Tuesday, February 25, 2020

SC grants EC four weeks' time to file reply on plea seeking voting details after polls

New Kerala: New Delhi: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
The Supreme Court on Monday granted four weeks' time to the Election Commission of India to file its reply on a batch of petitions seeking directions to publish details of voter turnout and final vote count on its website once general and assembly election results are declared.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde posted the matter after four weeks on the pleas filed by TMC Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra and Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
The apex court had, on December 9, 2019, sought a response from the poll panel.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ADR, told the court that RTI has shown that VVPAT slips have been destroyed within four months even though it was to be kept for one year according to the Representation of Peoples Act.
Bhushan said that he will file an application seeking information about the VVPAT as well.
Moitra, in the plea, sought directions to the Election Commission to publish on its website the constituency-wise information collated in Form 17C part I and II and Form 20 for every subsequent Parliamentary and Assembly election.
Form 17C Part I is public disclosure and due reporting of account of votes recorded while Part II is the result of counting and Form 20 is the final result sheet.
The pleas sought directions to the poll panel to publish the details within a period of 48 hours from the preparation of the Form and seven days from the declaration of the result of the constituency.

No link between marriage, motherhood why more single women are opting for adoptions

The Print: New Delhi: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
More and more single Indian women are looking to become mothers through adoption, government data suggests. According to an RTI reply from the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), the nerve centre of adoptions in India, the number of applications from single women went up to 589 in 2018-2019 from 495 in 2017-2018.
As many as 510 have applied in 2019-20 (until December), with the number expected to increase by the time the financial year winds up.
Single women who have adopted told ThePrint they had different motivations to take the step, the underlying theme being that they didn’t see motherhood and marriage as connected experiences. Some described how their families came together to support them, while others talked of the questions and scepticism that come one’s way on this path.
Delhi resident Paromita Chatterjee, 44, who adopted her child in 2014, said she was extremely lucky to have had a supportive environment.
“I was an outlier in a sense. I had decided back when I was a teenager that I wanted to adopt regardless of whether I marry,” she said. “My family was also always very supportive.”
Chatterjee said many women had begun approaching her with queries since her adoption was finalised. Currently, she also serves as administrator of a WhatsApp group involving other single mothers and those who aspire to adopt.
Single parenting, she added, was a challenge, saying most people sought the support of their families.
“I know many single women who waited for 5-7 years for their families to support them in their decision to adopt. Sometimes their families do come around, and other times they go ahead with the adoption regardless,” she said
Malini Parmar, 47, a Bengaluru resident who adopted in 2009 said she was inspired by Bollywood star Sushmita Sen, who adopted her first daughter at the age of 24 in 2000 and her second in 2010.
“I adopted when I was in my 30s. I remember watching Sushmita Sen in an interview, talking about her daughter. And I remember thinking to myself, ‘what a beautiful way to build a family’,” Parmar said.
“For me, marriage and adoption were two very different things. I was dating at the time I adopted, with no plans to marry,” she said. “I dated even after adopting. I think we need to de-link the concept of marrying with that of having children.”
‘A progressive law’
In 2017, CARA brought in a highly-lauded provision that fast-tracked adoptions which take two years on average by six months for financially-secure single women aged above 40.
Bengaluru-based Hita Hejmadi, who works in the e-commerce industry, was over 40 when she applied for adoption in 2016. She received her child in 2018.
Hejmadi, who couldn’t avail of the new CARA provision because it came after she had applied, described it as “highly progressive”.
“The social worker was fairly friendly with me and the process was smooth,” she said. “It was surprising how the law actually was way more progressive than our society is when it comes to single women and their choices.”
As the adoption process takes roughly two years, it couldn’t be verified how many of the applications filed by single women since 2017 have resulted in adoptions.
An official at CARA reiterated the RTI data to state that there had been an increase in the number of applications filed by single women since 2017, but claimed the spurt wasn’t unique to those over 40. There had been an increase in applications from single women aged below 40 too, the official said.
“This [new provision] may be because the new provision has acted as a positive and enabling force,” the official added.
However, several challenges remain, with some single women telling ThePrint about “regressive questions” social workers often lob at them “Why are you unmarried?”, “Will you ever marry?”, “How will you rear a child alone?”
Supriya Roy, a 43-year-old MNC employee from Gurgaon who adopted her daughter in 2013, said “at every step, I was asked how I will be able to take care of a child as a single woman”.
“They (social workers) kept asking me if my parents will help me with the parenting, and if I plan on getting married later.”
If it weren’t for her parents and their involvement in her life, she said, she might not have been able to adopt. “They (social workers) didn’t seem to think a single woman alone is enough for a child.”
A similar story was relayed by single men who opted for adoptions.
Indian adoption rules allow single men to adopt but they can’t apply for daughters. According to the aforementioned RTI reply, the number of single men who applied for adoption more-than-doubled from 21 in 2015-16 to 45 in 2018-19. The number for 2019-20 was 71 until December.
Delhi resident Jyoti Swaroop Gupta, 48, applied for his first adoption in 2009, when he was 37, and the second one in 2018.
Gupta said the process had become a lot more streamlined in the intervening decade, thanks to digitisation, but claimed the questions largely remained the same.
“The first thing I was asked as a single man wanting to adopt was if I was gay. This happened 10 years ago, and again in 2018,” he said.
CARA, however, defended itself against allegations of bias, saying couples, too, were grilled with equal intensity as it was their job to gauge potential parents’ capacity to bring up a child in a loving home.
“The social workers are only doing their job. These are questions that need to be asked if we have to be thorough with our procedure and find a suitable parent for the child,” CARA CEO Deepak Kumar said.
“The social worker has to ask couples these questions. If they weren’t doing so, then they would actually be failing at their job,” he added.
‘The long wait’
The perceived bias of social workers isn’t the only grouse prospective parents have against the CARA mechanism, with many flagging the long wait time.
A Delhi woman who applied for adoption via CARA in July 2019, when she was 44, hoped her case would be fast-tracked in light of the new provision because she was in a race against time.
Under CARA guidelines, a single prospective adoptive parent can be no older than 45 if they are looking to adopt a child aged between 0 and 4 years of age.
“My clock was ticking. Sure, my application was given a 6-month lead, but I don’t think that counts for much when there are so many parents in the queue.”
With the “delay” making her restless, she decided to opt out of the CARA process and instead applied for adoption under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (HAMA).
According to the Act, once there is mutual agreement between the two families the one willing to give up a child and the one willing to adopt an adoption deed can be registered under HAMA.
Singh said it took just two months for the child to be handed over to her after the deed registration and she was a mother by November 2019. “HAMA turned out to be much more efficient than the process under CARA,” she added.

Recover Rs74.87 lakh from RFO for wrongdoings: Probe panel

Times of India: Nagpur: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
In an unprecedented decision, a range forest officer (RFO) from Yavatmal has been asked to deposit Rs74.87 lakh for irregularities committed by him in plantation and nursery development works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Sources said based on information received under RTI, a complaint was lodged by one Sachin Kukkulwar from Jodmoha in Kalamb tehsil with Yavatmal collector alleging financial irregularities by RFO SG Hatkar.
Hatkar was RFO, Hiwri, under Yavatmal forest division in 2017-2018. After the complaint, a committee was set up in March 2019 under Yavatmal collector to probe the matter. The committee found glaring irregularities committed by Hatkar in purchases for raising 6.95 lakh saplings in eight nurseries under Hiwri range. The report was submitted to Yavatmal conservator of forests (CF) Ravindra Wankhede in November 2019.
The committee charged Hatkar with financial bunglings in purchases of material from various parties by violating prescribed procedure. These purchases relate to green nets, teak root stumps, bamboo sticks, sand, soil, manure, polybags, watering of plants among other things.
Some of the works were carried out despite lack of provision in the budget. These irregularities in purchases and other works amounted to over Rs74.87 lakh.
Based on its findings, the committee not only directed to recover entire amount from Hatkar but also recommended action against him under Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline & Appeal) Rules, 1979, and MGNREG Act, 2005.
“On the recommendation of the collector-led committee, we have issued a challan to Hatkar on January 2, 2020, and asked him to deposit the money in government treasury in 30 days. However, Hatkar has moved Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) against the decision,” said Yavatmal deputy conservator of forest (DyCF) Dr BN Pingle.
Hatkar, who has been posted in social forestry department (SFD) in Yavatmal now, has contended that the committee’s recommendation is one-sided as he was not allowed to submit his say.
“The forest department and collector have been asked to file reply in three weeks,” Pingle added.
Cracking the whip
  • RFO of Hiwri SG Hatkar charged with purchasing material worth Rs74.87 lakh without following rules
  • A Jodmoha resident files complaint with collector
  • As works pertained to EGS, Yavatmal collector orders inquiry
  • Committee found allegations to be true and asked Yavatmal CF to recover amount from RFO
  • Bhandara DFO with social forestry was suspended in December on similar charges

This Guy Is Forcing the Indian Government to Answer Some Tough Questions

VICE: National: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
This interview was rescheduled around three times before it could happen, and when it was finally set for a Saturday afternoon, Saket Gokhale was late. By an hour. A meeting had spilled over, he told me amidst effusive apologies. Like almost every other day of Gokhale’s life, this day was brimming. He was between meetings and a friend’s wedding, and set to address a crowd of almost 20,000 people the following day at Park Circus in Kolkata.
I would have rescheduled (again), but I was slightly terrified he would get arrested before we could get down to the interview. An ex-journalist and a full-time RTI activist, Gokhale, you could say, annoys the government for a living. Except he doesn’t make a living from it. He crowdfunds.
“The system is not as broken as we think,” reads a line from his campaign introduction. “It works—although it's incredibly slow—but it works if you push it to work. I will tire them out until the point they realise that this isn't worth it. I'll exhaust them till they realise what the fear of God means."
Every week, Mumbai native Gokhale, 33, slings almost every available legal and democratic tool—Right to Information queries [RTIs], First Information Reports [FIRs] and Public Interest Litigations [PILs]—at the curmudgeonly bureaucratic system.
Recently, he made news after the Ministry of Home Affairs responded to his RTI query saying that they had no information concerning the ‘tukde tukde gang’, whom Home Minister Amit Shah had blamed for the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act at a political rally. Over the past two years, Gokhale claims to have filed over 40-45 RTIs, perhaps more.
Some of them are serious business, like the time he claimed in a PIL that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had omitted to declare certain land assets in his election affidavits.
Sometimes, his tactics take a turn for the controversial. Earlier this month, he applied twice for permission to chant ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko goli maro salon ko’ [loosely translated as: Shoot all the fucking traitors of the country]. He got it—verbally—but eventually, it was officially refused. His idea was not to actually do it but to prove a point. Peaceful protests are being denied permission, while government officials are freely peddling hate speech. “In the parameters set by the Constitution, I don't think there's a place for this sort of discourse or ideology,” says Gokhale.
Some of them are serious business, like the time he claimed in a PIL that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had omitted to declare certain land assets in his election affidavits.
Sometimes, his tactics take a turn for the controversial. Earlier this month, he applied twice for permission to chant ‘Desh ke gaddaron ko goli maro salon ko’ [loosely translated as: Shoot all the fucking traitors of the country]. He got it—verbally—but eventually, it was officially refused. His idea was not to actually do it but to prove a point. Peaceful protests are being denied permission, while government officials are freely peddling hate speech. “In the parameters set by the Constitution, I don't think there's a place for this sort of discourse or ideology,” says Gokhale.
Author Samit Basu has described Gokhale’s activism as being akin to performance art. In a tweet, he adds “When the government is the criminal, then the rules are revolutionary graffiti.”
Gokhale, who is extremely active on social media, has a polarising presence. He counts among his Twitter followers the likes of actor Swara Bhaskar, comedian Kunal Kamra, and Magsaysay award-winning journalist Ravish Kumar, but is frequently at loggerheads with filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and even members of the party he supports.
India ranks low on the World Press Freedom Index, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative has recorded about 446 instances of attacks on RTI activists. In 2018, it was reported that 67 had been killed. Over the years, Gokhale and his family too have received death threats, but they are no strangers to fear and uncertainty. “I've seen very early on how vicious they (the BJP) can be,” he says. “My father was sent to jail by the BJP government… on the day of his retirement.” The senior Gokhale, a police officer, was then lobbying to ban the drug Meow Meow (mephedrone). He was accused of being in cahoots with a drug supplier called Baby Patankar, and then arrested. The charges were later dropped. One police officer is quoted to have said “…over-smartness displayed by (the senior Mr.) Gokhale led us to suspect that he was in touch with Patankar.”
It’s perhaps where Gokhale gets it from.
VICE: You’ve been doing the work you do for almost five to six years. How has it been?
Saket Gokhale: It's tough, to be honest. There are moments of immense toxicity. Sometimes we see resistance even from people on the same side. There will be people questioning, “What is it that you have done? Show us a significant achievement.” Sometimes, the moment you file a case or an application, (well-meaning) people immediately want to know the status within two days. I wish things worked that fast. If you file an RTI, the government has 30 days to respond and if they don't and you file another first appeal, there's another 30 days that go after that. The judicial system, the legal system, the bureaucratic system are all very slow. Results take time.
Has this taken a toll on your mental health?
It’s frustrating. It can also feel very lonely, and having done this alone for a while, it does take a toll on you. You have to keep yourself organised. You have to divide your time; you have to learn how to prioritise.
I regularly work around 16-18 hours every day. It needs that level of follow-up, commitment, dedication. Literally every alternate day, I'm picking up an issue, I'm filing an RTI, I'm trying to follow up on it. Sometimes you do feel tired and like you're stretching yourself too thin.
And also, there's the thought at the back of your mind that no matter what you do, there's another four-and-a-half years of this government to go.
How do you/we cope with the stress?
It's not like we can wish it away. It's not like 'Oh, we have people protesting now, we've got the government in a trap, and they've been exposed and now there's going to be a re-election'—it's not gonna work like that. The next elections, like it or hate it, are going to be in 2024. This government is going to be in charge.
What we can do in the interim is make sure that we're on the battlefield, that we're fighting. That maybe out of 10 laws they try to push, we try to repeal at least three or four of them.
The idea is to resist. Change is not going to happen till the next election, when people go to the ballot box, even in state elections, and exercise their franchise. Delhi has been a very encouraging example of that; the BJP couldn't make a mark out here.
Where do you get the courage to do this full-time?
A lot of people want to fight but a lot of people are in positions sometimes, where they've got a family to look after, they've got bills to pay, home loans, and all of that. There's a lot of people out there who would like to do it but they've got their obligations.
I'm not married, I'm single and I don't have family (that relies on me). I don't have children.
So I was willing to take the risk of forgoing all this. I want to do this. I want to fight. But also, at the end of the day, the bills have to be paid. Every month there are legal expenses, and I'm living without a salary. Tomorrow I'll be able to do it only if there's support from people. So, I crowdfund. The outpouring of public support for this has been extremely overwhelming. It is also an encouragement that you are doing something right, and people look up to you to keep doing work, that they trust you to do the right thing.
What is the biggest goal behind what you do? Is it a matter of principle, or is there something else?
Right now, my focus is, the BJP has thrown the Constitution out of the window. We are living in an unprecedented and undeclared emergency, there's no other way to describe it.
The priority right now is to overcome that—it is to fight to restore the democratic balance of this country, the secular fabric of this country. I think that is the most important focus today.
Do you worry for your personal safety?
Amit Shah and Modi do not scare me. Sometimes you have adversaries… you don't like them but you respect them. But I don’t respect these guys. They’re bullies. They target people when there are skeletons in those people's closets. They can't send the Enforcement Directorate or the Central Agency behind me because who am I? I'm just an inconsequential person at the end of the day, not a former minister.
People have been killed on the streets, activists have been run over by trucks, Gauri Lankesh was shot. It's something you accept. You can't take on a fight and expect to be protected inside a bubble; that doesn't happen. If they were to do something, they will do what they do best, and I will do what I do best.
Any fight is not about one person alone. I'm sure tomorrow, if something happens to me, there will be 15 or 20 or maybe 200 other people who will carry on fighting in their own ways.
You’re also recruiting some people to work with you. What are the mechanics of that going to be?
I'm trying to make this into a more organised setup. It's happening slowly because with work of this nature, when you bring people together, the primary element is trust. One reason I work alone is because I find that it takes a long time for me to trust. And I'd rather err on the side of caution than throw caution to the wind with something like this.
You don't want somebody that has nefarious intentions, or people who are sympathetic to the other side, or people who are just looking for an opportunity to sabotage.
What’s the plan going forward?
A few people have joined me. We’re planning to bring people on board as allies while five to six people in the core team take on RTIs, legal interventions, open-source intelligence, try to find out where things are going shady so that RTIs can be filed.
Over the next several weeks, I'm travelling to different places, holding workshops and talking to groups of people as to how they can follow this model, and build it up and run it in their own ways. The idea is to empower people with the tools and the understanding of how this process works, how RTI works, how some of the fundamental laws work. If I speak to 100 people and 25 or 30 out of them dedicate eight or 10 hours a week to doing this, I think we'll still see a lot of impact.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about legal interventions/RTI?
People think the Constitution is an esoteric document. It's not—in fact, it's a living, breathing, very comprehensible document. It lays down everything very succinctly. It's written in very simple English that even an eighth grader can understand.

Faculty of Law, Delhi University students protest against non-approval of LLB degrees

Bar & Bench: New Delhi: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
The students of the Law Centre- I, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, have been protesting against the non-approval of their LL.B degrees over the course of a week.
According to a list published by the Bar Council of India (BCI), in compliance with orders of the Delhi High Court dated December 4, 2019, only those students who have taken admission till the year 2016-17 have a valid degree in law.
Consequently, the present batches, who have enrolled after the academic year 2016-17 and who would be graduating this year and onward, would not obtain a valid law degree.
In light of these facts, students are demanding that their degrees should be immediately approved by the BCI.
It is alleged by the students that their grievances have not been acknowledged by the administration so far.
Students contend that the apathetic attitude of the administration completely disregards regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), which state that student grievances should be disposed of within 15 days. Further, these regulations also require a a report to be submitted to the students as well as the Vice-Chancellor of the University, the students point out.
Protesting against the present state of affairs, the students are demanding that the UGC regulations as well as BCI’s rules of legal education be complied with by the University.
Additional demands made by the student protestors include, reforms in evaluation systems, transparency in administration, compliance with the RTI Act, disclosure of financial records, constitution of a Student’s union, other basic amenities such as clean drinking water and a proper canteen for the students.

Govt official caught taking bribe in Rajasthan

Outlook India: Jaipur: Tuesday, 25 February 2020.
A village development officer in Rajasthan''s Rajsamand district was arrested on Monday for allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for providing certified copies of documents sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, an official said.
Murlidhar Pandey, the village development officer posted at Bhim, was caught accepting Rs 10,000 bribe from the complainant who had filed an RTI application for the copies of the documents, the Anti-Corruption Bureau official said.
In another incident, the ACB sleuth''s arrested a head constable for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 10,000 in Kota district, he said.
The accused, Ajit Singh, had asked for monthly bribe to allow transportation of sand, the official said.

Monday, February 24, 2020

ABVP-RSS Activists Appointed Assistant Professors at JNU, Alleges JNUSU.

The Citizen.in: Shubhada Chaudhary: New Delhi: Monday, Febraury 24, 2020.
The recent press statement released by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) has accused the JNU Teachers’ Federation (JNUTF), Cyclops Security and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for their alleged role in the January 5 violence in the campus.
Even after 47 days, no arsts have been made so far. Additionally, the statement questions the legality of recent faculty recruitments at JNU. “It has come to the notice of JNUSU that people who were part of the WhatsApp groups that coordinated the violence are now being appointed as Assistant Professors,” the statement read.
The statement also highlights the selection of Renu Sain, who was the allegedly the admin of the WhatsApp group ‘Unity Against Left’, as an Assistant Professor in the Centre for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies. After the selection by the committee, the final recruitment of Renu Sain awaits the Registrar’s approval.
Aishe Ghosh, the President of JNUSU also accused the JNU Vice Chancellor of appointing ABVP and RSS activists as Assistant Professors irrespective of being unqualified.
The statement also points at the recruitment of other candidates such as Tapan Kumar Bihari, Jaikhlong Basumatary and Anshu Joshi, who were allegedly involved in mobilizing the mob violence on January 5.
Furthermore, JNUSU has also requested the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) to investigate these recruitment irregularities, thereby signally concrete cases of ‘nepotism’ and ‘corruption’ in the university.
Meanwhile, the members of the JNUTF had been appointed in a prove panel by the Vice-Chancellor to investigate the perpetrators of the recent mob violence. They included Professors such as Santosh Shukla (School of Sanskrit and Indic Studies), Bhaswati Das (Centre for the Study of Regional Development), Mazhar Asif (Centre of Persian and Central Asian Studies), Sushant Mishra (Centre for French and Francophone Studies) and Sudheer Pratap Singh Centre of Indian Languages, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies).Ideologically, the JNUTF has been accused of following the diktats of the VC and strongly opposing the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), which has massive support of the student community.
The delegitimization of JNUTA by passing a motion in the Executive Council, which stops the usage of their office space as well as staff assistance, is also a matter of concern.
Meanwhile, in January, a petition was filed by two professors, Sucheta Mahajan and Mahalakshmi Ramakrishnan from the Centre of Historical Studies (CHS), School of Social Sciences in the Delhi High Court.
They had questioned the ‘unilateral’ and ‘illegal’ changes in the selection criteria for selecting Assistant Professors in CHS. This move is being considered a blatant opposition to the JNU Act, statutes, ordinances and UGC regulations.
The petition also stated that after the advertisement of vacancies, the selection criteria were ‘diluted’ by removing specializations. Nevertheless, the interviews were conducted on February 11-12, but no selections have been made yet.
In response to this petition, the Delhi High Court issued a stay order at new recruitments. Justice A K Chawla has ordered the JNU to not fill up new vacancies till May 6, the next hearing. An explanation from the university has also been asked.
Another case in January further highlighted how Vice-Chancellor had unlawfully promoted TV Vijay Kumar, the Dean of School of Computer & Systems Sciences (SC&SS). In a petition to JNU’s Chancellor, Rajeev Kumar mentioned how through his RTI, it became apparent how TV Vijay Kumar was promoted from Assistant Professor to Professor within a year.
Last year in November, Saurabh Kumar Sharma, an ABVP activist, was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer & Systems Sciences (SC&SS). Saurabh’s appointment kept him in both reserved and unreserved quotas. Also, he did not have the needed mandatory degree in Computational Statistics.
In a nutshell, such cases of rampant recruitments of unqualified candidates with controversial degrees, ideological leanings and academic pedigree would haunt the intellectual, critical and progressive space of JNU’s campus.

Ground Report: As a Railway Line Grows, a River in Manipur Is Fighting for Survival.

The Wire: Makepeace Sitlhou: Imphal:Monday, February 24, 2020.
Environmental activists have taken the Ejei river case to the National Green Tribunal, but it appears to be going nowhere.
Over the last eight years, 44-year-old Pamei Tingenlung has witnessed the gradual depletion of a variety of fish in the Ejei river that flows through his place of birth: Longjang village in west Manipur’s Noney district.
Ejei – also spelt ‘Ijei’ and ‘Ijai’ – is one of the main tributaries of the Irang, which flows into the Naga-inhabited Senapati, Tamenglong and Noney districts of Manipur. It eventually joins the Barak river in the south.
The Ejei is a source of life and livelihood for the 1.4 lakh inhabitants of Noney, Rangkhung, Luangchum, Taobam, Makhuam, Nungtex, Khumji, Tupul and Namdonjang villages in Noney district. Residents in these villages largely belong to the Zeliangrong Naga tribe, constitutionally recognised as one of the Scheduled Tribes entitled to benefits of reservation, and special protection of private and community land under Sixth Schedule of the Indian constitution. However, land acquisition under national interest remains exempted from these protections.
As part of the Central government’s Act East Policy, the first broad gauge railway line in Manipur for freight and passenger transport – through a total length of 111 km – will connect India’s Northeast to ASEAN countries. The construction of tunnels and bridges began in 2012; this brought in construction companies, their heavy machinery that began excavations, and the constant sound of concrete construction work in these otherwise sleepy hills.
This heightened activity has polluted the Ejei and has severely affected livelihood of communities that depend on it. Tingenlung has been organising the villagers to protest against this ecological loss, and holding the North East Frontier Railways (NFR) accountable for this. “Species of tasty fish like Khaschun (a family of the carp Rohu), Khanua, Khagwa and Tapampui have just disappeared,” Tingenlung said.
In the first phase of the project, the upcoming 111-km-long railway line will originate from Jiribam (Tamenglong district) and go on eastward up to Tupul (Noney district). In the second phase, it will wind further east into the valley towards the capital city of Imphal.
View from the site of the Tupul station in Noney district headquarters from where the new broad gauge line will run 27 km till Imphal before it reaches Myanmar’s Tamu.
Land for the project was acquired without any environmental impact assessment (EIA): quoting a 2006 EIA notification, the deputy conservator of forests, western forests division-Tamenglong had noted in April 2014 that the EIA was not a necessity. This was despite a notification from the Ministry of Environment and Forests in September 2006 which mandated environmental clearance for new projects.
Still, raising awareness and bringing people together to make demands for environmental restoration has not been easy for Tingenlung. Although an Ejei River Development Committee was formed by a few concerned citizens from 10 adjoining villages in 2015, their meeting place in Noney town looked deserted when The Wire visited in November 2018.
Chamrei Kamei, the chairperson of the Ejei River Development Committee and secretary of the Noney Bazar Board (a consumer welfare regulatory body along Ejei river settlements), attributes this inability to mobilise to the tussle among inhabitants of the affected villages over land disputes and fair compensation for the lands that had been acquired for the railway project.
The project’s progress has been intermittent; it was derailed several times by frequent curfews called by insurgent groups and civil society organisations, and economic blockades.
Authorities deny responsibility
Tingenlung and Kamei raised the issue of increasing water pollution with the construction companies, the Manipur State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) and the NFR. When they were met with silence, they turned to the Eastern Zone (Kolkata) bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in February 2017 and filed a case against the NFR, the Ministry of Railways, the Municipal Corporation of Imphal, the MSPCB, the Manipur government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). In the petition, they annexed photographs from Duidai Pangthak and Khiangthuak villages, where waste water discharge from the construction sites flowed into freshwater streams.
Also read: Not Conflict or Violence, Extreme Weather Events Are Causing Most Migration
In the petition, they contended that the Ejei was undergoing “severe environmental and ecological damage due to the illegal discharge of dangerous untreated effluents and pollutants”. This, they alleged in the petition, violated the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1974, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981, and the Code of Practice for Ready Mix Concrete (RMC) Plants.
Kamei claimed that the Ejei was once so pure that it was fit for drinking. Their petition mentions that chemicals are mixed with cement for the construction of the tunnels, and the waste for this flows right into the freshwater streams.
“All the streams, rivulets and paddy fields have been polluted and agricultural yield has gone down,” Kamei says. Data on district-wise area and production from Manipur’s Agriculture Department shows the total paddy yield (the main crop grown primarily for self sustenance) in Tamenglong and Noney districts had dropped to 1.08 metric tonnes per hectare in 2017-18, from 1.51 metric tonnes per hectare in 2016-17.
However, the MSPCB, NFR and the Ministry of Railways have denied the allegations. The MSPCB stated in an affidavit that it regularly monitors the water quality of the Ejei at its Water Quality Monitoring Station near Noney Bazaar. In response to a RTI query filed by Tingenlung previously, the MSPCB did not have information about air pollution due to the operation of RMC plants.
According to one test carried out in April 2016, the MSPCB found that the water quality was “within Indian standard”: the water turbidity was recorded at 100 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Unit) upstream and 3.4 NTU downstream. However, as per the 1993 Indian Standard Specifications for Drinking Water, the desirable limit for turbidity was at 10 NTU, which could be relaxed up to 25 NTU.
The difference in the water turbidity upstream and downstream, as MSPCB stated in response to Tingenlung’s RTI query, was because it did not have any information on water treatment plants near the RMC plants close to the tunnel construction. Moreover, it noted that it was the “responsibility of the construction agencies to dispose off the cement and concrete bags as per rules”.
In 2017, when MSPCB failed to submit a response to the NGT based on the allegations of the petition, Judge S.P. Wangdi explicitly directed the MSPCB to conduct an inspection by collecting “samples of water from different stretches before and after the affected portion, at least three times, at an interval of three days”. MSPCB was also asked to ensure the presence of the petitioners at the time of the sample collection.
The inspection was conducted on three days, in three different areas, in early 2018. But each of the three times, the MSPCB collected samples only once each day, instead of three different times of the day. J. Hillson Angam, who works at the Manipur chapter of the non-profit Human Rights Law Network, had joined Tingenlung and members of the MSPCB during a field inspection on February 13, 2018 at the railway construction site along the Ejei near Noney town.
The water quality monitoring report stated that “hazardous liquid waste from the railways construction site is simply discharged into the river through a canal laid on both sides of the tunnel”. The highest turbidity was recorded at 162 in the central stretch of the river, and the lowest at 42 upstream at Noney Bazaar.
Similarly, the Ministry of Railways responded that there was very little quantity of waste water, and that is filtered in the course of the flow. Their affidavit stated: “Generally all tunnel work sites are more than 1 km away from Ejei river [….] the main cause of pollution of river is due to rain/cut and erosion of hill soil which met in to the river during the rainy season (sic).”
Disturbance to local ecology
The construction has also had more visible consequences. In July 2018, Rhema Public Academy in the town of Khumji in Noney district was overrun by loose soil sediments that had flowed into a stream, from the tunnel. “Our campus, where 200 students are also residing, was severely flooded. We had to shut for a week,” Lily Phaomei, principal and founder of the school, said.
That same month, the school sent a letter to Onycon T-23 B, one the companies contracted by the railways for the construction of the tunnel. The school threatened to agitate if the company failed to take any action: Phaomei alleged that the school property had been destroyed consecutively for three years previously. However, despite an on-site inspection by the deputy commissioner of Noney district and engineers from Onycon, Phaomei said no remedial steps had been taken.
Lily Phaomei, principal and founder of the school, and her husband, Lani Phaomei.
“We spent Rs 4 lakh building a 100-feet-long and nine-feet-tall concrete wall to secure our campus. But even that was destroyed in October 2018. Onycon says it is out of their jurisdiction. But it is an indirect effect of their construction work,” said Lani Phaomei, Lily’s husband, who runs the school with her. He added that they have also not received any relief funds from the Noney district collector.
A geotechnical assessment of landslides along the Jiribam-Imphal Broad Gauge Line, between Barak and Tupul, was undertaken by the Geological Survey of India, North East Region. In their report, they noted: “The unauthorised and unscientific dumping of excavated earth and disposal of chemical and solid wastes must be strictly checked in the proximity of the villages to avoid loss of property and life including aquatic life in future.”
The assessment report further stated that uncontrolled sudden increase in the discharge of major rivers – including Ejei – had caused severe erosion of the rivers and their tributaries, which would pose a danger to nearby villages. “Change in existing land use, uncontrolled cutting and excavation of critical slopes during construction of new approach road, particularly close to habituation, makes the area vulnerable to landslides.”
A geotechnical assessment of landslides along the Jiribam-Imphal Broad Gauge Line, between Barak and Tupul, undertaken by the Geological Survey of India-North East Region found that uncontrolled sudden increase in the discharge of major rivers – including Ejei – had caused severe erosion of the rivers and their tributaries, which would pose danger to nearby villages.
Unchecked human toll
Fishing and cultivation along the river banks is nearly absent in the villages along the Ejei. Most people in the region have had to move away from their main source of livelihood – fishing – and have instead taken up masonry or started small businesses.
A geotechnical assessment of landslides along the Jiribam-Imphal 
Broad Gauge Line, between Barak and Tupul, undertaken by the 
Geological Survey of India-North East Region found that uncontrolled 
sudden increase in the discharge of major rivers – including 
Ejei – had caused severe erosion of the rivers and 
their tributaries, which would pose danger to nearby villages.

On the other hand, Marangjing resident Guangchalung Gangmei allege that at least 10 cows died from drinking the river water and several people have fallen sick. Kamei added that residents of Noney town, who do their laundry and bathe in the river, complain of rashes. Edwin Golmei, the chief medical officer at Noney district, confirmed that several residents from nearby villages had reported skin rashes because of their contact with water from the river. “Most of the complaints were brought to us at the medical camp we had organised in 2018,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tingenlung and Kamei’s petition in the NGT has not been heard after October 2017. The NFR, the Railways, MSPCB, Manipur Directorate of Environment and MOEFCC had each requested for more time to file their responses. The scheduled hearing in December 2017 did not take place since the vacancy for judges in the Eastern bench had not been filled.
Despite peoples effort to hold the government accountable, the damage caused by the project has received very little attention from the local and national news media. Instead, much of the local media’s focus has been on the construction of bridge 164, which, at a proposed height of 141 metres, is touted to be the tallest girder bridge in the world and a potential tourist attraction.
In the three years since Tingenlung took on the fight to save the river of his childhood, he relocated to Imphal. He hopes that the NGT case is transferred to the principal bench in New Delhi. Tingelung’s lawyer Aindreela Chakraborty says that she had been struggling – with no success – to get the Kolkata bench to schedule a hearing via video conferencing with the principal bench in New Delhi, which hears zonal cases on an ad hoc basis.
Today, with no Eastern bench appointed and the case marked “disposed” on the NGT’s website, the last door for environmental accountability and justice certainly appears to be shut for the Ejei river.
(All images by Makepeace Sitlhou.)

UAS comes out in support of SCPCR

Daily Pioneer: Dehradun: Monday, February 24, 2020.
A few days after the Principals Progressive Schools’ Association (PPSA) accused the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) of unnecessary interference in the functioning of private schools, the Uttarakhand Abhibhavak Sangh (UAS) has come out in support of SCPCR. According to the UAS, the SCPCR is working for the welfare of children as well as their parents.
Addressing the media here on Sunday, the members of UAS claimed that private schools violate many rules and regulations like increasing the school fee every year by a large percentage, running schools without affiliation and No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government. If an authority like SCPCR asks these private institutions to work as per the guidelines and laws, they call it harassment and interference. According to the UAS president Ram Kumar Singhal, “SCPCR is taking actions because parents and guardians complain to the commission about the apathy of the school management towards the interests of students and their parents.
The schools take many arbitrary decisions that affect parents and their children. Parents approach SCPCR when schools do not listen to them or their complaints. Now if the child rights commission is listening to us and taking some action, they are accusing it of interference. Do these schools want to do whatever they want with the parents having no one to complaint to?”“Private schools are just doing business.
They increase the fees every year by a big margin and besides the monthly fee; they charge money from students in different ways.
All such schools exploit parents and children mentally and financially and they do not even want us to raise our voice as if they are doing us some kind of favour by letting our kids study in their schools,” said Singhal. He further added that UAS will meet the officials of the state education department regarding the apathy of private schools towards the rules and regulation for the welfare of children. According to the Supreme Court orders, the private schools also come under the purview of Right to Information (RTI) act and they will have to provide the details of their earnings to the parents if they demand it but the schools refuse to provide such information to anyone, said parents of children studying in private schools of Dehradun.
They further added that no child counsellor or POCSO committee has been formed by the schools for welfare of the children and that they are happy that SCPCR is pressurising these private education institutions to follow guidelines to benefit students.

Fate of several complaints relating to illegal arms licenses hanging in balance.

Daily Excelsior: Mohindee Verma: Jammu: Monday, February 24, 2020.
No action on communiqués sent to different authorities. ACB says no such case challaned in court
Shocking it may sound but it is a fact that fate of several complaints relating to illegal issuance of arms licenses has been hanging in balance despite lapse of several years. This is mainly because of non-serious approach of the authorities, who were supposed to act on the communiqués referred to them by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (formerly Vigilance Organization).
This has come to the fore from the reply furnished by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in response to an application submitted under Right to Information Act, 2005, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR.
The applicant Advocate Muzzaffar Ali Shah had sought to know the exact number of complaints received by Anti-Corruption Bureau against KAS/IAS or other officers regarding the illegal issuance of arms licenses since January 1, 2005 till date.
He had also sought information vis-a-vis number of preliminary enquiries/verifications initiated into all such complaints and the cases which have been challaned with regard to illegal issuance of arms licenses.
In the reply, which, however, is silent on several important aspects relating to issuance of illegal arms licenses, the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Bureau vide communication dated February 13, 2020 has revealed that a complaint against Kuldeep Khajuria, the then District Development Commissioner (DDC) Poonch, was received in the year 2011 mentioning that he had issued more than 4000 gun licenses to the personnel of Army units who neither served in district Poonch nor in any other part of J&K.
It was also mentioned in the complaint that he had ignored the civilians who had applied for issuance of gun licenses after completion of all the formalities.
The then AIG Personnel of State Vigilance Organization had referred the complaint vide Communication No. SVCO-Home-G-2/11-6566 dated April 21, 2011 to the then Divisional Commissioner Jammu for appropriate action against the officer. However, no action was taken and the officer attained superannuation without facing any enquiry or action.
Similarly, a complaint was received against the then District Magistrate Udhampur in the month of August 2012. However, instead of looking into it the Vigilance Organization preferred to forward the complaint to the District Magistrate, which otherwise was highly unjustified as same officer was asked to submit factual report against whom there was a formal complaint.
The then District Magistrate Udhampur termed the allegations as baseless and conveyed this to the Vigilance Organization with the mention that he has also shared the information with the then Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department. “The same is pending as the action taken by the Home Department is still awaited into the matter”, read the RTI reply furnished by the CPIO of Anti-Corruption Bureau (formerly Vigilance Organization).
Likewise, a complaint was received by the Vigilance Organization in the year 2015 against the then Deputy Commissioner Ramban alleging therein that large number of gun licenses were fraudulently issued in respect of Army personnel by charging hefty amounts.
“In this racket, high profile officers were involved and online system for issuance of gun licenses was in offing but the same was not started due to the reasons that illegality would be detected”, the complainant had conveyed to the Vigilance Organization.
Accordingly an open verification No.UD-31/2017 was initiated. “This complaint has been referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation vide letter No.ACB-Veri-UD-31/17-8404-05 dated July 16, 2019 for further course of action”, the CPIO said.
However, it has not been mentioned as to why the verification remained incomplete for two years although there was sufficient material to conclude the same. Due to this, the fate of this complaint is also hanging in balance.
Similarly, two FIR Nos.11/18 registered at VOJ Jammu and 18/18 registered at VOK regarding illegal issuance of arms licenses have been referred to the CBI.
“No case has been challaned in the court”, read the reply of the CPIO to the RTI applicant seeking information about cases pertaining to illegal issuance of arms licenses having been challaned.
The RTI applicant has claimed that there are numerous other complaints the reference of which has not been made by the Anti-Corruption Bureau in the reply furnished as per the provisions of the RTI Act and whose fate is still hanging in balance.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

17-year-old water resources atlas uploaded on dist website

Times of India: Madurai: Sunday, 23 February 2020.
The Water Resources Atlas of Madurai district, compiled nearly 17 years ago, has been uploaded on the district website recently with all information about tanks, ponds and reservoirs in the district.
The atlas has all the details of the water bodies including ayacut, bund, sluices, catchment of tank, present condition, supply channel details, encroachments and damaged condition. Tanks in all 13 blocks of Madurai district, with the name of the panchayat, ponds, area, last desilting, scheme under which it was maintained, are all available on the site. This atlas was reportedly compiled during the period of former Madurai district collector B Chandra Mohan, between 2003- 2004. It is estimated that there are about 2,800 irrigation tanks and about 3,000 to 4,000 village water bodies. After independence and with the emergence of local bodies, the government of Tamil Nadu entrusted the management of minor irrigation tanks with less than 40 hectares capacity to the respective panchayat unions and the bigger tanks to the PWD, said the then collector B Chandra Mohan’s foreword in the atlas. These were identified with the help of land records, which feature names of the tanks and the area of their existence.
It had been compiled over a period of 8-10 months by the officials from the various departments including revenue, rural development, survey, PWD-water resources organization and agricultural engineering. Each water body has been given a unique alphanumeric code. This code details the characteristics of each water body. With more than 7,000 pages, this atlas can be obtained from the Madurai district website https://madurai.nic.in/water-bodies-in-madurai-district/. Right to Information (RTI) activist, K Hakkim said that as the district administration has taken this initiative to put up such elaborate details of the water bodies online, people like him need not seek details of water bodies of Madurai district using the RTI. Madurai district collector T G Vinay said that he had got atlas uploaded on the district website as it will serve as a source of info.

Bhopal: Where Rs 7.59 crore was used, RUSA directorate fails to explain

Free Press Journal: Bhopal: Sunday, 23 February 2020.
Rashtirya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan State Project Directorate (RUSA SPD) could not tell which college was converted into university utilising the RUSA funds.
This is when Rs 7.59 crore out of Rs 27.50 crore have been spent on up-gradation of autonomous college to a University in 2016-17 under RUSA.
Moreover, RUSA SPD is also unable to explain where the fund of Rs 7.59 crore was used. It could not provide the sanction plan of the work executed.
However, replying to an RTI query, the project directorate claimed that utilised amount was verified as per utilisation certificate but it failed to provide any more details.
State has received Rs 2,000 crore to improve infrastructure of state run colleges and universities under RUSA in 2015. According to plan there are several components describing exact use of funds.
The component 1 was made for upgradation of autonomous college to university. RUSA project directorate did not provide any details of expenditure under component 2 under RTI query.
Component 3 was meant for infrastructure grant to three universities, where Rs 32 crores was allotted.
However, only Rs 7.42 crore was used while Rs 24.70 crore remained unutilised. Moreover, RUSA directorate did not provide documents to substantiate its claim.
The component 4 was meant to develop new model college, for which Rs 12 crore was allotted and only Rs 2.98 crore were used while Rs 9 crore remain unutilized. RUSA did not furnish details as to which colleges were being developed as model colleges.
Existing degree colleges were to be updated into a Model College under component 5. A total fund of Rs 4 crore was released in the year 2016-17 but only Rs 1.53 crore was utilized and major share of Rs 2.46 crore lies unutilized.
Moreover, eighteen identified colleges were given grant for upgradation in 2015-16 and the subsequent year but only Rs 19 crore were used while Rs 7.22 crore remains unutilized.
“The factor common to all the replies is that RUSA office could not furnish documents of the works that it has claimed to be done,” said Devendra Pratap Singh, whistleblower and education activist, who filed application under Right to Information Act.
He claims that RUSA funds have been misused therefore its office cannot provide documents related to expenditure. “They have provided the utilisation certificate but not utilisation bills indicating something fishy,” added Singh.
Major part of Rs 2,000 crore RUSA fund is lying idle with the PWD, he added.

Group of Ministers meets to discuss Juvenile Justice Act amendments

Indian Express: New Delhi: Sunday, 23 February 2020.
Bihar government in response to an RTI reply had said that there were over 16,000 cases pending
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday chaired the first meeting of a Group of Ministers (GoM) to discuss proposed amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act, including empowering district magistrates to function as ‘administrators’ in cases against minors. According to the JJ Act, an ‘administrator’ means any district official not below the rank of a deputy secretary in the state, on whom magisterial powers have been conferred. The government is mulling to replace ‘Deputy Secretary’ with ‘District Magistrate’, hoping this would lead to quick disposal of cases.
“An administrator is part of the preliminary inquiry whose job is to see whether a person alleged to be in conflict with law is a minor or not. The administrator gives his opinion based on the police report. If the administrator finds involvement of a minor in a crime, the case goes to the Juvenile Justice Board, where the judicial magistrate gives a final word on both the age of the juvenile as well as the merit of the case,” an official said.
He said the main purpose of this proposal to empower DMs to work as administrators was to reduce pendency and fast -track disposal of cases before Juvenile Justice Boards. Another senior government functionary explained the ‘rationale’ behind the proposed move, saying every district in the country has a JJB but most districts do not have a deputy secretary-level official whereas each district has a DM. Therefore, the proposal, if accepted, would save a lot of time wasted  in sending files from districts to administrators, usually posted in state capitals.
While latest data on pending cases before JJBs in the country is not available, there were as many as 1, 30,572 cases pending as on March 31, 2015 of which Uttar Pradesh alone had some 34,569 cases pending. There is no state-wise break-up of the alarming figure available but the Bihar government in response to an RTI reply had said that there were over 16,000 cases pending.The ministers who attended the GoM meeting included Ravi Shankar Prasad (Law), S Jaishankar (External Affairs), Smriti Irani (WCD), Harsh Vardhan  (Health) and Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Food Processing Industries). In January, the apex court had asked the Centre to urgently fill gaps in the JJ Act 2015 to determine the category of crimes that are not heinous but still punishable with 7 year jail term like in the case of heinous crimes like rape and murder.
SC directive to govt
SC had asked the Centre to urgently fill gaps in the JJ Act to determine the category of crimes that are not heinous but still punis-hable with 7-year jail term

NU ‘no’ to info on pvt agencies, registrar ads and exams

Times of India: Nagpur: Sunday, 23 February 2020.
The Nagpur University (NU) has refused to place before the senate the information regarding appointment of private agencies, expenses incurred on registrar post advertisements, data on results and revaluation claims in the last five years during the upcoming meeting on March 6.
Senate member Sarita Nimbarte had forwarded a list of nine questions regarding the above issues in her letter to the NU on February 6.
Replying to Nimbarte on February 20, the NU administration categorically refused to place the information on record citing “confidentiality, disruption to general administration, doubtful and unspecified” as reasons as per common statutes issued by higher and technical education department last year. The questions were rejected by vice-chancellor SP Kane.
The NU had been reluctant to part with information on the pretext of similar reasons even under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In many cases, the RTI applicants dragged it to state information commission before the NU was ordered to provided information.
Nimbarte said the issues she is trying to raise can’t be called confidential in nature but only attempts to fix accountability and bring “misdoings” in public. She categorized her queries into three parts on invovlement of private firm Promarc in NU functioning, NU’s failure in appointing a full-time registrar despite spending on advertisements, selection process and examinations.
The first three questions on private companies, if any, and Promarc don’t suggest any breach of confidentiality as she restricted them to knowing names of the NU departments where they were appointed. Regarding Promarc, she asked how many works have been assigned to the private agency while the NU has never disclosed its dealings with it.
She also sought the copy of MoU, if any, signed with Promarc. The agency has occupied a big space at the NU exam section. The last question in this category is whether any space has been allotted to Promarc.
On registrar’s appointment, Nimbarte raised questions which are likely to bring to fore the NU’s expenses incurred and the status of the recruitment process even as it is unable to take the process further.
The queries on exam, she said, should ideally have been available on the website but for reasons best known to NU officials, these were kept “confidential”.
“This is nothing but an arbitrary administration in-charge of a public institution. If not these, then which questions should we ask? The university must answer these questions but they say don’t ask questions which will pose problems for the vice-chancellor and Promarc. Why should we not ask questions concerning students and public at large? Is there anything bigger than Kohchade scam which the university is trying to hide?” asked Nimbarte.

SIC directive to provide footage of polling

The Hindu: Kochi: Sunday, 23 February 2020.
Deputy Electoral Office had refused to provide information sought by RTI activist
The State Information Commission (SIC) has directed the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Thiruvananthapuram, to provide an applicant the information regarding the polling booths where the CCTV/web casting facilities were provided in the last Lok Sabha elections in the State.
The commission also directed the officer to give a copy of the footage of the polling booths where 90% polling was reported.
The commission passed the order on Friday on an appeal filed against the Deputy Electoral Office's refusal to provide the information.
The Deputy Electoral Officer dismissed the plea on the ground that permission from the Election Commission was awaited.
The Deputy Electoral Officer had said the videograph or CCTV footage would be kept in the safe custody of the district election office till the expiry of 45 days from the date of declaration of the results. If any one applied for copies of such recording during the period, a copy would be made available on payment of ₹50 on a CD.
The commission said the contention that permission from the Election Commission had been awaited was untenable under the RTI Act. The argument that the Chief Electoral Officer did not maintain details of the polling booths which recorded more than 90% polling did not hold good as the respondent office is a repository of all such information.
The commission passed the order on an appeal filed by RTI activist D.B. Binu.