Monday, September 01, 2014

Make facilities provided to Medanta Hospital public: CIC to government

Financial Express: New Delhi: Monday, 01 September 2014.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Centre to disclose the facilities which are being provided to the posh Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon.
The case relates to an RTI application filed by activist Subhash Agrawal through which he has sought to know the details of the facilities being extended to the hospital out of public funds.
The Health Ministry refused to provide the information saying it does not have the relevant details.
Information Commissioner Yashowardhan Azad has said any facility provided by the government to any hospital is out of public funds.
"Public funds are those funds which are collected by the state from the citizens by imposition of taxes, duties, cess, service charges, etc. These funds are held by the state in trust for being utilised for the benefit of the general public.
"Every citizen is entitled to know how the money, which is collected by the state from him by taxation, has been utilised," Azad said in the order.
CIC, however, rejected the request for disclosure of the medical bills of former Chief Justice of India Justice J S Verma saying it was personal information and Agrawal has not been able to show any larger public interest.
"The Commission directs the respondent to provide specific reply to the appellant, within three weeks of receipt of the order, in relation to the query on facilities provided by the government to Medanta Hospital," he said.

Disclose report of Mudgal Committee on lobbying: CIC to Centre

Hindustan Times: New Delhi: Monday, 01 September 2014.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Centre to disclose confidential file notings related to the constitution of the Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee which probed alleged lobbying by Walmart in India. CIC also directed the government to make public the committee's report along with the steps taken by the Centre to prevent possible lobbying in the country by foreign companies.
The one-member committee of former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana high court Mudgal was constituted by the UPA government to investigate alleged corruption charges against retail giant Walmart in India.
The Committee had to probe if Walmart undertook activities in India in contravention of any Indian law and any other matter relevant or incidental to the case.
The case came before the CIC on a plea by activist Subhash Agrawal, who had sought the information from the Corporate Affairs Ministry, which had refused to provide it.
"Information needs to be provided under Section 8(2) of RTI Act which mentions providing of information if public interest overweighs the harm protected.
"There is definitely public interest involved in the whole matter where media reports indicate attempt at lobbying by private foreign companies with even those in PMO," Agrawal said in his appeal.
Agreeing with Agrawal, Information Commissioner Yashowardhan Azad directed the ministry to provide the information, along with the file notings, related to the constitution of the committee.
He also directed it to provide report of the committee along with the file notings.
The Commissioner directed the ministry to forward the RTI application to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion for its response as regards the details of the steps taken to prevent any lobbying in India by foreign companies.

MMC serves notices to 11 doctors of top Mumbai hospital for practicing without registration Mumbai: Monday, 01 September 2014.
Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has served show cause notices to 11 Mumbai based doctors for getting engaged in medical practice in a hospital without MMC registrations. Section 33 of the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act, 1961 prohibits medical practice by unregistered and unlisted persons.
The show cause notices served comes close on the heels of a Right to Information (RTI Act) application filed by a Mumbai based finance consultant in a medical negligence case. MMC in its reply on the RTI application revealed that 11 doctors of a reputed hospital are not registered with MMC. Explains an MMC Official, "The show cause notices served is intended to seek a satisfactory answer or explanation within 15 days from the doctors for practicing without registrations with the state medical council."
An MMC official talking about the magnanimity of the problem related to unregistered doctors and quacks in the country also revealed that Maharashtra alone has over one lakh quacks whereas Delhi has 40,000 quacks as per a study done a few years back.
In its RTI application filed this year by a healthcare advocacy group Chikitsasansar Trust has also contested that absence of any government regulation led to widespread quackery across the country. Explains Ashok Khandelwal from Chikitsasansar Trust," There are over 2 lakh electropaths working in an unregulated manner because there is no Act in place. As such it does not come under the purview of either of the central or state government's medical Act. This can have a bearing on the patient safety as quacks are practicing it in several villages of the country."
While contesting the issue of recognition of electro homoeopathy which has come up before various high courts, its practitioners say that no law has banned its practice and they are entitled to engage in a profession as guaranteed by the Constitution. The right of electro homoeopathic practitioners are well protected under Article 19(1)(g) of Constitution of India.
For practicing modern medicine or any other forms of Indian system of medicine like Ayurveda/Unani systems of medicine, registration is required under Medical Council Act. For getting these registrations, the applicants should also possess the prescribed qualifications. But electro homoeopathy is an entirely different system of medicine. Its practice is not controlled by any state in India. It is not prohibited by any law also.
Therefore, the practitioners have a fundamental right under Article (19) (1) (g) of the constitution of India to proceed with the practice of the electro homoeopathy. Doctors can practice electro homoeopathy by settled law of the Government of India which means law allowed.

MP pollution board doesn't know about errant MNCs

Times of India: Bhopal: Monday, 01 September 2014.
When it comes to multinational companies (MNCs), Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) appears to be totally ignorant about action taken against under green laws or the number of MNCs operating in the state.
Board's ignorance was revealed in its response to an RTI query that sought to know details of action taken against MNCs operating in the state for violation of pollution norms between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2013. Board replied there is no data compiled with it about the issue.
In its reply the board further stated there might be many MNCs operational in the state and if the applicant wants, he can come to the office and go through the files and seek information about any particular company.
Board's shocking reply has come at a time when air, water and sound pollution levels in Madhya Pradesh are on the rise with Gwalior being named among top four cities of the world with dirtiest air, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study.
As per the study, Delhi leads the pack. Of the 20 cities in the world with dirtiest air, 13 are from India. Gwalior in MP has more than three times of the acceptable particulate matter levels in air. Pollution levels would be even more in cities of the state with coal fired power plants.
It underlines that about half of the urban population is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than levels WHO recommends, putting people at higher risk of serious, long-term health problems.
Environmentalist and RTI activist Ajay Dubey said if the MPPCB does not know the number of multinational companies and action taken against them, the purpose of board's existence is defeated. There should be a proactive disclosure of such information on board's official website, he added.

Scholarship woes continue to haunt poor students

Indian Express: Pune: Monday, 01 September 2014.
Maharashtra has the fifth highest Scheduled Caste population in the country, but when it comes to education, only 4.8 per cent of the students belonging to the community successfully complete their college. This, despite substantial sums of money being allocated in both state and Central budgets to improve the level of education among the community.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express under the RTI Act, as well as the latest report of the Comptroller and Accountant General (CAG), show various scholarships schemes are riddled with lacunae, often leading to non-disbursement of the scholarships.
Not distributing the scholarships on time often causes hardships for students, especially those in professional colleges. Though educational institutes are not supposed to charge tuition and other fees from students belonging to SC and other backward communities, the latter are often forced to pay up in the absence of the scholarship money. In fact, the CAG has noted that in seven of the nine districts they audited, educational institutes collected tuition fees worth Rs 15.67 crore from 64,440 SC and other backward community students in violation of the government’s orders.
In case of Savitribai Phule Pune University, a major issue noted during the scrutiny by the auditor general was the non-disbursement of scholarships. The AG, in its recent audit, had pulled up the university for its failure to disburse Rs 27.21 lakh since 2009-10 to students.
“In addition to this, an excess advance of Rs 74,246 and scholarship received in 2009-10 amounting to Rs 20,11,215 was also lying undisbursed and not refunded to the sanctioning authority even after a lapse of three years,” the report read. Also, though scholarships are now disbursed through an online system, Rs 12.57 lakh was still lying in the account as of March 2014.
While deserving students are deprived of scholarships in many cases, the CAG had pulled up colleges in Pune, Latur and Solapur for distributing scholarships, including maintenance allowance, tuition fee, examination fee and other fee to students who were not supposed to get them. “An amount of Rs 9.46 lakh was disbursed irregularly, to 27 students who were admitted through institutional-level quota,” the report read.
Social Welfare Commissioner Ranjitsingh Deol said efforts were being made to ensure colleges and other institutions did not ask these students to pay fees. He said steps had also been taken to reimburse the amounts paid by them. “We have taken action against such colleges. The students would get back their fees, which will be directly reimbursed to their accounts,” said Deol.
V Gargote, Finance and Account Officer of the Savitribai Phule Pune University, said: “The process of returning the undistributed scholarship amount is in process. There was a delay due to the difference in manual and computerised system of accounting in the treasury but that is being corrected. Very soon the entire amount will be returned to the sanctioning authority.”

Corporation ducks RTI queries on disease, deaths

Times of India: Chennai: Monday, 01 September 2014.
The tenacity of Corporation of Chennai's health department down with a severe and apparently incurable type of noinformationitis is formidable to say the least. No matter how many requests for data it receives on diseases or deaths, it will not capitulate.
The message is always the same: "We do not have any information on the subject."
Activists charge the department with repeatedly covering up deaths and disease outbreaks in the city, using Section 7(9) of RTI Act. The section 7 (9) of the RTI Act states: "Information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question."
TOI filed nine RTI applications seeking information from the health department to check how the civic body responded to such petitions, specifically on pleas for data pertaining to deaths. All replies were rejected under section 7 (9) of RTI Act.
Activists say the health department widely misuses the section to stonewall queries. "Every citizen has the right to access information on deaths from the corporation under the RTI Act," said Vijay Anand, coordinator of NGO 5th Pillar. "The department should ideally post updated data it on its website. The information commission should take suo motu action against the department for misusing the RTI Act."
"If a minister or collector asks these particulars, then these officials will have the details ready in two days. When an ordinary citizen does, they will come up with any excuse to deny information," he said.
Sources say senior officials have instructed the public information officer (PIOs) of the health department not to divulge details on cases of tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, H1N1, diarrhoea to the public. The decision was taken after the suspension of city health officer P Kuganantham following a TOI report that the corporation was covering up cholera deaths.
"We have received instructions from senior officials not to provide information on deaths as it may invite trouble," a corporation official said.
When contacted, Kuganantham refused to comment on the issue.
TOI had also recently reported that health department refused to provide details in response to a petition under the RTI Act, of cases and deaths in Chennai due to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).
This is in violation of Section 4 of the RTI Act, which makes regular cataloguing and indexing of records compulsory. Other provisions of the legislation stipulate that information be shared by PIOs of public departments and that all departments digitise records and regularly update this information on their websites.
Public health experts said keeping records confidential could have adverse repercussions when it comes to response preparedness for outbreaks. "This secrecy also hinders medical research because in the absence of accurate figures there is no way to study the prevalence of any disease or disease subtype" a senior doctor said.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Re-employment beyond 65 Years Banned

The New Indian Express: Bhubaneswar: Sunday, 31 August 2014.
The Odisha Government has directed that its administrative departments or undertakings can not engage retired public servants beyond 65 years.
With the departments adopting various policies to engage retired Government employees, the State Government has come out with a set of fresh guidelines that seeks to bring about uniformity in the process. The guidelines say that a retired Government servant can be re-employed initially for two years which can be extended by another two years with an annual appraisal of performance. At no point can the officer be employed beyond four years or 65 years of age. The present retirement age for Government employees is 60.
Officers against whom departmental proceedings or criminal cases are pending or being contemplated, those penalised for misconduct during the last five years of their service will not be considered for re-employment.
The re-employment, as per the new norms formulated by the General Administration Department, will be made through an open advertisement followed by selection by a committee. The pay of the re-engaged officials will be determined by the appointing authority with approval of Finance Department.
During the period of re-employment, the officers will be governed by the provisions of the Odisha Government Servants’ Conduct Rules, 1957 and liable to be proceeded against misconduct, omission and commissions as per the Odisha Pension Rules, 1992. With the State Government sticking to its cost-cutting measures by resorting to minimum fresh recruitment, the Government establishments have been feeling the pressure of workload and taking to hiring retired officers in last few years.
In most cases, the officers are hired back as officers-on-special duty with different pay packages. Information sought through RTI Act reveals that the Finance Department has re-employed 44 retired officers between 2009 and 2014 with salary ranging from Rs 9,300 to Rs 10,000.
The last set of guidelines to govern engagement of retired government servants was chalked out in 1999.

Odisha: How land grab became a fine art under the Naveen regime

First post: Bhubaneswar: Sunday, 31 August 2014.
When the Naveen Patnaik government orders an inquiry by the state crime branch or the vigilance into something, you know for sure that it does not want the truth in the matter to come out. The record of these two agencies in a host of scams, including the multi-thousand crore mining and chit fund scams, and a spate of political murders leave no room for doubt on that score. So, it came as no surprise when the chief minister on Thursday ordered yet another inquiry by the discredited crime branch into the illegal acquisition of over 100 acres of land (the government has admitted to only 76 acres though) on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar by leaders of his own party, including an incumbent and a former minister, and select bureaucrats.
For good measure, the government also announced the suspension of a sub registrar, a tehsildar and an additional tehsildar for illegally registering the leased land ‘in violation of the lease conditions’ and even allowing the mutation of the land on the basis of sale transactions that are ‘ab initio void’. While announcing the suspension of these low level revenue officials, however, the notification cleverly leaves out any mention of who the beneficiaries of these fraudulent transactions are.
But much as the government would like to keep things under the wraps, at least one big name is out in the open: that of Kalpataru Das, Rajya Sabha MP and former minister, who has had a meteoric rise since the fall from grace of Naveen Patnaik’s erstwhile mentor Pyari Mohan Mohapatra. The Gokarneswar Charitable Trust managed by his family has acquired three acres in the area while his son Pranab Balabantaray has had two acres more registered in his name and the latter has admitted as much. But the people of Ghangapatna, where the land grab has taken place, swear that the family is in effective possession of at least 50 acres of land in the area, at least part of which is forest land.
The sheer audacity of the take-over has surprised many. Not content with illegally acquiring the land, Das, when he was minister for Panchayati Raj, sanctioned an amount of Rs 5 lakh under the MGNREGS for construction of a 1.3 km stretch of road on a piece of land that has been categorised as ‘small forest’ and thus required the permission of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). He even got a boundary wall constructed around the land acquired by him.
The land in Ghangapatna is only the latest in the series of acquisitions that Das has managed over the years. At last count, he had acquired an incredible 41 land plots and houses at various places in the state and outside, eight of them in Bhubaneswar and one in New Delhi. After the CAG report blew the lid off some of his acquisition, an embarrassed Pranab had to return to the government two flats he had acquired under the discretionary quota.
Revelations made by the CAG and the media in the last one month or so suggest that the provision of the much maligned ‘discretionary quota’ has been used effectively as a licence to acquire property in prime locations in the Twin City of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack at throwaway prices by the powers that be. Kalpataru Das is only the most visible symbol of the gross abuse of the provision, but he is certainly not the only beneficiary.
Revenue Minister Bijayshree Routray has usurped a huge plot of land given to his wife Jyoti in the heart of the capital city for setting up a hospital. Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathy has availed of a house from the State Housing Board despite having an ancestral house in the city, a gross violation of the rules governing the discretionary quota. Not content with this, he acquired a piece of government land contiguous to his house, which is bigger in size than the one on which his allotted house stands. Last year, Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh (who was then the Rural Development minister) had to return one of the two houses he had acquired under the much maligned quota. The list is only illustrative and by no means exhaustive.
Taking the cue from the politicians, bureaucrats too have made merry at the expense of the deserving people in availing land or houses under the discretionary quota. An RTI query has found that 14 IAS officers have acquired more than one house in the Twin City under the quota in gross violation of the rules.
No wonder the Naveen government, despite a 2002 directive of the Odisha High Court and repeated, almost yearly raps on the knuckle by the CAG, has refused to frame clear, unambiguous guidelines for allotments under the discretionary quota. The court has also suggested that the government could, till the norms are in place, go by the guidelines prescribed by the Supreme Court in the allocation of petrol pumps. But loathe to losing the discretion to bestow favours on its own, the government has ignored this suggestion too.
Finding itself on a sticky wicket after a series of revelations about the gross abuse of the provision of discretionary quota, the state government formed a Task Force to go into all such allotments since 1995. But given the fate of the many such inquiries in the past, nobody believes that anything would come out of it.
Misuse of the discretionary quota took place even in earlier governments. But in Naveen’s regime, it has been made into a fine art.

Old Delhi road caves in after Rs 71 lakh repair

Times of India: Gurgaon: Sunday, 31 August 2014.
An RTI reply has revealed that the municipal corporation has spent Rs 71 lakh to repair the Old Delhi-Gurgaon road but the road is still in a shambles. There are cracks and potholes at many places and a part of the road, where sewer repair work was going on, has caved in.
MCG authorities have acknowledged in the RTI reply that "It is aware of all kinds of defects that have occurred on this road", but have failed to explain why the road is still in a mess despite so much money having been spent. In their defence, they said the road was repaired, but the road could not be entirely upgraded as the state government has yet to approve the entire amount of Rs 55 crore earmarked for the project.
"I find it ridiculous that the MCG has spent Rs 71 lakh on this road and within months it has developed cracks and potholes at many places. Ideally they should have included the sewer repair work and the road upgrade work within the same project instead of splitting it into two. This way the whole road would not have to be dug up all over again to upgrade it whenever the government approves the entire estimated fund for repairs," said Aseem Takyar, the RTI applicant.
"Also, in its reply the MCG has said that the maintenance of roads, made by any agency, is usually for one year. However, in this case this rule does not seem to apply as the private contractor has not been fined yet for the road having caved in so easily and rapidly," Takyar said.

RTI reveals task force for U’khand slums accomplished nothing

Times of India: Dehradun: Sunday, 31 August 2014.
A student activist group working for social change had filed an RTI to get accountability from the government for a task force that was set up for rehabilitating Uttarakhand's slums within four months from mid February to mid June.
Abhijay Negi, founder of the activist group 'Making a Difference- By being the difference' said, "We filed the RTI to secretary (urban development) DS Gabriyal on July 21 . All we want is government accountability on the many promises it has made in the past but kept none of them."
He said, "Under the guidance of the former urban development secretary, M H Khan, a notification was issued on February 10, to form the task force. The period for this force to function has lapsed and the RTI has revealed that nothing concrete has been done."
As per the response to the RTI, directions were given to seek few queries from Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA) and the Dehradun Municipal Corporation(DMC).
The MDDA response states that the number of slum areas in Dehradun has increased from 102 to 118 as of today and the population has increased from 1,11,000 to 1,51,000.
The RTI response, which was received in the early August also mentions various central government schemes like Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) which envisages a 'Slum Free India'. "According to various schemes, homes will be given only to those who are not residing in illegal encroachments. But majority of the slum dwellers live on illegal land. Government needs to come out with a transparent policy to address this issue." said Negi.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Agriculture Ministry cracks down on ‘mismanagement’ in KVKs

Indian Express: New Delhi: Saturday, 30 August 2014.
The Ministry of Agriculture has begun a review of the functioning of all 639 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in the country to detect and put an end to the “mismanagement of public money” by these institutions.
At a meeting held over August 19-20 at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in Delhi, Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan warned KVKs to improve their functioning or face “consequences”.
KVKs were envisaged as a mechanism to impart vocational training to practising farmers, school dropouts, and other individuals involved in field-level agricultural activities.
Beginning in 1974, when the first KVK was established, these institutions are now spread over 600 districts, the largest number 68 being in Uttar Pradesh.
“I have noticed a lot of mismanagement of public money in the KVKs run by NGOs as well as the KVKs run by agricultural universities. Over the next two-three months we will conduct a complete review of all KVKs and grade them according to their performance. KVKs can help uplift ordinary farmers by contributing to the expansion of technology, but I have found that many of them are not working properly and misusing public money,” Balyan told The Indian Express.
Balyan’s review this month was for 100 KVKs in tribal districts. Balyan said he would calling such meetings of all other KVKs in batches over the next few months.
About 7 out of every 10 KVKs are run by state and central agricultural universities. Around 100 KVKs are run by NGOs, including NGOs controlled by politicians.
Using information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, The Indian Express had reported in its edition of May 16, 2013 that proper procedure was often overlooked in the allotment of KVKs, and that former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had personally intervened to recommend some NGOs which received funds of up to Rs 1.5 crore per year.
The KVKs are seen as a crucial instrument for fulfilling promises made by the NDA government. At the meeting, Balyan reminded representatives of KVKs that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had at an ICAR function last month noted that “until the farmer does not receive the benefits of scientific and technological developments, true progress will remain incomplete”, and that the farmer must be made aware of the crucial importance of conserving water.
Balyan said that the government could sanction more KVKs in districts that needed them, but only after reviewing the performance of existing KVKs. He said delegates at this month’s meeting had been told that employees hardly visited offices at several KVKs. “I have asked that proper records of attendance be maintained, and some of KVKs have started doing so,” Balyan said.

आरटीआई करने वाले सावधान, अब होगी पूरी पड़ताल

Inext Live: आगरा: Saturday, 30 August 2014.
आरटीआई मांगने वाले के एड्रेस का किया जाएगा वैरीफिकेशन;
अब आरटीआई करने वालों पर राज्य सूचना आयुक्त नकेल कसने की तैयारी कर रहा है. ये इसलिए किया जा रहा है ताकि कोई आरटीआई के नाम पर मिसयूज न कर सके. अब आरटीआई मांगने वाले की पूरी जानकारी संबधित पते और दिए गए नंबर पर कॉल करके ली जा रही है. अकसर कई लोग सूचना के अधिकार के नाम पर दूसरों की जानकारी प्राप्त कर लेते हैं और उसका मिसयूज करते हैं.
सूचना न देने पर लगता है जुर्माना ;
जनसूचना मांगने वाले को सूचना उपलब्ध न कराने पर संबंधित अधिकारी पर राज्य सूचना आयुक्त की ओर से अर्थदण्ड लगाया जाता है. इस अर्थदण्ड से बचने के लिए अधिकांश विभागों के अधिकारी संबंधित व्यक्ति को पते के आधार पर ही जनसूचनाएं उपलब्ध करा देते हैं.
अब की जाएगी पूरी पड़ताल;
जनसूचना के तहत मांगी जाने वाली जानकारी के लिए अब संबंधित विभाग की ओर से पूरी छानबीन की जाएगी ताकि जनसूचना का मिसयूज न हो सके. अब पते के साथ दिए गए नंबर पर कॉल करके मांगी गई आरटीआई के बारे में पूछा जाएगा ताकि किसी फर्जी व्यक्ति द्वारा गलत तरीके से सूचनाएं न उपलब्ध कर ली जाएं.
आरटीआई मांगने का यह है प्रावधान;
·       आरटीआई का संबंधित विभाग को 30 दिन के अंदर जवाब देना होता है.
·       एक महीने में जवाब न देने पर रिमांइडर भेजा जाता है जिसका जवाब दो माह के अंदर भेजना होता है.
·       दो महीने बाद राज्य सूचना आयुक्त में अपील की जाती है.
·       अपील पर राज्य सूचना आयुक्त द्वारा संज्ञान लिया जाता है और संबधित विभाग के अधिकारी पर जुर्माना लगाया जाता है.
नोएडा में एक आरटीआई कार्यकर्ता रच चुका है साजिश;
ये सब इसलिए भी किया जा रहा है क्योंकि नोएडा में आरटीआई और आप कार्यकर्ता चंद्रमोहन ने एक व्यक्ति की हत्या करके अपनी कार में जला दिया था ताकि दुनिया की नजरों में खुद को मरा हुआ साबित कर सके. उसने ये सब अपनी लवर से छुटकारा पाने के लिए किया था. ये भी बात थी कि उस लवर के साथ उसने जीवन गुजारने का फैसला किया था. पुलिस और प्रशासन ने आरटीआई कार्यकर्ता चंद्रमोहन के बारे में पूरी जांच पड़ताल नहीं की थी.

Delay in CIC appointment may lead to scrutiny of panel’s orders

Economic Times: New Delhi: Saturday, 30 August 2014.
The government's decision to put the appointment of a chief information commissioner (CIC) on hold could mean that all orders passed by the Central Information Commission can be quashed in court. The commission is the apex body for redressing Right to Information (RTI) complaints and has been without a head since the departure of Rajeev Mathur last week.
Various high courts have ruled earlier that any order passed by the state information commissions can be quashed if a chief information commissioner or information commissioners are not in place.
The procedure for appointments at the state and central information commissions is similar. RTI experts said these high court orders could be cited to quash rulings of the central information commission until the appointment of a new CIC.
In May 2007, the high court of Himachal Pradesh directed the state government to appoint at least one state information commissioner in accordance with the RTI Act and in case it failed to do so, the state information commission "being an improperly constituted body shall cease to exist or function."
Further, in January 2010, the Calcutta High Court said the state information commission was a multi-member body consisting of a chief information commissioner and at least one information commissioner.
This was reiterated by the Bombay High Court ruling of December 2013 which held that every application needs to be considered by the multi-member bench of the commission and if not orders passed by the body deserve to be quashed and set aside.
Former CIC Satyananda Mishra agreed that orders passed without a chief in place could be quashed if challenged in the Supreme Court or high courts as the Act clearly stipulates that the commission should have a CIC. "In the interest of the transparency and the efficient implementation of the RTI Act, the government should appoint a CIC at earliest," he added.

Highways mean more accident deaths, finds RTI activist

Times of India: Meerut: Saturday, 30 August 2014.
Data disclosed in response to the Right to Information (RTI) application filed by activist Lokesh Khurana has revealed that a larger number of deaths were reported from accidents in the jurisdiction of police stations that also had highways.
"The maximum number of deaths in accidents were reported from police stations which have highways under their jurisdiction. For instance the maximum 145 deaths occurred at Kankerkhera police station, whereas 138 occurred at Partapur PS," Khurana said.
Although, the police have been active when it comes to traffic policing within city limits, on highways, rules are hardly observed. Vikram Sahani, who lives in Pallav Puram, said, "Ever since the four-lane highway became operational, the number of accidents have increased manifold. In the absence of police patrolling on the highway and non-existence of speed limit norms, it has become a free-spirit drive."
The maximum number of deaths in accidents also occurred due to rash driving, the RTI query found.
Consolidated information provided by Meerut traffic police department showed that the total number of accidental deaths between 2010 and 2014 was 1,437. Besides, under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1,19,025 challans were issued to commuters violating traffic rules and the total sum charged in the form of fines was over Rs1.5 crore.
However, despite the slow moving traffic inside the city, deaths do occur here as well. For instance, during the above mentioned period, 10 deaths occurred in the area under Railway Road Police Station and 15 in Nauchandi Police Station.
"The main reason for deaths inside the city limits is generally reckless driving. Despite repeated warnings, people do not wear helmets and they become vulnerable to fatal injuries during accidents", says SP Traffic, PK Tiwari.
He admits that laws are not so stringent, because of which commuters generally do not care about rules. "Traffic rule offence attract a maximum penalty of Rs100, which should be increased to at least Rs1,000," he says.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chief Information Commissioner slaps Rs25k fine on SI for false information

Deccan Chronicle: Kochi: Friday, 29 August 2014.
(CIC) Sibi Mathews has ordered a fine of Rs25,000 and departmental action against Ernakulam Central Police Station principal sub-inspector V.Vimal for giving false information to a Right to Information query in connection with a case.The order has been issued on a petition filed by Eljose C.Chummar, a native of Ayyappankavu in Ernakulam. Eljose had sought certain answers in his RTI query to Vimal on December 3, 2013, pertaining to his arrest at 4.50 pm on October 12, 2013. Eljose said his father was summoned to the police station and an original will he possessed was extracted by threatening him at 8 pm on the same day.
Eljose raised three questions through the RTI query to Vimal: Whether the said will was still in the custody of the police, whether it was submitted to the court and if submitted, when it was done. Vimal replied on January 4 that the said will was not in the custody of the police and it was submitted to the court on October 12, 2013. In another RTI petition on January 30, 2014, Eljose queried in which court it had been submitted and he sought  copies of the evidence.
Vimal gave a reply on February 27, 2014, saying that it was submitted at the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court. He sent copies of the evidence on April 1, but since they were incomplete and not clear, Eljose again sought another copy on April 14.Later, as per the order of the CIC, Vimal submitted a report to him in this regard. He said the claims that he had forged them were not true and the will was given to the dispatch section on October 12, 2013, along with the report, for being submitted to the court.
The CIC on verifying the documents found that the will was submitted to the court only on October 17, 2013. However, this was not clear in the document given to Eljose by Vimal. Eljose also did not ask for the date on which it was given to the dispatch section but specifically asked when it was given to the court. The CIC recommended action under RTI Act 20 (1) and (2) for giving false information.

Commissioner’s office fined 500 for furnishing wrong info

Times of India: Thane: Friday, 29 August 2014.
The Konkan division state information commissioner has slapped a fine of Rs 500 to the Thane police commissioner office for furnishing misleading information under the Right to Information Act. While hearing appeal challenging the information furnish by police under the RTI act, the state information commissioner (Konkan division), Thanksy Thekkekara, asked the Thane police commissioner office to pay the fine for giving misleading information to an RTI applicant, who had sought reasons for holding back Housing Rent Allowance of the cops for almost 10 years.
"The fine should be paid from the budgetary expenses of the Thane police commissioner's office," the order issued by Thekkekara mentioned.
The case pertained to an application filed by two retired police personnel under RTI about few year ago, seeking reasons for not releasing HRA of the police personnel in Thane region. However, the reply varied time and again. Irked with receiving contradictory reply, the applicants appealed against the RTI reply furnished to them. With ambiguity over the date from which the payment should be made the police had not paid the HRA to nearly 6K cops. Following consistent follow up by the complainants, the amount was released in 2007. Nearly 4,200 cops have received the arrears.

आरटीआई प्रक्रिया सरल करने के लिए राज्यों को अनुदान

Nai Dunia: New Delhi: Friday, 29 August 2014.
सरकार ने आरटीआई आवेदन दाखिल करने की प्रक्रिया को आसान करने का फैसला किया है। इसके तहत ऐसी व्यवस्था की जानी है, जिससे कहीं से भी कोई व्यक्ति आनलाइन आरटीआई दायर कर सके। इसके लिए केंद्र ने राज्यों को अनुदान देने की घोषणा की है ताकि वे अपने सूबों में ऑनलाइन सुविधाओं का विकास कर सकें। याचिकाकर्ताओं की मदद के लिए एक हेल्पलाइन स्थापित कर सकें।
देश भर में 5 से 12 अक्टूबर के बीच आरटीआई सप्ताह मनाने के लिए कार्मिक एवं प्रशिक्षण (डीओपीटी) विभाग ने तीन लाख रुपये का बजट आवंटित किया है। इसके अलावा सूचना का अधिकार (आरटीआई) कानून के बारे में जागरुकता पैदा करने के लिए चार लाख रुपये खर्च किए जाएंगे। इसके अलावा राज्य स्तर पर हेल्पलाइन शुरू करने के लिए प्रदेश सरकारों को पहले वर्ष चार-चार लाख रुपये दिए जाएंगे। हेल्पलाइन के जरिये लोगों को आरटीआई कानून के बारे में स्थानीय भाषा में जानकारी दी जाएगी। उसके बाद के वर्षों में यह धनराशि 2 लाख रुपये कर दी जाएगी।
हेल्पलाइनों को गैर सरकारी संगठनों के सहयोग से खोले जाने का प्रस्ताव है। डीओपीटी का कहना है कि याचिका ऑनलाइन दाखिल करने के लिए आरटीआई वेब पोर्टल लांच किया जा चुका है और नई दिल्ली स्थित केंद्र सरकार के मंत्रालयों और विभागों में इसने काम भी शुरू कर दिया है। एक वरिष्ठ अधिकारी के अनुसार, "अब इन सुविधाओं का विस्तार राज्य स्तर पर किया जाना है। इसके लिए एनआईसी द्वारा विकसित सॉफ्टवेयर प्रदेश सरकारों को मुहैया कराया जाएगा।" इनके अलावा आरटीआई की कार्यप्रणाली पर शोध करने के लिए भी राज्यों को पांच लाख रुपये दिए जाएंगे। साथ ही आरटीआई कानून पर सेमिनार और वर्कशाप आयोजित करने के लिए एक-एक लाख रुपये दिए जाएंगे।

एसएएफ को आरटीआई के तहत देना पड़ा दस्तावेज

Patrika: Bhopal: Friday, 29 August 2014.
एसएएफ (विशेष सशस्त्र बल) जैसे संस्थान सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम के प्रावधानों की गलत व्याख्या कर कर्मचारियों और आम नागरिकों को जानकारी देने से वंचित नहीं कर सकते। सूचना आयुक्त के निर्देश पर एसएएफ ने अपने दो कर्मचारियों द्वारा सूचना अधिकार अधिनियम के तहत जानकारी उपलब्ध कराई है।मप्र विशेष सशस्त्र बल के सहायक प्लाटून कमांडर पद से सेवानिवृत्त हुए भिंड के रामप्रताप सिंह राजावत और रामलखन शर्मा ने सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम के तहत उनकी सेवा पुस्तिका, प्रथम क्रमोन्नति एवं पदोन्नति आदेशों की प्रतिलिपि मांगी थी। तत्कालीन प्रथम अपीलीय अधिकारी एवं पुलिस उप महानिरीक्षक एसएसएफ ग्वालियर ने इन दोनों आवेदकों की प्रथम अपील मय शुल्क के यह कहते हुए लौटा दी थी। सूचना आयोग में सूचना आयुक्त आत्मदीप ने कहा कि सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम के दायरे से मुक्त एसएएफ सहित अन्य संस्थान भी भ्रष्टाचार और मानव अधिकार के अतिक्रमण से संबंधित सूचना देने से मना नहीं कर सकते। शासन द्वारा एसएएफ, गुप्तचर एवं सुरक्षा संगठनों को इसके दायरे से बाहर रखे जाने की अधिसूचना आड़े नहीं आती।

Transparency at ministries to be put through expert checks

Economic Times: New Delhi: Friday, 29 August 2014.
The Centre is working on a plan to conduct third-party audit to ascertain the level of transparency in the functioning of ministries and public authorities as part of the Narendra Modi-led government's efforts to open up these institutions to more public scrutiny.
The DoPT has engaged the central information commission to prepare the legal framework to measure the extent to which ministries and various public authorities are disclosing information proactively and maintaining transparency in their decision-making process.
The DoPT, the nodal agency for supervising implementation of the Right to Information or RTI Act, had asked the commission to conduct the audit. However, due to huge pendency of work and shortage of staff, the commission has proposed formation of an ad hoc body consisting of experts from various fields for conducting the audit, a senior official from the commission said, requesting anonymity.
The group will function under the direct supervision of the commission, the official said, adding, "The proposal detailing the audit plan was sent to DoPT last month and we are waiting for the approval. Specifics such as the number of experts to be engaged, duration of audit, procedure and other details are yet to be worked out." The audit work is expected to begin in the next few months. As per the proposed plan, the exercise will be carried out every year and the outcome of the audit will be made public by publishing it on the websites of the respective ministries.
The audit will assess whether ministries are disclosing information related to procurement, public-private partnerships, transfer policy and transfer orders, Comptroller and Auditor General's XX and action taken on them, expenditure on foreign tours of ministers and other such information.
In addition, it will evaluate mediums like internet, notices, wall painting and others chosen by the public authority for disbursing the information.
The audit will also cover compliance with the proactive disclosure guidelines provided in the RTI Act and suggest if there are any other types of information which could be disclosed.
As per section 4 of the RTI act, every public authority should on its own disclose information relating to its functioning to ensure transparency and to reduce the need for filing individual RTI applications. However, the quality and quantity of proactive disclosure is not up to the desired level, the DoPT said in a circular issued in April 2013.
"It was felt that the weak implementation of the section 4 of the RTI Act is partly due to the fact that certain provisions of this section have not been fully detailed and, in case of certain other provisions there is need for laying down detailed guidelines," it added.

RTI: backdoor appointments in SRTC

Kashmir Dispatch: Srinagar: Friday, 29 August 2014.
In violation of rules, the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) has filled dozens of post as apprentice engineers in the Corporation without any advertisement, a Right To Information has revealed.
Surprisingly the Corporation without referring these posts to any of the government recruiting agency obtained approval of then Minister for Transport, who happened to be the Chairman of the SRTC.
"The basic records of the hired candidates are not forthcoming, however, as per available records it appears that no proper advertisement seems to have been issued by the Corporation,” replied the department to the Right to Information (RTI) application filed by one of the candidates, who has sought information regarding the appointment of engineers in SRTC without any government recruiting agency.
The department has neither clear record traceable nor any consolidated information with regard to the number of apprentice engineers engaged from time to time in the department. The department has also admitted that some of the selected engineers have been terminated after discrepancies were found in their certificates and at least 12 candidates were sent on deputation on Motor Vehicle Department as Motor Vehicle Inspectors.
General Manager, Administration, JKSRTC also replied in written after an information was sought under RTI application No. JKSRTC/GMA/PS/J/337, dated 04/03/2014 that the apprentice engineers initially were engaged on consolidated wages in 1996-97 and then were regularized as Junior Inspectors in 10/2002.
The documents reveal that one of the candidates who is JE Mechanical PWD (R&B) have been placed at the disposal of Transport Department vide Government order No 24 PW(R&B) of 2010 dated 22/01/2010 issued by the Public Works (R&B) Department under endorsement No PW/M&S/30/2005 dated 22/12/2009 for his posting in Motor Vehicle Department for a period of two years which expired on 21/01/2012.
“The JE was posed in MVD and Motor Vehicle Inspector (MVI) despite not having license for Heavy Passenger Service Vehicle (HPSV), which was mandatory qualification for the said post,” RTI revealed. The RTI documents also revealed that the former Regional Transport Officer, Kashmir had failed to produce video graph of the trial held on 2/7/2013 when he MVI has given trial for HMSV. “It is informed that video graph facility for recording trial was not available at the trial Centre Srinagar on 2/7/2013 when he has given trial,” the Regional Transport Officer replied to an RTI application.