For More Info Log on to www.rtigroup.org

Google Groups Subscribe to RTI Group
Email:
Browse Archives at groups.google.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Assets on Web: RTI officers say no

Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi
Hindustan Times: Metro; Dt. 22nd Dec 2008; pg 11

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER Shailesh Gandhi's move to put his asset details in the public domain hasn’t found favour with his colleagues.

In an apparent rejection of Gandhi's proposal, the Central Information Commissioner has decided not to put his asset statement on the commission's website, for now.

Gandhi had in November submitted details of his assets, worth Rs 5.4 crore, to the Central Information Commissioner and had asked it be put on the commission's website. “I've requested CIC Wajahat Habibullah to post the list of assets of all information commissioners on the website,” Gandhi had told HT.

The Central Informa tion Commission, where majority of members are retired bureaucrats, however, opted for a longer route to decide the matter. “We've to take into account the procedure for submission of declaration of property by other such commissions before taking a final decision,” Habibullah told HT.

The rules don't require members of commissions set up by the Centre to declare assets.

Gandhi's proposal was discussed at a recent meeting, but most members weren't in favour of declaring as sets on the website.“There wasn't much opposition to declaration of assets. But, what the commission ers didn't like was providing the information on the website,” said a commission official, who didn't want to be named.

Magsaysay award winner Right To Information activist Arvind Kejriwal termed the move as a lost opportunity “If the as . sets' statements would have been put on the website, it would have put pressure on other government departments to do the same,” he said.

Vihar Dhurve, an RTI activist from Pune, had in a letter to information commissioners, asked how could the commission ask government officials to declare assets when they weren't doing the same. Responding to the letter, Gandhi had sent him his asset statement and forwarded the same to be put on the website.

chetan@hindustantimes.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

From April, just call in to file your RTI application

Hindustan Times
New Delhi: Metro; pg 1
December 15, 2008
Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi
FROM NEXT April, you will be able to file a Right to Information (RTI) application from your MTNL phone. All you will need to do is call a number and place your request; you won’t have to go anywhere or fill forms.

The phone requests will be handled by a national call centre, which will be run jointly by the ministry of information technology and a non-governmental organisation, Kabir. They are in the last stages of setting up the place and equipping it.

The centre, which is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s idea, will take calls from across the country A regional call . centre has already been in operation in Bihar, and it has done well “despite low literacy and poor access to telephone”, said an official.

There will be no extra charge for processing your phone request. The fee will remain the same at Rs 10 — the amount charged for every RTI application — and will be added to your monthly phone bill. “Depending on the response to this pilot project, we’ll consider adding other service providers,” said a senior IT ministry official.

The official said there will be a dedicated RTI portal where all applications will be posted so that the public information officers can access them. “The portal will also help applicants check the status of their applications.” The portal is under construction, and the number you can call is being finalised. chetan@hindustantimes.com

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Relief for information seeker

iconimg
Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 13, 2008

Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has asked the Uttar Pradesh police to book the person who had threatened an RTI activist for seeking information from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on alleged transfer of Rs 8 crore from the Provident Fund (PF) deposits. Gandhi on Friday directed the Aligarh SSP to investigate the matter.

Dr Mohammed Naved Khan, a senior lecturer with the Business Administration Department at AMU, had complained that the police had not taken action in a case lodged by him. He had lodged the case after he was threatened for filing the RTI application.

Khan had filed the application on October 11, 2008, seeking information about transfer of PF deposits. He then received a threatening call. The caller identified himself as an AMU student.

A day later, he reported the incident to the proctor and asked him to register a case. When no case was registered, he lodged a police complaint. He then received a letter from AMU informing that the call was made by an employee of the proctor’s office, but refuted claims that he was threatened. Khan wrote to the Central Information Commission (CIC), as the police were not pursuing the case.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From now, CIC order review only in courts

New Delhi: In a move that smacks of bureaucratic red tapism, the Central Information Commission (CIC) will no longer allow review of its decisions. A recent change in the CIC (Management) Regulations, 2007, now makes it clear that CIC’s decision can only be reviewed through a writ filed in the high court and Supreme Court.

According to chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, the rules were not in consonance with law. ‘‘We have changed the rules as under law a court cannot review its own decisions. The CIC does not have the review power unless there is an error of law or facts.’’ Habibullah said that applicants had misunderstood the rules and so a correction had been made. Information commissioners admit privately that the number of review applications had begun to rise and this was becoming difficult to handle.

The rule had earlier said that an appellant can make an application to the chief information commissioner for special leave to appeal or review of a decision or order of the case and mention the grounds for such a request. It was left on the discretion of the CIC to ‘‘consider and decide the matter as he thinks fit.’’ The decision has now been restricted to read — ‘‘A decision or an order once pronounced by the Commission shall be final’’.

RTI activists, on the other hand, have cried foul over the changes. Col Lokesh Batra said, ‘‘Now a complainant can no longer ask for special leave to review a decision.’’ Said Subhash Chandra Agarwal who has filed two review petitions that the decision will impact RTI. ‘‘In my application regarding information on Padma awardees, I had asked how it was possible for a jury spread across India to shortlist 100 names from the thousands in just one or two meetings. I had five queries but only one was answered,’’ he said.

Agarwal said that there should be a provision within the rules for a review by a larger Bench. ‘‘This will cut down on litigation costs and also bring about a consistency in the performance of information commissioners,’’ he added.

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Oct 30, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 13
Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cabinet secretariat get CIC rap over RTI

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Oct 10, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 17
Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission, in a recent order, pulled up the cabinet secretariat for its casual attitude and demanded that the information that had been withheld regarding an appellant’s promotion should be disclosed within 10 days.

Terming the attitude of the cabinet secretariat as “flippant”, the CIC in a recent order observed that the department was making a “determined effort” not to provide information to the appellant.

While giving the order, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, “We are constrained to observe that the manner of disposal of the application... by so august a body as the cabinet secretariat, expected to be a model for public authorities, is nothing less than flippant.”

Appellant Sushma Jain had asked for information related to the search and selection committee that met on September 9, 2006 that had considered her case.

She was being considered for the position of additional secretary in the legislative department in the ministry of law and justice. She had applied to the ministry which asked her to address her query to the cabinet secretariat.

In his order, Habibullah noted that the commission had allowed proceedings of staff selection, promotion committees and even annual confidential reports — in certain cases — to be made public. The commission ordered that Jain be given records of the committee and any subsequent consideration of her promotion within 10 days.

The cabinet secretary had refused giving the information with the response that the application was non-specific and lacked clarity.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

CIC Directs AMU to Open UP MBBS OMR Sheets


RTI Group, Aligarh: In a landmark judgment, the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, has directed Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to open up its MBBS/BDS All India Entrance Test OMR Sheets to the candidates. The case was heard by the bench of Chief Information Commissioner Mr Wajahat Habibullah on 19th Sept 2008 and the 19 page judegement delivered on 23rd Sept 2008. It should be noted that the matter was vigorously pursued by the RTI Group.

By an application of 2.6.08 Ms. Shema, R/O Nazir Ahmed Road, Aligar
h Muslim University, Aligarh, applied to the Registrar/CPIO, AMU seeking the Correct Answers Key to the question booklet given to her daughter Roll No. 249946 during her entrance examination of MBBS/BDS 2008 held on 26.5.2008 and result declared on 1.6.08. Again by an application of 20.6.08 Ms. Asma Anjum, R/O Nazir Ahmed Road, AMU, Aligarh and daughter of Ms Shema applied to the Registrar / CPIO AMU seeking the information on several counts: “Photo copy of both sides of OMR filled and submitted by me (Name: Asma Anjum, Roll No. 249946) in my entrance examination of M.B.B.S./B.D.S. 2008 held on 26.5.08 and result already declared.” This was followed by a similar application of 21.6.08 in which information sought was as follows: “Photocopies from both sides of all the pages of the question paper given to me (Name: Asma Anjum, Roll No. 249946) in my entrance examination of M.B.B.S. / B.D.S. 2008 held on 26.5.08 and result already declared.”

To this she received a reply on 7.7.08 from CPIO and Asstt. Controller (Admissions), Office of Controller of Examinations. “We cannot provide this document without approval of the academic bodies of the University. Your application is being sent to the Registrar under Section 5 of the RTI Act.”

The complaint was heard by the CIC on 19.9.08. During the hearing before the bench of Chief Information Commissioner Mr Wajahat Habibullah, Dr. Tariq Islam, General Secretary, RTI Group, arguing for disclosure of sought information also cited the decision of CIC dated 23.4.07, we had held, with regard to OMR sheets in cases Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00223, Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2006/00469 & 00394, & Appeal Nos. CIC/OK/A/2006/00266/00058/00066/00315

In its judgment CIC pointed out that in its ruling in decision of 23.4.07 it has already found that the disclosure of evaluated answer sheets in such cases as the present one is unlikely to render the system unworkable. The CIC observed that “We have in fact held that our decision in case of application of exemption in most examinations will mutatis mutandis apply in the case of an examination conducted with Optical Marking System. But the category in which we have placed the Universities would also fall within the category of exemption from disclosure under the above decision. However, we may, at this stage, clarify that the decision above with regard to Universities was with reference to University examinations and not examinations governing admissions. In such cases, the principle that we have applied to the departmental examinations will also apply in this case since the In the present case no argument has been brought before us to state that such a disclosure would render the system unworkable. The decision of this Commission cited by respondents is in itself in favour of disclosure. The plea taken is only that such disclosures have not yet been approved by the Academic Council. The Academic Council of a University falls squarely under the law insofar as the RTI Act is concerned. The information sought by appellant in the present case is, therefore, not exempt from disclosure, as per our ruling in the Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00223, Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2006/00469 & 00394 and Appeal Nos. CIC/OK/A/2006/00266/00058/00066/00315 dated 23.4.2007. In this matter since we find that the information is disclosable, we have not discussed the ruling of the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta, in W.P. NO. 22176 of 2007, even though we have quoted from it extensively, since in our view it is not of direct bearing to the present complaint. The appeal is therefore allowed. The information sought in all three categories will be supplied to appellant Ms Anjum within ten working days of receipt of the Decision Notice Reserved in the hearing, this decision is announced in the open Court on 23rd September, 2008. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.”

According to Dr Tariq Islam, the decision of the CIC in the instant case is an important first step in the opening up of the admission process of the universities in general and AMU in particular which otherwise was shrouded in secrecy. He further added that this decision would usher in an era of transparency and accountability, thereby instilling confidence in the minds of the hard working students and help in further raising the academic standards of AMU.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AMU Admits Candidate Who Failed in Class XI Admission Test!

RTI query filed by Mr Mushtaq Ahmed has brought to light a case where a candidate has been admitted to Class XI (PCB) during the current Session i.e. Session 2008-09 without being selected in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Admission Test.
For details please visit the section on Aligarh Muslim University/Admissions & Examinations on www.rtigroup.org


Senior Secondary School (Boys)
Roll List of Class XI (PCB)
Session 2008-09
Section – E-1
======================================================
S.No. Roll No EN. No. Name Hall
40 750 GD-9900 Mohd Faisal Qureshi AI
=====================================================


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

AMU Controller of Exams Admits Lakhs Paid Without Rules!


Sept 9, 2008: RTI query by Dr Tariq Islam has brought to light a very interesting case where the Controller of Examinations (COE) of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) paid lakhs of rupees to an Assistant in the Controller's Office over and above his salary and Extra Duty Allowance (EDA) even though there are no rules! The COE while being fully aware that there are no rules under which such huge payments can be made, has this year (2008) too recommended similar huge payments. This is apparent from the comment (given below) that the RTI Group has received through its messaging facility on its website www.rtigroup.org

The question that naturally arises is that how was and are the illegal payments being recommended by the Controller' Office and then being cleared by the Finance Office.

For details of Right to Information (RTI) query and subsequent correspondence, please visit the section on Aligarh Muslim University/Finance on the website www.rtigroup.org Please also your give your response through our "Messaging" facility on the website.

Comments by a Visitor Who Prefers to Remain Anonymous

1. Let us appreciate the controller for admitting the irregularity in the payment to one assistant in the examinations. But it is contemptuas and braizen this regard to law for making heavy payment to Dy. Controllers. It also be scruitinised that how can the finance officer make the payment if rules does not exist. To me it is a missuse of a public fund, how can a person be paid for performing duties, heavy amount, to the tune of 1.5 lakhs approximately to each of the two Dy. controllers besides his regular salaries and EDA amounting to rupees 40-45000 rupees.

2. It is a talk of the town that the present Finance officer who does not possess any degree in accounts has some how got two thousand heads of accounts re-appropriated by the Vice-chancellor which is a mockery of the Finance Rules.

3. Let me bring to notice of RTI group that Professor M. M. Khalid has publically narrated that one Assistant Finance Officer has very angrilly communicated to the finance officer that the office is not going to co-operate any more with you in the matters related to purchase etc.

CIC turning into ‘parking slot’ for retired babus

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Sep 9, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 11

YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW; Ashish Sinha | TNN

New Delhi: With an IAS and IPS officer each taking oath as commissioner, along with a late diplomat’s wife, the Central Information Commission has assumed an overwhelming bureaucratic character.

CIC now has three former IAS officers on board, including chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, and among the remaining are one each from IPS, Indian Information Service and Indian Postal Service.

The two non-bureaucrats are former national security adviser J N Dixit’s wife Annapurna Dixit and educationist M M Ansari. The commission, set up under the Right to Information Act, can have a maximum of 10 commissioners, besides the CIC.

As per rules, they should be “persons of eminence in public life” from fields as varied as law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.

The two bureaucrat commissioners are personnel secretary Satyananda Mishra and CBI special director M L Sharma, who went on leave after he was superseded by Ashwani Kumar to be CBI director. Incidentally, another commissioner, A N Tiwari, was also personnel secretary before he was appointed. The responsibility for implementing the RTI Act lies with the personnel ministry.

The CIC and information commissioners are appointed for a term of five years or till they turn 65 (whichever is earlier). This has made the information commission a lucrative post-retirement assignment.

But the appointments have to be approved by a committee headed by the PM with the Leader of Opposition as its member, along with a Cabinet minister. Since every name must have consensus, getting the coveted assignment is not easy.

The situation in the states is no different since state information commissions (SICs) have turned out to be a major rehabilitation avenue for serving or retired bureaucrats.

A recent study of SICs showed that 31 (or 58%) information commissioners in 20 states were from “administration and governance” background and 27 of them were retired IAS officers.

The study, conducted by PRIA (Society for Participatory Research in Asia) for April-October 2007, revealed that 15 SICs were headed by former IAS officers and one ( Assam) by a retired IPS officer. Only four of these 20 panels — Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh — had non-IAS chief commissioners, all from legal background. Since then, the situation could have marginally changed. Leading RTI activist Aruna Roy, who played a crucial role in the enactment of the information law, has maintained that at the central level, Department of Personnel and Training should not have been made the supervising body of RTI Act as it was also the cadre controlling authority of IAS and certain other services. Roy favoured the creation of an independent and wide-based council for shortlisting probable information commissioners.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Repository/getFiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:LowLevelEntityToPrint_TOI&Type=text/html&Locale=english-skin-custom&Path=CAP/2008/09/09&ID=Ar01101

Sunday, September 7, 2008

RTI Warrior Shailesh Gandhi Appointed CIC







RTI warrior Shailesh Gandhi, who has recently been appointed member of Central Information Commission (CIC), will now ensure others like him will have less trouble prying information out of tight-fisted bureaucrats. Gandhi has been rewarded for his tireless crusade for transparency and accountability in governance. He has been appointed as a member of the Central Information Commissioner (CIC). Up to now, these posts have gone to former bureaucrats, something that Gandhi has openly criticised.

“I was informed on phone about the new assignment on Friday morning by an officer from the Central government. A notification has also been issued,” an excited Gandhi told Mumbai Mirror. The formal letter of appointment by the President of India will be dispatched in due course.

He quit his business in 2003 to devote himself fully to his cause because of the time and effort required to pry information from government agencies, it won’t come as a surprise that his priority is to reduce time taken to deliver judgements and cut down the backlog of appeals.

Over 16,000 appeals are pending in Maharashtra while up to 8,500 are pending before the CIC. Gandhi says it takes up to a year-and-a-half for an appeal to be heard by the state information commission and up to over eight months by the CIC.

“At this rate, the common man would lose faith in the system. I have decided that appeals should be disposed off within three months from the date they are filed. In exceptional cases, it should not go beyond six months,” he says.

When told that the post of the CIC has the status of the Supreme Court judge, Gandhi says, “Work is more important than the status. I want to set certain ideals in the course of discharging my duties in the constitutional post. My commitment would be to the laws of the nation and the President of India, who has appointed me, says Gandhi. I would prefer to add quality to RTI judgements with transparency as the soul. I would always welcome suggestions on making this happen,” he says.

He has already set a precedent with his decision ‘to accept only a token amount of Re 1 as compensation’. Besides that, “I have also decided not to use the official car,” he says.

An IIT-Powai graduate, 59-yearold Shailesh Gandhi’s first tryst with RTI Act was in September 2003 when he approached the police commissioner of Mumbai and public information officer for names of politicians who had recommended the transfer of some policemen.

When his plea was turned down, he invoked the RTI Act. “After some months, I was able to get the names of all the people, including some ministers, who were responsible for the illegal transfers,” he says.

His persistence resulted in action being taken against the police officers concerned and turned him into an RTI warrior. Despite the RTI Act, it took considerable time and effort to get information from the government. Hence, he sold his successful business to devote himself fully to ensuring transparency and accountability in governance.

He now sustains himself on the interest that comes from his savings, which is about Rs 60,000 per month. Of this amount, he spends a third on RTI Act cases.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Make prelim cutoffs public: HC to UPSC

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Sep 04; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 7
New Delhi: In a boost to transparency seekers, the Delhi high court on Wednesday upheld the decision of Central Information Commission that UPSC examination candidates had a right to know the marks obtained by them in the preliminary test of civil services examination.
A division bench comprising Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar directed the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to make public the cutoff marks obtained by candidates in preliminary test of the civil services examination which was held in the year 2006. This has opened the path for students who appeared in subsequent years to also press for similar disclosure of marks.
‘‘We observed that the documents submitted by UPSC in a sealed cover, are not of such nature that can be characterised as secret, or of a type the disclosure of which would not be in public interest,’’ observed a Division Bench of Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar in a judgment, upholding the April 17, 2007 order passed by a single judge favouring the CIC’s decision which had held that disclosure of information pertaining to cut-off marks would not harm the interest of UPSC or any third party. The HC Bench dismissed a petition filed by the Commission against the single judge’s order.
The two judges also dismissed the apprehension of UPSC that by disclosing the working of the scaling methodology for preliminary examination, merit can get compromised and candidates with less merit would be selected and noted ‘‘...We are of the view that the apprehension of UPSC is not well founded.’’ UPSC had approached the HC against the November 13, 2006 order passed by the CIC allowing the pleas of candidates seeking details of the marks obtained by them in preliminary exam and sought separate details of cutoff marks for every subjects. TNN

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Daily/skins/TOI/navigator.asp?Daily=CAP&login=default

Saturday, August 30, 2008

CIC Wajahat Habibullah Assures RTI Activists of Action!





















Mr Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner, was the Chief Guest at the Meet organized by RTI activits in Aligarh on 23rd August 2008. On being queried by the activists on the demand of CPIOs to furnish proof of nationality, the CIC clarified that CPIOs can inquire about the nationality but cannot ask the information seeker to furnish proof.

The CIC also informed the audience that the Informaiton Commision would now come down heavily on those CPIOs who fail to deposit the fine imposed by the Information Commission.

On this occasion, Dr Tariq Islam, General Secretary, RTI Group, Aligarh, also addressed the gathering. Dr Islam who is a Senior Reader in the Department of Philosophy, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, raised several pressing issues that the RTI activists are facing. He particulary pointed out the issue of interpretation of the word "shall" in the relevant clause of the RTI Act that relates to the imposition of fine on erring CPIOs.

Friday, August 29, 2008

IITs open exam process to students

Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times; Mumbai, July 31, 2008; First Published: 00:42 IST(31/7/2008); Last Updated: 00:43 IST(31/7/2008)

Results of the IIT’s Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) – one of the most keenly contested examinations in the country – just got more transparent. Taking note of the numerous queries filed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) regarding its admission procedure, IIT Joint Admission Board has decided to release the cut-off scores for individual subjects and different streams on its website.

Applicants can now get to know the cut-off scores in individual subjects like physics, maths or chemistry and also aggregate cut-offs for streams like computer, electronics, mechanical and civil engineering. For the 2007 entrance exam, the institute had posted their question papers and correct answers on their site.

The first detailed score sheets will be released on August 1 at 8 pm on the institute’s website www.iitg.ernet.in for students who appeared for the 2008 entrance exam. The score sheets will show the opening and closing ranks of different branches for every category, general and reserved.

While last year there were about 40 RTI applications across the seven IITs, IIT-Bombay alone received 15 enquiries.

“Instead of replying to the applications, we decided to be proactive and put the information on our website. This will eliminate 95 per cent of the applications from aggrieved parties,” said N. Venkatramani, JEE chairperson, IIT-Bombay.

“It’s a good move for those applying to the IITs. If the pattern remains the same next year, aspirants can have a benchmark of what their target should be,” said Pritish Kamath, who secured a seat at IIT-B.

RTI updates on SMS

Hindustan Times; Chetan Chauhan ; New Delhi, August 26, 2008; First Published: 23:59 IST(26/8/2008); Last Updated: 00:00 IST(27/8/2008)

You could soon track the status of your Right to Information (RTI) application on your mobile phone, if the recommendations of a panel of information commissioners are taken up.

There's more. The sub-committee has also proposed an information commissioner for each district. And that performance responding to RTI applications be included in the annual career reports of bureaucrats.

The committee has selected the Andhra Pradesh model of quick responses to applications for replication in other states. In Andhra Pradesh, applicants can keep track of their application through SMSes sent to a call centre.

The Punjab model has been suggested to help citizens file applications at the district and the sub-divisional level.

The proposal of an information commissioner in each district is borrowed from Maharashtra.

The committee has asked state governments to provide police protection to those whose applications may expose corruption in the public distribution system, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and road construction scheme. (or government schemes)

The panel has blamed the bureaucracy for the poor implementation of the RTI Act. And as a remedy, the panel says bureaucrats must be appraised on the basis of their response to RTI appeals.

"Inclusion of RTI in annual career reports (ACRs) of public information officers should be mandatory," the committee has said.

Training government officials on RTI issues has also been suggested.

It also wants collectors to monitor the disposal of RTI applications submitted at district centres. At the village level, the panel has suggested that panchayats handle the job.

Emphasising that poor maintenance of records is the main reason for hindering the government in successfully implementing the Act, the committee has asked states to computerise all records and provide information regarding it to public information officers.

The list of all public authorities, including NGOs, should be put up on the state information commission website, the committee has said.

The committee has also proposed that the Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad, serve as the national centre to compile and analyse information related to the implementation of the RTI Act.

Seeking info under RTI can land you in jail

Hindustan Times; Chetan Chauhan (Email: chetan@hindustantimes.com) , New Delhi, August 28, 2008; First Published: 23:40 IST(28/8/2008); Last Updated: 23:42 IST(28/8/2008)

Salim Begh, resident of Morababad, had never thought that his simple Right to Information application seeking information regarding recruitment of constables in Uttar Pradesh would land him in jail.

He had only dared to move an appeal with the UP Information Commission when public information officer (PIO) Kushhar Saurabh asked Rs 52,000 from him for providing information. The commission upheld his plea and asked the police to provide information, while imposing a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Kushhar and giving Beg compensation of Rs 6,000.

However, Beg’s action was enough to anger the police department, which lodged a case against him for ransacking a police station. He was arrested and remained in jail for about 20 days.

Begh is not alone. There are many RTI applicants in the country who are facing the ire of the authorities for exposing corruption in public service. “The authorities are using their powers to deter citizens from using their right to information because there is nothing in the law to protect information seekers,” said Magsasay award winner Arvind Kejriwal.

Take the case of Anand Mohan, another UPite, against whom a police case was lodged for assaulting a village block officer.

Mohan, resident of Khushi Nagar, had dared to ask the block development officer to seek information on Indira Awas Yojna, food distribution to below poverty line families and distribution of scholarships to poor students.

Instead of getting information, Mohan started receiving threats and he was asked to withdraw his RTI application. When the information was not provided within the stipulated timeframe, he moved an appeal with state information commission.

He did not get information but when he went to seek a copy of the family register, it was denied to him and a case was also booked against him.

In Chhattisgarh, RTI activist Muzibar Rehman, who had exposed irregularities in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund through an RTI application, is now running from pillar to post to get security after receiving threats for exposing the corruption.

“There is a need to protect RTI applicants against such threats,” Kejriwal said

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Activists Critized During RTI Sensitization Workshop Organized by AMU


During the two day (23rd-24th August 2008) Workshop on the theme "Right to Information Regime: Issues and Challenges" organized by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), some of the CPIOs and Appellate Authorities severely criticized the activists filing RTI applications in AMU.

For instance, Prof. I. A. Khan, currently, Dean, Faculty of Law, AMU, mooted the idea of raising the RTI application fee so that less applications are filed. Interestingly, he also wants a clause to be introduced in the Act so that suitable penalty can be imposed on the information seeker if the CPIO feels that information has been sought so as to "harass" the authorities. He also was of the opinion that the RTI Act has been passed in "hurry"!

Another interesting suggestion came from Mr. Iqbal Ali, Principal, AMU Boys' Polytechnic, who wanted "sub-ordinates" to be penalised if they seek information from "superiors". He further went on to say that th RTI Act is a "jhunjuna" (a toy) in the hands of RTI activists and that they were treating CPIOs as "basanti" and themselves as "Gabbar Singh". He was of the opinion that RTI Act was simply being used to harass the information providers by the RTI activists .

TWO CRUSADERS SAME STORY

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Aug 20, 2008; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Citizens find out why roads are crumbling. It’s corruption

Radhika Oberoi | TNN

New Delhi: If potholes, cracks and sudden depressions on the road seem to be part of your everyday commute in the city, it’s time to shake off the apathy and ask MCD a few awkward questions. Like Mohit Goel, a resident of Model Town did when the recent patchwork repair undertaken by MCD began to disintegrate.

Or as did S P Gupta, general secretary, Residents Welfare Association, Old Rajinder Nagar, when he found that the road in front of Salwan School had broken down despite it being converted from ‘‘dense carpet’’ to ‘‘cement concrete’’ — a kind of road that simply should not crumble.

Both Mohit Goel and S P Gupta took recourse to RTI. They wanted to know who was responsible for the shoddy work. Not just that, both obtained permission to take a sample of the road and get it examined by the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research.

The results were not entirely unexpected. In both cases the contractors had used less cement than required. The road in front of Salwan School, for instance, used only half the required quantity; gravel and sand were added in much higher proportion. As for the Model Town road, the proportions were all wrong.

Needless to say, the contractors had made a killing by using inferior materials. But what about the MCD officials who were supposed to supervise the work? They winked at it, raising suspicions of collusion. As it happens, in the Salwan School road case, the RWA has filed an FIR against MCD.

If roads are being reduced to rubble in the city, the heavy downpour might be a part of the reason. But the real reason possibly is one of the worst kept secrets of the city — there is rampant corruption in road construction. But it’s not something that the authorities are ready to accept, even though Goel and Gupta have virtually proved it.

Coming back to Goel, he sought answers this April, under RTI, on the road in front of his house in Model Town. He asked for an inspection of the area under the supervision of an engineer, a measurement book (with road dimensions), as well as samples of road material in the vicinity of his home, for a ratio analysis test.

As a result of his query, he found out that the total estimated cost of building the 96.50 metre x 5.13 metre stretch was Rs 6 lakh. Model Town roads repaired but who takes blame?

New Delhi: Three samples of road material at Model Town in front of Mohit Goel’s house were collected for a ratio analysis of cement, Badarpur (sand or stone dust) and aggregate (rodi).

The ratio should have been 1:2:4 of cement, Badarpur and rodi. The analysis showed the ratio was 1:3.5:7.5. In other words, while cement should have been one-seventh of the mix, in this case it was only one-twelfth. ‘‘I took it up with MCD,’’ says Mohit,‘‘and they have started repair work not only outside my house, but on some other roads in Model Town as well.’’ But have they got after the contractor or the engineer who cleared the job? Mohit doesn’t know.

While Mohit is a young and idealistic 30-year-old, S P Gupta and his friends in the Old Rajinder Nagar RWA are an elderly lot. Still, they refused to be cynical about corruption. ‘‘The material was of a very poor quality and so was the workmanship,’’ recalls Gupta.

The RWA approached the Public Grievances Commission in June 2004. Subsequently, MCD was ordered to provide the RWA with samples of the material used to resurface the road. The material, tested at the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research was in the ratio 1:1.5:7 (as against the prescribed 1:2:4).

MCD too got the material tested at the Regional Testing Centre (northern region), the analysis showed up a ratio of 1:1.8:5.1. In a report submitted by Sunil Tyagi, MCD executive engineer, quality control, it was mentioned that the component brick aggregate was not found.

‘‘Although the road now looks OK, we’ve filed an FIR to investigate the lies,’’ says a determined Gupta. ‘‘We’ve been told investigations are on,’’ he continues. However, not willing to let the issue die down without bringing someone to book, he advises others to do the same: ‘‘Ask why; you have every right to.’’

Yes, you do.

HOW YOU TOO CAN DO IT

Bodies like Shri Ram Institute for Industrial Research or Central Road Research Institute carry out road sampling to ascertain the road quality. One can approach these institutes with a written application.

In the application, specify whether the road is public or private. In case of a public road, permission has to be taken from the concerned civic agency.

In the request letter, the applicant should specify whether the road is constructed with concrete or bituminous. Applicant should also mention the parameters on which the quality of road has to be checked. Usual parameters are strength, thickness and density.

After receiving the application, the institute sends a team of engineers to the site. The team cuts a core, or in other words, take a sample from the road. The sample is then taken to the laboratory of the institute where tests are conducted.

While the complete road sampling can cost anything between Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000, checking just the binder content of the road costs around Rs 1,200. Extensive tests to ascertain density or thickness of road cost approximately Rs 600 each.

Mohit Goel of Model Town was incensed when he found a new road in front of his house crumbling within months. He too got the road tested and discovered that jus half the cement required had been used. MCD is now rebuilding the road. But who is responsible for the shoddy work?

S P Gupta was angry when a concrete road in front of Salwan School began to disintegrate. He got it tested. The result: less cement and more sand had been used to make the road. His RWA has now filed an FIR against MCD

Modi-baiter on info panel leaves LK fuming

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Aug 24, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 14

Manoj Mitta | TNN
New Delhi: For BJP leader L K Advani, the government’s proposal of appointing a Narendra Modibaiter as information commissioner was like a red rag to a bull. Advani has protested to home minister Shivraj Patil about the inclusion of former IPS officer R B Shreekumar, who had accused the Modi administration of complicity in the Gujarat riots, among the five nominees to be appointed as information commissioners under the RTI Act.

In fact, the nomination of Shreekumar was the main reason for Advani’s decision to boycott the meeting of the statutory committee, which was to be held by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 21 to select the names for the proposed expansion of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Since the names of the nominees are meant to be confidential, Advani made no mention of Shreekumar in his August 21 letter to Manmohan Singh seeking a postponement of the meeting. He did however put on record that he had “ s e r i o u s reservations about the a g e n d a ” (which contained the names of the nominees) and that he had c o nv e y e d his objection “orally” to home minister Shivraj Patil.

Though his letter to the PM is couched in the principles of governance, as reported by TOI on August 23, Advani’s objection to Shreekumar in his phone conversation with Patil has made it clear that the proposed expansion of CIC cannot take place unless the government drops the retired Gujarat police officer from its list of nominees.

From the hostility displayed by him, it is evident that Advani sees Shreekumar as an opponent of BJP rather than as a whistleblower who proved his commitment to transparency and accountability by bringing out illegal orders issued by the Modi government during the 2002 riots.

The injection of politics into the appointment process defeats the purpose of Section 12(3) of the RTI Act, which requires the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha to be a member of the committee to ensure non-partisan selection of information commissioners, who adjudicate appeals and complaints against public authorities.

The government has already shown signs of yielding to Advani’s pressure to drop Shreekumar from its list of nominees. In his response to Advani’s letter, Manmohan Singh wrote the same day that he was open to considering fresh names.

“If you have any names to suggest for appointment as information commissioners, you may like to send them to me early,” PM said to Advani.

On the positive side, since Advani has also endorsed a civil society call to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats, the government is learnt to be considering the possibility of including one or two of the names suggested by RTI activists.

CIC expansion: LK skips meet, wants babus out

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Aug 23, 2008; Section: Times Nation; Page: 15
Manoj Mitta | TNN

New Delhi: The government has suffered the mortification of postponing a meeting required under the RTI Act as the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, L K Advani, refused to attend it unless a fresh list of names was drawn up for the proposed expansion of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, Advani cited three reasons for declining to attend the meeting that was scheduled to take place the same evening between these two and home minister Shivraj Patil, who constitute a committee under Section 12(3) of the Act, to select the information commissioners proposed to be added to the existing five in CIC.

Advani referred to the TOI report of August 19 stating that “public-spirited activists who have been in the forefront of this campaign for transparency in government have taken exception to the fact that government’s choice of information commissioners is limited to retiring bureaucrats.”

Advani said the objection of the activists was “justified” as the RTI Act gave the committee “a very wide choice” by laying down that the information commissioners shall be “persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism and mass media or administration and governance.”

He was also miffed at the fact that the government seemed to have sent him the names more for information than for consultation. The agenda containing the names of five nominees was sent to him just a day before the scheduled meeting, that too without any prior information.

“In meetings of this nature where nominations for important positions are to be decided,” Advani said, “names are invariably discussed with members of the committee informally before they are formally placed before the committee.”

Apart from such procedural violations, the BJP leader expressed “serious reservations about the agenda as circulated.” He wrote to the PM that he had “communicated my reservations orally” to the home minister.

Within hours of receiving his letter, Manmohan Singh replied to Advani saying that in deference to his request, the meeting had been postponed. The PM did not however respond to any of the issues raised by Advani. Instead, putting the ball in Advani’s court, Manmohan Singh said, “If you have any names to suggest for appointment as information commissioners, you may like to send them to me early.”

It is meanwhile learnt that the five nominees of the government include Satyananda Mishra, who is retiring shortly as secretary of the department of personnel and training (DOPT), which is the nodal agency of RTI. If the committee approves his name, it would set a pattern as even in 2005, the year in which RTI was enacted and CIC was established as an appellate authority under it, DOPT had appointed its then secretary, A N Tiwari, as one of the information commissioners.

Activists seek plan to reduce RTI delays

Publication: Times of India Mumbai; Date: Aug 23, 2008; Section: Times City; Page: 4

Viju B I TNN

Mumbai: The state’s information commissioners on Friday agreed to reduce the pendency of RTI appeals after a group of activists met them and expressed concern over the survival of the act.

The information commissioners also suggested measures like the presence of RTI activists and volunteers for the hearings and came up with strategies to reduce the delay.

TOI on Friday reported how the huge pendency of appeals was slowly rendering the RTI Act ineffective in the long run. The six information commissions across Maharashtra had a whopping 16,866 appeals pending till June this year. The information commissions had received a total 26,870 appeals but had disposed of only 9,914 in that period.

More than a dozen RTI activists from around the city, led by Shailesh Gandhi, met state information commissioner Suresh Joshi at his chamber on Friday.

The activists not only voiced concern over the growing backlog but also demanded a concrete action plan to bring the situation under control within a few months.

Joshi said the commission was experimenting with various measures to expedite the disposal of cases at various levels, especially at the firstappeal state. “This will yield visible results within two months,’’ Joshi assured.

One of the issues highlighted during the discussion was the need to impose stringent penalties on public information officers (PIOs) who did not provide the details sought or gave misleading information. “The State Information Commission’s reluctance to levy penalties lets PIOs flout rules with abandon. This will defeat the purpose of the sunshine act, which gives citizens access to timely and useful information,’’ Gandhi said.

A comparison with the disposal of cases by the Bombay high court and information commissioners shows up things in true light.

Each high court judge disposed of, on an average, 2,530 cases annually. On the other hand, every information commissioner disposed of only 899 appeals last year.

RTI activists now plan to keep regular tabs on the appeals. “We plan to go to the SIC’s office on a weekly basis to ensure that the waiting period for appeals before the commission does not exceed 90 days,’’ Gandhi said.

viju.balanarayanan@timesgroup.com

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CIC set for expansion as RTI cases mount: Activists Want Eminent Names On Board

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 19; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13

Manoj Mitta | TNN
New Delhi: Given the manner in which RTI has caught on in less than three years, the government has decided to enlarge the Central Information Commission (CIC) adding four members to the existing five. Since the process of appointments under the transparency law has however been shrouded in secrecy, RTI activists have thrown a spanner in the works by proposing eminent persons who are willing to serve as information commissioners without taking salary, allowances or even government bungalow.
Their credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals are formidable. Jagdeep Chokkar and Trilochan Sastry are IIM professors who fought for the electoral reform that makes candidates declare their assets and criminal antecedents. Shailesh Gandhi, an engineer from IIT Bombay, is the convener of ‘‘national campaign for people’s right to information’’ spearheading the RTI movement. H Sudarshan, a doctor who was awarded Padma Shree for his work in rural areas, has been vigilance director with Karnataka’s Lokayukta (ombudsman).
The ones who proposed their names in a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on August 17 are no less eminent: Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and Magsaysay awardees Arvind Kejriwal and Sandeep Pandey. According to the letter, Chokkar and the other three are willing to draw a token salary of Re 1 per month —their sole motive in taking up the assignment of information commissioner being ‘‘to further the cause of transparency in governance’’.
The unusual strategy adopted by civil society of suggesting alternative names may put pressure on the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which faced flak in 2005 when four of the five information commissioners appointed by it turned out to be ex-bureaucrats. The present babu-domination is despite a broad provision in the RTI Act that the information commissioners shall be ‘‘persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance’’.
The RTI activists chose to address the letter to Sonia Gandhi because she is credited with pushing the historic legislation in the face of resistance from ministers and bureaucrats. Pointing out that the country has no dearth of eminent people who are willing to work selflessly as information commissioners, the August 17 letter says: ‘‘It is high time that the government stopped confining its choice to retiring bureaucrats or to people who cultivate powers that be in anticipation of getting such posts.’’
While confirming that it has decided to enlarge CIC, the minister in charge of DoPT, Prithviraj Chavan, told TOI that the appointments were being made according to the prescribed procedure which involves a selection committee consisting of himself, the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. As for the civil society’s grievance about the lack of transparency in the appointments, Chavan said: ‘‘That can’t be a public process.’’
But how can appointments under RTI be secretive? ‘‘RTI does not mean that the names have to be disclosed while the process is still on,’’ Chavan said. For the same reason, the minister declined to comment on the apprehension expressed by RTI activists that one of the candidates under consideration was DoPT secretary Satyananda Mishra. If that does happen, it would set a pattern as even in 2005 DoPT had appointed its then secretary, A N Tiwari, as one of the information commissioners.
The RTI activists on their part have written that if the government rejects the eminent persons proposed by them, then it should explain to the nation how their candidates were found less suitable than its own nominees.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

RTI Group Website (www.rtigroup.org) Statistics


We are happy to share RTI Group Website Statistics: No. of unique visitors on 12th August=171; Visitors came from 14 countries including USA, India, UK, France, Finland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait etc. and 42 cities around the world

Sonia wants Bihar model for RTI call centre

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 11; Section:Front Page; Page Number 1 ; Manoj Mitta | TNN


New Delhi: This is one Sonia Gandhi suggestion that may not go down well with her ally, RJD chief Lalu Prasad. Striking a nonpartisan approach to governance, the UPA chief has called upon Congress chief ministers to adopt the model of an RTI call centre run by the NDA government in Bihar to make information more accessible to the poor and illiterate. But the UPA government seems to be weighing as to what extent it should replicate the example at the Centre.

Despite giving an “in principle” clearance to the call centre, the department of personnel and training (DoPT), the nodal agency for RTI, is unsure whether it should, following the Bihar model set up in early 2007, bear the cost of converting a phone call into an RTI application.

Personnel minister Prithviraj Chavan told TOI that what the Centre was drawing from the Bihar model was the concept of filing of RTI applications over the telephone. ‘‘We have not yet taken a call on whether the applicant should be spared the cost of the call centre,’’ he said.

If the government decides to pass the cost of the call centre to the applicant, then the charge he would have to bear, besides the regular fee of Rs 10 per RTI application, is estimated to be Rs 35. Similarly, for the two layers of appeal, which normally do not entail any fee, the RTI applicant would have to pay Rs 35 as the call centre charge for each appeal. Thus, for taking the call centre route, the amount he would end up paying for the entire RTI process is Rs 115 instead of the usual Rs 10.

If the government bears the cost of the call centre, all that it would levy through the phone bill is the RTI fee of Rs 10 and the regular call charge. This option would be in tune with the letter Gandhi wrote on April 17 to party CMs commending the Bihar model to them ‘‘for taking the RTI Act to the doorstep of poor and illiterate masses through the use of information technology’’.

HOW CALL CENTRE WORKS

Even an illiterate person can file an RTI application as one simply has to dial and say over phone what information is required

Call centre executive drafts the application on the basis of the taped phone call

Now, UTI will also come under RTI purview

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 11; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 15 ; Viju B | TNN


Mumbai: This will bring cheers to lakhs of mutual fund investors who are worried about their investment parked with various pubic sector financial institutions in the country. In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission (CIC), ruled that Unit Trust of India Asset Management Company is a public authority and thus it has to comply with the provisions of section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

UTIAMC is the investment manager for UTI mutual funds which in turn invest public money in stock markets and debt instruments. The CIC order on August 6, will now make it mandatory for UTIAMC to comply with section 4 for the RTI Act which states that public authorities need to maintain its records so that applicants can inspect or even ask for copies of the records.

The order comes after Dombivali resident Vijay T Gokhale approached CIC when UTI and SEBI replied to his RTI queries stating that UTI was not a public authority. ‘‘I approached the commission after UTIAMC replied that all its three entities, UTI mutual funds, UTI trustee company and UTI asset management company, do not fall under the ambit of the RTI Act,’’ Gokhale said.

When the case came up for hearing at CIC, UTI officials argued that it was not a public authority as it is incorporated under Companies Act and SEBI. ‘‘Even though the entire share capital of UTIAMC is held by four public sector banks, UTIAMC is a company registered under the Companies Act and is neither financed by the government nor controlled by it,’’ the UTI official said. The CIC then asked them to furnish copies of balance sheet, memorandum and articles, mode of appointment of directors, profit sharing pattern of the company and also reasons for retaining the UTI logo.

The CIC, in its order, said UTIAMC has been sponsored by public sector institutions and banks like SBI, PNB, LIC and Bank of Baroda. ‘‘In other words, UTIAMC is owned by four public authorities. An institution wholly owned by a public authority could be considered to be a public authority under the RTI Act,’’ the CIC order said.

‘‘From the purpose and object of the RTI Act, it is crystal clear that there should be transparency in the functioning of any institution in which public money is deployed,’’ the order said. The CIC, while passing the order directed UTIAMC to designate PIOs and appellate authorities to comply with the provisions the RTI Act in the next 30 days.

CIC to decide if MPs/MLAs should reply to RTI queries

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 13; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13; Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

New Delhi: Are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi expected to reply to Right to Information queries that are addressed to them in their capacity as Members of Parliament? In a decision that could have far-reaching ramifications, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to ascertain if elected representatives like an MP or MLA can be recognised as a ‘‘public authority’’ in his or her own right.
This follows a growing number of complaints that MPs and MLAs have not been responding to RTI queries regarding their work as public representatives.
UP resident Awadesh Mishra had sought information from Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi related to recommendations made by the latter on assistance to NGOs. When Mishra did not receive any reply, he approached the Lok Sabha secretariat which held that the MP was not a public authority as defined under the RTI Act. The secretariat said the information was not held by it and could only be made available by the MP.
Similar requests for information have been filed by Lucknow residents Girish Chandra Mishra and Radhey Shyam with Rae Bareli MP and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Delhi resident Sartaj Ahmed had sought information from his area MLA Saheb Singh Chauhan regarding development work in his constituency.
However, when there was no satisfactory reply to their queries, the respondents approached the CIC. The commission, on its part, has recognized that a MP has been given specific authority by the Constitution in return for which he receives public funds.
The information watchdog has issued a public notice for opinions on the issue adding that it would take a ‘‘view to decide whether the information sought by these applicants can qualify as information sought under the RTI Act’’. The submissions are expected to be given by August 30 and a hearing is likely to be held in September.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

File RTI appeals on CIC website, but pay via post

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has introduced online acceptance of RTI appeals and complaints, allowing applicants to file their queries on the Internet. This comes at a time when the Bihar state information commission has already introduced acceptance of applications on the phone and the Centre is planning a call centre as well.
Speaking about the online facility, chief information commission Wajahat Habibullah said, “This will hopefully increase the awareness of RTI and its use. It’s mainly designed for appeals and complaints.” There is a catch, however. If the person is filing for information to the CIC, the RTI query will be accepted but must be followed by a postal order of Rs 10.
Online payments are still a long way off. According to the CIC, the government feared that the system was not strong enough to handle credit card payments. “There is fear of Internet fraud when money transactions are conducted on the net,” admitted Habibullah.
As of now, when applicants log on to the CIC website, the online link will provide them with a form to apply online. The form includes ‘mandatory fields’ like name, address, contact details and the ministry, department or public authority that the appeal is against.
Verification code, citizenship status (whether you are an Indian or NRI) will have to be filled. Other details include if the person has applied to the public information officer (the first official authorised to address the appeal) and whether the issue at hand is a matter of life or liberty.
Applicants can also upload documents relevant to their argument. For the Internet savvy, this is likely to save time and resources. But the most to benefit from this are people living outside Delhi and Indians abroad who do not have to depend on the postal department to file their complaints. Habibullah said he had already received complaints online and queries on how to file them.

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Jul 29; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 15 Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

CIC Directs AMU to Open up Entrance Test Records

CIC Directs AMU to pay Rs 5000 as compensation

एएमयू : पीएफ का मनमाना निवेश

अलीगढ़, 23 जून, 2008 www.jagran.com page 16

एएमयू : पीएफ का मनमाना निवेश

संवाददाता, अलीगढ़ : अलीगढ़ मुस्लिम विश्वविद्यालय के कर्मचारियों की भविष्य निधि की एफडी एएमयू कानून को धता बताते हुए फाइनेंस आफिस ने किसी अन्य बैंक में करा दी है, जबकि एक्ट और आर्डिनेंस में साफ निर्देश है कि इसका निवेश भारतीय स्टेट बैंक की एएमयू शाखा में ही किया जाए। इस बात का खुलासा एएमयू दर्शन शास्त्र विभाग में डा. तारिक उल इस्लाम द्वारा सूचना के अधिकार के तहत मांगी गई सूचना में हुआ है। सूचना के अधिकार के तहत डा. तारिक उल इस्लाम ने 10 अप्रैल को एक सूचना मांगी थी। एएमयू के जनसूचना अधिकारी को भेजे पत्र में उन्होंने पूछा था कि एक अप्रैल 2007 से 10 अप्रैल 2008 तक कितनी राशि बैंक में जमा की गई, किस-किस खाते में की गई और राशि जमा की गई वह कहां से आई। इसके अलावा किस बैंक में यह राशि जमा हुई और कितनी ब्याज दर पर हुई। डा. तारिक उल इस्लाम ने प्रत्येक जमा धन और निकासी का पूरा ब्यौरा भी मांगा था। वीसी ने एक्ट 19 (3) (विशेषाधिकार) का प्रयोग करके श्रेयस ग्रामीण बैंक जमालपुर में कुछ धन जमा करने का निर्णय लिया था। सूचना अधिकार के तहत डा. तारिक उल इस्लाम ने उस निर्णय की कापी और ईसी द्वारा पास किए गए प्रस्ताव की कापी भी मांगी थी। मांगी गई जानकारी का जवाब सहायक फाइनेंस अफसर ने दिया है, जिसमें उन्होंने बताया है कि आठ करोड़ रुपये की एफडी 36 महीने के लिए जमालपुर स्थित श्रेयस ग्रामीण बैंक में कराई गई है। इसमें वीसी ने अपने विशेषाधिकार का प्रयोग किया है। प्रयोग के पीछे यह तर्क दिया गया है कि वे राशि पर मिलने वाले ब्याज का नुकसान नहीं होने देना चाहते थे, इसलिए एक्ट 19 (3) का प्रयोग करके एफडी कराई गई है। कर्मचारियों की भविष्यनिधि (पीएफ) की एफडी कई नियमों को धता बताते हुए किया गया है। एएमयू के स्टेच्यू 61 के अपेंडिक्स (ए) के क्लॉज 13 में भविष्य निधि के बारे में साफ तौर पर निर्देश दिए गए हैं। इसमें कहा गया है कि जीपीएफ का निवेश केवल भारतीय स्टेट बैंक की एएमयू ब्रांच में ही कर सकते हैं। इस क्लाज में आगे बताया गया है कि ईसी के निर्देश पर किसी राष्ट्रीयकृत बैंक अथवा पोस्ट आफिस में निवेश किया जा सकता है। इसके अलावा एएमयू के धन के निवेश को लेकर अन्य जगहों पर निर्देश दिए गए हैं। इसमें एक्जीक्यूटिव आर्डिनेंस के चेप्टर दो के क्लॉज दो में साफ कहा गया है कि यदि तीन हजार रुपये से ज्यादा जमा करने हैं तो ईसी की परमीशन के साथ केवल भारतीय स्टेट बैंक में ही जमा होंगे। उसमें यह भी बताया गया है कि यदि बैंक बदली जाएगी तो उसके लिए बाकायदा एग्जीक्यूटिव काउंसिल निर्देश देगी। ईसी की जानकारी के बिना किसी दूसरे बैंक में एफडी कराने को लेकर कुछ जानकार लोग वित्तीय अनियमितता की आशंका जाहिर कर रहे हैं। जानकारी मांगने वाले डा. तारिक उल इस्लाम वीसी के विशेषाधिकार के प्रयोग पर हैरत जाहिर करते हुए कहते हैं कि एक्ट 19 (2) वीसी को केवल एक्जीक्यूटिव और एकेडमिक अधिकार प्रदान करता है, इसमें वित्तीय मामले नहीं आते। डा. इस्लाम इस मामले में वीसी को नहीं फाइनेंस आफिस को दोषी मानते हैं। उन्होंने कहा कि एफडी की मैच्योरिटी की तारीख नजदीक आ रही है, यह पहले से ही पता होगा। वीसी ने एक साल में कई ईसी की बैठक बुलाई हैं, यदि फाइनेंस आफिस चाहता तो ईसी में यह मामला पास हो सकता था।

Sunday, July 6, 2008

CIC penalizes architecture school official for RTI inaction

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Jul 02; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 19
TIMES NEWS NETWORK

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the School of Planning and Architecture’s public information officer for inaction on a Right to Information appeal for over three months.
In his order, information commissioner O P Kejriwal has directed the PIO, D R Bains, to pay Rs 25,000 for causing a delay of ‘‘more than 100 days in providing the required information to the appellant’’. He has ordered the SPA director in charge and appellate authority, K T Ravindran, to ensure compliance in recovery of the penalty by August 10.
The appellant had asked for information relating to the action taken against his daughter who was not permitted to sit for an exam due to shortage of attendance.
In his RTI filed on September 1, 2006, to the human resource development ministry, appellant Ramesh Chandra had sought to know what action was being taken against Prof Mahavir, head of the department of physical planning, and Prof Subir Saha, SPA director-in charge, for their ‘‘misconduct’’ in detaining his daughter and other students from appearing for an exam. Chandra also wanted to know whether his daughter Sudeepti Chandra would be permitted to attend classes of fourth year.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More Corrupt: India slips in Transparency International rankings

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Jul 05; Section:Editorial; Page Number 18

Recently a raid on the deputy commissioner of commercial taxes in Bangalore revealed that he is the owner of 102 cars. That appears to confirm the common perception that corruption is an intrinsic part of Indian public life. This is validated by surveys too. Transparency International has placed India two notches lower on this year’s Corruption Perception Index than it had in 2007. The only saving grace is that compared to its neighbours, India seems to have done well. Pakistan, for instance, is at 140th position compared to India’s 74th. Nepal and Sri Lanka are ranked a lowly 135 and 96 respectively. China though is ranked one place above India. Another new study by Transparency International and the Centre for Media Studies found that Indians believed public services to be more corrupt than they actually are.
But can we take heart from that? Not really, as the 102 cars in the possession of Bangalore’s taxman show. India still has miles to go in rooting out corruption in public life. The introduction of Right to Information (RTI) legislation may have had an impact on making government more accountable. An independent media working as a watchdog also helps. But hush money, graft and bribes are rampant in public life. And this is true for all government offices that deal with the public.
What is worrying is that the Transparency International report on India found that about Rs 9,000 crore had been paid as bribes by the poor. Indeed, the poor are disproportionately affected by corruption since they depend more on public services. According to the report, one out of every three people living below the poverty line in India paid bribes to access basic public services such as education, health care and water. Corruption is proving to be the biggest hurdle in the way of poverty alleviation programmes. Leakages in government spending programmes mean that very little is actually reaching the poor.
However, all is not lost. The RTI and the media are contributing to efforts to tackle corruption in government and politics. That is a healthy sign. But much more needs to be done to fight corruption. After all, corruption is a key factor in keeping the benefits of India’s growth from trickling down, leading to inequality and political instability.