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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Fighting Corruption Is Easy

Frustrated… angry…. and wondering how you can fight scams and corruption that keeps India weak and illiterate? Well, don’t despair, fighting corruption is possible and easy with the new Right to Information Act. Sakshi Trust launches India's most comprehensive web site on Right to Information for the concerned citizen at
The website has stories of how ordinary citizens fought grand and petty corruption with this simple tool. All it took was a letter and ten rupees to witness the power of real democracy.Also learn how to use this new tool of civic action and view successful applications on a host of issues from roads, sanitation, streetlights and information on utilization of MP and MLA funds. Apart from which, you can get help to locate Public Information officers of various government authorities and most importantly learn how to file an RTI application in simple steps. Participate by requesting for a Right to Information training, in your office or apartment complex. You can also do your bit in spreading the good news by forwarding this email to friends who might be suffering at the hands of unresponsive government officials or are just plain interested.To be kept updated about the latest on Right to Information, from government notifications to success stories and Sakshi’s forthcoming events, visit today and help save India.
Sakshi Trust

Official fined Rs 18,000 under Info Act

In the second incident of penalising an erring officer under the Right to Information Act in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) T N Shrivastava fined Morena District Woman and Child Development Officer (DWCDO) Sajan Aluna for failing to provide information sought under the Act within the time limit and not abiding by the appellate officer's order.

The CIC imposed the fine of Rs 18,000 after not being satisfied with the explanation given by Mrs Aluna, who was earlier given show cause notice on the second appeal by Mr Balwant Singh Haihayavanshi, who had sought certain information from the department on December 31 last year. The Act came into force on October 12 last year.

The DWCDO rejected the application on January 8 on the ground that the applicant had been suspended after preliminary inquiry.

On an appeal, the Morena District Collector directed the DWCDO on February 8 to provide copies of the document on payment as the applicant had not sought any confidential document.
After dillydallying on one pretext or the other, the DWCDO allowed the applicant to deposit Rs 1200 on March 14 to provide copies of the documents. The second appeal was made as the required documents were not supplied by April 14.

The Chief Information Commissioner found Mrs Aluna's conduct as ''unfortunate'' and directed to provide the required documents within seven days.

A fortnight ago, Tahsildar R S Chouhan of Gyaraspur in Vidisha district was fined Rs 25,000 for refusing to provide copies of land transfer deed to an applicant under the Right to Information Act.
(Bhopal June 07, 2006 12:40:24 PM IST) UNI SP KD GC1225

Using Post Offices to Submit RTI Applications

From: C N Kumar
I wanted to send an RTI application to the Railways and the Civil Aviation Department both of which are based outside Bangalore and are under the Central Government.
I remembered what Mr Veeresh Malik had told me earlier and did the following:
1. I went to the GPO along with my RTI application which had the name and full address of the PIO and remitted a sum of Rs 10 to account UCR-miscellaneous ( Unclassified Receipts- Miscellaneous). You can do this at any designated head post office.
2. I affixed the receipt for Rs 10 to the RTI application and handed it into the APIO at GPO.
3. She acknowledged my application and has agreed to send me a copy of the letter forwarding my application.
4. The application will be sent free by the P&T Department by registered post.
I thought I would share this with you so that you can adopt the procedure.
Best regards
C N Kumar
Advantage Offshore Knowledge Services Private Limited
1st Floor, "Poornima"
25, Madras Bank Road,
(Opposite State Bank of India)
Bangalore 560001
Phone @ work: 91-80-25550834,91-80-25585883
Fax @ work: 91-80-25550833
Mobile: 91-98440-56666
Web page:
Phone @home: 91-80-26573636,91-80-26572020

CIC asks applicants not to misuse RTI Act

Public authorities are usually at the receiving end of the Central Information Commission. But the tables were turned recently, when in two cases under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, CIC reprimanded information seekers for ‘harassing’ public authorities. In both the cases, the information seekers or applicants were disgruntled former employees. In the first case, Hyderabad’s K Gopinath had applied to All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technology University for diverse information. When the case reached CIC, the Commission found that most of the information has been given to the applicant. CIC noted that in a period of 3-4 months, Gopinath had put in as many as 67 applications to JNTU, where he had worked and from where he was subsequently dismissed. ‘‘In the present case, the applicant who had been dismissed by the organisation on disciplinary grounds four months back, has since then flooded different organisations with RTI applications asking for diverse pieces of information,’’ the Commission said. It also observed that the three organisations had done their best to satisfy Gopinath. ‘‘The applicant as a citizen of India has every right to resort to the RTI Act and ask for any and every information subject to the limitation prescribed by the Act...The Commission would like to appeal to such applicants to desist from using the RTI Act in a manner that would amount to harassment of public authorities without fulfiling the basic objectives of the Act,’’ the Commission observed. In a similar case, a Rajasthan resident Faqir Chand had filed two applications with North Western Railway (NWR), Jaipur, and despite receiving the information approached CIC. On questioning, Chand admitted that he had been ‘harassed’ by NWR while in service. Chand, who has since retired, decided to harass NWR by asking extensive information under the RTI Act. The application was disposed off after the Commission made it known that the Act was not an instrument to ‘‘settle scores’’.
Himanshi Dhawan (Times of India, Delhi Edition, Dec 26th, 2006, pg 7)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Central Information Commission criticised

  • First hearing of a case held only three to four months after application was filed
  • Under RTI Act cases must be decided within 30 days of receipt of appeal
  • CIC says its staff strength has been improved

The Hindu, Date:16/04/2006 , Staff Correspondent, NEW DELHI: Six months after the Central Information Commission was constituted, its record in dealing with complaints and appeals under the Right to Information (RTI) Act came in for severe criticism.
Addressing a meeting on the RTI Act, organised here by the All-India Management Association in collaboration with the IC-Centre for Governance here on Saturday, Arvind Kejriwal from Parivartan, an organisation that has been spearheading the RTI campaign in Delhi, said the Commission's performance had become a matter of serious concern. Pointing to delays in hearing applications, he said the first hearing of a case filed before the Commission was held only three to four months after the first application was filed. "This renders irrelevant the requirement in the RTI Act for cases to be decided within 30 days of the receipt of the appeal," said Mr. Kejriwal.
No penalties
Mr. Kejriwal said the Commission was yet to impose a single penalty on Public Information Officers (PIOs) who had refused to provide or given misleading information. Under Section 20 of the RTI Act, if the CIC was of the opinion that a PIO had, without reasonable cause, refused to entertain an application for information, or had given misleading information, it had to impose a penalty of Rs. 250 a day till the information was supplied.
Chief Central Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said that he welcomed public criticism of the functioning of the Commission but an evaluation of the CIC had to be done over an extended period. He said the Commission had received over 600 appeals and it had taken decisions in 99.
On the implementation of the RTI Act's penalty clause, he said a show cause notice had to go out and an investigation conducted to determine if the PIO was in the wrong "without reasonable doubt."
"There are two to three cases where such investigations are being conducted," he said.
Mr. Habibullah said the CIC's staff had been strengthened, and included an officer of the secretary level and a judicial officer.
Speaking at the seminar, Convenor of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) Shekhar Singh said the Government must ensure awareness about the contents and scope of the RTI Act. He said Section 2(f) of the Act effectively expanded the scope of the Act beyond public and Government bodies to include private bodies as well.
Section 2(f) defines information as relating to "any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any law for the time being in force."

For complete story click on:

RTI Act has put governments in a spot

The Hindu, Date:20/12/2006: The Hindu received a huge response to its Public Eye on Right to Information Act. Jayanagar Study Centre says that the RTI Act has put governments in a tight corner. As such they are trying to adopt tactics such as not providing the required infrastructure. The cases have piled up so much that the minimum waiting period for any case to come up is three months and a judgment can take one year.
"This is how the government kills its own child," says G.S. Narayanan, secretary of the study centre.
S. Kavita of Nagarabhavi, who got incomplete information about the builder of her house, says that the BMP gave incomplete/irresponsible information.
Vikram Simha, an RTI activist, writes that the reason for delay in providing information requested under the RTI is that our officials have never codified the procedures and all dealings of files are tailor-made to suit official needs. Officials have to buy RTI Act books from outside even though it is mandatory for the Government to print and publish the Act book.
He also says that at least 65 per cent of the requests for information will find answers in suo motu declarations by government departments. But none of the public authorities have made honest endeavours to publish these declarations as per the Act.
Help on hand
On request from readers such as P. Vijaysarathy, we have a few numbers and email IDs of people who could help you in filing RTI applications.
N Vikram Simha, trustee, Mahithi Hakku Adayayana Kendra, ph. 26565058, 98860-20774, email
B.H. Veeresha, president, Bhrastachar Nirmoolana Vedike, ph. 9448704693,
Y.G. Muralidharan, Consumer Rights Education & Awareness Trust (CREAT), ph. 23357280
You can also call the National Help Line: 9250400100

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RTI could be included in curriculum

Awareness about the Act has percolated to the grassroots, says Sheila Dikshit
Date:13/10/2006, NEW DELHI: Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Thursday disclosed that her Government was considering including the Right to Information as a subject in the school curriculum in Delhi schools.
Ms. Dikshit was responding to a suggestion by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who was the guest of honour at a prize distribution function held for the winners of an essay competition for school children on the Right to Information organised jointly by the Directorate of Training and the Directorate of Education. Former Union Home Secretary K. Padmanabhaiah presided over the function.
Ms. Dikshit expressed satisfaction that awareness about the Right to Information Act had percolated to the grassroots. A pointer to this was the fact that the first three positions had been secured by girl students from schools situated in slum clusters and colonies in rural areas.
She reminded that Delhi was the first State in the country to enact its Right to Information Act in 2001, which brought about an improvement in the administrative system.
She said her Government had made available all useful information on the website and has implemented e-governance and computerisation. She expressed confidence that students would take a lead in disseminating the true message of RTI Act. As many as 2,627 students from 914 Government and Government-aided schools being run by the Directorate of Education participated in the function. The other prize winning boys and girls from different districts were also felicitated.
Mr. Habibullah described RTI as a major step in democratising polity of India. He disclosed that the RTI Commission had been receiving complaints from all sections of society including slum dwellers, which reflects that the people have come to know about the utility of RTI. "The people are masters of the Government in democracy and RTI is a tool to extract information from public authorities."
Mr. Padmanabhaiah exhorted NGOs to render constructive cooperation in making RTI more purposeful. He said RTI was bound to bring in greater transparency and openness apart from changing the mindset of the people working in the Government.
For complete story click on the link below:

Bangaloreans assert their right to information

· About 1,500 cases have been filed with the KIC accusing officials of providing misleading information
The Hindu, Swathi Shivanand (Date:13/12/2006) Bangalore: One year since it came into force, persevering citizens are not letting the Right to Information (RTI) Act fade into oblivion. Hundreds of applications for information under the RTI Act are making their way onto the tables of government officials, who are legally bound to give information that the citizen asks for.
Obstinate officials, unwilling to give information, have been taken to task by angry citizens. Nearly 1,500 cases have been filed with the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), accusing officials of delaying, or providing misleading or incomplete information.
In Bangalore, many citizens have used the RTI Act. There are even e-groups such as Kriya Katte and organisations such as Mahiti Hakku Adhyayana Kendra to take up the cause of the RTI applicants.
Common problems
Delay in providing information to applicants is one of the most common problems. On August 27, V. Bhaskar of Nivarana Seva Trust filed an application under RTI Act asking for information on unauthorised constructions in all the three zones of the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) and on what action had been initiated against the violators. He was not provided the information within the mandated 30 days. The BMP, however, took action and slapped fines against the engineers when Mr. Bhaskar approached the appellant authority at the BMP.
Wrong information
There are instances of wrong information being provided or of intentional denial of information.
On August 31, the KIC fined the Commissioner of Byatarayanpura City Municipal Council (CMC) Rs. 5,000 for providing wrong information to B.H. Veeresh, who had asked for information on a Civic Amenity (CA) site in Canara Bank Layout.
Officials usually claim non-availability of records. The claim is not without reason. "The problem with many government agencies is that the recording system is so bad that many documents are irretrievably lost," says Y.G. Muralidharan, member of Consumer Rights Education and Awareness Trust.
However, Anil Kumar, convenor of Kriya Katte, an organisation dedicated to spreading information on RTI Act, disagrees. He says that it is one of the duties of the Government agencies to maintain the records efficiently. "You cannot deny information to the public because you have not been doing your duty properly over the years," he says.
State Information Commissioner K.A. Thippeswamy provides another reason for officials' resistance. He says: "The mindset of officials is yet to change. When people ask for information, officials feel that their authority is being undermined."
Officials claim that most people ask for information either to blackmail the officials or just for the sake of asking. They say that RTI Act has added to their burden. "Most people ask for so much information that it is difficult to provide all of it.
Government organisations, in some cases, have not provided information "terming the data asked for as personal interest."
Lack of seriousness
In an evident display of lack of seriousness in disseminating basic information on names, designations and other particulars of the Public Information Officers (PIOs), the police department, in its notification, gives no addresses and contact numbers of its PIOs and appellant authorities.
"The BMP, BWSSB, BESCOM and other agencies must make it accessible to the public information on what services the ward offices or service stations provide to the citizens. Instead they just tell us that the information is available at the head office," says Mr. Anil Kumar.
Making a difference
Some people have invited the wrath of officials and local politicians by just demanding information. But in most instances, to prevent secrets from spilling out, authorities have promptly completed work, which sometimes have been pending for years.
J. Vasudevan of Jayamahal Citizens' Forum had asked for information about road works taken up in the past two years in his area. It was only when he was about to approach the KIC that the officials gave him the information he had asked for. "Now after I have the information, the BMP has finally taken up all these incomplete works," he said.
For complete story click on:
The Hindu,

Saturday, December 23, 2006

CAMPAIGNS: For informed action-Public hearings

The right to information has been used in Rajasthan to highlight corruption in government departments. Preeti Sampat, a member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) which pioneered the right to information campaign in Rajasthan, said: "We held a public meeting in Jawaja on the people's access to the local public health system. We found that though doctors in the local government hospital are supposed to provide treatment completely free for people under the BPL [below poverty line] category, villagers often end up paying money because of entrenched corruption and the lack of information about their entitlements. Whether it is health, the Public Distribution System [PDS] or education, the government must display publicly the services that people are entitled to."
Learning from the Rajasthan experience, groups in Delhi have used Delhi's Right to Information (RTI) Act to organise public hearings on a variety of issues. Anjali Bhardwaj of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), a citizen's group involved in this issue, said: "Jan sunwais in urban areas are not done on the same scale as in villages because the dynamics in an urban set-up are different and a lot of our work is with resident welfare associations and middle income groups. We also do work with lower income groups, especially in the slums where those who speak up in a forum like the public hearing are extremely vulnerable to threats of eviction and displacement."
Arvind Kejriwal, from Parivartan, an organisation that works on the right to information campaign in Delhi, said: "Almost 80 per cent of the time the Delhi RTI Act is used to get individual grievances resolved. For example, in an instance where a customer does not get an electricity connection because the official in charge wants a bribe, the customer can use the RTI Act to get information on what happened to his application. People have been able to keep a check on work taking place in their localities, including the construction of roads and the emptying of garbage bins in their areas." The Delhi RTI Act has been used extensively with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Jal Board. Anjali Bhardwaj added: "Residents of the Sheikh Sarai area shook up the MCD when they made a simple application under the RTI Act enquiring about the existing system under which sweepers employed by the MCD share 50 per cent of their salaries with the Sanitation Inspector, who in return marks them present even when they do not perform their duties."
Anjali Bhardwaj said: "The Delhi RTI Act is a powerful tool as it has a penalty provision where erring officials can be fined Rs.50 a day up to a maximum of Rs.500, which can be deducted from their salaries. This then goes as a black mark in their records and can affect their chances of being promoted."
For complete story click on the link below:
Frontline, Vol:21 Iss:19 URL:

Cost of RTI appeal in Noida Rs 500

RTI activists are up in arms against a notice issued by the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) on Thursday, which says that an RTI applicant will be charged Rs 400 on first appeal, and another Rs 100 for getting the judgment of an appellate authority.
They say this is an attempt to defang the Act by discouraging RTI applications and shield corrupt officials.
As RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal puts it: "It is an illegal and shameless attempt to cover up NOIDA's nefarious activities." The NGO, Parivartan, too condemned this as "subverting of the RTI Act".
Expressing concern over the turn of events, state chief information commissioner Gyanendra Sharma said: "NOIDA's CEO cannot levy any charges for an appeal under the RTI Act. I have summoned the NOIDA principal information officer to Lucknow on Monday."
It all began with NOIDA releasing a notice to a section of the media on Thursday. The notice said a "fee of Rs 400 will be charged if an RTI applicant files an appeal before Noida's appellate authority, about NOIDA not providing timely or desired information. Also, Rs 100 will be charged for obtaining the judgement of the appellate authority, who is NOIDA's additional chief executive officer."
NOIDA has even introduced some "amendments" in the Act. While the law says information under the Act can be held up in "public interest", the NOIDA website announces it can be held up "in the interest of the authority" too.
The website further states that the "competent authority" is the CEO of NOIDA. However, Section 28 (2) of the RTI Act limits the "competent authority" to speakers of legislative bodies, the President, state governors, Supreme Court and high court chief justices and administrators of Union Territories.
Also, the RTI Act has no provision which allows even the "competent authority" to levy any fee for appeals. The competent authority can only regulate the cost of providing the information.
Said RTI activist Commander (retd) Lokesh Batra: "Levying a fee for appeals is like saying the appellant will be penalised if NOIDA does not provide information under the Act. This move is an attempt to cover up corruption in NOIDA."
In Jalvayu Vihar, claimed Batra, NOIDA has "even stopped providing sanitation facilities after a number of applications under the RTI Act were filed by the residents".
Asked to comment, NOIDA CEO Sanjiv Saran asked to contact his deputy, saying: "Deputy CEO C P Singh is looking after RTI here. Please ask him." When Singh was approached, he in turn said, "Please ask the CEO as he looks after RTI."
For complete story click on the link below:

RTI to know ACRs

IAS officials, usually at the receiving end when it comes to applications filed under Right to Information (RTI) Act, too have found it to be a useful instrument in digging out information.
Some in the IAS lobby have decided to pierce the iron curtain shrouding their annual confidential report (ACR) — which is a leash in the hands of politicians to ensure that bureaucrats tow their line — with the help of RTI.
For, just one adverse remark on their ACR could ruin their bureaucratic stint or their hopes for a promotion. While some have now begun using RTI Act to get a copy of their ACRs, others have even gone to the extent of demanding specific file notings made by their seniors in their confidential reports.
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Explain games expense: CIC

Overruling the Indian Olympic Association's plea that it was not governed by the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the sports body to provide information on the expenses incurred at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games'closing ceremony in April.
The association and Delhi government had come under severe flak over the ceremony when it became public that the two organisations had spent more on roping in celebrities like Aishwarya Rai than on sportspersons.
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Friday, December 22, 2006

PMO refuses to furnish data on Netaji

KOLKATA (22 Dec, 2006; 1039 hrs IST; PTI): The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has refused to furnish data on documents and records it held on the mysterious disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, saying that the disclosure would harm India's relations with foreign countries. "On verification of the classified files held by PMO, it is held that their disclosure will prejudicially affect relations with foreign countries," Sanjay Mitra, Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister and Appellate Authority in the PMO told Anuj Dhar. Dhar, a part of Delhi-based organisation Mission Netaji that has been campaigning to reveal the truth behind Netaji’s disappearance, had sought the declassification of the list under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The PMO's denial comes close on the heels of Chief Information Officer AN Tiwari's warning to the Union Home Ministry that it would take stern action if the ministry did not furnish the 202 documents on the leader that were in its possession. Mission Netaji had earlier requested Kamal Dayani, Central Public Information Officer to confirm if the PMO was holding classified records on Bose and provide a list of all such records along with the unclassified ones. In reply, Dayani provided a list of only the unclassified files, most relating to Bose's disappearance. In keeping with the RTI procedure, Mission Netaji reported the matter to the Appellate Authority in the PMO, complaining that Dayani's answer was "incomplete" because it has not responded to the request for the classified files. Dhar, a journalist who has written Back from the Dead: Inside the Subhas Bose Mystery , said he would take up the matter with the Central Information Commission.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Right to Information: First Principles & Sound Practice

The constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression is the repository of the right to information — not the 2005 Act, which is an instrument laying down the statutory procedure in the exercise of this right. It follows that all exceptions, exemptions, and denials of the right to information must necessarily conform to Article 19 (2). The Government must drop in its entirety its present proposal to amend the Act.
THE CURRENT debate with regard to the width of the Right to Information (RTI) has thrown up certain interesting issues for an informed national debate. The key question in the current debate evolves around the desirability of making notings on various files public. The Central Information Commission had interpreted the Right to Information Act, 2005 to include a citizen's right to get copies/inspection of file notings containing advices and opinions given by various civil servants. The United Progressive Alliance Government, on the contrary, has argued that this right was never included in the Act and that it is now willing to confer a limited right with regard to social sector expenditure and projects only and not with regard to other areas of governance.
The proponents of the liberal view have argued that information, as defined under the Act, includes opinions and advices and is therefore broad enough to cover file notings. File notings are essentially to understand not merely the fairness of the decision but also the decision-making process. Contrarian viewpoints upon consideration of which the Government decides become clear once the decision-making process is made public. If merely the final decision is conveyed, the rationale and logic behind the decision may not become apparent. Any unfair influence or collateral considerations in decision-making will not be known. The reasons why a more logical point has been overruled will never be known. The right to information will itself be incomplete without notings and observations on various files given by officials being made public. In our system of governance, we expect the civil services to advise the political executive freely and objectively. It will have to be made known why in certain cases this professional advice has not been accepted. Governments are expected to act fairly and rationally. All actions must be informed by reason. Decisions must necessarily be in the public interest and not suffer the vice of arbitrariness.
Supporters of the conservative view, on the other hand, have sought to contend that the original Act never conferred the right to know the notings, advices, and opinions. The proposed .....
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Time now to enforce RTI: CIC

The effectiveness of the country's 18-month-old path-breaking transparency legislation, the Right to Information Act, came under review for two days ata workshop on RTI over the weekend in the Sun City of Jodhpur.
There were complaints of lack of interest on the part of State Governments in creating the necessary infrastructure for disseminating the information under the Act but the speakers -- who included Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and pioneer of the movement Aruna Roy and CICs of Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan -- hailed the new law as one of the "outstanding legislations" in the world and "unprecedented" in the country going by the public response.
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