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Sunday, December 6, 2009

CIC Selections: PMO and DoPT websites raise awkward questions of ethics

Unprofessional conduct is on public display at the websites of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and DoPT (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions). As Shri Manmohan Singh is Minister in charge of DoPT (MOS Prithviraj Chavan is second in command), he is doubly responsible for mal-administration of the Right to Information. Visit the websites of PMO ( ) and DoPT (, and see some strange omissions in matters concerning appointment of Central Information Commissioners:

1) Although details of other committees headed by PM are published, the committee for CIC Selection is not even mentioned. Why?

Item no. viii of PMO’s suo moto disclosure ( under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act 2005 states, “The details of Committees serviced by PMO are available on the website.” The PMO web page ( names six committees, and gives further details through hyperlinks:

· Delivery Monitoring Unit

· PM's Council on Climate Change

· PM's National Council on Skill Development

· The Trade and Economic Relations Committee

· The Economic Advisory Council

· The Energy Coordination Committee

So why is the committee for selecting CIC formed under Sec. 12(3) of RTI Act 2005 excluded from this list? Can anybody at PMO explain this?

2) Through circulars, DoPT invites applications for the post of Registrars at Central Information Commission, but not for the post of Information Commissioners. Why?

Read this lovely circular: . Terms of appointment, documents to be submitted, manual of guidelines to be used for selection, etc. – everything is clearly specified. Why are such circulars not issued for soliciting applications for the CIC’s post? Why are these appointments a hush-hush affair for the privileged few?

3) Minutes of crucial meetings are put up on DoPT website, but not of the meeting of PM’s selection committee for CIC. Why?

Read this circular recording minutes of a pre-bid meeting with some consultancy organizations: . What is preventing DoPT or PMO from similarly publishing minutes of CIC selection committee meetings? Why this desperate urge for secrecy?

Such suspicious behavior is unbecoming of our Prime Minister. Appointment of pliable candidates as Central Information Commissioners, using the CIC’s post for giving retiring bureaucrats a five-year extension, especially those from PMO, DoPT and government-mouthpiece organizations – are this not unprofessional acts? Are these not unethical and immoral practices? How can we hold our head high amidst the community of nations when such sleazy things are visibly done on our government websites?

Look at these naked facts from the CIC website:

· A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra were both DoPT Secretaries immediately before being sworn in as Information Commissioner at the age of 59 years 10 months and 59 years 7 months respectively.

· Before becoming CIC at the age of 62, O P Kejriwal was Director General of All India Radio and earlier, CEO Prasar Bharati.

· Mrs Deepak Sandhu was working as Press Advisor to the Prime Minister, directly before taking oath at the age of 60 years 9 months.

· Mrs Sushma Singh was Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, before taking oath at the age of 60 years 4 months.

· Mrs Omita Paul was CIC for one month between May and June ’09, between two assignments as Advisor to Pranab Mukherjee. In the 30-year span starting 1980 – she worked with the Information & Broadcasting ministry for about a decade. When not working in Pranab babu’s ministries, she held positions in All India Radio, Doordarshan, Press Information Bureau etc. When she took oath, her age was 60 years 6 months.

· Chief CIC Wajahat Habibullah worked in Indira Gandhi's PMO, facilitated the transition to Rajiv Gandhi's Prime Ministership after her assassination, headed Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, authored two chapters in a book titled Rajiv Gandhi's India and won the Rajiv Gandhi award for Excellence in Secularism.

My family and I have been staunch Congress voters and supporters over the decades, and we continue to be so. The fact that the UPA government ushered in RTI Act in 2005 is a big plus-point in their favour. But it seems that they have been having second thoughts; having given birth to this girl-child, the UPA government seems to be keen on drowning it in milk.

Sorry Manmohan Singhji, we can’t let you do that. That is infanticide. It is a criminal offence, and anybody who tries to commit such an offence, including the child’s parents, will pay a very heavy price.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114


Friday, November 20, 2009

We aren’t schoolkids, won’t accept demeaning RTI awards: Wajahat

We aren’t schoolkids, won’t accept demeaning RTI awards: Wajahat
Krishnadas Rajagopal Posted: Friday , Nov 20, 2009 at 0408 hrs New Delhi:
Calling it “demeaning,” Central Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has said that information commissioners will not accept “RTI awards” to be announced by Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) founded by Magsaysay Award winner and activist Arvind Kejriwal.
Kejriwal, incidentally, is also behind the campaign to push for Kiran Bedi as Habibullah’s replacement.
“We have called a weekly meeting of information commissioners and decided not to accept awards. We have already told the organizers. ......
For complete news go to:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why we are opposing Prof Shekhar Singh as Chief CIC

We RTI Activists are not against Prof Shekhar Singh as a person or even as a candidate for CCIC. But we must oppose the move to hastily make him Chief CIC without transparent selection procedures. Prof. Singh diplomatically shirks responsibility for being open about his own candidature. He is secretive about who nominated him, and who are the other candidates under consideration. And he is unwilling to publicly ask the government to be transparent in this regard.

Prof Shekhar Singh is exceptionally close to the Government. Hundreds of influential bureaucrats are his former students. Naturally, he has been on various Govt. of India committees for the past 20 years. Positions held:

· Professor of Indian Institute of Public Administration.

· Advisor on environment and forests in Planning Commission

· Secretary of Island Development Authority of India, chaired by Prime Minister (1990-91)

· Head of statutory Environmental Appraisal Committee for power projects (1991-92)

· Head of Supreme Court of India Commissioner for forests and related matters in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (2001-02)

· Independent member of Narmada Control Authority Sub-Group on Environment

· Chairman of Govt. task force on governance, transparency, participation

· Chairman of task force on Environmental Impact Assessment for 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12).

"CCIC Shekhar Singh" is the government's sugar-coated poison-pill for RTI campaigners. If we swallow this pill, we will be paralyzed and unable to agitate for transparency in CIC’s selection. Therefore, we must strenuously resist and agitate.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dismissed: Case for Transparency in CIC Selection in Delhi HC

Friends, our case for Transparent Selection of Central Information Commissioners was heard today in Delhi High Court, and it was dismissed. We were represented by eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who offered various arguments for our case to be admitted – violation of Section 12(5) and Constitution Article 16, transparent ways of making CIC appointments followed in other countries like Indonesia, relevant Supreme court verdicts etc etc.

The court dismissed the case because:

(a) It opined that “Selection” of CIC was different from “Appointment”. If it was an appointment, then all our arguments would have been valid, but as it was a selection, it was solely within the discretionary powers of the Selection Committee, and the court could have no say in the matter.

(b) As such, the court felt that it need not look into the credentials of the present CICs, who were predominantly DOPT secretaries, government spokespersons etc.

(c) The court agreed that our cause i.e. transparency of CIC selections, was basically good, but it felt that it could not enter into this matter and issue any writ.

On these grounds, our case was dismissed.

What next? We intend to go in appeal to Supreme Court, fully aware that our chances of getting this order overturned are slim. We will do this because, as the saying goes, “We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

For this, we shall await the Speaking Order of the court, which will hopefully be detailed as to its reasoning. Advocate Rasheed Qureshi, who is handling the nitty-gritties of our case, informs us that this order may take 10 days.

When we go in appeal, we cannot add any fresh material or arguments to our case. The case will be decided based on whatever arguments we have advanced before the High Court so far.

Advocate Rasheed will send us a more detailed blow-by-blow account by evening. I shall email that to you at the earliest.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

The author can be reached at:

Aakhir yeh CIC Selections ka lafda kya hai? The briefest of public briefings

The post of “Central Information Commissioner” (CIC) is not a constitutional post such as that of Governor or President. It is not created by the Constitution, but by Section 12 of the RTI Act -- an Act meant for empowering the common citizens in seeking information from public authorities, and bringing about transparency and accountability. Therefore, the fairness or otherwise of CIC’s selection must be understood mainly from the standpoint of satisfactorily fulfilling the criteria laid out in Section 12, as well as the objectives of the Act laid out in its preamble.

The post of CIC is not a ceremonial post, but requires daily performance of many duties, such as continually applying a judicious mind to the requirements of the RTI Act, conducting dozens of hearings, expeditiously dictating orders, overseeing their compliance, liaisoning with public authorities at various levels, meeting citizens etc. However, there is no scope for CICs to “rise up from the ranks” through a process of promotions, as there are no lower positions such as, for example, Deputy Information Commissioners, Assistant Information Commissioners etc. This has created an unprecedented problem as to how to select suitable candidates who meet the requirements of eminence, competence, impartiality and judiciousness.

There is currently a vacuum – an absence of guidelines. It is essential that proper rules are framed to satisfy the requirements of the RTI Act. The competent body for framing such rules is DOPT, which is the de-facto governing body for implementation of RTI Act.

The petitioners contend that in the absence of such articulated rules and regulations, the methods of selection being currently followed i.e. in-house selection without advertizing and inviting applications / nominations of eminent citizens, are an abomination and an injustice to the citizens of India. These selections are based on insider-information and undue influence . They are mala fide acts done in secrecy, taking advantage of the current lack of rules and guidelines. They defeat the purpose of the RTI Act. They are bad in law for the following reasons:

I. Present method of selection CICs fail to comply with the basic requirements of Section 12(5) of the RTI Act:

Section 12(5) stipulates: “The Chief Information Commissioner and 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.” It is inherent in the wording of this section, as well as the objectives stated in the preamble (of bringing transparency and accountability to public authorities), that the post of CICs must be predominantly occupied by eminent members of civil society. To attract such nominations and applications in sufficient numbers, it is self-evident that the government must advertise all over India; otherwise, how will they know when such vacancy arises?

Currently, the CIC’s post is used for giving retiring bureaucrats a 5-year extension. This is mala fide use of privileged information and position. Please note:

* A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra were both DoPT Secretaries immediately before being sworn in as Information Commissioner at the age of 59 years 10 months and 59 years 7 months respectively.
* Before becoming CIC at the age of 62, O P Kejriwal was Director General of All India Radio and earlier, CEO Prasar Bharati.
* Mrs Deepak Sandhu was working as Press Advisor to the Prime Minister, directly before taking oath at the age of 60 years 9 months.
* Mrs Sushma Singh was Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, before taking oath at the age of 60 years 4 months.
* Mrs Omita Paul was CIC for one month between May and June ’09, between two assignments as Advisor to Pranab Mukherjee. In the 30-year span starting 1980 – she worked with the Information & Broadcasting ministry for about a decade. When not working in Pranab babu’s ministries, she held positions in All India Radio, Doordarshan, Press Information Bureau etc. When she took oath, her age was aged 60 years 6 months.
* Chief CIC Wajahat Habibullah worked in Indira Gandhi's PMO, facilitated the transition to Rajiv Gandhi's Prime Ministership after her assassination, headed Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, authored two chapters in a book titled Rajiv Gandhi's India and won the Rajiv Gandhi award for Excellence in Secularism.

How can so many retiring DOPT secretaries, PMO insiders and Government spokespersons qualify for the post of CICs -- WATCHDOGS OF THE CITIZENS’ RIGHT TO INFORMATION? Out of nine Information Commissioners, only two are members of Civil Society, viz. Shailesh Gandhi (Entrepreneur & Activist) and Prof. M M Tiwari (Academician). All the others held government jobs.

II. Present Method violates Article 16 of Constitution – Right to equality in matters of State Employment

Two government reports express concern at the iniquitous preponderance of civil servants, which is not envisaged in any form by the RTI Act:

A) Report of Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), June 2006 says this with regards to State Information Commissions (which is also true of Central Information Commission).

“5.2.4 The RTI Act 2005 visualizes a Commission wherein the Members represent different sections of the society. The State Governments are still in the process of appointing Information Commissioners, but an analysis of the background of the State Chief Information Commissioners indicates the preponderance of persons with civil service background. Members with civil services background no doubt bring with them wide experience and an intricate knowledge of government functioning; however to inspire public confidence and in the light of the provisions of the Act, it is desirable that the Commissions have a large proportion of members with non civil services background.”

B) Price WaterHouse Cooper’s Report on RTI Implementation says:

“5.6.3. The Information Commissioners who are ex-bureaucrats bring in the perception that they are “soft” while passing orders on the PIOs. As per the Section 12(5) and 15(5), the composition of the information commissions should be such that it should have people with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance. To implement these sections in spirit, it is recommended that the people who have worked in Government should be restricted to 50% (if not less) as recommended in the ARC report.”

It is possible to fulfill the requirements of equitable selection of Information Commissioners only if vacancies are widely advertised with clear statements of appointment criteria, where and how to apply etc. Furthermore, a framework for training and screening must be set out by DoPT. Petitioners seek Delhi High Court’s directions for the same.

III. Present Method violates Principles of Natural Justice

Information Commissioner is an independent quasi-judicial authority appointed by the Parliament through RTI Act. He has strong investigative powers and judge-like powers which he is expected to exercise on behalf of dissatisfied applicants for information and various Government institutions. As per Section 18, 19 and 20, he is expected to decide whether or not a member of civil society has been improperly denied access to information by a public authority, and he is expected by the Parliament to facilitate civil society’s access to information by acting on the basis of (1) complaints (2) appeals (3) suo moto action. He is expected to objectively decide on various matters without fear or favour, and suitably impose penalties and recommend disciplinary action.

But how can he act without fear or favour if he owes his appointment to an arbitrary, non-transparent and unguided act of discretion of the DoPT and PMO?

In the words of Justice Sujata Manohar: “The principles of natural justice have evolved under common law as a check on the arbitrary exercise of power by the State. As the State powers have increased, it has become increasingly necessary to ensure that these powers are exercised in a just and fair manner.“ The petitioner contends that the Principles of Natural Justice are compromised on several counts:

a) Firstly, the citizen’s right to be heard by an unbiased tribunal is compromised, as the currently sitting CICs can barely be seen as unbiased.

b) The principle of Audi alteram partem (The person concerned must be heard before a decision is taken) is compromised at the stage of selection on two accounts:

i) While appointing Information Commissioners, not attracting applications and nominations from civil society through advertisements implies not hearing most persons who are eligible for appointment u/s 12(5).

ii) Also, appointing Information Commissioners in an opaque manner, without due notice, prevents those who may wish to register protest at a particular appointment. For example, citizens would surely have registered dissent at DOPT Secretaries and Government spokespersons being made CICs if proper notice had been given.

c) The principle of Nemo judex in causa sua (A person will not judge a case in which he is himself interested.) The petitioner contends that in order to facilitate impartial selections (i) either PMO and DOPT must distance themselves from the selection process by appointing suitably-empowered citizens committees to put up candidates before the Prime Minister’s selection committee as per Section 12(3), or (ii) they must declare as ineligible civil servants who are closely connected to these departments specifically, as also government spokespersons, media advisors etc.

d) A recent third principle is that the decision must give reasons. Reasons may be elaborate or brief, but necessary to ensure fair decision making. Every CIC’s appointment must be a reasoned process, where the pros and cons of various candidates are weighed and thought through. This reasoning must be made readily available on the website to the public. Currently, this principle is not being followed, and the process is completely opaque, even retrospectively.

IV. Present Method violates the following Supreme Court Orders on recruitment criteria vis-à-vis Article 16, 14 etc:

1) In Suresh Kumar and Ors. v. State of Haryana and Ors., 2001 AIR SCW 2545, the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of Full Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court quashing the appointments of 1600 Police Constables made without advertising the vacancies. The High Court had reached the conclusion that the process of selection stood vitiated because there had been no advertisement and no due publicity inviting applications from the eligible candidates at large.

2) Similarly, in Surinder Singh and Ors. v. State of Haryana and Ors., JT 2001 (5) SC 461, the apex Court quashed the appointments made over and above the number of vacancies duly advertised being violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution as candidates who possessed eligibility subsequent to the advertisement had no chance to be considered for recruitment. “Any appointment made without advertising the vacancy remains unenforceable being violative of the mandate of the Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution and does not require to be protected and such an appointee cannot claim the relief of regularisation.”

3) In Excise Superintendent v. K.B.N. Visweshwara Rao, (1996) 6 SCC 216, the Supreme Court impliedly over-ruled its earlier judgment in Union of India and Ors. v. N. Hargopal and Ors., (1987) 3 SCC 308, wherein it had been held that appointment by calling the names from Employment Exchange was valid. The Court took the view that in addition to calling the names from the Employment Exchange, vacancy has to be advertised in local newspapers and the appointment only by calling the names from the Employment Exchange will be hit by the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India for the reason that those persons who could not get their names registered with, the Employment Exchange cannot be discriminated merely on that ground.

4) In Sita Ram Mali v. State of Rajasthan, 1994 (2) WLC 177, the Rajasthan High Court deprecated the practice to appoint even on daily wages without advertising the temporary/ad hoc vacancies, observing as under: "Making appointment on daily wages without the availability of the post and without following the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 suffers from patent illegality. Apparently for the reasons which are only extraneous, the Officers of the Department have given appointments on daily wages to few favoured.”

5) In Umesh Kumar Nagpal Vs. State of Haryana [(1994) 4 SCC 138 ] the Supreme Court held that, "As a rule, appointments in the public services should be made strictly on the basis of open invitation of applications and merit. No other mode of appointment nor any other consideration is permissible. Neither the Governments nor the public authorities are at liberty to follow any other procedure or relax the qualifications laid down by the rules for the post."

Sir-ji, Madamji, aap logon ko tho humne samjha diya. Ab umeed hai ki yeh yeh baatein Court ke galey utaar sakhein! Hum yeh case Court mein ladhne jaa rehey hain:

Please give us your blessings, O Janta Janaardhan!

Warm Regards,


98215 88114
The author can be reached at:

“Oho! So it’s CCIC Shekhar Singh now, is it?!” Some angry thoughts

I have been tossing in my bed, trying to calm down my disturbed mind and go to sleep. But sleep is eluding me, and the angry thoughts refuse to subside; and so, here I am at 2 a.m., trying to articulate what exactly is bothering me. A few hours ago, a fellow activist phoned and told me the news about NCPRI’s Shekhar Singh possibly being our next Chief Central Information Commissioner. And then I came home and read this news item last night, which left me with a strange taste in my mouth:

What am I feeling just now? It is not joy that a worthy fellow-activist is about to be made, not just a CIC, but Chief CIC. But why? Shouldn’t I be feeling happy that power may pass from former bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah into the hands of a leading campaigner for transparency?

Am I jealous? I sincerely wonder, because I am not above petty emotions. But I don’t think so. I really don’t think that is my emotion currently.

A gut-feeling is nagging me and keeping me wide-awake tonight – a worry that we civil-society members are being cleverly manipulated. Neta aur babu log hum logon ko phir se chootiya bana rahey hain. And if we go into a congratulatory or celebratory mode tomorrow, we shall have fallen into their trap.

I suspect that this is a deliberate news-leak. It is a strategic move. Someone at DoPT or PMO deliberately “leaked” the news to a friendly journalist. Why? Possibly they are testing the waters before convening a meeting of the Prime Minister’s selection committee for CIC. The committee may select Shekhar Singh…

Or maybe select somebody else – a bureaucrat again! Do you remember that in May ’09, activist Manish Sisodia was one of the three candidates being considered for the CIC’s post? Despite the fishy timing of the CIC selection on the eve of the elections, activists’ voice of opposition was muted because some of us hoped that Manish would become CIC. Some of us didn’t want his chances to be damaged by our opposition. And then what happened? They made Omita Paul the CIC. They gave a thenga to all of us!

They may be playing the same game again by leaking the name of Shekhar – blunting our opposition to the entire non-transparent and arbitrary process of selecting a CCIC. (Their real candidate may be someone else – a bureaucrat again.)

Currently, we all are united in our opposition to RTI Act amendment, and this movement is gathering momentum. We are also united against non-transparent appointment of CICs. My reading of the situation is -- and many fellow-activists agree -- that by acting together for the same cause, we all have put the government on the backfoot.

Now I think the political bosses are trying to throw us off-balance by naming Shekhar. They are hoping that many of us will hail Shekhar in the media, and send telegrams and letters to DoPT and PMO in his favour. In the meanwhile, some of us may oppose his candidature, and propose other activists for the post. In the resultant quarreling and groupism, the call for transparent CIC appointment and our united opposition to amendments will die down. They hope that NCPRI will go soft on its campaign against amendment, at least until Shekhar’s appointment is confirmed. And if it is confirmed, then maybe NCPRI will drop the campaign altogether. THAT would make our netas & babus very happy indeed!

Fellow-activists, please don’t fall for their divide-and-rule tactics. Otherwise, precious opportunities will slip away from our hands – opportunities for protecting the teeth of the RTI Act and enhancing the power of ordinary citizens.

Please don’t lose focus of the main issues: (i) we want them to implement and not amend the RTI Act, and (ii) we want them to appoint all Information Commissioners henceforth by a transparent, accountable, reliable process. Our campaigns must continue and grow in strength.

Please don’t let them treat politicians and bureaucrats treat us like pet dogs; they are constantly feasting on power, and when they occasionally throw in our direction a scrap like a CIC’s post, we all start fighting!

My earnest plea to Shekhar Singh is: Accept nothing less than total transparency in selection. Please don’t let the bureaucrats co-opt you by becoming a beneficiary of their arbitrary selection racket. If the post of CCIC is being offered to you without a transparent selection process, please snub them by asking them to first establish a proper process. Please take this golden opportunity to reform this system.



98215 88114
The author can be contacted at:

Monday, November 16, 2009

CIC Selection: Amazing Similarities of Age & Career betray DoPT’s “Hidden Hand”

Many RTI Activists went blue in the face asking PMO and DoPT about the process they used for selecting Central Information Commissioners. The activists were stonewalled with assertions that selections were as per Section 12(5) of the RTI Act. But that was a blatant lie. Look at the biodatas and appointment dates of the Information Commissioners at the CIC website, and mentally join the dots. The truth that emerges is: “The CIC’s post is yours for the asking if you are an IAS officer aged around 60, and have worked with PMO, DoPT or I&B ministry. Other cadres like IPS etc. may also be considered. Civil society members – eminent or otherwise -- are last preference.”

FIRST, LOOK AT THE STRIKING SIMILARITIES OF AGE: Everybody was almost exactly 60 years old when they took oath as CIC! Wajahat Habibullah took oath in October 2005, when he was 60 years and 1 month old. Mrs Padma Balasubramanian, O P Kejriwal, A N Tiwari and M M Ansari were appointed along with him. A N Tiwari was aged 59 years 10 months at the time of appointment. Satyanand Mishra (59 years 7 months old), Mrs Annapurna Dixit (60 years 3 months), M L Sharma (59 years 5 months) and Shailesh Gandhi (61 years 2 months) took oath in September 2008. Mrs Deepak Sandhu and Mrs Sushma Singh took oath in September 2009, respectively aged 60 years 9 months, and 60 years 4 months. Mrs Omita Paul was administered oath in May ’09, aged 60 years 6 months.

Padma Balasubramanian and O P Kejariwal retired in Dec ’08 and Feb ’09 respectively, upon reaching 65 years of age.

Clearly, DoPT is at work, selecting bureaucrats for the CIC’s post to optimize their working lives. IAS officers retire from government service at 60, and posts like the Central and State Information Commissioners are needed for their continued employment! When faced with such practical necessities, the idealistic requirements of Section 12(5) and civil society will go for a toss, boss!

TWO EXCEPTIONS: Prof M M Ansari – an academician– was sworn in as CIC at the tender age of 53 years 3 months. He, along with Shailesh Gandhi, an entrepreneur and RTI Activist, are the only ones with a civil society background.

TWO BORDERLINE CASES: M L Sharma is a former IPS officer. Padma Balasubramanian had an Indian Postal Service background.

Except for these four, all CICs have PMO, DOPT and Information & Broadcasting ministry writ large on their biodatas.

THE CHIEF IS A GANDHI FAMILY LOYALIST. Chief CIC Wajahat Habibullah’s resume on the CIC website has “loyalist” written everywhere:

* June 1982-September'87: Director and then Joint Secretary, Prime Minister's Office. Dealt with public relations, with the special programmes for poverty alleviation and relief programmes. Participated in ensuring the smooth transition of functioning after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (October 1985). Accompanied the Prime Ministers on tours in India.
* Oct 1991-July '93: Secretary, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, set up after the assassination of the former Prime Minister. This is today a premier NGO in India.
* Nov 1994-August '99: Minister, Community Affairs, Embassy of India, Washington DC. Piloted Bill in Congress and subsequent clearances for establishment of Gandhi Memorial in Washington DC.
* Awards include Rajiv Gandhi Award for Excellence in Secularism-1994
* Publications include: Kashmir, Rajiv Gandhi's India Vol. I Politics Ch. I and The Islands, Rajiv Gandhi's India Vol. I Politics, Ch. II, UBS Publishers, 1998.


· A N Tiwari and Satyananda Mishra were both DoPT Secretaries before becoming Information Commissioner. The interesting thing is that although A N Tiwari was appointed as CIC along with Wajahat Habibullah in October ‘05, he waited until he turned 60 in end-December ’05, retired from government service, and then took up his office as CIC. When he retires from CIC’s post in end-2010, he will be almost exactly 65 years to the day – squeezing the last drop of his residual service life!

· Before becoming CIC, O P Kejriwal was Director General of All India Radio and earlier, CEO Prasar Bharati. Mrs Deepak Sandhu was working as Press Advisor to the Prime Minister. Mrs Sushma Singh was Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Putting it bluntly, they were all spokespersons and Public Relations Officers of Govt of India.

· Mrs Omita Paul was briefly CIC between May and June ’09, when she was between two assignments as Advisor to Pranab Mukherjee. Besides her closeness to Pranab Mukherjee – her bureaucratic career closely tracing his ministerial career over a 30-year span starting 1980 – she worked with the Information & Broadcasting ministry for about a decade. When not working in Pranab babu’s ministries, she held positions in All India Radio, Doordarshan, Press Information Bureau etc. In other words, she too was a government spokesperson and PRO.

· Mrs Annapurna Dixit was wife of late J N Dixit, who expired in January 2005. He was National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister. Making her Central Information Commissioner in October 2005 was evidently PMO’s way of posthumously rewarding Mr Dixit for services rendered, and offering condolences to Mrs Dixit.

So where is the question of Prime Minister’s committee selecting CICs as per the criteria set out in Section 12(5)? DoPT is handling CIC selections exactly as it handles all government transfers & appointments! For all practical purposes, the Central Information Commission is just another government department, manned by hard-nosed bureaucrats and loyalists! Given the present method of appointment, our chances of getting independent and unbiased Information Commissioners are close to zero. Also, our chances are being appointed as CICs as per section 12(5), or of successfully nominating other members of civil society, are pitifully thin.

This, my friends, is the reason some of us from different parts of India have filed a PIL before Delhi High Court for transparent appointment of CIC. Read it and think.



98215 88114
Courtesy: Yahoogroup [rti4empowerment]


The Gandhi Memorial in Washington DC is a memorilal to another Gandhi altogether, who went by the title of Mahatma. And yes, I do try to remain worthy of his legacy
Indeed I realized that mistake, Mr Habibullah, although belatedly. Nonetheless, the charge about your being a Gandhi family loyalist stands.

No personal malice intended -- just an observation.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Amendments to RTI Act on the anvil

Amendments to RTI Act on the anvil

New Delhi, November 14, 2009

Vidya Subrahmaniam

The Department of Personnel and Training (Ministry of Personnel,
Public Grievance and Pensions) has admitted that the government is
considering amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The admission, which came at a meeting between RTI activists and DoPT
Secretary Shantanu Consul on Saturday, ended the suspense over whether
or not the government was contemplating amendments to the RTI.

For complete news visit:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bihar launches helpline to file RTI complaint

State launches helpline to file RTI complaint

Sanjeev Kumar Verma, TNN 13 November 2009, 07:43am IST

PATNA: Yet another first in India from Bihar has come to make the Right to Information (RTI), Act, people friendly. This pertains to launching of a
new helpline, by using which people can file complaints against the government officials who harass them for seeking information using the RTI tool.

CM Nitish Kumar dedicated the helpline (0612-2219435) for public use here on Thursday during a programme organised by state information commission (SIC), Bihar, to felicitate the performing public information officers (PIOs).

The CM himself made the first complaint using the helpline against Rajnagar block supply officer in Madhubani district.
For complete news pl visit:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CIC Selection PIL is not yet heard: TOI mis-reported Judges’ questions during hearing for admission

Dear fellow activists, Relax! Stop worrying! We haven’t lost our PIL against arbitrary selection of CICs. In fact, it hasn’t even begun. The report in Times of India wrongly suggests that the Chief Justice already gave an adverse order while dismissing our PIL. That is emphatically not the case!

The fact is that our PIL was very briefly heard for admission by Delhi High Court yesterday. In fact, it was not even properly heard; the main hearing is scheduled for 18th November, where we will be represented by well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

Below is Advocate A Rasheed Qureshi’s detailed report of Chief Justice’s questions and his answers:

In the first call (10.45 AM), I mentioned that I was seeking a passover as Mr Prashant Bhushan was to appear in my matter. The Chief justice remarked that our matter was premature as the new CCIC had not yet been appointed. I said that our matter was not about canvassing for any particular person X,Y or Z to be made the CCIC. If that was the case it would surely be premature, because then we must wait to see who is made the CCIC, and then move the court. In the present case, we were saying that the 3-member selection group was acting without any guidelines, criteria, rules etc and hence was violative of the Constitution. Acting in a void, without administrative guidelines, meant that they could pick and choose any one of their choice to the detriment of the public at large.

I stressed that all that I was asking was that there must be administrative guidelines, some criteria and the process must be generally known through Rules under the RTI Act. In the absence of this, there was likelihood of persons being selected who had conflict of interest qua their duties under the Post held and the appointing class of persons i.e. politicians.

At this, the CJ asked, "Do you say that bureaucrats must not be appointed?" I said, No, I don’t say that either. All I say is that the Act contemplates that People of eminence in law, social activism etc. PLUS those in administration and governance. So people from other categories also must be considered for the post of CCIC. Also, this must be done keeping in mind that bureaucrats are likely to have a conflict of interest in discharge of duty. CIC’s work is a quasi judicial work which requires decision-making, and sometime hard decision need to be taken.

This Act is in a nascent stage in India while other countries like Australia, UK & Canada have already evolved Best Practices in this field which we need to incorporate. Advertising this post is one good way, though not the only way, to make it transparent.

The Court asked if I was challenging the RTI Act. I said, No.

The matter is adjourned to 18th November. That gives us 9 days to prepare with more case laws.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114
Courtesy: [rti4empowerment]

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Officials implicating info seekers to be punished

Officials implicating info seekers to be punished

TNN 10 November 2009, 05:44am IST

PATNA: Taking serious note of the people being victimised by officials for seeking information under RTI Act, CM Nitish Kumar on Monday issued
instruction to top officials to take strict and quick action against the erring officials.

At a high-level meeting, Nitish directed the senior officials to identify the government servants accused of implicating information seekers in false cases and ensure that they are also penalized. He said for the information seekers who have been implicated in false cases a helpline should be started.

To begin with, this helpline will be started from the Jankari call centres and later on a separate telephone number be made available to the victims and this facility be publicised for the common people.

Those present at the meeting included chief secretary Anup Mukherjee, DGP Anand Shankar, principal secretary, home, Amir Subhani, principal secretary, personnel, Dipak Kumar, ADG (HQs) U S Dutt and CM's principal secretary R C P Singh.

Friday, November 6, 2009

CIC Selection: How PMO and DOPT bulldozed 3 RTI Applicants

Central Information Commissioners are selected arbitrarily. You need proof? C J Karira -- a fellow petitioner in our PIL filed in Delhi High Court this week -- emailed me some classic second-appeal orders passed by Chief CIC Wajahat. Three different RTI applicants asked: “Yes, we understand about Prime Minister’s Recommendation Committee and the selection criteria outlined in RTI Act sec. 12(5) and 12(6), but tell us: By what process did biodatas of current CICs land up before the committee? On what grounds were the present CICs selected? And who were the candidates rejected by this committee? Or rejected by DOPT, which puts up candidates to this committee?”

In a nutshell, the reply of PMO and DOPT was: “We appoint CICs as per Section 12 of RTI Act. That is the answer to all your questions. Now mind your own business.” Three RTI applicants had three approaches. DOPT and PMO found many ways to evade them:

One asked pointwise questions, and was told in reply to different questions: “Refer to RTI Section 12, and bugger off!” Wajahat politely concurred.

One applied to PMO, and was directed to DOPT.

Another asked DOPT, and was told that DOPT could not possibly have the information; maybe PMO had the information. In an elaborately reasoned order, Wajahat upheld this dubious claim.

One asked for a true copy of files, and was told to take inspection.

Another went for inspection and saw PMO and DOPT perform three different tricks:

· shuttled the applicant between PMO and DOPT

· showed partial or no meaningful information.

· When she appealed, she was told that the information was classified as confidential, disclosing it was not in public interest, and it was denied under Official Secrets Act 1923 and also Manual of Departmental Security Instructions.

Turning a blind eye to all these self-contradictions, Wajahat opined that it was the discretion of PMO and DOPT whether or not to give this information.

Want the case-by-case details? Read this:

Activist C J Karira, who happened to be present as an observer on 22-12-2008, vividly describes the proceedings: “The hearing lasted for about 22 minutes. The PIO did not utter one single word. She only used facial and body expressions: smile, nod, shaking of head, etc. All the talking was done by the Hon'ble CCIC himself who put up a very spirited defence on behalf of the CPIO.”

Below are highlights from Wajahat’s order dismissing Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2007/01066 dated 14-11-2007.

[To read the full order, go to ]

By an application of 21-4-07, J S Bhattacharjee, a Delhi resident, asked DOPT:

Question: Government’s policy/ principle guidelines etc for the collection of names of expected CIC to be sent to the Recommendation Committee for selection.

The answer was: Clause (5) and (6) of Section 12 of RTI Act prescribe the conditions for appointment to the posts of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Central Information Commissioners (IC). There is no other laid down policy/principle/ guidelines on the subject.

Question: Whether names of CIC are collected on ‘pick & choose’ basis or on the basis of the recommendations of Ministers

Answer: Persons for the post of CIC are considered on the basis of conditions contained in above referred provisions of the Act. No other information in the matter is available.

Question: Whether there was a system of “Search Committee” for collecting probable names and how the five names for CIC

Answer: As per available information there was no search Committee to collect probable names. No further information in the matter is available.

Question: How the five names for CIC have been finally selected by the Government leaving hundreds of qualified officials

Answer: The selections were made by the Selection Committee. No other information is available in the matter.

Question: Whether the post of CIC is meant only for retired official

Answer: No.

Question: Whether the present CIC had applied for the post and if so, the source of his information of vacancy

Answer: Information in this regard is not available.

Question: Whether government advertised for the post of CIC and when? Answer: The post was not advertised.

Question: Government policy/ principle for the appointment of only five CIC/ICs and not the 10 CIC(s) as per provision of the Act

Answer: Section 12 (2) of the RTI Act, 2005 provides that the Central Government may appoint such number of Central Information Commissioner not exceeding ten, as may be deemed necessary. The Government had appointed four Information Commissioners in addition to the Chief Information Commissioner on the basis of the need felt by the Government.

Question: In total, how many candidates were in the race for the post of CIC/ICs. Names of all candidates and their present designation and address be sent to me for my information

Answer: the information is not available.

Question: Whether non selected candidates for the post of CIC have been duly intimated with the cause for their non selection

Answer: In view of the position given in respect of point No. 9 above, question does not arise.

Question: Certified copies of Government decision regarding the non-appointment of 5 CICs

Answer: No such documents are available.

Question: Certified copies of Recommendation Committee “file notings” for the final selection of 5 CICs

Answer: the appellant was requested by the CPIO to deposit an amount of Rs. 2/- by way of cash or bankers’ cheque of Indian Postal Order in favour of Account Officer, Department of Personnel and Training as required under the provisions of RTI (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005. The appellant has not deposited the requisite amount so far.

How did Wajahat uphold this? His order, dictated soon after the hearing, reasoned thus: “Appellant Shri Bhattacharjee contended that since the Committee appointing or recommending appointment of Information Commissioners to the President was a ‘Selection’ Committee of the DoPT as was clear from the answer received by him from 1st appellate authority to Q. 4, it was governed by the guidelines issued by the DoPT in regard to the procedure to be followed by a Selection Committee.


“The Committee set up u/s 12 (3) of the RTI Act cannot be deemed to be a Departmental Committee or Departmental Selection Committee. This is a Committee set up through the RTI Act 2005 not by Government but, through the very enactment of this law, by Parliament in order to make recommendations to the President of India on appointment of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission. The response of the DoPT in this regard is correct in that the Department is only a servicing instrument for this Committee. The reference to the Committee as a Selection Committee by Shri K.G. Verma, Director in disposing of the first appeal is not to place this Committee in the category of a Departmental Selection Committee but only with reference to its purpose, which is indeed the selection of individuals it considers to be of eminence, which it recommends to the President of India for appointment as Chief Information Commissioner /Information Commissioner.

“Seen in this context it is quite conceivable that the DoPT, which is the only the servicing organisation, maintains no records of deliberations of this Committee, which the group is not required to maintain if they do in fact exist, other than its recommendations, which CPIO Ms. Zoya agreed before us is a document held by the DoPT. In light of the above it is clear that all information sought by appellant has, in fact, been provided within the definition of Section 2 (j), to the extent that that information is held or under the control of the public authority, in this case the DOPT.

“If, as pleaded by appellant before us, Shri Bhattacharjee would wish to inspect the letter of recommendation received from the Committee by the Department as submitted to the President of India, this will have to be sought through an application for the purpose made u/s 6 (1) of the RTI Act to the CPIO in the DoPT, which appellant is free to do. The present appeal being without substance is hereby dismissed.”

Ms Vishaish Uppal of Gulmohar Park applied to Kamal Dayani, CPIO, Prime Minister’s Office on 22.11.2005 seeking to inspect files, papers etc. relating to the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners. She subsequently received a copy of a letter from Kamal Dayani, CPIO indicating that the case had been transferred to DOPT Director Hari Kumar. In response Hari Kumar, Director in the Dept. of Personnel & Training invited Ms. Uppal to inspect the records.

However, on 13.1.06 Vishaish Uppal reverted to CPIO Kamal Dayani in PMO stating that she had been shown only one file and informed by PIO Hari Kumar that files pertaining to the entire selection process are with PMO and not with DoPT.

She, therefore, asked that she may be allowed to inspect the relevant files. In response Kamal Dayani held that it was not possible to allow inspection of the relevant records in PMO. Appellate Authority Jawed Usmani, Jt. Secy. in the PM’s Office, dismissed the appeal made to the Appellate Authority on 22.2.06. The Appellate Authority had held that the papers being classified confidential and no case having been made out for making any exception under sec. 8(2) of the Act, Vishaish Uppal could not be allowed to inspect the documents.

In his order, Wajahat went into a very lengthy legal reasoning, but in the end, left it to the public authority i.e. PMO, to decide. The last part of his reasoning went like this: “The Appellate Authority, therefore, cannot withhold this information either on the ground that the information is classified as “confidential” under the Official Secrets Act or under Section 8(2) alone. However, Sec 22 as described above only overrides anything inconsistent with the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Official Secrets Act, 1923 stands neither rescinded nor abrogated. While a public authority may only withhold such information as could be brought within any of the clauses of Section 8(1), it is open to that authority to classify any of these items of information as “Confidential”, thus limiting the discretion of any other authority in respect to these.

“In this particular case, denial of information is under the orders of the Public Authority and it is open to the Public Authority to deny the information provided such denial can be justified under Section 8(1) of the Act. The Prime Minister’s Office will, therefore, re-examine the matter in view of the observations made above within fifteen days of the date of issue of the Decision Notice and it may disclose the information to the appellant, unless of course, the disclosure of the information can be denied or withheld under any of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Public Authority shall take an appropriate reasoned decision.”

[To read the full order, go to ]

Shri Milap Choraria of Rohini, Delhi made the following application to the CPIO, PMO on 11-9-06:

“I do hope that the selection of Prof. M.M. Ansari, for the appointment of the Office of Commissioner of CIC, was certainly in pursuance to and compliance of sub-Section (5) of Section 12 of the RTI Act 2005 and in conformity with aims and objectives as enumerated in the aforesaid Act.

However, under Section 6 of the RTI Act, I wanted certified copies of the file notings of the entire file with all other related documents referred in the file notings from the respective file relating to the selection process adopted through which the Appointment of Prof. M.M. Ansari, for the office of the Commissioner of the CIC was concluded.”

This was transferred to DOPT on 14-9-06. PIO P K Misra, Under Secretary, in a letter of 12-10-06 responded: “I am to say that the term “information” as defined in Section 2 (f) of the Act excludes `file noting’. You are advised to inspect the file and the related documents other than the file noting and, if required, obtain the copies of specific documents by paying the requisite fee.”

In his order, Wajahat reasoned that file notings should also be shown. This decision of the Commission was duly communicated to the DOPT vide letter dated 26.2.2006 which was followed by a reminder on 27.3.2006 and 8.5.2006.

Milap Choraria moved another application on 29.1.’06, asking for fair and true copy of all the documents from the respective file relating to appointment of Prof M M Ansari in the CIC. To this he received no reply.

In the end, did Wajahat direct PMO or DOPT to give him the info? No.

Wajahat literally copy-pasted the reasoning from Case no. 2: “In this particular case, denial of information is under the orders of the Public Authority and it is open to the Public Authority to deny the information provided such denial can be justified under Section 8(1) of the Act. The Prime Minister’s Office will, therefore, re-examine the matter in view of the observations made above within fifteen days of the date of issue of the Decision Notice and it may disclose the information to the appellant, unless of course, the disclosure of the information can be denied or withheld under any of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Public Authority shall take an appropriate reasoned decision.”

And then Wajahat said, “In light of the above CPIO DoPT may process the present application.”

[To read the full order, go to ]

CONCLUSION: What the CCIC meant to say in all the above-mentioned three RTI Orders was: “We understand that CPIOs are denying information because PMO and DOPT are instructing them to do so. We leave it to the discretion of PMO and DOPT to do so; We are not about to tell our bosses what to do, and we are not penalizing the PIOs. RTI Act jaye bhaad mein, aur tum activist log bhi tel laganey jao!”

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

Courtesy: [rti4empowerment] CIC Selection: How PMO and DOPT bullshitted 3 RTI Applicants

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bureaucrats’ assets aren’t confidential

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
Email Author
New Delhi, November 02, 2009
First Published: 00:31 IST(2/11/2009)
Last Updated: 00:33 IST(2/11/2009)

The Central Information Commission (CIC) may have lifted the veil of privacy over bureaucrats’ asset.

CIC, the country’s transparency watchdog, in an order has said that revealing assets of bureaucrats under Right to Information Act cannot be construed as “invasion of privacy”.

Every government official is supposed to submit a declaration about assets soon after joining service but getting this information under RTI had been tough.

Central Information Shailesh Gandhi said disclosure of assets of a public servant is not debarred under invasion of privacy clause of the RTI Act.

For complete news please visit:

Judges' assets disclosure: `too little, too late'

Nagendar Sharma (

NEWDELHI: Judicialactivists,including former judges and lawyers, are not impressed by the Supreme Court judges' decision to reveal details of their wealth.

All but one of the apex court's 22 judges posted the information on the court's official website on Monday.

Though supporting the step, Justice V. N. Khare, former chief justice of India, said, "We should be clearly told how often judges will declare their assets. How regularly will the information be updated?" The judges, initially reluctant, took the step only after prolonged public pressure.

"The details of the judges' wealth are not clear," said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who led the campaign to get judges to declare their wealth.
"The date on which they bought the properties they have declared has not been given., nor the value of the properties then. The judges have just gone through a formality."
For complete news please visit:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Amendment to RTI Act 'an obviously retrograde step'

Amendment to RTI Act 'an obviously retrograde step'

New Delhi, October 26, 2009

More than 200 eminent citizens have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to abandon the “ill advised move to amend the RTI Act”. This is the full text of the letter signed by Aruna Roy, Magsaysay Award winner, and others.
25th October, 2009

Dear Dr. Manmohan Singh,

We are alarmed and distressed to learn from media reports that the Government of India proposes to introduce amendments to the RTI Act. This is despite categorical assurances by the Minister of State, DoPT that any amendments, if at all necessary, would only be decided upon after consultations with the public. We are further dismayed to read that far from strengthening the RTI Act, as stated by the Honourable President of India during her speech to the Parliament on 4th June 2009, the government's proposition would in fact emasculate the RTI Act. The proposed amendments include, introducing an exemption for so-called “vexatious and frivolous” applications, and by excluding from the purview of the RTI Act access to “file notings” and the decision making process, this time by excluding “discussion/consultations that take place before arriving at a decision”.

Two current nation-wide studies, one done under the aegis of the Government of India and the other by people’s organizations (RaaG and NCPRI), have both concluded, that the main constraints faced by the government in providing information is inadequate implementation, the lack of training of staff, and poor record management. They have also identified lack of awareness, along with harassment of the applicant, as two of the major constraints that prevent citizen from exercising their right to information. Neither of these studies, despite interviewing thousands of PIOs and officials, has concluded that the occurrence of frivolous or vexatious applications is frequent enough to pose either a threat to the government or to the RTI regime in general. Certainly no evidence has been forthcoming in either of these studies that access to “file notings” or other elements of the deliberative process, has posed a major problem for the nation. On the contrary, many of the officers interviewed have candidly stated that the opening up of the deliberative process has strengthened the hands of the honest and sincere official.

We strongly believe that it is impossible to come up with definitions of “vexatious” and “frivolous” that are not completely subjective and consequently prone to rampant misuse by officials. We also feel that it is a hollow promise to have legislation for ensuring “transparency” and encouraging “accountability” in governance which excludes the basis on which a decision is taken. Would it be fair to judge a decision (or the decision maker) without knowing why such a decision was taken, what facts and arguments were advanced in its favour, and what against? Can one hold a government (or an official) accountable, just on the basis of what they did (or did not do) without knowing the real reasons for their action or inaction? We, the people of India, already directly or indirectly know the decisions of the government, for we are the ones who bear the consequences. What the RTI Act facilitated was a right to know why those decisions were taken, by whom, and based on what advice. This right is the bedrock of democracy and the right to information, and cannot be separated or extinguished without denying this fundamental right.

In any case, in case the government has credible evidence, that despite the findings of the earlier mentioned studies, and despite the safeguards inherent in the RTI Act, “vexatious and frivolous” applications, and access to the deliberative process, are posing a great danger to the Indian nation, these should be placed in the public domain. We are confident that the involvement of the people of India will result in evolving solutions that do not threaten to destroy the RTI Act itself. For a government that has been repeatedly been appreciated for bringing about this progressive legislation, such a move would strengthen the spirit of transparency and public consultation. Surely that is the least that can be expected of a government that propagates the spirit of transparency.

It is significant that even among the collective of Information Commissioners from across the country, whom the government recently “consulted”, the overwhelming view was against making any amendments to the RTI Act at this stage of its implementation. These Commissioners, all appointed by the government, have a bird’s eye view of the implementation of the RTI Act. They have the statutory responsibility to monitor the implementation of the Act, and the moral authority to speak in its defence. Since the government works with the democratic mandate of the people, the collective wisdom, of people across the board who use and implement the law with an ethical base cannot be put aside. In any case we feel the advice of the information Commissioners should be taken into account.

We urge the government to therefore, abandon this ill advised move to amend the RTI Act. Instead, we request it to initiate a public debate of the problems that it might be facing in the implementing of the RTI Act and take on board the findings of the two national studies that have recently been completed. It is only through such a public debate that a lasting and credible way can be found to strengthen the RTI regime.

This government gave its citizens the RTI Act, and there has been no crisis in government as a result of its enactment. In fact the Indian state has, as a result greatly benefited, and the RTI Act and its use by ordinary people is helping change its image to that of an open and receptive democracy. An amendment in the Act would be an obviously retrograde step, at a time when there is a popular consensus to strengthen it through rules and better implementation and not introduce any amendments. We strongly urge that an unequivocal decision be taken to not amend the RTI Act.

With regards,

Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh, Nikhil Dey

Justice P. B. Sawant - Signed
Anil B. Divan - Senior Advocate Supreme Court - Signed
Prashant Bhushan - Senior Advocate Supreme Court - Signed
Smita Divan - Signed
Dr. Azgar Ali Engineer - Writer & Activist, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism
Swami Agnivesh - Social Activist
Sanjit Bunker Roy - Social Work Research Centre, Tilonia, Rajasthan
Tarun Tejpal - Editor-in-Chief, Tehelka
Arundhati Roy - Writer and Activist
Neelabh Mishra - Editor, Outlook (Hindi)
Ram Jethmalani - Senior Lawyer
Medha Patkar - Signed
Mallika Sarabhai - Cultural and Political Activist & Danseuse
Sandeep Pandey - Human Rights Activist & AASHA Parivar, UP
Arvind Kejriwal - Parivartan, Magsaysay Awardee
Muzaffar Bhatt - RTI Activist, J&K
Prabhash Joshi - Eminent Senior Journalist
Bharat Dogra - Freelance Journalist, New Delhi
Amitabh Behar - Director, NCAS
Prof. Jagdeep Chhokkar - IIM-Ahmedabad (rtd.)
Alok Mehta - Editor-in-Chief, Naiduniya
Binayak Sen - General Secretary, PUCL, Chattisgarh - Signed
Prof. Trilochan Sastry - IIM- Bangalore
Harsh Mander - Supreme Court commissioner, Right to Food
Kuldip Nayar - Eminent Senior Journalist
Soli Sorabjee - Former Attorney General of India
Nandita Das - Cultural and Political Activist & Film Maker & Actor
Ajit Bhattacharjea - Senior Journalist & National Campaign for People's Right to Information - Signed
Prof. Jayati Ghosh - Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dunu Roy - Director, Hazard Centre Delhi
Kamla Bhasin- SAHR
E.A.S. Sarma - Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance
Admiral Ramdas - Former Chief of Naval Staff
Venkatesh Nayak -Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
O. P. Jain - Signed
Lalita Ramdas - Social Activist
Sharda Jain - Educationist
Anand Patwardhan - Film Maker
Maja Daruwala - Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Prof. Jagmohan - National Campaign for People's Right to Information
Anjali Bhardwaj - National Campaign for People's Right to Information
Teesta Setalvad - Lawyer and Human Rights Activist
Lalit Mathur - Former Director General NIRD
Jean Dreze - Visiting Professor G B Pant University, Allahabad
Admiral Tahiliani - Former Chief of Naval Staff
Leela Samson - Director Kalakshetra
Prof. J. G. Krishnayya - Director, Systems Research Institute, Pune
P.S. Appu - Former Director LBS National Academy for Administration
B. Yugandhar - Former Member Planning Commission
Vinita Deshmukh - Editor, Intelligent Pune
Arundhati Dhuru - Right to Food Campaign, UP
Sumit Chakravarty - Editor, Mainstream
Baba Adhav - Eminent Socialist ad Social Activist, Maharashtra
Romila Thapar - Historian
Julio Ribeiro - Retired I.P.S Officer and Civil Servant
Vrinda Grover - Lawyer and Human Rights Activist
Amar Kanwar - Film Maker
S. R. Sankarna - Former Secretary Rural Development & Human Rights Campaigner
Kavita Srivastav- General Secretary, PUCL
Pamela Philipose - Senior Journalist
Commodore Lokesh Batra - RTI Activist - Signed
Vinay Mahajan- Loknaad & National Campaign for People's Right to Information
Charul Bharwada - Loknaad & National Campaign for People's Right to Information
Kamini Jaiswal - Senior Advocate Supreme Court
Shanti Bhushan - Former Law Minister
Harsh Sethi - Editor, Seminar
Justice Dave - Supreme Court Justice (retd.)
K. S. Subramaniam - IPS (retd.) - Signed
Partho Kumar Dey - Air Marshall (rtd.), Indian Air Force
Dr. Amita Baviskar - Academic
Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy - Jawaharlal Nehru University
Madhu Bhaduri - Former Ambassador GoI
Shomi Das - Educationist
Sowmya Kidambi - RTI activist
Major General S.C.N. Jatar (retd)
Kamal Jaswal - Director, Common Cause, India
Suren Khirwadkar
Shahid Burney - RTI activist, Pune
Avinash Murkute- RTI activist, Pune
Roda Mehta
Sanjay Shirodkar - RTI activist, Pune
Yogendra Yadav - Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg Zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study)
Annie Raja - General Secretary NFIW - Signed
Shyam Benegal - Film maker
Madhu Kishwar - Editor Manushi
Ashim Jain
S.R. Hiremath - NCPNR
Suman Sahai - Gene Campaign & NCPRI
Prof. Nandini Sundar - Delhi School of Economics
Justice J.S. Verma - Former Chief Justice of India
Sanjay Kak - Film Maker
Ashish Kothari - Kalpavriksh
Usha Rai - Journalist
Nitya Ramakrishnan - Senior Lawyer
Achin Vanayak
Devaki Jain - Economist
Vandana Shiva - Navadanya
Prof. Hargopal - University of Hyderabad - Signed
Harish Dhawan - Professor, Delhi University & People's Union for Democratic Rights - Signed
Prof. Randhir Singh - Professor (retd.), Delhi University - Signed
Manoranjan Mohanty - Professor (retd.), Delhi University - Signed
Pushkar Raj - General Secretary, PUCL - Signed
Ravi Hemadri -The Other Media - Signed
Suhas Borker - Convener, Working Group on Alternative Strategies - Signed
Mukul Mangalik - Professor, Delhi University - Signed
Apoorv Anand - Professor, Delhi University - Signed
Mukul Priyadarshini - Professor, Delhi University - Signed
Shashi Saxena - Professor, Delhi University - Signed
Moushumi Basu - Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University - Signed
Rajni Bakshi - Citizens for Peace - Signed
Deepika Tandon - People's Union for Democratic Rights - Signed
Ranjoy Kumar Reddy - Researcher, Delhi University - Signed
Shahana Bhattacharya - People's Union for Democratic Rights - Signed
Amrapali Basumatary - New Socialist Initiative - Signed
Madhu - Jagori - Signed
Mayil Samy- Advocate - Signed
Kalaiyarasan - JNU DSU
Deepti Bharti - NFIW - Signed
Surendra Mohan - Signed
Sudhir K. Sahu - Signed
Anil - PDFI, Delhi - Signed
Jeevan - PDFI - Signed
Mamata Dash - NFFPIW - Signed
Manas Ranjan - Journalist, The Tribune - Signed
Kiran Shaheen - Media Action Group - Signed
Sunita Kumari - Daanish Books - Signed
Ramchandra Prasad - ICAN INDIA - Signed
Bipin Chandra - Historian and Director, National Books Trust
Kiran Bhatty - UNICEF - Signed
V.M. H. Banna - Journalist, Madhyamam Daily - Signed
Surinder Singh
Shailesh Haribhakti - Signed
Sarwar Kashani
Madhav Godbole
Diwan Singh - Ridge Bachao Andolan
Yogendra Narain - ICAN INDIA
Arundhati Roy - Writer
Suma Josson - Film Maker
Ramaswami Iyer - Former Secretary, Water Resurces Ministry
Ramchandra Prasad - ICAN-India
Pradeep Ghosh - Ashoka Fellow & OASiS
Ashwani Goyal
Manish Jain
Siddhartha Basu
Dr. H. Sudarshan - Karuna Trust & VGKK, Bangalore
A.L. Ragarajan - Rejuvenate India Movement, Chennai
Vijayan Menon - Kormangla Initiative, Bangalore
Urvashi Sharma - Social Worker, RTI Mahila Manch UP
Prithvi Sharma - MD, FACC, USA
Surekha Sharma - MD, FAAP, USA
Prof. Mridula Mukherjee - Director NMML
Swapan Ganguly - PBKMS, West Bengal
Y. Singh N. Rajput - Gujarat
Nitin Sonawane - IFA
Sampad Zantye
Dr. Hari Dev Goyal - Indian Economic Service (Rtd.)
Ajay Pandey - Assc. Professor of Law, Jindal Global Law School
Chitrangada Choudhury - Journalist
Mahendra K. Gupta
Dr. Ashok Sharma
Gayatri Sahgal - Centre for Equity Studies
Chandra Krishnamurthy
Biswajit Mohanty - FCA
Vijay Kapoor
Paromita Vohra - Film Maker
Vijendra Singh - UP
Ravi Duggal - Research & Activist - International Budget Partnership
Joyjeet Pal - Academic
Ashok Gokhale
Tara Warrior - Pune
Damodar Warrior- Pune
Col Mohite (rtd.)
Dr. Anand Lakshmi
Geeta Mohite
Dr. Renu Singh - Save the Children, India
Alankrita Isha Mrigakshi - Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Koln, Germany
Himanshu Thakkar - South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, Delhi
Arindam Jit Singh - Tema Nishant
Prof. Rajinder Chaidhary - Dept. of Economics, University of Rohtak, Haryana
Sandeep Thakur
Dr. Kamla Ganesh - Prof. and Head of Department, Sociology, University of Mumbai
Sindhu - National Election Watch, Karnataka
Amit B. Jethava - President, Gir Nature Youth Club, Gujarat
Amman Madan - Assc. Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Kanpur
Malay Bhattacharyya - West Bengal RTI Manch
Rahul Varman - Department of Industrial and Management Engineering, IIT Kanpur
Ghyansham Shah
Daniel Mazgaonkar
G.L.N. Reddy - Hyderabad
Girish Mahajan
Anil Taparia
Dr. Vednata Kabra
S. L. Chowdhury
Faisal Khan - NAPM, Asha Parivar
Saraswati Kavula - Film maker and activist
Somesh Bagchi - Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata
Pankaj Joshi - Executive Director, UDRI
Dr. Anil Joshi
Dhan Raj Bansal - Mumbai
Subodh Abhi - Jan Ekta Samiti, Ponta Sahib
Ramesh Agrawal - Jan Chetna, Chhattisgarh
Bardwaj Ananthem - Asha for Education, USA
Dr. J.N. Sharma - Advocate and RTI Activist, Lucknow

Monday, October 26, 2009

A question under RTI can be worth Rs 7 lakh

TNN 26 October 2009, 04:40am IST

LUCKNOW: Government departments have evolved numerous ways to refuse information under the RTI Act. One of them being asking hefty fee for providing
the information
It happened with an applicant Saleem Baig, who had sought information about the homeguards in the state. All he received in response from the homeguards headquarters was the demand of Rs 7,68,284 for providing the information.

The applicant received two letters within ten days, asking him that he needed to deposit the quoted amount of money first and then only information could be provided to him. The first letter dated September 15 had asked a sum of Rs 40,000 for providing the information.

The second one, dated September 25, had asked for Rs 7,68,284 for the same information. The content of the two letters is same but the amount of money differs. "The information sought by you is of wider nature and in order to obtain it a big amount of money will have to be deposited," read the letters.

The information was sought on six points ranging from district-wise postings of homeguards, number of days that they have been put on duty in different districts and if the homeguards have been paid as per the duty chart etc.

"I have not been told why such a huge amount is being charged and how many annexures will the information comprise of," said Baig.

The letter informed the applicant that he can deposit the money on any working day. The day he does so he will be provided the information sought by him.

But the letter has violated the provisions of the RTI Act. The Act has clarified that in case of annexures, an applicant will have to provide Rs 2 per copy. Besides, if the PIO is asking for the extra fee, he will have to inform the applicant that why is he is doing so and how many annexures will be provided to the applicant. It was not done in Baig's case.

Secondly, the public information officer can not ask for extra money if he is responding to the RTI application after the 30 days deadline. In this case, the application was made on July 22 but it was transferred from one department to another. The 30-day deadline had already crossed when the applicant got the response.