Friday, October 31, 2014

एसीबी को आरटीआई से बाहर करने का फैसला वापस

नवभारत टाइम्स: मुंबई: Friday, 31 October 2014.
महाराष्ट्र के राज्यपाल सी एच विद्यासागर राव ने गुरुवार को पिछली सरकार के उस फैसले को वापस ले लिया है , जिसमें ऐंटि करप्शन ब्यूरो यानी एसीबी को आरटीआई से बाहर करने का आदेश दिया गया था। खास बात यह है कि राज्यपाल का आदेश वापसी का यह फैसला नई सरकार के शपथग्रहण समारोह के ठीक एक दिन पहले लिया गया है। आरटीआई कार्यकर्ताओं और कानून विशेषज्ञों ने इस फैसले का स्वागत किया है। एनबीटी से 23 अक्टूबर को सबसे पहले यह खबर प्रकाशित की थी।
पिछली सरकार ने चुनाव के ठीक पहले एसीबी को आरटीआई से बाहर कर दिया था। इस संबंध में 6 सितंबर को नोटिफेशन निकाला गया था, जबकि 12 सितंबर को महाराष्ट्र में आचार संहिता लगाई गई थी। माना गया था कि पिछली सरकार का यह फैसला कई उन राजनेताओं की साख बचाने के मकसद से किया गया था, जिनके खिलाफ एसीबी ने अपनी जांच शुरू कर दी थी।
आरटीआई कार्यकर्ता अनिल गलगली ने राज्यपाल के गुरुवार के फैसले का स्वागत किया है। नामी ऐडवोकेट वाई पी सिंह ने भी राज्यपाल के इस फैसले को सही ठहराया है। सिंह ने कहा कि यह अपने में अजीब बात थी कि जब पुलिस आरटीआई के दायरे में है, तो पुलिस से ही जुड़ी एसीबी को आरटीआई के दायरे से कैसे बाहर किया जा सकता है। जब एनबीटी ने सवाल किया कि नई सरकार के शपथग्रहण समारोह से ठीक पहले पिछली सरकार के फैसले को राज्यपाल द्वारा बदलने का क्या मतलब निकाला जाए, तो वाई पी सिंह ने कहा कि चूंकि महाराष्ट्र में राज्यपाल का ही इन दिनों शासन है, तो राज्यपाल को यह पॉवर है कि वह किसी भी गलत फैसले को बदल दे। सिंह कहते हैं कि चूंकि किसी ने पिछली सरकार के इस फैसले को बॉम्बे हाईकोर्ट में भी चुनौती दी थी, इसलिए भी संभव है कि राज्यपाल ने नई सरकार के इंतजार से पहले यह फैसला कर लिया।

'Erroneous' Right to Info Reply Exposes Unlaid Roads under Avadi Municipality

The New Indian Express: Chennai: Friday, 31 October 2014.
CHENNAI: After dilly dallying in providing information under the RTI Act, Avadi municipality has exposed itself to trouble by giving erroneous details on the status of roads laid in the locality.
Mohammed Iliyaas of Satta Panchayat Iyakkam had sought details of works completed in Avadi municipality. However, information was denied and the municipality provided details about work carried out in only a single ward (Ward number 27).  In the reply, it was mentioned that concrete roads were laid in Alagirisamy Street, Kalaignar Street, Mayor Stalin Street, Velayutham Street, and KVK Samy Street at a cost of Rs 14 lakh, Rs 4 lakh, Rs 4.7 lakh, and Rs 20 lakh respectively.
When Iliyas along with Satta Panchayat Iyakkam president Siva Ilango visited the spot, they were shocked to find that no road had been laid in the four streets as mentioned.
“The roads are laid only on paper, not on the streets,” said Iliyas while highlighting the condition of roads in the area.
“We demand that legal action be taken against officials who have approved payment for these unlaid roads. We are exposing this during the Vigilance Awareness Week,” he pointed out.
Speaking to Express, Avadi Municipal Commissioner Sivasubramanian denied allegations of any irregularities. However, he accepted that roads were not laid in those four streets and attributed the mistake in its reply to a ‘clerical error’.
“This is a packaged work. We did take up works on nearby streets. Work on the four streets would be completed after the monsoon. The work was not taken up since the work on underground sewage network as well as water connections are not completed,” Sivasubramanian said.
To avoid such lapses, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam has proposed to make available details of all civic works online. He suggested that all roads in Corporation or Municipalities be allotted a unique number along with all connected details such as the date when it was laid, the contract amount, the contractor’s name, the minimum guarantee period.
If an SMS is sent mentioning the road number, all relevant details should be given to the sender immediately. By having such a system, citizens would be able to have quick access to data regarding their local roads. Such a system would enable citizens fight corruption, he added.

Cong man fires most questions in House

Times of India: Bangalore: Friday, 31 October 2014.
It's a Congressman who has fired the maximum number of questions at the state government in the legislative assembly. And four MLAs from the city haven't bothered to ask a single question.
In one year (from July 2013 to July 2014), during which five assembly sessions have been held, city legislators have asked 1,427 questions. The data, obtained through the RTI Act, was released by Daksh, an NGO.
Shanthinagar MLA NA Haris has posed the maximum number of questions, 266. JD(S) MLA from Mahalakshmi Layout K Gopalaiah is second with 260, followed by Ravi Subramanya LA (BJP, Basavanagudi - 115); ST Somashekar (Congress, Yeshwanthpur - 93); R Ashoka (BJP, Padmanabhanagar - 87); BN Vijay Kumar (BJP, Jayanagar - 84).
Four MLAs -- Raghu (BJP, CV Raman Nagar); Priya Krishna (Congress, Govindarajnagar); RV Devaraj (Congress, Chamarajpet); BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan (JDS, Chamarajpet) -- haven't asked a single question. Two other Congressmen -- M Krishnappa (Vijayanagar) and Shivanna B (Anekal) asked just four questions.
Being in the opposition, BJP MLAs have asked the maximum questions. Out of 1,427 questions, BJP legislators have raised 641 (44.91%), followed by Congress 478 (33.49%), and JD(S) MLAs have sought answers for 308 (21.58%) questions.
The city has 28 MLAs - 13 from Congress, 12 from BJP and three from JD(S). Of the 13 Congressmen, five are ministers and therefore don't ask questions. This means eight MLAs of the party asked the 467 questions. Before becoming a minister, R Roshan Baig asked 11 questions.
Most questions are unstarred (members are given written answers). The starred questions (oral answers) are discussed in the assembly during Question Hour. The assembly starts its proceedings with the Question Hour.
The maximum questions have been directed at the urban development department which handles the city's administration. Chief minister Siddaramaiah is the Bangalore City development minister.

Personal info can’t be shared even if spouse demands it: CIC

Free Press Journal: New Delhi: Friday, 31 October 2014.
Details about finances of a woman cannot be given by a public authority even to her husband under the Right to Information Act as it is personal information, the Central Information Commission has said.
According to Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, when couples are entangled in legal disputes such as marital claims or cruelty charges, the privacy of individual spouse assumes importance in the context of demand for information. He said a citizen, even if a spouse, has no right to information about deductions and expenditure from salary, as that would amount to personal information unless it is in larger public interest.
The Commission has, however, clarified that such restriction does not apply on the salary of the wife as such information is mandated to be disclosed under the provisions of the transparency law. Acharyulu said that while a husband has a right to know the amount of salary of wife (public servant), information about her expenditure and loan deductions cannot be given under RTI. “As far as RTI Act is concerned there is no difference between the spouse and citizen. Right to privacy is an individual right and within the couple, each can claim or give up that right,” he said.
The case related to a couple facing marital dispute in which the husband Dheeraj Kapoor filed an RTI application seeking to know the salary details, deductions, expenditure and personal address of his wife at different times which was denied by Directorate of Health Services.

FIR against 2 former GPOs for ‘ignoring’ RTI plea

Times of India: Bareilly: Friday, 31 October 2014.
Two gram panchayat officers, who evaded the powerful RTI Act for nine years, are finally being brought to book. However, the twist is that one of them has passed away while the other has retired.
The district panchayat raj officer (DPRO) has lodged an FIR against two former gram panchayat officers (GPO), Sudhir Sharma and Ashok Singh, for not providing information sought by a local resident under the RTI Act in 2005.
Sudhir Sharma completed his term in 2004, while Ashok Singh passed away in 2006 after completing his term in 2005.
According to reports, Tauseef, a local from Ghuanssi village under Aonla police station, had filed an RTI in 2005, seeking income and expenditure details of the gram sabha after his house was demolished in 2001. Tauseef suspected that the then gram pradhan, Wali Ahmed, was behind the move. Ahmed had reportedly lodged a complaint against Tauseef with the SDM, who had ordered the demolition.
Now, nine years later, the department has still not furnished the records as desired by the applicant. Frustrated after pursuing the matter for so long, Tauseef appealed to the district magistrate who ordered the present gram pradhan officer (GPO), Rajeev Saxena, to get the required information.
Saxena, however, denied having any such record stating that then GPO Sudhir Sharma (30 January 2001 to 18 September 2004) and Ashok Singh (18 September 2004 to 15 April 2005) did not hand over the records of specific period when he took charge.
The DPRO, T C Pandey, said, "It is a serious offence to not hand over the complete records to a new appointee. The record desired by the applicant is missing and the fact came to light after the present GPO denied the presence of the specific records as they were not handed over to him." He added that they are trying to get their hands on the details desired by the applicant.
Inspector, Aonla police station, Shakti Singh said, "A case had been registered against two people Sudhir Sharma and Ashok Singh after we received a written complaint from the officials concerned under section 409 of the IPC. Things, however, will have to be verified by the department before lodging an FIR against a dead man."

Start payment facility for RTI applicants at central agency level, BMC told

DNA: Mumbai: Friday, 31 October 2014.
While paying fees for procuring information under Right to Information Act, one may not have to run to citizen facilitation centres (CFCs) when they have sought the same from central agencies.
At present, citizens have to approach the CFCs to pay for the information they have sought from central agencies. Most of the times, they have to be paid at a particular time at centers far from where the information has to be collected. Citizens have to face this harrowing experience despite central agencies having cash counters.
But now, this may not be the case. The state information commission has directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal commissioner to make the same facilities available at the central agency offices too. Following a complaint filed by applicant Mahabir Urs, the directive was given on October 20 by state chief information commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad.
"I haven't yet seen the order. We will make the necessary arrangements once we receive it," said Sitaram Kunte, municipal commissioner.

Governor brings ACB back under RTI Act on last day of President’s rule

Times of India: Mumbai: Friday, 31 October 2014.
Every bit of information related to inquiries and investigations made by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), even in high-profile cases involving top officials and political leaders, will remain in public domain.
Governor C Vidyasagar Rao directed the government to withdraw the notification exempting the ACB from provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act on Thursday, the last day of President's rule in the state. An official attached to the Raj Bhavan said a notification withdrawing President's rule will be issued on Friday, coinciding with Devendra Fadnavis taking over as the state's first BJP chief minister. The decision to exclude the ACB from the RTI Act was taken by the Congress-NCP government led by Prithviraj Chavan on September 6, 2014.
"The governor has taken the decision to withdraw the notification after considering representations from various RTI activists and after taking cognizance of newspaper reports which reflected the view that the notification was in violation of the RTI Act," said a press release issued by the Raj Bhavan. Interestingly, organisations such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), CBI, and CID do not come under the purview of RTI. Several RTI activists had written to the governor, calling the order illegal. After Thursday's order, Rao received gushing praise. "My salute to the governor! I think he and his advisors have shown extraordinary wisdom," said former central information commissioner and RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi.
Activists Jitendra Ghadge, Ketan Tirodkar and Chetan Kothari were also happy with the order. Activist Anil Galgali pointed out that the earlier government's order was perhaps intended to keep under wraps information on the many corruption cases filed against Congress and NCP leaders.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

जो सूचना सहज मिलनी चाहिए, वह मांगने पर भी नहीं मिली

Rajasthan Patrika: Jaipur: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
सूचना का अधिकार कानून की धारा 4 के तहत करीब डेढ़ दर्जन सूचनाएं स्वत: ही सार्वजनिक करने का प्रावधान है, लेकिन कानून लागू होने के 9 साल बाद भी जिला कलक्ट्रेट जैसे अनेक कार्यालयों में ये सूचनाएं लोगों को सूचना की अर्जी लगाने पर भी नहीं मिल रही हैं।
प्रशासनिक सुधार विभाग भी ऎसे लोक सूचना अधिकारियों से परेशान है। पिछले तीन साल में तीन-चार बार इसके लिए मुख्य सचिव और सरकार के विभिन्न स्तर से हिदायत दी जा चुकी है। इसके बावजूद आधा दर्जन जिला कलक्ट्रेट कार्यालयों में आरटीआई कानून की धारा 4 के तहत तय सूचनाएं सार्वजनिक नहीं हो पाई हैं।
अपील का प्रावधान है, कर लो अपील बीकानेर निवासी मनोज के. कामरा ने सितम्बर 2014 में सूचना का अधिकार कानून के तहत बीकानेर कलक्ट्रेट में बाकायदा आवेदन करके कानून की धारा 4 (1)(बी) के तहत तय सूचना सार्वजनिक नहीं होने के लिए जिम्मेदार अधिकारी तथा इनके सार्वजनिक होने में लगने वाले समय की जानकारी मांगी। इस पर लोक सूचना अधिकारी ने हाल ही जवाब दिया है कि यह सूचना प्रश्नात्मक है, इसलिए नहीं दी जा सकती और इन्हें एकत्र भी नहीं किया जा सकता।
आरटीआई कानून की धारा 4 (1)(बी) के तहत तय सूचनाएं सार्वजनिक करना लोक सूचना अधिकारी की बाध्यता है, इसके बावजूद सूचना सार्वजनिक करना तो दूर इसके सार्वजनिक करने की समय सीमा भी बताने से इनकार कर दिया गया है।
मनोज के. कामरा, आवेदक और सूचना का अधिकार कार्यकर्ता सूचना के आवेदन का जवाब दे दिया है, कानून के तहत जहां अपील करनी है, की जा सकती है।राजेश चौहान, लोक सूचना अधिकारी और बीकानेर अतिरिक्त जिला कलक्टर (प्रशासन) आरटीआई कानून की धारा 4 (1)(बी) के तहत निर्धारित सूचनाएं सार्वजनिक कर दी गई हैं, फिर भी लोक सूचना अधिकारी ने इस तरह जवाब दिया है तो मामला दिखवा लिया जाएगा।
आरती डोगरा, कलक्टर, बीकानेर आरटीआई कानून की धारा 4 (1)(बी) के तहत निर्घारित सूचनाएं सार्वजनिक करने के सभी कार्यालयों को स्पष्ट दिशा-निर्देश दे रखे हैं। इसकी पालना होनी ही चाहिए। विकास एस. भाले, संयुक्त सचिव (आरटीआई), प्रशासनिक सुधार विभाग.

19 per cent of IIT Madras freshers fail in English test : RTI

Deccan Chronicle: Chennai: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
About 19 per cent of first year students at IIT Madras (IIT-M) failed in the English proficiency test conducted this year. Of the 1,310 first year B.Tech, B.Tech (dual), M.Tech and M.Sc students, 239 failed to clear the test.  
In a reply to an RTI application filed by this correspondent, IIT-M’s registrar and public information officer V.G. Bhooma said that the institute administered the test on August 20 to 1,310 students, of which 1,071 managed to score over 35 per cent marks to pass the test.
All IITs conduct English proficiency test to identify students who face difficulty in English language skills and help them with an additional course in it in the first semester. The exam, which mostly has objective-type questions and an essay, tests the student’s skill in grammar and vocabulary.
Prof. V.G. Idichandy, former deputy director and professor emeritus at IIT-M’s ocean engineering department, said that students tend to focus more on subjects like mathematics, physics and chemistry as the joint entrance exam (advanced) had questions from these subjects. He lamented that they did not concentrate much on languages at the school level. “Coaching centres too don’t teach languages; so, the IITs conduct the test and help students develop their English language skills,” he said.
A B.Tech student at IIT-M said that it was only maths, physics and chemistry that mattered for admission, not only in the IITs, but in other universities too. “Schools too give less priority to languages. When I was in school most of the language classes were taken either by a science or maths teacher and we were asked to memorise the lessons,” he said.
According to R. Rajan, student mentor at FIITJEE, students from top schools did not face a problem in languages on which focus was given, but coaching centres taught only maths, physics and chemistry.
However, to help students cope with the English language, IIT-M conducts a 40-hour course that focuses on grammar and writing to enhance students’ competence in communication.
“Actual remediation is achieved through hands-on practice in core grammar areas, using situational communicative activities, like role plays and simulations. Multimedia is used extensively to invigorate the sessions and motivate learners,” Mr Bhooma said.

Swindlers create fake accounts to loot `30 lakh under MNREGA

Hindustan Times: Dehradun: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
Unidentified miscreants created fake accounts to swindle over Rs. 30 lakh under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme in Uttarakhand, an RTI application has revealed. The fraud took place between 2008-09 and 2010-11 at Kotra Santur village in Dehradun district, around 10 km from the capital.
The MNREGA scheme, the previous UPA government’s flagship programme, was aimed at ensuring a minimum of 100 days’ paid employment for the rural unemployed.
Sahjaz Ali, a local villager who had sought information under the RTI Act, said that the scam could be worth over Rs. two crore if funds for purchase and supply of building materials is taken into account.
“This figure is for only two years and for just one village. Imagine the quantum of money involved till 2014,” Ali added.
Documents obtained under the RTI said the scamsters used names of school students and even the wife of a serving army man to create the fake accounts.
Almost 150 of the total 170 names included in the muster roll never worked in the fields but wages were credited to their savings accounts at the local post office.
“I was shocked to learn that my name was included in MNREGA muster roll. I am not even aware that my account was created under the scheme in the local post office. I never worked under the scheme and did not receive any wage till date,” said Mayank Joshi, then a student and now a driver working with a local transporter.
Deepak Pal, who was a minor during this scam period, was also included in the roll though school records showed that he was attending classes at the same time.
The then village head Shivraj Pal, who was responsible for preparing muster roll for MNREGA works, said that his opponents in the village are trying to frame him for personal reasons.
“I did nothing wrong happened with regard to muster roll. I am being framed by my opponents,” Pal added.
Dehradun district panchayati raj development officer MM Khan said that the matter was investigated by him and report was presented to the district magistrate of Dehradun nearly three months ago.
“After visiting the spot and speaking to the villagers I submitted a report to the DM. I cannot say anything beyond this. I had also recommended muster roll audit by the district audit examination officer in the report,” Khan said.

Pondicherry Univ staff, students threaten strike against V-C

Indian Express: Pondicherry: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
Two days after a major protest started at Pondicherry Central University against the transfer of the registrar by the vice-chancellor (V-C), a joint action council comprising over 1,000 students, professors and non-teaching staff threatened to go on an indefinite strike from November 11. The council, which is demanding the removal of V-C Chandra Krishnamurthy, also plans to boycott the semester exams, scheduled to begin from the third week of November.
“It is high time for the Human Resource Development Ministry to remove this V-C, whose eligibility has been proved wrong. If the ministry continues to ignore the plight of the academic system and the violations in recruitment, we will be forced to go ahead with the strike,” said Dastagiri Reddy, a senior faculty and secretary of the Pondicherry University Teachers Association.
Calling it a political appointment, Reddy alleged that former HRD minister Pallam Raju overruled the Visitor, the President of India, in the selection of Krishnamurthy by nominating her name instead of submitting a list of three candidates.
“She has never served as a professor. The UGC insists on 10 years’ experience as a professor and publications in reputed journals for V-C candidates,” he said. The Pondicherry University Act, 1985 says that the V-C shall be appointed by the Visitor from a panel of not less than three persons.
But an internal report submitted before HRD secretary Ashok Thakur last month, which has been accessed by The Indian Express, shows that Juglal Singh, an under secretary in the ministry, allegedly flouted rules in the V-C selection in November 2012. During the selection, he noted in the file that the HRD minister may consider and recommend suitable name to the President for the appointment of the university’s V-C. Subsequently, Raju wrote on the file on December 10, 2012 that “Prof (Mrs.) Chandra Krishnamurthy may be appointed as the V-C”.
A petition sent by the academics also rued that Krishnamurthy did not meet the UGC criteria to become V-C. “She ordered subordinates to keep files about her profile confidential and to deny information regarding RTI queries. Whoever opposed such moves was either transferred or victimised,” claimed a senior university official.
When contacted, registrar Raajiv Yaduvanshi, whose repatriation order by the V-C had sparked the protests, said that Krishnamurthy had used her official position to get her files marked as “Protected Personal Information” by the Public Information Officer to deny RTI queries. “The misuse of power had been reported to the HRD Ministry,” he said.
M Ramadass, former pro-V-C and a retired professor who moved Madras High Court challenging the V-C’s appointment, said the HRD Ministry is yet to address the issue.

‘Vacationing’ inspectors cripple policing

Times of India: Nagpur: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
A Right to information (RTI) query exposed a surprising trend among the officials of inspector ranks opting for different types of leaves for extended periods on a frequent basis. At present, senior inspectors of eight police stations, out of 23, are on leave along with some from crime branch and other units despite the fact that city's crime graph is rising.
The inspectors, who mostly occupy position of unit in-charges, are responsible for implementing policing strategies and also work as supervisor of the grassroots level cops. Leave applications of several others are learnt to be waiting to be sanctioned.
As per the RTI query, crime branch's PI MD Nalawade has already availed himself of 80 days leave since November last year. Nalawade is again on leave now along with hordes of others from crime branch despite frequent incidents of burglaries, thefts and robberies. Crime branch PI Naresh Pawar too went on 24 days leave in March immediately after availing of nine days respite for joining after transfer to city.
The RTI query also showed that PI Rajendra Mane of Dhantoli police station has also availed himself of 71 days of leave between December in 2013 and March this year.
PI DP Sonawane of police control room too has already taken leave of 84 days between February and June this year. Another PI from control room RS Pawar too has already taken 39 days leave between July and September this year. Woman PI from traffic department Subhada Sankhe too has already availed of 46 days leave between June and July this year.
A section of senior cops, admitting their helplessness to deal with the issue, claimed that inspectors were allowed to be on leave on humanitarian grounds as a majority of them are outsiders working in the city. City police chief KK Pathak too have opted for a break of couple of days before preparation for forthcoming state assembly session begins on full swing.
Additional CP Shrikant Tarwade is yet to return after he proceeded on leave on health ground some months ago. DCP, headquarters, SM Waghmare too is on leave after suffering a cardiac problem. Couple of officials of assistant commissioner of police rank too are learnt to be on leave.
Joint CP Anup Kumar Singh said his administration opted to view the leave applications on lenient grounds due to Diwali. "We considered leave applications with leniency as a prolonged period of state assembly session is ahead with its elaborate preparation and round the clock toil," said Singh. "We even insisted CP took a break," he said.
Former CP PKB Chakravorty said police administration obviously faced a harrowing time adjusting the shortage of manpower with so many vacancies already plaguing the system. "Implementing Nagpur pact and deploying local officials here would have not allowed such a situation to arise in the first place," said Chakravorty.

आरटीआई: 'नहीं मिल रही फाइल" कहा तो गिरेगी गाज

Nai Dunia: Bhopal: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
सूचना का अधिकार में दस्तावेज की मांग करने वालों को लोक सूचना अधिकारी 'नहीं मिल रही फाइल" कहकर नहीं टरका सकते। ऐसे में लोक सूचना अधिकारी सहित फाइल रखने वालों पर भी गाज गिरेगी। ऐसे मामलों पर गंभीर कार्रवाई करते हुए राज्य सूचना आयोग ने लोक सूचना अधिकारी पर 25 हजार का जुर्माना लगाया है। मामला आरटीआई आवेदन सात माह तक दबाकर रखने का था।
आयोग ने तय किया है कि टरकाने के ऐसे बहानों पर सूचना अधिकारी के साथ जानकारी नहीं देने वालों के खिलाफ भी सख्त कार्रवाई होगी। मामला बिरसा जनपद पंचायत, बालाघाट का है, जहां तत्कालीन कार्यपालन अधिकारी एके त्रिपाठी ने आवेदक को सात माह तक सूचना से वंचित रखा। इस मामले की जांच जिला पंचायत के मुख्य कार्यपालन अधिकारी ने की थी। जांच हुई तो पता चला कि आरोपी अधिकारी ने शिकायतकर्ता से शुल्क जमा करने की मांग कर डाली थी जबकि नियमानुसार यदि समयसीमा में जानकारी मुहैया नहीं कराई जाती है तो अपील करने वाले को बिना शुल्क जानकारी देनी होती है।
प्रकरण में लोक सूचना अधिकारी ने 1 लाख 14 हजार 100 रुपए जमा करने का पत्र लिखा था। लोक सूचना अधिकारी ने जवाब में बताया कि उन्हें संबंधित शाखा से जानकारी ही नहीं मिली, इसकी वजह से सूचना देने में देरी हुई। बाद में पंचायत एवं समाज शिक्षा संगठक को सूचना मुहैया करा दी गई थीं। राज्य सूचना आयोग ने आरोपी अधिकारी के इस जवाब को खारिज कर दिया।
राज्य सूचना आयुक्त हीरालाल त्रिवेदी ने प्रकरण की सुनवाई करते हुए अधिकारी को कानून की मंशा के खिलाफ मनमाने ढंग से काम करने का दोषी पाते हुए 25 हजार रुपए का जुर्माना लगा है। साथ ही जिला पंचायत के मुख्य कार्यपालन अधिकारी को निर्देश दिए हैं कि वे त्रिपाठी के वेतन से तीन किस्तों में राशि काटकर आयोग के कार्यालय में जमा कराएं। क्या था मामला आवेदक अब्दुल नईम ने सितंबर 2009 में लोक सूचना अधिकारी मुख्य कार्यपालन अधिकारी बिरसा जनपद पंचायत के यहां पांच बिन्दुओं पर जानकारी चाही थी। आवेदन पर सात माह बाद कार्रवाई शुरू की गई। जबकि, नियम आवेदन प्राप्त होने के 30 दिन के भीतर कार्रवाई करने का है।

Does new Right to Information circular endanger activists?

Economic Times: Mumbai: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
A recent department of personnel and training (DoPT) memorandum, directing all ministries and government departments to upload applications received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and replies given on their websites, has opened a Pandora's box.
Owing to lack of clarity in this circular, several RTIactivists and legal experts fear the process may result in disclosure of applicants' names and endanger them. Some others, though, say such a disclosure is in the interest of transparency.
Uploading RTI applications and replies (including appeals) is expected to bring in transparency. Further, it will avoid queries on information already available in public domain. However, the DoPT memorandum dated October 21 makes no specific mention of whether information seekers' personal details will be revealed while uploading their queries, thus sparking off fears.
If names are revealed, there are fears that RTI activists could face attacks. Till date, around 42 RTI activists have been murdered and over 300 assaulted, says Venkatesh Nayak, RTI activist and programme coordinator at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
"India doesn't have overarching privacy laws like the UK's Data Protection Act," says Nayak. In the UK, replies to queries given to applicants under the Freedom of Information Act (akin to our RTI Act) are uploaded with applicants' names blanked out. However, RTI applicants' identity could possibly be protected by an earlier DoPT memorandum issued on January 6, based on a Calcutta high court order.
This order held that applicants need not disclose any personal details while filing RTI queries, other than their post office (PO) box numbers. Government bodies could insist on personal details, only if they are faced any difficulty with the PO box number. In this scenario, though, the court stated: "It would be the solemn duty of the authorities to hide such information, particularly from their websites so that people at large would not know of the applicant's personal details."
However, a high court order, unlike that of the Supreme Court is not the law of the land. "DoPT's memorandum based on the Calcutta high court order and its recent memorandum are only binding on the DoPT. It would only have 'persuasive powers' on other government departments and ministries. Thus, a ministry can choose to upload RTI queries with or without applicants' names or choose not to upload any RTI query, because DoPT's OMs strictly speaking are only guidelines and not law," says Nayak.
TOI spoke with a few officials from various ministries who agree that a clarification regarding disclosure of the applicant's name would be helpful.
"If India wants to protect RTI activists' identity, it must amend the RTI Act or pass a government-notified rule on the matter," adds Nayak.
Opinion is divided on the need to do so. "Responses to RTI queries are public documents. Information should be denied only as per exemptions in the Act and no general exemption can be sought for the names of RTI applicants," says Shailesh Gandhi, RTI activist and former Central Information Commissioner.
"Everyone who takes on powerful interests, whether or not they use RTI, put themselves in danger. Why should RTI activists have separate protection? We are trying to create better systems for all and not create a new class of VIPs," says Gandhi.
"If very sensitive information is asked for we are aware of the fact that it is usually not provided by the PIO and during the process of appeals the applicant's name is leaked to the affected party. Unfortunately, this will continue irrespective of whether peoples' names are on government websites. A very few (probably less than 1% to 2%) do use RTI to harass officers or get a favour. Displaying the RTIs would deter them," he says.

Maharashtra gets, disposes of most RTI queries

Times of India: Mumbai: Thursday, 30 October 2014.
Maharashtra has recorded the maximum use of the sunshine Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The state has received the highest number of queries under RTI and its rate of disposal is also the highest. In 2012, 6.8 lakh queries were received, and in 2013 the number rose to 7.5 lakh.
Between 2012 and November 2013, 73,968 RTI complaints and appeals were received across the state. During the period, 61,442 cases were disposed of. State information commissioners have also imposed a penalty in 844 cases for not providing information in time. The penalty imposed collectively amounts to Rs 94.2 lakh. In 106 cases, the commissioners also ordered compensation to be paid, which collectively amounted to Rs 4 lakh.
The pat on the back comes from the RTI Assessment and Advocacy Group and Samya-Centre for Equity Studies that released their report 'People's Monitoring of the RTI Regime in India 2011-13' on October 12. According to the report on the state RTI website, total pending cases as on September 2014 stood at 29, 556.
State chief information commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad has a record of clearing more than 750 appeals per month. Earlier, the central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had a record of clearing 500 appeals in a month. Gaikwad said with eight offices for appeals, pending cases were quite low. "Recently, I also helped clear a large number of appeals in Pune. The problem area is Amravati division where the chief information commissioner has been in coma since 10 months. I have written to the governor asking him to appoint a new commissioner," he said.
Gandhi said the state had a far better track record than most other states and also the Centre. "Two recent resolutions on taking Anti-Corruption Bureau out of RTI Act's purview and allowing only those queries that are in public interest are bad. Another worrying sign is public information officers are not as forthcoming with information as they were seven years ago.''

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

HC directive to pay litigation cost

The Hindu: Kochi: Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque allowing a writ petition filed by Mannatil Kumar directed the Public Information Officer of the Ministry to provide the information sought by the petitioner.
The Kerala High Court has directed the information officer in Union Ministry of Human Resources Development, Central Information Commissioner, to pay a litigation cost of Rs. 3,000 to an information seeker for refusing to provide him information under the Right to Information Act.
Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque while allowing a writ petition filed by Mannatil Kumar of Kochi directed the Public Information Officer of the Ministry to provide the information sought by the petitioner.
The petitioner, a retired employee of Cochin Shipyard had sought information under the Right to Information Act regarding the outcome on his representation filed before the Minister of State for Human Resources. The representation highlighted denial of growth opportunities of the Cochin Shipyard. As the petitioner did not receive any response on his representation, he sought information from the public information officer. The officer then replied that the representation was “beyond the scope of responsibilities of Minister of State for Human Resources”. The Central Information Commission had also rejected his appeal against the department decision.
The court observed that the information already available on the records had to be supplied to the petitioner under the RTI Act. Seeking redressal of grievances and obtaining information were different. As far as the Right to Information Act was concerned, what was expected to be provided was regarding the information that existed in available files. The nature of information sought for was on the nature of disposal of his representation. It could be responded by either stating that this was considered/not considered/what transpired on the file. If nothing had been acted upon such representation, the information officer could say so. It seemed that authorities had not understood the very scope of seeking information under the Act.

RTI applications increasing every year in Mizoram: MIC

Mizo News: Aizawl: Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
“Since Right to Information (RTI) Act comes into effect in Mizoram, 6571 applications have been received so far and people using RTI Act also goes on increasing every year,” Chief Information Commissioner Lal Dingliana said last Saturday in reply to leading Sunday newspaper Zalen.
At least 33% increase has been seen till September in the current year (2013-2014) in comparison to 2012-2013, he said.
Chief Information Commissioner of Mizoram Information Commission Lal Dingliana said that the people of Mizoram are being awakened in the knowledge of their rights and dignity. In the meantime, many misunderstood RTI, he added, saying, “We wish the people know that it is not a means or tool for making accusation but a means for reformation and prevention of corruption.”
CIC also said that he want SAPIOs, SPIOs and DAAs not to take their present responsibility as an extra burden, adding, “We want that the people and the government to come close to each other”.
CIC expressed thankfulness over the changes having been made now regarding the appointment for DAA (Departmental Appellate Authority) that Principal Secretary and Secretary other than Under Secretary and Deputy Secretary are appointed now for the same. He also expressed gladness for the cooperation of the people and the government departments in his service as Chief Information Commissioner.
He said that Mizoram Information Commission will go on putting best effort in educating the people, in upgrading website and in other areas. He mentioned that Mizoram Information Commission has not kept pending all the complaints it received.
Right to Information Act was passed by Parliament on May 11, 2005, assented on June 15, 2005 by President and has been in use since October 12, 2005.MIC was set up on June 29, 2006, with Robert Hrangdawla, IAS (rtd.) as the first CIC.During October 5-12, 2012, RTI Week was observed for the first time in Mizoram.
RTI Week for this year is scheduled to be held this week. Chief Minister Lalthanhawla will inaugurate the same at 10:30 at Vanapa Hall.
As per the report of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative issued on July 2014, Gujarat, Karnataka and Mizoram Information Commission are the only Indian States to come out with annual report every year and upload the same in their websites.

Polo club not answerable under RTI: Army to CIC

Hindustan Times: Chandigarh: Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
Stonewalling details sought under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the army submitted before the chief information commission (CIC), New Delhi, that the Army Polo and Riding Club (APRC) is not a public authority. This is despite the fact that APRC, which is situated inside the premises of B squadron of 61 cavalry in Delhi Cantonment, is run by serving officers.
When Chandigarh-based advocate Major Guneet Chaudhary (retd) had sought information about the club, the CIC had asked the Army to clarify on two issues government assistance in running activities of the club and the present location of the club along with names of its president and vice-president.
However, the army held that the APRC is not a public authority and hence does fall within the ambit of RTI Act. “The club is a self-financed private body providing recreational facilities. It is not in receipt of any government/public funding. The club generates its funds from subscriptions which are utilised for promotion of equestrian activities such as maintenance of horses, salaries of grooms, office staff etc.,” said the reply.
But, it admitted that the club is located within B squadron 61 cavalry “with an aim to provide easy accessibility to defence officers and their dependants as a number of them stay within Delhi Cantonment”.
‘Ex-officio capacity’
The reply also said that the club president is quartermaster general, ministry of defence (MoD), and vice-president is additional director general, Integrated Headquarters, MoD. It mentioned that they held the posts only in ex-officio capacity and did not get any remuneration for their services.
“...there is no direct control of Integrated Headquarters, MoD (Army), or the central government in the functioning of the club,” says the reply.
Major Chaudhary sought information about the club’s resources in January 2013, saying that it was a public body and should therefore give out information asked under the RTI Act.
“It is being run from a defence institution. Serving officers are running it. Earlier, chief of army staff used to be the club president. It is definitely a public body and they must give information under the RTI Act.”
The matter is pending in appeal and the CIC is yet to give a verdict on it.

144 decisions in 29 days with few controversial ones, President’s rule in Maharashtra in top gear.

Indian Express: Mumbai: Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
In the 29 days since the President’s rule was imposed in Maharashtra, the state administration under Governor C H Vidyasagar Rao has issued 144 government resolutions.
Maharashtra came under President’s rule on September 28 after the erstwhile Congress-NCP government fell.
On October 16, for instance, the Social Justice and Special Assistance Department issued a resolution rescinding its earlier move to provide Rs 258 crore in additional government guarantees to five backward class corporations. Ahead of the Maharashtra polls, the Prithviraj Chavan-led cabinet had taken a decision to grant the additional guarantee to the five corporations Mahatma Phule Backward Class Corporation, Lokshahir Annabhu Sathe Development Corporation, Sant Rohidas Leather Industries and Charmakar Development Corporation, Vasantrao Naik VJNT Development Corporation and Maharashtra OBC Development Corporation to get loans from the National Backward Classes and Finance Development Corporation. The Chavan government had then claimed that the guarantee amount would help these corporations secure loans from the National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation and that the move would help at least 35,000 backward class beneficiaries.
Under the President’s rule, a letter directing all state departments to shed financial indiscipline has also been issued. After the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) pointed out that utilisation certificates for grants worth a staggering Rs 71,563 crore were pending, the state finance department issued a GR on October 9 making various head of departments (HODs) responsible for ensuring that all pending cases were settled in a month. The CAG had also indicated that detailed bills for Rs 1027 crore drawn from contingency funds since 1990 had not been submitted. The GR has directed all departments to complete this process before the year-end. It further instructs HODs to file criminal cases without delay in instances of financial misappropriation. A cut in development spend was imposed under the Chavan regime due to state’s tight fiscal position, which is still in place.
A controversial decision tweaking Right to Information (RTI) procedures was also taken with the state’s General Administration Department (GAD) issuing a GR on October 17 instructing public information officers in various departments “to desist from issuing information that did not constitute public interest”. The move has since invited the wrath of several RTI activists.
Matters of general administration received highest priority, with GAD along issuing 24 of the total 144 GRs. Issues concerning the Rural Development Department came second with 13 GRs, followed by the Agriculture, Dairy Development and Fisheries Department (12 GRs).
Orders regarding implementation of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and another one calling for a fresh survey for banning manual scavenging in Maharashtra were also issued. A senior official in the Governor’s office said all decisions had been taken in accordance with the Maharashtra Rules of Business (Amendment) Rules, 2014 that were notified after the President’s rule was imposed. The rules lay down guidelines on how and to whom files are to be routed. On October 4, Rao had appointed retired IAS officer Anil Baijal as his adviser. He is now Rao’s link with the state bureaucracy.

SJM upset over Modi govt nod to GM crop field trials : GM Panel had okayed field trials of 13 crops, including mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chickpea.

Business Standard: New Delhi: Wednesday, October 29, 2014.
The Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated organisation, said it was “pained” by the Centre’s flip-flop on field trials of two varieties of genetically-modified (GM) crops in a few states.
“If the government has given approval for field trials of GM brinjal and mustard, despite giving an assurance to us, we are really pained at this,” said Ashwani Mahajan, all-India co-convener of SJM. Mahajan said his organisation was studying whether the trials, which had been given a nod by the Centre were those approved by previous Union Environment Minister Veerappa Moily or the present incumbent, Prakash Javadekar.
However, a reply given by the Union environment ministry under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to Manvendra Singh Inaniya, a Greenpeace campaigner, on September 18 stated the government passed an order dated August 21, based on the approval given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) in its meeting held on August 18. This is when the NDA government was in power. The GEAC had approved field trials of 13 GM crops, including those of mustard, cotton, brinjal, rice and chickpea. GEAC is a statutory body for recommending approval to any release of genetically-engineered products into the environment.
“If the government is intending to give approval to field trials of GM crops, they should have done it openly and not conveyed it merely through an RTI reply…We stand by our words that we look at this move in anguish and disbelief,” said Mahajan.
Greenpeace India said many state governments, including those ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have denied permission for field trials.
“It now seems that the Union government is not bothered about the opposition of various state governments regarding GM field trials, including the recent opposition by the Gujarat government, which confirmed that it will not issue a no-objection certificate (a statutory requirement from the state government for conducting open air trials) for any field trial of GM food crop,” said Inaniya, who filed the RTI. Business Standard independently reviewed some of the letters from the states refusing to give no-objection certificates for such trials.
The ministry order stated that Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants has been given permission to conduct field trials for a new variety of GM mustard and Maharashtra-based Bejo Sheetal Seeds Private Limited to test Bt brinjal.
The DU can conduct trials in 10 locations of Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and Bejo Sheetal can do so in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.
However, this would require a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state governments to conduct open air trials. Except for Maharashtra, all these states have shown reluctance against GM crop trials.
The GEAC decision was strongly opposed by the Sangh Parivar organisations such as SJM and Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Under pressure from these groups, Javadekar had reportedly put on hold field trials on July 29.
“The minister assured the members of SJM and BKS that the decision (on field trials) had been put on hold,” Mahajan had said in a press statement on July 30.
Javadekar has been ambivalent on his stance on field trials of GM crops. In a public event on August 6, he had said the country cannot ignore science but will also have to tread cautiously.
“We are not saying no to science. We have to take proper caution and proper action,” Javadekar had said. He had also pointed that the Supreme Court was still hearing a case on the matter though remaining ambiguous if the government would defer its decision till it got a final verdict in the matter.