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					                   RIGHT TO INFORMATION - 2009
                                   January to December – 2009
                                                                                           Compiled By
                                                                                               K. Samu
                                                                          Human Rights Documentation,
                                                     Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi, India

Information commissioner unaware of law: RTI applicant (1)
In a bizarre case, an RTI activist’s appeal was turned down by none other than the state information
commission on the pretext that the RTI Act does not cover the organisation the activist sought information
from. What left the applicant even more flummoxed was the fact that the Bar Council of Maharashtra and
Goa (BCMG), the organisation in question, was of the opinion that the RTI Act was binding on them. “I do
not understand where to go and what to do. How can a commissioner who is supposed to uphold the
spirit of the Act be so ignorant about it? What is he doing on that chair? He has not just denied the
information, but set a very bad precedent,” said Rajan Alimchandani, 63, who provides free consultancy
on housing-related issues. Alimchandani had asked for information from the BCMG in October last year.
The reply was first delayed, and when given, was not complete. He then appealed to information
commission. After the hearing, the order signed by state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari
stated, “The Bar Council does not fit into the definition of public authority…. it is true it has been
established by law but any organization or body which claims to be doing anything legitimate has to be
registered under some or other law.” The order further states, “I conclude that the Bar Council is not a
public authority, therefore, the appeal is dismissed.” Contrary to this, the CIC, in a reply signed by its
registrar LC Singhi, said, “During the course of discussions at the last convention, it was clarified that the
Bar Councils are constituted under Central law and as such, the Central Information Commission has the
jurisdiction to deal with all RTI matters concerning Bar Councils.” (DNA 1/1/09)

RTI query reveals chargesheet not filed in 2005 extortion case (1)
Ahmedabad (PTI): The Gujarat state CID Crime branch is yet to file a chargesheet against two police
officers and a BJP leader in a May 2005 extortion case, a Right To Information (RTI) enquiry has
revealed. In response to an RTI application filed by Nadeem Sayeed, the Ahmedabad City Civil and
Sessions Court stated that a chargesheet was yet to be filed against suspended cops Manoj Patel,
Farook Qureshi and BJP leader Kamlesh Tripathi for allegedly trying to extort Rs three lakh from a builder
in May 2005. All the three main accused are now out on bail while the case is yet to go on trial as the
state CID Crime branch has not yet filed a chargesheet. The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) requires
that a chargesheet be filed against accused within 90 days of arrest. Patel, who was then a deputy
Superintendent of Police in the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) along with Qureshi, an ATS Police Sub
Inspector (PSI) and Tripathi, was demanding the amount from Juhapura-based builder Mohammed
Shoiab Mohammed Hanif Sheikh. Sheikh had submitted a CD containing telephone conversations
between him and the three accused to then Director General of Police (DGP) A K Bhargav in April 2005
and a case was registered naming the three as the accused. In the complaint, Sheikh had said he had
been beaten up and threatened by Patel and Qureshi in March 2005. He had also said that Tripathi, the
then Vice-President of Sarkhej Municipality had acted as a middleman for the officials. "They had
threatened to implicate me in a weapons smuggling case if I did not pay the money, Sheikh had said.
(The Hindu 2/1/09)

Seeking info? no need to cite reason (1)
MUMBAI: This has been a common excuse that various State Information Commissions and Central
Information Commissions (CIC)s had used to deny information to RTI applicants. In the past, the
applicants were told by the commissions that certain information could not be provided as they did not
come under the domain of the larger public interest or that candidates had did not cited valid reasons for
obtaining the data under the RTI Act. The CIC, in a landmark order, not only directed the Public
Information Officer (PIO) of Benaras Hindu University to provide the complete text of the question paper
provided by the varsity to the examiness of the MD/MS exams, but also stated that the clause of public
interest could not be invoked for denial of information in this case. The Central Information Commissioner,
Shailesh Gandhi, while passing the order, quoted the rarely used clause under Section 3 of the RTI Act,
which states that subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the right to information.
"According to the Act, citizens' right to access information is absolute, subject only to limitations
prescribed under the Act. The Section 3 forms the core of the Act and is a crisp, unambiguous declaration
of the aims and objectives of the judgment. To make this right meaningful and effective, citizens are not
required to give any justification for seeking information,'' the CIC order said. The PIO had quoted an
earlier CIC order, which denied information to an RTI applicant who had asked for "answer key and
question booklet'' of All India Institute Medical Science (AIIMS). The 2007 CIC order then had denied the
information on the grounds that AIIMS "is taking all the precautions in conducting the examination in a
most satisfactory manner and they have also evolved a foolproof system''. "By disclosing the information
we will not be able to protect any larger public interest,'' the order had stated. Gandhi, after hearing the
arguments in a six-page order, said right to information is one of the fundamental human rights
recognised across the world. It stands incorporated in the universal declaration of human rights and
international covenant on civil and political rights. He said a certain data can be refused to be divulged
only under Section 8(1) or Section 9 of the Act, which relates mainly to the integrity of the country, and
also if the information pertains to "third party trade secrets''. "The concept of public interest cannot be
invoked for denial of information. In fact, sections in the Act empowers the PIO to provide the exempted
information if it is in the larger public interest,'' the order said. The PIO now has been directed to furnish
the information before January 15. (Times of India 4/1/09)

MCD is most fined by info panel(1)
New Delhi, January 05, 2009 . It is not just the bad upkeep of the city the Municipal Corporation of Delhi
is often blamed for. The civic agency also tops the chart for keeping many secrets. The MCD has been
fined the maximum number of times by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for denying information
to applicants seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Since its inception in 2005, the
CIC has imposed penalty in 157 cases. Of these, 32 are related to the MCD. Delay of more than a day in
providing information cost the civic agency a penalty of Rs 250. The MCD was fined Rs 25,000 in a case
where there was a delay of 135 days. In another case, the MCD was fined Rs 25,000 as information was
not provided on time and two officers of the agency were held responsible. "The MCD governs the day-to-
day needs of the public be it roads, houses, sanitation and hence there needs to be greater
accountability. But it is doing acting the opposite and not providing information on time," said Manish
Sisodia, who works for NGO, Kabir. The analysis of the penalty, a copy of which is with the HT, reveals
the CIC has imposed a penalty of over Rs 3 lakh on MCD but recovered only Rs 1.81 lakh to date. Said
MCD Commissioner K.S. Mehra: “We are trying to make available the information to the public on time.
The kind of information that the people ask for is quite extensive and it requires a lot of time too”. Citizens
claim MCD has been the worst organisation as far as implementing the RTI act goes. “I had filed an
application in 2006 seeking information about two engines of loaders that were sent to a private company
for repair but never returned to the MCD. They gave me incomplete information," said TR Gupta, a
resident of Jangpura. Next in the list of most penalised organisations includes the Delhi Government and
the Delhi Development Authority. (Hindustan Times 5/1/09)

Now a question mark on the integrity of RTI officials (1)
LUCKNOW: The growing dissatisfaction over the implementation of the Right To Information (RTI) Act
has now extended to the information commissioners (ICs) responsible for attending to the complaints.
The two and a half year long ineffective existence of the Act in the state has now led to fingers being
pointed at the functioning of ICs. The office of the governor has received 67 complaints till September
2008 against the ICs. This has been revealed by the public information officer (PIO) of the governor office
in response to a RTI query by Ram Sharan Sharma in October 2008. Surprisingly, the PIO has also
added that not even a single complaint deserved action. Though the official information said that the
governor rejected all the complaints after serious consideration, Sharma is not ready to buy the argument.
"It is ridiculous that not even a single complaint was found worthy of action,'' said Sharma, a retired
engineer and a member of right to information awareness forum. If this is the case why the PIO did not
reveal the details about the nature of complaints which I had asked for, he said. Sharma had submitted a
9-points application which asked for a set of information regarding the academic and professional
background of the commissioners, their appointment, salary, age etc. But, he was denied this information
on the ground that it is `personal' and hence, can not be disclosed. In fact, such an information about ICs
is a part of pro-active disclosure under the RTI Act and should have been displayed on the website of the
commission much on the lines of Central Information Commission in New Delhi. In particular, his query
related to all the ICs, who have served or are still serving at the commission, including the chief
information commissioners (CICs). Currently, Uttar Pradesh State Information Commission (UPSIC) has
nine ICs including the officiating CIC. He had also asked for the list of complainants, nature of complaints
and action taken on them. "But the PIO has provided me with incomplete information,'' he added. "I only
wanted to know if the CIC and the ICs confirm to the criteria specified in section 15(5) of RTI Act which
says that they should be persons of eminence in public life,'' said Sharma. He has written again to the
PIO of the governor's office and is hopeful he will get the right information this time. "If not I will meet the
governor and bring the issue to his notice,'' he said. In case of complaints received against ICs, the
governor under section 17(1) of the RTI Act can make a reference to the supreme court for an inquiry into
the complaint. Once the SC allows the inquiry, governor can prohibit the IC from attending the office
under section 17(2) of the Act. (Times of India 8/1/09)

Chief Justice of India is not exempt from RTI: Information Commission (1)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Registry will file an appeal in the Delhi High Court against an order
passed by the Central Information Commission asking it to provide information in the possession of the
Chief Justice of India (CJI) on declaration of assets by judges of the apex court and High Courts. Sources
said complying with the CIC’s January 6 directions would have far-reaching consequences and
ramifications. Its Full Commission, comprising Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and
Commissioners A.N. Tiwari and M.M. Ansari, directed the Supreme Court Registry to furnish to S.C.
Agrawal, an applicant, information on declaration of assets as per a May 7, 1997 resolution adopted at an
all-India judges conference. The CIC rejected the Supreme Court’s contention that the CJI was not
obliged to furnish such information under the Right to Information Act. Nor did the CIC agree with the plea
that the Registry and the CJI’s office were independent. Mr. Agrawal had sought from the Supreme Court
information under the RTI Act and a copy of the 1997 resolution, which required every judge to make a
declaration, before the CJI or the Chief Justices of High Courts concerned, of his or her assets in the form
of real estate or investments held in his or her name or in the names of the spouse and any dependent
person. While his plea for a copy of the resolution was accepted, his demand for information on whether
the judges declared their assets to the CJI/Chief Justices of the High Courts and if so the details thereof
was rejected by the registry on the ground that it was not in its possession. At this, Mr. Agrawal moved
the appellate authority, which held that such information could not be provided. He then filed an appeal
before the Full Commission of the CIC. The CIC rejected the Registry’s contention that the Supreme
Court and the CJI were not bound to share such information. Admittedly, the information on the judges of
the Supreme Court was available with it. As a public authority, it was obliged to provide this information to
a citizen making an application under the RTI Act.On the contention that the declaration submitted by the
judges was confidential and the information was provided to the CJI and the Chief Justices of High Courts
in a fiduciary relationship and as such, its disclosure was exempted under the RTI Act, the CIC said the
CJI could not claim any such exemption. The CIC agreed with the appellant’s submission that the
information with the CJI could not be categorised as ‘personal information’ in his personal capacity. The
Supreme Court, consisting of the CJI and other judges, was an institution and the CJI was its head. “The
institution and its head cannot be two distinct public authorities. They are one and the same. Information,
therefore, available with the CJI must be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court. The Registrar,
who is only a part of the Supreme Court, cannot be categorised as a public authority independent [of] and
distinct from the Supreme Court itself,” the CIC said and directed the Registry to furnish the information
sought in 10 days. (The Hindu 8/1/09)

RTI answers cloud act’s aim (1)
Kalimpong, Jan. 8: The District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Darjeeling, in response to
certain queries under the provisions of the Right to Information Act has provided what could only be
described as “non-answers”. A Kalimpong-based NGO, Save The Hills (STH), had invoked the RTI to
seek specific answers on the long and short-term measures contemplated by the DDMA to prevent and
mitigate landslide hazards in the district. What they got were “non-answers”, samples of which are given
below: STH: Please furnish details of any landslide prevention work done in high-risk populated areas
after (the landslides of) September 2007 to mitigate/prevent any landslide that might occur. DDMA: Will
be sent later on. STH: Please furnish details of landslide prevention and mitigation work carried out in
Darjeeling district in the last 5 years. DDMA: Will be sent later on. The response to other queries was not
very encouraging or enlightening either. Asked about fund allocation and money spent by the department,
the difference in the answer was only in the language: “Under Process”, instead of the “will be sent later
on”. Praful Rao, the president of STH, said: “This sort of non-answers are a mockery of the disaster
management in the district and the whole RTI ethos. We will certainly take up the matter with the National
Disaster Management Authority, its state counterpart, and the State Information Commission.” The DDMA
had responded to the STH application only after it was showcaused by the West Bengal Information
Commission. The STH was forced to approach the commission after the DDMA failed to respond to its
application filed on August 19 last year. The RTI Act stipulates a time limit of 30 days within which the
answers have to be provided. Rao said the episode only showed that the administration was not serious
about tackling the problem of landslides in the hills. “This is a more worrying fact, given the extent of the
problem. The NGOs can only play a limited role like raising awareness. The onus lies with the
government because it has the necessary wherewithal to confront the problem,” he added. Biswa Nath
Barik, the Darjeeling district relief officer who had responded to the STH application and had signed as
district disaster management officer, could not be reached as his cellphone was switched off. Another
sample of answers delivered under RTI: STH: Please furnish details of your short/mid/and long term plans
regarding landslide hazard prevention and mitigation in the district in the future. DDMA: Landslide
prevention work will be done by the respective departments as per G.O. No 128 PR dated 16.1.08 (copy
enclosed) and this has been informed to all concerned vide this office Memo No.121/DMS dated 28.3.08.
Rao told The Telegraph that the “enclosed copy” was yet to reach him. (Telegraph 9/1/09)

‘RTI Act is the best gift after Constitution’ (1)
DHARWAD: The former Principal Secretary, State Legislature, Robinson D’souza, has said that the
“Right to Information Act is the best gift to the people after the Constitution of India.” Delivering a special
lecture on the Right to Information Act at the University College of Law, Dharwad, on Wednesday, Mr.
D’souza said the Act was the best instrument to check corruption. “Democracy requires an informed
citizenry. It is difficult to eradicate corruption. It is to be contained. If each individual transforms himself,
there will be one rascal less in the country,” he said. Tracing the history of the Act, Mr. D’souza said that
there was a limited right to information under the Evidence Act earlier. But now provision had been made
for providing the affected party even the reasons for administrative decisions. Elaborating on the mode of
filing applications under the Act and the duties of the Information Officer, he said if there was default or
delay in furnishing information, there was provision for imposing penalty of Rs. 250 a day subject to a
maximum of Rs. 25,000. Even for rejecting applications, the reasons should be given by the officer
concerned, he said. Principal Chidananda Reddy S. Patil welcomed the gathering. He also proposed a
vote of thanks. (The Hindu 10/1/09)

RTI Act will revolutionise Indian polity: Basant (1)
THALASSERY: Kerala High Court judge R. Basant said here on Saturday that the Right to Information
(RTI) Act would revolutionise the Indian polity by making people aware about their right to seek
information. “The success of democracy lies in the ability of the people to question and the quest for
working democracy can be satisfied by such questions,” Mr. Basant said while inaugurating a one-day
Right to Information People’s Empowerment Meet organised by the District Court Bar Association here on
Saturday. The idea that some need not know things showed a feudal mindset, he said adding that all
denial of information in the social context betrayed this attitude. The notion of exclusive domain of
information revealed inequality in society, he said. Under the Constitution, there was no positive
conferring of the right to know, though it upheld freedom of speech, Mr. Basant said adding that the RTI
Act was the outcome of the arguments of legal luminaries that freedom of speech depended on a derived
right to information. If right to speech should be effective, there should be right to information. The right to
live also meant right to live in decency and this included right to know. “Equality brings an obligation to
share information,” he said. Observing that the Act empowered the people, the High Court judge said in
democracy, people were the repository of all the powers. The sovereign in Indian democracy was ‘We the
People.’ “We already have the powers, but we should know that we have the powers,” he said adding that
the Act “tells you how you can exercise the powers.” Earlier, the judge unveiled the portraits of jurists H.R.
Khanna and N.A. Palkhivala at the Bicentenary Auditorium on the District Court premises. Describing the
Bench and the Bar as partners in the struggle against injustice, he said that quality of judgment depended
on quality assistance a judge was getting from the Bar. District Court Bar Association president T. Asaf Ali
presided over the function. D.B. Binu delivered a speech on the practical aspects of the RTI Act. (The
Hindu 11/1/09)

RTI applicant given compensation for first time in MP (1)
New Delhi (PTI): Exercising its special powers for the first time, the Madhya Pradesh Information
Commission has slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a public authority for delay in providing information to
an RTI applicant. Information Commissioner Mahesh Pandey ordered Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control
Board (MPPCB) to shell out Rs 25,000 as fine and pay Rs 1,500 as compensation to the RTI applicant.
The January 9 order is the first instance of the Commission slapping a fine in its three-year tenure. "There
is delay from the Board in giving the information which is a mockery of the Right to Information Act. That
is why, the Commission imposes a penalty of Rs 25,000 upon Public Information Officer of Madhya
Pradesh Pollution Control Board," Pandey said. Applicant Ajay Shankar Dubey had on September 5,
2006 filed an RTI application in MPPCB and sought information on a Board's order. The then Chairman of
MPPCB P S Dubey had in an order approved 400 industries in the state under the Hazardous Waste
(Management and Handling) Rules, 1989. The rule is a part of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The Chairman of the Board, the applicant claimed, had by-passed the responsibility of Member Secretary,
who was authorised to validate or give licences to industries under the Rule and gave a wrong order to
approve 400 industries which emitted harmful effluents. "That was sheer misuse of Chairman's power and
authority. According to Board's mandate, a member secretary was authorised to take decision in this
regard," claimed Dubey. (The Hindu 12/1/09)

RTI commissioner reprimands T varsity registrar (1)
NIZAMABAD: Registrar of Telangana University K Shivashankar was reprimanded by the Right to
Information (RTI) commissioner for not furnishing the details on the recruitment procedure of teaching
and non-teaching staff to a complainant. Based on the complaint filed by B Narayana Rao, a lecturer in a
private college here, the commissioner asked the university officials to immediately provide him all the
details. Sources said the RTI commissioner Adurti Subba Rao summoned the registrar and university RTI
officer J Yellosa to his chambers in Hyderabad and sought their explanation for failing to provide
information to the complainant. Sources said when Shivashankar tried to defend himself on the grounds
that the lecturer was trying to elicit personal information from the university, the RTI commissioner told
him that once a person had applied for a job there is no secrecy and the university is bound to share the
information with the applicant. Rao said vexed with the varsity's reaction, he had approached the RTI
commissioner. When contacted, the registrar said details of all the 133 persons who had applied for
various jobs in the university have been given to Rao by charging him Rs 5,000 towards xerox and other
material costs. (Times of India 14/1/09)

IIT-M turns down RTI (1)
New Delhi, January 14, 2009: Indian Institute of Technology, Madras has taken a position different from
the other IITs in a case under the Right to Information Act. IIT, Madras has imposed a blanket ban on
providing information under RTI to the media. In a reply to similar RTI applications filed in all seven IITs,
IIT-M said the information sought could not be provided because a journalist represents a media
organisation and the RTI doesn’t allow providing information to a company. Quoting section 3 of the RTI
Act, the Public Information Officer and Registrar of IIT-M, said, “since you’re representing the press, the
information asked for can’t be furnished to you”. To buttress its case, IIT-M also provided a copy of a
Central Information Commission order stating that a company cannot seek information under the RTI Act
under its name. This has not been clearly stated in the law but the CIC said since the law provides the
right only to citizens, companies could not seek the information directly. What IIT-M overlooked was that
several CIC orders had said a citizen working in a company has a right to seek information. These
observations were made by CIC in appeals where the PIOs rejected RTI applications on similar grounds.
(Hindustan Times 14/1/09)

Supreme Court registry challenges CIC order (1)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Registry on Friday filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court against an
order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC), asking it to provide information in the
possession of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), on declaration of assets by judges of the apex court and
High Courts. By its January 6 order the CIC had directed the Registry to furnish to S.C. Agrawal, an
applicant, information whether judges declared their assets as per a May 7, 1997 resolution adopted at an
all-India judges conference. The CIC rejected the Supreme Court’s contention that the CJI was not
obliged to furnish such information under the Right to Information Act. Nor did the CIC agree with the plea
that the Registry and the CJI’s office were independent. Assailing this order, the Registry said: “The
decision of the CIC is ex facie erroneous and without jurisdiction in as much as it ignores the scheme and
purpose underlying the Right to Information Act. The decision raises far reaching issues of public
importance pertaining to the highest judicial body under our Constitution namely the Supreme Court of
India and will have far reaching consequences. “The information sought for is not information which is in
the public domain and as such, the application filed by the respondent was not at all maintainable. The
Right to Information Act was designed to obtain information under the control of public authorities. The
definition of “information” under Section 2(f) of the Act shows that the information which is required to be
given must be information in the public domain and information which is required to be maintained in
accordance with law or under some provision of law.” The appeal by Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati
said: “There is nothing under the Constitution or under any other law which requires the Judges of the
Supreme Court to declare their assets to the Chief Justice of India. The fact that this is done under an
informal resolution dated May 7, 1997 shows that it is purely voluntary and not required to be given under
any legal provision and there can be no sanction for non-furnishing of such information. “The information
which can be called for must be information which is required to be given to a public authority and
accordingly held by it or in its control. Voluntary declaration of assets by judges made to the Chief Justice
of India cannot be said to be material which is held by or under the control of a public authority. “Apart
from the fact that the CJI is the head of judiciary, the office of the CJI is altogether distinct from the
Supreme Court of India as an institution. The office of the CJI performs several distinct and unique
functions. The CJI is not a Public Authority, as defined in Section 2(h) of Right to Information Act, and
therefore, is not required to designate a Central Public Information Officer for it, or to supply the
information held or maintained by it [him]. In these circumstances it cannot be said that the office of the
CJI and the Registry of the Supreme Court is one and the same,” the appeal said and prayed for setting
aside the CIC’s order and an interim stay of its operation. (The Hindu 18/1/09)

RTI activist's CIC role under cloud (1)
NEW DELHI: Of the nine members appointed so far to the three-year-old Central Information Commission
(CIC), Shailesh Gandhi, the latest nominee who joined in September, had raised the greatest
expectations. He is the first member to be appointed from among activists to this bureaucrat-dominated
institution. But, for all his avowed zeal to clear the backlog of appeals by a self-imposed deadline, the
government's experiment of casting an activist in the role of a detached adjudicator already seems to be
coming unstuck. This is apparent from a series of orders passed by Gandhi on disclosure of information
related to examinations. Displaying an elementary lack of judicial discipline, he brushed aside a five-
member decision, which was binding on him. And then, rendering himself vulnerable to the charge of
bias, this IIT graduate refused to apply to JEE a standard of transparency that he had himself laid down
for a CBSE examination. Consider the manner in which Gandhi first overturned the April 2007 decision of
the five-member CIC bench, which barred disclosure of subjective-type answer sheets in the case of
examinations conducted by specialised agencies like UPSC and CBSE. It held that answer scripts could
be divulged only in the case of examinations conducted by those public authorities like the Indian
Railways and Lok Sabha secretariat whose main function was not to hold tests. The rationale behind the
distinction made by the larger CIC bench was that specialised academic or recruitment institutions
anyway had a foolproof system in place and the disclosure of evaluated answer sheets would result in
rendering the system unworkable. On an appeal seeking answer sheets of CBSE's class 10 examination
of 2006, Gandhi disregarded the immunity granted to specialised institutions by the five-member bench.
Since CBSE took the alternative plea that it had, as per its practice, destroyed the answer scripts after a
certain lapse of time, Gandhi directed it to furnish proof of their destruction. In his order passed on
December 8 on the appeal filed by Satyendra Kumar Singh, Gandhi said, "In cases where records have
been destroyed as per a standard rule, the information officer should supply a copy of the record
evidencing actual destruction of the record." Subsequently, in a further violation of the five-member
decision, Gandhi ordered CBSE to disclose answer-wise marks of a 12th class examination. When CBSE
cited the five-member decision, Gandhi shrugged it off by invoking the RTI Act. In his December 22 order
on an appeal filed by Manoj Kumar Pathak, he said, "The matter has to be decided on the basis of the
RTI Act only. The onus of proving that the denial was justified is on the information officer. He is able to
advance no reasonable reason for denying this information." All this activist zeal seems to have however
evaporated when it came to an appeal seeking information from IIT Kharagpur on JEE 2006. Since the
five-member bench's prohibition applied only to subjective-type answer scripts, IITs are obliged to
disclose computer-evaluated, objective-type answer sheets. On an appeal filed by its own computer
sciences professor, Rajeev Kumar, IIT Kharagpur claimed before Gandhi that the answer sheets of JEE
2006 had been destroyed although the matter had been sub judice in the Calcutta HC. Rather than
directing IIT to furnish proof of destruction, Gandhi acquiesced with its evasive stand. In his January 2
order, he said, "The respondent states that the answer sheets have been destroyed as per their
procedure and hence cannot be given. The Commission agrees with this." Gandhi's double standards
could not have been more glaring. Gandhi's selective activism reinforces the worst of the stereotypes
about activists: that they can't be trusted to display judicial temperament and impartiality. (Times of India
19/1/09)

NGO activity funded by govt under RTI purview (1)
Ahmedabad : Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) has ruled that even though an NGO is not owned,
controlled or substantially financed by the state government it qualifies to be a public authority and has to
maintain transparency and accountability in its working. Citizens hve a right under the Right to Information
(RTI) Act to seek information on those activities for which the government has given financial aid to the
NGO, GIC ruled. For non-government funded activity of the NGO, information can be sought from its
controlling public authority. HC Mehta of Visnagar had sought some information about Visnagar Grahak
Suraksha Mandal from the director (consumer affairs), Ahmedabad. The deputy director of consumer
affairs in turn transferred it to the Mandal asking it to furnish the information. Gordhan Patel, president of
the Mandal, submitted before GIC that it needed to be first decided whether RTI provisions are applicable
to his organisation. Patel argued that the Mandal was not set up by the state government nor was it
substantially financed by it and so would not fall under the definition of a public authority under RTI.
Mandal did admit it received grants from the government but the bulk of the funds were collected by way
of membership fees and donations. When asked by GIC about its total annual expenditure and grant
received from the government, Patel submitted that Mandal's annual expenditure was Rs 2.5 lakh and
government aid, Rs 60,000. GIC observed that the definition of public authority includes an NGO
substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government. But the term
substantially financed' has not been defined in RTI and is hence open for interpretation. Patel submitted
that since the annual grant received from government is only Rs 60,000, it does not establish that the
Mandal is substantially financed by the government. GIC then observed that the Central Information
Commission had ruled Delhi International Authority Limited (DIAL) as a public authority for 26% stake in it
was held by government and was substantial. But GIC held that having government contribution to the
equity is different from getting government grant-in aid. GIC ruled that as public money would be given to
NGOs for a specific purpose, for that part of its activity it would become a public authority under RTI and
would be required to furnish information. (Times of India 22/1/09)

Committee urges SC not to press petition before Delhi HC (1)
Hyderabad (PTI): The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and
Justice has urged the Supreme Court registry not to press its writ petition pending before the Delhi High
Court in the case related to declaration of assets by judges. "The Supreme Court registry may use its
wisdom to save the Right to Information Act by not pressing the writ petition it filed in the Delhi High
Court. The petition will harm the RTI Act," the Parliamentary Standing Committee chairman E M
Sudarsana Natchiappan has observed. Talking to reporters after a two-day review of implementation of
RTI Act, reservation policy, vigilance and prevention of corruption in public sector undertakings here
today, Natchiappan said the Standing Committee would soon submit a recommendation to Parliament for
doing away with application fee for RTI petitions. "RTI applications are being rejected on frivolous reasons
such as application fee of Rs 10 not paid by the applicant. This is leading to appeals right up to the High
Courts. For the sake of Rs 10, government is forced to spend Rs 10,000 on the court case," Natchiappan
pointed out. A detailed report on the implementation of the RTI Act in various public sector undertakings
would be presented to Parliament soon, he added. Referring to the reservations issue, the chairman said
the PSUs have been asked to clear all backlog with respect to recruitments as well as promotions. "In the
last one year, there has been good progress in the implementation of reservation policy for Scheduled
Tribes. Similar effort should be made with regard to SCs, OBCs and physically-challenged," he said.
(The Hindu 24/1/09)

RTI Act: Committee urges SC not to press petition before Delhi HC (1)
Hyderabad, Jan 24: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and
Justice has urged the Supreme Court registry not to press its writ petition pending before the Delhi High
Court in the case related to declaration of assets by judges. "The Supreme Court registry may use its
wisdom to save the Right to Information Act by not pressing the writ petition it filed in the Delhi High
Court. The petition will harm the RTI Act," the Parliamentary Standing Committee chairman EM
Sudarsana Natchiappan has observed. Talking to reporters after a two-day review of implementation of
RTI Act, reservation policy, vigilance and prevention of corruption in public sector undertakings here
today, Natchiappan said the Standing Committee would soon submit a recommendation to Parliament for
doing away with application fee for RTI petitions. "RTI applications are being rejected on the frivolous
reason that Rs 10 application fee is not paid by the applicants. This is leading to appeals right up to the
High Courts. For the sake of Rs 10, government is forced to spend Rs 10,000 on the court case,"
Natchiappan pointed out. A detailed report on the implementation of the RTI Act in various public sector
undertakings would be presented to Parliament soon, he added. Referring to the reservations issue, the
chairman said the PSUs have been asked to clear all backlog with respect to recruitments as well as
promotions. "In the last one year, there has been good progress in the implementation of reservation
policy for Scheduled Tribes. Similar effort should be made with regard to SCs, OBCs and physically-
challenged," he said. (Central Chronicle 25/1/09)

'SC stand on CIC order on judges' assets may harm RTI Act' (1)
New Delhi, January 25, 2009: In the backdrop of a legal tussle over disclosure of assets by judges, the
head of a parliamentary panel has hinted that the apex court registry's move to challenge in High Court a
CIC order on the issue may have a serious impact on the Right to Information Act. "The RTI Act is the
second independence movement for the people in practising democracy. Hence, the Supreme Court
registry may use its wisdom to save the RTI Act by not pressing the writ petition before the High Court,"
EMS Natchiappan, chairman of the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievance and Law and
Justice that deals with implementation of RTI told PTI on Saturday. The RTI Act is like a small baby, we
all have to preserve the baby," he said, favouring a rethink on pursuing the matter in the HC. The High
Court had on January 19 stayed an order passed by the Central Information Commission asking the
Supreme Court's information officer to give information to an RTI applicant on whether judges of the apex
court have declared their assets to the CJI. On a petition filed by the information officer of Supreme Court
challenging the January 6 order passed by CIC, Justice S Ravindra Bhat fixed February 12 as the next
date of hearing of the matter. Noted jurist Fali S Nariman who was asked to assist the court as amicus
curiae (friend of court) refused to take up the responsibility. In the petition, the Supreme Court said that
information relating to declaration of assets by the apex court judges to the CJI was not a mandatory
exercise under the law. (Hindustan Times 25/1/09)

Intention of information seeker not important: SIC (1)
PANAJI: The intention of the citizen asking information under the right to information act should not be the
concern of the information officer, is what a recent order of the Goa state information commission (SIC)
says. Stating that, "the citizen's intention in asking information need not be gone into as per the provisions
of the RTI Act", the SIC dismissed arguments by the Mapusa municipal council's information officer, in
connection with an RTI application by Ribandar resident Kashinath Shetye. MMC had alleged that the
appellant was "harassing all the municipalities and corporations in Goa and hence, the request for
information is made with mala fide intention". The commission, in its order issued on December 30, 2008,
also directed the appellant to approach the chief officer to get the information requested by him on
payment of additional fees as informed by the chief officer. The commission further directed the chief
officer to "give the appellant an opportunity to inspect all the documents and a letter to be sent fixing the
date of inspection within the next 10 days." The commission also noted that there was sufficient force in
Shetye's argument that the letter dated November 6, 2008 sent by the chief officer could have been sent
within 30 days from the date of the request. "The chief officer should take note of this and deal with the
request for information under the RTI Act immediately and in any case within the time limit allowed under
the RTI Act," the commission noted. When Shetye did not receive the requested information from the
chief officer within the prescribed 30 days, he filed his first appeal before the director of municipal
administration on October 21, 2008. Only then did the chief officer ask Shetye to appear in his office "to
discuss the matter and scrutinize required documents" as the information requested was voluminous.
When Shetye did not approach the council, the director of municipal administration passed an order
directing the information be given within 10 days and also allowed inspection of records by Shetye. In his
detailed reply to Shetye on November 6, 2008, the chief officer also asked Shetye to pay an amount of Rs
56 and Rs 900 for the copies of the documents requested. But Shetye said he had not received the letter
and stated that the chief officer could have sent the letter even before the first appellate authority had
decided the first appeal. That is when the Mapusa chief officer made his allegation that Shetye was
"harassing all the municipal councils and corporations in Goa" and hence, the request for information was
made with mala fide intention. Interestingly, Shetye has made quite a number of appeals under the RTI to
the SIC. The commission's website shows that the commission has dealt with at least eight appeals by
Shetye against the Corporation of the City of Panaji in December 2008 alone. Shetye has also made
appeals against the directorate of panchayats, the law under secretary, and has represented Sanyogita
Shetye (also of Ribandar) in her RTI application seeking details of the chief secretary's annual property
returns, log books of vehicles used by him, his promotion to a post outside Goa and his continuation in
Goa by a set of 11 questions. (Times of India 26/1/09)

State fares poor on awareness on RTI (1)
JODHPUR: The people of Rajasthan are at the rock bottom when it comes to awareness on Right to
Information Act, despite the fact that the seeds of the movement were sown in the state. According to
Transparency International India,(TII) an NGO, just 5.5% people of the state are aware about these
rights. Moreover, the urbanites are behind their rural counterparts when it comes to awareness. In terms
of corruption, the state comes under the second category, which is "very high." The first is "alarming" and
third and fourth being "high" and "moderate" respectively. The categorisation was done by TII for the
purpose of the study. Executive director of TII, Anupama Jha, who was in Jodhpur to sign an MoU with
Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, another NGO, informed that after a series of NGOs got blacklisted for their
involvement in corrupt practices, the TII has been very careful in associating with them but she ruled out
complete overlooking of such NGOs owing to their penetration at grass roots level. The TII has now taken
up the task of empowering the deprived or the BPL (below poverty line) section with the tools in dealing
with corruption and by demanding of their rights from public representatives. There are 5.6 million people
in the country who are below poverty line and 34% of these do not have the BPL cards and even those
who are having cards, are very frequently denied facilities meant for them. "In our study on BPL families
in 2008, it has been observed that the average bribe a BPL family has to give per year is Rs 495 and a
major part of it goes to the police. Considering this, we have now decided to spread awareness at the
grassroots level for the purpose of improving the standards of governance in the BPL section and provide
them with what they are entitled to and for this, it is essential that they are equipped with anti-corruption
tools and are able to ensure the compliance of the citizen's charter," Jha added. Jha said that the country
has an Integrity score of 3.4 out of 10, which shows that corruption is very rampant in the country and the
nation has scaled higher on the International Bribe Payer Index. Referring to the non-ratification of the
UNCTAD by India, Jha said that Indian businessmen are quite inclined to pay bribe in foreign countries.
The study of the TII says that police, politicians and judiciary are the most corrupt segments in the
country. Even National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is not spared by the corruption, which has been
kept in the third category. (Times of India 27/1/09)

Bihar official demands Rs 1 cr to provide info under RTI (1)
January 31, 2009: A farmer, with an average annual income of Rs 60,000, was ordered to pay a
whopping sum of Rs 1 crore to know how Public Distribution System dealers distributed kerosene oil and
food articles over the past few years. Gupteshwar Singh of Bankat village had initially sought these
details from Bihar’s supply department in Patna in May last year. The request was forwarded to the Ara
district supply officer, who in turn sent a letter to the petitioner asking him to pay a sum of Rs 78 lakh
towards the cost of collection of the information and its photo-copying. The stunned villager then moved
the State Information Commission (SIC), saying he was denied information even after expiry of the
stipulated 30-day deadline under the RTI in June. The SIC directed the District Supply Officer (DSO),
Jawahar Prasad, to provide the details to the petitioner free of costs. The DSO then sought Rs 1 crore
from the government towards the costs involved in complying with the SIC directive. The SIC, in the
meantime, summoned the DSO, who explained the costing of the information collection. The proceedings
at the SIC lasted some six months and in December, it accepted the DSO’s plea and issued an order
directing the farmer to pay the costs and collect the information. DSO told HT, “I will forward the latest
order of the SIC to the petitioner and if he comes up with the necessary stipulated costs of Rs 1 crore, he
will be provided the information he has sought.” He has not yet heard anything from the farmer.
(Hindustan Times 31/1/09)

Ministers, kin exempt from RTI, says PMO (1)
New Delhi, Feb. 1: The PMO has decided to keep the assets of ministers and their relatives under wraps
saying information in this regard is exempted from the Right to Information Act. In a reply to the
application of RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the PMO has termed the information as exempt
under Section 8 of the RTI Act and refused to divulge it for the same. The PMO had reportedly provided
the details to the Cabinet Secretariat to facilitate answering of RTI applications in this regard but later took
an about turn and denied the information to the applicant. Mr Agrawal had filed an RTI application last
year seeking details of assets of Union ministers and their relatives for the last two years from the Cabinet
Secretariat. The letter was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office for necessary action on the
application. "In a letter dated May 19, 2008, the PMO provided the details of assets and liabilities of
members of Union Council of Ministers to the Cabinet Secretariat to deal with such RTI applications," Mr
Agrawal said. "But after that I did not get any response from either of the offices. I had even moved an
application with the Central Information Commission in this regard," he added. After six months, the PMO,
in a letter dated December 17, 2008, told Mr Agrawal that the information sought could not be provided as
it was exempt under the RTI Act provisions. The office sought exemption under clauses 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j)
which relate to immunity granted to "documents fiduciary relationship" and "Cabinet Documents" under
the RTI Act, 2005, respectively. (The Hindu 2/2/09)

DMRC pulled up for demanding Rs 13,888 from RTI applicant (1)
New Delhi (PTI): The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited has been pulled up by the Central Information
Commission (CIC) for demanding Rs 13,888 fee for disclosing personal records of an employee under
the RTI Act. The corporation demanded the sum for disclosing month-wise details of the deductions made
in the salary of Public Relation Officer Yashwant Kumar during his tenure in the Metro. Kumar had
demanded these details under the RTI Act. But the Public Information Officer (PIO) Anuj Dayal demanded
the amount as additional fee claiming that records were "voluminous" in nature and would require
diversion of manpower to furnish them. "This is a serious mistake on the part of the PIO which has no
sanction in law or rules. The PIO is warned not to innovate and charge fees which are not sanctioned by
the RTI act or its rules," Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said in his order. Warning the PIO
not to repeat such a mistake in future, Gandhi said "The Commission is condoning this as a mistake, but
any repeat of this will invite the penal provisions of the RTI act." The Information Commissioner in his
ruling directed the PIO to provide the information to the applicant before February 20. He added "If the
information was very voluminous and would divert a disproportionate proportion of the resources of the
Public authority, the PIO should have invoked Section 7 (9) and offered inspection of records." (The
Hindu 3/2/09)

RTI Act not implemented by most civic bodies: study (1)
Bangalore: A majority of the City Municipal Councils (CMCs) in the State have not effectively
implemented the provision of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 dealing with mandatory disclosure of
information to be made by public authorities on their own. A study conducted by the Consumer Rights
Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT) found that the information disclosed by the CMCs was sketchy
and did not serve the intention of the legislation. Public authorities, including the CMCs, are required to
disclose information, which is broadly classified into 17 categories under Section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act,
to the public through notice boards, newspapers, announcements, media broadcasts, the Internet or any
other means, including inspection of their offices. The study pointed out that none of the CMCs have
given proactive disclosures the seriousness they deserve. Some of the 17 mandatory disclosures to be
made by the public authorities include powers and duties of its officers and employees; procedure
followed in the decision making process, including channels of supervision and accountability; norms set
by it for the discharge of its functions; rules, regulations, instructions, manuals and records held by it or
under its control or used by its employees for discharging functions; the budget allocated to each of its
agencies, indicating the particulars of all plans, proposed expenditure and reports on disbursement made;
particulars of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; among others.The study found that
none of the staff or officers are trained for preparing the manuals. Pointing out that many employees are
not even aware of the RTI Act in general and the manual in particular, the study has suggested the need
to educate the staff by including the RTI Act, particularly Section 4(1) (b), in their training curriculum. The
CREST report also stated that the mandatory information was not made available free of cost by many
CMCs as per the Act. (The Hindu 5/2/09)

Police gives whole register to RTI applicant (1)
Ghaziabad (IANS): The police in Ghaziabad have handed over their whole original complaint register to a
man who had, through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, sought data on car thefts in Ghaziabad. Akash
Nagar, a local journalist, presented the register before the media here Friday. Nagar said he submitted a
written request before the inspector general of police (IGP) at Meerut in November, seeking information
on six points related to car thefts during 2008. While he received the necessary information from Meerut,
Baghpat, Bulandshahr and Gautam Buddh Nagar police thanks to the IGP's initiative, he did not get any
information from the Ghaziabad police. When he pressed for information, a traffic police personnel asked
him to pay Rs.2,200 since the data ran into 1,100 pages. Following his repeated complaints, a policeman
reached his Noida office and handed him the original register containing the auto thefts record, and asked
him to find the information he wanted. The policeman asked him to return the register after he was fully
satisfied, and took the receipt of the register from him, Nagar said. Nagar then approached social activist
and councillor Rajendra Tyagi, who has sent a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati apprising
her of the state of affairs in maintaining police records. (The Hindu 6/2/09)

HC order on student right to scan script (1)
Calcutta, Feb. 5: Students have the right to take a look at their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with
their marks in major examinations. A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday went by the
judgement of Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the same court and held that agencies conducting exams are
bound to show the answer script if an examinee demands it under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,
2005. All agencies from Calcutta University to ICSE/CBSE and various school authorities will come under
the purview of the order. The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Dipankar Dutta in
their 50-page ruling said: “The examination conducting agencies will have to show the answer scripts to
the candidates within four weeks of their filing the application under Right to Information Act. “According
to Article 19 of the Constitution, examinees must have access to evaluated answer scripts...Denial of
inspection of answer scripts means the constitutional right to express and information may be lost,” the
division bench observed, upholding Justice Banerjee’s verdict. The ruling followed an appeal by Calcutta
University against Justice Banerjee’s order and five other writ petitions, three by the Madhyamik board.
The appeal and petitions were heard by the division bench analogously. Early last year, a Part II student
of mathematics honours in Presidency College, Pritam Rooj, had moved a writ before Justice Banerjee
against Calcutta University’s decision not to show him an answer script. Appearing for Rooj, his counsel
had claimed that following the enactment of the RTI Act, the university authorities were bound to show the
answer script to his client. Justice Banerjee, on March 28, 2008, had allowed Rooj’s petition and asked
the university authorities to show him the answer script. Armed with Justice Banerjee’s judgement, many
Madhyamik 2008 examinees had approached the RTI commission seeking an order demanding a look at
their answer scripts. When the RTI commission had asked the Board of Secondary Education to show the
answer scripts to the aggrieved students, it had moved a writ petition before the high court against the
commission’s order. (Telegraph 6/2/09)

Bihar RTI-on-phone project earns it top e-governance prize (1)
NEW DELHI: Bihar's unique attempt to accept Right to Information (RTI) applications through phone calls
— Jaankari — has been selected by the Centre for the first prize (gold) for "outstanding performance in
citizen centric service delivery" under its e-Governance project for the year 2008-09. Incidentally, 11 of
the total 18 National Awards for e-Governance under different categories this year have gone to NDA-
ruled states with Gujarat taking the lead with five prizes, including one gold, one silver and three bronze.
Announcing the annual awards, minister of state for personnel Prithviraj Chavan said: "These awards are
given to recognize and promote excellence in implementation of e-governance initiatives." Under the
category of citizen-centric service delivery in which Bihar won the gold for Jaankari, Gujarat and Himachal
Pradesh were selected got the bronze for their e-krishi-kisan (Agricultural University, Anand) and HIMPOL
(state police website), respectively. Praising the Bihar government's citizen-centric service delivery project
"Jaankari — RTI facilitation on phone", Chavan said: "In this, you can make a phone call and the call
centre person will keep all the details. The cost of the RTI application will be deducted by adding it to the
phone call charges." He said the Delhi government had also shown an interest in implementing the
project. The awards to these states will be given away during the 12th National Conference on e-
Governance in Goa on February 12-13. On excellence in government process re-engineering,
Chhattisgarh's department of food and civil supplies bagged the first prize while in the exemplary
horizontal transfer of best practice the first prize went to Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Nagpur
Municipal Corporation, the national panchayat portal of the ministry of panchayati raj and the Indian
National Centre for Ocean Information Services, Hyderabad, won awards in the category of best
government websites. Tripura, Karnataka and Haryana were the other states which won awards in
different categories for their efforts towards promoting e-governmence for the benefit of citizens. Chavan
said as part of Centre's initiative to streamline the official websites, the government has issued guidelines
for all official portals which will help people to get required information easily. As part of the government's
e-governance plan, 27 mission mode projects would be rolled out across the country with an outlay of Rs
20,175 crore. Out of this, 16 projects have already been cleared by the Union Cabinet with an outlay of
Rs 10,626 crore. (Times of India 7/2/09)

State Information Commission order to police “ignored” (1)
CHENNAI: An order by the State Information Commission to the Police department to provide information
on the arrest of an “RTI activist” has been ignored, according to B. Thirugnanam, president, TNHB Colony
Residents Consumer Protection Awareness Welfare Association. A direction by the Commission, in its
order dated October 29, 2008, to conduct an enquiry into whether police standing orders and other
investigative guidelines were followed in the case had also not been complied with, he adds. K.
Muniasamy, belonging to Mathur near Manali, organising secretary of the Association, and described as
an “RTI activist,” claims that he was arrested on August 27, 2007, as he had opposed some actions of
panchayat president K. Elumalai. Subsequent to his release, he filed an RTI petition with the police
station (M2-MMC) asking for details of the case registered against him. Mr. Muniasamy had also asked
for information about Mr. Elumalai, including complaints against him registered at the police station and
details of an earlier case involving Mr. Elumalai. However, the Public Information Officer (the PIO was the
Sub-Inspector at the station) said the information could only be obtained through a petition in courts. The
State Information Commission, in its order, noted that this went against the RTI Act and asked the PIO to
provide the information immediately. It also said that there were contradictions in the reply provided and
asked the Commissioner of Police to show cause (within four weeks) why penalties should not be
imposed on the department for denial of information. The Commission, in its order, rejected the
contention that the Deputy Commissioner of Police had only recently taken charge, and so was not aware
of the case details, by observing that the SI was still continuing in the same post. As to the allegations
made by Mr. Muniasamy, the Commission said the Commissioner of Police could investigate the claims
made by him. It was up to a senior police officer to check whether the rules and regulations were followed
in that case, and suggested that a report on the enquiry be produced before it for record subsequently.
However, Mr. Thirugnanam and Mr. Muniasamy claim that no such investigation has taken place till date,
and also that the information requested by them had not been provided. A subsequent petition to the
Commission and other authorities including the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Madhavaram, and the
Home Department had not yielded any result, they say. When contacted, senior police officials said that
they were not aware of any investigation ordered in the case. (The Hindu 9/2/09)

Imprison officials who fail to provide information (1)
Coimbatore: The Coimbatore Consumer Cause has appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring
in amendments to make the Right to Information Act bringing in the penalty of imprisonment for failure to
provide information. In a memorandum, the Secretary of the forum, K. Kathirmathiyon, said at least when
the orders of the Commission were disobeyed by the Public Information Officers’ amounting to clear
contempt, improisonment should be awarded. He said that if there was a failure to provide the information
within the time specified, action could be initiated against the Public Information Officer under Section 20
of the RTI, whereas no penalty could be imposed on the Appellate Authority (who was also equally
responsible for not taking any effort to provide the information). There should be penalty for the Appellate
authority also. Till date many of the Government Departments were not providing even the Government
orders on the website which are directly related to the public and the Act should make it compulsory. In
respect of Tamil Nadu, the fee could be paid through a bank challan credited to a common Head in
respect of all the Departments thus avoiding the banker’s commission or any additional expense. Now
court fees stamps are allowed which had made the payment very simple. But in respect of Central
Government and its other offices, Demand Draft (with commission) has to be taken in different names for
different offices and public are not aware of this. In many cases, the departments return the fee asking
the applicant to make corrections in terms of the instrument addressed in favour of some authority/official.
This led to additional expenses cancellation fee of draft and postal orders end up being more than the
draft value. The applicants should be permitted to remit the fee through a common head of account
through banks and the offices concerned should accept the remittance challan as a payment proof. In a
number of cases where the Information Commission issued directions to the Public Information Officers to
provide the information on the 2nd appeal itself but the PIOs failed and no further action was being
initiated and this was not an appreciable situation. There should be time limit for appeal disposal by the
Information Commission since there are cases pending for more than one year. It would be near
impossible for the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi to dispose of all applications hence
there should be more CIC in different Zones. As in the case of CIC, State Information Commission (SIC)
should also post the petition status on the website. He sought specific rules relating to receipt, recording
and disposal by SICs. Information should be made available on the website. If any application was not
considered by the Information Commission, it should be communicated to the applicant with reasons so
that the applicant could prefer review. Mr. Kathirmathiyon also sought increase in the number of number
of Information Commissioners and the SICs should also visit each district so that they could conduct
enquiry at the District level and pass orders there itself. The functioning of the SICs should be thoroughly
reviewed and corrective actions needs to be taken since the bulk of our citizens’ interface is with the
agencies under State Government. (The Hindu 14/2/09)

Officials fined under RTI Act (1)
PATNA: The State Information Commission (SIC) on Friday slapped fine on two government officials for
violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those fined are sub-divisional (SDO) of Bikramganj in Rohtas
district and principal of Government Middle School of Kahuara in Nalanda district. The Bikramganj SDO
would have to cough up a fine of Rs 25,000. He failed to provide relevant information to one Kunti Devi
who had sought certain information under RTI. The SIC directed the erring SDO to provide relevant
information to Kunti latest by April 16 and fixed April 24 as the next date of hearing of the case. The
school principal was found guilty of not providing information to one Apporva Anand for which he would
have to cough up a fine of Rs 250 per day with upper limit being Rs 25,000. The commission directed him
to provide relevant information to the applicant latest by April 21 and fixed April 28 as the next date of
hearing of the case. (Times of India 14/2/09)

1981 scheme: DDA fined for improper reply to RTI query (1)
New Delhi, February 16, 2009: The Central Information Commission has fined the DDA for the
“unsavoury” manner in which it disposed of an RTI application. The DDA Vice-Chairman has been
directed to pay Rs 2,500 to appellants Rajiv Sapra and Rahul Gupta for unnecessarily harassment to get
information regarding a 1981 housing scheme. The matter relates to the shocking fact that 27 years after
the scheme was brought out, 25,000 people have still not got their plots despite paying registration
money. The Commission has wondered whether the absence of a proper reply shows the DDA’s lack of
concern for the residents of the city they are mandated to serve. More embarrassingly for the agency, the
Commission constructed its own reply to the query, which suggests that the DDA unilaterally changed a
plot scheme to one of flats without formal authorisation or recorded meetings. An earlier RTI filed with the
Ministry of Urban Development informed that the DDA had decided to convert 5,411 plots to group
housing scheme —meaning flats — through a letter written by an engineer to the Ministry. “As we had
applied for plots and not flats, we filed an RTI to know whether the engineer was empowered to take this
unilateral decision,” Gupta told HT. Sapra filed an RTI in November 2007. But he did not get any
satisfactory response and had to file a first and second appeal. (Hindustan Times 16/2/09)

RTI has made public servants accountable: Pranab Mukherjee (1)
New Delhi, February 16, 2009: The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 has made public servants more
accountable than before, acting Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday. "The enactment of
the Right to Information Act 2005 at the centre and in many states has bridged a critical gap in the public
decision making process and ushered in greater accountability of public servants," Mukherjee said while
presenting the Interim Budget 2009-2010 in the Lok Sabha. Mukherjee said that the Second
Administrative Reforms Commission, set up by the government in August 2005, has brought out a
number of reports with practical recommendations, providing a starting point for improving efficiency in
the delivery of public services. "The commission was set up with a mandate to suggest measures to
achieve a pro-active, responsive, accountable, sustainable and efficient administration for the country at
all levels of the government," he said. (Hindustan Times 16/2/09)

City uses RTI to set record straight (1)
LUDHIANA: For those dwelling in the MIG flats of Urban Estate, Phase-2, seeking exemption from water
and sewerage charges according to area specifications has now become easy, courtesy Right to
Information (RTI) Act. The residents, who were allotted flats by Punjab Urban Development Authority
(PUDA) a few years back, have claimed freedom from paying the water and sewerage bills, as per a
notification from the state government to exempt all houses constructed below the area of 125 sq yards.
They claim that the development authority constructed two units of each flat on a single plot area of 162
sq yards and all dwellings had separate power, water and sewerage connections. However, despite this,
the municipal corporation had been issuing them bills pertaining to water and sewerage supply every
year. When residents brought the matter to MC’s notice, they were told that they could be exempted only
if PUDA gave in writing about the total area covered by the dwellings. Acting upon it, residents have
sought information regarding their flats from PUDA under the RTI Act. Kuldeep Singh Kreer, general
secretary, MIG Welfare Society, claimed they had urged the authorities concerned for extending the
facility to them. However, he added the authorities allegedly kept issuing bills, considering the area of
flats was 162 sq yards. Kuldeep claimed under RTI Act, PUDA had wide its letter number PIO-GLADA-
Ldh/676 dated January 30, 2009, clarified that each flat was 81.6 sq yards in area, which was also
mentioned in its approved map. He said a representation of residents would submit the letter of
information provided by PUDA to MC officials. Kuldeep further said a writ petition regarding the matter
was pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and they would furnish requisite details about it.
(Times of India 16/2/09)

Police ignore 80% of arrest warrants issued by courts (1)
Mumbai: They have committed crimes for which they should be punished, but they are free to strike again
and again. And they are not just one or two, but thousands. The National Anti-Corruption and Crime
Preventive Council plans to drag the state home department to court for not acting on warrants.A query
filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed that barely one in five of those booked for
various offences and against whom non-bailable warrants (NBWs) were issued by courts last year were
arrested. Sixty-five police stations got 12,746 NBWs between Jan 1 and Oct 15, 2008, but they executed
only 2,676 of them, or 20.99%.The RTI query by social activist Mohan Krishnan of the National Anti-
Corruption and Crime Preventive Council was filed at all police stations in Mumbai and sought details on
the execution of NBWs and the proclamations received from courts in the ten-and-a-half-month period.
Only 75 of the city's 86 police stations responded to the RTI query, while 10 gave incorrect information.
DNA possesses the data filed by the 65 police stations. The data provide damning information about the
men in khaki. The figures reveal that among the non-executed warrants, at least 2,144 (16.82%) were
cancelled by courts at a later stage. The remaining 7,926 (62.18%) were returned to the courts
unexecuted or are pending execution. In a majority of cases, the police cited inability to trace the culprits
or witnesses as reasons for failing to effect the NBWs. But the police are guilty on another count too.
They have not implemented proclamations against absconding criminals either. Proclamations are judicial
papers issued by courts if they have reason to believe that an accused against whom a warrant has been
issued is absconding. Proclamations order the accused to be present at a specified time and place, failing
which their properties are liable to be attached. Proclamations must be pasted near the residence of the
accused. The RTI query revealed that 772 of the 2,502 proclamations issued, or 30.85%, are also
pending. Krishnan blames the police top brass for the state of affairs. "It is the primary duty of the police
to execute all court processes without delay," he said. "Senior officers are expected to conduct periodic
checks on this." Krishnan said investigating officers are often lax in cross-checking information provided
by the accused (such as residential address and native place) while recording their statements. (DNA
18/2/09)

PMPML fined Rs 25,000 for not providing info under RTI Act (1)
PUNE: In a major setback to the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited, state information
commissioner (Pune bench) Vijay Kuvalekar on Monday ordered the company administration to pay a
fine of Rs 25,000 to the government treasury for failing to provide information under the Right to
Information Act to an activist. As per the order, the fine is to be recovered from the officers responsible for
failing to provide the information about a bill issued for 60 propeller shafts on a work order, issued by the
PMPML in May 2006, for getting 30 propeller shafts. The order states that responsibility for not providing
a photocopy of the bill is to be fixed on all the concerned officers, including traffic manager (vigilance
department chief) S G Gavli, chief accounts and finance officer D V Unavane, chief internal accounts
examiner Z A Sayyed and the then manager (traffic and administration) Shivraj Rane. The order adds that
the fine should be recovered from the salaries to be paid in February and March, and this should be noted
in the confidential report and service book of the concerned persons. The order asked the PMPML's
executive director to get a copy of the bill from the concerned company and give it to activist Maj Gen S C
N Jathar (retd) before February 25. The information commissioner has also asked the PMPML
administration to initiate action against the concerned people for their failure to preserve the necessary
documents as per the rules, and has ordered the executive director to submit a report to the information
commissionerate. When contacted, PMPML joint managing director A Y Karche, said that he had not yet
seen the order. In his application submitted to the PMPML on May 3, 2007, Jathar had asked for
information on 11 issues, including that of the work order for getting 30 propeller shafts, and about the
report by the Central Institute of Road Transport that remoulding of tyres has not been done as per quality
standards. When the administration failed to provide the information, Jathar filed an appeal on June 5,
2007. Although the appeal came up for hearing, the PMPML could not provide the copy of the bill (issued
for 60 shafts). Subsequently, show-cause notices were issued to chief engineer A G Shelar, Sayyad,
Unavane and Gavli and also departmental enquiries were initiated, the administration informed the state
information commissioner. After going through the explanations given by the administration, the
information commissioner observed that the vigilance and the accounts departments were trying to pass
on the blame to each other. The information commissioner also observed that there were no visible
efforts from the PMPML to settle the issue. Similarly, the PMPML also did not make efforts to get a copy
of the bill from the concerned company. (Times of India 18/2/09)

Use RTI to get court order copies (1)
MUMBAI: This is one problem litigants across the country face when they try to procure certified copies of
court orders. Their applications get stuck in red tape and they have to wait for months together to get the
copies. In many cases, officials summarily refuse to give the papers, saying the matter is sub-judice. But
an order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) may bring relief to litigants; it said citizens
can use the Right To Information route to get even certified copies of court papers. The case came up for
hearing after RTI applicant N Venkatesan asked for certified copies of a judgment from the office of the
Delhi district and sessions court. But the court public information officer (PIO) rejected the RTI application.
The applicant then filed a first appeal but here, too, he met with disappointment. But the CIC order,
passed by Shailesh Gandhi, said a citizen could use any process for accessing information and that
process included the RTI Act. "If parliament wanted to restrict the citizen's right, it would have been stated
in the law. Nobody else has the right to constrain or constrict the rights of the citizen. It is a citizen's right
to use the most convenient and efficacious means available to him,'' the order said. The CIC also said
that the PIO's contentions - that the applicant did not disclose whether the information belonged to a third
party and the purpose for which he required the information - were not valid. "Neither of these is relevant
since there is no requirement in law for the applicant to disclose either of these reasons,'' the CIC order
said. (Times of India 19/2/09)

Board answer sheets cannot be provided under RTI: HC (1)
ALLAHABAD: The Allahabad High Court has held that the photocopy of the answer copies of the UP
Board examinations cannot be provided under the Right to Information Act (RTI) as it would open a way
for the students for self-assessment. The court said that the assessment of a candidate by an examiner
was comparative and cannot be permitted to be open for self-assessment by the candidates. Dismissing
a writ petition filed by Meraj Khan, Justice Rakesh Tiwari observed, "Admittedly, right of a person under
RTI Act cannot be protected beyond the provisions of law. The petitioner can only seek information or
may be provided the documents which are permissible to be provided under the law or have not been
weeded out as in the present case." The petitioner claims to be a meritorious student and she had
obtained 57 per cent marks in High School examination 2008. She had moved the application under RTI
Act for providing photocopy of answer copies to her. The grievance of the petitioner was that she had not
been provided photocopy of the answer copies of her High School examination as requested by her. She
also requested to provide information on other subjects in which she had appeared. The state counsel
submitted that the answer copies of the Board examinations were weeded out after six months of the
declaration of the result. Since the petitioner had not applied for scrutiny within the prescribed time, her
copies have been weeded out. The application dated November 11, 2008 appears to be bogus as the
marks obtained by her were available to her marksheet, observed the court. (Times of India 21/2/09)

RTI Act (Editorial)
It is an instance that reveals the tangible gap between a Government’s professed claim and real position
regarding a powerful tool to achieve transparency. The state of the Right to Information Act in Assam is
distressing and disappointing for all who subscribe to the idea of probity in public affairs. More unfortunate
are those who have been trying to use the Act to acquire much needed information from Government or
Government funded authorities. A recent assessment carried out by an RTI activist from Assam has
pointed out that a number of districts including Dibrugarh, Karbi Anglong, Kamrup and Nalbari have not
witnessed positive developments. Many of the offices in the district and sub-divisional levels do not
identify the Pub lic Information Officers. As a result, people do not have the knowledge and ready access
to many functionaries who are authorised to deal with applicants. In many offices, PIOs have shown scant
regard to the important Act, and in other cases they have feigned ignorance of the Act. According to some
applicants, they have received subtle threats after they had submitted RTI applications. It is now clear
that that a section of the public, whose wrongdoings stand to be exposed have started to put pressure on
RTI users. The woes of applicants would include long delays in the appeal process, a task made even
more difficult by bureaucratic hurdles. The present situation makes it amply clear that the Government
has not taken the issue of RTI with due seriousness - why else would the State Information Commission
function with just one Commissioner? There have been reports that with absence of strong penalties for
erring officials vis-a-vis the RTI Act, government offices have not bothered to take the applications
seriously. It has been pointed out that unlike in some other States, most PIOs who have failed to
dispense information within the stipulated period have not been censured or penalised. With due
sympathy to the PIOs and APIOs, it has to be stated that some of them have not received proper training,
and hence their inability to perform their functions. Some officers admit that they do not possess the
requisite infrastructure and funds essential to fulfil the needs of RTI applicants. RTI users and activists,
already feeling frustrated, believe that unless the issue gains crucial support from civil society, the Act’s
ideal of ushering transparency would remain a distant dream. (Assam Tribune 23/2/09)

Need for printing RTI in all languages underscored (1)
HYDERABAD: National Commission for Backward Classes chairperson S. Ratnavel Pandian has
underscored the need for printing and publicising the Right to Information Act in all regional languages.
The RTI should be translated in all regional languages and the definitions/terms of the Act should be
comprehensively explained. “The rules governing the Act are unfortunately not printed in regional
languages. People from weaker and downtrodden sections are neither aware of the RTI nor provisions
related to it,” he said. He was speaking at a meeting on “Effective use of Right to Information for better
India – The role of intellectuals” organised by the All-India Conference of Intellectuals here on Sunday.
Authorities were obliged to inform people that RTI would help them understand actions of the
government. Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai said the Act would go a long way in introducing
transparency. It would enable people to know the reasons for the government decisions and assess
whether they were right. Former Union Minister Bhishma Narain Singh said information was like oxygen
to society and people, the ultimate beneficiaries, were entitled to know the issues. Legislative Council
Chairman D. Chakrapani, AICOI secretary-general P.N. Sarma and AP and Karnataka State convenor
K.M. Shivashankaracharya spoke. Later, National Intellectual Honour awards-2008 were presented to
Justice Pandian, Dr. Chakrapani, noted musician Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, National Textiles
Corporation CMD K. Ramachandran Pillai, AP Planning Board vice-chairman D. Swaminathan, former IG
G. Ramachandra Reddy, State Official Language Commission chairman A.B.K. Prasad and Kasani
Gnaneshwar, MLC. (The Hindu 23/2/09)

SC judges ready to declare assets, they tell Delhi High Court (1)
NEW DELHI: Supreme Court judges are willing to make public their assets, but will not do so until a fresh
law is enacted to address their fears of misuse of the information they will be required to put in the public
domain. The apex court on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that its judges "are not opposed to
declaring their assets", but qualified that with the assertion that RTI Act does not provide the mechanism
or law under which they could make the declaration. The response, while seeming to indulge the growing
demand from within and outside to apply the transparency norms to judges, is clearly tilted in favour of
status quoists on the Bench. SC was widely seen as reluctant to apply the transparency norms to itself
when it moved the HC against an order by the Central Information Commission passed under the RTI Act
asking SC to disclose whether the judges had been scrupulously following their own informal resolution of
1997 and declaring assets regularly to the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The SC has addressed the
perception by saying that its appeal against the CIC's order was not intended to raise technical objections
to avoid declaring assets of judges, but had to do with a "fundamental question of law and principle with
regard to the scope and applicability" of RTI Act. "Having said that, it must also be clarified that judges of
the SC are not opposed to declaring their assets provided that such declarations are made in accordance
with the due procedure laid down by a law," the court said. The stance that the RTI Act was not applicable
to judges and that the CJI was not a public authority as defined under the transparency law comes
through clearly. The earlier argument was that the CJI not being a public authority under the RTI Act, the
declarations made to him by judges under the informal resolution of 1997 could not be said to be
information under the public domain, hence available to be accessed by general public with the help of
provisions of the right to information law. The present stand before the HC means that SC judges were
willing to declare their assets provided a separate mechanism was made available through legislative
process by Parliament, which the judges desired must have following provisions: * The authority to which
the declaration would have to be made* The form in which the declaration would have to be made along
with clear definition of what constituted `assets'* Proper safeguards, checks and balances to prevent
misuse of the information which would be made available on judges' assetsThe rest of the arguments
advanced by the SC was nothing but its already known view — how the information on judges assets was
in private domain and non-applicability of the RTI Act to it. It said, "The voluntary declarations given by
the judges cannot be said to be information in public domain. Under the Act, the right to information is in
respect of information which is required to be held by a public authority under the provisions of law. In the
instant case, there is no legal or constitutional requirement for filing the declarations and as such, the
declarations filed, if any, cannot be the subject matter of the Act." The informal resolution of May 7, 1997,
under which the judges made voluntary declaration, has no force of law. Hence, the information with the
CJI about the assets of judges could not be accessed under RTI Act as it was not information held by a
public authority under any law, the SC said. Moreover, it said the information on assets available with the
CJI was "purely and simply" personal information, which under the RTI Act is specifically exempt from
disclosure. (Times of India 25/2/09)

Authorities reluctant to disclose info under RTI Act: CIC (1)
New Delhi, February 26, 2009: Three years after implementation of the RTI Act, many public authorities
are still “reluctant” to disclose information, the Central Information Commission has said and demanded
enhanced manpower for effective compliance of the Act. Many organisations are yet to comply with
Section 4, a mandatory requirement under which public authorities are liable to disclose information and
make it accessible for public, Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said. “There is lack of
commitment from public authorities. Information Commissioners across the country have not been able to
ensure its implementation. Many state and Central government affiliated organisations are reluctant in
abiding by Section 4,” he told PTI. According to Section 4 of the RTI Act, public authorities shall maintain
all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and form which facilitate the RTI Act. They should
ensure that all records, which are appropriate to be computerised, are within a reasonable time and
subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on
different systems so that access too such records is facilitated. The CIC has also written a letter to the
Prime Minister’s Office in order to draw its attention towards various factors responsible for under
compliance of the Act. (Hindustan Times 26/2/09)
Govt tries its best to blunt RTI teeth (1)
New Delhi: The Right to Information (RTI) still remains a distant dream for the common man. The latest
report of the Central Information Commission (CIC) reveals that 9 per cent of RTI applications are still
rejected by several Ministries; with the Ministry of Finance, Personnel and Prime Minister’s Office topping
the list of Government departments throwing out most number of such requests. This is not all. There is
little hope for applicants knocking at the door of even the CIC, the final appellate authority for the RTI Act,
2005. The annual report 2006-07 of CIC shows that its disposal rate of petitions is quite dismal, hovering
just slightly above the half-way mark. On an average, only 55.6% of RTI petitions were disposed of by the
CIC during 2006-07. The performance has actually dipped as it was above 90% in 2005-06 - the first year
of RTI Act implementation. The commission had disposed of 97.8% of the appeals and 95.6% of the
complaints in the previous year. However, in 2006-07, the corresponding numbers were 68.45% and
42.1% only. The pendency has also increased manifold in the CIC. The report reveals that it had only 486
pending petitions at the beginning of 2006-07. However, this balance increased six times over the
previous year and the pendency was 3,251 in 2007-08. The report clearly identifies this challenge,
stating: “Even though the disposal rate has increased over months, the challenge before CIC is how to
improve this rate further.” On an average, public authorities disposed of barely 66% of the requests
received. There is also a growing reluctance among the public authorities to reveal their performance on
the RTI front. Public authorities file “annual returns” before CIC, revealing how they fared in terms of RTI
requests received, disposed of or rejected. While 89.2% of the public authorities filed their annual returns
in 2005-06, the percentage dipped to 83.5% in 2006-07. Experts have often pointed out that the CIC load
is increasing because of the reluctance of appellate authorities to impose a penalty. This reluctance
makes public information officers (PIOs) more brazen and they wrongfully reject requests using different
clauses of the RTI Act. The CIC, however, has made only slight improvement on this front. While in 2005-
06 not even a single penalty was imposed on errant PIOs, in 2006-07 this number increased to a mere
24, with only 13 penalties being recovered. The report notes that the number of requests rejected by the
Ministries has come down slightly, from 14% to 9%. The worst performers on this criterion are the Ministry
of Finance, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions and the PMO. While the Finance
Ministry rejected 33% of the requests received, Personnel and PMO rejected almost 19% of the requests.
The other Ministries who have made it to the top 10 list include the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural
Gas, Defence, Labour, Communications and Information Technology, Home Affairs, Railways and Urban
Development. The RTI Act implementation, however, has a silver lining. With increasing awareness
among people, the number of applications increased seven times in 2006-07 over 2005-06. This
increasing load did not deter several departments, some of which disposed of 100% of the requests
received. These best performers include the Cabinet Secretariat, Comptroller and Auditor General,
Election Commission of India, Ministry of Development of North-Eastern Region and the Ministry of
External Affairs. (Pioneer 27/2/09)

Home ministry gets the most RTI applications (1)
NEW DELHI: The home ministry tops the chart amongst RTI information seekers while the finance
ministry leads in rejection of applications. In 2006-2007, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) received
52,353 RTI applications compared to 1,316 pleas in 2005-2006. Other ministries that received a large
number of RTI applications include ministry of communications and information technology (20,806),
finance (18,830), railways (11,797) and urban development (10,938). These are part of the annual report
of the Central Information Commission (CIC) for 2006-2007 tabled in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
Amongst the top five ministries that have the most number of rejections to their credit include finance
ministry with the maximum of 6,160 rejected applications of the total of 18,830. These are followed by
ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions with 1,090 rejections and Prime Minister's Office
with 205 rejections. The ministry of petroleum and natural gas rejected 667 of the 4,003 applications it
received while ministry of defence turned down 734 of the 5,521 requests for information. Delhi
Development Authority received 8,303 appeals, the maximum for any public authority. An applicant files
an appeal after he/she is dissatisfied with the response of the public authority. DDA is followed by the
estate office under the home ministry, followed by Aligarh Muslim University, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd and
National Highway Authority of India. Incidentally, MHA also is on top of the heap when it comes to
receiving RTI appeals that came to 5,018. The ministry was followed by the finance ministry with 3,156
appeals, railways (1,054) and ministry of communications and IT that received 783 appeals. In an
encouraging trend, the number of RTI applications have increased from 24,436 to 1.71 lakh while the
number of requests rejected have come down from 13.9% to 8.98%. Disciplinary action was taken in
seven cases in 2006-2007 while penalty was levied in 24 cases. However, penalty was recovered only in
12 cases. But the commission's own performance has suffered. In 2005-2006, it had disposed of 441 of
the 451 complaints or 97.8% of the complaints it received which dropped to 69.79% the following year.
(Times of India 27/2/09)

CIC stresses need for proactive disclosures (1)
NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over official unease with the Right to Information (RTI) Act, chief
information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah on Saturday said that there was need for proactive
disclosure. "Unless government officials increase accessibility to information, the system will start
showing signs of strain,'' Habibullah said. He was speaking at the first sub-committee meeting on RTI to
assess the adequacy of facilitation process for accessing information and to identify best practices being
implemented and outline an action plan for adaptation by public authorities. "There is a sense of rivalry in
giving information or exempting it. Everyone should realise RTI is part of governance and not forced on
the government,'' Habibullah said. He hoped that the sub-committee would evolve an approach and
suggest a methodology for assessing and grading public authorities in terms of greater transparency and
accountability and eradicating corruption. (Times of India 1/3/09)

RTI activist questions information panel order (1)
CHENNAI: The State Information Commission's strange interpretation of a key clause of the Right to
Information (RTI) Act in a recent case, could pose new hurdles in the path of people seeking information
from government agencies. The case relates to an RTI application filed by T Retna Pandian, general
secretary of 5th Pillar India, an organisation fighting against corruption, on March 5, 2008, at the Tamil
Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) headquarters. He sought to know the role of field level officials of
the board and as to how much movable and immovable assets they held. Among the barrage of queries,
he also sought permission to inspect some of the registers maintained at the TNPCB office. Failing to get
answers to most of the queries, he filed an appeal before the appellate authority at the TNPCB
headquarters. Even the appeal served limited purpose only because the appellate authority chose to take
cover under section 8 (1)(j) of the RTI Act and said asset details of officials need not be divulged as they
fell under the exempted category. Not satisfied with the peace-meal delivery of information, Pandian
approached the State Information Commission on appeal. Two commissioners, T R Ramasamy and R
Perumalsamy, who heard his case on February 9, ordered TNPCB officials to provide all the information
within 10 days. The order said, "Property statements are public documents and cannot be said to be
attracting the exemption clause." But the order was not all that sweet for Pandian to digest because it also
said the petitioner, seeking information from three district offices of TNPCB in this case Chennai,
Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram - should have actually applied before the "three public authorities" instead
of seeking to get all the information from the TNPCB headquarters. The commission also cited a
memorandum circulated by the ministry of personnel, public grievance and pensions to drive home its
point. The memorandum says when a petitioner files an application before a public authority, seeking
information that is available with more than one public authority, the public information officer (PIO) who
receives the RTI application should give information relating to his department and advise the petitioner to
make separate applications to other public authorities concerned for obtaining the balance information.
Pandian said, "First of all, under the RTI Act, even if the petitioner sends the application to the wrong
department, it is the responsibility of the PIO in that department to forward the queries to the PIOs
concerned. Next, the circular issued by a ministry is not binding on the State Information Commission.
Third, in my case, treating three district offices of TNPCB as three public authorities is wrong
interpretation of the RTI Act. The Act clearly says, public authority means any authority or body or
institution of self-governance established or constituted by or under the constitution, law made by
parliament, state legislature or through a notification issued by the appropriate government.' It includes
government-controlled and funded - both directly and indirectly - organizations. Pandian said, "The Act
also says, Every public authority shall designate as many officers as the Central Public Information
Officers or State Public Information Officers, as the case may be." In the present case, the TNPCB is a
public authority. But the district offices of TNPCB cannot be treated as separate public authorities. "The
commissioners are mixing up between PIOs and public authorities," he pointed out. The fallout of the
state information commission's order could be dangerous, feels Pandian. "Hereafter, all government
departments will take a stand that their subordinate offices are separate public authorities and hence
people seeking to know information from the subordinate offices should apply directly to those offices."
Pandian said he would move the High Court on appeal against the state information commission order.
(Times of India 2/3/09)

'Follow RTI or face the consequences' (1)
Mumbai: In what can be termed as a veiled warning to public information officers across the state, chief
information commissioner Suresh Joshi has urged state chief secretary Johny Joseph to ensure that
public servants uphold the spirit of implementation of the RTI Act. In a letter dated February 25, 2009,
Joshi warns public information officers (PIO) to implement RTI Act in its true spirit or face action. Talking
to DNA, state chief information commissioner (SCIC) Dr Suresh Joshi said the reason for writing his letter
was to make the state as perfect as possible. "We get the maximum RTI applications in the world and
there is no reason why we should not be judged as the most transparent state. PIOs are the fulcrum of
the act. If they do not discharge their responsibilities properly, then there is a fine. If PIOs do not give
information on time, it means he is a wilful defaulter. He cannot then say that he did not know the act or
that he/she was not trained. We will strictly implement the procedure of the act," he said. After
approximately four years of the act's existence, the general complaint is that PIOs tend to delay
disbursing info, often claiming a lack of knowledge of the act. Joshi letter, comprising the points that RTI
activist had lobbied for, states that PIOs and the first appellate authorities must be proactive in disbursing
information. The letter adds that in case of any confusion in the application, the PIOs should not hesitate
in calling the applicants for clarity. The letter comes after a meeting Joshi held with all the state
secretaries in small groups over 10 days, during which Joshi told the secretaries about the need to
implement the act faster. Chief secretary Johny Joseph confirmed he had received a letter from Joshi and
that a circular from Joshi had been sent to all the heads of departments. "Basically, they are instructions
why there should not be any delay in the implementation of the act. They in turn will be sending that to all
the PIOs." DNA 2/3/09)

Judges' appointment does not come under RTI: Centre (1)
New Delhi (PTI): The Delhi High Court on Wednesday stayed a Central Information Commission order
after the Centre on Wednesday pleaded that documents relating to appointment and transfer of judges
could not be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Challenging the order of CIC which had
asked the government to disclose documents and file-notings on appointment of Chief Justice of
Himachal Pradesh, Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra pleaded that such informations are beyond
the purview of RTI Act. "Correspondence exchanged between constitutional authorities is beyond the
purview of the Act and the commission erred in law by directing to disclose it," the government said in its
petition. Justice S Ravindra Bhat, after hearing his contention, stayed the CIC order and issued notice to
the RTI applicant on whose plea the Commission had passed the direction. The Commission on January
19 had directed the Centre to disclose all information and file notings on appointment of Chief Justice of
Himachal Pradesh Jagdish Bhalla, whose promotion file was returned by former President APJ Abdul
Kalam. (The Hindu 4/3/09)

HC aligns its RTI rules with CIC guidelines (1)
NEW DELHI: After drawing heavy criticism for framing RTI rules that went against the parent Act, the
Delhi High Court, in a major climbdown, has amended some of the rules. Most notably, it has done away
with the requirement that RTI applicants show how they are an "affected party'' while seeking information,
a caveat forbidden by the Act. A notification to this effect has been issued and figures on HC's website
from Thursday. The move is an attempt to allign HC's special RTI rules with the parent Act. TOI had, in
December last year, reported that a judges' committee of HC was reviewing the rules as the Chief Justice
had admitted some of the HC provisions ran contrary to the Act. HC's rules on information sharing have
been repeatedly held to be "in direct conflict with RTI Act'' by the Central Information Commission in its
rulings and has come under severe criticism by RTI activists. In its amendment exercise, HC has deleted
Clause 4 (IV) of RTI rules that permitted it to allow access of information only to "affected persons'' and
deny to those who don't explain their locus on why such an information is required. HC has also tinkered
with Section 5 (A) that exempted it from revealing any information which is "not already in the public
domain''. This meant HC could deny information to a seeker on the ground it was available elsewhere, a
rule frowned upon by transparency advocates. The third key allignment lies in Rule 4 (I) that till now gave
the court's public information officer a luxury of 15-20 days to respond to an RTI plea, which sought
information beyond his jurisdiction. He has to now inform the applicant within five days and return the
plea. The CIC had repeatedly taken a dim view of these sections. Speaking to Times City, Chief
Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah welcomed the move. "I have been adjourning cases
related to Delhi High Court because we were waiting for the rules to be brought in allignment with the RTI
Act, as had been promised. This is heartening news,'' the CIC said. (Times of India 6/3/09)

RTI Act helps physically challenged youth get job (1)
MADURAI: K. Sudalai, a physically challenged youth of Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district, might soon
join the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation as a bus conductor, thanks to the Right to Information
(RTI) Act, 2005. The youngster suffering from a congenital disability on his leg was caught unawares in
April 2008 when his name did not find place in the list of candidates eligible to apply for the post of bus
conductor in Madurai Division of TNSTC. He had completed Standard X in 1996 and possessed a
conductor’s licence issued by the Regional Transport Authority. The youth had also worked as a
conductor temporarily with TNSTC during a festival season in 2006-07. Wondering why he was dropped
from the selection process despite necessary qualifications, Mr. Sudalai made representations to the
Transport Secretary and Tirunelveli Collector on May 7, 2008. But there was no reply. He submitted an
application under the RTI Act. Replying to it, District Employment Officer said the General Manager,
TNSTC (Madurai Division), had informed that physically challenged persons were not fit to be appointed
as conductors. The reply helped the youngster file a writ petition in the Madras High Court Bench here to
consider his candidature as enunciated in Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of
Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. Justice K. Venkataraman pointed out that as per a notification
published in the Union Gazette on March 15, 2007 bus conductor was one of the jobs that could be
occupied by persons with orthopaedic disabilities. He agreed with petitioner’s counsel G. Prabhu
Rajadurai that there was no reason for the Madurai Division alone to reject physically challenged persons
to the post of conductor when other Divisions were not doing so. “When the petitioner could be appointed
temporarily as conductor during festival seasons, while running special buses, it is not known why he
cannot be appointed on permanent basis,” the Judge observed and directed TNSTC to consider the
petitioner’s plea within four weeks. (The Hindu 7/3/09)

'Faster disposal of RTI cases is the challenge' (1)
PUNE: State information commissioner for Pune division Vijay Kuvalekar said that faster disposal of
cases under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 is the challenge ahead. He also said that the Act
should benefit the common man, while steps should be taken to make people aware about the Act.
Kuvalekar was speaking at an interview organised by the Surajya Sangharsha Samiti and the Sajag
Nagrik Manch to mark two years since the Pune bench for RTI was established. He was interviewed by
RTI activists Vivek Velankar and Vijay Kumbhar and shared his experiences with the audience. "The RTI
Act has strong social implications. Therefore, on some occasions, decisions were taken considering the
social implications, said Kuvalekar. "It is also important that government departments provide due
seriousness while dealing with RTI cases." "The case of the university examination answer sheet, taken
up under the RTI, witnessed a significant response from the education field," Kumbhar added. "The
number of cases under the Act that are pending is a matter of concern and debate. Various steps have
been initiated to reduce this, including district-wise hearing and a special hearing programme." While
stressing the need to bring down the pendency, Kuvalekar said, "Offices are facing a staff crunch and
infrastructure problems. The offices also witness a delay in sanctioning from the government. "The
pendency has also gone up because some people file too many cases. The Act is for public interest and
not for personal gain. For example, an applicant asked for information about land dealings which took
place in a village in the last 100 years. This is an instance of misuse of the RTI Act." (Times of India
8/3/09)

Sarpanch charges over Rs 50,000 for ‘irrelevant’ information under RTI Act (1)
Mehda (Bhiwani): Ram Mehar Singh, a resident of Mehda village, Dadri II block, Bhiwani, had to shell out
more than Rs 50,000 for information, provided under the RTI Act regarding developmental activities in his
village carried out in the last three years, which, he says, is “totally irrelevant to the issue”. The village
sarpanch, who, under the Panchayati Raj Act, is also the Public Information Officer (PIO), charged him Rs
52,220 for the information and that too, after the expiry of the maximum period of 30 days, as stipulated
under the Act. Ram Mehar has complained to the State Information Commission (SIC) and asked for
refund of the money and the correct information. He has approached some NGOs as well, including the
Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Sanjha Kadam. Talking to The Indian Express,
Ram Mehar said he had asked for details of the income and expenditure of the Mehda village panchayat
fund accounts and other schemes, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, for the
period from April 2005 to October 2008. “The sarpanch, Manjit Kaur, who is guided by her husband
Surender Singh, got a resolution passed in the proceeding book of the Gram Panchayat in November that
the information sought by me contained as many as 5222 pages and, at the rate of Rs 10 per page for the
information, I was required to pay Rs 52,220,” he said. Being unaware of the RTI rule that after 30 days,
he was supposed to get the information free of cost, he paid the entire amount on December 16, 2008
and was asked to collect the information after seven days, which he failed to get. After he reported the
matter to the BDPO, Dadri II, on December 22, he was handed bundles of papers on January 15 “in the
name of information”. “It (the bundle of papers) contained 800 pages of BPL application forms of the
villages, 800 applications for a job card under NREGA, vouchers, quotations, several receipts that were
more than 2500 pages, 505 pages of panchayat proceedings, apart from other papers that had no
relevance,” he rued. Condemning the sarpanch’s action, Ajit Tomar, a social activist from the region, said
the sarpanch should be punished under the provision of the RTI Act, 2005 and the amount of Rs 52,220
must be returned to Ram Mehar immediately. (Indian Express 9/3/09)

'Pending cases biggest threat to RTI' (1)
MUMBAI: Central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on Sunday said that the three-and-a-half
year old Right to information (RTI) Act has given the average citizen some hope in providing better
governance, compared to the long-drawn legal system in the country. Gandhi, in his earlier avatar as a
city-based RTI activist, had used the Act to expose some of the major loopholes in the state bureaucracy-
be it examining the arbitrary disbursal of the chief minister's relief fund or procuring the medical report of
convicted state minister Swarup Singh Naik who got admitted to the air-conditioned ward of JJ hospital to
escape a one-month prison term. "I feel today the greatest threat to the survival of the RTI Act is the
mounting pendency of appeals. If the applicants are not provided correct information within the stipulated
period, then they will lose faith in the Act,'' Gandhi said during an interaction with senior officials with the
state information commission and RTI activists at Wadala. State chief information commissioner Suresh
Joshi, while lauding Gandhi's efforts of clearing over 2,300 appeals in five months, said that Gandhi is
truly the Sachin Tendulkar of the RTI movement. "But the SIC has now caught up with this zeal. The
pendency in Mumbai has now come down to around three months,'' Joshi said. TOI had last week done
an analysis on the performance of various commissioners and found that Shailesh Gandhi and
Annapurna Dixit topped in the number of disposals per month. Gandhi, for instance, has heard 670
appeals in January this year while Dixit disposed of 330 appeals in the same period. The CIC has a
pending appeals of around 10,000 while the SIC's pendency figures is over 15,000 till date. The state has
a higher number of pending appeals because Maharashtra also receives the highest number of RTI
applications in the world, Joshi said. RTI activist Bhaskar Prabhu-while welcoming the state information
commissioner's assurance of speedy disposal-said that each commissioner should dispose at least two
appeals every day to clear the current backlog. "We will take up the pendency issue with the governor
soon,'' RTI activist S K Nangia said. Gandhi said that though he was facing a staff crunch, he has
managed to dispose around 500 appeals every month as he has recruited computer-savvy volunteers.
"About 70% of my salary goes towards the honorary payment of these volunteers,'' Gandhi said. He said
that it is sad that many babus at the government offices still cannot operate a computer. "In my short
exposure to the working of the government, I have realised that there is a systemic problem in our
bureaucracy. Only if citizens and media come forward and challenge this rot on a daily basis will there will
be any effective change,'' he said. (Times of India 9/3/09)

Under draft J&K RTI law, Indians outside state can't access info (1)
NEW DELHI: The draft Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information bill, likely to be tabled in the state
legislative council this week, has some key anomalies, say RTI activists. The bill was cleared by the
legislative assembly on Monday. According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), the
draft bill does not allow Indian citizens living outside J&K access to information on public agencies within
the state. Incidentally, J&K residents can use the central Act to get information on central ministries but
the central legislation is not applicable in the state. Another issue that CHRI has raised but was ignored
by the state government was the schedule for operationalisation of the Act. Under the present rules, the
law will come into effect at once and this is likely to cause chaos, the NGO said. The opinion was echoed
by chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. He said, "I have suggested to J&K CM Omar
Abdullah that there should be staggered implementation of the legislation for smooth changeover to the
new system." The NGO had also suggested that application fee be removed and applications be allowed
in Ladakhi and Kashmiri. Under the draft bill, English, Urdu and Hindi are the languages in which an
applicant can file his or her appeal. Activists have asked for strengthening of the information
commissioner's position. "The bill should be amended so that information commissioners have powers to
take suo moto cognisance of non-compliance of any public authority and initiate inquiry," Venkatesh
Nayak of CHRI said. RTI activists, however, said that though the government had done the laudable task
of putting the draft bill on the website and asking for public suggestions, their views had been ignored.
J&K RTI movement convener Muzaffar Bhat said, "We appreciate the law made by the state government
but none of the suggestions that we gave were accepted. In fact, even typographic errors have been
retained." Bhat hopes that the bill will be amended before it is cleared by the legislative council. The new
RTI bill — that replaces the old legislation that was considered archaic and weak — is derived to a large
extent from the central RTI Act. The move comes after years of struggle by activists on the outdated
legislation that was not considered to be citizen-friendly. (Times of India 11/3/09)

Show cause notice to Hescom under RTI Act (1)
HUBLI: The Karnataka Information Commission has issued a notice to Hubli Electricity Supply Company
(Hescom), to show cause why its principal information officer (PIO) should not be penalized for delay in
providing information sought under the Right to Information Act. Hescom general manager and PIO U S
Nayak had taken 100 days instead of the maximum stipulated period of 30 days for furnishing information
to an RTI applicant on steps taken by it to conserve energy in view of the prevailing power shortage in
Karnataka. Even after so much delay, applicant A S Kulkarni, power secretary of the Hubli Citizens
Forum, was given what he called vague information without specific details only when he filed a petition
with the state information commission after lapse of the stipulated period. Under section 20 (1) of the RTI
Act, Nayak may have to pay a fine of Rs 17,500 from his own pocket for the undue delay of 70 days over
and above the stipulated 30 days, as the law provides for a fine of Rs 250 for each day of delay, and the
liability is personal. According to legal experts, this penal provision is mandatory, and even the state
information commissioner has no discretionary powers in this regard. The petition is listed for hearing
before the commission on May 4, and the PIO has the option personally appear to explain reasons for
undue delay. Kulkarni, a senior citizen and former law officer with the Metals and Minerals Trading
Corporation, has also secured an order from state information commissioner K A Thippeswamy for a
payment of Rs 600 from Hescom management towards cost of appearing before the commission in
Bangalore. Referring to the vague reply given by the PIO, Kulkarni said he was told that Hescom has no
information about the number of consumers using energy saving devices, or how many offices were using
solar energy despite direction that usage of solar energy was compulsory all government offices. He said
even the Hescom corporate office here has yet to install solar power devices. Moreover, if they treat
requests under the RTI Act so casually, the very purpose of the law enacted to ensure transparency and
accountability of public authority would be defeated. (Times of India 12/3/09)

Cops' RTI reply on missing kids costs Rs 78,927 (1)
NEW DELHI: How much could asking for information on missing children under the RTI Act possibly
cost? Well, if the questions are addressed to Delhi Police, it could be as high as Rs 78,927. That's
exactly how the office of DCP (southeast) responded to an application filed by the NGO, Bachpan Bachao
Andolan (BBA), seeking details of Delhi's missing children (2006-08). In a reply to the BBA application,
the DCP's office said, "We have to suspend our regular work in order to furnish the requisite information
sought by you for which considerable manpower will be utilised/diverted to discern this information.
Hence, as per provisions of Sec 7(3)(a) of RTI Act, 2005, the requisite details/information can be provided
on payment.'' The letter then provides the project's financial details. For instance, one head constable
each from 15 police stations in the district would work for three days at the rate of Rs 840 per day costing
Rs 37,800. Similarly, one constable each from the 15 police stations working for the same would cost
another Rs 36,945. Similar charges for the sub-inspector associated with the work for three days adds
another Rs 4,182 to the cost. Section 7(3)(a) of RTI Act, 2005, says the public information officer shall
send intimation to the person making the request giving "the details of further fees representing the cost
of providing the information as determined by him, together with the calculations made to arrive at the
amount in accordance with fee prescribed...''. The police seems to believe it is playing by the rules.
However, activists are wondering whether the letter is just a way of making it difficult to obtain information.
"The question of public authorities charging citizens the cost of manpower employed for collection of
information does not arise. Compliance with the Act's provision is like any legal duty performed by a
public servant,'' says RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra. Interestingly, Rakesh Sengar of BBA, points
out that other police districts such as northeast and west have offered information on the same without
asking for any legwork money as done by the southeast police. The NGO has appealed to the Central
Information Commission, says Sengar. It is not an open and shut case though. Wajahat Habibullah, Chief
Information Commissioner, says there are similar cases pending before the commission. "This is a live
issue before us. We have not passed any judgment in this regard,'' he says. Those in favour of right to
information would be hoping a favourable decision comes sooner than later. (Times of India 14/3/09)

RTI activists take to streets for speedy disposal of cases (1)
CHENNAI: A group of organisations working for the right to information took out a demonstration in the
city on Monday demanding speedy disposal of cases pending with the State Information Commission.
Activists from eight organisations including Anti-corruption Movement, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action
Group and Makkal Sakthi Iyakkam staged the agitation, saying that the Commission was taking at least
nine months to take up appeals for hearing. It was also not strictly adhering to the provisions of the Right
To Information Act to impose penalty on officials who refuse to disclose information to RTI applicants,
they charged. The number of hearings conducted by the Commission was about 1,000 last year and the
disposal rate came to an average of only 19 cases per month by each of the seven commissioners. As of
February this year, the Commission was hearing only appeals that were filed in June 2008, the
organisations said. In their joint representation sent to the Commission, the organisations charged that
the Commission was not strictly adhering to the penal provision in the RTI Act against officials who failed
to provide information to RTI applicants. Officials who don't provide information within the stipulated time
of 30 days are liable to pay a fine of Rs 250 per day up to a maximum of Rs 25,000. "Penalties are
imposed in only a few cases. If the Commission does not impose penalties, the public authorities would
have no reason to be afraid of the Commission, thus rendering the Act ineffective,'' the representation
said. The Commission had no data on number of appeals received, heard and disposed of, the
organisations said. Transparency International, Tamil Nadu Lanjam Kodathor Iyakkam, Fifth Pillar India,
Corporate Accountability Desk and Association for India's Development were the other organisations in
the group took part in the protest. (Times of India 17/3/09)

Citizens protest Tamil Nadu Information Commission failure on RTI Act (1)
CHENNAI: Activists held a demonstration outside Memorial Hall onMonday protesting the Tamil Nadu
Information Commission’s “negligentattitude” with Right to Information petitions. Presenting a
memorandum of their demands to the Commission after thedemonstration, they said that the Commission
should act immediately toclear backlogs and provide details of its functioning as mandated bythe RTI Act.
“If the Commission, the highest appellate body in the State does notmeet the requirements of the Act for
voluntary disclosures, how can weexpect others to follow the rules? We have even volunteered
ourservices to collect the data and file all the details in an easilyaccessible form,” one of the activists said.
Chief Information Commissioner S. Ramakrishnan responded that theCommission was a legal body and
would give the demands dueconsideration. “It is not possible to accept their demand to usevolunteers as
volunteers cannot be held responsible. As for the otherdemands, we have increased the number of
hearings to nearly 260-270per week and we will clear the backlogs in the next couple of months,”he said.
Penalties were being imposed but the Commission had to take them upcase-by-case, he said, rejecting
demands for very stringent penaltynorms. As for the collection of penalty amounts, he said that
theCommission had written to the Accountant General offering to give alist of the penalties imposed and
the government could then verify ifthey had been collected. Mr. Ramakrishnan counselled patience as the
Act was gaining awarenessamong both officials and the public and it would take time for thestated
objective of transparency in public affairs to be realised.“The concerns raised by the activists are valid
and this is part ofthe process of increasing the efficient implementation of the Act,” hesaid. (The Hindu
19/3/09)

Over 4 lakh applications received under RTI in Maharashtra (1)
Mumbai (PTI): With over 4.16 lakh applications received under the Right to Information (RTI),
Maharashtra has become the first state to receive four lakh plus queries under RTI, more than the
number in countries like Britain and Mexico. "Maharashtra received 4,16,090 applications under RTI last
year, whereas in Britain 60,000 queries and in Mexico 94,000 queries were filed under the RTI," a report
released by the State Information Commission said. The state implemented the Act from October 2005
before the Centre promulgated it. The Act became so popular that the state got 1,23,000 queries in 2006,
and the number went to 3,16,000 in 2007, the report said. Elaborating on the applications received by
various state Government departments, the report quoted the department of Urban Development has
received the highest number of questions (1,04,766) followed by Revenue Department (70,419) Home
Department (45,363) and the least applications in Forest Department (9,676). The Government replied to
3,97,662 applications last year. The Government has also collected Rs 76.67 lakh as the application fee.
No fee is charged for applicants below poverty line, it said. (The Hindu 20/3/09)

RTI brings to fore backlog of ST vacancies in state universities (1)
Ahmedabad: The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has recently slammed the Gujarat
Government on the issue of inadequate Scheduled Tribe representation in various government institutes
across the state. G S Somavat, NCST regional director, Jaipur, had remarked: “Gujarat has a huge
backlog of ST vacancies; (this is) the precise reason why the state government has not furnished us the
details of the vacancies in spite of following up for the last two years.” The government would have
furnished the details if the NCST had used the Right to Information (RTI) Act, he added. Consider this: In
various RTI replies obtained by the Akhil Gujarat College and University Adivasi Teachers’ Association,
concerning the ST seats filled up in six universities across the state, every varsity has reported a major
gap in the ST seat fulfillment. The data was obtained for Bhavnagar University, Hemchandracharya North
Gujarat University, Patan; Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar; Vir Narmad University, Surat;
Saurashtra University, Rajkot and Gujarat Vidhyapith, Ahmedabad. “But these (information) were denied
either on the pretext of discrepancies in the ‘Roaster Register’ or the non-availability of it,” he added. The
association, which has compiled and published the data in its newsletter Adivasi Chetna (see box), added
that even some universities of the six that replied to the RTI applications, furnished only partial data.
“Gujarat Vidhyapith gave the ST seat status only for lecturers, and not for readers and professors,”
Chaudhari said. The association has submitted these figures to the NCST as well and had apprised
Somavat of the situation prevailing in Gujarat, on his last visit to Ahmedabad, with regard to the ST
reservation, officials added. (Indian Express 20/3/09)

RTI activists make 10-pt draft for political parties (1)
PUNE: RTI activists from the city, on Friday, demanded that political parties should give priority to the RTI
Act in their election manifesto. These activists have together penned a 10-point draft that they want
included in all contesting parties' election manifestos and also displayed on their respective websites.
Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Vivek Velankar, president of Sajag Nagrik Manch, said,
"Lakhs of citizens are facing many obstacles in submitting RTI applications and getting proper response
from various authorities. Hence, we have demanded for an official RTI rubber stamp, properties of public
servants should be made public, citizens should be consulted before appointing information
commissioners and adequate budget for RTI implementations among other things." Activists said that
these demands were reasonable, easy to implement and well in accordance with the preamble to the RTI
Act and the Constitution of Indian. In their 10-point draft the activists have also demanded that in
compliance with the RTI Act Section IV, state information commissions and state government bodies
must have specific websites under the National Informatics Centre. They also said that online filing of
forms, standard of performance, list of documents, complaints and inquiries regarding the status of files
should be added displayed on these websites. "Post offices must accept RTI applications, first and
second RTI appeals for all public authorities under all state and central governments. In fact, a detailed
study of the RTI Act, with a practical session, should be introduced in all schools and colleges," Velankar
said. Other activists like Jugal Rathi of PMP Pravasi Manch, Vijay Kumbhar, president of Surajya
Sangharsha Samiti and Vihar Durve, among others, have also supported this move. (Times of India
21/3/09)

Political parties admit need to strengthen RTI and NREG Acts (1)
NEW DELHI: They spoke from the same platform, assured of action by their respective party, and yet
when it came to listing the exact plan of action, they chose to remain non-committal. At a day-long public
meeting here on Saturday, politicians cutting across party lines agreed that there is a need to strengthen
the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the Right to Information (RTI) Act, but
refrained from going into specifics. Representatives of the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the
Communist Party of India and the Janata Dal (Secular) were speaking at the event organised jointly by
People’s Action for Employment Guarantee and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information to
hold politicians accountable to the Right to Work and Right to Information in their election agendas. The
party representatives were unanimous in agreeing that the number of work days guaranteed under the
NREGA be increased from the present 100 days per household per year and that corporates too be
brought under the purview of the RTI to ensure that deceptions like the recent Satyam scam are brought
to light. Congress representative Sudarsana Nachiappan said anyone from his party who opposes the
NREGA stands to oppose the Congress itself. Expressing confidence that his party will return to power,
Mr. Nachiappan said “efforts will be made to take forward the employment guarantee scheme”. When
confronted by activists that a Congress MP in Jharkhand had opposed social audit and prevented them
from taking stock of the situation, Mr. Nachiappan sought more details and said the matter would be
reported to the authorities concerned. He declined to comment on whether the party would hold the MP
back from contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Danish Ali of Janata Dal (S) said the party
supports the demand for an increased duration of minimum work days under the NREGA. He regretted
that the concept of contractors still exists in the rural set-up. He also called for more transparency in the
process of appointing information commissioners of States and said the nation’s progress is linked to the
empowerment of the rural population. BJP’s Prakash Javadekar said the judiciary too should be made
answerable to the public and should have no reservations about declaring their assets. He too called for
making the corporates more accountable under the RTI and referring to the recent suicide bid by a family
in Delhi said urban poverty is a reality that needs a more holistic approach. CPI secretary D. Raja said the
party’s manifesto included the demands put forth at the Jan Manch and that his party wants education,
health care, housing and employment to be made fundamental rights. Hundreds of people attended the
event demanding changes in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to Information
Act.They also demanded constitution of a national council for RTI to monitor its implementation, selection
of information commissioners in a transparent manner and ensuring transparency in the private sector.
(The Hindu 22/3/09)

Information Commissioners and CIC not to accept RTI awards (1)
New Delhi (PTI): The Chief Information Commissioner and the other commissioners at the CIC have
decided not to accept RTI awards, instituted by different NGOs and civil society groups, in reference to
their work. The decision was taken during an internal meeting of the Commission, which was chaired by
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and attended by all the Information Commissioners.
"Commission opined that institution of RTI award by some NGO/Civil Society is welcome, but the Chief
Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners agreed that they will not accept any awards in
reference to their work as ICs," minutes of the meeting suggest. Several NGOs working towards
implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2005 have established awards, which were also conferred
to some of the Information Commissioners. Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had raised the
matter through an email to Wajahat Habibullah, where he had asked him whether such awards, in
reference to their work as information commissioners, can be accepted by them. (The Hindu 25/3/09)

Two govt officials fined under RTI Act (1)
PATNA: The State Information Commission (SIC) on Wednesday imposed fine on two government
officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those found on the wrong side of the Act are an
executive engineer of electricity supply division in Saharsa district and secretary of Vishunpur Panchayat
in Madhubani district. Both these officials failed to respond to the applications filed seeking information
under RTI Act. In both these cases, the SIC imposed a fine at the rate of Rs 250 per day with upper limit
of fine being Rs 25,000. The SIC also directed the erring officials to provide information to the applicants
by May 11 and fixed May 18 as the next date of hearing of the cases. (Times of India 26/3/09)

DGP asks his staff not to visit houses of RTI applicants (1)
BANGALORE: Director-General and Inspector-General of Police (DG&IGP) has told his staff not to visit
the houses of those filing applications under the Right to Information Act or summon them to the police
station either to give the information sought or any other matter connected with the Act concerning the
police. Instead, he has asked them to communicate with the applicants through post. Though the
DG&IGP in question is R. Sri Kumar, who retired from service, the directive has come to light only now.
The directive follows the order of the Karnataka Information Commission, which took cognisance of
complaints of police harassment made by those seeking information. In its order dated December 12,
2008, the commission said: “the commission has received several similar complaints against police
stations, wherein it has been alleged that when an applicant files an application under RTI Act with a
police station, either the constables from the police station repeatedly visit his house or he is repeatedly
summoned to the police station”. Such practices, the commission noted, were “hindering the proper
implementation of the provisions of the Act and exercise of the right to information by the citizens vis-À-vis
police authorities.”The issue came up before the commission during the hearing of the appeal filed by
Sunil Kumar Panchariya. Mr. Panchariya came before the commission following a delay by the High
Grounds police in giving him information about a miscellaneous case registered in February 2007. He
said constables came to his house and threatened him if he acted against the police. The commission
also told about instance where a group of 10 policemen from Rajajinagar came to an RTI activist’s house
to “give information”. It was also briefed about another incident where the Yelahanka police had pasted
the information sought on the door citing non-availability of the applicant. In its order, the commission
directed Home Secretary (it was Upendra Tripathi then, who has since been posted elsewhere) and
DG&IGP Mr. Sri Kumar to issue general instructions that no police personnel should visit any premises of
an applicant under Right to Information Act in connection with his or her application. No applicant shall
ever be asked to visit the police station, “except for inspection of the records, if such inspection has been
sought by him”. (The Hindu 28/3/09)

RTI: Gujarat police, legal authorities least compliant (1)
New Delhi: A total of 95 offices were selected at the district and taluqa levels to assess their compliance
with the RTI Act. The Gujarat police department and legal services authorities are among the least
compliant when it comes to the implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, according to a
survey by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and its para-legal group the Nagarik
Adhikar Kendra. A total of 95 offices were selected at the district and taluqa levels to assess their
compliance with the RTI Act. The availability of information, designated officials, RTI register, proactively
disclosed information and the training of public information officers (PIOs) were the four parameters of the
survey.The survey team chose Panchamahals, where the Gujarat government spent Rs 9,26,000 for
training more than 650 officers on the RTI Act in 2006-07. This area was selected by the state
government for the intensive capacity building of public authorities under a United Nations-supported
Central government initiative. The scenario is grim at the taluka level compared with the districts, said
Venkatesh Nayak, survey coordinator, CHRI. At the taluka level, 76 per cent of the offices did not display
the names or designations of the PIOs on notice boards, while 80 per cent of the offices failed to display
the names or designations of appellate authorities, an important clause mandated under the RTI Act,
2005, Nayak said. Eighty five per cent of the offices asked the survey team to pay money, which is
against the letter and spirit of the Act. Despite receiving almost Rs 1,000 as application fees, more than
70 per cent of the taluka level offices and over 40 per cent of the district level offices did not provide the
obligatory information. The survey team was forced to spend money to send these applications by
registered post, as they refused to accept the applications in person. Twenty two per cent of the offices,
at the taluka level, took between 10-30 days to provide the information which, ideally, should have been
given immediately. Less than 40 per cent of the offices were able to confirm that they had compiled the
obligatory information, and 94 per cent of the offices asked for a formal application for the same. The
status of compliance at the district level was significantly better than at the taluka level, according to the
survey. (Deccan Herald 30/3/09)

RTI activists irked by cumbersome filing procedure (1)
CHENNAI: T Sadagopan, a consumer activist in Pattabiram, was surprised to see his appeal under the
Right To Information Act returned four months after he sent it to the Central Information Commission
(CIC). The CIC sent him a four-page communication explaining how to file an appeal. Stating that his
appeal was not in accordance with the procedure prescribed, the CIC put a condition that the appellant,
before sending an appeal to the commission should give a copy to the public information officer of the
department about which he had sought information and a copy to the head of that department, who is the
first appellate authority, An acknowledgement of this should be enclosed with the appeal to the CIC. The
commission insisted that the appeal should also have documentary proof of the fee paid along with the
original application. It should also contain two sets of copies of all the documents to get the appeal
admitted for hearing. Sadagopan is not alone. The long process of filing an appeal has irked the
community of RTI activists with many saying it was against the spirit of the RTI Act itself. "The CIC has
gradually introduced several unreasonable and unnecessary procedures as if it is a court where we
cannot file a petition without an advocate. The commission just returned one of my appeals saying it
should contain five sets of copies of the documents enclosed. I avoided filing three or four appeals with
the CIC merely because of the cumbersome procedure. But it is not so in the case of the State
Information Commission,'' said V Gopalakrishnan, a social worker in K K Nagar. "While the RTI Act
encourages the filing of applications by not prescribing any specified format for it but stipulating that
public information officers should help applicants write the application if they are illiterates or physically
challenged persons, the CIC's unwanted procedures discourages people from filing appeals,'' said M
Nizamudeen, general secretary of Consumer Confederation of India. CIC chief commissioner Wajahat
Habibullah admitted there were some proceedural difficulties and said many of them were being
removed. "The appellants need not send a copy of the appeal to the PIO or the first appeallate authority
now. We have also introduced online filing of appeals. The documents can be sent to us through e-mail,''
he said. (Times of India 30/3/09)

RTI helpline receives over 3,700 calls in a year (1)
New Delhi (IANS): A Right To Information (RTI) helpline, aimed at helping people use the act to its
maximum effect, has received over 3,700 calls in the last one year, a participant in the initiative said on
Wednesday. The helpline — 09718100180 — was started a year ago jointly by Kabir, an NGO, and
Manjunath Shanmugam Trust. “We received 3,757 calls in one year. Of those, more than 2,500 calls
were about people asking how to file an RTI application, first appeal and complaint,” said Neeraj Kumar,
who helps and assist people through the helpline. “A number of calls came from foreign countries also.
On average 300 calls were received every month. A lot of people sought help for problems regarding
ration cards, passports, voter id cards and others,” Mr. Kumar added. “A lot of queries were regarding the
government's public services and problems with it. Interestingly, government officers also called on the
helpline to ask for help to solve their departmental problems,” Mr. Kumar said. Mr. Kumar revealed that
more than 500 calls were by those who were not happy with the Central Information Commission and
state information commissions and wanted to know the way forward. “Maximum calls were from states
like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and Haryana. The increasing number of calls highlights that people are
increasingly becoming aware of their rights,” he said. He said a lot of people called and said that their
long-standing grievances were solved within days of filing an RTI applications. (The Hindu 2/4/09)

Information on completed cases can be obtained under RTI Act: Activist (1)
CHENNAI: The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) has not been forthcoming with
information though the State government clarified that the exemption of the DVAC from the purview of the
RTI Act did not include cases where the investigation was completed. V. Madhav, an RTI activist, says
that he had filed a petition asking for some information on number of cases where investigations had
been completed and the identity of those convicted after investigation, from the DVAC, on October 4,
2008. When no information was forthcoming after 30 days, he filed a first appeal and also visited the
Public Information Officer on November 24, 2008. As he was not even allowed to meet the PIO, he filed a
petition with the State Information Commission. “I am aware that the DVAC has been exempted under the
Right to Information Act by G.O. No. 158 dated 26 August, 2008, but there has been a later press release
No. 786 dated 23 September, 2008 from the government, which clarified that information regarding cases
where investigations have been completed, information can be obtained,” Mr. Madhav says in his petition
to the State Information Commission on December 11, 2008. He also argues that Section 24(4) of the
Act, under which the DVAC has been exempted, mentions that the provisions of the Act would not apply
to “intelligence and security organisations” which may be identified by the State and the Central
government, “provided that the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights
violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section.” While the High Court has recently upheld the
exemption of the DVAC from the RTI Act, the State Information Commission is yet to take up his petition
for examination, Mr. Madhav says, while pointing out that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and
the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the equivalent bodies under the Central government, are under the
purview of the Act. (The Hindu 3/4/09)

Tapping industrial heat could cut fossil fuels use (1)
WASHINGTON: Tapping waste heat from industries could cut down fossil fuel use and improve efficiency
of countless manufacturing processes, says a study. According to Lihua Zhang and Tomohiro Akiyama
of Hokkaido University, Japan, heat waste from industrial processes, such as combustion and electricity
generation, is sometimes of low energy and diffuse and capturing this low-quality heat for re-use
elsewhere on an industrial plant is usually not practical. However, given current environmental and
economic pressures, the recuperation of such heat energy could become viable. The study aimed to find
a way to capture the heat from industrial furnaces and other systems without the constraints of time and
space associated with simply using the heat to produce steam to drive other processes at precisely the
same site. The team investigated three promising technologies for heat recovery: latent heat, reaction
heat, and the use of a thermoelectric device, and say their approach can "recuperate industrial waste
heat beyond time and space." Key to making heat recuperation viable understands the nature of the
energy involved. For example, 95 percent of the waste heat in the electric power industry has a
temperature below 150 degrees Celsius. Conversely, 45 percent of the waste heat in the chemical
industry can be up to 50 degrees Celsius above this. Zhang and Akiyama, however, point out that high-
temperature waste heat exists in many manufacturing industries, said a Hokkaido release. For example,
slag and exhaust gases from steel making are well over 1,000 degrees Celsius, representing a powerful
energy source and according to the researchers, latent heat storage, chemical storage, and
thermoelectric conversion could be used as effective ways of recovering waste heat, either individually or
in combination (Hindustan Times 4/4/09)

Information on completed cases can be obtained under RTI Act: activist (1)
CHENNAI: The Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) has not been forthcoming with
information though the State government clarified that the exemption of the DVAC from the purview of the
RTI Act did not include cases where the investigation was completed. V. Madhav, an RTI activist, says
that he had filed a petition asking for some information on number of cases where investigations had
been completed and the identity of those convicted after investigation, from the DVAC, on October 4,
2008. When no information was forthcoming after 30 days, he filed a first appeal and also visited the
Public Information Officer on November 24, 2008. As he was not even allowed to meet the PIO, he filed a
petition with the State Information Commission. “I am aware that the DVAC has been exempted under the
Right to Information Act by G.O. No. 158 dated 26 August, 2008, but there has been a later press release
No. 786 dated 23 September, 2008 from the government, which clarified that information regarding cases
where investigations have been completed, information can be obtained,” Mr. Madhav says in his petition
to the State Information Commission on December 11, 2008. He also argues that Section 24(4) of the
Act, under which the DVAC has been exempted, mentions that the provisions of the Act would not apply
to “intelligence and security organisations” which may be identified by the State and the Central
government, “provided that the information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights
violations shall not be excluded under this sub-section.” While the High Court has recently upheld the
exemption of the DVAC from the RTI Act, the State Information Commission is yet to take up his petition
for examination, Mr. Madhav says, while pointing out that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and
the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the equivalent bodies under the Central government, are under the
purview of the Act. (The Hindu 4/4/09)

Use of RTI good but information should be under purview (1)
Ahmedabad : It is the golden era of right to information. Earlier even simple demands of citizens for
information and accountability in functioning of government functionaries would fall on deaf ears. Now,
thanks to the Right to Information (RTI) Act, citizens have started demanding things beyond its purview
and public authorities are still being responsive in order to redress grievances. Earlier a demand such as
remove unauthorised constructions and inform me about the details when it's done', made in this case by
Saijpur Bogha's Maheshchandra Waghela, would have simply been trashed by Ahmedabad Municipal
Corporation (AMC). However, since Waghela had made his application under RTI, not only was his
demand entertained to the extent to explaining to him why it could not be done by the public information
officer (PIO) of AMC, even its appellate authority ordered a site inspection and report. The Gujarat
Information Commission though is not amused. As it has ruled that that Waghela's demand for removal of
unauthorised construction is not within the purview of definition of information' given in RTI. By stating to
the effect that remove unauthorised construction and furnish information', Waghela made a demand
which neither the PIO, nor the appellate authority, nor the GIC has the competence and jurisdiction to do
under RTI. While adding that there is no authority under any functionary in RTI to order for removal of any
unauthorised construction or encroachment, GIC said that at best Waghela could seek a copy of the
notice given for removal of unauthorised construction, copy of the proceedings, file notings on the matter.
GIC noted that AMC's PIO should have simply informed Waghela that his demand does not fall under the
purview of RTI. But with a view to enable public authority to take a proper and correct decision which
could be legally sustained, the PIO had given some information. It also noted that the appellate authority's
ordering the PIO to verify the site and submit a report also was not necessary for the proceedings under
RTI. It was though clarified before GIC that it was done with a view of redressing Waghela's grievances
and at the same time for the requirements under other laws and rules. (Times of India 6/4/09)

Health status of President, PM denied under RTI (1)
 New Delhi, pti: The government has refused to disclose information on the health status of prime
ministers and presidents, including details of medical expenses borne for them, under the RTI Act. The
details of their health have been described as classified documents. An applicant, exercising his Right to
Information, had asked the Prime Minister’s Office to give details regarding the health of all the Prime
Ministers and expenditure incurred by the government for their treatment. The application was then
forwarded to the Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, to furnish the information. The
reply from the Director, Emergency and Medical Relief under Directorate-General of Health Services,
said: “As the medical care scheme for the prime minister is a classified document, it is regretted that the
information related to medical care sought cannot be provided as per exemption clause provided in the
Right to Information Act.” However, the response did not mention any specific clause or section of the Act
under which information was denied. The President’s Secretariat also rejected a similar Right to
Information Act application, asking for information on the health status of the President. (Deccan Herald
6/4/09)

RTI Act: prison officials’ lack of knowledge flayed (1)
SALEM: Lamenting “inadequate” knowledge about provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act among
senior prison officials, the Tamil Nadu Information Commission has asked the Inspector General of
Prisons to arrange for their training covering all provisions of the Act. Reacting to a reply from the
Additional Superintendent of Prisons, Salem Central Prison, to a list of 12 queries about facilities
available in the prison sought by human rights activist Poomozhi recently, State Chief Information
Commissioner S. Ramakrishnan pointed out that the replies provided by the official did not fall under any
provisions of the RTI Act. While hearing the petition recently on the issue, the Commissioner observed
that the prison official was “confused” over the applicable provisions of the RTI Act. The Commission
sought an explanation from the official and asked the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons to file a reply
within 4 weeks. The petitioner’s queries were rejected by the prison official on December 3, 2007 on the
ground that jail secrets had to be protected. The official also stated that the petitioner had been jailed a
number of times for a variety of offences, and they were afraid that he might launch agitation, causing a
breach of peace. Hence his application for information was being rejected. The Commission pointed out
that the same set of questions sent to the DG of Prisons, Chennai, received prompt replies. It rapped the
official of the Salem Prison.(The Hindu 9/4/09)

‘Government does not have proper information on agriculture’ (1)
BHUBANESWAR: Planning and Coordination and Agriculture Department lacked dependable information
on growth of agriculture in the State , alleged Citizen Apex Association (CAA), a city-based organisation,
here on Thursday. After delving into replies supplied by two departments in response to a series of its
applications under Right To Information, CAA charged the department had neither any information on
volume of agricultural import to State nor had steady statistics about agriculture production. We had
sought information from Agriculture Department on number of agriculture products being imported, their
volume and steps being taken to produce those products at home. Unfortunately they have no information
on import of agriculture products from other States and hence no step is being taken to produce such
imported products in our State, CAA President N. K. Panda said. Mr. Panda, who is former chief secretary
of the State, said, import substitution could give a tremendous boost to agriculture. According to one reply
on RTI query States agriculture production registered a growth of (-) 21.21 per cent in 2002-03 fiscal and
the growth was estimated at 28.33 per cent in 2003-04. Ironically, the growth again took a nosedive to
0.04 per cent in subsequent year. The information provided by department is highly fluctuating. How
come there could be such a high fluctuation within three years, he questioned. CAA president said
statistical base of the State government in Planning and Coordination Department was very weak and
undependable. A study should be done on the inequality of income distribution and so as to whether the
fruits of growth are going to those with influence and affluence at the cost of poor, Mr. Panda said. As per
the RTI reply, per capita income of people in the State in 1999-2000 was Rs.10,568 compared to national
average Rs. 15,881. In 2008-09, when national per capita income increased from Rs. 15,881 to Rs.
25,661, the same moved to Rs. 16,945 from Rs. 10,567 between 1999-2000 and 2008-09. The per capita
income was calculated at 1999-2000 price. Quoting a RTI reply, CAA president also pointed out that out
of 62 State government-run agricultural firms only 57 were operating and while 14 were running on profit
and rest 43 were without profit. The efforts at increasing agriculture production are ineffective. The
agriculture farms together constitute a drain on the resources of the State and do not serve the purpose
of being role models, Mr. Panda opined. (The Hindu 10/4/09)

Simple RTI question gets outrageous answers (1)
AHMEDABAD: Think again if you believed that the Right to Information (RTI) Act could be a quick-fix
solution to the traffic woes in your area. As enforcement of a no-entry' rule can get you limited success of
at least getting signboards put up, that too after a two year wait. That's the time it took this issue to reach
the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC). Which in turn noted "the boards were fitted displaying the
notification after the appeal, and to that extent RTI can claim a measure of success". In September 2007,
Chhagan Dhaduk of Jetpur filed an RTI application with the local police station, demanding accountability
on enforcement of a notification issued for regulation of traffic. The issue being that despite an area
having been declared as prohibited during certain time of the day, vehicles were violating the rule with
impunity. Can vehicles such as buses of travel operators, trucks and other vehicles be allowed to park on
a no entry road? Can these trucks be allowed to load and unload goods there, Dhaduk wanted to know.

He must have thought that simple questions would get simple answers, along with the norms beginning to
get enforced. But instead he had to face outrageous replies. After the notification was issued for
regulating traffic, within how many days were the signboards required to be put up. And how many such
signboards were required to be put up, Dhaduk wanted to know. The public information officer replied that
there was no mention in the notification of a time limit stipulating within how many days signboards were
required to be put up. Also it was not specified who was required to put them up. On Dhaduk's query of
how many vehicles were found to be violating the no entry' zone and what action was taken against the
offenders, the PIO replied that as no vehicles were seen' in the prohibited area, no action was taken
against the violators! Two years later, before the GIC in March, the superintendent of police submitted
that instructions had been issued for displaying a readable copy of the notification in public spaces. Also
for putting up the required signboards, an action taken report was also submitted. (Times of India 12/4/09)

CIC pulls up officials for not giving details to RTI applicant (1)
New Delhi (PTI): The matter of establishing samadhis and memorials of political leaders has reached the
corridors of the CIC, which has come down heavily on Delhi government and Ministry of Urban
Development officials for not providing details about the issue to an RTI applicant. "The sequence of
events is displaying a pathetic admission of a complete lack of accountability and the incapability of the
governance system to even know who is responsible for what," Information Commissioner Shailesh
Gandhi said in his order. RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal sought details of the policy about
setting up memorial and samadhis of the leaders from Urban Development Ministry but did not get a
reply. Hearing his complaint, Mr. Gandhi said it is distressing the PIOs have played the game of passing
the paper but not been able to provide the information sought. Mr.Agrawal wanted to know whether rules
provide cremation at places other than regular cremation grounds like it was done in the case of former
Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma. He also asked whether 6, Krishna Menon Marg, residence of
late Union Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram, was unauthorisedly converted into a memorial. (The Hindu
12/4/09)
RTI applicants urged to have faith in SIC (1)
LUCKNOW: To make Right to Information (RTI) Act successful in the state, reposing faith in State
Information Commission (SIC) is necessary. SIC is an agency that supports the Act and if it is attacked
everytime it will make the Act redundant. "If RTI activists and users keep attacking information
commissioners and the functioning of the commission the Act will receive a beating", said MM Ansari,
Central information commissioner, New Delhi. Ansari was in the city to listen to the woes of RTI users and
to suggest them the redressal mechanisms on Saturday but he refused to respond to questions based on
the functioning of the UP information commission and the commissioners. The Act should be used in its
right format by sincerely paying attention to its sections like 2(f) which assures only that information which
is available in some or the other form. "Do not seek an imaginary information, in that case the Act does
not apply", said Ansari. The entire focus should be on the `nature of information' sought and not on
`nature of applicant' while entertaining a request. This will allow private bodies and NGOs to use the Act
and seek information from public authorities. Applicants before applying for the information should know
who is the custodian of that information. "Sending an application to the right entity will assure a timely
information", was the suggestion from the Central information commissioner. An applicant should always
seek an information in its original format, as it is available in the official records. This will not cause any
fudging of the original information. But, in cases where information needs to be compiled or sorted out
from the bulk this condition could not be maintained. Applicants can approach high court if they are
dissatisfied with the functioning of the commission. "But those who seek legal remedy should not
approach other authorities to get their case heard", he said. He also made a suggestion to NGOs to play
a helping agent. "The aberrant cases might be identified by NGOs and then they can get in touch with the
commissioners concerned to make them aware of the facts", said Ansari. This can help check
harassment of applicants. Responding to a question as to why the judgments of the Central information
commission (CIC) are not followed by the state information commission (SIC), he said that there is
already a growing need being felt to create a kind of harmony in the judgments passed at the Centre and
the state. But, as this will require to develop a vertical link between the information commissions at the
Centre and the state, how will it be done might be early to talk about. He made few suggestions to SIC as
well towards improving the functioning. The commission should list the hearings planned for the coming
months on its website. "Applicant can easily know about the date of hearing", he said. Ansari was
speaking at an event organised by Action group for Right to Information. Justice Pradeep Kant, senior
judge, Allahabad high court, Lucknow bench was the chief guest of the event. "The aim of RTI is to seek
information and not to damage the person or organisation against whom information is sought", said the
judge. Others present included Afzal Ansari, Sandeep Pandey and Justice Kamleshwar Nath. (Times of
India 13/4/09)

Want to stall husband’s transfer? CIC says RTI Act helpless (1)
New Delhi: The Right to Information Act (RTI) might not be the right forum to stall one’s husband’s
transfer, after all. Or so learnt a Delhi woman who tried to probe the reason behind the outstation transfer
of her husband S K Soni, an airport manager with the Airport Authority of India (AAI). Alka Soni took out
an RTI campaign to retain the “services of her husband in Delhi” all the way to the highest transparency
body, the Central Information Commission, which ultimately declared her efforts as “unnecessary”. In his
recent judgment, Information Commissioner M M Ansari revealed that the RTI Act has no provision to
redress Soni’s grievances. “Every public authority (in this case AAI) is free to deploy its manpower
resources in any manner it deems appropriate for optimising efficiency and promoting accountability,” the
Bench observed. The CIC noted that the affected employee should look within the “framework of service
conduct rules” instead of the RTI. “In such matters, the use of the provisions of RTI Act is uncalled for,”
the Commission observed. During the sole hearing in the case, AAI brought to the fore through Central
Public Information Officer (CPIO) V K Sharma that Soni’s husband had “in all probability accepted” the
transfer since he had not made a request for retention of his services in the Capital. “The CPIO stated
that the appellant’s (Soni) husband, who is directly affected in the matter, has not made any
representation for retention of his services in Delhi,” the Bench noted in the verdict. This, the Commission
observed, was “probably because he has already accepted the terms and conditions, including the
transfer policy of the respondent (AAI)”. (Indian Express 14/4/09)

RTI answer to NET questions(1)
New Delhi, April 16, 2009: Students sitting for a national exam to pursue a career in teaching or research
will now be able ask for old questions papers and take the biannual test online. Millions of students take
the National Eligibility Test (NET) which is mandatory for lectureship and award of junior research
fellowship. The examinees, however, aren’t allowed to take away the question paper. But now, students
can now file an RTI plea and get old test papers. In a landmark order, the Central Information
Commission (CIC) brushed aside the reservations of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR) — country’s premier research and development body — that making old question papers
available will affect its plan to hold the test online, which it plans to do shortly. The CSIR conducts the test
for science subjects. It told the CIC it had put together a question bank, picking up suitable questions from
previous exams. “The online question bank, if exposed, would bring the online examination system to a
standstill,” it said. Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi rejected the argument, saying if
academics felt that their system wasn’t testing the fundamental understanding and was instead
encouraging learning by rote, then those setting the papers needed to challenge themselves. The CIC
directed the CSIR to provide copies of the question papers to RTI applicant Mony Singla, from Haryana,
before April 25. (Hindustan Times 16/4/09)

Information was denied: Jaitley (1)
NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Arun Jaitley complained here on Monday that he
was denied information by the Law Ministry on the recommendation of outgoing Chief Election
Commissioner N. Gopalaswami on why Chief Election Commissioner-designate Navin Chawla was not fit
to hold that position. Mr. Jaitley told reporters that he applied under the Right to Information Act for details
of Mr. Gopalaswami’s recommendation as well as the government’s reasons for turning that down, which
formed the basis of rejection of Mr. Gopalaswami’s contention by the President. However, Mr. Jaitley got
a response from the Rashtrapati Bhavan as well as the Law Ministry, saying that the information sought
was of a “fiduciary” nature and could not be divulged. “The government has claimed that it has brought in
transparency through the RTI Act, but in this instance information has been denied,” he said. (The Hindu
21/4/09)

RTI fuels crusade against PDS (1)
Mumbai: Sugrabi Mushtaq Rakhangi lives in a 200 sq ft BDD chawl in Worli with three children, father in-
law and husband. Her delicate built and demure looks may make her seem as a helpless homemaker.
But, the impression begins to crumble when she starts talking about the changes she has brought about
in a ration shop nearby with the help of the RTI Act. For 17 years since she got married, Sugrabi has
visited the shop numerous times, but she has never questioned the shopkeeper's corrupt practices. "I
knew that the quantity of ration he was selling us was less than what was being recorded in the ration
card," Sugrabi said, pulling her veil up to her forehead. Kerosene has been the most essential commodity
for her family of six, which has only one breadwinner - her husband Mustaq Rakhangi, who works as an
assistant supervisor at construction sites. She has been buying 15 litres of kerosene from the ration shop
every month for 17 years, paying Rs10 for a litre. "We were entitled to 18 litres of kerosene, but the shop
sold us only 15 litres," she said. "Whenever we questioned the shopkeeper, he would say that there was
a scarcity of kerosene in the market." Sugrabi found it difficult to run the household with just 15 litres of
fuel a month. "I used to buy extra kerosene for Rs30 per litre from the market," she said. The high price of
fuel, combined with that of grains, started pinching the Rakhangis, who were surviving on a shoestring
budget. She put up with the hardship every month till she learnt about the Right to Information Act from
an NGO worker who conducted a workshop at the chawl. "Once I learnt about RTI, I lodged a complaint
in the rationing officer's office about the prices of commodities at the ration shop," Sugrabi said. "But
when even after two months I got no response, I filed an RTI application seeking details of the action
taken on the complaint." Within two months, the rationing officer visited the ration shop for an inspection.
Since then Sugrabi has been buying 18 litres of kerosene every month at Rs9.10 per litre from the shop.
"It's a huge relief to the households in the building who are still dependent on kerosene stoves for
cooking," she said. Sugrabi is determined to continue her crusade for a fair public distribution system.
She plans to lodge a complaint about the substandard quality of products sold at the ration shop. "If the
complaint is overlooked, then I will file an RTI application," she said, flashing a smile, probably emanating
from the knowledge that she is now empowered. "The rice and pulses that we get through the ration shop
are not good enough to even feed cattle. To expect us to eat such poor quality of grains is not fair." (dna
22/4/09)
“Leniency in imposing penalties takes sting out of RTI Act” (1)
CHENNAI: The State Information Commission (SIC) is failing to implement the Right to Information Act in
spirit by not imposing penalties, activists say. This leniency towards errant Public Information Officers
(PIO) is emboldening government officials to withheld necessary information, they say. Recently, many
activists submitted their views to the chief commissioner of the Central Information Commission and the
SIC on the issue of penalties. V. Madhav, an RTI activist, who has looked at the orders of the SIC over
the previous three years, says that only 24 penalties were imposed until May 2008. The Commission has
been lenient even towards PIOs who have been criticised severely in the Commission’s orders, he says.
“The Commission has issued strong strictures against PIOs. But for some reason they are not taking the
punitive action of imposing a penalty provided for by Section 20(1) of the Act,” he says. In one case, the
PIO provided information only 18 months after it was sought while the Act says that information should be
provided within 30 days. In spite of that there was no penalty imposed and even a showcause notice was
not issued, he adds. He says that he has submitted a list of suggested guidelines to the Commission on
punitive action to be taken against repeat offenders and those who have been unreasonably tardy in
providing information. S. Ramakrishnan, chief information commissioner, SIC, says that the Commission
has already been working on the problem. He accepts that without punitive action, the Act could lose its
sting and government officials would not be transparent in their working. “But we have to be balanced and
not be over harsh on government officials as that might hurt the interests of the petitioners in the long
run,” he says. While Mr. Madhav’s suggestions were being considered for legal feasibility, Mr.
Ramakrishnan says that the Commission is already examining every case to see if a showcause notice
should be issued to the PIO or if strict action should be taken. “We are doing it on a case-by-case basis to
be fair to both sides. But the number of cases we receive each day is much higher than in many other
States. So we are also loaded with work and it will take time to iron out all issues,” he says. (The Hindu
24/4/09)

'Strengthen democracy through RTI Act'(1)
PATNA: Humlog Trust secretary and Bihar Right to Information Manch coordinator Parveen Amanullah on
Saturday said that democracy can be strengthened not only by casting vote once in five years, but also
through Right to Information (RTI) Act. Revival of collapsed systems and sorting out people's problems is
possible through this right, she said, adding it is necessary for the common people to properly understand
and use their democratic rights and responsibilities and exercise their franchise under the democratic set
up. But, she said, the people's democratic responsibilities did not begin or end with casting their votes
only since they are also required to nurture the democratic system in the day-to-day functioning. She said
it is responsibility of the public to ensure that doctors are present in hospitals, teachers in schools,
government servants in their offices as well as the maintenance of public buildings and proper sanitation,
and proper implementation of old age pension and BPL card schemes for the welfare of the people.
(Times of India 26/4/09)

‘RTI Act a tool against corruption’ (1)
KOCHI: Speakers at a workshop on the ‘Role of the RTI Act in converting electoral democracy into
participatory democracy’ held here pointed out that the RTI Act was an effective tool in the hands of the
citizens against corruption, inefficiency in governance and undemocratic conduct by public personalities.
Though highly literate, Kerala was among the States which did not take RTI very seriously. Justice
Thottathil Radhakrishnan of Kerala High Court, who opened the workshop, said the RTI Act aimed at
retrieving information from the motherboard of the nation. However, he pointed out, it was a restrictive
legislation too. He said the Act opened up large sections of the government functioning to the public eye.
The furthering of the national interest depended on the better use of the RTI. Nandini Sahai, director,
Media Information and Communication Centre of India (MICCI), pointed out that according to
Transparency International, India’s position in the corruption perception index had slipped from 72 to 85,
indicating a massive increase in corruption during the last year alone. “The time has come for us to say
enough is enough and we will not tolerate this any more,” she said. “The only weapon in this fight is the
RTI Act, which seeks to establish that transparency is the norm.” The two-day workshop was organised
by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and supported by MICCI as well as Friederich Ebert
Stiftung. (The Hindu 27/4/09)
Govt dept fined for ignoring petition under RTI Act (1)
GUWAHATI, April 28 – State Information Commissioner Biren Gohain has imposed a fine of Rs 25,000
on the Social Welfare Department of the State for ignoring a petition made under the Right to Information
Act, for supplying information to an applicant. Akhil Kumar Gogoi, general secretary of the Krishak Mukti
Sangram Samiti, who was the applicant, requested for information on all schemes and budget of the
Social Welfare Department and construction of anganwadi centres and requested for information also on
the work orders with all relevant documents, from the department. Gogoi said in a statement that he
submitted his application to the department on April 28, 2008. The department asked Gogoi on May 28,
2008 to submit a fee of Rs 3,108. But the department had supplied him information worth about Rs 1,182
that too some copies of some legal documents. Gogoi made an appeal before the Director of the
department on August 21, 2008 but in vain. He then moved the State Information Commission on October
17, 2008. The Commission directed the Department on December 23, 2008 to supply Gogoi the
information free of cost. But the Director of the department remained indifferent compelling Gogoi to move
the Information Commission again. The Commission today criticized the Director and passed the above
order, said Gogoi, adding, the Commission would hear again his plea for compensation after a few days.
Gogoi filed the petition to the department following allegations of large – scale irregularities in
construction of anganwadi centres’ buildings. (The Assam Tribune 29/4/09)

Rise in RTI queries on IIM-A (1)
Ahmedabad: The number of applications filed under Right to Information Act (RTI) asking questions about
Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has seen an increase in recent times. According to
the highly placed sources in the institute, while most of the applications have been filed seeking
information about admission of students, some of the applications, filed by the institute's administrative
and research staff members, question the appointments of the institute's senior officials. An official in the
institute, who wished anonymity, said, "There is a significant increase in the number of applications filed
under RTI. Earlier, there used to be about 40-50 applications on an average every year, but the number
has now increased to nearly 75 this year. Most of the applications have questions related to the process
of students' admission for various courses. Generally, students who don't get admissions in the institution
file such applications." But, there are some RTI applications filed by the administrative and research staff
of the institute. In fact, it is such applications which have put the information officials in a spot. The IIM-A
official said, "These applications are filed by employees probably because of discontent among
employees regarding the process followed at the time of appointing those in crucial positions, such as the
chief administrative officer (CAO), the senior-most officer of the institute. Also, there are appeals pending
with the Central Information Commission, which has made some serious observations and warned the
appellate authority to desist from making comments." He also said, "There are a recruitment process in
place and it is well defined even for the junior-level officers. The appointment procedure is conducted
after giving advertisements in national newspapers, inviting applications. Moreover, announcements for
vacant posts were also done within the institute. But, no procedure was followed for appointing the
present CAO, who is also a secretary to the governing board of the institute." However, the IIM-A CAO, N
V Pillai, and the appellate authority of RTI said some dissatisfied employees have been raising this
issue.He said, "We generally get four to five RTI applications every year, but this year the number has
increased to 10-12. This is because one single employee has filed some five-six applications. As far as
my appointment is concerned, the then CAO of the institute suddenly quit, and I being the senior-most
officer after him was appointed as CAO by the director of the institute." (DNA 2/5/09)

Hospital stonewalls RTI queries on Shanno kin (1)
NEW DELHI: RTI activists and lawyers on Friday condemned the replies provided to Shanno's
wellwishers by two city hospitals Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital and Maulana Azad Medical College in
response to the RTI queries which sought more details about the 11-year-old's death. Shanno's parents
now want to approach the CIC to plead their case. Shanno was allegedly subjected to corporal
punishment by her teacher Manju Rathee at an MCD school in Bawana right before her death. MAMC,
where the postmortem of the child was carried out, in its reply directed all questions to LNJP Hospital
where the child underwent treatment before her death. In a letter to LNJP, R C Sharma, deputy director,
administration, MAMC said they were forwarding all questions to the first hospital. "This information
pertains to your hospital and is being transferred to you for appropriate disposal at your end,'' the letter
reads. A copy of the same was handed over to Ashok Randhawa, president, Sarojini Nagar Traders'
Association as a reply to the RTI. Randhawa had filed the application two days ago on behalf of Shanno's
father, Ayub Khan. The LNJP authorities, in their reply clearly refused to share any information with
Shanno's family. "This is to inform you that the life and liberty in this case is dead, hence the provision of
section 7 (1) does not apply in this case. Moreover, information asked for cannot be provided as per
provisions of section 8 (1) (j) of RTI Act,'' the reply said. Leading RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile,
slammed the replies. "Both replies are illegal under present conditions. MAMC should have replied to
those questions relating to the postmortem. They could forward only those questions pertaining to the
child's treatment to LNJP Hospital. LNJP Hospital too cannot hide behind section 8 (1) since nothing here
is private information. A criminal case has been lodged in this case and society has the right to know what
went wrong,'' he said. Kejriwal also promised support to Randhawa in filing an appeal in this regard with
the CIC. Meanwhile, hearing of Ayub Khan's plea is expected to begin at the Delhi High Court on
Monday. In another development, Ayub told Times City that he will take his two daughters Sainaz and
Saina to the Batla House orphanage on Saturday morning. (Times of India 2/5/09)

Despite RTI Act, officials stonewall information seekers (1)
BANGALORE: A team of journalism students investigating various issues discovered that it was not easy
to source information under the Right to Information Act. With the exception of the Lokayukta office,
students of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media were either turned away or given responses
as late as three months after information was sought. Sample this. Peeved with increasing number of
news reports on Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s temple visits, P. Krishnamurthy and Pavan Kumar H.
sought official records and expenditure details on the subject. “We found 23 such visits reported in
newspapers from May 30 to November 15, but the RTI response mentioned only nine,” he said. Further,
the RTI revealed that the Chief Minister spent over Rs. 11 lakh government funds. This piece of “partial
information” took 12 visits to the Chief Minister’s Special Officer in the Vidhana Soudha over three
months, Mr. Kumar added. Tackling the issue of mounting numbers of accidents involving BMTC buses,
another group filed an RTI application in November. One month later, students were told that the “RTI
application was misplaced”. Shockingly in January, a second application met with a similar fate. “We had
to approach the appellate authority only to find that out of 500 fatal accidents from 2000 to 2008, 317
occurred due to driver negligence,” said Urmi Misra. However, of the 317 only 35 drivers were dismissed.
Twenty-eight drivers were involved in more than one fatal accident. While the story behind every project
pointed to the “obvious loopholes” in the system, the institute’s visiting professor and Pulitzer award-
winning journalist Ralph Frammolino said these stories point to the difficulties in obtaining information.
Students Manasi Phadke and Brenton Cordeiro said their task was the easiest with Lokayukta being
“most co-operative”. “In this case, the intention was to show that although this office is a bully pulpit and
its actions may act as deterrent, the complaints and raids do not always translate into action,” said Mr.
Frammolino. The RTI revealed that less that one per cent of 26,000 complaints resulted in verified
punishments. Mr. Frammolino, who guided the investigative group “I-team”, pointed out that the RTI filed
with the Department of Public Instruction and block-level education offices failed to fetch desired results.
“They are not upfront about who’s on leave, and many offices have not given us any reply to date,” said
Anirban Sen. “We asked for 100 teachers with highest absentee records and they gave us 10. And when
we asked primary data of the SSA 2008 survey, we were turned away,” added Krishna Merchant, who
worked in the same team. (The Hindu 3/5/09)

Delhi High Court allows intervention in CIC case (1)
NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has allowed an intervention application by voluntary organisation
Rashtriya Mukti Morcha seeking to be impleaded in an appeal challenging an order by the Central
Information Commission (CIC). The CIC had directed the Supreme Court Registry to provide information
to a social activist regarding the declaration of assets by the judges of the apex court and the High
Courts. The applicant, Rasthriya Mukti Morcha president Ravinder Kumar, submitted that he was of the
firm view that non-declaration of assets by the judges ran counter to the basic structure principle of the
Constitution. Allowing the application, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat posted the matter for hearing on May 4.
There is a stay on the operation of a CIC order. Mr. Justice Bhat of the Delhi High Court had stayed the
order in January on an appeal by the Supreme Court Registry. The CIC had on January 6 directed the
Registry to furnish to Subhash Chandra Agrawal information whether judges had declared their assets as
per a May 7, 1997, resolution adopted at an all-India judges’ conference. Mr. Agrawal had sought the
information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The CIC had rejected the Supreme Court’s
contention that the CJI was not obliged to furnish such information under the RTI Act. It had also rejected
the submission by the Supreme Court that the Registry and the CJI’s office were independent. The
Registry argued in the appeal that the CIC’s decision was ex facie erroneous and without jurisdiction as it
ignored the scheme and the purpose underlying the Right to Information Act. “The information which can
be called for must be information which is required to be given to a public authority and accordingly held
by it or in its control. Voluntary declaration of assets by judges made to the Chief Justice of India cannot
be said to be material which is held by or under the control of a public authority,” the appeal contended.
(The Hindu 3/5/09)

Power co demands Rs 1.2K for posting RTI reply! (1)
AHMEDABAD: Getting electricity bills much higher than the usual monthly due to a technical glitch is sure
to get your blood pressure up. Imagine how you’d feel if you enforce accountability from the power
company under Right to Information (RTI) Act and are told you now have to shell out Rs 1,200 for
postage! This is the situation Shakun Nawab faced. Nawab demanded to know from Madhya Gujarat Vij
Company Ltd (MGVCL) the number of customers, who had been charged similarly. But, the company told
him other customers are ‘third parties’ under RTI and to get their consent before disclosure of information
he would have to pay Rs 1,200 towards postage charges. An indignant Nawab took the issue to Gujarat
Information Commission (GIC). It held that asking an applicant to pay cost of correspondence to third
parties is not only inconsistent, but contrary to RTI provisions. However, it agreed with MGVCL’s stand
that other customers have to be treated as third parties and their consent is required before releasing
such information. GIC noted that being a major public utility, MGVCL needs to address issues such as
excess billing and adjustments more effectively. Its customers shouldn't have to knock doors of RTI.
Nawab sought names and addresses of its customers, who were subjected to excess billing in September
2006, number of units overcharged, amount recovered and whether the excess amount had been
refunded. MGVCL replied, as a project of moving customers from two-monthly bills to monthly was
underway, 100 customers were overcharged. However, satisfactory remedial action was taken, it said. To
this, Nawab replied, this was not true as he was a victim too. And, his grievances hadn't been redressed
so far. MGVCL then said, its outsourcing agency issued a bill for 124 units during August 2006, but due to
technical problems, the data was missed or deleted. This had resulted in the excess billing. GIC held that
while explanations had been given to Nawab by MGVCL, calculations of how excess billing in his case
was settled should be intimated to him for his satisfaction. (Times of India 6/5/09)

Growing awareness and utilisation of RTI Act (1)
NALGONDA: The gradual increase in the number of applications received under the Right to Information
Act, 2005, from 8,700 in the first year to 60,000 in 2008 in the State showed the growing awareness and
utilisation of the RTI Act, said the State Information Commissioner, R. Dileep Reddy. Mr. Reddy visited
several government offices in the town and reviewed the implementation of the RTI Act on Wednesday.
Later, speaking to the media men Mr Reddy said that a total of 54,000 applications of the total 60,000
received during 2008 in the entire State were disposed of at the public information officers’ level. The
commission has received as many as 24,000 complaints, queries and other petitions. Of this, a total of
21,000 petitions were sorted out and the hearings in respect of the remaining 2900 petitions were
completed despite staff crunch, he said. The commission will submit its third annual report to the new
government which in turn will table it in the Assembly, he said. (The Hindu 7/5/09)

Wardha agri office pulled up for not providing info under RTI (1)
WARDHA: The State Information Commissioner has pulled up the district agriculture office for not
providing requested information to an RTI applicant. The order came after the appellate authority too
neglected to remedy the lack of information. RTI applicant Shoyeb Kannauji had on February 25, 2008,
asked the information officer of the district agriculture office to provide him detail of works done in the
tenure of the present District Agriculture Superintendent Arjun Tandale. The applicant wanted information
about the expenses and allotments of funds in various schemes run by the agriculture department,
including funds for organic farming or such other schemes under the prime minister's package. He had
also asked for details of the schemes for farmers of the district. The information officer W M Bhoelwad did
not furnish replies to the queries, prompting Kannauji to file an appeal in the same department on April
28, 2008, which again remained unheard. Kannauji then approached the State Information Commission
(SIC) on July 28, 2008, following which the state information commissioner Vilas Patil ordered
departmental action against the information officer and appellate authority in the agriculture department.
The SIC also directed the information officer to furnish proper information to the applicant. However,
Shoyeb Kannauji, the applicant is still awaiting a response from the agriculture office over a week after
the SIC order. Arjun Tandale, the appellate authority, told TOI, "We are bound to provide information
within the prescribed date after we receive the order, which I have not received yet. But we will try to give
the information as soon as possible." Tandale also confirmed that official action will be taken against the
RTI officer. Meanwhile, Kannauji told TOI that when he first approached the Agriculture Department to
file an RTI application, the names of the RTI officer and appellate officer were not displayed, though
displaying these names is mandatory under the RTI Act. (Times of India 9/5/09)

‘Few slum-dwellers getting bank loans’ (1)
BHUBANESWAR: At a time when banking institutions are giving slogans of inclusive growth, different
banks of capital city have approved loans to only 13.50 per cent of total applicants from slums. According
to a reply received after exercising Right To Information Act, 4773 loan applications have reached 98
branches of different banks during the financial year 2008-09 whereas only 645 urban poor were lucky
enough to get loans sanctioned. The total loan amount, which is to be disbursed among beneficiaries of
Under Urban Self-Employment Programme, a component of Swarn Jayanti Sahari Rojgar Yojna (SJSRY),
is estimated at Rs. 193.02 lakh. The Government would have to give Rs. 28.95 lakhs as subsidy. Among
banks, main branch of State Bank of India had approved loans to highest 203 applicants and the loan
amount was Rs. 55.80 lakh. “The low percentage of loan sanction speaks volume about insensitivity of
banks towards cause of urban poor. When industrial houses are able to get loan worth crores of rupees,
the lowest strata of society has been looked down upon by banks,” city-based human rights activist
Biswapriya Kanungo said. He said most of the banks shied away from giving loans to slum dwellers as
they doubted their capability to repay the loans. Moreover, unavailability of necessary documents was
another major reason behind non-sanction of loans, Mr. Kanungo said. “However, these impediments
could have been overcome, had banking institutions and Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC)
pursued the matter sensitively,” he said. When asked BMC commissioner Aparajita Sarangi said
corporation was ready to pay the subsidy amount on each loan sanctioned. “Sanctioning of loans is an
ongoing process. Those who did not come in the bracket could get receive loan in the next lot,” Ms.
Sarangi said. As many as 68649 families in Bhubaneswar were living below poverty line. (The Hindu
10/5/09)

Chew on this, RTI brings lost cow home (1)
New Delhi, May 11, 2009: Unhappy with the police for failing to act on your complaint? Well, the Right to
Information (RTI) Act can come to your rescue. Gobind Dubey, a resident of north Delhi’s Metro Vihar,
was recently surprised to find a couple of policemen at his door. They had Dubey’s stolen cow with them.
All they wanted was for him to withdraw his RTI application. A few months ago, Dubey had complained to
the police that the cow, his only source of income, had been taken away by one Raju Tyagi, a dairy
owner. The police refused to register a case, saying Tyagi had bought the animal and had the documents
to prove it. On a friend’s advice, Dubey filed an RTI application, seeking details of the action taken on his
complaint. “About a week after I filed the application, policemen came to my house with Tyagi and
returned my cow,” he said. “Tyagi apologised to me and the police requested me not to pursue the case
further.” About 50 km away in Ghaziabad in UP, Mukesh Kumar, too, has reason to thank the RTI Act.
Kumar, an electrician, had complained to the police that a man had duped him. A cheque for Rs 70,000
— that was owed to Kumar — had bounced. When no action was taken, he filed an RTI application.
Within days, the police asked Kumar to come to Ghaziabad and collect his money. “They just wanted me
to give in writing that the issue had been settled,” he said. Magsaysay award-winner Arvind Kejriwal said
these two were true examples of people’s empowerment through the RTI Act. About 75 lakh RTI
applications were filed last year. “The law was framed to make public servants accountable to people and
it is happening to some extent,” said Kejriwal. (Hindustan Times 11/5/09)

Many needy people get succour under RTI Act (1)
PATNA: Ram Bachan Ram is a happy man today. He is constructing a house on a piece of land he had
purchased over six years back. But the sale was caught in controversy as many people claimed rights
over the small piece of land and did not allow this Dalit of Yadavchak village under Parsa Bazar in Patna
district to construct his house. Thanks to the RTI Act under which Ram fought a battle and won. But
before that he had to run from pillar to post for over six years to settle the dispute and get possession of
the land. Ram approached Bihar Right to Information Manch and sought its help. "I was advised to file
RTI applications in the offices concerned and seek information on progress report regarding my
complaints," said Ram. From the offices of the DM, SP and welfare department he also sought names
and designation of the officers sitting over his complaints and departmental action that could be taken
against them. The welfare department informed Ram in writing that he was not involved in irregular
purchase and at the same time his application to the DM, Patna, resulted in an order to the deputy
commissioner (land reforms) and Circle Officer to measure and demarcate limits of his land and only then
this dispute could be settled. Ram's claim was upheld after four hearing by the State Information
Commission. Another poor Dalit Kunal Mochi too got succour under the RTI Act. His case was also taken
up by the Manch and finally he got his dues. Mochi, a daily wage labourer of Sammanchak village under
Punpun in Patna district, got his dues of 62 days' wages which had been withheld by the farmer for whom
he was working. Said Mochi, "As per the advise of the Manch, I filed a complaint in SC/ST police station
and thereafter an RTI application seeking progress of the complaint. After the case went in first appeal,
the police station started action and farmer Vijay Yadav was made to pay all my dues as well as
expenses incurred on the appeal." "RTI is the best medium to shake an inefficient system and provide
relief to the needy people," said Manch convener Parveen Amanullah. She said it is necessary for the
common people to understand and use their democratic rights. (Times of India 11/5/09)

RTI helpline completes third year in state (1)
Vadodara: The Right to Information Act (RTI) helpline started by the NGO, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel
(MAGP), completed its third year of working, on Tuesday. According to the details of the call records
collected by the NGO, the helpline has received the maximum number of calls from farmers across
Gujarat and some neighbouring states, wanting to know the procedure of filing an RTI form, and other
related information. So far, the helpline has answered 38,269 phone calls on RTI-related issues. Pankti
Jog, co-ordinator, MAGP said: “An analysis of people calling up the helpline revealed that most of them
were farmers who had questions related to their land. Teachers, Public Information Officers (PIOs),
differently-abled people, social workers and small entrepreneurs also formed a sizeable number of
callers.” According to an analysis, the major part of the calls involved complaints about receiving partial or
misleading information (15 per cent), followed closely by those about receiving information about the
stipulated period of 30 days (12 per cent). (Indian Express 13/5/09)

Flurry of RTI applications in Meghalaya (1)
SHILLONG, May 13 – With awareness about Right To Information (RTI) increasing here in Meghalaya,
the State has witnessed a flurry of applications seeking information from legislators. The Deputy Director
Meghalaya Administrative Training Institute (MATI), RM Kurbah said, the trend showed that there was an
improved awareness at the grassroots in the State about the Act. Asked if RTI was misused by political
rivals before the elections to gain mileage, Kurbah answered in the negative. Several politicians were at
the receiving end before the Assembly election after RTI was filed seeking information about schemes
they implemented. Some of the direct casualties were former Heath and Family Welfare Minister and
former Chief Minister FA Khonglam. There has been a steady rise in the awareness level and so people
are seeking information for accountability and transparency from legislators and make informed decisions
to elect better representatives, Kurbah stated. In all, 909 villages have been covered to create awareness
about RTI since 2005. Moreover, 47 training programmes were held during the same period, she added.
The State has notified 482 appellate authorities and 2015 Public Information Officers (PIOs) and
Additional PIOs. All these officers have been trained by MATI so that they in turn can create awareness
amongst the mass. From 2005 till date, the State has disposed off 507 applications, while another 507
are still pending, Kurbah informed. Meanwhile, the Meghalaya State Information Commission said some
of the provisions of the RTI Act was unclear and needs amendment. Citing an example, Kurbah said
giving an information within 30 days about a case dating back 20 years was difficult. The Northeastern
States discussed and shared their experiences relating to implementation of RTI in their respective States
at a two-day seminar titled capacity building for access to information here recently. (The Assam Tribune
13/5/09)

Ministry refutes NCAER report on NREGA implementation (1)
New Delhi: A day later when a National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) report
highlighted flaws in the implementation of UPA government’s mega National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act (NREGA), the ministry of rural development has said the report is ‘half backed and does
not reflect any ground reality’. FE has also learnt that Wajahat Habibullah, central information
commissioner, had recently written to deputy chairman Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia
regarding the need of uploading all information, regarding various development schemes supported by
the commission, on the public domain as done under NREGA. “One area in which this recourse has
already been successfully adopted is in the implementation of NREGA and it would be ideal if the
transparency and accountability demanded by the law can be speedily replicated to all major
development initiatives financed by Planning Commission funds,” Habibullah wrote in his letter to
Ahluwalia (FE possesses a copy of the letter). In response to Habibullah’s letter, secretary Plan panel
Subas Panis recently circulated a letter to all ministries that use commission’s fund to follow the model
adopted under NREGA for sharing all the relevant information with the public. “Public authorities under
the Right To Information Act, 2005, are mandated to maintain all its record duly catalogued and indexed
in a manner and form which facilitates the right to information,” Pani wrote in the letter. Habibullah had in
his letter to Ahluwalia urged to ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised within a
reasonable time, subject to availability of resources and connected via network all over the country to
ensure access. Meanwhile, while highlighting factual inaccuracy in NCAER/PIF report, which stated that
funds under NREGA are being allocated to districts rather than state governments, ministry of rural
development secretary Rita Sharma said the Centre has stopped allocating funds to districts from last
one year. “We have stopped giving funds to districts so that the state governments can have their
priorities while allocating funds to districts,” Sharma told FE. Criticising the report, Sharma said all the
allegation of forged muster rolls and payment could be checked at the dedicated websites to ascertain
facts. “We have uploaded details of jobs cards on the websites for public knowledge,” she said. The study
released here on Wednesday by Rajya Sabha member and former governor of the Reserve Bank of
India, Bimal Jalan, said the official estimates of wages realised... (Financial Express 15/5/09)

RTI cell, insurance on syndicate agenda (1)
CHANDIGARH: The syndicate meeting slated for May 23 will see a discussion on a host of significant
recommendations for the benefit of Panjab University and its students. The foremost among this is
varsity’s proposal to open a special RTI cell with the appointments of deputy registrar and assistant
registrar. Moreover, if given a green signal, PU will go ahead with its plan of group insurance scheme for
12,000 students from the next academic session. Under the Students Safety Insurance Policy, each
student would have to pay Rs 120 per annum to avail this facility. Students would be provided insurance
cover of Rs 2,00,000, besides, a separate insurance cover of Rs 1,00,000 for their parents. The
insurance cover will include hospitalization charges and accident risk to students and their parents.
Students have to pay a premium of Rs 120 annually, which will be included in their tuition fees. To bring
in more transparency in appointment of lecturers in colleges affiliated to PU, a proposal to introduce score
card proforma is also in the pipeline. Each candidate would be required to fill the form and mention
his/her qualifications. A candidate will get pro-rata marks out of 35 marks as per the performance in
qualifying degree. For instance, if a candidate has got 60% marks in post-graduation, then he or she will
get only 60% marks (21) out of 35 marks for basic qualification. Candidates with extraordinary
performance in sports at national or international level would be awarded four marks extra. Out of 20
marks set for interview, a candidate is required to get at least 10 for selection. The nitty-gritty of signing
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between PU and Korea Institute of Energy Research (South
Korea) will also be discussed. The joint venture will be a step forward in generating clean energy from
municipal organic waste. The technology developed in the form of a patent will be shared on equal basis.
There is also proposal of University Law School to increase the number of seats from 25 to 50 for LLM.
(Times of India 17/5/09)

Full bench hearing of Central Information Commission on June 8 (1)
CHENNAI: Many activists have complained that public authorities are unduly charging RTI petitioners with
the wages and allowances of officials as “cost of information,” quoting very high figures to stall the
working of the Act. Following this, the Central Information Commission has scheduled a full bench
hearing on June 8 and has invited heads of Ministries, Public Sector Units (PSU) to get their views on the
practice. Section 7(3) of the Right to Information Act talks about the cost of providing information “on
payment of further fee” to petitioners, without exactly specifying what would be taken as the “further fee,”
beyond the fees prescribed for providing information. This has resulted in Public Information Officers
(PIO) asking petitioners to pay for wages and allowances for the staff involved in collecting the
information. T. Sadagopan, a Chennai-based consumer activist, had submitted an RTI petition to the
Public Information Officer (PIO) on May 29, 2008, listing 19 questions. However the PIO had not replied
substantially and had also asked him to pay Rs.379 towards salary and allowances for staff, who would
have to obtain the information. Similar incidents had been reported by other activists where the Southern
Railway had asked petitioners to pay, as part of the cost of information, the salaries and allowances of the
staff. V. Madhav, another activist, was even asked to pay for the cost of maintenance of computers and
other equipment. While Mr. Sadagopan’s first appeal was rejected, his appeal to the CIC was taken up on
May 12, 2009. Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner, upheld the appeal, and also directed
Southern Railway to provide photocopies of the first 200 pages free of cost. While Mr. Madhav’s appeal is
still awaiting disposal, the CIC has decided to hold a full bench hearing following the public notice issued
in November 2008, asking for comments on the same issue. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
(CHRI) had also submitted at a meeting with the CIC on February 24, 2009, its views on how the section
should be interpreted. But the issue has not been resolved yet, and the full bench hearing could come up
with guidelines, activists said. (The Hindu 18/5/09)

11 RTI activists singing national anthem arrested for rioting (1)
Mumbai, May 20, 2009: Eleven activists of Right to Information (RTI) were arrested on charges of rioting
and obstructing work of a public servant on Tuesday. These activists had come to observe the open-court
hearing of Dr Shrikant Prabhu, one of the activists. After the hearing they sought time from the
commissioner to tell him that he was committing a “bailable offence.” The activists wanted to hand over a
report they had prepared stating what leads to the bailable offence. Sanjay Amrute, senior police
inspector said: “We have arrested 11 RTI activists who barged into the cabin of Suresh Joshi, the state
information commissioner.” “They have been booked for rioting and obstructing the work of a public
servant. On Wednesday, we will produce them in court.” The activits arrested are Krishnaraj Rao, G.R.
Vora, Mohammad Afzal, Sunil Ahya, Vijay Chauhan, Mukund Parekh, Sanjay Ghatalia, K.N. Singh,
Pramod Kadam, Ravi Kiran Haldipur, and Shrikant Prabhu. “We had not taken an appointment as he
never gives us one. When we requested for time, he first refused but then agreed,” Vora said. “Before
the interaction, one of the activists wanted to sing the national anthem. Joshi objected and did not stand
up. But as soon as we started singing, Joshi called the police.” Joshi denied the allegations. “Even after
telling them that I had to go to a doctor and that I would fix up another day to meet them, they still didn’t
listen and walked into my cabin.” (Hindustan Times 20/5/09)

RTI exposes chinks in Delhi Police narcotics branch (1)
New Delhi: Cases of drug peddling are considered heinous offences and can even entail death penalty
under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. A response under the Right To
Information (RTI) Act from the Delhi Police’s Narcotics Branch, however, raises grave doubts over how
serious the investigating agency is when it comes to arresting the accused and putting them up for trial
that could go on in the courts for years. In most of these cases, the accused are made to languish behind
bars and are not allowed bail till the court pronounces its verdict. According to a reply sent in pursuant to
an RTI application by Kamran Siddiqui, general secretary of the NGO Real Cause, though the Narcotics
Branch registered 20 cases under the NDPS Act between January and February this year, they could not,
for unexplained reasons, nab even a single prospective buyer. (Indian Express 22/5/09)

RTI activists released on bail (1)
Mumbai: After spending two days and a night in the Arthur Road Jail, 11 RTI activists were released on
Thursday on personal bond. Krishnaraj Rao, GR Vora, Mohammad Afzal, Sunil Ahya, Vijay Chauhan,
Mukund Parekh, Sanjay Ghatalia, KN Singh, Pramod Kadam, Ravi Kiran Haldipur and Dr Shrikant
Prabhu were arrested for "unlawful assembly and tresspassing" after a protest organised by them took an
ugly turn on Tuesday at state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi's office. Their arrests have
created a stir among other activists. Central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi termed the action
excessive. "I do not know what happened, but from the reactions of Joshi, I don't think that the situation
was riotous. I feel there was an excessive action by police. "People keep protesting and look for
innovative and creative ways to do that. But as long as the protests are peaceful and do not paralyse the
working of the administration, they should be accepted as protest," he said. Activists like Bhavesh Patel,
who heads Bhrashtachar Viorodhi Jan Andolan run by Anna Hazare, said that the reason for such
protests should be looked at more closely. "RTI Act is not implemented properly and we are getting a lot
of complains from all over Maharashtra," he said. "Anna Hazare will meet the chief minister this week.
The arrests will be discussed during the meeting." Terming the action "a bit harsh", activist Medha Patkar
said, "Singing the national anthem can be considered a form of Satyagraha. Officials should understand
that there is increasing frustration amongst people over the manner the the Act is being implemented.
Officials are wasting time and not giving information." Activists said they want action against people who
refuse to give information. When asked if the actions were appropriate, Suresh Joshi said, "This was the
third time that they behaved badly. But the last straw was when they sang the national anthem in an
unruly manner. The court too has taken a very serious view of their behaviour." DNA 22/5/09)

RTI: policemen to be given special training (1)
BERHAMPUR: Although some persons have been misusing the Right to Information (RTI) Act, yet much
more efforts are needed to make common people of Orissa conscious about this Act, said Information
Commissioner Jagadananda. He was in the city on Friday evening to attend a seminar on
‘Consciousness level of citizens about RTI Act’. The seminar was organised by the Youth for Social
Development (YSD). District level officials, social activists and citizen representatives attended the
seminar. Mr Jagadananda informed that in near future 1,000 police officials of the State would be
provided special training regarding the RTI Act. The State Information Commissioner said in Orissa there
was a huge gap between the people who are knowledgeable about the RTI Act and those who are yet to
be conscious about it. Government officials present in the seminar cited examples of alleged misuse of
the Act. A case was cited where a person had applied for 30,000 pages of information. But when the
officials tried to track down the person it was found that the address of the person was false. Mr
Jagadananda, however, was optimistic about the Act and said it had become a source of community
power against corruption. He informed that in four years 150 government officials in Orissa had been
punished for not furnishing the required data applied for under the RTI Act. There has been steady
increase in the number of applicants seeking information under the Act in the State. With real happenings
Mr Jagadanada described how this Act had been used by people to make teachers come to colleges and
schools or to guarantee proper wage for daily wagers. The seminar was also attended by Bishnu
Choudhury of Berhampur University, social activist working for the HIV positive persons Loknath Mishra
and secretary of the YSD Bibhu Prasad Mishra. Mr Loknath urged the HIV positive persons to use RTI
Act as a weapon against the atrocities and disparity faced by them. (The Hindu 24/5/09)

3,350 MCD officials tainted: RTI (1)
New Delhi: While corruption in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is old news, the magnitude can shock.
An RTI query has revealed that 3,350 MCD officials are facing corruption charges and inquiries, with
some cases awaiting prosecution for almost three decades. Most of the tainted officers are at middle and
senior levels, and many are repeat offenders. In reply to the RTI application by Vivek Garg, an advocate
and activist, the Public Information Officer of the MCD's Vigilance department said as many as 4,299
cases were pending against 3,350 officials — the civic body has around 1.5 lakh employees. Garg had
sought data related to cases of corruption awaiting prosecution for 25 years. Out of the cases, 1,435 were
registered by the Anti-Corruption Branch of the Delhi government, the Delhi Police and the CBI, and
2,877 were registered by the MCD's vigilance wing. (Indian Express 25/5/09)

RTI Act being misused to settle personal scores: CIC (1)
New Delhi (PTI) The RTI Act which was enacted to promote transparency in public life is now increasingly
being used to settle personal disputes, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.
"Unfortunately, the provisions of RTI act is being increasingly misused by a large number of persons for
settling personal and family disputes, including divorce and claim of maintenance related cases,"
Information Commissioner M M Mr. Ansari said while hearing one such petition. The Information
Commissioner expressed his inability to stop such "frivolous" petitions. "The cost burden of such frivolous
petitions has to be borne by the society because we cannot stop them," he said. The issue of misuse of
RTI came up while hearing the plea of a Delhi resident I P Aggarwal who sought personal and official
details of his sister-in-law Aruna Aggarwal, an employee in the Department of Commerce. Mr. Aggarwal
was having marital dispute and the information was sought under the backdrop. The department refused
to part with the information citing that it was personal in nature. Upholding the view of the department in
this regard, Mr. Ansari said, "Aggarwal has not given concurrence for disclosure of the submission made
by her to the respondent and such records are surely private documents. Therefore, the denial of
information is justified." (The Hindu 26/5/09)

'RTI is like a magic wand for poor people'(1)
PATNA: The Bihar Right to Information Manch has taken up cudgels to educate the common people
especially illiterate villagers about the right to information and how to use it to get their genuine works,
buried in the files in government offices, done. Manch convener Parveen Amanullah said, "RTI is like a
magic wand and highly helpful for the poor people who are tired of running from one table to another for
getting their works done. It help them to get things done without greasing the palms of the corrupt and
greedy Babus." The non-cooperative and arrogant attitude of the officials is also being exposed through
this method. Shakyamuni Welfare Association secretary Jainath Prasad said that when he sought
information from the Kesaria BDO about the pending issues, the officials threatened to send him to jail.
Prasad approached Amanullah's RTI which complained to the personnel department. Sources said that
an inquiry has been ordered into the incident. The Manch guides the needy people as to how to apply and
then seek information about the progress with regard to their applications. Amanullah said that hundreds
of people with various problems have been able to solve their problems as the departments concerned
acted promptly to dispose of the files. (Times of India 26/5/09)

Social activists hail rollback of RTI fee hike in Chandigarh (3)
Chandigarh: A day before the case against the UT administration and the Union government was to come
up in the Punjab-Haryana High Court on the civil writ petition of social activist Hemant Goswami, the
Chandigarh administration has decided to roll back the 500% enhancement in the right to information
(RTI) fee, notified on February 11, 2008. “This is a major victory and our struggle of over one year has
paid off. The reversal of the RTI fee hike is a major step in the direction of ensuring transparency and for
fighting corruption,” Hemant Goswami stated. In February last year, the Chandigarh administration had
decided to increase the RTI fee five-fold using the provisions of Section 28 of the RTI Act citing frivolous
RTI applications as an excuse. Social activists, led by Goswami, made a vociferous protest and had
declared that the fight will continue till the enhancement is rolled back. After all the representation,
Goswami filed a Civil Writ Petition in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Complaints were also made
to the union home ministry, law ministry, the law commission and the chief information commissioner. The
case was listed for May 21 when the UT Administration informed the High Court that it has decided to
revert the fee according to the central government rules. In the writ before the High Court, the petitioner
had argued, “Creating unnecessary hurdles by framing separate rules for obtaining information and by
increasing the fee to unreasonable limits is against the spirit of the RTI Act, the legislative intent and
against the Parliament of India. Photocopying costs just 40 paisa per copy and the central government,
by way of the Right to Information (Fee and Cost) Rule 2005 has already incorporated an additional sum
of Rs 1.60 (which is four times or 400% of the actual photocopying charges) to compensate for all
manpower used, storage charges, etc. It is improper and illegal to increase the charges to Rs 10 per
page.” Hemant, however, did not appear to be satisfied with the results, he said, “Merely rolling back of
the illegally hiked RTI fee was not enough. The government officials behind the illegal orders must also
be punished. This is a clear-cut case of abuse of power and misuse of one’s authority. We will press for
criminal charges against the officials responsible.” (Financial Express 27/5/09)

Activists fear further fee' for info may dilute RTI (1)
CHENNAI: Three years after the Right To Information (RTI) Act came into effect, the right' of the applicant
to seek free' information has become a point of contention, with public information officers in many
departments asking for salaries, allowances and maintenance costs to prepare replies to RTI queries.
Having delivered contradictory orders on the issue, the Central Information Commission has decided to
conduct a full bench hearing on the matter on June 8. The CIC wrote to 19 government departments and
public sector undertakings last week inviting them to submit their views on section 7 (3) of the Act which
deals with collection of further fee' from the RTI applicant. "In the case of K K Kishore vs Institute of
Company Secretaries, an important question has arisen as regards the ambit and scope of Section 7(3)
of the RTI Act which deals with charging of further fee to be determined by central public information
officers. The commission decided that the case be heard by a larger bench since the issue is important
from the legal point of view,'' the CIC said in its notice to government departments and PSUs. Secretaries
of union ministries of personnel, law and justice, public enterprises and company affairs and chairpersons
of 14 public sector undertakings including BSNL, IOC, FCI, MTNL, BHEL, BPCL and GAIL were asked to
submit their written submissions and also send a senior officer each to the hearing. However, many RTI
activists oppose the CIC's move to interpret the provision as they think it could dilute the scope of the law.
"We don't understand why only a handful of ministries and PSUs have been invited to submit their views
and why the CIC did not call for opinions from the general public in the matter,'' said Venkatesh Nayak of
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a Delhi-based NGO, who made a written submission to the
commission opposing the PIOs' demand for special wages. "A public information officer can ask for
further fee (in addition to the application fee of Rs 10) towards the cost of providing information (such as
photocopying expenses, cost of disk, sample, model, if any), but the demand can be made only as
prescribed under Section 7 (3) (a) of the RTI Act read with the Right To Information (Regulation of Fee
and Cost) Rules. The Act doesn't permit the PIO to use his/ her discretion with regard to collection of cost
of information,'' Nayak said. Only a couple of weeks ago, the CIC asked the Southern Railway to provide
information free of cost to a Chennai-based applicant from whom the railways had earlier asked to pay Rs
380 as salaries and allowances to its staff to make the reply ready. A similar case is that of V Madhav, a
Chennai-based RTI activist who was asked by the railways to pay Rs 750 towards power and
maintenance costs of computers for answers to be provided to his queries under the RTI Act. The case is
pending with the CIC. (Times of India 28/5/09)

RTI brings life to family's pursuit for death certificate (1)
Mumbai (PTI): Suvarna Bhagyawant (20) had to run from pillar to post for nearly two years to get her
grandfather's death certificate, but with the help of Right to Information Act (RTI) she got it within eight
days. Suvarna's family - grandmother, parents, two brother and a sister, who have been residing for the
past 50 years in Ambegaon near here, wanted the certificate to apply for the Widow Pension Scheme.
They finally took recourse in the nearly four-year-old landmark legislation that empowers people to seek
accountability and transparency from government agencies. "To enroll for the scheme we needed the
death certificate, for which my parents asked me to collect it from the local authorities," Survana said. "At
the tehsil office the staff demanded to Rs 500 for issuing the certificate, which was exorbitant. With the
assistance of Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) we filed a RTI application and received it
within eight days without any payment," she said. Suvarna is now part of a RTI support group started by
PCGT and Bahujan Hitay Trust in August 2008 to seek honest, transparent and accountable systems in
governance. Like, Suvarna there are several others who found difficult in getting things done from
government bodies but RTI came to their help. (The Hindu 28/5/09)

“Awareness of right to get information needed” (1)
DINDIGUL: The Information Commission had processed over 7,000 petitions to help people get
information they wanted from government departments so far, said R. Perumalsamy, Information
Commissioner. Talking to press persons after conducting an inquiry with government officials on petitions
received by the commission from five districts here on Thursday, he said that officials who did not
respond to petitions under the Right to Information Act were recommended for departmental action. The
commission had served show cause notices to officials in connection with 437 petitions over complaints
of inordinate delay in getting information from them. A fine of Rs.25,000 was imposed on 11 officials on
the charges of inordinate delay in furnishing information to petitioners. At the same time, officials had
given required information to 9,464 petitioners properly and sent copy of them to the commission. The
commission had received 90,826 petitions between April 2006 and February 2009 and issued necessary
instructions on over 64,000 petitions to give information immediately. Reacting sharply to officials who did
not attend the inquiry meeting in Dindigul, Mr. Perumalsamy said that show cause notices were served to
three police officers in southern districts. Earlier, Mr. Perumalsamy inquired 15 petitions — five on local
administration, four on revenue, three on police, one each on transport, labour welfare and prohibition
enforcement wing. The commission received one petition from Dindigul, five from Tuticorin, three from
Madurai, four from Virudhunagar and two from Ramanathapuram districts. (The Hindu 29/5/09)

Ghaziabad man goes RTI way to improve health, education
New Delhi, June 02, 2009: He fits the bill of a common man… a self-employed youth from a middle-class
family. But the onerous task that he has taken on himself makes 30-year-old Sachin Soni uncommon.
And the tool for this youth — from the neighbouring National Capital Region town of Ghaziabad — is the
information he seeks under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. For instance, thanks to his crusade with the
help of RTI applications, children from as many as 143 of the 174 schools in the district, which earlier had
only one teacher, now have at least two teachers. Soni is a founder member of the non-governmental
organisation Jan Jagruti Abhiyan, which works to promote the use of RTI. “Health and education … these
are the two basic things that can mar or improve your life. So I decided to focus of these facilities,” Soni,
who works as a dealer in a second-hand sale-purchase unit for two-wheelers, told Hindustan Times. A
2003 government order said schools under the basic education department should have a minimum of
two and a maximum of three teachers. Of the 680 basic education schools in the district, there were 174
with a single teacher whereas there were 92 with four teachers. Soni started with an RTI to find out the
student-teacher ratio (September 2008), and also sought to know whose responsibility it was to ensure
that this rule is followed (October 2008). Then, when the RTI reply came, he filed a complaint to the
higher-ups (January 2009). Of the 174 schools with just a teacher each, 143 now have two
teachers.“Once this is taken care of fully, my next target will be middle schools,” Soni, who himself is only
a Class XII pass, said. His other pursuit, an RTI application about a quack, resulted in threats to his life.
“When I filed the RTI, the officials did not just reply to me but also leaked my number. He (the quack) and
some other person threatened me on the phone,” Soni said. “But such things won’t stop me from my
goal,” he added in the same breath. (Hindustan Times 2/6/09)

Steep increase in RTI applications (1)
HYDERABAD: The number of applications received under the ‘Right To Information (RTI) Act’ in the State
increased by 573 per cent in the last three years, indicating a growing public awareness about the Act.
The synopsis of State Information Commission Annual Report for 2008 was released to the media
persons here on Monday. Giving the details, Chief Information Commissioner C.D Arha said that of
59,664 applications received in the State, 54,022 had been disposed of. Thirty-nine per cent of appeals
had come from the rural areas. “The RTI does not remain an urban phenomenon any more,” Mr. Arha
added. While Hyderabad district topped in the number of complaints filed under RTI, most of the
complaints in the State pertained to Revenue department, followed by Municipal Administration and
Urban Development. Accordingly, some of the recommendations by the Commission included
computerisation of land records, updating of government department websites. While a total of 99,202
applications were received in the last three years, 92 per cent were provided with information sought and
7,121 applications were returned or rejected. Earlier in the day, the Commission submitted the
comprehensive Annual Report to the Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy and it would be tabled
before the State Legislature soon. Mr. Arha said barring six departments related to security and
intelligence, any other information could be sought under the RTI. He also said that though disposal of
cases in the State was highest in the country, pendency was due to increasing work load. The
Commission in association with Centre for Good Governance introduced innovative measures like ‘Online
File Tracking System’ and ‘SMS facility’ to know the status of the application. Appreciating the SMS
facility, Centre directed for its implementation through out the country. (The Hindu 2/6/09)

RTI applies to JNMF, say 3 commissioners (1)
NEW DELHI: Going against the legal opinion rendered by their chief, three information commissioners of
CIC have declared Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF) a public authority under the RTI Act. "In the
interest of justice, transparency and accountability, the Commission declares the JNMF to be a public
authority under the RTI Act,'' observed a bench of IC's Annapurna Dixit, M M Ansari and Satyananda
Mishra on Tuesday, giving the trust 15 days' time to put in place a mechanism to receive and dispose of
RTI pleas. The CIC's stand is contrary to that adopted by chief information commissioner Wajahat
Habibullah, who in a separate legal opinion sent to the Trust in 2007, had concluded that it was not a
public authority so the RTI Act wasn't applicable to it. The case stemmed from an RTI filed by B R
Manhas, a senior citizen in JNMF in November 2006. Manhas's plea was a modest one, asking "year-
wise financial grant given by HRD ministry and its purpose.'' JNMF shot off a letter to CIC wanting to
know if "charitable trusts set up in memory of national leaders come within RTI Act''. In response,
Habibullah replied the RTI Act didn't apply to the fund so it wasn't bound by it. But it was Manhas's
argument that was upheld by CIC in its latest ruling since the trust received government funds and was
housed within government property Teen Murti House it was accountable to the public. Infact, Manhas
had taken the battle to the Delhi HC alleging "judicial indiscipline'' on behalf of Habibullah because he first
gave an opinion on his RTI plea, then was also a part of CIC bench that heard his appeal against JNMF's
refusal to disclose information. HC had then asked Habibullah to "consider the appropriateness of his
participation'' in hearing the appeal, suggesting the CIC convene a three commissioner bench to
reconsider the case. Now, apart from appointing a PIO, the trust will also have to furnish the information
asked by Manhas in the RTI. (Times of India 3/6/09)

Govt officer fined for delay in providing info under RTI (1)
New Delhi The CIC has slapped a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 on an employee of the Ministry of
Personnel Public Grievances and Pensions for not providing information to an RTI applicant on time.
The applicant Mahendra Kumar Gupta had sought some information from Kendriya Bhandar, which is
under the Ministry of Personnel Public Grievances and Pensions. But the Central Public Information
Officer of the department R K Singh provided the information after a delay of 215 days. The information
was to be provided by September 27, 2007, as per provisions of RTI Act. The commission in its order
imposed penalty of Rs 250 per day not exceeding Rs 25,000 as per the provision of RTI Act and directed
the Kendriya Bhandar chairperson to recovered it from Singh's salary either directly or through deducting
Rs 5,000 per month. The CIC in its earlier hearing had directed the department to show cause as to "why
a penalty of Rs 250 per day from the date when information fell due September 27, 2007 to the date
when the information is actually supplied, April 30, 2008, not exceeding Rs 25,000 should not be
imposed." (Indian Express 5/6/09)

Scepticism over move to amend RTI Act (1)
JAIPUR: The vanguards of the country’s transparency movement have expressed apprehension over the
possibility of an amendment in the existing Right to Information Act, 2005. The rather vexing reference to
a “suitable amendment” to the Act had come during the President’s Address in Parliament this past week.
The cause of concern is the chance of any dilution of the Act to the disadvantage of the nation which can
do with a little more of transparency in government functioning. “We don’t think it needs any amendment.
If they want to carry out changes, let it be known to others also,” said Magsaysay Award winner Aruna
Roy, who pioneered the movement for Right to Information, here over the weekend. “The big question is:
if there is such a move, why it is not transparent? The present law is based on a draft approved by
various people’s movements,” said Ms. Roy addressing the media with fellow activists on RTI and the
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme . President Pratibha Patil’s reference to the RTI Act came
in her address as part of the United Progressive Alliance Government’s action plan for the next hundred
days. The rather innocuous sounding point said: “Strengthening the Right to Information by suitably
amending the law to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas.” The point
interestingly followed the one on NREGA which said: “Increasing transparency and public accountability
of NREGA by enforcing social audit and ensuring grievance redressal by setting up district level
ombudsman.” “In the proposal for amendments there is always a scope for suspicion as to why there is
such a move. In case they need to amend the law they should come out in the open about it,” Mr. Roy
pointed out. “The scepticism over any such move is due to the fact that when they tried to do it last time it
turned out to be an attempt at watering down the law. They tried to tamper with the very basics of the
Act,” Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan pointed out. “We feel what is needed is strong action
under the existing RTI Act. Both the RTI and NREGA are laws complementing each other. Without
transparency there is no accountability. The effective implementation of NREGA too needs transparency,”
Ms. Roy argued. In fact, what the Government should work on at present was framing of rules for RTI to
remove the ambiguities, she said. (The Hindu 7/6/09)

Mayawati reverses move to ban information disclosure (1)
Lucknow, June 07, 2009: In the face of protest threats, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday
partially reversed her move to deny certain disclosures under the Right to Information Act. The reversal
followed widespread criticism of the June 2 notification, which, among other things, had disallowed
disclosing information relating to complaints against ministers or notings and endorsements on secretariat
files. While the notification denied information under 14 heads, nine of them stand removed now. "There
are only five areas about which information would not be made available under the RTI Act. These are -
information relating to appointment of governors, ministers and high court judges, code of conduct for
ministers and material for monthly demi-official letter to be sent to the president of India on behalf of the
governor," Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh told a press conference here. Asked if the state
government had the power to initiate such an action, he said: "The decision was taken well within the
framework of the RTI Act which entitles the state government to refuse any information for strategic or
security reasons." The previous notification had also banned dissemination of information relating
nominations for Padma awards, rules of government business, complaints against MPs and appointment
of accountant general, besides all other officially 'secret' tasks. Both notifications, the previous and the
new, are stated to have been issued under the provisions of section 24 (4) of the RTI Act, 2005. Though
the state government had remained tight-lipped about the previous move, a TV channel had reported the
matter. A number of RTI activists as well as state Congress president Rita Bahugun Joshi had threatened
to oppose the move. Joshi planned a protest demonstration before Governor TV Rajeshwar on Monday.
(Hindustan Times 7/6/09)

Govt cancels June 2 notification on RTI (1)
LUCKNOW: The government has cancelled the notification issued on June 2 with regard to exclusion of
some works from the periphery of the RTI Act allotted to the confidential section-1 under division of works
between sections and departments of secretariat under Section 24, Sub-Section 4 of the Right to
Information Act 2005. Now, under the new notification, only five subjects have been included having no
direct connection with the people. Giving this information to the media here on Sunday, cabinet secretary
Shashank Shekhar Singh said that in the notification issued on June 2, some subjects had been included,
which were not directly related to the people. He made it clear that when doubts were expressed in this
regard in some areas, then the government, after due consideration, issued a new notification which
included five subjects--viz appointment of governor, ministers of state, deputy ministers, code of conduct
for ministers and the contents for monthly DO letters by governor to President and appointment of high
court judges. The cabinet secretary said that since the state government believed in trasparency and was
of the view that the people of the state should get proper information, therefore it cancelled the June 2
notification and issued a new one. (Times of India 8/6/09)

RTI activists fume over govt notification (1)
Lucknow: The Mayawati government’s decision to put five subjects out of RTI’s purview has drawn flak
from social and RTI activists, who are now planning to challenge the decision in the court. The notification
is illegal and “if the government does not withdraw it, we will challenge it in the court”, said Arvind
Kejriwal, RTI activist. “The Mayawati government has got the public mandate. People now look for
development and they want to feel empowered and nothing can empower people more than Right To
Information Act,” he added. Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey said RTI activists of the state will
meet in Lucknow on Tuesday to discuss the matter and chalk out the future course of action. “None of the
issues excluded from the RTI purview is related to either security or intelligence which alone can be
excluded under sub-section (4) of Section 24 of RTI Act,” said Pandey. SN Shukla, a retired bureaucrat of
UP, who is also a Supreme Court lawyer, said the state government notification was “completely illegal”
and it “cannot be sustained in the court of law”. “Increasing the restrictions in the RTI Act will hamper
transparency and dilute the spirit of the Act,” said Aruna Rai, social worker and RTI activist. The Sunday’s
notification replaces another notification which was issued earlier this month and which included as many
as 14 subjects. The Congress had alleged that the old notification included even subjects which were not
under the jurisdiction of the state government. The government has not offered any explanation for either
of the notifications. While Cabinet Secretary, Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Information) were not
available, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister JN Chamber said the matter was not under his jurisdiction.
(Indian Express 9/6/09)

No information about freedom struggle martyrs: Home Ministry (1)
New Delhi (PTI): The CIC has noted with concern that the government does not have a comprehensive
list of freedom fighters or martyrs who died during the independence movement despite a full division of
Home Ministry devoted to the subject. "We have noted with some concern that although public money is
indeed being expended on pensions for freedom fighters, the government... through various departments,
does not seem to have comprehensive list of the martyrs or pensioners despite the fact there is a full
division of the ministry attending the issue of freedom fighters pensions," Chief Information Commissioner
Wajahat Habibullah held. The Ministry of Home Affairs has said before the Commission, "No information
regarding strength of martyrs is available. Since no data regarding the Indian martyrs has been compiled
by this ministry, information regarding the total number of Indian martyrs is not available." Ironically, it is
the ministry which distributes pensions to the dependents of freedom fighters and martyrs. The ministry
said a list of all the freedom fighters was being compiled by it to which Mr. Habibullah advised it to
complete the process within six months. "As the list continues to be compiled, the information so obtained
may be continually updated on the website at the rate of 100 pensioners per day to meet the
requirements of section four (relating to pro-active disclosure) of RTI Act," Mr. Habibullah said. The
Commission directed the officials to place a copy of the order before Union Home Minister P.
Chidamabaram for his perusal. "Subsequent to the compilation and publication of the list, it will require to
be ensured that the list is made available at the level of every district headquarters," Mr. Habibullah said.
Deputy Secretary in the ministry R.C. Nayak had submitted that although 7 lakh applications were
received for such pension, sanction was granted for 1.7 lakh of them. The Ministry of Culture submitted
that ICHR was also entrusted to prepare a list of martyrs who sacrificed their lives during freedom
movement. A person named Panna Lal had filed an RTI with the Prime Minister's Office seeking total
strength of Indian martyrs who died between 1857 and 1947. Lal alleged that many of those benefiting
from freedom fighters pension were actually those who had collaborated with the British. The application
was forwarded to MHA which runs the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980 under which
pension and related facilities are provided to living freedom fighters and their families including those of
martyrs who suffered during the freedom struggle. (The Hindu 9/6/09)

‘The RTI Act is a boon for honest bureaucrats’(1)
New Delhi, June 10, 2009: Here’s another example of how the Right to Information (RTI) Act is bringing
about a steady change in the way bureaucracy functions. Usha Rani (45), former district collector of
Mahboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh, used the Act to curb corruption. She has been nominated — by P
Baalakrishna, a citizen — for the National RTI Award in the category of public information officer. Rani
used RTI to ensure transparency and accountability in 52 departments under her jurisdiction from 2006 to
2009. “As administrative head and first appellate authority, Usha Rani made sure we got replies to all our
applications,” said Baalakrishna. Suspecting corruption in a scheme of allotment of pattas (plots of land
for houses) to the poor, Baalakrishna had filed an RTI application in 2006. After the PIO did not give him
the information he sought, Baalakrishna filed a first appeal with Rani, a 1995 batch Andhra cadre IAS
officer. He got a prompt reply that revealed irregularities in the allotment. With Rani’s help, he ensured
that the plots went to those who deserved them. In another case, Baalakrishna and some others filed 15-
20 applications to find out why some had not received ration cards. Again, Rani ensured all the applicants
got information. Rani, who has also used RTI to expose corrupt politicians and officials, said: “RTI has
come as a boon for well-meaning bureaucrats... They now have RTI to mobilize social pressure against
those who want to corrupt the system.” (Hindustan Times 10/6/09)

File notings under RTI: DoPT seeks law ministry's opinion (1)
NEW DELHI: With ideological differences at the highest levels in government on the issue of allowing
access to file notings, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has sought advice from the law
ministry on the issue. File notings have been disclosed by information commissions but government
departments have often refused information. The DoPT, on its part, has done nothing to dispel the
confusion mentioning the term "file notings" in its website's frequently asked questions. In fact, there has
been a tussle between the Central Information Commission (CIC) and the ministry. Sources in the
ministry, however, said allowing disclosure of file notings was not a question between warring individuals.
"It is not that DoPT has dug in its heels and does not want to give out file notings. There is a serious
ideological difference between the government. We are trying to resolve this in an amicable manner. We
appreciate the CIC's attempt to ensure transparency and we are not against it. We want to make the law
more user friendly but that can only happen once these differences are sorted out," a source said. Since
the Right to Information Act (RTI) was made operational in October 2005, the government has been
reluctant to part with file notings. While in some cases people were able to access this part of the
information -- which includes notes and opinions made by government officials on a particular issue --
there were many others who were denied the information. In fact, DoPT on its website clearly points out
that "file notings" were exempted under the Act leaving public information officers confused on its
implementation. In July 2006, the Union Cabinet decided to amend the RTI Act so that only file notings
related to social and developmental projects could be made accessible to the public. The government's
step was based on the logic that issues related to the people would be made public but decisions
regarding sensitive subjects could be hampered if information was made public. The amendment was to
be cleared by Parliament in its monsoon session but vociferous complaints by activists and public furore
prevented the government from doing so. On its part, the CIC has been issuing orders over a period of
time asking DoPT to correct its website. It sent DoPT the first reference in February 2006 and recently
sent a showcause notice on why ministry officials should not be imprisoned for repeatedly ignoring the
CIC's directions. (Times of India 12/6/09)

RTI plea reveals goof-up in voters' list (1)
New Delhi (PTI) How many people demand an explanation when their names suddenly go missing from
the voters' list? Jaspal Singh, a resident of Chandigarh did and not only got the wrong rectified but
ensured that the erring officials are punished. When 44-year-old Mr. Singh learnt in 2007 that names of
1.28 lakh voters, including that of him and his wife, have been taken off the electoral rolls of the district as
they had not replied to a communication from the Chief Electoral Office (CEO) in this regard, he did not
buy it and took up the matter with the Election Commission. "I filed an RTI plea in November 2007 to
know the reason for the deletion as we never received any communication from the CEO's office in this
regard," Mr. Singh told PTI. (The Hindu 12/6/09)

 Land records ‘fabricated’, says probe panel (1)
VIZIANAGARAM: A five-member committee, comprising retired government officials, constituted by the
Lok Satta Party to probe irregularities in the acquisition of 1048.65 acres of land for setting up of Jindal
alumina refinery plant in S. Kota mandal (D-patta: 866.67 acres and government wet and dry land 181.98
acres), payment of compensation and other benefits under the R & R policy to the displaced families has
alleged that the records sought under Section 6(1) of the RTI Act-2005 for the D-patta lands have been
“fabricated.” The records for the 181.98 acres, payment of compensation category-wise, R & R package
etc. have not been furnished at all. The five members – Y. Satyanarayana and P. Koteswara Rao, retired
Deputy Collectors; S. Ramamurthy, retired tahsildar; K. V. S. Sarma, former DEE, and D. Surya Rao, Lok
Satta Party leader – sought records on confirmed R.O.R registers, encroachers list, total extent of
government and D-patta lands, payments made to individuals etc. under the RTI Act after paying the
required fee on September 11, 2008. But, district president of Lok Satta Party B.A. Babji told The Hindu
on Thursday after meeting Joint Collector P. Lakshmi Narasimham for action that the ‘adanguls’ for five
‘fasalis’ i.e. 1413 to 1417 with regard to acquisition of 866.68 acres of D-patta lands in Moola Boddavara,
Kiltampalem, Cheedipalem, Chinakandepalli and Musidipalli villages were “fabricated” and submitted to
the committee on October 22, 2008. The records for the D-patta lands contained neither official seal nor
signed by any Village Revenue Officer/Revenue Inspector/Deputy tahsildar,” he said. Mr. Babji said that
12 individuals who were not residing in the said five villages were paid Rs. 35.10 lakhs. He demanded
action against the then Revenue Divisional Officer M. Govindarajulu and suggested that the case be
referred to Lok Ayukta for investigation. (The Hindu 13/6/09)

RTI Act can be used to know workplace rights too (1)
Bangalore: The Right to Information Act 2005 is not just meant for corruption-related purposes but it is to
also lead us to a utopia of free information, paving the way to transparency and accountability in
governance, Y.G. Muralidhar, Director of CREAT, said here on Sunday at a workshop on the Act
organised by the Trade Union Co-Ordination Centre (TUCC). Addressing the participants, Mr. Muralidhar
said: “Labour unions should make proper use of the Act to avail themselves of better services. If the Act is
not used, it will die.” The State and Union Governments have granted several social security schemes
such as the ESI and gratuity to the employees. Workers can get several benefits under the Labour Law,
Workman Compensation Act and so on, and labour unions should also use RTI Act as a tool to know their
rights and the benefits they are eligible to.” Mr. Muralidhar interacted with the participants about the
implementation of RTI Act, application procedures, steps to be taken if authorities deny information and
how to deal with stonewalling bureaucrats. He also spoke about safety at factories, Workmen
Compensation Act, Labour Law, sexual harassment at workplaces and other issues. Anganwadi workers
got their doubts cleared about the Integrated Child Development Scheme, Appellate Authority and other
issues. Earlier, the Commissioner of Karnataka Information Commission J.S. Virupakshaiah inaugurated
the workshop. (The Hindu 15/6/09)

RTI hearing through videoconferencing (1)
KANNUR: The Central Information Commission has issued notice to the Central Public Information
Officer and the Appellate Authority at the President’s Secretariat in the Rashtrapati Bhavan for a hearing
through videoconferencing in an appeal petition filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. T. Asaf Ali,
president, People’s Council of Civil Rights, has filed the petition. The officer and the authority had refused
him copies of communications between the then President, K.R. Narayanan, and the then Prime Minister,
A.B. Vajpayee, in March 2002 on the Gujarat carnage and copies of letters handed over by the Left
parties to the President expressing their support to the United Progressive Alliance government in 2004.
Mr. Ali had sought these under the Right to Information Act. The officer and the authority should appear
for the videoconferencing at the commission’s office in New Delhi at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Mr. Ali will
join them from the National Informatics Centre wing at the District Collectorate here. His request on the
carnage was rejected on the ground that the Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry instituted by the
Gujarat government had sought the same correspondence. The President’s Secretariat said the
documents sought were exempted from disclosure under Section 8(e) and 8(i) of the Act. The plea for the
copies of the letters was dismissed on the ground that these letters had been given under a fiduciary
relationship between the authors of the letter and the President and therefore, exempted from disclosure
under Section 8(e). Mr. Ali, in his appeal, said that even if there was any element of fiduciary relationship
between the Prime Minister and the President on the communication between them or between the
President and the authors of the letters, the larger public interest would warrant disclosure of the
correspondence or communications between them.(The Hindu 15/6/09)

PIO directed to allow RTI applicant to inspect record (1)
NEW DELHI: The First Appellate Authority of the Regional Director of Education (East) of the Delhi
Government has directed the Public Information Officer of the Deputy Director of Education of the area to
allow a Right to Information Act applicant to read the record and make available documents to him about
the number of teachers who are eligible for the financial up-gradation under the Assured Career
Promotion Scheme but were not given its benefits. The Appellate Authority directed the Information
Officer to allow the applicant, Mohan Singh, to inspect the record and obtain copies of documents
available within 30 days. It further directed that his applications be transferred to the authorities where
part of information was available within 15 days. In his queries, Mr. Singh had asked whether the
personal file of a teacher at a government school at Kalyanvas in East Delhi maintained by the
Directorate had been forwarded to the Principal of the school and whether any action was initiated in
respect of wrong fixation of salary of the teacher. The teacher along with her other colleagues was a
beneficiary under the scheme but all of them failed to avail of the benefits as the Principal of the school
kept orders of the Directorate secret from the beneficiary teachers, the applicant said. He alleged that the
Public Information Officer had given misleading and incomplete replies to his queries. He further accused
the Information Officer of providing him photocopies of only select portions of the notings on the file. He
sought complete replies to his queries in his appeals before the Appellate Authority. The Appellate
Authority also directed the Public Information Officer to return the money if he had charged from the
applicant in excess of the fixed charge for providing him photocopies of the documents sought. (The
Hindu 15/6/09)

RTI Act comes to the rescue of pensioners (1)
LUCKNOW: The RTI Act is proving to be of great help to aggrieved pensioners. State Information
Commission (SIC) has heard at least three such cases last week. The pensioners had complained that
government departments they were drawing pension from have not responded to their RTI query. The
pensioners had sought reply on why their pension was not getting credited to them. One of the
complainants, 85 years old, Mankeshari Devi had sent an RTI application to basic shiksha adhikari (BSA)
of Azamgarh but her application was not responded to. She had then filed her complaint with SIC.
However, when her case was taken up for hearing on June 8, commission was told that her pension has
been credited. She has not received the pension amount for four months. However, commission refused
to take a lenient view of the logic put forth by the BSA that department did not have enough funds during
the period. The commission has fixed next date of hearing for July 13 into the case. Another case heard
on June 8 pertained to Subhash Chandra Arora, retired reader from IT College. The use of RTI Act
helped him get his pension but he has complained that he was given no interest on delayed pension
amount. Commission took strong note of the fact that his complaint was not heard by the first appeals
authority. The commission has ordered that first appeals authority at chief secretary's office should listen
to the complaint filed by Arora and intimate commission about that before July 13, the next date of
hearing. The third matter heard on the same date concerned a complainant from Shravasti, who was a
beneficiary under pension scheme for physically disabled people. The man complained that his pension
has been abruptly stopped and when he inquired about it using the RTI Act he was denied information
about that. Gyanendra Sharma, chief information commissioner (acting), UPSIC, has ordered the DM to
provide account of complainant's pension. (Times of India 15/6/09)

He spoke for farmers (1)
AHMEDABAD: His RTI application was responsible for Gujarat government finally succumbing to the fact
that there were farmers suicides in Gujarat and that they were happening in large numbers. For the first
time, the state government admitted that they were because of crop failure, debt and family nourishment
issues. Bharat Jhala, 48, through his RTI application had painstakingly followed each and every case of
farmers' suicides in the state for the last two years and even forced the government to put it on records
the reason for the suicides. The issue proved to be quite embarrassing for the state government when the
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) quoted Jhala's RTI and sought a detailed explanation from
the state government. "I was taken aback when the state agriculture minister told the assembly in 2007
that there were just 148 suicides. I am a farmer myself, I deal with their issues and I knew that most
suicides were recorded as accidental death cases by police and in many cases they were never recording
them. I wanted to bring this discrepancy out," says, Jhala who recently joined an NGO Manav Darpan.
Jhala's application was forwarded to each and every taluka police station and revealed that there were
498 farmer suicides till August 2007 and finally the numbers grew to 598 in January this year. "In fact
when the state government reported to the NHRC the state reported 2,479 suicides in villages few
months ago. I have filed another RTI application to know the details of the state government reply," adds
Jhala. Another issue close to Jhala is National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), "My RTI
revealed that many in Surendranagar had job cards under NREGS, but there were no jobs despite the
payment being released. Recently, the state government sanctioned Rs 20 lakh worth of civil works and
jobs were assigned to the list provided by my RTI." Another landmark RTI that Jhala had filed was on the
issue 2005 flood relief package to Surendranagar district farmers where Jhala belongs. "My RTI
application was forwarded to every village in Surendranagar and found that against the allotment of Rs
15,000 per hectare flood compensation the collector had dispersed at the rate of Rs 900 to Rs 3,300. The
state government had immediately ordered to release the rest of the funds to the affected farmers."
Today, Jhala is after Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC), "I had seen advertisements
inviting contractors for cleaning state transport buses. Despite this I never see any of the buses clean."
(Times of India 16/6/09)

Under CIC threat, Govt clarifies: file notings available under RTI (1)
New Delhi: Under pressure from the Central Information Commission (CIC), the Government on Tuesday
decided to make available file notings of government decisions—except those taken by the 18 exempted
organizations—under the Right to Information Act (RTI). A government official said the “clarification” had
been approved by the Prime Minister following the CIC’s outburst on June 2. The CIC had issued notice
to two officers of the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), saying they would be prosecuted for
not following its orders. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah told the officials to appear
on June 17 to explain why DoPT continued to claim on its website that file notings were not part of the
information that could be disclosed even after the CIC ruling that file notings were not exempt from
disclosure. Habibullah had warned that they could be punished under Section 166 of the Indian Penal
Code (“public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person”) with imprisonment up to
one year. They were also liable to the maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 prescribed under Section 19(7) of
the RTI Act. However, he deferred the hearing to July 2. While giving the definition of information under
the RTI, the DoPT website said that the expression “does not include file notings” even though the Law
Ministry and the Supreme Court have long accepted the CIC’s ruling that file notings were not exempt
from disclosure. (Indian Express 24/6/09)

RTI petitioner uncovers fund misuse (1)
BONGAIGAON, June 24 – Government departments and officials in Bongaigaon district are not
responding properly to the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 and are busy hushing up proofs of
corruption adopting every possible means under political patronage. Alleged misappropriation of PMGY
and SGRY fund in Srijangram, Manikpur and Boitamari development blocks in Bongaigaon is a fit
instance. Ainul Haque, resident of Nayapara, Abhayapuri under North Salmara sub- division of
Bongaigaon district, is a petitioner of RTI. He sought detailed information on allotted houses to BPL
families under PMGY and SGRY in the year 2002- 2005 in Srijangram, Manikpur and Boitamari
development blocks. Haque applied on March 4 in Manikpur, on March 10 in Srijangram and on May 5 in
Boitamari block for the information. Accordingly, Project Director (PD) BC Hazarika of Bongaigaon, DRDA
called Haque to his office for hearing on May 5. However, in the hearing the PD could not produce
required documents on behalf of Block Development Officers (BDOs) before Haque. Following this, the
PD fixed June 16 as date for second hearing. On June 16 in the PD office in presence of three BDOs—
Dibendu Barman(Srijangram), Tushar Kanti Das (Boitamari) and Dhruba Das (Manikpur) – Hazarika(PD)
furnished documents to Haque without satisfying other related queries. Likewise, the DRDA authority
made available only names of beneficiaries and vouchers of cash paid to beneficiaries to the petitioner
Ainul Haque in the second hearing. The DRDA authority in the second hearing did not produce copies of
BPL cards, caste certificates, utilisation certificates and Gram Sabha approved lists of beneficiaries,
alleged Haque. It is to be mentioned that before implementing the PMGY and SGRY in rural areas
complete lists of beneficiaries with their BPL card number, proper address, caste certificate copies,
photographs, cash vouchers, list of housing material lists and utilisation certificate are required basically.
However, not a single document of this sort is available with the BDOs of these blocks. Besides, the lists
of beneficiaries supplied to the petitioner are incomplete. On the other hand, the department has given
some unwanted copies of documents without going through the application mindfully. Hence, petitioner
has to spend extra money against those useless papers. In these cases, BDOs and DRDA department
have utterly violated guidelines of the schemes. Now the petitioner has decided to approach the
Information Commissioner for final reply. Following this move, he will knock the door of court to punish the
fraudulent officers of DRDA, Haque said. Assam Tribune 25/6/09)

 Eight custodial deaths in State since 2007 (1)
BHUBANESWAR: As many as eight persons died while they were in police custody in Orissa since 2007
and in most of the case police department attributed deaths to suicidal attempts by accused. While four
custodial deaths were reported in the year 2008, in the previous year there were three such cases. In the
current year, only one custodial death came to the light. According to information obtained under Right To
Information, accused in police custody have died under strange circumstances. While one suspected
criminal set himself on fire, another died by jumping into a well. In Kalimela police station under
Malkanagiri police station, one accused was said to be caught by fire and subsequently he died. It is yet a
mystery as to how Subhendu Kirtania (20-year-old boy) who was arrested by police on charges of
dacoity, got match box and inflammable substance to set himself on fire. In 2008, one accused allegedly
ran away and jumped into a well while he was being checked by doctor in Nabarangpur district. In a
separate case in Deogarh district, a person who was alleged to have Maoist link, reportedly fell into a big
trench and received multiple injury. Subsequently, he died. According to information, State Human Rights
Commission (SHRC) had inquired into one custodial death case in Sundargarh district after Chief Minister
Naveen Patnaik sent a request to the human rights body. A person reportedly hanged himself from ceiling
of a toilet in Brahmanitarang police Station. He died mysteriously. SHRC since has submitted its report,
but action has not been taken yet. “Above history of custodial deaths showed not in a single case police
has been found responsible for deaths. In most of the cases, suicidal tendency of accused have been
highlighted prominently,” said city-based human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo, who was the RTI
applicant. Mr. Kanungo said lack of accountability on part of police was leading to custodial deaths and
voices of relatives of victims were lost somewhere under pressure from powerful wing of the
administration. (The Hindu 27/6/09)

RTI to rescue of Mediclaim policy holders awaiting refund (1)
MUMBAI: The Right To Information Act has come to the help of thousands of Mediclaim policy holders
who have been struggling to get refunds for the excess premium they have paid. The Central Information
Commission (CIC), in a landmark order, has directed New India Assurance Company Ltd to make public
the details of the total number of policy holders who are still to get a refund for the excess premium
charged. The CIC has asked the firm to provide the information on the company’s website and send a
copy of the information to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority. The CIC’s order came after
RTI applicant Anant M Nandu filed a query seeking details on the number of Mediclaim policy holders
charged excess premium even after the quantum of premium was reduced. Grant Road resident Nandu
had filed an RTI query last year after he learnt that the company was charging an extra premium during
the renewal of his policy. “I had earlier sent them a letter asking for a refund, but they never responded.
That is when I filed the RTI query,’’ Nandu said. The insurance company replied that its officials had
encountered some systems problems during the conversion of the health-plus-medical expenses policy to
Mediclaim 2007 and so it could neither give the cumulative bonus nor charge the revised premium rates
during the renewal process. New India also refunded Rs 1,688 that was due to Nandu because of the
excess premium it had charged. “I was happy to receive my refund but was also shocked to know that
there were thousands like me and that the company had not bothered to give them their refunds,’’ he
said. Nandu, a volunteer of Tarun Mitra Mandal, an NGO providing free RTI guidance to citizens, then
filed another query seeking details of the number of people whose refunds had been held back by the
company. Both the Public Information Officer (PIO) and the first appellate authority of the insurance firm
rejected the query. The information was too voluminous and data had to be collected from all centres and
branch offices, they said. Nandu argued that as a public sector insurance company, New India Assurance
was obliged to ensure that the excess premium received from policy holders was refunded. “The total
amount of such premium will run into several hundreds of crores of rupees,’’ Nandu pointed out. Central
Information Commissioner A N Tiwari, while passing the order, said information could not be withheld
even if it was detailed and voluminous. “The appellant has rightly demanded to know what action the
respondents have taken to ensure that policy holders’ interests are protected and that the excess
payments made by them are not lost,’’ Tiwari said. (Times of India 28/6/09)

Commissioner warns staff to act on RTI applications (1)
LUDHIANA: In order to streamline the system of providing information under the Right To Information
(RTI) Act, the municipal corporation (MC) commissioner had asked all public Information officers (PIOs)
of the department to disburse relevant information sought under the Act within a week’s time. He also
asked the officers of the building branch to deal strictly with illegal buildings. Addressing a meeting of
PIOs, commissioner GS Ghuman said that he had been getting complaints regarding poor performance
of the RTI department due to which he has initiated the move. He Ghuman said if he got any further
complaints regarding denial of information or supply of irrelevant information then he would take stern
action against officers responsible for it. He also asked PIOs that he would take review meetings on the
second and last Tuesday of very month. Presiding over the meeting of the building branch, Ghuman
clearly said that construction of illegal buildings was in the knowledge of the state government as the
issue had been highlighted enough by media, therefore they should put in extra efforts to deal with the
problem. He said due to construction of illegal buildings, the state exchequer and the MC was suffering
huge losses, which would not be tolerated. Ghuman said in the coming days the state government would
start a drive against all illegal buildings and the principal secretary, director, chief vigilance officer and the
chief town planner of the local bodies department at any stage could hold random checking of illegal
buildings in the city. Giving strict warning to all officers of the branch, Ghuman said though the main
responsibility would be of the commissioner and senior town planner, lower officers would not be able to
escape their responsibility. He once again directed all the officers of the building branch to check all the
buildings of the city and issue challans and notices to owners of illegal buildings. He even clearly said that
if any corrupt nexus of the building branch officers with the contractors or politicians come in their
knowledge, strict action would be initiated against the officers involved in it. (Times of India 1/7/09)

RTI exposes Nari Niketan mismanagement (1)
CHANDIGARH: Currently mired in controversy over the alleged rape of an inmate, Nari Niketan in Sector
26 could find itself on sticky wicket with some worrisome facts being exposed in response to an RTI
query. On May 25, RTI activist RK Garg had posed 14 questions regarding the working of the institute
through an RTI application. He was handed over a 155-page reply by the social welfare department on
June 23. According to the document, Nari Niketan officials had not conducted the IQ test of the rape
victim since April 1. She had been staying there for three years. Only six inmates were asked to take the
test, and this did not include the mentally challenged 19-year-old who was allegedly violated. Another
discrepancy relating to the number of persons working at the Sector-26 centre was also highlighted in the
reply. The data provided did not match the information posted on UT administration’s official website. A
copy of visitor’s register maintained at Nari Niketan since April 1, 2008 also showed the apparent
negligence of its staff in maintaining it. For instance, while a woman named Anuradha had taken five
children with her on December 26, 2008 to celebrate Diwali, promising to send them back within three
days, the diary failed to mention anything about their return. There are more instances where the register
does not include such entries. Besides this, two inmates named Girija and Champa reportedly shifted to
home for mentally unfit - Aashreya - in Sector 46 on February 24. However, the attendance register did
not have their names for that entire month. Another significant fact highlighted by the reply was that from
April 1, 2008 UT home secretary Ram Niwas, who is the secretary of UT social welfare department that
heads Nari Niketan, visited the institute only twice - one September 27, 2008 and April 20, 2009. Piqued
by the alleged contradictory information provided by the CPIO, Garg would now file an appeal with
Central Information Commission at New Delhi. After a mentally challenged inmate of the shelter was
found pregnant in May, a security guard, Bhupinder Singh, was held for allegedly raping her. This was
followed by more arrests, including that of an attendant and a nurse. Though a final decision is pending in
the shocking case, RTI application reveals some glaring loopholes in the functioning of Nari Niketan that
could have allowed some wily individuals some elbow room. (Times of India 1/7/09)

Dhaka's information rights law comes into force (1)
Dhaka, July 01, 2009: Bangladesh's Right to Information Act 2009 came into effect Wednesday, but
officials who would enable information to be delivered are yet to be appointed. Although the act,
excepting three of its provisions, was enforced with retrospective effect from April 20, 2008, no
information delivery unit has yet been set up in any government office, New Age newspaper said
Wednesday. The information commission is yet to be formed and no set of rules for the effective
enforcement of the act has yet been framed in accordance with its provisions. "We have asked the
establishment ministry to appoint officials and employees for the three-member information commission
which will be formed within a day or two," acting information secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury
said. It was mandatory for the authorities concerned to appoint a officer for the "information delivery unit"
in each government office within 60 days of the enactment of the act, according to the law enacted April
6. The law stipulates formation of a three-member information commission within a maximum period of 90
days after enactment of the act. It keeps out if its purview intelligence agencies including the National
Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, defence intelligence units and the
Criminal Investigation Department of the police. If any official refuses to provide information, individuals
can file appeals with the information commission. The official concerned, if found guilty, may be penalised
from 50 Taka for every day of delay, but the total sum shall not exceed 5,000 Taka ($83). (Hindustan
Times 2/7/09)

Dead man comes alive using RTI (1)
AHMEDABAD: Sulochna Shah, 70, could not believe her eyes when a letter from the Records of Rights
(RoR) of the revenue department in July 2006 declared her a widow and that Champaklal, her husband,
had four more sons and daughters other than her six children! But here was her husband , who was alive
and sitting beside her and pleading that all that the four new "stepchildren" in the revenue department
letter did not exist. Champaklal, like many others, was caught in the web of lies spun in the revenue
records as part of a major land scam masterminded by land sharks in the state. It's one of the ways land
sharks in Ahmedabad, conniving with village talatis, buy huge tracts of agricultural land without
possessing legal farmers certificates. Without wasting any time Champaklal filed an RTI application to
know exactly how it happened. After a lot of resistance the revenue department parted with the records. It
was an eyeopener for the deputy collector of Viramgam. A local talati of Dethraj taluka, in Vasna Saniyar
village helped miscreants sharing the same 'Champaklal' surname, get their names included as inheritors
in revenue records of Shah. These miscreants were then provided farmer's certificate. The deputy
collector noticed that the talati had used the same modus operandi in records of other people, alerted the
district development officer (DDO) of the scam in 2007 and requested an enquiry. The matter is hushed
up and the DDO is yet to react to the letter. "People owning land or any sort of property should file RTI to
ensure that their records are straight--almost every year. This would ensure that there is no meddling in
the revenue records. Such cases happen in the case of large land owners. These miscreants just need a
farmer's certificate to start with, then buy agriculture land in surrounding areas. After buying huge tracts
they will forge a "power of attorney" document and enter their names as inheritors and even sell of your
land," says Champaklal. The revenue department is yet to institute an inquiry into the incident after
Shah's RTI application. The department's reluctance is plausible as land holdings of all those who are
found possessing farmer's certificates by making such false entries would be considered null and void
under section 84 (c) of the Tenancy Act, the land would be seized by the government or returned to the
real owner. On July 26, 2006 Sulochna Shah, Champaklal's wife, receives a letter from revenue dept
declaring her a widow Champaklal files RTI to find out about the entries made in the revenue records for
Dethraj taluka The RTI also reveals similar cases in the revenue records Deputy collector of Viramgam
pranth requests the district development officer (DDO) to initiate an enquiry into the scam. (Times of
India 2/7/09)

RTI to cover deemed universities, rules CIC (1)
MUMBAI: In a significant judgment, the Central Information Commission has ruled that deemed
universities will have to come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. The CIC’s ruling will thrust
transparency on managements of the varsities. From their accounting books to the faculty they hire, from
the manner in which they admit students to the fees they charge, everything will now have to be placed in
the public domain. Academics say that the judgment is likely to usher in a sense of relief and will bring
much-needed transparency in the working of deemed universities. The CIC ruling came in the case of
Shaily Bhashnajla, a faculty of Delhi’s Western International University (WIU), who had sought information
on recruitment and promotion rules. However, WIU being a deemed university refused to part with
information, stating that it was not a public authority. When the matter came up in the CIC, Shailesh
Gandhi, information commissioner, observed, ‘‘Deemed universities are declared to be so by notification
in the official gazette by the central government. If this is the case, then a deemed university may come
within the definition of ‘public authority’. (Times of India 3/7/09)

Centre’s order will ‘clip the wings of RTI institutions’ (1)
KOCHI: A Central government directive that the information commissions set up under the Right to
Information Act (RTI) should take decisions on complaints and appeals from the public collectively, and
not individually, has RTI activists up in arms. RTI activists around the country have strongly objected to
the directive and launched an Internet campaign to get it rescinded. They fear the directive will further
weaken the institution of RTI and lead to the piling up of complaints and appeals before the commissions,
thus causing the degeneration of the institution. Last month, the Department of Personnel and Training in
the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions wrote to the Central Information
Commission saying that the CIC and the State Information Commissions were not supposed to take
decisions by constituting Benches of individual commissioners, but as a single body. It noted that the
Department of Legal Affairs, which it consulted, had opined that ‘Section 12(4)of the RTI Act does not
empower the Chief Information Commissioner to constitute the Benches.’ “In view of this legal position, it
is advised that decisions on the complaints and appeals should be taken by the Central Information
Commission as defined in Section 2(b) of the RTI Act 2005, and not by the Benches of the commission.”
RTI activists dub the directive as “laughable, impractical and issued without first having done any field
work.” They point out that all the information commissions in the country are flooded with complaints and
appeals and that the commissions, even with the current functioning of Benches, are struggling to deal
with them. Each of the commissions in the States has between three to ten commissioners besides a
chief information commissioner. In Kerala, for instance, there are three commissioners and a chief
commissioner. They hear complaints individually (as four separate ‘Benches’) in the same way as High
Court judges function. If the new directive is implemented, the three commissioners and the chief
commissioner will have to sit together and take decisions jointly. This will, in the first place, mean that only
one fourth of the number of complaints currently heard will be taken up for hearing. This will mean that
the effectiveness of the commission is reduced to one-fourth. Secondly, if any of the commissioner is
absent or on leave on a single day, the commission will not be able to hear complaints and take
decisions. RTI activists say that the directive was based on a narrow interpretation of the Section 2(b) of
the RTI Act. They urge that until an amendment to the Act giving the CICs the power to constitute
benches is made, the status quo should be continued. Otherwise, they warn, the institution of information
commissions will be drastically crippled. (The Hindu 3/7/09)

Education directorate fined under RTI (1)
Imphal, July 10 2009: Cheif Commissioner of Manipur Information Commission (MIC), RK Angousana
today ordered the director of education schools to pay Rs 11000/ as compensation to Thounaojam
Raseshwar of Top Khongnangkhong, Imphal East on or before July 31, 2009 for failure to provide
required information sought by she. A statement of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) issued by its
director, Meihoubam Rakesh stated that Raseshwar submitted an application under the Right to
Information Act, 2005 on July 07, 2008 last to the State Public Information Officer (SPIO), Secretariat:
Education (S) Department seeking certain information relating to pay revision of his deceased wife
namely K Tejbati Devi, who was a regular head mistress of Top Khongnangkhong Primary School.
However, the concerned SPIO failed to provide the required information. Thereafter, Raseswar lodged a
complaint to the Manipur Information Commission against the SPIO for non-furnishing the required
information. Consequently, the MIC had directed the SPIO to furnish the required information within
seven days which the SPIO failed miserably said the statement. The Chief Information Commissioner of
MIC, RK Anousana has also issued an order on June 11 last to the Deputy Commissioner, Imphal East to
compensate Pangabam Jiteshwari of Khongman Zone V with an amount of Rs 4000/- said a statement of
Macha Leima RTI Apunba Nupi Lup signed by its Coordinator N Gunileima. Jiteshwari submitted an
application under the RTI Act on November 10, 2008 last to the SPIO/Deputy Commissioner Imphal East
requesting him to provide her the list of beneficiaries, basis of their selection and their receipt of the
amount sanctioned go them under the Indira Awaj Yojna in the Khongman Gram Panchayat. The
Pradhan of the said gram panchayat gave her a false and misleading information to which Jiteshwari filed
a complaint case with the MIC on January 30, 2009 last and in response the directives from the
Information Commission, the SPIO provided information, which was not only piecemeal but also
contradictory to the information provided by the Pradhan said the statement. (e-Pao 10/7/09)

'Government and judiciary are threats to RTI Act' (1)
PUNE: Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on Saturday said the government and the
judicial system are threats to the Right to Information Act (RTI). Gandhi urged the common people to
unite and save the Act which guards their sovereignty and ensures that participatory democracy prevails.
He was delivering the second Prakash Kardaley memorial lecture, 2009, on Bad governance hinders
RTI'. "The government, which can amend the law and make the RTI Act weak, is a threat to the Act, as is
the judicial system where in the garb of writs, appeals are filed frequently and stays are obtained on
decisions, which then get stuck in the legal web. Also, the process to appoint information commissioners
should be impartial and RTI activists, as opposed to retired bureaucrats, should be appointed as
commissioners".He said the RTI Act was a promise of participatory democracy for all citizens. It is a tool
in the hands of the citizens which safeguards their interests and brings to light discrepancies. "The
system of governance is not proper. We are talking of e-governance and government employees cannot
even operate computers. In the name of public private partnerships, frauds are taking place. The police
are virtually under orders not to register crimes, so that the total number of crimes looks less on the
records." He urged citizens to engage bureaucrats and politicians in dialogues and seek clarifications
from them. "We need to protect the RTI Act as it is the only way to keep an individual's sovereignty
intact." Senior journalist Arun Tikekar spoke on Editor, as citizen's journalist' as he elaborated the role of
newspapers and editors in activism. RTI activist Vivek Velankar proposed a vote of thanks. (Times of
India 12/7/09)

RTI activists launch ‘postcard’ campaign (1)
NALGONDA: The Samachara Hakku Sadhana Samithi district unit has launched a ‘postcard’ campaign
here on Monday urging the government to take up a publicity campaign at the village level to effectively
highlight the Right to Information Act (RTI) The activists of the samithi headed by its district president
Medi Narsimha and vice-president Bhimarjun Reddy launched the postcard campaign at the Clock Tower
centre in the evening. People from various walks of life, including students, signed the postcards pledging
their support to the campaign. Speaking on the occasion, Narsimha deplored that the government had
failed to publicise the RTI in rural areas since the enactment of the legislation in 2005. In the absence of
proper awareness about the crucial Act in the rural areas, the very objective of it is being defeated, he
lamented and demanded that the government should undertake a campaign to give wide publicity to the
Act in the rural areas to enable the rural masses make use of the historical legislation. “We will send the
postcards to the Chief Justice of High Court, the Governor and the MLAs urging them to intervene and
ensure implementation of a publicity campaign by the government to popularise the Act in the rural
areas,” he said. (The Hindu 14/7/09)

RTI not bureaucrats’ preserve, says report (1)
NEW DELHI: A recent report on the Right to Information Act has busted the myth that the Act was used
mainly by government employees interested in accessing information relating to their careers. The report,
‘The People’s RTI Assessment-2008,’ said only 15 per cent of the urban applicants and 6 per cent of the
rural applicants were government employees. It also dispelled the notion that only the educated better-off
accessed the Act: almost 60 per cent of the rural applicants and 40 per cent of the urban applicants were
not even graduates. Further, 30 per cent of the rural applicants and 15 per cent of the urban applicants
were from below the poverty line families. However, the RTI users were overwhelmingly men. Brought out
jointly by the Right to Information Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and the National Campaign for
People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), the report was based on interviews with 35,000 people in villages,
towns and cities across 10 States. The two RTI groups filed 800 applications and studied data relating to
another 25,000. The report found that four lakh villagers and 16 lakh urban residents used the Act in the
first two-and-half years since its enactment. Forty per cent of the rural respondents and 15 per cent of the
urban respondents to the survey said they were harassed and threatened by officials. Many said they
were discouraged by Public Information Officers (PIO) from filing applications. Sixty per cent reported
success with getting information. Information Commissions rarely invoked the penalty clause to punish
errant PIOs. Penalties were imposed in only 284 of the roughly 20,000 cases, in which supply of
information was delayed. The report concluded that the desire for information was huge and widespread.
About 65 per cent of those surveyed, including those who had not heard of the Act, saw information as a
vital tool and said it would help to solve basic problems. Keeping this in mind, the report cautioned
against the move (by the Department of Personnel and Training) to disallow single-bench hearings of
applications. If full-bench hearings were made mandatory, they would adversely affect the functioning of
those Information Commissions, including the Central Information Commission, which allowed hearings
by single and multiple benches to ensure speedy disposal of cases, the report said. (The Hindu 17/7/09)

'40% rural info seekers complain of harassment' (1)
NEW DELHI: Over 40% of rural respondents of a major RTI survey said they had faced harassment and
threats from officials while filing an application to obtain information. Nearly 30% of respondents from
villages said Public Information Officers had discouraged them from filing the application. About 50% of
the rural PIOs did not have a copy of the RTI Act readily available with them. The survey brings out the
great rural-urban divide in the implementation of the RTI Act. Only 15% of the urban respondents cited
harassment and lack of co-operation from officials. And just 5% of urban PIOs who were interviewed did
not have a copy of the RTI Act available with them. These findings emerged in a survey conducted across
10 states, and NCR Delhi, in 2008. The states were Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka,
Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Orissa, Rajasthan, UP and West Bengal. Over 35,000 people were
interviewed; 1,027 public authorities' offices were inspected in rural as well as urban areas. The survey
was conducted by RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and National Campaign For People's
Right to Information (NCPRI). More than four years after Parliament passed the RTI Act in June 2005, the
road to accessing information remains difficult. From huge delays in getting replies and receiving
incomplete answers to difficulties in filing appeals — the information seeker is discouraged at every step.
But the other side of the story is equally revealing. The report says that "almost all the information
commissions responding complained about the inadequate financial and infrastructural support provided
by the government." About 85% felt the staff sanctioned to them was inadequate. Nearly 60% of the
commissions did not have what they considered adequate infrastructure. Over 30% of the rural PIOs
admitted they did not know the act's provisions. On the other hand, all urban PIOs claimed they knew the
RTI Act well. Interestingly, respondents from both rural as well as urban areas had a common suggestion
to improve the functioning of the act. About 30% respondents from rural areas and 35% from urban areas
wanted people's awareness of the act to be enhanced. (Times of India 18/7/09)

‘Awareness regarding RTI Act very high in State’ (1)
Coimbatore: The Right to Information Act aimed at ensuring transparency in administration is a second
independence ensured to the people, observed State Information Commissioner R. Perumalsamy on
Friday. He was talking to reporters after reviewing the enquiries and replies given to appeal petitions at
Coimbatore. He also held a hearing with the applicants and officials from the department concerned in
terms of the appeal petitions pending with the Commission. Mr. Perumalsamy said that Tamil Nadu
bagged the first place in terms of appeal petitions and said that 30 petitions from five districts such as
Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Salem and Nilgiris were taken up for hearing. Regarding some of them,
departments had already responded. He said that awareness regarding Right to Information Act was very
high in the State. Ever since the introduction of the RTI Act, a total of 1,11,000 applications had come to
the State Information Commission of which orders had been issued on 82,328. Enquiries were over and
preparation of response was underway in respect of 8,341 applications. In cases where officials failed to
respond or give proper replies, show cause notices had been served on 1,200 officials. Even after serving
of show cause notices wherein officials had failed to respond, the State Information Commission had
levied a penalty of Rs. 25,000 each on 40 officials so far. Mr. Perumalsamy also pointed out instances of
RTI applications being misused for asking irrelevant questions. He also said that in such cases
applications were being returned to the applicants. (The Hindu 18/7/09)

‘Judiciary, govt trying to kill Info Act’ (1)
New Delhi, July 20, 2009: The government and judiciary pose a serious threat to the Right to Information.
If the citizens do not take effective steps to protect this right, it could be destroyed, a Central Information
Commissioner has warned, in a rare outburst. The widely prevalent dangerous trend of resistance to
transparency in their functioning by “those in power” will gradually kill the RTI Act, Central Information
Commissioner (CIC), Shailesh Gandhi (62) told Hindustan Times. “The governments of all the states,
irrespective of which party they belong to, follow a pattern of misgovernance and therefore are opposed
to transparency,” Gandhi said. Government departments were rushing to courts to get stay orders against
the decisions of information commissions to provide information to the common man. Questioning the
central and state governments commitment to the act, Gandhi, a graduate from IIT Bombay said: “There
is no transparency in the appointment of information commissioners. No norms are being followed, and
information commissions have been turned into parking lots for favorites of the government.” No training
was being provided to newly appointed information commissioners, either at the centre or in state
commissions, nor is there any concern for their resources, he said. Gandhi, the first RTI activist in the
country to have been appointed an information commissioner last year, expressed surprise at the silence
of information commissions across the country on the prevailing situation. On the interference by courts in
some decisions of the CIC, including the declaration of judges assets, Gandhi said: “Common man has
already given up hope of getting justice from courts, now if they continue to deny information, I am sorry
slow poison is being administered to the right to know.” In the RTI Act, there is no provision for an appeal
against the order of the CIC. But the courts are entertaining these appeals in the garbs of writ petitions
saying nobody can be denied the right to file a writ, “some restraint should be exercised,” he said.
(Hindustan Times 20/7/09)

Missing files no ground to reject RTI plea (1)
NEW DELHI: Refusal to provide information under the Right to Information Act citing missing files can
now evoke punishment. The Central information Commission (CIC) has reprimanded the Delhi
government's department of women and children for allowing a critical file linked to the purchase scam to
go missing and ordered that the appellant seeking the file as part of a reply to an RTI be compensated
with Rs 10,000. The CIC also directed that appellant Raj Mangal Prasad be compensated before August
31, failing which a penal interest of 12% will be applicable. The CIC noted that the appellant had asked
for the status of action taken by the department in the matter of the purchase scam which involved
essential items bought for inmates of state run homes. The government replied and indicated the action
taken based on available records. "In so far as the second query for allowing inspection of the file
concerned, the government expressed its inability on the ground that the file in question was missing,
which reflects mismanagement in maintenance of records. The alleged offenders and officials of the
department thus attempted to escape the penal action against them. It is the department of women and
child development which is held responsible for suppression of facts and inefficient management of
records," the CIC order stated. In his observations, central information commissioner professor M M
Ansari said: "A major objective of the RTI is to contain corruption through promotion of transparency in
functioning of public authorities. In the instant case a major corruption of the purchases scam has been
exposed and at least two officials of the respondent (department of women and child) have been
arrested. It is probable that many more officials of the department could be associated with the matter."
Ansari added that the appellant was deprived of the opportunity to access the information contained in the
file to expose the malpractices in the purchases scam. "The unsuccessful efforts made by the department
to search and trace the file early show that the appellant's right to seek information has not been duly
honoured in the letter and spirit of the Act, for which he needs to be compensated under section 19 (8)(b)
of the Act for all kinds of losses and detriment suffered by him," the order added. (Times of India 21/7/09)

‘Not many are aware of RTI programmes’ (1)
GUNTUR: The RTI Act mentions the responsibility of governments to develop and organise awareness
programmes on the RTI Act at least to the disadvantaged sections of the society. However, a study done
by the Price Water Coopers (June 2009) on behalf of the Government, established that only 13 per cent
of the rural population and 35 per cent of urban population were aware of the RTI Act, said P.C. Saibabu
District Chairman, United Forum on RTI Campaign. About 12 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men
were aware of the Act. The government had to allot more funds and organise many awareness
campaigns on the RTI. This job was now being done by newspapers and civil society organisations. Right
to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen, who request for government information.
The Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
provide an RTI Portal Gateway for the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first
Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. It also provides access to RTI related information / disclosures published
on the web by various Public Authorities under the Government of India as well as the State
Governments. If the citizens denied the access to information, they could file a complaint or appeal before
the Central Information Commission online through www.rti.india.gov.in, he added. (The Hindu 21/7/09)

Judiciary, Govt killing RTI Act: Panel member (1)
New Delhi, July 23, 2009: The government and judiciary pose a serious threat to the Right to Information
(RTI), and if citizens do not step in, it faces the danger of being destroyed, a Central Information
Commissioner (CIC)has warned. The widely prevalent and dangerous trend of resistance to transparency
in their functioning by “those in power” will gradually kill the RTI Act, CIC, Shailesh Gandhi (62), said in a
rare outburst while talking to Hindustan Times. Governments across the country, irrespective of which
party they belong to, follow a pattern of misgovernance and are opposed to transparency, he said. “The
judiciary has been granting stays on the orders of the information watchdog to provide information under
the RTI Act, this will eventually kill it,” Gandhi said. Government departments were rushing to courts to get
stay orders against the decisions of information commissions to provide information to common man.
“Delays in courts in finally deciding such matters will destroy the RTI Act,” he said. Questioning the Union
and state governments commitment to the RTI, Gandhi said there was no transparency in the
appointment of information commissioners. “No norms are being followed, and information commissions
have been turned into parking lots for favourites of the government of the day.” No training was being
given to new information commissioners, either at the Centre or in the states, nor was there any concern
for resources, he said. Gandhi, the first RTI activist in the country to be appointed an information
commissioner last year, said, “The four year-old law (RTI) to provide information to common man is under
threat of being weakened by the government mindset of amending it for its convenience.” Expressing
surprise at the silence of information commissions, Gandhi, a graduate of Indian Institute of Technology
(IIT), Bombay, said :“Tragedy is that the information commissions are silent.” On courts’ interference in
some decisions of the CIC, including the declaration of judges assets, he said :“Common man has
already given up hope of getting justice from courts. Now if they continue to deny information by granting
stays, I’m sorry but slow poison is being administered to the right to know.” (Hindustan Times 23/7/09)

Officials to face action if they don’t disclose records (1)
Mumbai, July 28, 2009: Heads of government departments and organisations, that do not comply with the
August 31 deadline to disclose the records under Right to Information Act, will face strict action. This will
mean filing a confidential memo against the person in-charge. “The idea is to streamline the system and
continuously update the records and not do it as a one off. And those do not do it deliberately to keep
some records from public will face action,” said Thanksy Thekkekera, principal secretary (General
Administration Department). The records could be either on the Internet, in a newspaper, kept in a library
or made available with one point’s person who maintains a room of such records like Gazettes. “It might
not be possible to fit in all information into web space, so we encourage other forms of communication
which is accessible to everyone. The idea is public dissemination of information and bringing in as much
transparency as possible,” she added. The 17 points mentioned in section 4 of the RTI Act make it
mandatory for each department to mention particulars of the department, its duties and powers, what
documents are open for public disclosure, facilities available to citizens, how public documents will be
made available to people. It will also publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies and
decisions that affect the general public, in whichever medium possible.RTI activists have welcomed the
move. “It’s a great step towards the implementation of the Act. If the information is made public voluntarily
there will be fewer applications for information," said RTI activist GR Vora. (Hindustan Times 30/7/09)

MP govt spent over Rs 17 lakh on accommodation of VVIPs (1)
Bhopal (PTI): The Madhya Pradesh government has spent over Rs 17 lakh of public money during the
last three years in arranging accommodations and meals for dignitaries of the state during their stay in
hotels and private establishments at New Delhi. The money was spent during the stay of Chief Minister
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, his ministers including Ajay Vishnoi, Kailash Vijaywargiya and Narottam Mishra,
former Governor Balram Jakhar, Lokayukta and Judges of High Court among others between April 2006
and March 2009. The matter came to light after a social activist Ajay Dubey filed an RTI application
requesting the General Administration Department of the state government to furnish details of the
expenditure borne by it as tariffs for hotels and private establishments and for food in Delhi. The
Government has spent a total of Rs 8,20,611 -- Rs 2,98,342 during the fiscal ending March 2007, Rs
2,23,652 ending March 2008 and Rs 2,98,617 ending March 2009 -- as reimbursement for lunch and
dinner charges of dignitaries in the national capital, the RTI reply said. The State government spent Rs
74,000 in paying the accommodation bill of former Deputy Speaker H L Raghuvanshi, Rs 25,275 for
Justice P K Jaiswal of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Rs 12,000 for footing the bill of Harbans Singh,
Deputy Speaker in the Assembly and Rs 16,850 for Jagdish Dewra during April 2008 and March 2009, it
said.(The Hindu 28/7/09)

RTI amendment this session? (1)
New Delhi: July 29: The UPA government is planning to bring in a proposed controversial amendment to
the Right to Information Act in the current session of Parliament. The proposed amendment is aimed at
deleting "file notings" which many in the government believe were never part of the RTI Act as passed by
Parliament. The ministry of personnel is reported to have readied the amendment and a stronger UPA
government is confident it will be able to get it passed. Senior sources in the law ministry point out that
details of the amendment have not reached them. But activists monitoring the RTI assert that past
precedent has shown that the government often prefers to hold "informal consultations" around a
controversial draft and then introduce it quietly in Parliament. Minister of state for personnel and public
grievances Prithviraj Chavan’s recent statement in Parliament last week that the government does indeed
plan to amend the act has further confirmed the misgivings of different civil society organisations. Mr
Chavan had said in a written reply, "It is proposed to review the number of organisations in the second
schedule to the RTI Act 2005 and make rules for more disclosures of information by public authorities."
Shekhar Singh of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, who is closely associated with
bringing out an independent report monitoring the functioning of RTI along with the Tata Institute of Social
Sciences and the Centre for Studies of Developing Societies, believes the pressure to amend the act has
come from both MPs and bureaucrats. He believes several parliamentarians had during a parliamentary
committee meeting expressed dissatisfaction at the functioning of the act. "While speaking before a
parliamentary committee, many MPs claimed they were upset at their inability to access information
pertaining to the functioning of state legislatures. Nor, under the act, can Member of Parliament access
information pertaining to an individual officer," Mr Singh pointed out. The bureaucracy has also expressed
dissatisfaction on some key aspects of the act. Their point of view was reinforced by the recent findings of
the Administrative Reforms Commission report which has complained against increasing numbers of
applications being of a "vexatious" and "frivolous" nature. Mr Singh refutes that the large number of
applications have overstretched the public information officers (PIOs). "The deluge of RTIs is restricted to
only a few ministries. On an average, 70 per cent of the 72 PIOs that have been appointed have received
only 10 applications in their concerned department," he said. "Rather than sit down and analyse what are
the bottlenecks in each department and ironing those out, a blanket ban on file notings will not resolve the
issue," Mr Shekhar Singh added. A similar exercise was proposed in 2006 but was kept in abeyance
when Congress president Sonia Gandhi is believed to have advised the government that there should be
wider consultations among the stakeholders to allow the controversy over the file noting provisions to be
sorted out. Sources in the ministry of personnel however maintain that neither the group of ministers nor
the parliamentary standing committee had intended to include the words "file notings" in the definition of
"information" given in Section 2(f). Central Information Commissioner O.P. Kejriwal says, "Information
minus the notings amounts to taking the life out of the RTI Act."(Asian Age 30/7/09)

Officials fined under RTI Act (1)
PATNA: The State Information Commission (SIC) on Wednesday imposed fine on two government
officials for violation of Right to Information (RTI) Act. Those found on the wrong side of the Act are the
block development officer (BDO) of Maner block in Patna district and the public information officer (PIO)
of Barh sub-divisional hospital. Both the officials failed to provide relevant information to the applicants
who had sought certain information under the RTI Act. The BDO and the PIO would have to cough up Rs
25,000 each as the fine amount. The SIC directed the erring PIO to provide relevant information to the
applicant latest by October 19 and fixed October 26 as the next date of hearing of the case. In case of the
erring BDO, the case would be taken up for next hearing on October 21. (Times of India 30/7/09)

“Tamil Nadu stands first in seeking information” (1)
RAMANATHAPURAM: Saradha Nambi Aruran, Commissioner, Tamil Nadu Information Commission, said
that Tamil Nadu had stood first in the country in seeking information by using the Right to Information Act.
Speaking to reporters after presiding over a sitting here on Friday, she said an average 40000 persons
had been approaching various Public Information Officers in the State. It was 18000 in Maharastra, 3000
in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. In Kerala and Orissa, the figure was 1200. Awareness of
using RTI was more in Tamil Nadu than any other States. She said the Commission had received 95,282
petitions at various levels for seeking information since 2006 to April this year. Most of the petitions were
for patta transfer, complaints on the functioning of various minority institutions and others. In
Ramanathapuram district, nearly 3500 petitions were received by various Public Information Officers. Ms.
Aruran said show cause notices were issued to more than 600 responsible officers based on petitions. It
had been communicated to all offices in the State to have Public Information Officers. Later, she held a
discussion with the Collector T.N. Hariharan and other officials. (The Hindu 1/8/09)

Concern over lack of RTI Act awareness (1)
CHENNAI: Though the Right to Information (RTI) Act ensures transparency in democratic governance,
lack of awareness and the indifference of officials are a cause for concern, according to activists. Section
4 of the Act had stated that all public authorities should make public details of their organisations and also
the decisions they made affecting public interest through the Internet or any other forms, M. Sivaraj,
founder, Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams, told a workshop organised by the Madras High Court
Advocates Association affiliated to the Congress and the G.K.Vasan Pasarai here on Sunday. Although
Sections 18, 19 and 20 talked about the lapses and the punishments that could be given for the lack of
transparency, people were not using these provisions, Mr. Sivaraj said. He said even lawyers had not
agitated against the “unconstitutional” removal of the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC)
from the purview of the Act by the State government, though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
was not granted this favour. S.K. Kharventhan, former Congress MP, said the Act had been drafted with
much care but its implementation depended on the officials. Whereas in Gujarat, the Chief Minister
conducted weekly review of all the petitions with district officials. This had led to transparency in the
administration, he said. A. Gopanna, editor and publisher, Desiya Murasu, said people could monitor the
functioning of various government schemes, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee
Scheme, through RTI petitions. R. Rajamohan of the G.K.Vasan Pasarai said that limited success of the
RTI Act was because officials persisted in the same attitude in spite of changes in the political leadership.
Speaking about the role of lawyers in the incidents on the Madras High Court campus in February,
‘Vidiyal’ S. Sekar, MLA, said politicisation of lawyers’ associations and the presence of anti-social
elements in the lawyer community were causes for concern. M.A. Muthalakan, High Court lawyer,
however, said many Congress lawyers had met the Chief Secretary and the acting Chief Justice warning
them of impending problems before February 19. (The Hindu 3/8/09)

‘RTI: most cases related to personal grievances’ (1)
BHUBANESWAR: Chief Information Commissioner of Orissa D. N. Padhi here on Monday said the
Commission was receiving majority of applications under Right To Information Act pertaining to personal
grievances instead of public interest cases. Addressing a workshop on RTI Act for the officers of
cooperation department at Madhusudan Institute of Cooperative Management (MICM), Mr. Padhi said
since inception 70 per cent cases received by the Commission would be on personal queries. People
should come forward asking public interest cases such as how much fund had gone into social forestry,
how many teachers were present in schools or how many times roads were developed, he said. The CIC
said repeated questions on larger issues would help bring a change in overall function of administration.
“To encourage public interest queries, Orissa Information Commission has categorised cases into several
categories for dealing them on priority basis. While we are giving first priority to complaints and appeals,
public interest cases come second. Similarly, cases related to evaluation of students’ examination papers
are place in the third position,” Mr. Padhi said. Personal grievances and other issues would come next, he
said. Exhorting officials to dispose of RTI files immediately, he warned that those would be sitting over
these files would be penalised and it might hamper their career advancements in government services.
Among others Managing Director of Orissa State Cooperation Board R. N. Das, MICM R. Ganesan and
MICM Chairman Gurupada Nanda spoke on the occasion. (The Hindu 4/8/09)

RTI records should be available anytime (1)
PUNE: President of the RTI Forum of Senior Citizens for Instant Information, Shriram Pande, has
demanded that access to civic records should be given to citizens not just on Mondays but on all the
days, as prescribed by the Right to Information Act, 2005. In a letter to municipal commissioner Mahesh
Zagade, Pande has said that section 4 of the RTI Act clearly states that all government records should
suo-moto be declared by the government authorities and be made available for citizens. "The information
should be easily available anytime. There is no limit to which days access should be given. Why is the
Pune Municipal Corporation patting its own back for throwing open its records on every Monday for two
hours? In fact, they are starting a bad precedence by limiting the access to people," Pande said, speaking
to TOI. He explained that, according to section 4, all important policy decisions taken by PMC have to be
made available to citizens and their views are also to be considered. "The PMC should first make the
information available everyday and also prepare a chart about the work of every department and the
timings that officials can be met. Secondly, it must declare all information on its website," Pande said. The
RTI inspection, which could not be carried out on Monday due to a strike by municipal employees, was
held on Tuesday, when citizens were allowed to access records from various departments.(Times of India
5/8/09)

SC moves HC against CIC order for revealing info (1)
New Delhi After expressing reservation in making public assets of its judges, the Supreme Court appears
to be reluctant in revealing what action it has taken on a complaint of alleged misconduct against a High
Court Judge. The apex court has approached the Delhi High Court against an order of Central
Information Commission directing it to reveal information under the RTI Act on action taken by the Chief
Justice of India on the complaint filed against Allahabad High Court Judge Sunil Ambwani. The CIC had
on July 16 held that the office of CJI came within the purview of the transparency law and the apex court
is under obligation to reveal the details of action taken on the complaint. It had rejected the plea of
Supreme Court registry that the office of CJI is distinct from the apex court and cannot be said to be
under the purview of the RTI Act. "The Institution and its head cannot be two distinct public authorities.
They are one and the same. Information therefore available with CJI must be deemed to be available with
the Supreme Court of India," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibuallah had said. The
Commission had passed the order on a plea of a 77-year old RTI applicant P K Dalmia who sought to
know the fate of his complaint, filed with CJI, of alleged malpractices by Ambwani, the designated
company judge, in the liquidation case of UP State Cement Corporation Limited. (Express India 5/8/09)

RTI should apply to assets declared by judges: Law Commission (1)
NEW DELHI: Law Commission chairman Justice A R Lakshmanan, a retired judge of the Supreme Court,
on Thursday came out strongly in favour of ushering in transparency in declaration of assets and liability
by judges and said it should be under the purview of RTI Act. "Persons holding high public office should
give details of his assets and liabilities and the public should know about it," Justice Lakshmanan said,
expressing his personal opinion. Coming clean of the controversy stirred by the provision in the Judges
(Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Act making info on judges assets out of bounds under RTI, Justice
Lakshmanan said, "If anyone wants to know the details of the judges asset, he should be given." "I
declared my assets the day I became a judge of Madras High Court in 1990 and have since then
declared it every year. Why should a judge have anything to hide," he said expressing complete
agreement with noted jurist Fali S Nariman. Nariman, in a signed article in a daily on Thursday, said, "If
the credibility of the higher judiciary is to be restored, it is essential that every judge of the Supreme Court
set an example and voluntarily make a public disclosure of his (or her) assets on the website of the
Supreme Court, law or no law." Justice Lakshmanan said, "Nariman's view is correct. After going through
his article, I completely agree with him." Incidentally, the Law Commission chairman on Wednesday
submitted its 230th report to law minister Veerappa Moily suggesting 7-point reforms for judiciary. The
recommendations on judicial reforms adopted the suggestions of Justice A K Ganguly made in his article
`Judicial Reforms' published in Halsbury Law Monthly of November 2008. The recommendations are: *
Judges must be punctual and lawyers must not seek adjournment* Cases involving identical law question
should be clubbed together and decided together* Judgments should be delivered within a reasonable
time* Vacation period in higher judiciary should be cut by 10 to 15 days given the huge pendency.
Working time should be extended at least by 30 minutes* Lawyers must not resort to strike (Times of
India 7/8/09)

RTI officials within right to info reach! (1)
New Delhi, August 17, 2009: The Central Information Commission (CIC), India’s information watchdog,
has decided that complaints against its own information commissioners can now be accessed under
Right to Information Act from the commission’s secretary. But the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC),
the corruption watchdog, allows providing information on only those corruption cases where the charges
have been proved and penal action recommended against an official. Information watchdog has
therefore, quite literally, outwitted the corruption watchdog in transparency. Chief Information
Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in a recent order that as the commission is not competent to hold
inquiry against an information commissioner the best way to ensure transparency is to allow inspection of
the files pertaining to complaints under RTI. Habibullah was delivering an order in an appeal filed by
Mizubir Rehman of Chhattisgarh. Rehman’s RTI application, seeking copies of complaint against
information commissioner A.N. Tiwari, had been rejected CIC officials. “In the interest of full accountability
in the future complaints received against any information commissioner or chief information commissioner
would be maintained at the secretary’s office and allowed inspection under RTI,” Habibullah said in the
order. Rehman was aggrieved with the commission as he was neither provided with the copies of orders
issued by Tiwari, which he had sought, nor the copies of the complaints against him. “The decision of the
commission was flawed as the information has to be provided in the form it has been sought,” Habibullah
said. A move by CVC to put information of corruption cases on its website had evoked a strong reaction
from the bureaucracy, which claimed that it would amount to indicting a person even before the inquiry
has completed. Now, the CVC puts information of officials against whom action has been recommended
on its website. Habibullah, through this order, made CIC among the first institutions in India to allow
inspection of complaints against his fellow commissioners. (Hindustan Times 17/8/09)

Longest debate on budget in 15 years (1)
GUNTUR: The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has initiated action on a proposal to review
the Second Schedule to the RTI Act, 2005 which contains the names of security and intelligence
organizations exempt from its purview so far, with a view to strengthening the RTI Act. United Forum on
RTI Campaign District Chairman P.C. Sai Babu welcoming the measure said that it was being examined
whether some of the organizations could be deleted from the Schedule. Another proposal under
examination of the Department was to add some more categories of information to the list given in section
4 (1) of the Act which all public authorities were required to publish suo motu. This would enable greater
proactive disclosures by public authorities. The first budget session of the Congress-led United
Progressive Alliance Government ended on August 7. The time spent on debating the budget in this
session was 81.20 hours, the highest in at least last 15 years. Data on performance of first-time members
of Parliament shows their participation was lower than the average, as was that of young MPs and
women MPs, Forum pointed out. About 76 per cent of all MPs participated in debates. Among first-term
MPs, participation was 73 per cent while it was 62 per cent for young MPs and 67 per cent for women
MPs. In terms of the average number of debates per MP, the Samajwadi Party topped with an average of
3.77 debates.(The Hindu 21/8/09)

Steps being taken to update information on website: Lokayukta (1)
BANGALORE: Steps will be taken to update information available on the Karnataka Lokayukta website,
Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde has said. Mr. Hegde was reacting to an order of the Karnataka Information
Commission asking the institution to comply with the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act
regarding voluntary disclosure of information. “We have provided a lot of information on our website
http://lokayukta.kar.nic.in,” he told The Hindu. “With regard to information that the commission wants us to
provide on the website, we will look at steps taken by other statutory bodies, including the Information
Commission, and act accordingly,” Mr. Hegde said. In the order dated August 16, the commission said
that the Lokayukta need to display on its website all information including that about the number of
pending files and dates of opening and disposal of the files. “Voluntary disclosure of information is a
statutory requirement and the office of the Karnataka Lokayukta cannot be exempted from it,” State Chief
Information Commissioner K.K. Misra observed in the order. Mr. Hegde said the institution of Lokayukta
had been in the forefront of bringing transparency in administration. “All information sought by the
commission is on the website. If the commission wants us to display on the website orders passed by us,
then we have to consider it. We have to look at the way other statutory institutions are doing this,” he said
adding, “this will also require additional personnel and more money.” However, Mr. Hegde said steps
were being taken to update the information available on the website. (The Hindu 22/8/09)

Rs.75 crore spent for SmartCity project (1)
KOCHI: The State government has so far spent Rs.75 crore through the Infopark for the proposed
SmartCity project in Kochi. The information was elicited from the Infopark by Proper Channel, a Kochi-
based NGO, under the Right to Information Act. Apart from providing land for the rehabilitation of those
displaced for the project, the State government had paid Rs.1.68 crore under various heads through the
Infopark Kochi. This included Rs.18 lakh to those displaced, Rs.38 lakh for pulling down their houses, and
Rs.1.12 crore as value for their houses, as per the Infopark’s reply on August 14. Sixty persons had been
rehabilitated by allotting land free of cost. However, the State government had not spent anything on
fencing the plot for the project. This work was carried out by a company named SmartCity Kochi
Infrastructure Private Limited, formed as a joint venture between Tecom, the promoters of the SmartCity,
and the State government. The State government’s share in the infrastructure company was 18 per cent,
the Infopark statement said. The Infopark had incurred a total expense of Rs.1.80 lakh in connection with
the function for laying foundations of the project. This amount was not reimbursable by Tecom. This
information was provided in December 2007 in response to another RTI petition filed by the same NGO in
November that year. As much as Rs.1.32 lakh was used for stationary, postage and invitation cards,
Rs.26,550 on food and water, while another Rs.21,410 for clearing site for the function, according ot the
information.(The Hindu 23/8/09)

SCIC to directly hear RTI appeals concerning commission (1)
LUCKNOW: The RTI complaints and appeals dealing with the State Information Commission and its
nodal department -- administrative reforms department -- will be heard by the state chief information
commissioner (SCIC) Ranjeet Singh Pankaj himself. The new SCIC, who was appointed on June 27 this
year, has re-allocated the government departments and districts among the 10 information
commissioners, including himself. Not only the information commission but other prominent offices and
departments too have been put under the SCIC's jurisdiction. In fact, there are 21 such offices and
departments which are under SCIC's authority. The appeals and complaints of RTI applicants regarding
these 21 offices and departments will be heard by him. The offices of the governor and chief minister
along with the lower and upper houses of state legislature too are in the list. The other offices which figure
in the allocation are that of the cabinet secretary, chief secretary and director general of police. Before the
new SCIC, these offices and departments were looked after by the acting SCIC Gyanendra Sharma. The
prominent government offices and departments have traditionally been under SCIC's authority. Prior to
Sharma, these offices and departments were under the authority of MA Khan, the then state chief
information commissioner. The new SCIC will hear cases concerning home and related departments,
police, appointments and personnel, estate, housing and development, public service commission,
medical and health, medical education, environment, vigilance, food and civil supplies, UP freedom
fighters welfare corporation and secretariat administration and local administration. The official order
issued by the commission on August 13, also mentions that the SCIC will also take care of all other work
which has been allocated to the information commissioners (ICs). The districts too have been allocated
among the ICs. The SCIC, under the new order, will hear the matters concerning the districts of
Ghaziabad, Hamirpur, Jhansi, Lakhimpur kheri and Mahoba. The other ICs have got between 7 and 12
departments dealing with urban development, basic and higher education, aviation, industrial
development, irrigation, Lokayukta office, bridge corporation, power corporation, finance and secretariat,
forest, agriculture, high court and others. The ICs will also look after the work allocated to them by the
SCIC. Further, they will also hear the cases regarding the state directorates of the departments allocated
to them. Besides, matters pertaining to the local bodies in the districts allocated to the ICs will be heard
by the IC concerned.(Times of India 24/8/09)

Govt keen to bring in pvt firms to help in RTI info dissemination (1)
NEW DELHI: The government is keen to bring in private firms as partners to help in dissemination of
information under different ministries under the Right to Information Act. The selected company will also
suggest additional categories of information which can be "proactively" disclosed by different agencies
and a number of multinational companies (MNCs) like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Grant
Thornton are already in a queue to try and bag this prized assignment. The ministry of personnel recently
invited them along with three others -- JPS Associates, PRIA and Centre for Good Governance,
Hyderabad -- to explain what their exact role would be as "knowledge partner" of the government. The six
companies have been shortlisted as potential "knowledge partners". Once selected for the job, the private
firm will help the government in assessing the functioning of different ministries regarding dissemination
of information under the RTI Act. Sources in the ministry said the selected company will also conduct a
detailed study on proactive disclosure, besides finding out how the different State Information
Commissions (SICs) are doing their work under centrally sponsored schemes. "The consultant is also
required to analyse the quantitative as well as qualitative disclosure under Section 4 of a public authority
and accordingly suggest methods, tools and policy interventions required for better implementation of
statutory requirements. They may also suggest further categories of information which can be proactively
disclosed," said a senior official.(Times of India 26/8/09)

Right to Information Act doesn’t cover my office, says CJI (1)
New Delhi, August 28, 2009: Two days after the Supreme Court judges decided to declare their assets,
Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on Friday asserted that the Right to Information (RTI) Act did not
cover his office. Balakrishnan said the Supreme Court would not withdraw its petition in Delhi High Court
against the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) direction to the Supreme court Registry — that runs
the apex court’s administration — to disclose whether the judges had been declaring their assets. He said
the CIC’s impression that all the information the CJI’s office received would be shared with the Registry
was incorrect. “I have got various confidential information. It cannot be shared with the Registry. The
Registry does not know anything about my communications with the President and the Prime Minister,”
the CJI said. On why there was not a single woman judge in the apex court, Balakrishnan said, “Even the
House of Lords took 100 years to find a woman judge.” The CJI said it would take about a month to put
the details of the judges’ assets on the Supreme Court’s website, as the judges had to update their
statements. Asked if the court would entertain any queries about the judges’ assets, the CJI said, “We
have not decided anything on the issue.” (Hindustan Times 28/8/09)

PMO has 28,685 secret files, none made public this year (1)
NEW DELHI: What steps does the government follow while deciding to declassify its old secret
documents? You may never get to know since the manual that details the declassification process in the
country is itself marked confidential. Meanwhile, the PMO has admitted it has 28,685 secret files but has
not declassified any this year. The Indian government's arbitrariness and complete lack of transparency
regarding classified material is in sharp contrast to the international practice of making secret files public
after 25-30 years. Some countries declassify their documents after just 10 years. While the government
says it makes files public after 25 years, the policy remains largely on paper. In response to an RTI query,
the PMO said it had declassified 37 files in 2007, 25 files in 2008 and none in 2009. However, even these
declassified records cannot be accessed by a bonafide researcher, let alone an ordinary citizen, as the
material continues to be housed in the PMO and has so far not been transferred to the NAI. ``If the
records continue to be held by PMO, there can be no access to such material. Proper and time-bound
declassification is in national interest,'' said Anuj Dhar from endthesecrecy.com. Dhar, along with
Chandrachur Ghose, has been campaigning for transparency in administration through regular
declassification of records. Ghose had filed the RTI application seeking information on the government's
declassification policy. In response, the PMO said, ``Declassification of files is done as per the manual of
departmental security instructions issued by the ministry of home affairs. The ministry has marked this
manual as confidential and has declined to provide it.'' The Public Record Rules, 1997, state that records
that are 25 years or more must be preserved in the NAI and that no records can be destroyed without
being recorded or reviewed. On paper, it's mandatory for each department to prepare a half-yearly report
on reviewing and weeding of records and submit it to the NAI. The rules also stipulate that no public
records which are more than 25 years old can be destroyed by any agency unless it is appraised. RTI
activists, however, complain that these rules are rarely followed. While the PMO says the declassification
process is ``continuous'', its response on the number of files that have been declassified inspires little
confidence. Only one file was declassified in 2005 and two in 2006. Commonwealth Human Rights
Initiative programme coordinator Venkatesh Nayak, who had also filed a RTI asking for the manual of
departmental security instructions, was denied the information as well. The matter is at present before
CIC. (Times of India 28/8/09)

Man denied information under RTI, commission summons Jagraon SSP (1)
The State Information Commission (SIC) has summoned Jagraon Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP)
Gurpreet Singh Bhullar after he reportedly denied information sought by Universal Human Rights
Organisation secretary Iqbal Singh Rasoolpur under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. In its order, the
SSP is to be present either in person or send a gazetted officer in court on September 3. It has been
learnt that Rasoolpur had asked the SSP to furnish details such as the appointment dates and ranks of
SHOs and police post in-charges under him, whether all SHOs were regular promotees or promoted
under special provisions and any criminal or corruption case pending against the SSP, among others .
Rasoolpur had submitted the application in March 2009 and was denied information in May. Failing to get
the information, he approached the SIC. SSP Bhullar said, “The man is a murder accused. He has even
spent some time in jail. In this case, we cannot give any information for this could hamper the
investigations regarding the cases which are still on.” The SSP added, “Seeking information under the
RTI is the right of the general public. My official will go and present himself before the commission. We
will put forward our point of view and do as the commission directs.” It has also been learnt that
Rasoolpur, after being named as an accused in a murder case two years back, has sought information
from the area police under the RTI concerning his case so as to ascertain the methods being adopted by
the area police to investigate the case. (Indian Express 31/8/09)

RTI does cover chief justice, says info panel chief (1)
New Delhi, September 01, 2009: National transparency watchdog — the Central Information Commission
(CIC) — has contradicted Chief Justice of India (CJI), KG Balakrishnan’s views that the Right to
Information (RTI) law did not apply to his office. The country’s Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat
Habibullah told HT: “There should be no confusion at all. It is an office created under the Constitution and
does not fall in the list of those exempt from providing information under the RTI.” According to the RTI
law, only 18 organisations are exempt from providing information on India’s security related issues, the
Supreme Court (SC) does not figure in the list. The comments by the CIC come two days before Delhi
High Court’s verdict on whether the RTI Act is applicable to the office of the CJI. The apex court had
refused to accept a CIC order in January to provide information under RTI on whether judges declare
their assets to the CJI, and had challenged it in the HC. Habibullah was responding to CJI Balakrishnan’s
comments on Friday that his office was out of purview of the RTI Act, the transparency law. “The office of
the Chief Justice is privy to so much of information like privileged communication…How can all this
information be disclosed (under the RTI Act)?” the CJI had said. Asked for his response on the CJI’s
comments, Habibullah said though it was a matter of litigation, but “Article 124 of the Constitution, which
deals with the Supreme Court, makes it clear that the CJI and judges are in the category of public
authorities,” he said. The CIC said whether the Supreme Court and the CJI are a single public authority or
two, “could be debated, but according to the RTI Act, there is no dispute on the CJI being covered under
it.” Habibullah said: “The position of President of India, governors of states, Lok Sabha and state
assembly speakers, CJI and chief justice of high courts has been clearly defined under the RTI Act.” The
CJI’s comments have already drawn sharp reactions from jurists and RTI activists. (Hindustan Times
1/9/09)

International RTI Film Festival in Delhi in October (1)
Aimed at highlighting the common man's struggles and the role of Right to Information (RTI) in bringing a
change in his life, an International RTI Film Festival (IRFF) is being organised by a team of NGOs and
civil society groups here next month. 'The films made on RTI have played a major role in spreading
awareness about its importance and usage among people. This usage of Right to Information and its
effect on the life of the common man has been beautifully taken up by various filmmakers,' Neeraj Kumar
of Kabir, an NGO, told IANS Tuesday. 'The main motive of this film festival is to bring all such films
(dealing with work done in the direction of achieving a transparent system) in front of public and to make
them realise that the crying need of the hour is not to complain but to act,' he said. 'We plan to carry it
forward to other major cities of the country. We are working on a plan for Lucknow, Bhubaneswar and
Bhopal,' Kumar further said. The films will be selected by a screening committee comprising of Chief of
Central Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah, Orissa Information Commissioner Jagadananda
(one name), Magsaysay award winner RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and others. 'The films could be on RTI
and on issues like self-governance, transparency and accountability. The entries can include the success
stories, grassroots initiatives, community efforts, issues and solutions,' Kumar added. The films will be
accepted in two categories - approx 10 minutes and 30 minutes. The last date for submission of films and
entry forms is Sep 15. IRFF, to be held Oct 7-11, is being organised by Kabir, Parivartan, Public Cause
Research Foundation, Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Seva Sansthan, Haryana RTI manch, West Bengal RTI
manch, Bihar RTI Manch, Centre for Youth and Social Development and DEHAT. The festival will also
have an exhibition on RTI. 'Anyone interested in being a part of the festival can log on at
www.rtifilmfestival.blogspot.com for further information,' he said. (India E-News 1/9/09)

Activists hail high court ruling on RTI purview (1)
New Delhi, September 02, 2009: Right to Information (RTI) activists on Wednesday hailed the Delhi High
Court's ruling that judges should declare their assets and that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI)
comes under the purview of the RTI Act. "I am very very excited. I want to compliment Delhi High Court
Justice S Ravindra Bhat. He is the best judge in India," said an emotional Subhash Chandra Agrawal, an
RTI activist. It was on Agrawal's petition that the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled that the
office of CJI is a public authority. The Supreme Court had through its registry filed an appeal against that
order in the high court. The high court on Wednesday upheld the CIC decision that judges should declare
their assets and the office of the Chief Justice of India would be the public authority to assess those
assets. In a historical judgement, Justice Bhat said judges are accountable but they are also subject to
some constraints. "The dignity of the judges adds value to democracy. The judges are under public attack
and revealing assets and other information may increase the reputation of the judges," Bhat said. Agrawal
said: "May god make him the chief Justice of India. His judgement will take forward the torch of
transparency and accountability in the country." In his petition, he had asked whether all the judges are
declaring details of their assets, including those of their dependents, to the chief justice. "The chief public
information officer of the Supreme Court shall release the information about the declaration of the assets
to the petitioner within four weeks of time," Bhat ruled. Chief of CIC Wajahat Habibullah said: "It's very
kind of the Delhi High Court." Arvind Kejriwal, a Magsaysay award winner RTI activist, told IANS: "Now at
least, the CJI should submit himself to the RTI Act and stop this unholy controversy." Commodore (Retd)
Lokesh Batra said: "It's a landmark judgement by the Delhi High Court... To us activists, it was clear from
the beginning by looking at the constitution of India. There was never a doubt in my mind that the office of
the CJI was within the purview of the RTI Act." "However, it will be interesting to see whether the
Supreme Court would now go against the verdict of the Delhi High Court," Batra told IANS. RTI activist
Manish Sisodia said: "This is the classic example of what an ordinary but motivated and committed citizen
can do. In this case, one ordinary citizen has forced the mighty Supreme court of India to change its
stance." "Now its the turn of the government to change the law and make it mandatory, in larger public
interest, for judges to declare their assets from time to time ," he said. (Hindustan Times 2/9/09)

Assets information with CJI comes under RTI: Delhi High Court (1)
New Delhi: Information on assets declared by Supreme Court judges in the possession of the Chief
Justice of India will come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act, the Delhi High Court ruled on
Wednesday. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said: “The CJI is a public authority under the RTI Act and the CJI
holds the information pertaining to asset declarations in his capacity as Chief Justice; that office is a
‘public authority’ under the Act and is covered by its provisions. Information pertaining to declarations
given to the CJI and the contents of such declaration are ‘information’ and subject to the provisions of the
RTI Act.” The judge was disposing of a writ petition filed by the Supreme Court Information Officer against
an order of the Central Information Commission asking him to furnish to applicant Subash Chandra
Agarwal information in the CJI’s possession on assets of the judges. When approached, CJI K.G.
Balakrishnan declined to comment on the judgment. Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati, who represented
the Supreme Court Information Officer, told The Hindu that an appeal would be filed before a Division
Bench of the High Court. Rejecting the argument that the CJI was holding such information in a ‘fiduciary
capacity’, Justice Bhat said: “It cannot be held that asset information shared with the CJI by the judges is
held by him in the capacity of a fiduciary, which, if directed to be revealed, would result in breach of such
duty.” On the submission that the 1997 Supreme Court resolution imposed a confidentiality obligation on
the CJI to ensure non-disclosure of the asset declarations by the judges, Justice Bhat said that with the
advent of the RTI Act, and the provision in Section 22 — which overrides all other laws, etc. (even
overriding the Official Secrets Act) — “the argument about such a confidentiality condition is on a weak
foundation and insubstantial.” He said, “The mere marking of a document as ‘confidential’ does not
undermine the overbearing nature of Section 22.” The judge, however, held that the contents of the asset
declarations, pursuant to the 1997 resolution, “are entitled to be treated as personal information, and may
be accessed in accordance with the procedure prescribed under Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act; they are
not otherwise subject to disclosure.” The court directed the petitioner to release within four weeks the
information sought by the respondent-applicant about the declaration of assets, (and not the contents of
the declarations, as that was not sought for) made by the judges. (The Hindu 3/9/09)

Accept RTI verdict: jurists to top court (1)
New Delhi, September 03, 2009: A day after the Delhi High Court’s historic ruling that the Chief Justice of
India (CJI) comes under the purview of the Right to Information law, top jurists on Thursday asked the
Supreme Court to accept the verdict and not to challenge it. Hearing the case, first to be heard by a high
court involving the Supreme Court, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat said “the CJI is a public authority under the
RTI Act and is covered under the provisions of the Act”. Jurists led by three former Chief Justices of India
welcomed the judgment and congratulated Justice Bhat “for removing the confusion on the
implementation of RTI Act in judiciary.” Former CJI J.S. Verma, who had moved the 1997 resolution that
made it mandatory for judges to disclose assets to their respective chief justices, said the judgment had
made the judiciary proud. “Having been associated with the legal profession for more than five decades,
I’m today in a position to say that the judgment has made me feel proud.” On the likelihood of the apex
court challenging the decision, Verma said: “In my opinion, the verdict should be accepted. It would
enhance the higher judiciary’s prestige among public. I would be extremely disappointed, if it is
challenged.” The court verdict reflected the high standards and impartiality of the country’s judiciary, said
P.N. Bhagwati. “The decision is exemplary and salutary. It has put an end to all confusion over the
implementation of RTI in higher judiciary. I feel it should be accepted without delay. No questions should
be raised on it,” Justice Bhagwati said. Another former Chief Justice of India, Justice VN Khare, said the
Delhi High Court had done what was expected of it. “It has upheld the dignity of the judiciary. If we were
to hide anything, it would only give rise to suspicion that we have something to hide. Judges’ assets
should be in public domain, what is there to debate in it !” he said. He said was keenly waiting to see what
the top court would decide on the issue. “I reserve my further comments till then.” Former apex court
judge P.B. Sawant said the court should have accepted the Central Information Commission (CIC) order
without filing an appeal against it in the high court. “I found it a case of needless litigation. The CIC order
was fine, the Supreme Court could have provided information without taking so much time,” he said.
Justice Bhat upheld the view that the chief justice was required to disclose information relating to the
assets of SC judges that had been provided to him, rejecting the apex court’s argument that the details
were ‘confidential’. (Hindustan Times 3/9/09)

Claiming the right to ask wrong questions (1)
KANPUR: How about getting a duplicate marksheet with the help of Right To Information (RTI) Act? Or
putting the Act to seek verification of National Council of Teacher's Education (NCTE) information to be
true. Or for that matter seeking the evaluated answer sheets from home University. The above-mentioned
cases are the kind of queries that Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj University comes across daily, with such
applications seeking information through the RTI Act, 2005. Meant for seeking information through a
proper channel, the RTI Act is being used by the applicants to seek any and every information from the
home university. Sample this: district basic shiksha adhikari, Mau, has sought information under the RTI
Act from Kanpur University for the verification of the academic details of 17 candidates, who had filed
their applications for Vishisht BTC. Similarly, several applications from passed students used to reach
university seeking duplicate degree/marksheets to be provided under the Act. The students have even
sought help of the Act for getting the evaluated answer sheets. Only recently, an advocate of high court,
Santosh Kumar, had filed an application under the RTI Act complaining about a college. In another case,
Sushila Devi, 46, of Kanpur Dehat had sought a step-by-step information on how to fill online form, as she
-- being illiterate -- did not know the procedure. "Instead of paying for the approved amount for getting a
duplicate degree or marksheet -- which is Rs 265 -- many students have tried to get their duplicate
marksheet through RTI, by spending a minimal amount of Rs 10," said Dr Saxena. Referring to another
such application from one Ayodhya Prasad, the public information officer, Dr Piyush Saxena said, "In one
of the applications under the RTI Act, this person has asked the university to inform the counselling board
that his daughter, Archana Kanaujia, is ill and that she cannot appear for the counselling." Not only does
most of these RTI applications carry weird queries -- providing information to which is nothing but sheer
waste of time -- some of them are even not valid, claimed the officials. In what could only be termed as
the lack of awareness among people about the relevance of the RTI Act, it was found that the
applications had come to university asking information on what is the difference between a name and a
signature, said the official. Notably, what is more time-consuming is seeking information from other
departments. "Several times, it has been found that we are not ready with the information asked for and
thus, we have to gather required information from other officials and departments, which is the most time-
consuming part of answering these applications," said Saxena. And if the information office is to be
believed, the number of RTI applications seeking information under the Act is more than five on a daily
basis. Interestingly, the amount of sincere RTI queries seeking information hardly amounts to 10% of the
total applications. A visit to the information office of Kanpur University is enough to gauge the lack of
awareness among people about the Act. Bundles of files of RTI applications are piled up here and two
persons have been deployed only for separating such applications from normal mails. "The time which we
spend in replying to the applications can otherwise be utilised in doing other important work. However, the
number of these applications is really very high, and under the provisions of the RTI Act making the
information to be provided as mandatory, we are bound to give a reply," said Jyoti, working in the
information office of the university. (Times of India 4/9/09)

‘RTI Act came as a shock for many’(1)
 “The initial reaction to the Right to Information Act was that of shock,” said Meenaxi Anand, State
Information Commissioner of Haryana, while addressing a seminar on ‘Effectiveness of RTI Act’ at the
Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) on Saturday. “The officials were aware
of the Official Secrets Act that prohibited the outsourcing of official information. Introduction of RTI was a
shock for them. Things are changing gradually,” she said, while adding that in Haryana, there are around
200 pending RTI applications. Chief Information Commissioner of Punjab R I Singh, executive vice-
chairman of CRRID, Rashpal Malhotra, president of Asian Education Society Ashwani Luthra and Chief
Editor of The Tribune H K Dua also spoke on the occasion. (Indian Express 6/9/09)

Seekers of truth land behind bars (1)
Patna, Sept. 6: Bihar became the first state to implement the Right to Information Act in 2006, earning
accolades. Ironically, it is also turning out to be the first state where information seekers are reportedly
being framed for misdemeanour and are being put behind bars. Case in point: One Sheoprakash Rai
sought information about a government scheme from Buxar district magistrate, who called Rai to his
chamber on February 1, 2008. He then went on to sent Rai to jail after framing a case of obstruction in
official duty against him. The information commission, headed by chief information commissioner S.K.
Singh (a retired judge of Patna High Court), clamped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Buxar DM. Singh retired
in October 2008 and since then the state has had no chief information commissioner. Next, the
government appointed J.N. Bhatt (a retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court) as the chief information
commissioner following Singh’s retirement. But a Gujarat resident, Bhatt never joined office. The
government, too, did nothing to fill-up the vacant post in the past year. Now, the high court has issued a
showcause to the state asking it to explain the delay in the appointment on the constitutional position.
Incidentally, the high court has also issued a notice to its former chief justice (Bhatt) to state the reason
for not joining. As the issue of appointment is in limbo, a dozen information-seekers have been framed in
false cases for their offence of seeking information. They include Rambalak Sharma, framed for murder,
as he sought information related to a land dispute case from Lakhisarai SP, Ramchandra Mandal,
charged with extortion, for seeking information about work on a project from Lakhisarai chief engineer,
Umesh Sharma, booked under the arms act, for submitted an RTI application to Masaurhi sub-divisional
officer, said Parveen Amanullah, the Bihar RTI forum covenor. “It is a peculiar situation. The Constitution
has armed people with the right to seek information. But these officials, instead of co-operating are taking
applicants as offenders,” Amanullah told The Telegraph. Surprisingly, Bihar, the first state to implement
the act, has only two information commissioners against sanctioned posts of 10. On the other hand,
Jharkhand, with a population lesser than Bihar, has seven information commissioners. Uttar Pradesh has
as many as 11 commissioners, nine seven and five in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, respectively.
Sources said, the Bihar information commission has as many as 25,856 applications seeking information
under the RTI Act pending. “The government has so far taken no decision about the appointment of the
vacant chief information commissioner’s post,” said principal secretary of personnel department Amir
Subhani. (Telegraph 7/9/09)

Ridiculous answers to RTI queries, says citizens’ association (1)
BHUBANESWAR: Citizens’ Apex Association (CAA) on Tuesday charged that various departments were
furnishing “ridiculous” answers in response to Right To Information (RTI) queries. CAA alleged the
organisation had filed a series of RTI applications with various departments, but on many occasions it
received replies such as “documents are not readily available” and “enquiry is on”. The association, an
organisation of concerned citizens, sought information from Home Department regarding, “whether five
male candidates were appointed against the five vacancies reserved for general women and such
appointment was given within the orbit of Women Reservation Rule, 1994” in the year 2007. First Home
Department came up with answer, “the required information/documents as sought for are not readily
available in the concerned section and it will take some more time to prepare the information,” said CAA
President N. K. Panda here on Tuesday. A few days after the department again replied that “no such
information is available in this department… However, enquiry is going on in this regard.” Mr. Panda
pointed out. He charged that the SIC too did not take tough action against concerned and till date the
reply was yet to be delivered. Similarly, GA department also took similar pleas as of Home Department to
a question regarding “out of the land allotted to Utkal University, how many acres of land are being
utilized, how many acres of land are under the encroachment by outsiders and how many acres of land
are under the occupation of slum dwellers and steps taken to evict them?” CAA said if information to be
furnished in 30 days took 30 months and correct information was avoided at all costs, SIC should take
effective steps against the culprits, otherwise like other laws, this law would also fail to achieve its
objective.” (The Hindu 9/9/09)

RTI application gets simpler, goes online (1)
New Delhi, September 10, 2009: To make filing Right to Information (RTI) application online, the India’s
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has advocated allowing credit cards for submitting
the fees with the government departments. “With internet penetration improving, we have to look at new
ways for filing RTI applications including payment through credit card,” he told HT, after inaugurating a
Central Information Commission portal for filing complaints and second appeals online. The new portal is
disabled-friendly for lodging complaints and appeals. The new web page will help applicants file the
complaint and second appeals online along with all the attachments in digital form. The system will work
in tandem with the manual one where RTI applicants send their complaints and appeal through postal
mails. The new website www.rti.india.gov.in has been designed in such a way by National Informatics
Centre that even the visually challenged can hear the instructions and details on the portal through
speakers in their computers. “With the help of screen reader, any visually challenged person can go
through the entire web site. The system will prompt them to file the details and read out the instructions to
them. It has been designed keeping the latest international guidelines for such web portals,” Neeta
Verma, Senior Technical Director with NIC said. (Hindustan Times 10/9/09)

RTI activist complains against Yeddyurappa (1)
BANGALORE: A complaint has been filed before Governor H.R. Bhardwaj accusing Chief Minister B.S.
Yeddyurappa of misuse of power and leasing a civic amenity site to a social organisation. The complaint
was been filed by B.M. Shivakumar, a Right to Information (RTI) activist, from Kengeri Satellite Town. He
has accused Mr. Yeddyurappa of giving 1,394.76 sq metres of the 4,514 sq m of a playground in Kengeri
Satellite Town to the Basaveshwara Samaja Sudharana Samiti. In his letter to the Governor, Mr.
Shivakumar said the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) cancelled the lease of the samiti with
regard to 1,394.76 sq m of the playground and merged this with the remaining 3,120 sq m of the
playground and allotted it to the Public Instruction Department in December 2008. The BDA asked the
department to use the land for the adjoining Government First Grade College. The samiti wrote to the
Chief Minister on February 18, 2009 to direct the BDA to give the land back to it. It said the land would be
used to build an “Anubhava Mantapa” and wanted the Chief Minister to lay the foundation stone.
Following the letter, Mr. Yeddyurappa directed the BDA to give the 1,394 sq m land back to the samiti.
Accordingly, the BDA passed the order on May 8, 2009. With such an action, the Chief Minister had acted
against the interests of the public, Mr. Shivakumar said and requested the Governor to taken necessary
action against Mr. Yeddyurappa. (The Hindu 12/9/09)

RTI: State sitting on Laxmi Chhaya report for 22 mths 91)
MUMBAI: The urban development department has been sitting on the inquiry report submitted by the
state-appointed committee that investigated the causes of the Laxmi Chhaya building collapse for the
past 22 months, a Right to Information (RTI) query has revealed. The Laxmi Chhaya building in Borivli
collapsed on July 19, 2007, killing 30 residents. The flowchart procured from the urban development
department revealed that the inquiry report went through 21 officials and finally reached the office of the
chief minister__who heads the ministry__after seven long months. This showed, said the RTI activist who
filed the query, the government was not serious about pursuing the matter or taking steps to prevent such
incidents. The government-appointed committee probed the collapse of the seven-storey building and
submitted its report to the state urban development department in three months. The report was lying with
the section officer of the urban development department. "Even after I filed the RTI query in April 2008,
asking for the copy of the report, the file did not move,'' said RTI activist S K Nangia. The flowchart
showed that the file was first moved on August 13, 2008 and passing from one official to another, it finally
reached the CM's office on March 12, 2009. "The report has been pending with the CM's office ever
since,'' says Nangia."The fact that there was one more major building collapse this year__Yusuf
Manzil__shows that the ghost of Laxmi Chaya won't go away soon.''The RTI activist procured the
information after a 10-month struggle with the state urban development department. He had filed the
query last October. Both the public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority reportedly denied
him information. "I had asked for a copy of the report and that of a flowchart showing how the file was
transferred from one level of the department to the other. But they released the copies of the report and
the flowchart only after I filed a complaint with the state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi,''
Nangia says. Joshi imposed a penalty on the PIO, Rajesh Govil, of the urban development department for
delaying the data and shuttling the RTI query from the municipal commissioner's office to the urban
department. (Times of India 14/9/09)

RTI activists oppose IT Department’s move (1)
BANGALORE: A move by the Department of Information Technology to bring in an intellectual property
rights-based regime in e-governance services is being opposed by activists who fear the shift will dilute
the Right to Information Act. RTI activists, under the aegis of the National Campaign for People’s Rights
to Information (NCPRI), have submitted a letter to the department opposing demands made by industry
bodies to allow adoption of multiple and royalty-based technological standards, which will determine
access and affordability of future public e-services. The National Policy on Open Standards for e-
governance, currently being finalised by the department, has been stirring heated debate since its second
draft version was released in July. In the context of implementing RTI Act (2005), the NCPRI working
committee members Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shekhar Singh, Maja Daruwalla and Venkatesh Nayak, have
written that open and free standards are “key to realising the letter and intent of the RTI Act”. The NCPRI
has opposed this demand terming it an “attempt to subvert the intent of the policy”. Appreciating the
“progressive” line taken by the original draft policy made public in 2008, the letter states that any move to
dilute the open and free nature of these standards, would be antithetical to the spirit of the RTI Act.
According to RTI Act, citizens can have “free and unhindered access to government information and data
systems.” The “industry demand” will only deny long-term accessibility to public documents and
information, the letter argues. This will only benefit the licence/patent holders and create (or retain)
monopolies for software products, NCPRI maintains. The RTI Act includes, in section 2(i), the right to
access information held in digital form. It mandates (in section 4(1)a) that all records be “computerised
within a reasonable time... and connected through a network throughout the country on different
systems.” Mr. Nayak told The Hindu this would impact “pro-active disclosure and free access” both of
which are at the core of the RTI Act. Today, the Internet is a major vehicle of dissemination of information.
“Now, if the software used by the Government is proprietary then it is likely that access to these services
will later migrate to a pay-and-use model. Why should a perfectly good policy be restricted and hindered
to cater to the obvious financial interests of corporations?” asked Mr. Nayak. NCPRI states that multiple
standards defeat the objective of providing a common basis for every user. It will force citizens to buy
software products from different companies to access government data or interact with public service
providers. The letter argues that royalty-based standards are against the RTI Act, which stipulates that
information be made available at no other cost than that of photocopying. (The Hindu 14/9/09)

You can now get info from courts under RTI (1)
PANAJI: Citizens will now be able to obtain information from courts in the state under the Right to
Information Act, 2005, following a notification issued by the government on September 17, 2009. The new
rules published in the notification will be applicable mutatis mutandis , to the industrial and labour courts,
administrative tribunal and all other subordinate courts and tribunals in Goa. The rules to obtain
information under the RTI Act from courts in the state have been framed by the Chief Justice of the High
Court of Judicature at Bombay, exercising powers conferred by Section 28 of the RTI Act. As per the
rules, the public information officer (PIO) has to decide whether the information asked for by applicants
can be provided or if the inspection of records can be carried out as per rules. A person who desires to
obtain information under the RTI Act will have to requisition in a signed application to the PIO. The
application has to be accompanied by payment of Rs 10 and a self-addressed envelope bearing postal
stamps. On producing proof of belonging to a BPL family, the information will be provided free of cost to
the applicant. Applicants can also ask for information with respect to a third party and information in
respect of judicial proceedings or records. If the PIO decides that the information can be provided, then
he has to inform the applicant about the fee prescribed for supplying such information and approximate
postal charges. After receipt of the prescribed fee, a date not exceeding seven days has to be fixed for
preparation and providing information to the applicant. If, for any reason the information cannot be
provided by the prescribed date, next date has to be given to the applicant within seven days and such
subsequent dates can be fixed. But, the total extended period should not exceed more than 30 days. The
PIO has to give the records to the applicant for inspection in his presence between 2pm and 5pm. During
inspection of the records, if the applicant wishes to make notes, he is allowed to make them on a plain
paper in pencil and the PIO has to inspect the notes and see that the records are not tampered with. No
fee will be charged for the first hour of inspection of records and Rs 5 will be charged for inspection of
records for each subsequent hour. When the information is readily available, Rs 2 will be charged for
each page photocopied and Rs 5 will be charged for typed and computer printed copies. The information
specified under Section 8 of the Act which shall not be disclosed includes, information which relates to
judicial functions and duties of the courts and matters incidental; information which has been expressly
forbidden to be published by the court or the disclosure whereof may constitute contempt of court; or
information which includes commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property; information
which would impede the process of investigation, apprehension or prosecution of offenders; or
information which relates to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of
privacy of the individual; information which is contained in published material available to the public or
which is available on the website. In case of decisions which are taken administratively or quasi judicially,
such information will be made available only to the affected persons. Applicants also have the right to
appeal. (Times of India 19/9/09)

NGOs asked to declare assets under RTI (1)
In A move aimed at bringing accountability and transparency in the functioning of NGOs in Gujarat,
Janpath – a network of 217 NGOs in the state – has decided to ask the trustees of all member NGOs to
declare their assets, which will be put on a website. This was declared by Harinesh Pandya, the secretary
of Janpath, at their Annual General Meeting at Gujarat Vidyapith on Sunday. He told Newsline: “Today,
we passed the resolution at our meeting asking the trustees and managing trustees of all member NGOs
to make their assets public. We will design a detailed form to declare the assets, which will be sent to all
member NGOs across Gujarat. We expect the concerned trustees to send back the form filled with the
details of their assets so that it can be put on the website.” He added: “We are inclined to bring in
accountability in NGOs. Let us see how the NGO office bearers respond to the resolution.” Ads by Google
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discount instantly!Fortishealthcare.com Pankti Jog, another Janpath office bearer said: “All NGOs use the
RTI (Right to Information) Act with a motive to bring transparency in the system. We felt that the same
transparency, which we desire from the government system, is not available in the functioning of NGOs.
Therefore, we have resolved to ask member NGO trustees to declare their assets as Pro Active
Disclosures under the provisions of the RTI Act.” State Information Commissioner R N Das was one of
the guests on the occasion. (Indian Express 21/9/09)

Jailed, RTI activist takes up languishing convicts' case (1)
MUMBAI: It was in May this year that RTI activist Vijay Chauhan was sent to Arthur Road prison after the
State Information Commission complained that he and six other RTI activists had prevented state
information commissioner Suresh Joshi from carrying out his duty. Chauhan, however, turned even that
jail stay into a window of opportunity. In prison, he came across a convict who said he was serving time in
jail despite completing his decreed term of 14 years. That was enough to set Chauhan's activist spirit
ticking again. "I realised how difficult it was for a man to stay even a day in prison and here I was talking
to someone who was doing time in jail despite serving his conviction period,'' Chauhan said, recalling his
encounter with the prisoner. After he came out of jail, he filed another RTI query asking for the status of
264 prisoners whose term in jail was to be scrutinised and released in accordance with a Bombay High
Court order early this year. "I also asked the state home department to furnish the list of prisoners across
the state languishing in jail even after serving their term,'' he said. Both the public information officer and
first appellate authority rejected his appeal and the second appeal was then heard, ironically, by the state
chief information commissioner. Joshi ruled the information be provided to Chauhan. "The authorities sent
me a list of 258 prisoners who had already served 12-year terms. They also mentioned that 24 had
served 14 years but were yet to be released as the state government was yet to file their reports,''
Chauhan said. A January 2009 Bombay High Court order took note of a convict, Abdul Gafar Shaikh, who
completed 15 years 10 months and 12 days in jail. "This wrongful confinement cannot be accepted.
Therefore, we direct that those persons, who have completed 14 years in prison and in terms of
guidelines are entitled to be released, be released forthwith,'' the order had said. (Times of India 24/9/09)

Madhya Pradesh has no record of the displaced (1)
BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh Government’s lackadaisical approach to rehabilitation of internally
displaced people is reflected in virtual non-functioning of its rehabilitation department. The Madhya
Pradesh Rehabilitation Department does not have any record of the number of displaced persons in the
State. What’s more remarkable is officials saying that the department is not concerned with internally
displaced people and is responsible only for rehabilitation of refugees from Bangladesh, Nepal and Tibet.
The can of worms was opened when a local activist demanded information from the department about the
number of people displaced due to various “development” projects. The department did not provide the
information within the stipulated time and even after a first appeal, amounting to “deemed refusal” under
the Right to Information Act. The petitioner then filed a second appeal with the State Information
Commission, where the incompetence of the department’s information officials stood exposed, as noted
by the Commission. Officials from the department reportedly stated before the Commission that now that
the rehabilitation of foreign refugees is complete, there is no work left for the department any more.
“Principal Information Officer Prabha Chaudhary said before the Commission that the department is done
with resettling refugees and now talks are on to shut it down,” said Rolly Shivhare, the petitioner.
Information Commissioner Mahesh Pandey observed at the hearing, “I am sad to write that the PIO and
the appellant officer have zero information about their department. They also neither have any information
nor interest regarding rehabilitation as such.” “In future, these two officials should not be entrusted with
the responsibility of providing information without proper training,” he added. The SIC then sent summons
to the Principal Secretary of the department and a show-cause notice to the Rehabilitation Ministry asking
why the information sought was not provided within 30 days. “The information demanded was very
vague,” said Principal Secretary (Relief and Rehabilitation) M. M. Upadhyay, adding, “Further, it was a
truckload of data. How do you expect us to have provided all that data? It is a six-month-old matter.
Where is the need to raise it now,” he asked. The Information Commission also sought explanation from
the appellant authority for violating his constitutional responsibility by not hearing the first appeal. Finally,
at the Commission’s hearing, the department washed its hands of the State Government’s rehabilitation
policy of 2002 saying that implementation and providing rehabilitation to affected people are the
responsibilities of the departments concerned. The Information Commissioner ordered the department to
obtain information from these departments. (The Hindu 25/9/09)

Judges in Uttar Pradesh differ over declaring assets (1)
Lucknow: The judiciary in Uttar Pradesh is divided over the issue of declaration of their assets. While
sitting judges of the Allahabad High Court, which also has a bench in the state capital, had earlier this
week resolved to declare their assets "only to the Chief Justice", some retired judges see no reason why
it should not be put on the official website or be made "freely available to the public by any other means."
"I fail to understand why a judge should have any hesitation in allowing common people to know about
the assets held by him,"said Justice S.C. Verma, a retired Allahabad High Court judge who also held two
successive terms as the state's Lok Ayukta. Verma told a news service: "Times have changed and so
have social values; today probity is extremely important for all those occupying high offices; judges must
therefore themselves take the lead in making their assets public." He feels that "even if some judges have
objections to putting their list of assets on the official website, they must ensure the details were freely
available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act." "The moment you show any hesitation in allowing free
access to such information, it is bound to be construed as your intent to hide something," Verma argued.
Another retired Lucknow bench judge, Justice B.K.Singh, observed: "I am strongly of the view that all
judges must not only declare their assets but also make these public by putting all details on the official
website." He claims to have been among the few who took the initiative to declare his assets before the
chief justice, years before the RTI Act came into being. "Way back in 1993, the judges of the Allahabad
High Court had resolved to declare their assets before the chief justice and I had no hesitation in readily
going ahead; today, with RTI having come into play, it is all the more important and logical for judges to
voluntarily declare their assets on the website", he said. Earlier this month, a meeting of all 70 judges of
the Allahabad High Court presided over by Chief Justice Chandra Mauli Prasad decided to declare their
assets before the chief justice. This followed a similar consensus among Supreme Court judges on Aug
26 after much debate on the issue. It was a sitting judge of the Karantaka High Court who set the ball
rolling. Subsequently, judges of the Punjab and Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Mumbai and Sikkim
High Courts made public their assets on their respective websites. (Zee News 1/10/09)

'Charity chief can't deny info in age of RTI' (1)
MUMBAI: In the age of the Right to Information Act, the charity commissioner could not refuse to furnish
documents under the cover of the Official Secrets Act, said the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) on
Saturday. Charity commissioner (CC) M K Choure was hearing an application by the BPP, which opposed
his decision not to supply the charitable trust a copy of a preliminary inquiry report ordered by him to look
into the BPP's accounts. On the basis of this inquiry report, Choure had ordered a special audit of the
BPP's accounts and directed the trust to immediately shell out a fee of Rs 1.2 crore to an auditor
appointed by him. When the BPP refused, Choure warned that he would suspend the entire board
comprising the seven trustees. During the hearing in the CC's office on Saturday, BPP advocate Percy
Gandhy quoted a Supreme Court judgment, stating that a party against whom a special audit was
ordered, had to be given an opportunity to be heard and provided with all material. The embattled BPP,
which looks after the welfare of Parsis, is defending charges levelled against it by Percy Patel of Alert
Zoroastrians' Association, who alleged various malpractices in the trust. Gandhy told the CC that his
order directing the BPP to pay Rs 1.2 crore for a special audit was itself bad because it was passed ex-
parte "without hearing us or giving reasons for such an order''. "In one case, the Supreme Court had
overturned a ruling which sought to levy a fee of just Rs 1.5 lakh on a party for a special audit. The BPP
likewise is a charitable trust and its funds are meant for the community's poor. Such a large amount
cannot be diverted to pay the fees for a special audit,'' he said. As against the fee of Rs 1.2 crore that the
CC has directed the BPP to pay for auditing its accounts between 1998 and 2008, the punchayat said its
own auditor, Kalyaniwalla & Mistry, charged just Rs 90,000 a year. The BPP counsel also questioned the
time-frame of the special audit ordered by the CC, and protested that even under the tax law,
investigations were for a seven-year period. "So, on what basis had the CC ordered a special audit for 11
years,'' he asked. The CC is likely to deliver a final order on October 8. (Times of India 4/10/09)
SC will challenge Delhi HC order putting it under RTI purview (1)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday will challenge the Delhi high court's September 2 ruling
that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI)
Act. The apex court registry will be moving a larger bench of the Delhi HC, challenging the judgment
which, it feels, exposes confidential information that lies with the CJI. "The SC will inform the high court
(HC) about the compliance of its order relating to the disclosure of assets. The SC could not appeal
earlier because the HC was on Dussehra break and will reopen on Monday," a leading government
attorney told DNA. Scoffing at media reports that the SC was in contempt of court for not complying with
the September 2 judgment, a source said: "The SC hasn't committed any contempt. Where is the
question of contempt?" CJI KG Balakrishnan holds the view that the SC cannot be submitted to the RTI
act's jurisdiction. He is strongly against disclosing the deliberations that take place in the SC collegium,
and the CJI's communications with the prime minister and law minister besides other state functionaries.
On the issue of assets disclosure, the CJI holds that the judges have unanimously decided to put up on
the SC website their and their family's assets. Former CJIs VN Khare and JS Verma had lauded the HC's
judgment and expressed the hope that the SC will not challenge it. "Challenging the RTI order was
unfortunate and challenging the HC judgment will be worse," former CJI Verma had told DNA.(DNA
5/10/09)

RTI needs to tilt towards citizens' (1)
AHMEDABAD: The basic purpose of Right To Information (RTI) in the state, which is to bring
transparency in government functioning, would be defeated if government departments do not proactively
disclose information that affects the way of life of a citizen right from names of beneficiaries in the
Antodaya scheme, holders of job cards under NREGA, tribal sub-plan benefits, health schemes and
education. As the RTI completes four years this year in Gujarat, members from civil society groups, the
administrative reforms and training division, citizens and state information commission agreed that unless
the Act tilts in favour of the citizen, it would soon be paralysed. They deliberated on a number of issues
related to RTI at a workshop at SPIPA on Tuesday. "Today, the mode of accepting the RTI application fee
of Rs 20 is considered one of the main hurdles for citizens. Today, if a taluka or a panchayat office do not
have receipt books to accept the fee, citizens get discouraged. Besides, there should be alternative
modes of payment like judicial stamps and postal orders. We have to look at the convenience of the
citizen. Only then will he participate in democratic functions of society," said state chief information
commissioner RN Das. Activist Harinesh Pandya reiterated the need to sensitize government officials
towards RTI. "Every RTI application is like the face of a citizen talking to a public information officer (PIO).
Today, the pendency of cases at the commission up to a year and in most cases RTI replies being
delayed by a fortnight by PIOs and subsequent delays in hearing appeals can kill the novel purpose of
this Act." PIOs from various departments also pointed towards applicants misusing their below poverty
line (BPL) cards for RTI replies for free. "Generally, heaps of information is demanded for free under the
BPL card scheme. These applications are filed to harass government officers," said an officer from the
agriculture department, Paresh Zalavadia. Members from the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pehel (MAGP)
volunteered that in case an officer feels harassed, he can approach them on the RTI helpline. "MAGP will
approach such applicants individually and in case the applicant does not heed to the requests, MAGP will
file a complaint against such individuals," said MAGP member Pandya. (Times of India 7/10/09)

MCD tops in corruption cases, followed by Delhi govt and DDA (1)
NEW DELHI: Municipal Corporation of Delhi has topped the corruption chart with about 4,300 cases and
is followed by Delhi government, Delhi Development Authority and Delhi Police. There are about 457
corruption related cases against the Delhi government employees including 137 from Delhi Jal Board
(DJB). It is followed by DDA and Delhi Police where 305 and 133 officials respectively were facing
corruption cases. Interestingly, 18 senior DDA officials have retired without their probe been completed.
The official figures came out in response to a series of RTI queries made by social activist and Advocate
Vivek Kumar Garg. Exercising his Right to Information, Garg had sought the details of corruption cases
which are pending investigations alongwith the name of employees from the Public Information Officers of
Delhi Government, DDA and Delhi Police. The MCD's Vigilance department said as many as 4,299 cases
were pending against 3,350 officials. Out of the registered cases, 1,435 cases were by anti- corruption
branch of the Delhi Government, Police and CBI whereas 2,877 such cases were registered by its own
vigilance wing. Most of the tainted MCD officials, working at middle and senior levels like zonal incharge,
superintendent and executive engineers, have over two to three such cases each against them, the RTI
reply has said. In response to another RTI reply, the Delhi Police said that various criminal cases against
133 personnel were pending against serving officials since January 2008. The cases were pending
against eight inspectors, 12 sub inspectors, 18 assistant sub inspectors, 28 head constables and 67
constables, the reply said. Whereas the DJB said a total of 137 cases involving 214 of its employees,
including serving and retired senior officials, are pending since 2002. The department also said that
investigations in 317 other cases, registered by CBI and ACB are underway. High ranking officials were
among 300 employees of DDA who are facing corruption cases, some of which are pending for more than
two decades. The corruption cases were pending against top officers like commissioner, directors, joint
directors and deputy directors. Even the superintendent engineers and executive engineers were facing
vigilance enquiries, the reply said. "Most of the government offices have been providing haven for officials
to engage in corrupt practices. About 70 per cent of employees are working at the same post and at same
place for about ten years which is against the norms," Garg claimed. He added "Government must do
something to check corrupt practices by corrupt public servants who are exploiting people. (Times of India
8/10/09)

‘Seeking information is people’s fundamental right’ (1)
COIMBATORE: Seeking information on the functioning of the government is a fundamental right of
people, said State Information Commissioner G. Ramakrishnan on Saturday. He was speaking at a
programme organised by the Rotary Club of Coimbatore Spectrum and Coimbatore Human Rights Forum
(CHRF) to mark the Right to Information Act Awareness Generation Week. Mr. Ramakrishnan said the
Right to Information Act was in force in 57 countries and it was 31 simple, but strong sections in the
nature of legislation. People’s fight for a legislation on the lines of Right to Information began in 1975.
After a long struggle, the Act came into being in 2005. Every government department was governed by
rules and separate set of legislations and the Right to Information Act was superior to all such
legislations. The objective of the Act was to ensure transparency in the functioning of the government, he
added. The Act also equipped people with the power to seek information and monitor the quality of
construction in infrastructure generation activities thereby coming down substantially on corrupt practices
and deterioration in quality. The Act also gave powers for perusing the files of the government
departments. “In any government department, if the required information is not provided within 30 days of
application, the applicant can go to the Principal Information Officer in the office. “And in the event of no
response, the applicant can approach the State Information Commission. The Commission will write to
the respective department and in the event of lack of proper response, the Commission will direct the
Information Officer to pay Rs. 25,000 as penalty and will also order for compensation to the applicant,”
Mr. Ramakrishnan said. The State Information Commissioner also said that applications seeking totally
unwanted information were being disposed off at the appeal stage itself. Mr. Ramakrishan and District
Collector P. Umanath released the Right to Information Act handout in English and Tamil on the occasion.
Coimbatore Human Rights Forum Trustee S. Kannan and Chairperson V.P. Sarathi took part. (The Hindu
12/10/09)

Bring paramilitary forces under RTI Act: CIC (1)
New Delhi, Oct 11: The paramilitary forces which are enjoying exemption from disclosure under Right to
Information Act should be brought under it on the lines of defence forces like Army, Navy and Air Force,
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah says as the Act completes its four years into being
on October 13. The first Chief Commissioner of the transparency watchdog feels that RTI Act can be
strengthened if some organisations are taken-off from those listed in section 24 of the Act which gives
blanket cover to 18 intelligence and security agencies from any disclosing any information. "Yes. The
matters concerning national security are already exempted from RTI disclosure. What happens is that
matter of personnel management in these forces also get exempted from disclosure," Habibullah told a
news agency when asked whether paramilitary should be brought under the RTI Act. The list includes all
the major paramilitary forces like BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG and Assam Rifles. When asked how the
Act can be strengthened, Habibullah said taking off some organisations from exemption list and
enforcement of section 4 besides other measures. He said it can be considered as government has
earlier taken-off similar organisations like Coast Guard from the list of exempted organisations. (Central
Chronicle 12/10/09)
Warning against misusing RTI Act to harass administration (1)
CHENNAI: There are 17 types of information, ranging from log books and records to memos, maintained
by a government department which the public can access using the Right to Information (RTI) Act. All that
one needs to exercise this fundamental right to information is a sheet of paper and a Rs.10 worth legal
stamp. All this and more was discussed at a dissemination meet to commemorate the celebration of RTI
week (October 6-12) held at the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University here on Monday. Speaking on
the occasion, V. Srikumar, law officer of the University, said that according to official statistics, over 1.11
lakh RTI applications have been filed in the State in the past four years. More than 43,000 applications
were filed in 2008 alone. “The trend of seeking information through the RTI is picking up. People are
beginning to appreciate the power of the Act and Tamil Nadu is one of the States where a vast number of
applications have been filed,” said Mr. Srikumar. “The RTI Act has also made government departments
more efficient by forcing officials to maintain the records properly,” said Meer Mustafa Hussain, Vice-
Chancellor of the University. “Websites are also promptly updating anticipating request for information,”
he added. He however had a word of caution for the public and said that the act is meant to help them
and should not be used as a tool to harass the administration. The NCC Directorate organised a lecture
on Monday as part of the Week at Agarwal Vidhyalaya in which Sartaj Imam, Deputy Director General of
NCC, addressed the students. An awareness rally on RTI Act was organised by the cadets of 1 (TN)
battery NCC at Avadi. The unit is conducting a CATC-cum-SSB camp at CRPF, Avadi, from October 6th
to October 15th. The rally was flagged off by camp commandant Lt. Col. Ravikumar. About 300 cadets
took part in the rally carrying banners and placards spreading the importance of the Act. (The Hindu
13/10/09)

Warning against misusing RTI Act (1)
CHENNAI: There are 17 types of information, ranging from log books and records to memos, maintained
by a government department which the public can access using the Right to Information (RTI) Act. All that
one needs to exercise this fundamental right to information is a sheet of paper and a Rs.10 worth legal
stamp. All this and more was discussed at a dissemination meet to commemorate the celebration of RTI
week (October 6-12) held at the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University here on Monday. Speaking on
the occasion, V. Srikumar, law officer of the University, said that according to official statistics, over 1.11
lakh RTI applications have been filed in the State in the past four years. More than 43,000 applications
were filed in 2008 alone. “The trend of seeking information through the RTI is picking up. People are
beginning to appreciate the power of the Act and Tamil Nadu is one of the States where a vast number of
applications have been filed,” said Mr. Srikumar. “The RTI Act has also made government departments
more efficient by forcing officials to maintain the records properly,” said Meer Mustafa Hussain, Vice-
Chancellor of the University. “Websites are also promptly updating anticipating request for information,”
he added. He however had a word of caution for the public and said that the Act is meant to help them
and should not be used as a tool to harass the administration. The NCC Directorate organised a lecture
on Monday as part of the Week at Agarwal Vidhyalaya in which Sartaj Imam, Deputy Director General of
NCC, addressed the students. An awareness rally on RTI Act was organised by the cadets of 1 (TN)
battery NCC at Avadi. The unit is conducting a CATC-cum-SSB camp at CRPF, Avadi, from October 6th
to October 15th. The rally was flagged off by camp commandant Lt. Col. Ravikumar. About 300 cadets
took part in the rally carrying banners and placards spreading the importance of the Act. (The Hindu
14/10/09)

Info panel resists bid to dilute RTI (1)
NEW DELHI: The government's attempt to `dilute' the RTI Act was met with stiff opposition from
information commissioners at a meeting organised by the department of personnel and training on
Wednesday. While there was no final word on the issue, information commissioners including Chief
Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah have been upfront in their view that amendments
like the power to reject frivolous and vexatious complaints by public information officers and constitution
of Benches were unnecessary. Habibullah raised both issues in his keynote address on Wednesday.
"Rejection of requests for information on the basis that they are frivolous or vexatious is a delicate issue. I
think any amendments will be premature as the limits for the RTI Act are yet to be established,'' he said.
Sources said there is stiff opposition from some quarters of bureaucracy and polity regarding the freedom
to seek any information and they had suggested clauses to curb the practice. Incidentally, the issue of
"frivolous" applications was also raised by President Pratibha Patil during her inaugural address of the
fourth convention of the CIC recently. Habibullah added that if the department of personnel and training
(DoPT) was keen on reducing the number of exempted organisations, as had been proposed, it could be
done with a change in rules rather than tinkering with the legislation. He suggested that `personnel
matters' like transfer, postings and promotions should not be exempted. DoPT had also included a
session on constitution of Benches, an issue where both the CIC and the department are at loggerheads.
In a circular issued in June, DoPT cited advice from the department of legal affairs to declare that appeals
and complaints cannot be heard by a single member or a double-member Bench but must be heard by
the full Commission. The issue has been opposed by the CIC citing paucity of time and resources. "The
constitution of single-member Bench in the Commission has never been challenged. Why should the
government raise it,'' Habibullah said. (Times of India 15/10/09)

'Don't dilute Right To Information Act with amendments' (1)
Mumbai: The amendments to the RTI Act proposed by the central government have made activists as
well as the public information commissioners (PIO) increasingly unhappy. In a meeting held on Tuesday
in the office of Mumbai Chartered Accountants Society at Churchgate, under the banner 'Save RTI Act',
activists in Mumbai were briefed by the central information commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi on the
proposed amendments. The president of India, Pratibha Patil, had first mentioned about the amendments
to strengthen the Act in June. The department of planning and training (DoPT) had made a presentation
to over 50 PIOs on last week on the proposed amendments in New Delhi. Many of the commissioners
feel that the amendments are not required and will create unnecessary confusions. "There is a general
consensus among the information commissioners, at the central and state levels, that these amendments
will create confusion." "Most public information officers (PIOs) are still not well-versed with the Act. I have
written to the government not to dilute the Act's definition and to resist the urge to increase exemptions,"
Gandhi said in the meeting. The six amendments proposed in the presentation included establishing a
division bench instead of a single bench for hearing appeals, reducing the number of exempted
organisations in the Act, providing information on services covered, making provisions to accept
applications from abroad, to avoid frivolous and vexatious appeals and removing the
discussions/consultations that take place while taking a decision (file noting). "Having a division bench will
only slow down the process of hearing appeals. Others can be implemented by notification or changing
rules, as amendments are not required," said Gandhi. Activists intend to oppose the amendments by
various means. Sending a phonogram message, 'Implement RTI; not amend' to the PM, the ministry of
DoPT, and to Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is one of them. "Dharnas like the ones taken out
in 2006 are also being planned," said Bhaskar Prabhu, an activist. "Citizens should also approach political
parties since our elected representatives, incumbents or the ones in opposition can take up the issue at
the appropriate level," said Gandhi. He also urged citizens to go beyond seeking information on personal
problems, and to instead pursue irregularities in public departments. (DNA 21/10/09)

RTI reality: 61% still don’t get required info (1)
New Delhi: Four years after the enactment of Right to Information Act, 61% of the people still do not get
required information. Shocked? There’s more. Even if a babu is found guilty of withholding information
from the common man, Commissions are reluctant to impose monetary penalties on him. Only two per
cent errant bureaucrats have been penalised so far. These startling revelations emerged from an
exhaustive study conducted by National RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-Governmental initiative. The
Secretariat examined 51,128 RTI cases taken by 28 Information Commissions and Central Information
Commission (CIC) during 2008. Letters were written to all applicants asking them whether they received
the desired information and what was the attitude of information commissions. The study, which ranks
information commissions on basis of overall public satisfaction and other criteria, is based on replies
received from 6,000 respondents. The study has found that in 70% of the cases, the order was in favour
of disclosure of information to applicant. However, despite these pro-disclosure orders, the information
commissions were not very effective in implementation. According to the study, 61% of the people still did
not get satisfactory information. Despite this, the commissions have been reluctant in punishing errant
officers. RTI activist and Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal said, “Under the RTI Act, a direct
penalty can be imposed and deducted from the salaries of the officials who violate the Act. Out of those
cases in which pro-disclosure orders were passed, which means that a violation of RTI Act was
established, only 2% were penalised! Is this a sufficient deterrent? Not at all.” The north-eastern States
have been the most forthcoming in imposing penalty with Mizoram finishing at the top, followed by
Nagaland, Arunchal Pradesh, Orissa and Goa. However, other North-eastern States of Manipur and
Tripura have a dismal record of not imposing even a single penalty. According to the survey, Kerala,
Karnataka, Punjab, Gujarat and Orissa are the most effective information commissions in that they have
got maximum compliance. Some commissions like Punjab and Karnataka follow an interesting practice.
They do not close a case and keep having repeated hearings till the appellant reports satisfaction, which
perhaps is one of the reasons for their high rankings on this parameter. The study, however, does not
include commissions of Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim. Kejriwal said, “Tamil Nadu claims to have
passed 40,402 orders during calendar year 2008 but provided us with copies of only 900 orders. Sikkim
did not provide the list of addresses of all appellants. Despite repeated efforts, an RTI application, several
phone calls and two visits to Lucknow did not provide copies of their orders saying that they do not have
them. So these States had to be kept out.” The Secretariat, however, is calling this report an “interim”
one. Kejriwal said, “People will finalise the report. We are just asking one question — Did you finally get
satisfactory information after approaching Information Commission? Though today’s findings are based
on feedback from 6,000 people, beginning today, we invite feedbacks from more people. Therefore, the
rankings of the commissions and commissioners presented today may completely alter in the next few
days.” (If an order was passed by any Information Commission in your favour during 2008, did you finally
get information? Give your feedback at 09711222577 or at www.rtiawards.org. Your feedback would
decide this year's Best Information Commissioner) An all-India study conducted on the functioning of 28
Information Commissions, including Central Information Commission (CIC), and 94 commissioners
reveals that even after four years of implementation of RTI Act, people find it difficult to get information.
Findings of the draft report:      * Overall public satisfaction: 61% of the people do not get information
despite orders of Information Commissions * Effectiveness: Commissions are struggling to get their own
orders implemented. Punjab and Karnataka commissions are following an interesting practice — no case
is closed till applicant reports satisfaction   * Deterrent impact: Even when babus are proven guilty of
wrongfully withholding information, a mere 2% are penalised * CIC, the final appellate authority for RTI
Act, rates quite low on all above-mentioned counts (Pioneer 22/10/09)

Fourth anniversary of RTI Act today (1)
Pune: On the fourth anniversary of implementation of Right To Information (RTI) Act, Chief Information
Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi and Pune division
information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar will share the platform at a function organised by the Public
Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT) on Friday. Habibullah will be the chief guest while Joshi and
Kuvalekar will be the guests of honour at the function which aims to improve implementation of the Act,
said Maj Gen SCN Jatar (retd), member of advisory council of PCGT. “According to the observation of
voluntary organisations working in the field of right to information, 90 per cent of the petitions are related
to personal or institutional grievances. The larger benefit of this act is to bring accountability in the
system, which is being overlooked by the citizens,” Jatar said. The function will be held at Police
Recreation Centre between 10 am and 4 pm and is open to public. A panel discussion on ‘Experiences in
RTI’ by city-based RTI activists Vivek Velankar, Vijay Kumbhar and Vihar Durve will also be held. (Indian
Express 23/10/09)

Karnataka the best in RTI Act implementation, finds study (1)
New Delhi, DH News Service: Karnataka has emerged as the best example of implementing the Right to
Information (RTI)Act in a first-ever study about the efficacy of the pathbreaking legislation, which,
however, has also exposed how far away the country is still from becoming a perfect example of giving
people access to information. Karnataka tops the country in implementing the RTI Act scoring 55 per cent
in Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS), according to draft data compiled as part of Magsaysay Awardee
Arvind Kejriwal-led NGO Parivartan’s initiative to give out the first-ever National RTI Awards to promote
people’s right to access information from government organisations. However, while the state tops the
list, the fact that only 55 of every 100 people approaching the Karnataka Information Commission will
finally get the information sought means that Karnataka, and more so the whole country, has a long way
to go in making the RTI Act really successful. Incidentally, Marxist-ruled West Bengal lies at the bottom of
the heap, scoring just six per cent in OPS. The most interesting finding of the analysis is that the Central
Information Commission (CIC), the final arbiter of RTI Act related issues, and a few of its members are
among the worst performers in more than one category, ranking a lowly 16th with only 19 per cent rating
in OPS. CIC member M L Sharma is 59th in OPS with just nine per cent while his colleague S N Mishra is
just one slot above him with 12 per cent. The draft report on the functioning of Information Commissions
across the country has also put Karnataka’s two information commissioners – K K Mishra and K A
Thippeswamy – in joint second and third positions in OPS with 61 and 56 per cent scores along with Palat
Mohandas of Kerala and P K Grover of Punjab respectively, while P Faziluddin of Kerala tops this list with
a score of 67 per cent in providing information to people. Incidentally, the national average of the
possibility of getting information through an appeal with RTI Information Commissions is still a lowly 27
per cent. The study, which will culminate in presenting the National RTI Awards, is the result of an
analysis of orders passed in 51,128 cases by Information Commissioners and benches during 2008.
However, the study does not include Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Sikkim. “Despite repeated efforts, an
RTI application, several phone calls and two visits to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh did not provide copies of
their orders saying that they do not have them. Tamil Nadu claims to have passed 40,402 orders during
calendar year 2008 but provided us with copies of only 900 orders. Sikkim did not provide the list of
addresses of all appellants,” Kejriwal says. The data from the study has been analysed in four parameters
of OPS, effectiveness, deterrent impact, and pro-disclosure factor, and in each of them, the top and
bottom five commissions/commissioners have been identified. According to the analysis, Karnataka and
Kerala are at the top as far as the effectiveness of getting the orders of their information commissions are
concerned, with a 60 per cent success rate. Among successful information commissioners in this
category, again Faziluddin of Kerala tops the list while Karnataka’s Mishra takes the third position.
(Deccan Herald 25/10/09)

61% applicants awaiting info despite valid orders (1)
New Delhi: It has been eight months since Information Commissioner MM Ansari ordered BSNL to let
Prakash Raghunath, a resident of Pune, inspect the files related to his complaint in the SC/ST Cell. Two
reminders and several letters later, Raghunath is still waiting for his right to information to be honoured.
Hari Dev Goyal sought information from DDA regarding allotment of flats to 23 persons. The Central
Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for the Right to Information (RTI) Act, ordered
the agency to provide the applicant with requisite information. After over a year and three complaint
letters to the CIC, the building authority has not bothered to part with the information. These are just two
of the 21,000 persons in India who are waiting for rightful information despite favourable orders being
passed by the Information Commissions across the country. A recent research conducted by the National
RTI Awards Secretariat, a non-Government initiative, reveals that despite the Information Commissions
passing pro-disclosure orders, the applicants are not getting the information sought. The research study,
which examined orders passed by the CIC and 28 Information Commissions, pegs this percentage at 61.
Prakash Raghunath says, “Why would BSNL part with the information? The CIC should have mentioned
a target date to BSNL in its order. The Information Commissioner should write specifically that the
applicant should be allowed file inspection by an exact date. I have sent two reminders to BSNL and they
have still not given me an appointment for this. What has made BSNL more brazen is that no penalty has
been levied against it; so it is taking advantage.” Raghunath has put a finger on the main reason for the
babus dishonouring the Information Commission’s orders - reluctance to slap penalties. The study reveals
that on a mere 2 per cent of the pro-disclosure orders has the commissions levied a penalty. The most
dismal is the record of North-Eastern States of Manipur and Tripura, where not a single penalty was
slapped against errant Government officials for withholding information. RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal says,
“If the Information Commissions do not slap a penalty, there will be no fear among Government officers to
implement the orders. There has to be a follow-up mechanism also, where the Information Commissions
should see that their orders have been implemented.” State Information Commissions in Punjab and
Karnataka have a follow-up mechanism. Unlike other Information Commissions, they do not close the
case till the applicant confirms that he has received information and is satisfied. Kejriwal feels that this
practice has its own fallout. “The commissions tire you out with hearings. They have multiple hearings
and if the applicant does not turn up once for a hearing, they pass the order that ‘prima facie it seems the
applicant is satisfied with the information as he has not appeared before the commission’. So they close
the case. This is not an effective way of following up on a case,” says Kejriwal. The solution to this
problem effectively lies in a strong enforcement mechanism. This, says Kejriwal, is possible only if
penalties are imposed on errant Government servants. “Follow-up hearings should take place but should
not inconvenience the applicants. As far as possible, it should be done through video-conferencing,” says
Kejriwal. The implementing agencies have made the enforcement of orders weak. The CIC, the final
appellate authority for the RTI Act, is itself not very effective in getting its orders implemented. Of the 66
Information Commissioners ranked by the study, three commissioners from CIC are among the bottom 10
— M L Sharma, Shailesh Gandhi and MM Ansari. (Pioneer 26/10/09)

RTI activist attacked (1)
Imphal, October 25 2009: Residence of an individual who invoked the Right to Information (RTI) Act
seeking certain information about NREGS implementation in Top Naoriya Gram Panchayat under
Kshetrigao Assembly constituency was attacked by a group of men led by the Member of the particular
Gram Panchayat. Following certain misunderstanding over implementation of NREGS in Top Naoriya GP,
NREGS job-card holder Moirangthem Maipakpi of Kongpal Mutum Leikai on behalf of other job-card
holders filed a complaint to the relevant authority through RTI. Because of the complaint, a group of men
led by Top Naoriya GP Member Ch Chorjit of Kongpal Mutum Leikai attacked the residence of the
complainant at about 3.30 pm today. Although the local police station was informed about the attack, no
police personnel came to the rescue. Talking to media persons this evening, Moirangthem Maipakpi and
local womenfolk have decried such irresponsibility of police. Yet, a written complaint has been filed at the
local police station this evening, they said. (E-PAO 26/10/09)

Call to invoke RTI Act to curb corruption (1)
KADAPA: Samachara Hakku Chatta Rakshana Vedika (Sahachara Vedika) convenor M. Venkataswamy
Reddy on Sunday called upon the people to invoke the Right to Information Act as an effective tool to
eradicate corruption. Addressing social activists at a meeting on RTI Act at Press Club, Mr. Reddy said
instances such as returning the applications citing petty reasons was negating the spirit of the Act. Social
activists should enlighten the people on the need to invoke the Right To Information Act and question
instances of corruption in Government works, Mr. Reddy said. (The Hindu 26/10/09)

Transfer order of STC driver, who sought info under RTI Act, stayed (1)
CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has granted interim stay of the operation of a State Transport
Corporation order transferring a driver, who sought information from his employer under the Right to
Information (RTI) Act. Justice K. Chandru ordered notice. R. Ravikumar stated that he was a driver in
Mettupalayam-2 branch of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, Coimbatore. Not satisfied with
politically affiliated trade unions, he and some other likeminded employees wanted to set up the Driver
Conductor Social Welfare Association.He was also trying to get the grievances of employees, who
proposed to join the new union, redressed. In the process, he requested the Public Information Officer to
furnish details of the functioning of the Corporation. In the reply, certain information was true and the
others irrelevant. He sought the details of the functioning of the legal section. He failed to get the
information but earned officials’ displeasure. In January this year, he was informed that he should go to
the branch office and receive his transfer order. He informed the branch manager and officials that unless
he was informed of genuine reasons for his transfer, he would not accept the order but would go on fast
with his family in front of the branch office. He submitted a representation to the General Manager in
January. After nearly six months, he was relieved from duty on July 14 and asked to report at Gudalur the
next day. The relieving order was issued before the transfer order dated January 22. He said that the
transfer was with the mala fide intention of punishing him for seeking information under the RTI Act.(The
Hindu 1/11/09)

Panjab University demands Rs.12 lakh for RTI reply (1)
CHANDIGARH: The Panjab University (PU) here has demanded over Rs.12 lakh (Rs.1.2 million) from a
law student for giving information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The varsity says the reply
would run into 600,000 pages. Varun Malik, who is pursuing LLM (Master of Laws) from PU, had on
August 10 asked for answers to 19 questions under the RTI Act. The university provided him the
information on September 9. Not satisfied with the reply, he demanded more detailed information. In the
latest communication from the PU, Malik has been asked to deposit Rs.1,222,000, as the university’s
reply would take over 600,000 pages. “They told me that I am required to pay Rs.2 for every photocopied
page. I agreed to it but I did not have any idea that their reply would take lakhs of pages,” Malik told IANS
here on Sunday. In his questionnaire, Malik had asked about the amount collected from all hostellers as
late night entry fees and where this amount was spent in the last five years. He had also asked about the
details of accommodation fees charged from hostellers. Malik had also asked about money collected from
hostel residents in welfare funds and the amount spent on hostels maintenance in the last five years. “All
of us want transparency in the PU administration and functioning. I am sure that once this information is
out in the public it will unearth a series of frauds,” Malik alleged. Such attitude of PU authorities will
certainly discourage students and other people from seeking information under RTI Act. It is really
strange and beyond my understanding that how can it take more than six lakh pages while giving
answers to simple questions, he said. Now the PU authorities are allegedly pressurising Malik to submit
the amount as they claim that they have already photocopied the replies. However, PU authorities say
they are only following the set procedure. “We have not asked about any illegitimate amount as we are
just following the legal procedure. We are ready to give any information sought under RTI Act. Our RTI
department is very responsible, Surinder Sharma, PU spokesperson, said. There are 14 hostels, seven
each for boys and girls, in the PU campus. Over 4,000 students stay in these hostels. - IANS (The Hindu
2/11/09)

SC judges list their assets for the people (1)
New Delhi: After months of controversy over transparency and accountability, a heated public debate in
Parliament and outside, and even a battle in court, Chief Justice of India Justice K G Balakrishnan and all
other judges of the Supreme Court on Monday “voluntarily” declared their assets on the court’s website.
According to the website, the disclosure is purely on a “voluntary basis”, as was decided by all the judges,
led by CJI Balakrishnan. The only judge whose asset details were not posted — Justice H S Bedi — is
learnt to have informed the CJI that he would do so in the “next few days” as his mother passed away on
October 17. The declaration of assets has been done as per the format adopted at the Full Court meeting
of the Supreme Court on May 7, 1997. The total strength of the apex court is 21, including the CJI.
Among those who declared their assets is also Justice B N Agrawal, who retired on October 15. Details of
his assets were put on the website as per his “special request.” So far, only judges of the Kerala High
Court and the Karnataka High Court have declared their assets but the SC’s move is expected to clear
the way for all High Court judges to do the same. The list of assets include both movable and immovable
assets owned by the judges and their spouses. The issue of declaration of assets has been a matter of
controversy after the CJI said a few months ago that there was no law that made it mandatory for judges
to make their assets public. However, bowing to public pressure, including by sitting judges and former
CJI J S Verma, as well as politicians, the Supreme Court finally decided on August 26 to make public
their assets. Today’s disclosure comes even though it appealed against a landmark Delhi High Court
judgment on September 2, upholding a Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to provide
information as to whether judges were disclosing their assets to the CJI, as resolved under a 1997
resolution. Aggrieved by the single judge’s decision, the SC Registry went in for an appeal before the
HC’s division bench. The next hearing in the case is slated for November 12 and 13. The issue first hit
headlines after RTI activist Subhash C Agarwal’s plea for declaration of assets by the judges was turned
down by the apex court in November, 2007. On January 6, 2009, the CIC directed the SC to disclose
information on judges’ assets on the grounds that the CJI’s office fell under the purview of the RTI
Act.However, the SC decided to challenge the CIC decision in the Delhi High Court, which upheld the CIC
decision. In its appeal, the SC has asserted that declaration of assets by its judges to the CJI is
“personal” information which cannot be revealed under the RTI Act. (Express India 3/11/09)

‘RTI Act implementation dismal in State’ (1)
GUNTUR: Andhra Pradesh is ranked second from the bottom in the list of State Commissionerates of
Right To Information based on their performance. A study conducted on the performance of these
commissions vis-À-vis implementation of the Right To Information (RTI) Act showed that if someone filed
an appeal with a commission, there was a 27 per cent chance that he/she would get the information. If
there was a favourable order from the commission, there was still only a 39 per cent chance that one
would get the information. These were some of the interesting findings of the largest ever study
conducted by the Public Cause Research Foundation to assess the performance of the Information
Commissions across the country. Out of the 100 people who approached Information Commissions, only
27 finally received information, which showed the level of implementation of an Act that was in vogue for
the past four years. For the purpose of analysis, this unit of performance parameter related to RTI was
christened Overall Public Satisfaction (OPS). Based on the data received from all the State Commissions
and Commissioners, the PCRF ranked on this parameter, said Guntur District United Forum On RTI
Campaign chairman P.C. Sai Babu. It was found that Karnataka toped the list with 55 per cent OPS and
West Bengal was at the bottom with 6 per cent OPS. Andhra Pradesh, with 10 per cent compliance rate,
was a bit better, which meant out of 100 people only 10 finally got information compared to the national
average of 27 persons going satisfied.The top five commissions were (ranked on OPS): Karnataka (55
p.c.); Kerala (52); Punjab (47); Orissa (37); and Assam (37). The five from the last were: West Bengal (6
p.c.); Andhra Pradesh (10); Uttarakhand (13); Maharashtra (14); Chief Information Commissioner
(19).(The Hindu 4/11/09)

Amendments to Right to Information Act on the anvil (1)
New Delhi: The Department of Personnel and Training (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievance and
Pensions) has admitted that the government is considering amendments to the Right to Information Act,
2005. The admission, which came at a meeting between RTI activists and DoPT Secretary Shantanu
Consul on Saturday, ended the suspense over whether or not the government was contemplating
amendments to the RTI. Speculation in this regard started following a meeting that the DoPT had with
Information Officers on October 14 where a proposal for the amendments was formally put on the table.
However, the government refused to confirm or deny the move, leading to a growing anxiety in RTI
circles. Significantly, Mr. Consul assured the delegation led by Aruna Roy of the National Campaign for
People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), that the amendments will only be introduced after hearing the
views and objections of civil society groups. He said the department would initiate a “transparent and
consultative process,” including putting up the draft amendments on the DoPT website, to enable public
and civil society participation in their implementation. Mr. Consul also said the amendments would not go
through if civil society groups were able to convince the government that they were not necessary, and
the purpose for which they were being considered could be met in other ways. Earlier in the day,
hundreds of activists from the NCPRI and other organisations gathered at Jantar Mantar to warn the
government against tinkering with the RTI Act, 2005. The delegation that met Mr. Consul presented him a
letter containing their misgivings over the proposed amendments. The letter was signed. among others by
Ms. Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shekhar Singh of the NCPRI and Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian
Women. The signatories said they had apprehensions that the government was moving towards
amending the RTI and cited as evidence the October 14 meeting between the DoPT and Information
Officers. The RTI activists also wrote to the Prime Minister on October 20, which was signed by dozens of
public-spirited citizens. The letter argued that the proposed amendments — envisaging exemption from
disclosure for official discussions and consultations (previously known as file notings) and prohibition of
frivolous and vexatious complaints — far from strengthening the Act, as promised by the President in her
June 4 address to Parliament, would in fact emasculate the Act. The letter quoted two nation-wide
studies, “one done under the aegis of the government,” to make the point that RTI was constrained, not
by issues being considered for amendment such as frivolous complaints and file notings, but by
inadequate implementation, lack of trained staff, and poor management. There was no suggestion in
either of the studies that RTI work was hampered by “frivolous or vexatious” applications or by disclosure
of “file notings,” it said. The letter said: “This government gave its citizens the RTI Act, and there has been
no crisis in government as a result of its enactment. In fact… its use by ordinary people is helping change
its (the country’s) image to that of an open and receptive democracy. An amendment in the Act would be
an obviously retrograde step, at a time when there is a popular consensus to strengthen it through rules
and better implementation.. (The Hindu 15/11/09)

RTI Act: moves afoot to enlighten 1 lakh people (1)
KADAPA: People should gain awareness of the Right to Information Act in order to optimally utilise it for
their benefit and it is in this regard that Sahachara Vedika (RTI Act Protection Committee) plans to
enlighten about one lakh people, its convenor M. Venkataswamy Reddy said on Saturday. Addressing a
meeting at YSR Memorial Press Club here, Mr. Reddy accused officials of denying information to people
in some cases by giving lame excuses. RTI Act should be invoked to monitor any misuse of Government
funds and curb favouritism. He warned of a movement against denial or delay of officials in parting
information to those seeking it. People should gain awareness on properly using the available
information, he said. Lok Satta leader P. Venugopal said proper use of RTI Act would pave way for good
governance, accountability and development of the society. An office is to be started here soon to assist
those seeking information under RTI Act, he said. S. Nazeer recalled that information sought under RTI
Act led to a vigilance inquiry into the quality of construction of Satellite City. TNTUC district president S.A.
Sattar resented that his application under RTI Act was pending in the Collectorate for the last three
months. He alleged that Kadapa Municipal Corporation officials gave irrelevant information, rather than
the information sought. An advocate, L. Nagasubba Reddy, wanted optimal use of the Act. Consumers
Association president Munuswamy, CITU district president A. Raghunatha Reddy, Praja Rajyam district
official spokesman N. Srinivasa Rao, TDP leader S. Jilani Basha, Anwar Hussain and Child Rights
Protection Committee member S. Haroon, MPDO M. Suresh and some employees participated.(The
Hindu 15/11/09)

SC grants Patkar plea for more time (1)
New Delhi: Citing threat to her life as a ground to shift a pending defamation case in Ahmedabad to Delhi,
social activist Medha Patkar on Monday sought four weeks to respond to an allegation based on
information under RTI which suggested she travelled 21 times between January 2003 and March 2009. A
Bench comprising Justices V S Sirpurkar and B Sudershan Reddy accepted the Patkar's plea seeking
time to respond to the affidavit of V K Saxena who has opposed the shifting of the trial from a court in
Ahmedabad to Delhi, alleging the NBA leader has concealed facts while pursuing the defamation case.
When the matter came up for hearing, her counsel informed the Bench that a letter has been circulated
for adjourning the matter. Saxena, President of Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil
Liberties (NCCL), had filed the case against Patkar for her alleged defamatory remarks during a television
debate pertaining to Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Patkar, a Magsaysay award winner, has sought
transfer of the case to Delhi, contending the Apex Court had earlier shifted the proceedings of another
defamation case filed in Ahmedabad against her by Saxena. It is pending before a Metropolitan
Magistrate's court here. The activist charged it was the NCCL president who had made several
defamatory allegations against her and NBA in the television programme in which both had participated
over telephone. She has sought a transfer of the trial contending there was a threat to her because of her
stand against the Sardar Sarovar Project. Patkar submitted that due to the threat perception, she has not
attended court proceedings in Ahmedabad nor has she addressed any press conference or public
meeting in and around the city for the past many years. However, Saxena, in his affidavit, refuted the
contention of threat perception against Patkar, alleging it was a false statement and has been proved by
an RTI application, moved by NCCL, to which the Gujarat police said she had visited various cities of the
state 21 times from January 2003 to March 2009. Saxena had filed the complaint against Patkar on June
29, 2006, before Metropolitan Magistrate Gheekanta in Ahmedabad, accusing her of making a false
statement that he received civil contracts related to the Sardar Sarovar Project in the name of NCCL.
(Pioneer 17/11/09)

‘No changes to RTI Act without consulting people’ (1)
NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Prithviraj Chavan,
is understood to have assured the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) that no
changes would be made in the RTI Act without wider consultations. According to an NCPRI release, the
Minister assured their delegation that the government would not take a final decision on the proposed
changes in the RTI Act before “consulting the people.” Further, he indicated that the government would
prepare a position paper which would be available in public domain to facilitate wide consultation. The
delegation led by Aruna Roy and Shekhar Singh met Mr. Chavan on Monday as part of the ongoing
efforts to get the government to rollback the proposed amendments to the RTI Act. The NCPRI contention
is that instead the government should make public the problems it is facing in implementing the Act and
give people an opportunity to suggest solutions instead of amending the legislation itself. In particular, the
delegation raised the proposed exclusion of the deliberative process including file notings and sought to
impress upon the Minister that the current exemptions in the Act were adequate to protect public interest.
They also invited the government to inform the public about aspects in the deliberative process that
should not be disclosed. As for the proposal to exclude “vexatious and frivolous” applications, the NCPRI
pointed out that it would be difficult to define what constitutes vexatious and frivolous. Since it is a
subjective matter, a provision for exclusion could be misused. According to the NCPRI, there were other
more effective ways of ensuring that such applications do not adversely affect government functioning,
including the more effective implementation of the provision for pro-active disclosure. (The Hindu
18/11/09)

Activists demand transparent system for appointing CIC (1)
Right to Information (RTI) activists from across the country Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh demanding that the next Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) be appointed through a
transparent, inclusive and participatory process. 'The process of appointments to the posts of information
commissioners is non-transparent and arbitrary. Many people from across the country have been
repeatedly requesting the government to make this process transparent, inclusive and participatory so
that it throws up credible and effective people. However, no action has been taken in this regard,' the
activists said in their letter. 'For the post of CIC... some names are doing the rounds as being in the
consideration list. How did these names make it to that list? Dr (Manmohan) Singh, we are sure that a
person like you cannot approve of such a secret, unholy and unhealthy process,' the letter added. The
letter has been signed by RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and members of RTI groups of various states. A
similar letter has been sent to United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Lok
Sabha's opposition leader L.K. Advani. The post of CIC fell vacant after Wajahat Habibullah resigned last
month to head the Information Commission of Jammu and Kashmir on Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's
request. The decision to select the new CIC is expected to be taken by the end of this week. The activists
demanded that the government make public the names being considered for the post. 'Kindly disclose the
names on the final consideration list. Which names were received by the government from across the
country? In addition to Kiran Bedi, we understand that the government has received candidature of at
least 100 people. How were some of them found suitable and others unsuitable?,' the activists asked.
They alleged that these posts are being used to reward political loyalists, and said 'people who worked in
the PMO, as DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) secretaries and the government's
spokespersons have been appointed as information commissioners.' The activists highlighted the process
adopted by Indonesia for the appointment of information commissioners. 'In Indonesia, the government
first publicised for the post of seven information commissioners through national dailies, invited public
feedback on over 300 applications receive, and NGOs helped in tracking down their pasts. They were
then subjected to psychological and written tests. On the basis of all these inputs, 21 persons were
shortlisted, who were then interviewed by parliamentary committee in public view. Finally, seven persons
were selected,' said Kejriwal. 'We request you to adopt this process for appointment of CICs and to
recommend it to all state governments, especially the Congress-ruled states. The UPA gave this
wonderful legislation to this country. Let it not be seen wanting in strictly enforcing and implementing it,'
the activists said. The CIC is appointed by a committee of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of
opposition in the Lok Sabha and a cabinet minister. The activists also urged Advani not to attend any
meeting of the appointing committee till the government puts a transparent system in place for the
appointment of information commissioners. (India E-News 19/11/09)

RTI can't apply unless info is lawfully held: SC to CIC(1)
New Delhi: The suprme court today argued before the Central Information Commission (CIC) that Right to
Information (RTI) cannot apply unless the sought information is"lawfully" held by an authority in a manner
a title of property is held, which wasrejected by CIC. Presenting the apex court's arguments before the
Commission, advocate Devadatt Kamat said the word "held" as mentioned section 2 (j) of the RTI Act
does not does not mean possession of it unless there is a sanction of law behind holding of information.
Hence, there cannot be any Right to Information, he maintained. Chief information commissioner Wajahat
Habibullah said the argument was not correct and would "strike out the root of the RTI Act" as in that case
no information could be asked under the transparency law. Habibullah said the word "held" mentioned in
the section means ordinarily held adding it does not say lawfully held or held like property title as
mentioned by apex court. The CIC was hearing the plea of information rights activist SC Agrawal whose
application seeking complete correspondence with the CJI in the case of justice R Reghupati of Madras
high court being allegedly approached by a Union minister to influence his decisions was rejected by the
supreme court registry. Section 2 (j) says "right to information" means the right to information accessible
under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority. (dna 20/11/09)

Activists to challenge RTI Act amendment (1)
Patna: Upset with Bihar’s NDA Government for its decision to amend the Right to Information Act, social
activists in the State are preparing to challenge the decision in Patna High Court. Opposition RJD-LJP too
is opposed to the amendments. “We are now left with no option other than challenging the arbitrary
amendment to the Act in Bihar,” senior RTP (Right to People) activist Praveen Amanullah said on
Saturday. “We will also launch a campaign against the amendment,” she said describing the move as
“undemocratic and violation of human rights”. Amanullah, who shot off a letter to Chief Minister Nitish
Kumar, alleged that the decision would serve the interests of government officials only. The State cabinet
in its meeting on Tuesday decided to amend the Act in keeping with the guidelines laid down by the
Centre under which a person cannot seek more than one bit of information in one application and will
have to pay Rs. 10 for every query. Earlier, several queries could be put through in one petition by paying
the same amount. RJD-LJP described the amendment as “anti-poor and undemocratic” and called for
withdrawing the changes with immediate effect. “The State government has brought the amendment to
shield its officials...we will oppose the amendment with full force,” RJD spokesman Shakeel Ahmed Khan
said. -- PTI (The Hindu 22/11/09)

CBI doublespeak on Quattrocchi (1)
New Delhi, November 22, 2009 The Central Bureau of Investigation wants to close the 22-year-old
Bofors case against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi saying it can’t find him, but it won’t part with
information about the case saying it will adversely affect his arrest and prosecution. The investigating
agency has declined to reveal any details related to Quattrocchi under the Right to Information (RTI) Act,
saying “it would impede the process of apprehension and prosecution of the accused.” The RTI
application was moved by Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Agrawal, who is locked in a long drawn legal battle
with the investigating agency and the government on the Bofors case. Its lawyers told the Supreme Court
on September 29 and the chief metropolitan magistrate on October 3 since “all efforts to extradite
Quattrocchi had failed, as various courts the world over including those of Argentina and Malaysia, found
no case against him, the agency wanted to close the case.” The agency also said in its RTI: “As the
criminal case against Quattrocchi is pending trial in the CMM Court, Delhi, and related petitions in the
case are pending before (Delhi) High Court and Supreme Court, the documents and information asked for
can neither be provided nor allowed to be inspected.” The case is coming up for hearing in the Supreme
Court on January 22 and before the chief metropolitan magistrate on March 31.(Hindustan Times
23/11/09)

World Bank recommendations for RTI (1)
BHUBANESWAR, 1 DEC: The World Bank has recommended a high-level steering committee chaired by
the chief secretary to oversee the implementation of RTI central monitoring mechanism across
government, providing training to public information officers (PIOs) and roll-out of the RTI central
monitoring mechanism. Further, as part of capacity building, the World Bank has recommended that the
Orissa Information Service (OIS) officers to act as statutory nodal officer and RTI advisors to meet the
mandatory requirements as envisaged in the legislation. Appointment of additional commissioners to the
State Information Commission (SIC) is also another important observation in the World Bank
recommendation. As part of their study on implementing Right To Information in South Asia, the World
Bank has highly commended the efforts of Information and Public Relations department in putting in place
the RTI central monitoring mechanism, a robust IT intervention for effecting transparency and
accountability in the system of governance, claimed a release issued here. “After a thorough evaluation of
the System and Implementation process, the World Bank has quoted RTI central monitoring mechanism
to be truly impressive, allowing the I & PR department to track requests across the government through
all phases from the initial application for information to the response of individual PIOs as well as the
status of appeals. The software allows the departments to upload information relating to 17 fields covered
by the suo moto disclosure provisions of section (4) (1) (b) of the RTI Act,” the release further pointed out.
It may be mentioned here that the I & PR department as the nodal department has evolved all strategies
to strengthen the process of RTI Act implementation though the State RTI Implementation Cell formed in
the department. Since all exercises emanate and conceptualise by this Cell, the World Bank has further
recommended that RTI Cell to be strengthened in the department through additional staffing, budgetary
resources, promoting the use of technology to encourage greater awareness, and use of RTI through
cellular telephony and electronic media. Meanwhile, a website, www.rtiorissa.gov.in, has been
inaugurated here yesterday. Speaking on the occasion, State Chief Information Commissioner Mr DN
Padhi stressed on implementation of the RTI Act to root out corruption and sustain the era of
transparency and accountability. “While empowering the citizen to increase access to information
remaining under the public authority, the tool will certainly be a powerful means to maintain the lofty
democratic ideals of the country,” he noted. I & PR secretary Mr RN Dash, who is also the nodal officer,
RTI, Orissa emphasised the creation of citizen-centric interface to bridge the gap between the public and
government. The department has already moved proposals for restructuring OIS to match with the
requirements as envisaged under sections 4, 19 and 25 of the RTI Act, 2005, he pointed out. Among
others, I & PR director Mr BP Mohanty; chief monitoring officer, State RTI Cell Mr B Biswal also spoke on
the occasion. (Statesman 2/12/09)

SC seeks relief from SC against RTI plea (1)
New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) has moved itself seeking relief from an RTI query on Madras high
court judge Regupathy's claim that a Union minister tried to influence his decision on a bail plea. The
chief public information officer of SC moved the court after the central information commission (CIC)
directed the chief justice of India (CJI) last week to reveal whatever he knows about Regupathy's
allegation. CIC said, "The information sought in respect of all questions... will be provided to appellant
[RTI enthusiast Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who had earlier successfully invoked the Act to ensure
judges disclose their assets] within 15 days".SC says CJI holds information in fiduciary capacity and
cannot disclose it to the public. It maintains that the office of CJI is immune to RTI. However, in a
landmark judgment in September, Delhi high court judge S Ravindra Bhat, who was examining the role of
CJI and the apex court, had held, "There cannot be two opinions about the reality that CJI performs a
multitude of tasks, specifically assigned to him under the Constitution and various enactments. He is
involved in the process of appointment of judges of high courts, chief justices of high courts, judges of the
Supreme Court, and so on. "What this court [HC] cannot ignore, regardless of the varied roles of CJI, is
that they are directly relatable to his holding the office of CJI and heading the Supreme Court." Section 24
of the RTI Act exempts organisations such as IB, RAW, the directorate of revenue intelligence, central
economic intelligence bureau, directorate of enforcement, narcotics control bureau, aviation research
centre, paramilitary forces and named police establishments, but "there is no clue in these provisions that
the office of the Chief Justice of India, is exempt". (DNA 2/12/09)

RTI activists protest Bihar amendments (1)
Hundreds of Right to Information (RTI) activists staged a day-long sit-in here Monday to protest the
amendments made in the RTI law by the Bihar government. Rupesh, convenor of the Right to Information
campaign, said the Bihar government should roll back the amendments. They also sought that the
government should not levy charges on an appeal. According to the amendments, a petitioner cannot
seek more than one piece of information in one application and will have to pay Rs.10 per query. Earlier,
several queries could be sought in one petition and for the same cost. The activists have launched a
signature campaign and plan a statewide protest against the move. 'The changes were made to make
RTI more effective and prevent its misuse. They were as per central government guidelines,' said Deepak
Kumar, principal secretary, personnel and administrative reforms. (India E-News 7/12/09)

Give priority to senior citizens in RTI applications: Centre (1)
AHMEDABAD: A recent release by the Central government's Department of Personnel, Training Public
Grievances and Pensions (DoPT) has quoted a Central Information Commission (CIC) order that makes it
mandatory for RTI applications filed by senior citizens to be taken up on priority basis. This can be
affected by attaching or producing a proof of senior citizenship with the RTI application before the public
information officer (PIO). Senior officials in the general administration department (GAD) in Gujarat, a
counterpart of DoPT at the Centre, is examining this new provision. A notification was first passed by the
CIC. The DoPT release also mentions that since the CIC functions autonomously, the provision for senior
citizens does not apply to the states but can be emulated by the state information commissions (SIC). "An
official release by DoPT regarding the priority for senior citizens in RTI matters is being examined. We
would first hold consultations on the matter with the Gujarat Information Commision (GIC)," says a senior
GAD official. (Times of India 10/12/09)

Information commissioners' appointments not transparent: RTI activists (1)
New Delhi, Two weeks after they served a legal notice on the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the
Central Government for ''not being transparent'' in the selection of information commissioners, RTI
activists say they are yet to receive a reply. "As we indicated in our legal notice, we have made
preparations to go to court to enforce mandatory disclosures under Section 4 of the Right to Information
(RTI) Act," Mumbai-based Krishnaraj Rao, who represents a group of RTI campaigners and petitioners
from all over India, said. The legal notice was served Nov 26, demanding that guidelines be followed
under the RTI Act 2005, which makes it mandatory for the government to announce the eligibility criteria
and procedures for appointments of central information commissioners (CIC) and chief CIC. The activists
allege the norm is not being followed. The Prime Minister is part of the committee for selection of
information commissioners. "We served a legal notice on the PMO as we think they have not maintained
transparency in appointing the CICs and chief CIC as according to Section 4 (1) B of the RTI Act the
criteria of appointment should have been published publicly which was not done," Rao said. "Decisions of
this magnitude cannot be carried out under a veil of secrecy by the government." "Such opaque and
unaccountable decisions are unconstitutional and unfair to the citizens of India. As earlier selections of
CICs have shown, the absence of openly declared rules and guidelines for such appointments is allowing
blatant nepotism to flourish. "Our group shall take every possible step to prevent such corrupt practices
from continuing." Section 4(1) B of the RTI Act says: "Every Public Authority shall publish within 120 days
from the enactment of this Act the procedure followed in the decision making process, including channels
of supervision and accountability; the norms set by it for the discharge of its functions; the rules,
regulations, instructions, manuals and records held by it or under its control or used by its employees for
discharging its functions." The legal notice has also been addressed to the law ministry and the
department of personnel and training. "We have also asked for the disclosures expeditiously and not to
appoint the CIC or the chief CIC till the disclosures are made public, failing which we will be constrained
to take legal redress through court," Rao said. Supreme Court lawyer Abdul Rasheed Qureshi, who sent
the notice on behalf of Rao, says: "We have not yet received any response from the officials. We are
hoping to file a petition in the Delhi High Court regarding this," Qureshi said. The legal notice to the PMO
says: "As your office in particular and the government of India in general have not met this legal
obligation, it is by this legal notice that I call upon you to make the mandatory disclosures before
proceeding with further appointments so that further illegalities are not committed."The RTI activists have
also sent a letter to opposition leader Arun Jaitley asking he demand that the PMO and the union
government make the mandatory disclosure before proceeding with further appointments to the Central
Information Commission. n an earlier public interest litigation (PIL) filed Nov 18 in the Delhi High Court,
the activists stated that the government was biased in selecting CIC heads. "A close look at the career
details and appointment dates of CIC commissioners reveals the truth: the post is yours if you are an IAS
officer aged around 60 and have worked with the PMO, DoPT or Ministry of Information and
Broadcasting," the PIL said. "Officers from other cadres like the Indian Police Service (IPS) may also be
considered. Civil society members, eminent or otherwise, are least preferred," the PIL stated. The high
court, however, rejected the PIL, ruling: "The court can't ask the government to frame rules to bring
transparency. You can raise the issue before the government and before parliament." But the judges
encouraged the activists to keep the pressure on the government to usher in transparency, saying: "You
(RTI activists) should mobilise the larger civil society to build opinion on the issue."(Deccan Herald
11/12/09)

MPs, MLAs, councillors not covered under RTI Act: CIC (1)
NEW DELHI, 13 DEC: Elected representatives like MPs and MLAs do not come under the Right to
Information Act but people can seek information about their works from organisations like Parliament,
state Assemblies or local bodies, the Central Information Commission has said. A division Bench of the
Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Mr Wajahat Habibullah and Information
Commissioner Mr Shailesh Gandhi said: “We must conclude that individuals whether MPs, MLAs,
Councillors or members of Panchayats cannot in themselves be deemed public authorities. Nevertheless,
the organisations and Committees in which they fulfill their obligations under the Constitution are indeed
organisations defined as public authorities.” The Bench was hearing the plea of five applicants who had
sought information regarding work done by different elected representatives, including Congress leaders
Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mrs Sonia Gandhi, but did not get any replies from them. “Such information on
activities as are performed by these named representatives as members of such organisations is,
therefore, to be deemed accessible to the citizenry,” the Bench said in the hearing where all these pleas
were clubbed together as they had a common subject. The Commission directed Lok Sabha, Rajya
Sabha, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and State Assembly of Delhi “to develop systems for making such
information accessible.” “The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, State Assembly of Delhi and Municipal
Corporation of Delhi who are all parties to the present case are, therefore, directed...to take such steps as
are necessary to secure compliance with the provisions of this Act including providing access to
information by full compliance,” the order said. The Bench said “Secretary General, Lok Sabha and Rajya
Sabha; Speaker, State Assembly of Delhi and Mayor, MCD will take action accordingly so as to ensure
compliance within a period of six months.” The Commission said, “PIOs already stand appointed in these
organisations but they will be required to review their practice in relation to maintenance, management
and destruction of records and enhancing provision of training on the Right to Information for their
officials.” One of the applicants, Awadesh Mishra, made an application to Mr Rahul Gandhi, Member of
Parliament from Amethi two years back seeking information on recommendations made by him to
different departments recommending assistance to NGOs. Similarly, another applicant sought details
about his application seeking appointment from UPA Chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi. One Mr Sartaj
Ahmad sought details of development funds for Yamuna Vihar (New Delhi) Assembly constituency from
the area MLA.(The Statesman 14/12/09)

RTI query nails minister’s lie on links to scam-hit college (1)
NEW DELHI: S Jagatarakshakan, minister of state for information & broadcasting, had denied that he had
anything to do with Bharath Institute of Education & Research (BIHER) after a TOI-Times Now expose on
demand for capitation fee by Balaji Medical College, a subsidiary of BIHER. However, in reply to an RTI
application by this correspondent, HRD ministry has admitted that G Singaravelu, OSD to
Jagatarakshakan, made personal inquiries about the investigation and review process initiated by the
ministry. The expose was done in June and a month later, the minister’s representatives were making
rounds of HRD ministry. File noting by a senior HRD ministry official on July 17, 2009 clearly states: “Mr
Singaravelu, OSD to MoS (I&B), met me personally in my office twice and requested for information on
the case. I informed him that the whole thing is under process and the ministry has no information on the
results of the enquiry.” HRD ministry’s review committee on deemed universities has finalised its report.
Singaravelu denied that he made any enquiries. “I had only gone there to submit documents of BIHER
that was needed by the review committee,” he said. Perusal of the entire BIHER file through RTI also
revealed Jagatarakshakan’s clout during the earlier NDA regime. Though he was just an MP, the then
PMO was constantly asking the HRD ministry to grant deemed status to BIHER. In fact, the application for
deemed status was filed in UGC in April 2000 and delay resulted in BIHER going to court against UGC
and HRD ministry. Even TDP MP K Yerrannaidu wrote to the PM seeking early granting of deemed
status. Jagatarakshakan was himself writing to the PM and the then HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi as
the founder of Sri Lakshmi Ammal Educational Trust that runs BIHER. UGC’s expert committee, while
recommending deemed university status, pointed out that post-graduate and research programmes
needed further strengthening. It also said greater emphasis should be on high quality class-room, internet
facility, library and faculty. UGC also wanted BIHER to aspire for accrediting its academic programmes.
As clearance from AICTE was taking time and UGC had already approved deemed status,
Jagatrakshakan demanded that BIHER be given deemed status without waiting for AICTE report. AICTE
took substantial time to give its report. Though it approved deemed status, AICTE made it clear that
departments at the top had to be very well-qualified, administrative structure needed to be modernised,
research ambience should be improved. (Times of India 16/12/09)

75 percent people dissatisfied with information under RTI (1)
New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) As much as 75 percent of citizens were dissatisfied with the quality of
information provided under Right to Information Act, Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public
Grievances & Pensions Prithviraj Chavan admitted on Wednesday. Prithviraj ChavanReplying to a
question in Lok Sabha, Chavan said that 12 percent of the women and 26 percent of men were aware of
the RTI Act in the country. Explaining about the steps taken by the ministry to aware concerned officials
about the RTI Act, he said: "The government is imparting training to public information officers, first
appellate authorities and other stakeholders. We have issued several memoranda clarifying various
provisions of the Act and has published five guides on the RTI Act." The minister said that a budget
estimate of Rs. 14.16 crore has been spent under the centrally sponsored plan scheme on strengthening,
capacity building and awareness generation for effective implementation of the RTI for the year 2009-10.
(Deccan Herald 16/12/09)

Spreading awareness on Right to Information (1)
NEW DELHI: The United Nations Development Programme and The YP Foundation organised a Right to
Information workshop at Hans Raj College here on Wednesday. The workshop was the first in a series of
six workshops which will be organised till February 2010. The workshops will be held at Hindu College,
College of Business Studies, Amity Law School and two South Campus colleges. Explaining its role in
increasing awareness about the right to information, UNDP Assistant Country Director (Democratic
Governance) Sumeeta Banerji said: “As part of a programme between the UNDP and the Indian
Government we have been spreading awareness about the right to information among the people and
also building capacities of public information officers. This year the UNDP and the United Nations Office
on Drugs and Crime also became part of a global campaign against corruption.” Since awareness and
information is necessary to combat corruption the UNDP has been engaging the youth in this regard.
While the UNDP is funding the RTI workshops, The YP Foundation has provided facilitators for the same.
The YP Foundation facilitators who were trained for three months in the RTI Act by the Commonwealth
Human Rights Initiative interacted with students and gauged their knowledge quotient on the Act. “Many
students know about the existence of the Act, but few had in depth knowledge. By interacting with the
students, we augmented the knowledge they already had about the Act and also corrected myths or
misconceptions,” The YP Foundation RTI branch coordinator Ila Reddy said. Workshop participants were
also made to write mock RTI applications. By responding to questions such as “Do you think the RTI Act
is useful?” and “Can the Act help to prevent corruption”, the students gained crucial knowledge about the
Act. Participants also wanted to know if the Act was friendly to the handicapped, the time duration a
public information officer had to respond to an application, grounds for rejection of applications and steps
to be taken in case of rejection of applications. Another participant, Kripa Shanker Yadav, added: “The
most crucial information I picked up here is that I cannot file an RTI application to gain information about
the workings of private institutions. I was not aware of this.” (The Hindu 18/12/09)

Meghalaya officers penalized for RTI failure (1)
Shillong: Seven public information officers of Meghalaya have been penalised for failure to provide
information under provisions of Right to Information. Disciplinary action were taken against two of them,
while five others, including an Inspector of School and a Project Director of DRDA, were slapped
compensations ranging from Rs2000 to Rs7500, according to the 2008 annual report of Meghalaya
Information Commission released recently. According to the report, out of a total number of 360 requests
received under RTI Act, 335 were disposed of during the year and the remaining 25 were pending. PWD
department received the highest number of 63 requests, followed by Forests and Environment (47) and
Health and Family Welfare (28). The number of complaints, relating to refusal of information by
government departments, received by the commission in the year was 59. (DNA 20/12/09)

UP to frame own RTI rules (1)
Lucknow, December 21, 2009 Uttar Pradesh will frame its own Right to Information (RTI) rules to define,
among other things, the procedure of seeking information under the act, prescribing a uniform fee and
cost of the medium or print cost of the material to be disseminated. Section 27 of the RTI Act 2005
empowers states and other competent authorities (like high courts, legislatures) to frame their own RTI
rules, dilating on the act’s provisions to do away with ambiguity and bring about uniformity in procedures.
While some states have framed their rules, Uttar Pradesh had not acted. But inconvenience faced by
many government departments in tackling information seekers and different departments following
different rules has forced the government to start work on making its own RTI rules. “We have already set
into motion the process of framing the much-needed RTI rules,” secretary, department of administrative
reforms, Anita Singh told the Hindustan Times. “However, it may take five-six months for the entire
exercise to complete.” She said rules acted as ‘fill in the blanks’ in any act and were needed to clarify
things for everyone. The high court has already made its own RTI rules prescribing fees, procedures and
formats. Unlike in government departments where people often ask many questions in the same
application while seeking information, the high court has ruled that only one question can be asked in one
application. (Hindustan Times 21/12/09)

Right to Information man blows whistle on 'unofficial' crèche (1)
Bangalore: An illegal creche is being run on government-owned space in the MS Building, a stone's throw
away from the Vidhana Soudha, without the permission of the authorities. When this was revealed in an
RTI report filed by GC Sathish, associate director of the Child Rights Trust, the Department of Women
and Child Development denied possessing any knowledge about the creche and confirmed that if any
such establishment existed, it was without registration or permission from the department. Sathish said
that he came to know about the matter through his wife, a government employee working in MS Building.
When the complainant tried to admit his son there, he came to know that it was an illegal undertaking and
parents were required to pay Rs70 a day for each baby. On September 25, Sathish filed an RTI seeking
information on the creche from the Department of Women and Child Development. The response
revealed that the creche owners hadn't taken the department's permission in this regard. Upon filing
another RTI, Sathish came to know that the department had actually given permission to another
concern, known as Souhardha, to run the creche. When contacted, public information officer and deputy
director of the department Shashikala U Shetty said, "Something went wrong after Souhardha stopped
running the creche. We are in the process of finding out what actually happened." Stating that the
department was responsible for handling creches in the city, Sathish asked, "Who will take responsibility if
anything happens here?" (dna 22/12/09)

Activist's fight brings aided schools under RTI's ambit (1)
CHENNAI: A Right to Information activist's campaign has exposed the reluctance of the school education
department to disclose information pertaining to the functioning of government-funded schools. General
secretary of the Federation of Anti-Corruption Teams India T Retna Pandian had to file a series of RTI
applications before four different agencies and pursue them with appeals before the State Information
Commission to achieve the task of bringing state-aided schools under RTI ambit. Lourdhu High School at
Pattabiram in Tiruvallur, which refused to accept two RTI petitions from Pandian has now been slapped a
fine of Rs 25,000 by the commission. The school had dismissed RTI petitions on the grounds that aided
schools need not have a public information officer (PIO), thereby defying the authority of the commission.
The commission's order said, "Since the school is aided, as per the RTI Act and judgement of the high
court, it is a public authority. It is directed to appoint a PIO and supply information within 2 weeks. If they
fail, the district educational officer is directed to take necessary action under Section 20 (2) against the
school."The PIO at the Directorate of School Education, who had claimed in an RTI reply sent to Pandian
that all schools in the state were following mandatory requirements in terms of infrastructure, has been
asked by the commission to explain why a penalty should not be imposed. Pandian, first filed an RTI
application to the school asking details related to the total area and built-up area of the buildings. When
the application was returned, he filed an appeal which was also returned. He then filed an RTI application
with the district education officer on the same subject, who replied to some of the queries. He said any
school in municipal limits should have 24,000 sq ft land and an extra three acres for a playground. The
Lourdhu school was functioning in less than 7,200 sq ft land, he said. He added that the school did not
have an approved plan for its buildings. However, he claimed in his reply that about three acres of land in
a discarded lake was being used as play area and the revenue officials had recommended that it be
handed over to the school permanently. The information about the playground proved to be false when
Poonamallee tahsildar, replying to another RTI by Pandian, said no such recommendation had been sent.
Pandian filed another RTI with the directorate of school education asking whether all the schools in the
state had adequate land, buildings and play ground. While replying in the affirmative to these queries, the
PIO at the directorate also claimed that no school was allowed to function without obtaining building plan
approval from the competent authority. The petitioner, pointing out the case of Lourdhu school, exposed
before the commission that the public information officer at the directorate had given wrong information.
(Times of India 25/12/09)

‘It is imperative for the people to be aware of provisions of Right to Information Act’ (1)
SHIMOGA: Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Development and Social Changes Trust K.C.
Basavaraj said on Thursday that it was necessary for everyone to be aware of the provisions of the Right
to Information Act to keep irregularities in the administration under check. He was speaking as the chief
guest at a publicity campaign on the Right to Information Act and a seminar organised at Kumsi near here
by the Department of Information in association with the Kumsi Gram Panchayat and the Sri
Dharmasthala Gramavriddhi Samsthe. He said that as there were provisions in the Act to get information
about the schemes and projects of the Government, it would be possible for people to check corruption
and irregularities while the officials implemented the schemes, by invoking the provisions of the Act. Mr.
Basavaraj said that it was possible if people became aware of their rights and understood the provisions
of the Act properly. Member of the taluk panchayat T.P. Rudrappa, who inaugurated the programme, said
that the Right to Information Act was of great help to the people to understand the details of the
Government’s various programmes and seek proper checks and balances by questioning the authorities
concerned about the loopholes in the implementation of the schemes. Member of the Enforcement
Committee of the Act B.S. Nagaraj said that people could assert their rights effectively if they understood
the provisions of the Right to Information Act. President of the Kumsi Gram Panchayat Karibasappa
presided over the function. President of the Primary Land Development Bank H.B. Ramappa, vice-
president of the Gram Panchayat Annapoornamma and its members Sujata Anandamurthy, H.S.
Huchaveerappa Karadi, H. Dharmendra and former president of the gram panchayat Hullappa were
present. Earlier, District Information Officer Devarajaiah welcomed the gathering. Convener of the Sri
Dharmasthala Gramavriddhi Samsthe Ganapathi Malanji proposed a vote of thanks. (The Hindu
26/12/09)

Right to Information act helps Padamsingh Patil to 'shoot down' allegations (1)
Mumbai: Right to Information Act (RTI) came to the rescue of NCP leader and member of Parliament
Padamsinh Patil who has been accused of murdering Congress leader Pawanraje Nimbalkar and
conspiring to kill social activist Anna Hazare. Patil, who was recently released on bail, used RTI to show
that he was not living in the bungalow where co-accused Parasmal Jain claimed to have met him to
accept the murder contract in January 2006. Jain, in his confessional statement before the CBI and a
magistrate, had said in January 2006 he and another arrested accused Satish Mandade met Patil in his
official bungalow 'Royal Stone' to take up the contract to murder Nimbalkar. However, Patil furnished a
letter obtained through RTI, which said that he had vacated the bungalow in March 2005 after he ceased
to be a state minister. This contradiction has been mentioned in the order of the Aurangabad Bench of the
Bombay High Court while granting bail to Patil in the case lodged against him by Hazare. Patil's lawyer
VR Manohar argued before the high court that the statement made by Jain is not prima facie trustworthy
and has no credibility. "Jain was not telling the truth in his confession. How could he have met Patil at the
Royal Stone bungalow in January-February 2006 when Patil had vacated the residence in March 2005,"
Manohar said. According to CBI officials, Jain had led the officers to the bungalow and told them he had
met Patil there along with Mandade in January 2006. According to Jain's confessional statement, when
he was waiting in a room at the bungalow, Patil came over and asked his name. When he introduced
himself, Patil gave him a stare and went inside with Mandade. Patil was arrested on June 3 this year
based on Jain's confession that he had killed Nimbalkar at the NCP leader's behest for a sum of Rs30
lakh. Nimbalkar and his driver were shot dead on June 3, 2006 at Kalamboli in Navi Mumbai. According
to the CBI, the motive behind the murder was political and business rivalry. In his statement, Jain
mentioned that he was also asked by Patil to kill Hazare, which he refused to do. (DNA 27/12/09)

Balco selloff papers missing, reveals RTI (1)
NEW DELHI: Government tender documents and minutes pertaining to the Rs 551.5 crore disinvestment
of Bharat Aluminium Co (Balco) in Chhattisgarh's Korba district eight years ago, cannot be traced by the
ministries concerned, according to a response to an RTI application seeking details of the same. In its
order on an RTI query filed by advocate Arjun Harkauli on the issue, Central Information Commission
observed, "in response to the request for information relating to disinvestment of government's 51% stake
in Balco, the CPIOs of respondents have stated they have made attempts to search and trace the desired
documents but to no avail". In its reply, the central government has nowhere stated that the documents
have been destroyed or that it cannot be supplied due to any bar under Section 8 of the Right to
Information Act, 2005. Sterlite Industries had acquired 51% stake in Balco in March, 2001. The advisor for
the deal was Jardine Fleming India Securities Ltd, with whom the agreement was signed by Department
of Disinvestment on behalf of the Government of India. In its response dated January 29, 2009, the
Department of Disinvestment, which comes under the Ministry of Finance said, "the records available with
the Department of Disinvestment show that Ministry of Mines, and not Department of Disinvestment were
in consultation with the advisors, even though the Department of Disinvestment has signed the
agreement with the advisors." In its response dated March 3, 2009, the ministry of mines had stated "the
said documents have not been found in the available files in this ministry". (Times of India 28/12/09)

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