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Thursday, January 22, 2009

RTI Query Reveals Vice Chancellors of Central Universities Above Law

At a meeting of the RTI Group the members directed the General Secretary to address a memorandum to the President of India, in the capacity as Visitor of Central Universities, with a request to establish a Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Proceedings for the Vice Chancellors of Central Universities.

D. no. 257/RTIG/FAD January 20, 2009


Hon’ble Smt. Pratibha Patil
The President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110001

Your Excellency,
The RTI Group is a voluntary organisation of committed citizens of India working towards making Central Universities, premier educational institutes of our Country, corruption free, efficient, accountable and transparent. Over the years, as also notified by the President of India from time to time, the Vice Chancellors of Central Universities have in practice abandoned democratic institutions and corollary the rule of law breeding corruption and inefficiency helped by the unaccountability implicit in the absence of rules enforcing transparency.

2. Among its other efforts the RTI Group filed an application under Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) seeking information on certain illegal appointments of retired non-teaching staff by circumventing procedures at the Aligarh Muslim University. On the basis of the information the Group appealed for instituting an Inquiry to fix responsibility for such blatant violations. The response to the request by Mr. Abdul Majid Khan, Deputy Registrar (Administration-Teaching) vide No. Admin/LD/258/RTI dated August 31, 2007, included file noting, which noted:

“If any enquiry has to be made against the then Vice Chancellor in the case of engagement of Consultants contrary to the rules to fix the responsibility, the Visitor is the competent authority to institute an inquiry or to constitute a committee to enquire into the matter to fix the responsibility”.

3. Since under the Act and Statutes of the Universities it is the duty of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities, as whole-time salaried employees, to ensure that University Rules are duly observed, therefore it was reasonably presumed they would be liable to accountability like any other whole time salaried employee.

4. The Group filed an application under RTI with Aligarh Muslim University to provide a copy of the Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Proceedings for the Vice Chancellor. The reply stated that the University Rules do not indicate these and for the desired information the applicant may approach the President in his capacity as the Visitor of the University, the appointing authority of the Vice Chancellor. The Group then filed RTI applications with the Banaras Hindu University, Delhi University, Jamia Milia Islamia, and Jawahar Lal Nehru University and received similar replies. An RTI application was also filed with the Secretariat of the President of India to which vide No. F.19-20/2006-Desk(U) dated December 12, 2007, Mr. RD Sahay, Director and CPIO, Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, replied:

“…the Act/Statutes neither provide the code of conduct of the Vice Chancellor nor lay down the procedure for conducting disciplinary proceedings for committing financial/administrative irregularities, including violation of explicit University rules etc…”

5. All offices including the highest of the land are accountable for their actions. Recently, in the wake of RTI the Parliament of India and the Judiciary, despite all its resistance, is made accountable for their actions.

6. Hon’ble Madam, in the era of participatory democracy ushered in by the people’s law, the RTI, it would be absolutely antithetical to the spirit of developments in the Country to continue without rules enforcing accountability on the Vice Chancellors of Central Universities, especially with the nation’s rapid economic growth and leaps towards a thriving democracy in which education will play a crucial role to take the nation forward in its endeavours.

7. Hon’ble Madam, we are sure, you will agree that it is crucial to rid centres of higher education of corruption and install in its place efficiency, accountability and transparency, which will enhance the free enquiry essential for academic growth and excellence.

Hon’ble Madam, the RTI Group urges upon you as the President of India and as the Visitor of Central Universities to direct framing of Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Proceedings for Vice Chancellors of Central Universities to ensure efficiency, accountability and transparency in the functioning of these prestigious seats of higher learning.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely
Dr. Tariq Islam
General Secretary
Department of Philosophy
Aligarh Muslim University
Aligarh-202002 (UP) INDIA

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cong calls Vibrant Gujarat claims bogus

Cong calls Vibrant Gujarat claims bogus: Says Modi’s Figures Inflated, Only 22% MoUs Implemented In 2005-06

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jan 16, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 14

New Delhi: A day after he was lauded by the captains of industry as “future PM”, Congress cited official figures to slam Vibrant Gujarat as “fake” and asked India Inc to not get carried away by an individual just because he was feeding their bottomline.
Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Shaktisinh Gohil said the huge figures given in MoUs signed by industries were a “Narendra Modi-scripted lie” when it came to real investment. Even Modi regime seems to have confessed to the charge, if the information given under RTI is to be believed.
Only 22% of MoUs signed in 2005 and 2007 summits have been implemented while Modi had boasted to have passed with 63.5%. “He has failed very badly,” said Gohil.
To a question raised in the assembly, the government said 363 MoUs for 454 projects had been signed in two years between December 2005-07 and 45 projects had got rolling. At the same time, there was an offer of investment of Rs 1,54,197 crore of which only Rs 22,434 crore had actually come in. The real investment includes money in the pipeline. “It means if someone has signed an MoU of Rs 5,000 crore and Rs 1,000 crore has come, then the total investment figure includes the entire MoU amount,” Gohil said, hinting that actual money could be even less.
The “fudged figures” charge is accentuated by the fact that money in the MoU includes routine projects being executed by government corporations. Six civic bodies like Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation have signed MoUs worth Rs 1,26,000 crore.
Lashing out at the Vibrant bubble, on the back of which Modi was being toasted as “future PM”, the Congressman claimed that the state was discriminatory as it was doling out mind-boggling concessions to big industries for PR points and ignoring local industries which were dying for want of help.
“Diamond industry workers are committing suicide and their children are dropping out of schools. Around 62,000 SMEs have closed down in 11 months. But the government has refused to help. In contrast, one Nano car will cost the state exchequer Rs 60,000. It has been extended all infrastructural support besides a loan of Rs 26,000 crore to be payable over 20 years at 0.1% interest, a deferred VAT payment and a waiver of stamp duty and registration duty,” Gohil said.
While pointing to “fake industrial growth” and help to rich, Gohil also claimed that the state was giving weaker communities a step-motherly treatment. He said widows were unable to get “widow pension” as the state had added 15 tough points in the eligibility criteria.

‘Vague’ replies land top cops at CIC office

Dwaipayan Ghosh & Abhinav Garg | TNN
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jan 16, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 3

New Delhi: In an unusual development, more than a dozen senior Delhi Police officials — joint commissioners, additional commissioners and deputy commissioners — landed up at the Central Information Commission office on Thursday after 22 senior police officers were summoned by chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah in reference to an appeal. The hearing was for a RTI filed by Ajit Kar, a resident of Satyaniketan. The RTI sought answers to 43 questions.
According to Kar, he had initially filed an RTI on various issues concerning ‘‘Delhi Police and the citizens’’ and wanted the seven joint commissioners of Delhi Police to answer them. ‘‘However, the answers I received were mostly vague. Some of the questions were partially or generally answered, while some others were misleading. Hence I appealed to the CIC to provide me relief in the manner that the respondents may be ordered to supply specific and accurate information,’’ Kar said.
While most of the officers turned up in person, a few sent their representatives.
However, a look at the RTI application, a copy of which is with Times City, raises questions about the nature of information demanded. While one question asked the police to give a complete list of heinous crimes and the sections of IPC that were pressed for them, another asked whether all telephone numbers provided in the citizen’s charter were still in working condition.
Habibullah defended the decision to summon the top cops, adding the officers were free to depute a common representative instead of appearing in person. ‘‘Since each one of them had been made a respondent in the RTI plea, summons were sent to each of them. It is the registry which sends these summons and it was open to the officers to send the PIO or intimate their non-availability. It is for them to decide whom to send or depute,’’ Habibullah said, admitting that even he was surprised to see the entire Delhi Police brass turn up in full force. ‘‘The applicant has a very long appeal which we will decide shortly. We told him how the entire force was present today because of his appeal. We have criticised him for that,’’ the CIC said.
A source said: ‘‘With almost all top cops attending the hearing, many important meetings had to be rescheduled. While we respect every CIC decision, we urge the RTI activists to ask more specific questions.’’
Sources said there were people who had been arrested for harassing people with RTI suites. ‘‘While one applicant has filed 270 RTIs in south and south-west districts, another person puts up atleast 90 questions,’’ claimed the source.

SC moves HC against CIC order on judges’ assets

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN
January 17, 2009 (Times of India)
New Delhi: Worried about a recent Central Information Commission order on making assets of judges public, the Supreme Court registrar on Friday challenged it before the Delhi high court saying that this information, not being in public domain, could not be given to RTI applicants.
The high court is the appellate authority for challenging CIC’s decisions — a fact that led to this unusual situation of the apex court moving a lower court over a dispute.
The apex court said information relating to declaration of assets by Supreme Court judges to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was not a mandatory exercise under law, but driven by an informal resolution of May 7, 1997 — implying that information on judges’ assets did not come under RTI’s purview.
The petitioner added that the CIC had committed an error by equating the Supreme Court and the CJI as one and the same authority whereas the CJI’s position was quite distinct from that of the Supreme Court in terms of the RTI Act.
‘‘CJI is not a public authority, as defined under the RTI Act, and therefore, is not required to designate a central public information officer (central PIO) for it, or to supply information held or maintained by it,’’ the appeal stated.
The CIC had on January 6 only directed the central PIO of the SC to furnish information as to whether any declaration of assets had been filed by SC judges or not.
But even this apparently innocuous order has led the Supreme Court to challenge the CIC order before the HC, saying that a public authority was bound to give information if these were available in public domain.
The SC registrar added that details of judges’ assets was not information which was held by or under control of a public authority, since it was voluntarily furnished to the CJI, who himself could not be included in the definition of ‘‘public authority’’. ‘‘There is nothing under the Constitution of India or under any other law which requires judges of the Supreme Court to declare their assets to the Chief Justice of India,’’ said the petition, which was drafted by advocate Devdatt Kamath and settled by Solicitor General G E Vahanvati.
Quoting section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act which imposed a ban on furnishing of personal information, the SC Registrar said that any query relating to assets of judges voluntarily declared before the CJI squarely fell within the meaning of Section 8(1)(j).
Jan 6: Central Information Commission directs SC’s information officer to disclose whether or not SC judges were filing declarations on assets
Apex court goes to HC, a lower court. Says judges not mandated by law to disclose assets. Hence, this information cannot be shared under RTI
SC also says office of Chief Justice of India does not fall under RTI Act