per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—
(a) by or under the Constitution;
(b) by any other law made by Parliament;
(c) by any other law made by the State Legislature;
(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate government, and now as per Section 2
(h) (a) of RTI Act, any cooperative society has become an ‘authority’ or ‘body’ or “institution of self-government” established or constituted by or under the Constitution and hence, it comes  under the ambit of the RTI Act.
According to Advocate Aruna Giri’s posting in, “This judgement differentiates the coop societies into two categories. A Category- Cooperative societies owned or controlled or substantially financed by the State or Central Government or formed, established or constituted by law made by Parliament or State Legislature. B Category- All other cooperative societies. The Supreme Court says only the B category will not come under the RTI Act. 
“I reproduce the order of the Supreme Court:  
"12. We are in these appeals concerned only with the co-operative societies registered or deemed to be registered under the Co-operative Societies Act, which are not owned, controlled or substantially financed by the State or Central Government or formed, established or constituted by law made by Parliament or State Legislature.”
"51. We have found, on facts, that the Societies, in these appeals, are not public authorities and, hence, not legally obliged to furnish any information sought for by a citizen under the RTI Act. All the same, if there is any dispute on facts as to whether a particular Society is a public authority or not, the State Information Officer can examine the same and find out whether the Society in question satisfies the test laid in this judgment.”

GHMC guzzles 100 cr through inflated inventory

The Hans India: Hyderabad: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
Believe it or not, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has been showing exaggerated maintenance costs, some even running into lakhs, for vehicles that are not even in use! For example, the maintenance cost of a Priya Scooter has been recorded as Rs 25,000 per year and a Hero Honda as Rs 1.5 lakh, more than the present market value of the two wheelers. Overall, the civic body has spent a whopping Rs 530 crore towards maintenance and repairs for a period of five years (2009 to 2015).
In response to an RTI filed by the Lok Satta Party, it has come to light that the GHMC has shown expenditure on repairs of vehicles, though most were never incurred in the first place.
Sambi Reddy of Lok Satta Party shared that the GHMC spent about Rs 530 crore between 2009 and 2015 of which fuel expenses were Rs 363.14 crore and Rs 167 crore was for vehicle repairs.
For the 874 vehicles owned by the civic body, 99 are unfit but expenditure towards its repairs has also been submitted. For example, the maintenance cost for a 20 tonne vehicle has been shown as Rs 25 lakh while a new vehicle itself costs Rs 33 lakh. On an average the maintenance cost shown per vehicle is Rs 72 lakh. Likewise Swachh auto trolleys distributed in GHMC limits are registered in the name of private persons with finance. The same vehicles are being shown in two different offices which bear the same number.
The Lok Satta Party alleged that the GHMC has swindled about Rs 100 crore on expenses made on vehicle repairs and fuel in the city limits.“The vigilance and ACB inquiry reveals that 25 autos are shown as tipper trucks, there are no number plates for three vehicles and the maintenance cost of vehicles are so exaggerated that new vehicles could be bought with that amount,” said  Sambi Reddy. There are seven vehicles show in two different offices bearing the numbers AP11W3658, AEY6739, AP9T9, AP11X6060, AP11v5323 (KVD), AP29T0091, F/R 23244, he added.

One woman’s tireless battle against building violations

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
A gutsy Satya Achayya took on the corrupt, but the courts make her job tougher.
A former chief minister's personal secretary was constructing a residential building with reportedly 80% violations on 8th cross, Nandidurg Road extension. While neighbours stood, watched and spoke in hush-hush tones among themselves, there was one lady living at the quaint corner of the road who stood up against it. Today, she is leading a team of likeminded citizens who are fighting in the high court against illegal constructions and violations by making all the civic stakeholders respondents.
Satya Achayya, now 69, took on the mighty and fought through it. Following up with officials back and forth can be quite a task - more so because engineers show no interest in acting against illegal buildings that can fetch them good moolah. However, Satya who pursued this building of the politically connected ex-CM's secretary which was being built on a 1,200 sqft plot, was able get a provisional order for demolition and finally, a demolition notice was pasted on the building. As usual, the owner approached the court and subsequently sold the building.
While no drastic action happened in this case in 2009, this was a start to Satya's fight against building violations in the area, to be precise, on her lane and against her neighbours. Presently, her next door neighbour is constructing a four-storied residential building (which may go up to five floors) that has no setbacks, has violated FAR and all possible rules. "When I filed an RTI with the area engineer for a copy of the building plan, the reply I got was baffling.
That there is no building plan! When the engineer himself knows that there is no building plan approval, how can he allow the construction, despite being brought to his notice? The building owner happily continues the work. How can officials allow such lawlessness?'' asks Satya.
On just two roads in her colony, she has taken on nine buildings that are built or being built in complete contravention of building bylaws. Old houses that are re-sold or renovated are replaced with multi-storied units on nearly 1,200 sqft sital area, with 30 feet road - and balconies that are extended to the road, with lack of setbacks, blocking neighbouring houses' access to air and light. Seeing Satya's perseverance, a couple of affected property owners gathered courage and have joined her in the legal fight against their neighbours.
 "I first write letters to BBMP about the violations and as usual, they are ignored. Next, I file complaints with the Lokayukta about dereliction of duty. When the missive goes from Lokayukta, the engineers act. Building inspections are done, demolition notices are issued. But at this stage, the process gets derailed when the violators approach KAT and get a stay. Once the case goes to the KAT court, the hearings come up once in six months or eight months. I spend a lot of money, time and energy on this and I am getting fed up," says Satya. Her crusade has left her with not many friends. When Satya left her parental home in 1970s to Washington, the locality was pristine. When she returned in 2008, it was a mess. "Majority of houses have been converted into multi-storied dwelling units. It's fine as long as they stick to the rules," she adds.

In a year, Maharashtra CM's relief fund swells 23 times

Times of India: Mumbai: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
In times of crying need, people, institutions and private corporations have been dashing off charity cheques. It is evident from the rising balance in the chief minister's relief fund, which has witnessed a 23-fold increase in its kitty: the corpus was Rs 11 crore last November, and in a year has soared to Rs 264 crore.
Apart from individuals, sugar factories, temple trusts, colleges and some housing societies too have marshalled funds and sent large contributions to the CM's kitty. The redeeming truth is that samaritans want to extend help, not just believe that the government will mitigate the havoc wrought by the drought.

State food lab says it has no idea about samples taken from KFC

Times of India: Hyderabad: Saturday, 28 November 2015.
Four months after the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) lifted food samples from Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlets for tests at the State Food Laboratory (SFL), RTI activists are stumped by the conflicting versions being given by the two state bodies.
City-based RTI activist Bakka Judson sought the status of the KFC samples by filing two applications before GHMC's food safety wing and SFL. But, both passed the buck on to each other.
When asked about the details of samples it tested from June 2014 to August 2015, the chief public analyst of Nacharam-based SFL said: "...the information regarding KFC is not available with the lab as it is not mentioned in the memorandum to food analyst."
"This is surprising as the admission by SFL of not having any information on KFC only goes on to show that health of the people is not a priority for the GHMC's food safety department. In other words, it only means that they did not receive the samples at all," said Bakka Judson.
Under the memorandum to food analyst Form-VI, a food safe ty officer is required to fill details like code number, date and place of collection, name and nature of articles etc. before sending the same to the food analyst for testing.
However, what raises more eyebrows is the claim made by the GHMC's food safety wing in another RTI reply dated November 13 (copy with TOI) that they sent 42 KFC samples as `surveillance samples for bacteriological analysis purpose and sent the same to the state food safety laboratory'.
In its reply, the superintendent of the GHMC's health and sanitation department said that on June 26 and June 27, food safety officials of GHMC lifted 42 food samples from `various outlets of KFC in GHMC limits under the provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and rules made thereunder for analysis purpose and sent the same to the state food laboratory'.
It may be recalled that soon after the samples were lifted, KFC. owned by Yum! Restaurants India Pvt. Ltd, obtained an interim stay order from the High Court on July 7 by filing a writ petition against commissioner of food safety , Telangana, following which the latter filed a petition to vacate the stay .The petition is yet to be heard.
When contacted, Dr T Damodar, one of the food safety officers (FSDOs) in GHMC's health and sanitation department, said that he could not immediately respond without seeing the RTI replies furnished by the two state government bodies.

Friday, November 27, 2015

State has only 2000 bullet-proof jackets for over 2 Lakh personnel

The Asian Age: Mumbai: Friday, November 27, 2015.
Seven years after the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, the home department has managed to procure only 2,000 bullet-proof jackets in 2011 for over two lakh police personnel.
The state’s demand of 2,500 jackets more is still pending with the government of India since 2012. The information sought under RTI revealed that the demand for the jackets was not fulfilled even when the city lost some of its top police officers in the attacks due to faulty jackets.
Information regarding procurement of bullet-proof jackets and arms and ammunition for the last three years was sought from the DGP office. In its reply, the DGP office has said, “In 2011, home ministry provided 2,000 bullet proof jackets to Maharashtra police. No procurement of jackets was done in 2012 and 2013.” The DGP office further said that on January 20 2012, 2,500 bullet-jackets were ordered from the home ministry.
 “The jackets ordered have not received by the home ministry till now,” the RTI filed by activist Chetan Kothari revealed.
During 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 several top ranking police officials such as Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar were killed due to faulty bullet-proof jackets. It was also pointed out by experts how Mumbai police were not trained to handle terror attacks. The Congress-NCP government was slammed for the negligence in protecting police officials and not providing adequate equipments to them. The government then ordered bullet-proof jackets through tendering process which failed due to several reasons. It then decided to get it from the Centre and the first 2,000 jackets were received in 2011.
This was one of the measures taken by the state government in the process of police modernisation. “The home department took many steps to upgrade the police force and provided them with latest equipments. The procurement of bullet-proof jackets was delayed as they were not fulfilling requirements. But then the state government decided to get them from the Centre instead of dealing directly with private firms,” an official from the home department said.

No malnutrition deaths now: DMO

The Hindu: Palakkad: Friday, November 27, 2015.
In RTI reply, Health Department contradicts its earlier stand.
Contradicting its own earlier stand that malnutrition was the major reason behind continuing infant mortality in Attappady, the Health Department has stated that no malnutrition-related death was reported from any of the 192 tribal hamlets in the region since January 2013.
In a Right to Information (RTI) reply to social worker R.J. Rajendraprasad, the District Medical Officer (DMO) claimed that no malnutrition-related death had occurred in Attappady between January 2013 and October 2015. The DMO also stated that no fund was sanctioned to the department to address the issue of infant mortality happening because of malnutrition. However, the report said the department was receiving funds to improve the health condition of tribal people in Attappady.
‘Only two cases’
When contacted by The Hindu , DMO in-charge S. Jayasree said the tribal hamlets of Attappady reported only two cases of malnutrition-related deaths and that too was in 2012.
“Since then, there was no such child mortality. Infant mortality is happening here due to many other reasons. Malnutrition had never been a factor,’’ she said.
As per official statistics, 13 infant deaths were reported from Attappady since January this year.
However, non-governmental organisations working in the region claim the number was 24. While the area reported 16 tribal infant deaths in 2012, the number rose to 44 in 2013. In 2014, the figure was 24.
Major causes
It was only in March this year that Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar told the State Assembly that lack of effective implementation of health packages by officials concerned and malnutrition of pregnant women were the major causes of continuing infant deaths in Attappady.
 “A government order sourced through RTI regarding new posts in the tribal super specialty hospital in Attappady says Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had convened a high-level meeting in Attappady on April 25, 2013 in the backdrop of malnutrition-related deaths. There are many such documents in which the government confirmed malnutrition-related deaths,” said Mr. Rajendraprasad.
Kerala State Child Rights Commission member N. Babu said malnutrition was the key reason for the infant deaths.
“The number started decreasing due to effective interventions like community kitchen and revival of tribal farming practices. But no once can say malnutrition never existed here,’’ he said.

14,000 posts lying vacant in civic body

Free Press Journal: Mumbai: Friday, November 27, 2015.
It has come to light that around 14,000 posts are lying vacant in the BMC of which 9,500 fall in the Grade D category including peons, office boys and caretakers, while over 4,500 posts are vacant due to delayed inter-departmental promotions in the BMC.
Deepak Shelar, a candidate who has cleared the requisite exams but has not been inducted into service for many months now, has been shuttling from one official to another. He has requested municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta to intervene. An RTI filed by Shelar has revealed that over 7,221 grade ‘D’ posts belonging to the reserved category, which includes SC, ST and OBC categories and 2,462 posts from the open category are lying vacant. Similarly, over 1,837 posts from the reserved category of class IV (workers) and over 2,735 posts from the open category of class IV employees are vacant as due promotions have been stalled.
Also, 700 posts are vacant in the BMC’s security department. Labour union Hindustan Mazdoor Sangh has written to Mehta drawing his attention to the issue.

RTI adalats to start in December first week

The Hindu: Bengaluru: Friday, November 27, 2015.
Tired of information officers in government agencies who take the Right to Information Act applications lightly? Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) is now taking the fight to the agencies directly by holding RTI Adalats on the premises of civic agencies to ensure speedy disposal of appeals pending with the commission. A first-of-its-kind initiative, being introduced a decade after the RTI Act was enforced, has become necessary because of “indifferent” officers in several government agencies, activists said. “In the city, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) are the biggest villains when it comes to not providing information demanded. This adalat will put the principal information officers as well as the applicants face to face, and escaping will not be that easy. I think this is a great move,” said Wing Commander G.B. Athri (retd).
The move comes as the KIC finds itself swamped with over 30,000 pending appeals, necessitating each of the four Commissioners to listen to almost 30 cases daily. The adalats will begin with the BBMP next month and then move to other agencies such as the BDA and Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB).
“A lot of the appeals before the commission that are from Bengaluru are related to the BBMP, BDA or the KIADB. From next month, we will start dealing with cases related to the BBMP. The idea is to dispose of 372 urgent appeals in a phased manner across zones, and if this is a success, we will think of holding more such adalats,” said L. Krishnamurthy, State Information Commissioner.
In the schedule which has been worked out by the Commission, the highest number of appeals 109 will be heard at the office of the Joint Commissioner, BBMP head office, on December 7. “We are currently in the process of sifting through the 30,000 pending appeals and categorising those from the city under three heads BBMP, BDA and KIADB. Once we get these appeals sorted, we will have more such adalats in the future,” Mr. Krishnamurthy said.

An adalat to clear RTI backlog

The Hindu: Bengaluru: Friday, November 27, 2015.
What was supposed to be a powerful tool to give information to the public about government departments has become another bureaucratic headache for citizens.
Ten years after the RTI Act was introduced, the State is staring at a backlog of close to 30,000 cases. The Karnataka Information Commission is considering first-of-its-kind RTI adalats to clear the backlog. The 30,000 cases are just the ones that came before the commission after having been through the two-step appeal process where they were heard by the information officer and an appellate authority.
If the larger picture is considered, there are a lot more cases in limbo across several government departments, experts say. “Generally, it takes anywhere between 8 and 9 months for an RTI request to reach the commission. We want to clear all urgent BBMP related RTI requests in next month’s adalat,” said State Information Commissioner (RTI) L. Krishnamurthy.

Maharashtra ministers under RTI: Commission issues notice for non-compliance

DNA: Mumbai: Friday, November 27, 2015.
The state information commission has issued a notice to the chief secretary on non-compliance of its order bringing ministers under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. dna in its September 25 issue reported the order which stated that it had to be complied by October 31. The notice for conducting inquiry on non-compliance was issued on November 23 and a hearing is scheduled for November 30. State chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya and the additional chief secretary of General Administration Department have been called to question non-compliance.
Except the chief minister's office, office of other ministers stopped taking applications slowly, and applications had to be marked to their departments. When the order was passed by state chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, it stated: "Undoubtedly, offices of ministers and ministers of state have been set up by government and these officers perform various types of duties such as receiving files from various department, receiving applications from public, dealing with the applications. complaints received from the public and correspondence with various authorities/offices etc."
It adds: "Sizeable staff is also sanctioned by government to the officers of ministers to perform various functions, some of which are mentioned above.... The said offices, therefore, fall under the purview of the section 2 (h) (d) of the RTI Act, 2005." Section 2 (h) (d) pertains to the definition of a public authority. The order was passed after an application filed by Fort resident and journalist, Govind Tupe. Tupe in his application had sought information from from ministers' office over the recommendation letters they write after some people appointed on the recommendation letters were arrested. The application was taken but never replied to. "Ministers give big speeches and make tall claims. They are all about bravado. Having them under RTI will help one know whether they even act after making big speeches," said Tupe.
He added, "I feel that that government is knowingly delaying it. When I was following up the issue, law and judiciary department has opined that it be done as soon as possible. Still I do not know why they are delaying it. It will only be a good things and in fact government should give wide publicity to the issue," said Tupe. While Kshatriya is on leave and PS Meena, additional chief secretary of GAD, did not response to calls from dna.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Don’t make public info on mediation proceedings: CIC

Times of India: New Delhi: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that information related to mediation proceedings in domestic disputes should not be made public. Observing that the mediation process cannot be used by parties as pre-litigation step to collect material, the commission said that such information can be used by a "cantankerous spouse'' to harass the other.
The decision was taken on an appeal filed by Shahdara resident J D Singh who sought information related to reconciliation procedures from the Delhi Disputes Resolution Society. "If RTI is allowed to be exercised in securing information about mediation, a cantankerous spouse will exploit mediation as a source to get information with which they can harass the other and use it in courts of law also,'' information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.
"Thus the public interest in disclosure of the information, if any, is not higher than that in protection of mediation proceedings as per Section 8(2). Comparatively there is a higher public interest in protecting the confidentiality and privacy of the proceedings of mediation and there is no public interest in disclosure,'' Acharyulu added.

5 use RTI for 'blackmailing' builders, booked Mohali: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
Police have booked five men from Kharar for allegedly procuring information about anomalies in building projects in Punjab using Right to Information Act and then using the details to blackmail builders.
The five accused - Kharar residents Deepak, Rahul, Rinku, Lal Chand and Jasbir Singh - have been booked on a complaint by Ludhiana-based builder Amrtipal Singh. The complainant has alleged that the accused would procure information about housing projects in the state using the Right to Information Act. As soon as they got information about anomalies in the projects, the accused would call builders and threaten them with holding press conferences and revealing everything if they did not pay the blackmail amount. The accused had already taken Rs 14 lakh each from two Kharar-based builders, it has been alleged.
Singh alleged that the accused were using WhatsApp to deliver the blackmail messages. The complainant said the text messages read: "Your project is yet to be approved by the government. If you don't pay us, we will defame your company and you will face huge loses."
As per police sources it was found that the accused had filed over 25 more RTI applications regarding building projects in the region. The purpose of filing these RTI applications was to blackmail the builders.
No police official could be contacted for comment. All accused have been charged with sections 384 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation), 511 (Attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other implementations) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC. All accused are absconding.

Panel calls UGC ‘post office’, slams it for defending varsity

Times of India: New Delhi: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the UGC for withholding information on a case of cheating against a deemed University, chided it for being a "post office" and "vehemently defending" the institution facing allegations of invalid medical degrees.
Issuing a showcause notice asking why the maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 was not imposed on their officials for withholding information sought by an RTI applicant, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu noted that the CPIO of the UGC was defending the University as if he was its "hired counsel". Acharyulu said it appears that the UGC office has simply acted as "post office" to transfer letters to the university.
Acharyulu said it is strange that CPIO of the regulatory authority was arguing on behalf of the deemed to be University instead of explaining measures taken by UGC against varsity as per guidelines and recommendations of Tandon committee.

Saraswati info: Notice to officials

Times of India: Chandigarh: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
Haryana State Information Commission has issued a notice to the state officials after an RTI activist alleged that the government was hiding information about the project on revival of mythical Saraswati river. RTI activist P P Kapoor had recently sought a copy of the report on the basis of which the state government sanctioned Rs 50 crore for the Saraswati project.
On April 21, the BJP government had started digging a 3km stretch near Mugalwali village in Yamunanagar as part of its great Saraswati hunt. It is said the river used to flow around 5,000 years ago, but disappeared because of earthquakes. The Haryana government however believes it is possible to revive the channel.
According to Kapoor, the government has failed to provide an authentic report - on the basis of which the project was initiated - to him under RTI Act.

GHMC spends 5,000 to vaccinate one dog

The Hans India: Hyderabad: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
In response to an RTI, it was revealed that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) spent Rs 25 crore to vaccinate 44,100 dogs in the city.
“While a dose of vaccine costs Rs 40, spending Rs 5,000 on each dog is just too much,” said Sambi Reddy, Lok Satta GHMC General Secretary.
“In spite of vaccination drive taken up there are hundreds of stray dogs in Kukatpally and LB Nagar,” said Ramu of Lok Satta Party. 
There are many complaints from residents in Kukatpally and other areas of the city about dog menace and howling during night-time.
Sreelatha, a resident of LB Nagar said that it is impossible to sleep at nights as a pack of stray dogs howl for hours at night.
From 2009-15 the GHMC has spent Rs 39.93 crore for vaccination of dogs.

Only 2 CCTVs to keep an eye on Yeoor Hills: RTI

Times of India: Thane: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
Thane's Yeoor hill range is popular amongst morning walkers, cyclists and wild life enthusiasts. But what is surprising is that the entire range spread across 65 sq.kms is being supervised by just two closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs).
An RTI filed by a youth, Mayuresh Hendre, revealed that there are just two CCTVs installed at the entry gate of the Yeoor Hills. Hendre, a bird watcher and wildlife photographer had filed an RTI in July inquiring about the security and CCTVs at Yeoor. Hendre was shocked to read the reply that said that Yeoor has just two CCTVs installed near the gate. Hendre said, "We had conducted a cleanliness drive at Yeoor and found many empty liquor bottles which can harm the animals. That's when it struck me about the forest security and I filed an RTI." He further said, "I was surprised that the security of such a big forest depends on two CCTV cameras."
A representative of Yeoor Environmental Society(Yeoor Environmental Society is a group environmentalists, wildlife photographers, many NGOs who work towards the conversation of the Yeoor forest), Aditya Salekar said, "The second gate, located near Patonapada, which leads to the core area is unmanned, people can easily sneak in from there. There is no CCTV installed at that gate which surely leads to illegal activities.
The forest department should install more CCTVs for proper surveillance. Several incidents like vehicle accidents, youths drinking and having durgs, firings, etc. have all gone unnoticed, as there are no cameras to nab the culprits.
Sanjay Waghmode, range forest officer said, "We have requested the authorities to install more cameras inside the forest. There are four forest officers who regularly check the forest, but more cameras are needed."
"The authorities need to install at least 10-12 CCTV cameras at strategic locations inside Yeoor to keep vigil," added Salekar.

In a first, RTI adalats, starting with BBMP

Bangalore Mirror: Bangalore: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
Information sought through Right To Information (RTI) will now reach applicants faster and efficiently. For the first time in the state, the Karnataka State Information Commission (KSIC) is holding an RTI Adalat - on the lines of the Lok Adalat dispute redressal forum - which is scheduled to begin on December 3 till December 15.
It will be held at all the zonal offices of BBMP, the civic agency that the RTI Adalat has planned to target first as it has the highest number of pending appeals. It will take up grievances pertaining to delay and denial of information by BBMP and will begin with cases pending with the court hall number 4 of KSIC.
The commission has asked the BBMP to keep all original records and files pertaining to citizens' appeals updated and ready at the respective BBMP zonal offices zones on the day of the hearing.
The officials will be made to provide the information on the spot. If the applicants are satisfied, the case would be closed there and then; if not, a further hearing will be held, the KSIC top brass maintained. Erring officials will be penalized on the spot.

Mumbai University party in over 800 court cases, reveals RTI

DNA: Mumbai: Thursday, 26 November 2015.
Over 800 court cases have been going on in courts since 2010, wherein the University of Mumbai (MU) is a party. The varsity has already spent crores to fight them, revealed a reply to the Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Pune-based Vihar Durve.
The information was provided in October on the orders passed by MU's first appellate authority the public information officer of legal cell. It was revealed that there are 894 cases in court, where MU is a party, and as much as Rs1.98 crore has been spent on legal expenses for advocates, counsels, consultants and so on from 2010-15.
The reply to the RTI application also revealed that maximum MU-related cases of Mumbai University are in Bombay High Court, then in tribunal court, Supreme Court, industrial, loknyalaya court, and the least in the consumer court.
Durve said, "MU comes under the public domain and there should be some transparency. The varsity should appoint advocates in a transparent and accountable manner. "
MU registrar Dr MA Khan said, "Many city colleges are affiliated to MU and a number of teachers work in these colleges. If a teacher has any issue with the college management, then they make MU a party to the case as well. In some cases, we need experts to defend our case. The MU vice-chancellor has the power to spend on legal expenses and so accordingly the advocates are appointed for court matters. If the case is strong, we need competent advocates to fight and so the fees is also higher."