Thursday, January 17, 2019

Statue of Unity Inaugural Cost Centre Rs 2.64 Crore on Advertising, Reveals RTI Reply

News18: Mumbai: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
The Centre splurged more than Rs 2.64 crore on advertising in the media for the inaugural of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's statue, known as the Statue of Unity, a RTI reply revealed here on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated what is now the world's tallest statue on October 31, 2018, to mark the 143rd birth anniversary of Patel, a freedom fighter and the first home minister of independent India.
Mumbai Right to Information (RTI) activist Jatin Desai had written to the ministry of information and broadcasting seeking details under RTI of the expenditure incurred on advertising the statue inauguration in different media.
The Bureau of Outreach and Communications of the Ministry said in a reply on January 9 that the government had spent a total of Rs 2,62,48,463 on the electronic media and another Rs 168,415 on print media advertisements.
"This amount does not include the total spent by the government on the inauguration, plus on outdoor advertising which is not available with the Bureau. Spending such a huge amount on advertising and lavish ceremonies cannot be justified when the people in the vicinity of the statue are tribals and poor," Desai said.
The colossal 182 metre-tall statue of Sardar Patel is situated on an island on the Narmada river near Kevadia, around 100 km south-east of Vadodara city of Gujarat.
Built at a cost of nearly Rs 3,000 crore, the landmark statue was designed by sculptor Ram V Sutar, 94, of Maharashtra and built by Mumbai-based Larsen & Toubro company.

Two crore people have lost jobs due to demonetisation, GST: Congress leader

Business Standard: Guwahati: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
Congress leader Ajay Upadhayay on Wednesday claimed that around two crore people have lost their jobs in the country due to demonetisation and implementation of GST.
Addressing a press conference here, All India Congress Committee Spokesperson Ajay Upadhayay charged the BJP-led government that demonetisation and the GST had hit the unorganised sector most.
"Due to these two steps by the (Narendra) Modi government, two crore people have lost jobs. BJP's promise to give two crore jobs every year has become a 'jumla' only," he added.
During the 2018 year itself, around 1.1 crore people have lost their employment opportunities, Upadhayay claimed.
"According to a recent RTI reply, 24 lakh government posts are lying vacant at present. If the BJP government rally wanted to give jobs to unemployed youths, then they would have recruited people," he said.
He also attacked the government for not implementing the Street Vendors Act, 2014, affecting the small traders and daily income earners.
"There are 45-46 crore people working in the unorganised sector. This comprise the 93 per cent of the total workforce in India. The Modi government is totally anti-small traders," Upadhayay said.
The Congress party's wing All India Unorganised Workers Congress -- has called for a nation-wide dharna on January 21 to press for their demands related to the sector, he informed.

Quota at top: State-run banks and PSUs fare much better than Govt

Indian Express: New Delhi: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
There’s a glimmer when it comes to major public sector banks and undertakings, with banks based in the south leading the way in ensuring reservation benefits, according to data obtained by The Indian Express under the RTI Act.
SCHEDULED CASTES (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are under-represented in the upper rungs of the government and its central universities. But there’s a glimmer when it comes to major public sector banks and undertakings, with banks based in the south leading the way in ensuring reservation benefits, according to data obtained by The Indian Express under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
The State Bank of India (SBI), the largest public sector bank, has fulfilled the quota entitlement for SCs and STs among officers (see chart below). And among PSUs, aluminium major NALCO has almost double the quota of ST officers — the prescribed reservation entitlement is 15 per cent for SCs, 7.5 per cent for STs and 27 per cent for OBCs.
reservation, 10 per cent quota, SCs, STs, OBCs, reservation in public sector banks, general quota in banks, India news, Indian Express news
The State Bank of India (SBI), the largest public sector bank, has fulfilled the quota entitlement for SCs and STs among officers.
However, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the central banking institution, is seen lagging behind in these quota categories for officers.
As the new 10 per cent quota for the poor among those who are not beneficiaries of reservation got the President’s nod, The Indian Express reported Wednesday that SCs, STs and OBCs are not adequately represented among Group A and Group B officers in the central government.
And that among the 40 central universities, the number of Professors and Associate Professors appointed under the OBC category was zero the quotas are mandatory only up to the level of Assistant Professor.
RTI data of major banks and PSUs present a better picture overall although, in the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), the leading insurer, officers (Class 1 and Class 2) under the OBC quota form just 9.41 per cent of the total of 55,633 officers.
  • Of 13 major banks, all have more SC officers than their quota entitlement.
  • In the OBC quota, the number of officers in the 13 banks are less than the entitlement but at 20.75 per cent is better than in 71 government departments (14.94 per cent).
  • In the RBI, only 13.81 per cent of 6,908 officers are from the OBC category, 14.93 per cent from SC and 6.31 per cent from ST.
Banks headquartered in Chennai and Manipal (Karnataka) show a significant uptick for OBCs.
  • Chennai-based Indian Overseas Bank: 26.35 per cent of 14,522 officers.
  • Chennai-based Indian Bank: 29.05 per cent of 11,098 officers.
  • Manipal-based Syndicate Bank: 25.28 per cent of 8,591 officers.
Among the 11 PSUs who responded to RTI requests, Bhubaneswar-based NALCO showed the way in ST quota representation (16.6 per cent) but lagged in OBCs with just 8.81 per cent.
Construction major NBCC recorded dismal quota figures with only 4.77 per cent officers from the ST segment and 17.77 per cent OBCs.
In their RTI replies, the RBI specified that the data provided was up to June 30, 2018, LIC up to March 31, Syndicate Bank up to November 15, UCO Bank up to October 31, and the others up to September 30 IDBI, Punjab and Sind Bank and Andhra Bank did not specify any date.

429 tigers killed by poachers since 2008, reveals RTI reply

Economic Times: Noida: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
As many as 429 tigers have been poached and killed since 2008 across the country, with the maximum of 71 in Madhya Pradesh during the period, revealed data obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Year-wise, the maximum killings took place in 2011 when 80 tigers were poached, while the minimum of 17 occurred in 2015, according to the data from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The WCCB is a statutory body formed to combat organised wildlife crime in the country.
In 2018, 22 tigers were killed, down from 25 in 2017 and 48 in 2016, it stated in a written response.
Noida-based lawyer Ranjan Tomar had sought state-wise data from the bureau on the number of tigers killed by poachers since 2008.
The maximum killings of 71 tigers have been reported from MP, followed by 46 each in Maharashtra and Karnataka, 42 each in Assam and Chhattisgarh and 35 in Uttarakhand during the period, according to the data.
Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh reported 25 such killings each, 19 in Kerala, followed by 12 in West Bengal, 11 each in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, it stated.
Six tiger killings by poachers were reported in Delhi two each in 2011 and 2012, one each in 2013 and 2014, and one in 2008, it added.
Notably, there are 14 states and Union Territories Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshadweep, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Puducherry, Punjab, Sikkim and Tripura from where no such killings have been reported since 2008, according to the data.
"The number of tiger killings has come down in recent years, as shown in the data, which is good news for wildlife conservationists and enthusiasts. However, the concern still looms large over such killings and poaching continuing," Tomar said.
"It is essential to save wildlife if we want to protect the environment. Animals like elephants and tigers are critical to human survival because of their position in the natural food chain and losing them could endanger our existence," the 30-year-old social activist told PTI.
Tomar had also sought details of the tiger census of 2008 and 2018 but the bureau said no such data was maintained by it.
There was also no information with the department on the amount of tiger skin or body parts recovered from poachers during the period.

On Rafale audit, Centre's auditor CAG refuses to share details: RTI

The Hans India: National: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has refused to disclose details about its audit in the controversial Rafale aircraft deal, saying the process is not yet complete and any disclosure at this stage will amount to breach of the Parliament’s privilege, an RTI reply said.
In its response to Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had sought the report from CAG, the country's auditor said, "The audit is under progress and the report is yet to be finalised. The information cannot be given under Section 8(1)(C) of the RTI Act as the disclosure would cause breach of Parliament".
Section 8(1)(C) of the Right To Information (RTI) Act exempts information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.
Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.
It rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and a court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA).
"The pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament and is in public domain," the bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said, relying on the sealed note submitted by the government.
After the Congress raised the issue that no such CAG report had been placed before the PAC, the government approached the court seeking changes in the judgment.
In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgement appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.
The centre made it clear that it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament. It clarified that the note had said the government "has already shared" the price details with the CAG, which was written in past tense and "is factually correct".
However, where it was stated by the centre in the note that the report of the CAG "is" examined by the PAC, was a description of the procedure which is followed in the normal course, but in the judgement, ''is'' was replaced with the words ''has been'', according to the application.
In its response to the RTI application filed by Durve, the CAG also refused to share its correspondence related to the audit of Rafale deal with any government department or political party, claiming that such records were "confidential and held in fiduciary capacity" hence, exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act.
The CAG added that audit in the Indian Air Force is done by designated principal audit officer of the force and the reports are submitted to the national auditor for approval.

2006 Mumbai blast convict seeks IB report under RTI; HC asks CIC to consider request

Financial Express: Delhi: Thursday, January 17, 2019.
The Delhi High Court Wednesday said the information sought by a convict in the 2006 Mumbai train bombings case regarding an Intelligence Bureau report purportedly calling for review of evidence in the matter, did pertain to human rights violation and asked the Central Information Commission to consider his request afresh. Justice Vibhu Bakhru said the Central Information Commission (CIC) “erroneously” concluded that the information sought by the convict, Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique, did not pertain to allegations of corruption or human rights violation.
“The gravamen of his allegation is that he has been falsely implicated by the respondent despite the respondent having information that the petitioner was not involved in the July 11, 2006 blast case. This court is of the view that the said conclusion is erroneous, as the information does relate to violation of human rights,” the judge said. With the observation, the court set aside the CIC’s March 26, 2018 order denying the information sought by the convict, and remanded the matter back to the commission for fresh consideration.
The order came on a plea by Siddique, represented by advocate Arpit Bhargava, seeking directions to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to provide him with the report which was tabled before the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2009. Siddique, presently lodged in the Nagpur Central Jail, was given capital punishment for the July 11, 2006 serial blasts when seven RDX bombs ripped through as many Western line local trains in Mumbai leading to the death of 189 persons and injuring 829. In his plea, filed through Bhargava, he had claimed that he was falsely implicated in the case which amounts to violation of his human rights and therefore, he needed the IB report which purportedly called for review of the evidence in the 2006 Mumbai train blasts case.
The IB, represented by advocates Rahul Sharma and C K Bhatt, had opposed the plea saying since Siddique was convicted after trial by a court set up under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), he could not in another forum claim that he was falsely implicated. The IB’s lawyers had also contended that the convict was “trying to create a parallel trial” since the death sentence to him was pending confirmation in the Bombay High Court.
The court while sending the matter back to CIC for a fresh consideration, made it clear that merely because information regarding allegations of corruption and human rights violations falls within the purview of RTI Act does not mean it has to be disclosed. It said the commission will examine whether the information sought was relevant and if it found that it was not, then approval for disclosure would not be granted.
(Copy of Order)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Children take lead to make Mankhurd safe, ‘it is our right to speak up for our rights’

Indian Express: Mumbai: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
As a nine-year-old in 2014, when Samreen Shah told her parents of her willingness to join an NGO in mapping safe and unsafe spaces for children in Mankhurd’s Lallubhai Compound, they were more than skeptical. The place, home to scores of impoverished housing quarters, was simply not deemed safe enough for girls to venture out alone.
Today, the teenager forms the core of a group of youngsters trained by Mumbai-based civil society organisation YUVA to ensure children growing up in the city’s impoverished quarters do so with dignity.
Tuesday ended YUVA’s five-year engagement in Lallubhai Compound, a Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) colony consisting 70 towers to house families displaced from across Mumbai to make way for urban transport projects. “R&R colonies will keep increasing in Mumbai in the next 20 years and children will be affected the most. While planning these colonies, it is important to ask children what their needs are,” said Pooja Yadav, YUVA’s Mumbai convener, speaking at a ceremony to felicitate individuals key to the project.
Children like Samreen who was born in Lallubhai Compound and her friends Sagar Reddy (18) and Omkar Thorat (18), who moved there with their families as toddlers were simply not part of any such consultation process. Growing up, that left them with unusable playgrounds, narrow unlit lanes, and schools that could only be accessed by crossing the railway tracks. The housing colony is located in the BMC’s M-East ward, which reports some of Mumbai’s worst Human Development Index indicators.
“Over the last two years, we met our local MP Rahul Shewale with a plea to build a foot overbridge. He told us that isn’t feasible but had written to the Central Railway to build a skywalk connecting Lallubhai Compound to Mankhurd station so that children don’t get killed while walking to school,” said Omkar.
Also among the interventions of the children who operate under the Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS) has been sending over 600 written suggestions to the BMC to mark a space in the area for a playground in its Development Plan 2034. “Part of one ground has been lost to a building project. We have filed RTI applications which show that it has been illegally taken over. We have raised the issue in meetings with our local corporator, Mayor and the CMO,” said Samreen.
Among the speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony were Nitin Bobade, senior inspector, Mankhurd police station, who appealed to the BASS to petition political leaders for a playground. “Lallubhai Compound needs a good playground so that children can realise their dreams of becoming athletes,” he said.
Shimon Patole, another BASS member, said the group meets the local police once a month. “We never had the confidence to even set foot inside the police station before. But as a result of our discussions, the police have increased patrolling in places where girls are harassed and drugs are sold,” he said. “During training, we were taught to be bindaas and not be afraid to speak to any adult. It is our right to speak up for our rights,” added Ormkar.
Yadav feels children in R&R colonies are a lot more aware of lack of infrastructure than youngsters in better-off areas, resulting in terms like RTI, Right to Education Act and DP, among others, slipping easily off their tongues. “They have seen politicians come to their areas and promise water connections and build toilets. More than other children, they know who their local corporators, MLAs and MPs are but they do not know how to improve their situation. We only help them become organised,” she said.
For the children, the biggest difference was simply the fact that girls outnumbered boys in attendance Tuesday. Addressing the crowd, Samreen said, “It is a big thing for a girl from an R&R colony to be speaking on a stage today. I cannot claim our area is 100 per cent safe after five years of work, but it is now safe enough for a bunch of girls to go to a tapri to drink chai.”

Reservation candidates are under-represented in Govt’s upper rungs : by Shyamlal Yadav

Indian Express: New Delhi: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and, especially, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are under-represented in the higher echelons of the government Group A and Group B and most of its institutions, including central universities.
This is the key finding from a set of most recent data obtained by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), UGC and the HRD Ministry.
This assumes significance at a time when the government has just enacted a Constitutional amendment earmarking 10 per cent quota for the poor among those who are not beneficiaries of reservation: 15 per cent for SCs, 7.5 per cent for STs and 27 per cent for OBCs.
The figures are stark when it comes to the 40 central universities, where OBC reservation is applicable only up to the level of Assistant Professor but here, too, their share is almost half (14.38 per cent) of their legal entitlement.
Significantly, the number of Professors and Associate Professors in central universities appointed under OBC reservation: zero. They show that 95.2 per cent of Professors, 92.9 per cent of Associate Professors and 66.27 per cent of Assistant Professors are from the general category, which may also include SCs, STs and OBCs who have not availed the benefits of reservation.

In SC/ST, too, the numbers are telling:
  • Of the 1,125 Professors, there are only 39 (3.47 percent) from SC and just 8 (0.7 percent) from ST.
  • Among 2,620 Associate Professors, only 130 (4.96 per cent) are from SC and just 34 (1.3 per cent) from ST.
  • Of the 7,741 Assistant Professors, 931 (12.02 per cent) are from SC, 423 (5.46 per cent) from ST and 1,113 (14.38 per cent) from OBC.

Reservation, 10% quota, quota in education, quota for upper class, reservation in central university, OBS reservatiom, SC reservation, ST reservation, education, India news From July, quota in higher education across all private institutions: Govt
Even among non-teaching staff, only 8.96 per cent are SC, 4.25 per cent ST and 10.17 per cent OBCs. Data show that 76.14 per cent in this segment belong to the general category.
Responding to queries from The Indian Express under the RTI Act, the UGC provided data for central universities up to April 1, 2018; the HRD Ministry for its own staff up to January 1, 2018; Railways up to January 1, 2017; and, the DoPT for government departments for the year 2015.
The data show that of the 665 officers of Group A and Group B in the HRD Ministry, and its attached and subordinate offices, 440 (66.17 per cent) are from the general category, 126 (18.94 per cent) from SC, 43 (6.47 per cent) from ST and only 56 (8.42 per cent) from OBCs.
DoPT’s data also show that representation from reserved categories in Group A and Group B is very low in comparison to their entitlement.
Among the other central government departments, the representation of OBCs in Group A and Group B is among the worst in the Railways, which is India’s largest employer. The data show that among the 16,381 officers of Group A and Group B, only 1,319 (8.05 per cent) are from OBCs.
Reservation candidates are under-represented in Govt’s upper rungs
Under the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, all central government posts are classified under four categories, with Group A at the top and Group D at the lowest rung.
Group A includes all the three all-India services and covers senior management positions in ministries/departments and field organisations. The middle and junior levels of Group A, alongwith gazetted Group B officers constitute the middle management, followed by Group B non-gazetted officers.
According to the 7th Pay Commission report, of the 33.02 lakh civilian workforce in the central government, 8 per cent falls in Group B and 3 per cent in Group A. Primarily, selection for Group A services is carried out by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and for Group B by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC).

Unsafe Mumbai? RTI reply shows serious spike in rape cases

Times Now: Mumbai: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
Mumbai is the financial capital of India and is often considered to be a safe place for women. However, recent times have seen an exponential rise in heinous crimes against women as data suggested that rape cases in the maximum city had doubled.
According to data, rape cases increased in Mumbai in 2017 compared to 2013. This information has been given to RTI activist Shakeel Ahmed Shaikh by the Brihanmumbai Police department.
Shaikh had been seeking information about rape cases in Mumbai Police Commissioner Jurisdiction between 2013 and 2018. Replying to this RTI application, Mumbai Police revealed that rape cases have increased in Mumbai city as compared to previous years. The reply to an RTI application by Mumbai Police revealed that 388 rape cases were registered in the year 2013 and 751 rape cases were registered in the year 2018.
Rape caes doubled in Mumbai, RTI Reveals
  • 388 rape cases registered in the year 2013.
  • 605 rape cases registered in the year 2014.
  • 710 rape cases registered in the year 2015.
  • 712 rape cases registered in the year 2016.
  • 751 rape cases registered in the year 2017.
  • 651 rape cases registered up to September 2018.
It means that a total of 3,817 rape cases were lodged between 2013 to September 2018. The RTI query also revealed that a total 289 rape cases were registered under POCSO Act from September 2017 to December 2017 and by September 2018, a total of 842 rape cases were registered under POCSO Act.

Professional RTI ‘extortionists’ delay projects, harass builders: MCHI

DNA: Mumbai: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
The Maharashtra Chamber for Housing Industry (MCHI) has written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis demanding stringent action against RTI 'activists' who are allegedly blackmailing and abusing provisions of the law to extort huge amounts from them.
The body represents over 1,800 developers, and its letter has been signed by president Nayan Shah, secretary Bandish Ajmera and COO Sanjiv Chaudhary. "These so-called RTI activists are organised blackmailers," the letter says, "They even have lawyers, architects and engineers on their rolls which help them run relentless campaigns against developers to delay and derail projects with the objective of extracting huge amounts from them."
"This fact becomes completely obvious when one examines their criminal records and begins to question why a 'social worker' would spend lakhs of rupees to get copies of documents from the Mantralaya, civic offices, housing board, etc. under the RTI Act; and further spend lakhs of rupees in filing several cases in various courts and committees," says Kailash Agarwal, chairman of the Avighna Group.
It letter says that these "criminal elements" blatantly violate the process of law to entangle the real estate fraternity in false and frivolous litigations. "Even after securing all the mandatory approvals and permissions, developers are harassed in varied ways," reads the letter. "They are brought under pressure to meet the blackmailers' demands."
This relentless campaign takes a toll on developers, who are already under severe stress due to bad market conditions and the high cost of finances. "With every day's delay puts a huge financial burden on the developer. Some developers have even been driven to suicide by the stress," says MHCI, citing the examples of two builders who recently ended their lives due to professional setbacks.
The body has asked the Chief Minister to instruct the police to take complaints of extortion from developers seriously and investigate such matters thoroughly. "Only then will such blackmailers be brought to account and genuine law-abiding developers can focus on delivering quality construction on time," said Agarwal.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION
The MCHI, which represents over 1,800 developers, has asked the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to instruct the police to take complaints of extortion by builders seriously and investigate such matters thoroughly.

2 Rajasthan men ask for details on projects, get used condoms in RTI reply

Hindustan Times: Jaipur: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
For Vikas Choudhary and Manohar Lal, the response to their RTI query came as a rude shock.
The residents of Chani Badi in Bhadra tehsil of Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district got used condoms wrapped in old newspaper allegedly posted by the gram panchayat on the directions of State Information Commission.
Choudhary and Lal had filed two separate applications under the right to information act (RTI) with the gram panchayat on April 16 seeking details of the development projects undertaken since 2001.
“After opening the first envelope with used condoms folded in an old newspaper, we were quite apprehensive about the stuff in the second one so we called the block development officer (BDO) and requested his presence while opening the other,” Choudhary, who is preparing for state civil services examination in Delhi, said while speaking to the Hindustan Times over the phone.
“When the BDO refused our request, we decided to open it in the presence of some prominent persons of our village and filmed the whole episode. The material in the second envelope was the same as the first one,” he said.
Lal was also stunned when he received the same “answer” when he opened the envelope to check the reply.
“Is this how the panchayat runs its business? I cannot believe the civic body can reply in such a foul manner. I have been in constant mental agony and depression since I received the RTI reply,” Lal said.
When contacted, chief executive officer (CEO) of Hanumangarh Jila Parishad Navneet Kumar said it was a “mischievous act” after the condoms were posted in the reply.
“The regrettable and illegal act has been done by some unknown person who appears to have access in the official system,” Kumar said.
The CEO assured that all necessary steps will be taken to avert recurrence of such incidents and an investigation will be launched to bring the culprit to book.

CAG refuses to share Rafale audit; cites breach of Parliament

Financial Express: National: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has refused to disclose details about its audit in the controversial Rafale aircraft deal, saying the process is not yet complete and any disclosure at this stage will amount to breach of the Parliament’s privilege, an RTI reply said. In its response to Pune-based activist Vihar Durve who had sought the report from CAG, the country’s auditor said, “The audit is under progress and the report is yet to be finalised. The information cannot be given under Section 8(1)(C) of the RTI Act as the disclosure would cause breach of Parliament”.
Section 8(1)(C) of the Right To Information (RTI) Act exempts information the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature. Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.
It rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and a court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA). “The pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament and is in public domain,” the bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had said, relying on the sealed note submitted by the government.
After the Congress raised the issue that no such CAG report had been placed before the PAC, the government approached the court seeking changes in the judgment. In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgement appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.
The Centre made it clear that it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament. It clarified that the note had said the government “has already shared” the price details with the CAG, which was written in past tense and “is factually correct”.
However, where it was stated by the Centre in the note that the report of the CAG “is” examined by the PAC, was a description of the procedure which is followed in the normal course, but in the judgement, ‘is’ was replaced with the words ‘has been’, according to the application.
In its response to the RTI application filed by Durve, the CAG also refused to share its correspondence related to the audit of Rafale deal with any government department or political party, claiming that such records were “confidential and held in fiduciary capacity” hence, exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. The CAG added that audit in the Indian Air Force is done by designated principal audit officer of the force and the reports are submitted to the national auditor for approval.

RTI: HC notice to GFSU for non-compliance

Ahmedabad Mirror: Ahmedabad: Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Gujarat Forensic Science University (GFSU) over non-formation of rules and regulations under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The petition was filed by RTI activist and ex-student of the GFSU Sandip Munjyasara.
"I filed the petition as GFSU hasn't made any rules under the RTI. It comes under the public authority and should formulate it," said Munyasara, while talking to Mirror.
The petition stated, "GFSU is violating section 4(1)(b)(v) of RTI Act since its establishment from year 2009. It is its duty to publish rules, regulations, statutes, notifications, orders, GR, instructions, circular, guidelines and manuals etc passed under GFSU Act 2008 on the notice board and website of the GFSU."
It added, "The petitioner has been denied his right to information. The purpose of RTI Act 2005 is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority which may be frustrated if prayers of petitioner will not be granted. The petitioner has no other efficacious remedy but to file the present petition under Article 226 of our Constitution."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

AMC withheld resolution on water company’

Times of India: Aurangabad: Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
Activist and petitioner Rajendra Datey Patil has stated that the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has concealed the copy of a resolution passed on September 4 last year to bring back Aurangabad City Water Utility Co Ltd (ACWUCL) for city’s water supply.
Patil said he has obtained a copy of the resolution following directives of the state information commissioner, but wants the AMC to be penalised for hiding the document.
The general body (GB) of the municipal corporation has terminated the contract with the ACWUCL in 2016 over several issues. However, in July 2018 municipal commissioner Nipun Vinayak presented a proposal before the GB to revive the contract with the company to lay parallel pipeline from Jayakwadi dam to the city.
Overruling its own decision, the GB on September 4 approved the resolution to hire the water company for the project.
According to Patil, who is the petitioner against the contract in the high court, he had submitted a Right to Information (RTI) application to the city secretary demanding a copy of the resolution to be kept before the general body.
“City secretary did not issue me a copy and on September 18, the department in a written statement said that the required information will be produced once it is available,” the activist said.
Following the non-provision of the required document from the AMC, Patil approached the state information commissioner who issued directives to the civic body to provide the information sought.
The activist stated that the city secretary provided him the document on January 11 after a delay of 137 days. “The resolution was also withheld from the press and the corporators,” he said.
Now, Datey Patil says that he wants penalty of Rs 25,000 to be imposed on the municipal corporation for keeping the document away from him.
“As per the section 20 (1) of the RTI Act 2005, I am going to approach the state information commissioner to take action against the civic body and impose penalty on the civic body,” Patil said.
Dilip Suryawanshi, city secretary, said he provided the document to the applicant as soon as he received it. “I did not see the document even when it was sent to the state government,” he added.

Appointment of Nageswara Rao as interim CBI director challenged in SC

The Asian Age: New Delhi: Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday seeking a direction to quash the January 10 order of the government appointing IPS officer M Nageswara Rao as an interim director of the CBI.
CBI's Additional Director Rao was given the charge of CBI interim chief on January till the appointment of a new director after a high-powered committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed Alok Kumar Verma as the chief of the probe agency on charges of corruption and dereliction of duty.
The petition, filed by NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, has sought laying down of specific mechanisms to ensure transparency in the process of appointment of CBI director.
It alleged that Rao's appointment was not made on the basis of recommendations of the high-powered selection committee, comprising the prime minister, the leader of the single largest opposition party and the chief justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him. "In fact, it appears that the committee was completely bypassed and had no role in the appointment of Nageswara Rao, thereby rendering the appointment illegal as it is in violation of the procedure for appointment of Director, CBI laid down in the DSPE (Delhi Special Police Establishment) Act," the plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said.
It stated that the order of October 23 last year appointing Rao as the interim CBI director was quashed by the top court on January 8 but the government has "acted in a completely mala fide, arbitrary and illegal manner" to appoint him again in "complete contravention" of the DSPE Act.
The plea also sought a direction to the Centre to appoint a regular CBI director forthwith by following the procedure laid down in accordance with the provision of DSPE Act, as amended by the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013.
Besides this, the petition has sought a direction to the government to ensure that "all records of deliberations and rational criteria related to short-listing and selection of the director, CBI, be properly recorded and made available to citizens in consonance with the provisions of the RTI Act."
It said the government should ensure transparency in short-listing, election and appointment process of CBI director by publicly disclosing, including through the website, the procedure and rational criteria for short-listing candidates, if any short-listing is done.
The plea sought a direction to the Centre that the process of selecting CBI director, including composition, mandate and minutes of the meetings of the search committee, should be disclosed publicly along with names of short-listed candidates so that people can inform the panel of any significant adverse information they may have about any such candidate.
It said that the minutes of the meetings of the selection committee should be publicly disclosed and recording of facts to indicate how the selected candidates are best suited for the post, disclosure of this information according to the provisions of the RTI Act after the appointment has been made should be there.
"In so far as the appointment of the Director, CBI is concerned, the Government of India has failed to adopt proper procedures to ensure transparency in the short-listing, selection and appointment," the plea said.
It claimed that lack of transparency in appointment of CBI director prevents any public scrutiny of the process and allows the "government to exercise undue influence" in the appointment process especially at the stage of short-listing of candidates.
Detailing the sequence of events relating to the appointment of Rao as the interim CBI director, the plea alleged that the entire process was "mala fide" as the government wanted to "appoint its own choice as CBI Director in the interim."
It said that independence and insulation of the CBI from government influence was key to ensuring its proper functioning. "The Government of India has attempted to stifle the independence of the institution of the CBI by appointing the Director of the CBI in an arbitrary and illegal manner," the plea claimed.
The apex court had on January 8 allowed Alok Kumar Verma to return as the CBI director, albeit with his wings clipped, by setting aside the Centre and the CVC's orders divesting him of his powers and sending him on leave.
However, the top court had said it was "still open" for the high-powered committee, which selects the CBI chief, to consider the matter within a week since the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is probing the charges of corruption against Verma.
It had set aside the October 23, 2018, orders of the CVC and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) divesting Verma of his powers and asking Rao to look after the duties and functions of the agency's Director.
On January 10, the high-powered committee removed Verma as the CBI Director. The same day, an order was issued by the government giving Rao the charge of interim CBI director.