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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Secrecy is dead, long live secrecy

Vidya Subrahmaniam, In the nine months since the enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the Government's Ministries have done much to undermine the Central Information Commission and, by implication, the Act itself.

THE PROPOSED amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005, including an amendment to keep file notings secret, have been called off — at least for now. So what are the chances that they will return in one form or another? Indeed, how strong is the official resistance to the RTI Act as it exists?

The RTI story on the ground is the story of small successes. It is about men and women who got their entitlements by filing or just threatening to file an application under the Act. It is about Bihar's Mazloom Nadaf, a rickshaw-puller, who got the usual run-around on his plea for a home under the Indira Awas Yojana, but who was treated like a king once he had filed an application under the RTI Act: Could he please come to the Block Development Office and collect his cheque? While at it, could he also be so kind as to drop his complaint? It is about Nannu, the East Delhi mazdoor, who having done the rounds for a duplicate ration card, filed a complaint under the RTI Act seeking the names of officers who drove him round the bend. Nannu might have waved a magic wand judging by the swift invite from the Food and Civil Supplies office, where officers fussed over him, gave him tea — and his ration card. As a beaming Nannu departed, his new friends called after him: Would he please drop his complaint?

The moral of all this: Don't ask us questions. Don't ask which officer did what. Just take your ration card, telephone connection, passport, and so forth. Indeed, the larger battle for file notings must be viewed against these smaller victories. Babudom would rather redress your complaint in double quick time than have you track the inside story. And file notings take you precisely where you are not meant to go — into the forbidding and shadowy world of governmental decision-making.

A visit to the website of the Central Information Commission — the final authority under the RTI Act on disclosure of official information — is revealing. The Commission first allowed access to file notings on January 31, 2006, in the Satyapal case. Its reasoning was impeccable. Firstly, that file notings were essential to understand why the Government came to a particular decision: "...[Governmental] decisions are mostly based on the recording in notesheets and even decisions are recorded on the notesheets. No file would be complete without notesheets having `file notings'..." And secondly, that the Act as it stood permitted access to file notings: "... a combined reading of Sections 2(f), (i) and (j) would indicate that a citizen has the right of access to a file of which file notings are an integral part..."

In the seven months since the Satyapal case, the CIC has ruled in favour of file notings in more than 40 cases. The appellants knocked on the Commission's doors because one or another Ministry or Department had refused to part with file notings. This raises the obvious question. Why was the Commission enjoined to decide again and again on file notings when it had already settled the issue in January 2006?

Consider the big guns that turned away applicants seeking file notings under the RTI Act: Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Company Affairs, Department of Consumer Affairs, Central Board of Excise and Customs, not to mention the Department of Personnel and Training — on paper the nodal agency for facilitating information under the RTI Act but in practice the most reluctant to parcel out information. The DoPT's response to the CIC's Satyapal ruling was to put up a website posting unilaterally declaring file notings out of bounds for RTI applicants, refusing to take it off to this day. It is this posting that the Ministries and Departments cited when they refused disclosure of file notings to RTI applicants.

The Commission's word on file notings ought to have been treated as final by the Government and its Departments. After all, the Commission's status as the final appellate body under the RTI Act would be sustainable only if it had the freedom to enforce the Act as it understood it. It can hardly have been the Act's intention that its provisions must be interpreted by the government of the day. If that were the case, then it could be left to the government to decide when, how much and to whom information could be given without the need for an appellate body — indeed without the need for a Right to Information Act.

Curiously, it is this situation that prevails today. On paper, the Government has withdrawn the proposed amendments to the RTI Act, including the amendment to disallow file notings. That it was considering an amendment to prohibit file notings is in itself admission that the Act permits them. It also means that the CIC's interpretation of the Act on file notings was correct. Yet the DoPT, whose Minister paradoxically announced that the amendments had been shelved, remains unyielding on the issue. Thus, the CIC might cry itself hoarse on the validity of file notings, the Government might say it has backed off on the amendment on file notings, but the Government's Ministries and Departments will behave as if the amendment was in place.

The CIC gave vent to its exasperation in its June 23, 2006, decision allowing file notings in a case filed by Mahendra Gaur against the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). Mr. Gaur, who alleged malpractice in the sale of 2T oil in Rajasthan, took recourse to the RTI Act after he failed to get a hearing. The DCA's Chief Public Information Officer, C.S. Khurana, refused him access to file notings; so in his appeal to Rinchen Tempo, the designated Appellate Authority, Mr. Gaur appended the CIC's Satyapal decision on file notings. Ms. Tempo dismissed the appeal, citing the DoPT's website posting on file notings. Said the Commission: "The question whether file notings are exempt or not has been put to rest by this Commission in Satyapal versus TCIL ... and this decision is in the website of this Commission. In terms of Section 19 (7) of the said (RTI) Act, while the decision of this Commission is final and binding on the parties in that case, in the matter of interpretation of the provisions of the Act, the said interpretation is binding on all the public authorities. Curiously in her decision, she [the Appellate Authority] has ignored to refer to the decision of the Commission even though the appellant has referred to the same in his appeal."

Three days later, it was the Railway Ministry's turn to get an earful from the CIC. Noting that the PIO concerned had denied access to file notings to the applicant only because of the DoPT's website instructions, the Commission said: "... clarifications by the Department of Personnel and Training ... cannot override the statutory provisions of the RTI Act of 2005." Finally, in sheer helplessness and faced with mounting and completely unnecessary appeals against non-disclosure of file notings by various Ministries and Departments, the CIC ordered the DoPT to remove its website posting, which was creating "unnecessary and avoidable confusion in the minds of Public Authorities" who were denying access to file notings even though the RTI Act "does not exempt file notings from disclosure."

Clearly, information is power for the Government — RTI Act or no RTI Act. There can be two sides to the grand battle being fought on the sanctity or otherwise of file notings. It is possible that the Government genuinely fears that access to file notings will, to quote the Prime Minister's Office, "inhibit the expression of frank views by officers ... place him [an officer] under threat or danger." It is a disputable position but not a dishonest position. What is unacceptable is that the Government should repeatedly override the CIC and the RTI Act — in this and other matters. Forget file notings, Government Ministries and Departments have so far shown no inclination to file the mandatory annual reports on the implementation of the Act. The DoPT leads the pack of rebels: It has misinterpreted the Act, encouraged other Ministries to follow this misinterpretation, slighted the CIC over and over, refused to hand over papers to it even though the Act requires it do so and done everything to preserve the regime of secrecy that arms the Government but disarms the people.
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

Central Information Commission criticised

Staff Correspondent
"There have been delays in hearing applications"

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

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."
Date:16/04/2006 URL:

© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu

HC frames rules for smooth implementation of Act

TIMES NEWS NETWORK Chandigarh: People facing hurdles while seeking information under the RTI Act can hope for some relief. They can now approach the courts to seek information under RTI. Almost two years after the Act came into force in the country, the HC has framed rules for its smooth implementation in both the states. HC Registrar (rules) SK Garg said the rules have been notified this week by the court and that gazette was being published. The HC rules will determine the fee to be charged from the applicants for providing information and will lay down the procedure to be followed while disclosing information.

Courts to clear-up all applications

Chandigarh: The rules will also decide who will be designated as public information officers, assistant public information officers and appellate authority in various courts of Punjab and Haryana.
Under the provisions of the RTI Act, state government, Vidhan Sabha and the high court are to frame rules for the implementation of the Act. While Punjab government framed rules after the Act came into force, the high court delayed it. The delay in framing the rules resulted in a backlog of hundreds of applications filed under the Act in various courts. After much dilly-dallying, the HC finally set up a committee early this year for framing the rules which submitted its report recently.
A Punjab state information commission officer said the absence of these rules acted as an impediment in providing information to the public as the courts in both the states refused information on this ground. According to a court official, with the HC notifying these rules the courts will start clearing all applications filed under the Act. The court will also post all information, including that on PIOs and APIOs, on its website.
Publication: Times Of India Chandigarh; Date:2007 Aug 31; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

RTI officer pulls up court

Rohit Mullick | TNN Chandigarh: In a big leap for RTI activism, the Punjab State Information Commission (PSIC) has in a landmark stricture pulled up a district court for not facilitating information sought by a retired bank officer.
In its order on August 13, the Commission came down heavily on the Amritsar district court and said there is no excuse for holding information sought by K S Kathuria, a retired AGM of Punjab and Sindh Bank. The Commission’s order came after Kathuria, an Amritsar resident, turned to the PSIC when the court denied him information on records that junior judicial officers had allegedly tampered with.
Dismissing the court’s plea that information was denied because there wasn’t any public information officer (PIO) appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, chief information commissioner (CIC) Rajan Kashyap asked the court to reply to Kathuria’s queries.

‘Rules framed to aid execution of statute’

Chandigarh: Asking the court to reply to Kathuria’s queries after dismissing the court’s plea, CIC Rajan Kashyap said: ‘‘A judge is a public authority and in the absence of a PIO he has to act as an information officer.’’ The CIC further told the court that ‘‘the implementation of the RTI Act cannot be kept pending because of delay in formation of rules by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The rules are framed to aid and not to obstruct the implementation of the statute.’’
The Commission also rejected another plea put forward by the court that the sought information was not provided as ‘‘it was of personal nature having no relation with any public activity.’’ To this the CIC shot back saying, ‘‘The sought information is not of personal nature but is in public interest and the proper maintenance of judicial record is of utmost importance. It would be naive to classify such information as personal information having no relationship to any public activity or interest.’’
Kathuria had demanded information on certain records which, according to him, were tampered by junior officials of the Amritsar court to frame him in a criminal case of foodgrain theft dating back to 1998. According to him, the court had directed the police to re-investigate the case against him but on both occasions he had been absolved.
Publication: Times Of India Chandigarh; Date:2007 Aug 31; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1

Functioning of SIC under scanner

Vaivasvat Venkat | TNN Ludhiana: The functioning of State Information Commission has come under scanner for its careless attitude towards discharging its duties.
The situation is such that irked by the attitude of the Commission, the information seekers are being forced to take certain steps out of sheer frustration and harassment. The startling fact came to light in a recent case in which an information seeker, Yogesh Dewan, finally requested the Commission to dismiss his case . “Being totally dissatisfied with the partial and lenient attitude of the SIC towards the Ludhiana municipal corporation, I here by request to dismiss my case,” reads out the submission of Dewan to the Commission.
The much disgruntled Dewan alleges that SIC has defeated the purpose of RTI Act 2005. Dewan says according to rules the information should be given to the seeker within 30 days, but in his case even after 300 days the information wasn’t provided. “SIC rarely imposes penalty on bureaucrats, following which bureaucrats indulge in persistent delays in supplying information to applicant, resulting in harassment,” rues Dewan.
Dewan informs it was on 06-03-07 that he had appealed to SIC under section 19 of RTI Act against public information officer (PIO) of LMC, but till now no information has been provided. He says information hasn’t been given even after 130 days of the appeal before SIC. The Commission kept warning PIO but he continued with the delay.
Publication: Times Of India Chandigarh; Date:2007 Sep 02; Section:Punjab Haryana; Page Number 3

Netas stay healthy, you paid for it

Rakesh Prakash | TNN Bangalore: For these MLAs, health is truly wealth. Unlike the poor in their constituencies, they get the best medical treatment without spending even a single rupee from their wallet.
Of the 225 members in the Karnataka assembly, a total of 108 MLAs have claimed medical allowances to the tune of Rs 82.88 lakh in just two years. Their principal sponsors: the taxpayers.
According to the documents procured by The Times of India under the RTI Act, some of those who have claimed medical reimbursements are ministers with a cash-rich background. While industries minister Katta Subramanya Naidu, whose monthly personal income is Rs 5.04 lakh, has claimed a medical reimbursement of Rs 1.35 lakh from the government, forest minister C Chennigappa has claimed Rs 2.9 lakh, despite his personal income being a whopping Rs 10 lakh per month. In the list are 11 other ministers. “These leaders are quite rich and can afford to undergo medical treatment at their own cost. That way, they will be saving public money which can be used to help the poor. Unfortunately, they are not that magnanimous,’’ an official rued.
According to the Karnataka Legislature (Members Medical Attendance) (Amended) Rules-1997, MLAs and members of their families are entitled to free medical treatment in all government hospitals and 53 private hospitals across the state. In Bangalore, they can get treatment in 31 private hospitals. They can also undergo treatment at five private super-speciality hospitals in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Vellore.
A scrutiny of the medical reimbursement claims made so far throws up some interesting facts. First, the medical expenditure incurred by the MLAs has been on the rise — from Rs 20.15 lakh in 2004 to Rs 27.44 lakh in 2005 and Rs 35.28 lakh in 2006. Second, a majority of the claims have been made by young MLAs and not the veterans who are visibly weak. Third, while some MLAs have claimed reimbursements on an annual basis, those like R Ashok and Jagadish Shettar have stopped it after becoming ministers.
On the veracity of the claims, a secretariat official chose not to comment. “There is no ceiling on MLAs’ medical expenses. We just receive the bills and refund the amount, we don’t even get to know for what disease the amount has been spent,’’ he said. In case of claims for refund of expenses incurred on account of purchase of special medicines, the MLAs have to produce a essentiality certificate countersigned by a medical officer authorised by the directorate of health services. With the government recently extending the medical allowances to the family members of former MLAs too, there is a need to streamline the system of refunding claims, the official said.

MLAs are NOT entitled to ...

l Buy spectacles or get dentures fixed. They can only get treatment and prescription from dentists and opticians.

l Get dentures made of special material like gold or silver.

l Free treatment at any government hospital for venereal diseases or any disease brought about by their intemperance. In other words, they will not receive treatment for AIDS at government cost.

l Claim refund for food and articles, like tonics, toiletries and disinfectants that do not have therapeutic value.

Publication: Times Of India Bangalore; Date:2007 Sep 03; Section:Times City; Page Number 6

CIC: Don’t seek reason before giving info under RTI

New Delhi: For any “public authority” to ask for reasons before disclosing information under the Right to Information Act is against the spirit of the legislation, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.
The commission Bench headed by information commissioner O P Kejariwal has expressed surprise over a Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) circular prohibiting disclosure of its recruitment results to anyone except the candidates concerned.
“The commission stands surprised at the circular because it seems to be against the spirit of the RTI Act which in no way lays down that the respondents (public authorities) will ask the appellant (information seekers) for reasons for disclosure of any information or his locus standi in the case,” it observed in a recent order.
Amitava Choudhury, a resident of Howrah in West Bengal, had moved an RTI application with South-Eastern Railway seeking inspection of files and records relating to selection for the post of train ticket collector through an examination held on May 23, 2003.
The application was forwarded to RRB, Kolkata and it had denied inspection of the details on the ground that Choudhury did not have a locus standi in the matter.
The RRB during the hearing, supported its claim by producing before the commission a board circular of June 12 last year which prohibited disclosure of examination results to anyone except the candidates concerned.
Strongly disapproving with the Board’s circular, the CIC asked it to open up all the relevant records to Choudhury by September 15 and has further directed it to immediately withdraw the circular.
“Since the circular gives a totally distorted picture of the RTI Act, commission directs the appropriate authorities for immediate withdrawal of the circular,” it said. AGENCIES
Publication: Times Of India Bangalore; Date:2007 Sep 05; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 14

PIOs pay for not giving details of info costs

Viju B I TNN, Mumbai: Withholding information under the Right To Information Act on frivo l o u s g ro u n d s can cost public information officers dear. For the first time, a senior official (appellate authority) of an organisation has imposed a penalty on a couple of subordinate information officers for not providing information under the act.
The appellate authority of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, Dombivli, also penalised the PIO and APIO for charging an RTI applicant a fee of Rs 2,477 without giving him an estimate or explaining how the calculation was arrived at. Bhiwandi resident Kumar Dhotre, the applicant, had last year sought details of a building commencement certificate issued to three units in the MIDC area.
“I learnt that many units were functioning without the BCC being granted and that officials were turning a blind eye to this activity,’’ Dhotre said, adding that the PIO told him that he would have to pay a fee of Rs 2,477 for the information.
Dhotre then approached the appellate authority saying that as the PIO had failed to give him an estimate of the cost involved, he should not be charged for the information under Section 7(6) of the RTI Act, 2005. Dhotre also urged that the PIO be penalised for his actions under Section 20(2) of the act.
During the course of the hearing, the PIO and APIO admitted that they had failed to provide the details of the expenses to the complainant. The appellate authority ruled that under the provisions of Section 7(6) of the act, the information sought should have been given free of cost. “As the detailed estimate was not given to the applicant, the information should be provided free... and the fees of Rs 2,477 should be recovered from the PIO and APIO, respectively.’’
In another case last week, the State Information Commission penalised the PIO—assistant registrar—of University Institute of Chemical Technology for not providing information to a blind person.
The SIC had imposed a fine of Rs 24,750 on the PIO after Balwant Joshi, the applicant, was forced to make numerous trips to UICT to get information on the refund of his son’s fees. “These penalties will definitely act as a deterrent to erring bureaucrats who withhold information out of vested interests or due to sheer inefficiency’’ noted RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Sep 04; Section:Times City; Page Number 7

Appeals to be heard even if RTI applicants are absent: info chief

Viju B | TNN , Mumbai: This will come as a relief to applicants who invoked the right to information (RTI) act but found their appeals rejected on the grounds that they were not present at the time of the hearing. The State Information Commission (SIC), in a landmark order, has ruled that an appellate authority cannot dispose of an appeal on the grounds that an applicant did not turn up for the hearing.
“If the applicant is not present for the hearing, the memo and papers provided along with the appeal should be taken into consideration. The hearing should be carried out and a decision arrived upon,’’ state chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi said while issuing the order.
An appeal under the RTI act is usually filed when the applicant is not satisfied with information provided by the Public Information Officer (PIO) of a government department. The applicant has to file the first appeal against the PIO’s reply within 30 days of receiving the response.
The issue of an applicant’s presence during the hearing of an appeal came up after activist Shailesh
Gandhi filed an RTI query asking the Maharashtra home department for instances when files remained with a government servant for over seven days, violating section 10(1) of the Maharashtra Government Act 21, 2006 (MGA). The MGA transfer and delays act has been been effective since July 1, 2006. “Section 10(1) states that files should be cleared in seven working days by all government servants or else disciplinary action could be taken against erring officials,’’ Gandhi said.
Responding to Gandhi’s query, the PIO replied that the information which
the applicant had sought could not be categorised as ‘information’ under the purview of the act. Aggrieved by the reply, Gandhi filed an appeal with the appellate officer of the home department. The appellate officer, however, disposed of his appeal because Gandhi was not present on two dates for thehearings.
Gandhi then went in for a second appeal before the SIC challenging this order. In the course of the hearing, the SIC clarified that the PIO had a mistaken notion of what construed ‘information.’ “The legislature passed Act 21 in 2006 which prescribed a timetable for disposal of files. The chief secretary had also given instruction to implement this act. Monitoring would have been done by the department in the form of documents and this falls within the definition of information,’’ the commission said.
Joshi also pointed out that the appellate authority had disposed of the case without looking into the merits of the appeal and even if the appellant was absent, memos and papers presented by him could be taken into consideration and a decision taken by the appellate authority.
Publication: Times Of India Mumbai; Date:2007 Sep 04; Section:Times City; Page Number 4

PAC custodial killers get good conduct certificate: RTI reveals

By staff reporter
Lucknow: More than 40 Muslims were massacred by UP state paramilitary force PAC in Hashimpura. The survivors and relatives of victims are fighting a long battle for justice for 20 years. Recently on the 20th anniversary of this massacre, 615 Right To Information (RTI) applications were filed in Lucknow to find out what if any action was taken by the state against these PAC men.

613 applications filed by the survivors and families of the victims asked the State "why the accused PAC men charged by a Delhi Sessions Court for the murder of 42 Muslim men, continue to be in active service of the PAC? Was any departmental inquiry initiated against them? Was any disciplinary action taken against them? Or were they rewarded with promotions in rank and emoluments? Were the 19 accused PAC men ever suspended from service? What were the grounds on which they were reinstated?" They also asked for copies of the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of each of the accused persons to be made available.
The reply by Public Information Officer of UP reveals that custodial massacre of Muslims gets no mention on the ACRs of the accused PAC men. Instead of negative comment these accused get positive report. Of the 14 ACR that have been made available to the public, the year 1987 entry is "Kaam aur Aacharan Achha Hai. Satyanishtha Pramnit hai. Shreni Achha." (Work and conduct is good. Proven Honesty. Category Good). CID inquiry did not in any way hamper the career prospects of those accused of cold blooded murders of over 40 innocents.

A serious charge of custodial killing did not invite any Departmental Enquiry. None of the 19 accused PAC men faced and disciplinary action either.

In 1995 when Crime Branch of CID submitted charge sheets against the accused that they were suspended briefly the documents obtained through RTI reveals. But within a year most of the accused were reinstated on flimsy and untenable grounds. Reasons for their reinstatement were that PAC required their services or that these men were facing financial hardships. Advocate Vrinda Grover, who have been representing survivors and victims family in courts for their fight for justice asked "so are we to conclude that PAC requires the services of those men who have been charged with and are currently being prosecuted for the murder of over 42 innocent Muslim men." Similarly, no thought was spared for the families of Hashimpura victims and their hardships. .................

I-T dept puts RTI tasks in juniors’ hands

Manju Menon | TNN , Mumbai: The Right to Information (RTI) Act—perhaps one of the best tools in the hands of the common man—has become a pain to senior officers in the government. If they fail to respond to requests for information under the Act, they are compelled to pay a fine of Rs 25,000.
To get around the problem, the income-tax (I-T) department has started re-designating junior officers to perform the role. Until now, only the chief public information officer (CPIO) could respond to any request for information. In a recent circular, however, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), has said that junior officers at the level of assessing officers be assigned additional responsibilities as CPIOs. In the earlier dispensation, CPIOs had to be at least at the level of a commissioner, if not a chief commissioner.
‘It’s clearly a retrograde move. Senior officials should stay in-charge of passing information under an important Act like the RTI,’’ said Narayan Varma, a leading chartered accountant and an active member of the RTI cell run by the Bombay Chartered Accountants Society. Shailesh Gandhi, an RTI activist, agrees. ‘‘By redesignating juniors as CPIOs, the tax department is just passing the buck which in the long run will prove very expensive.’’
RTI experts say senior officials should continue to play a key role especially in departments like I-T that deal with sensitive information
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Sep 01; Section:Times Business; Page Number 26

CIC notice to cops on child labour issue

The Central Information Commission has issued a showcause notice to Delhi Police for its alleged failure to provide information on the extent of child labour and its sensitisation programme, if any, to deal with the problem in the Capital. Raaj Mangal Prasad has filed an RTI application with the police, seeking details on whether identification of child labour had been undertaken by the Delhi Police. PTI
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Sep 06; Section:Times City; Page Number 3

Complaints against cops: No data

New Delhi: The Delhi Police does not maintain data about complaints received against its own personnel — this surprising piece of information was provided by the public information officer of the vigilance branch in response to an application under RTI Act by Dev Ashish Bhattacharya. The rights activist had sought information from the Union home ministry about petitions filed against police personnel and the action taken on them. The ministry’s director and chief public information officer Labh Singh Chane said no data was maintained by the ministry about such petitions.PTI
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Sep 05; Section:Times City; Page Number 6

CIC pulls up finmin, Sebi for aiding IFCI bid to beat RTI Act

UTI Claim Of Not Being Public Authority Also Draws Flak From Commission
Girish Kuber MUMBAI

THE Central Information Commission (CIC) has slammed the government and two public sector units, the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) and the Unit Trust of India (UTI), for refusing to part information under the RTI Act. The CIC has not only rejected IFCI’s claim that it’s not a ‘public authority’ but has also slammed the Union finance ministry and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) for shielding it.
In an order on August 9, a copy of which is with ET, CIC has criticised the finance ministry for certifying that IFCI doesn’t come under the RTI Act. It also has criticised the market regulator Sebi for buying the finance ministry’s argument without examining it.
“It’s incorrect for the ministry to issue such certificates,” the CIC has said and asked the ministries and government departments to “refrain from such actions as they are not competent to do so”.
The issue pertains to bonds issued by the IFCI in the form of promissory notes worth Rs 800 crore way back in 1996. The IFCI decided to exercise the call option in 2003 and had asked bondholders to surrender their papers on or before November 6, 2003. The IFCI promised to issue cheques by the first week of December 2003.
But the payment did not reach to all investors promptly. VT Gokhale from Dombivli, just outside Mumbai, received the cheque after more than a few years and they were only paid after a prolonged battle with the concerned authorities.
Incensed by the treatment meted out to him, Mr Gokhale felt that many other bondholders would have also received similar treatment from IFCI. He decided to take up the issue with Sebi. “The bond issue yielded Rs 1,237.06 crore for IFCI. There must be a large number of investors with a substantial cumulative interest involved. I decided to fight for their cause,” Mr Gokhale said.
He sought information about the total number of bondholders, the total outgo on interest and datewise payment details. The market watchdog upheld the IFCI’s contention that it’s not a public authority and as such doesn’t come under the purview of the Right to Information Act 2005. To substantiate its claim, the IFCI also submitted a certificate from the ministry of finance.
“It was unfortunate that the market regulator didn’t stand by for the common investor and helped IFCI avoid giving information,” Mr Gokhale said and challenged the Sebi decision and the finance ministry’s act before the CIC. He pointed out to CIC that the IFCI is a listed body and comes under the Sebi jurisdiction. “The Sebi as a market regulator can access the information sought,” notes the petition.
The CIC in its order categorically stated that the IFCI is a public authority and as such comes under the purview of the RTI Act. The order notes that “the certificates given by government ministries and departments about an organisation being or not being a public authority have no validity”. The CIC also castigated Sebi for accepting the finance ministry’s version on IFCI’s status. Sebi was required to examine the IFCI’s claim thoroughly and should not have uncritically accepted its argument, the CIC opined.
The CIC also assailed a similar stance taken by UTI. The UTI claimed that UTI Mutual Fund, UTI Trustee Company and UTI Asset Management Company are not “public authority” and are not bound to give information under the RTI Act.


CIC has criticised the ministry for certifying that IFCI doesn't come under the RTI Act

It has pulled up Sebi for buying the ministry's argument without examining it

UTI claimed that UTI Mutual Fund, UTI Trustee Company and UTI Asset Management Company are not public authority

CIC has said that certificates given by ministries and government departments about an organisation being or not being a public authority have no validity.
Publication: Economic Times Delhi; Date:2007 Sep 03; Section:Economy; Page Number 18