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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.

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Relief for information seeker

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.