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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ARC's Positive Recommendations for Improving The Implementation of RTI Act Rejected

Please find reproduced below mail from Venkatesh of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI):

Dear friends,

Yesterday you received a note on the probable amendments to the RTI Act based on the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission. Readers will remember that the very first report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) focused on strengthening the RTI Act describing it as the 'master key to good governance'. GOI has made public its decisions on all the recommendations made by ARC through the website of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances


Given below is a list of important and practical recommendations of the ARC rejected by GOI:

Official Secrets Act to stay: The ARC had recommended and rightly so, the repeal of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and incorporation of some of its anti-espionage provisions in the National Security Act. GOI has rejected this recommendation on the ground that the offences under the OSA are substantive offences and cannot be placed in what is essentially a preventive detention law. This argument cannot be flawed but the anti-espionage provisions may be placed in the Indian Penal Code without much difficulty. There is no reason for treating OSA as a treasured heirloom that must be preserved for posterity.

Oath of Secrecy to stay: The ARC had recommended that the oath of secrecy administered to Ministers be replaced with an oath of transparency. GOI has rejected this recommendation on the ground that Ministers will still be expected to maintain secrets in the RTI era. So even if Parliament signaled its will to change the underlying paradigm of governance from secrecy to openness by passing the RTI Act GOI wants its Ministers to be sworn to secrecy- the numerous calculated leaks of government information notwithstanding- praan jaaye par vachan na jaaye.

Composition of the selection committee for Information Commissions remains unchanged: The ARC had taken note of the monopoly enjoyed by the government on the committee mandated with the selection of members of Information Commissions. It had recommended that the Cabinet Minister on the committee be replaced by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at the Central level and the Chief Justice of the respective High Courts at the level of the States. GOI has rejected this decision stating that the existing arrangements have no infirmity.

Refusal to end the bureaucratic domination of Information Commissions: A vast majority of Information Commissioners appointed at the Centre and in the States are officers who retired from senior positions in government. Individuals who swore by the OSA were made champions of transparency overnight. Recognising this anomaly, the ARC recommended change in the RTI Rules to ensure that at least 50% of the Commissioners are drawn from fields of expertise outside the bureaucracy. GOI has rejected this recommendation merely stating that the Act provides for the appointment of eminent persons from different fields of expertise. Apparently the necessity of giving detailed reasons for a decision of rejection applies only to the domain of PIOs and appellate authorities, and not to GOI as a whole.

Refusal to print suo motu disclosure documents: Recognising the fact that less than 5% people in India are internet literate, the ARC had recommended printing of proactive disclosure documents of public authorities periodically in order to make them easily accessible to people. GOI has rejected this recommendation on the ground that this would be an expensive affair to be undertaken periodically. Instead public authorities would upload their proactive disclosure documents on the RTI portal set up by GOI. No mention is made of the fact that the existing disclosures are not regularly updated on this portal and in any case they are inaccessible to non-english-speaking and internet-illiterate citizens.

Shortchanging records management: Recognising the poor state of management of public records all over India, the ARC had recommended the setting up of a well networked series of public records offices at the Central and state level. It had also recommended setting aside 1% of the budget of flagship programmes of each ministry for this purpose. GOI has rejected the 'public records office' idea stating that the Public Records Act and the National Archives would be adequately strengthened for this purpose. The fact that the Public Records Act does not cover the States has been conveniently forgotten. GOI has rejected the funding idea also on the ground that no separate allocation needs to me made for improving records maintenance, the same could be met under the existing budgetary provisions. Behind this rejection there is little realisation of the fact that records management is an area of least concern in several public authorities. The question that begs consideration is how many public aurhorities take records management seriously to make budgetary provisions for this item of expenditure every year as it is a continuous exercise. The provision about records management found in the RTI Act has only enthused many public authorities to hasten the destruction of records that are past their stipulated lifespan.

Refusal to set up single window system: Based on the strong backing from civil society the ARC had recommended that a single window system manned by Assistant PIOs be set up at the district level for receiving applications from citizens. The obvious purpose was to create convenience for citizens who would otherwise have to go through considerable difficulty identifying the correct PIO. GOI has rejected this recommendation stating that complaints would pertain to different areas and time would be lost in distributing them to the relevant offices. The possibility of linking up with the State Governments for setting up such facilities has been ignored. The example of Nawanshahr district in Punjab where such a system was functional has been ignored.

Refusal to effectively monitor the implementation of the RTI Act: Recognising that a large number of public authorities function at the regional, state, district and sub-district level the ARC had recommended that a nodal officer be appointed by the relevant Information Commission as a monitoring authority to ensure proper implementation of the RTI Act. GOI has rejected this recommendation on the pretext that it may lead to inter-departmental conflict. Surely, making the District Collector/Deputy Commissioner's office as a monitoring authority at the district level may not lead to any conflict as they perform a supervisory role on many accounts including the maintenance of law and order. Another good suggestion has been rejected on incredible grounds.

Bureaucrats have not accepted most of the important recommendations that civil society has been advocating for since the inception of the RTI Act. People have the right to know why. We advocators and activists should demand that the entire file on the ARC recommendations along with notings must be proactively disclosed by GOI. This is indeed the mandate of clauses (c) and (d) of section 4(1) of the RTI Act:

"Every public authority shall.

(c) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public;

(d) provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons."

People have the right to know the details of why such progressive and practical recommendations have been rejected.

What can you do to demand transparency and resist amendments?

Please send emails demanding your right to know and insisting on the public authorities to proactively disclose detailed reasons for rejection. Please also strongly voice your opposition to making any amendments to the RTI Act.

A sample email is given below which you are free to adapt:


I would like to exercise my right to know the detailed reasons behind the acceptance of some and the rejection of various other recommendations made by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its first report- Right to Information: Master Key to Good Governance. I urge you to place the entire contents of the file relating to the said report including all file notings on your website. I would like to remind you that you have an obligation to proactively disclose all facts relating to the decisions taken on the recommendations contained in the said report under clauses (c) and (d) of sub-section (1) of section 4 of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act).

As a citizen of India I would like to assert that there is no need to amend anything in the RTI Act which guarantees my fundamental right to seek and obtain information from public authorities.

Yours sincerely,

Name of the sender."


Please send this email along with the slogan to the Minister and Secretaries mentioned below:

1) Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, Minister of State, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India.

Email: mos-pp@... or chavanprithviraj@...

2) Ms. Rajni Razdan, Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India.

Email: rajni.razdan@...

3) Mr. Rahul Sarin, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India.

Email: secy_mop@...

Please circulate this email within your networks. Please build up pressure against any attempt to amend the RTI Act. If each email group decided to send a 1000 mails from its members we could create some impact.



Venkatesh Nayak

Programme Coordinator

Access to Information Programme

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

B-117, I Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave

New Delhi- 110 017

tel: 91-11- 2686 4678/ 2685 0523

fax: 91-11- 2686 4688



Monday, June 15, 2009

Activists against proposed amendments to RTI Act

Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: The campaigners for transparency and right to information are worried about the proposed amendment to the country’s path breaking law, the Right to Information Act 2005, diluting its effectiveness. If the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government goes ahead with the changes, as announced by President Pratibha Patil in her address to Parliament on June 4, nothing good is to come out of it, they insist.
After the Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy last week expressing serious doubts about the intention behind the move to amend the existing Act, it was the turn of Shailesh Gandhi, Commissioner with the Central Information Commission, to give out similar sentiments here on Saturday. “We have to fight this move as it is not an attempt to improve upon the existing law,” said Mr. Gandhi, speaking as the chief guest at the launch of an orientation workshop on the second phase of the RTI project being implemented by the Jaipur-based NGO, CUTS Centre for Action, Research and Training(CUTS CART).
“My fear is that with the amendment the present provision in the law to provide copies of file noting would go. In the next 100 days this can happen and the people have to remain vigilant against any such move,” said Mr. Gandhi, a businessman turned RTI activist.
“People are only familiarizing themselves with the existing law and changes in them would only complicate the situation and obstruct the implementation of the law,” he warned. “The Governments in general are no great advocates of right to information,” he pointed out.
As such education of the masses was taking considerable time in making the law more effective, Mr. Gandhi, who created a record of sorts in clearing the pending applications with the Central Information Commission, said. “What I have come across while dealing with the applications is that many of the applicants do not know how to seek information. Perhaps people should be taught to be more focused in their queries,” he felt.
“In three years the Act has made a big impact. However it should be pointed out that initially only 15 per cent in Rajasthan knew how to file an application under the law to get information. With advocacy their number has gone up to 35 per cent in the past three years,” observed George Cheriyan, director CUTS CART.
The collective concern of the civil society organizations (CSOs) was about the dilution of the provisions of the Act to suit the powers that be, he said.
Harinesh Pandya of JANPAT, a network of civil society organizations in Gujarat, said RTI had rekindled a new hope in the minds of the public on the effectiveness of the system. The law had not only opened up immense possibilities for the ordinary citizen but also was helping the bureaucracy in withstanding undue pressure from the politicians, he pointed out.
The gathering , which included grass root level of RTI activists and CSOs from Rajasthan unanimously resolved to raise their collective concern to the Government of India over the announced ‘suitable amendments’ to the RTI.
It also asked the Rajasthan Government to take necessary steps for the effective implementation of the RTI act by appointing required number of Information Commissioners and by providing required infrastructure.

DoPT wants full CIC to hear all complaints, appeals

13 Jun 2009, 0444 hrs IST, Himanshi Dhawan, TNN

NEW DELHI: After clashing on the issue of disclosure of file notings, the Central Information Commission (CIC) and DoPT are at loggerheads again. If the ministry is to be believed, all decisions taken by CIC and state commissions in the past three years are illegal. Unfazed by the DoPT's big brother attitude, the CIC has asked DoPT to keep off its turf.

In a recent circular, DoPT said appeals and complaints could not be heard by a single member or a double member bench but must be heard by the full commission.

Citing advice from the department of legal affairs, the DoPT communique said, "The matter has been examined in consultation with the department of legal affairs which has pointed out that the CIC or state commissions could function through benches only if there was a specific provision in the Act regarding constitution of benches." It went on to add that since there was nothing in the RTI Act about constitution of benches, the full commission should hear all cases.

The commission, however, is firm on its stand. "We, in a decision two years ago, made it clear that a single or double bench will hear cases. In fact, the department of legal affairs was taken into confidence on the decision and it has not been challenged in the court either," chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. He added that the CIC would respond to DoPT.

Pointing out that the decision would not only serve to increase pendency and delay hearings further, Habibullah said, "Our rate of disposal has gone up drastically but the number of appeals has also increased so there is still a long wait before hearings for complaints can be held."

The rate of disposal has increased from 689 cases in October 2008 to nearly double at 1,495 in April 2009. But there are still 26,869 cases pending before the information watchdog.

Land prices in Noida jumps about 200 times in 2 decades
New Delhi, June 15: Property prices in Noida, the satellite city of the National Capital, have skyrocketed about 200 times in the last two decades, reveals an RTI reply.

According to the reply, residential plots in all the sectors of Noida, which were available at a price of Rs 175 per metre in 1980, have now spiralled to Rs 39,600 mark per square metre in some sectors of the satellite township.

The highest surge of Rs 39,600 per square meter in the prices of residential lands has come in sectors 14, 14A, 15A, 17 and 44, the reply said.

As per official records, residential lands in other sectors are available in the range of Rs 14,400 per square metre to Rs 27,600 per square metre.

Exercising his Right to Information, an RTI activist, Lokesh Batra, has filed an application to the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) asking it to furnish information on categories for which the authority is selling or allotting lands and regarding the prices of plots as per the record.

The Authority is selling land under five categories, namely Residential Land, Residential Group Housing, Industrial Land, Commercial Land and Institutional Land.

There is a definite procedure for fixing and revising land allotment rates for various sectors.

"For Industrial and other institutional activities land cost is subsidised. For commercial land, prices are fixed on ad hoc basis keeping in view the market rates," the reply said.

Industrial allotment rates of NOIDA has risen over 350 times to Rs 14,400 per square metre from Rs 40 per square metre since 1976.

Lands in First, Second and Third phase of NOIDA were available at Rs 40 per square metre in 1976, which has now touched Rs 14,400 per square metre for Phase I, Rs 5,550 for Phase II and Rs 5,750 in Phase III, the reply said.

"There is a lot of discrepancy in allotment of lands in Noida. Considering which I decided to inform people about the procedure and government rates under which the lands is being sold and allotted," Batra said.

Bureau Report

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How serious is Indian Railways about implementing RTI Act!

On 19-12-06, Shri Bimal Khemani, Senior Citizen and Aligarh based RTI Activist, filed an RTI application in the name of CPIO, Indian Railway, Aligarh Jn., Aligarh asking for some information about Passenger Reservation System at Aligarh Jn.. The application was not accepted by any staff or Sr. Station Manager or any other staff at the station, and on being refused the same was forwarded through the CAPIO, the Deptt. Of Posts, Aligarh, which was also returned back by CAPIO on 05-01-07 with a remarks from Railway authority isha nam ka post bharatiya rail me nahI hai Against this an appeal was filed before the CIC on 24-02-07, which has never heard nor rejected till date.

On 13-10-07, he filed another RTI application with the CPIO, Railway Board, Rail Bhawan, New Delhi, with the following points:
Railway prashasan ke antargat karyarat vibhinn station me kitane station/junction par jan suchana adhikari namit kar mul kanun ki bhawananusar unake nam pate sarvajanik kiye kripaya suchit kare. , Dilli, nai-dilli evaM Aligarh junction ke jan suchana adhikari ken am pate evaM niyukti ke dinank sahit suchit kare

On 02-11-07, Mr. P.P.Pandey, Dy. GM Law and CPIO informed 
1) CPIO, Northern Railway, Dy. GM Law , Northern Railway HQs office, New Delhi (for any information pertaining to Northern Railway)
2) PIO, Delhi Division, Northern Railway, Sr. DMM, DRM Office, State entry Road, New Delhi for any information pertaining to Delhi Division, Delhi, New Delhi and Aligarh are part of Delhi Division
Being not satisfied, 1st appeal with FAA Sri A.K.Goyal, Addl. Member (Com) Railway Board, Rail Bhawan, New Delhi was filed on 16-11-07 and later on 2nd appeal with CIC filed on 09-01-08, which was heard on 15-10-08 by CIC, Mr.O.P.Kejriwal, through AUDIO conferencing, and order CIC/OK/A/2008/00226, 00490, 00569 dt. 24-11-08 was passed with following directions
After listening to both the parties, the commission still felt that arrangements could be made at Railway Junctions to declare a senior official like the station master or his immediate sub-ordinate to act as an APIO to receive RTI applications together with the fee and provide a receipt to the applicant and forward them to concerned PIO as suggested by the applicant.

On receipt of this order, the CPIO Northern Railway HQ, vide his letter dated 19-03-09 informed as under the matter was taken up with the concerned authorities to examine the feasibility of the suggestion. After due deliberation it has been decided that Station Master or his immediate sub-ordinate perform a highly specialized job. They need to remain totally focused towards operational requirements of safe running of train, as a result of which the job such as
dealing with RTI application can not be entrusted to the Station Master or his immediate sub-ordinate On being dissatisfied , a complaint u/s.18 for non-compliance of CIC decision was filed on 20-04-09 with following points:

Brief facts leading to the complaint :
Sec. 5 (2) of RTI Act,2005, reads as follows: 5. (2) Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (1), every public authority shalldesignate an officer, within one hundred days of the enactment of this Act, at each sub-divisional level or other sub-district level as a Central Assistant Public Information Officer or a State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, to receive the applications for information or appeals under this Act for forwarding the same forthwith to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or senior officer specified under sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be
The PIO in his above reply stated tha Station Master or his immediate subordinate perform a highly specialized job. They need to remain totally focused towards operational requirement of safe running of train.

This is not a true statement of the PIO. Railway administration has various departments viz, COMMERCIAL, ENGINEERING, CATERING etc. apart from train running. The work of CAPIO can easily be entrusted to them without hampering the job of safe running of the train. Likewise many other Govt. departments will seek exemptions viz. AIR PORT AUTHORITY, ELECTRICITYBOARDS, BANKS etc.etc.

On 09-02-09, another RTI application was moved as follows:

1. Please provide me with the name and addresses of APIO appointed by the Northern Railway authority in their jurisdiction as per decision no. CIC/OK/A/2008/00226, 00490, 00569 dt. 24-11-08 issued by the Central Information Commission

2. Please provide me with the self attested copy of the file noting and note sheet about appointment of APIO with reference to above decision.

3. Please provide me with the status of Aligarh Jn. , whether it is sub-divisional level or below than name all the sub-divisional level Railway station under your jurisdiction

On 20-03-09 First appeal with FAA made but no any response

On 01-04-09 Reply from PIO received as under .

1. The reply has already been sent to commission. The copy of same has again enclosedherewith for information.

2. As desired the photocopy of PP-1 and PP-8 are enclosed herewith for information.

3. You are requested to approach CPIO,NCR as the said station falls under NCR

On 23-04-09 2nd appeal before CIC filed with the following facts.

Point no. 1 . Reply is not correct hence can not be accepted.

Point no. 3 The portion must have been forwarded by the CPIO to the appropriate authority as per sec.6(3)

This appeal is now fixed for hearing on 16-06-09 at 3.00 p.m. before CIC Mrs. Omita Paul, and the above complaint is said to be under process.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reveal admission test marks, CIC tells FMS

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jun 8, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 4
Manash Pratim Gohain | TNN 

New Delhi: The dean of Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University has been served a showcause notice by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for not furnishing information under RTI regarding the marks break-up of students admitted to its MBA programme. 

 The RTI was filed by the student who had topped the FMS written test in 2008 but could not make it to the flagship management programme as his extempore, interview and GD marks were not good enough. CIC has asked FMS to give the information sought — an order that may force B-schools across the country to disclose their admission test marks breakups too or be flooded with RTIs. 

    CIC has asked the Public Information Officer (PIO) to explain why penalty should not be levied under Section 20 (1). The commission held dean J K Mitra (deemed PIO) guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified has said that it raises doubt about the refusal being malafide. The order came in response to the student’s appeal. 

    On April 9, 2008 Nitesh Duhan, a MBA (Management Services student) of the 2010 batch filed an RTI seeking information on written, group discussion (GD), extempore and personal interview (PI) marks of each of the candidates who were admitted to the MBA programme. The DU registrar who is the first appellate authority had asked FMS to give the information to the PIO by July 31, 2008 so that the appellant gets it by August 14, 2008. 

    On May 6, 2008 Duhan received a reply stating that information is denied under section 8 (1) (j) as ‘‘disclosure of the same to the applicant can be objected to by the candidates concerned.’’ It came with a copy of the merit list for the MBA MS programme. Duhan then approached the DU registrar on June 3, 2008. 

    ‘‘Despite the order I received no information and I told this to the FAA in February 2009. I wrote three more applications, the last one on March 25, 2009. Finally I was provided given a copy of the MBA merit list on March 31, 2009 but there was still no break-up of marks,’’ said Duhan. 

    The CIC notice said: ‘‘It is also apparent that inspite of the clear order of the FAA to give the information by August 14, 2008, the information had not been provided to the appellant until March 31, 2009. The respondents were asked to explain the reasons for this and it appears from their statements that dean, FMS had taken a position that this information could not be given. All officers in public authority have to understand that they are bound to obey the laws and the structures thereof. It appears that Professor J K Mitra, dean, FMS has taken a position to defy the order of the FAA under RTI.’’ 

In its decision allowing the appeal CIC said that the PIO will give the information mentioned before June 15, 2009. The CIC said: ‘‘From the facts before the Commission it is apparent that the deemed PIO Professor J K Mitra, dean FMS, is guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per requirement of the RTI Act. He has further refused to obey the orders of his superior officer, which raises a reasonable doubt that the denial of information may also be malafide. The FAA has clearly ordered the information to be given.’’ 

    Mitra refused to comment. But sources say the admission committee would soon meet to discuss the reply to the notice. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

RTI applies to JNMF, say 3 commissioners

RTI applies to JNMF, say 3 commissioners
Abhinav Garg | TNN 

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jun 4, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 9

New Delhi: Going against the legal opinion rendered by their chief, three information commissioners of CIC have declared Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF) a public authority under the RTI Act. 
    ‘‘In the interest of justice, transparency and accountability, the Commission declares the JNMF to be a public authority under the RTI Act,’’ observed a bench of IC’s Annapurna Dixit, M M Ansari and Satyananda Mishra on Tuesday, giving the trust 15 days’ time to put in place a mechanism to receive and dispose of RTI pleas. 
    The CIC’s stand is contrary to that adopted by chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who in a separate legal opinion sent to the Trust in 2007, had concluded that it was not a public authority so the RTI Act wasn’t applicable to it. 
    The case stemmed from an RTI filed by B R Manhas, a senior citizen in JNMF in November 2006. Manhas’s plea was a modest one, asking ‘‘year-wise financial grant given by HRD ministry and its purpose.’’ 
    JNMF shot off a letter to CIC wanting to know if ‘‘charitable trusts set up in memory of national leaders come within RTI Act’’. Habibullah replied the RTI Act didn’t apply to the fund so it wasn’t bound by it. 
    But it was Manhas’s argument that was upheld by CIC in its latest ruling — since the trust received government funds and was housed within government property — Teen Murti House — it was accountable to the public. 
    Infact, Manhas had taken the battle to the Delhi HC alleging ‘‘judicial indiscipline’’ on behalf of Habibullah because he first gave an opinion on his RTI plea, then was also a part of CIC bench that heard his appeal against JNMF’s refusal to disclose information. 
    HC had then asked Habibullah to ‘‘consider the appropriateness of his participation’’ in hearing the appeal, suggesting the CIC convene a three commissioner bench to reconsider the case. 
    Now, apart from appointing a PIO, the trust will also have to furnish the information asked by Manhas in the RTI. 

President's Address: RTI Ambit to be Broadened

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jun 5, 2009; Section: Times Nation; Page: 21
RTI great, but more transparency coming

New Delhi: A recurrent theme in the President’s address to Parliament on Thursday was transparency. The Right to Information (RTI) Act is clearly something the UPA sees as a significant achievement of its first tenure and it appears the government will seek to push the envelope further in this direction in its second stint. 

    Some of what the President said on the subject was not too specific, for instance the assurance about suitably amending the law to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas. But there were also concrete promises. A key example of the latter was the assurance that transparency in the flagship rural employment (NREGA) programme would be enhanced by enforcing social audit and setting up an independent grievance redressal mechanism at the district level in the form of an ombudsman. There were also specific commitments on the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office at an arms length from the government, which would work with social science research organisations to evaluate flagship schemes and place the findings in the public domain. Also, the government promised it would come out with annual reports on five key areas education, health, employment, environment and infrastructure. 

    Similarly, a Delivery Monitoring Unit in the PMO would monitor all flagship programmes and iconic projects and report on their status publicly, while ministers from the relevant ministries would publicly report on progress under Bharat Nirman every quarter. A public data policy is to be drawn up to place all non-strategic information in the public domain to help citizens challenge the data and engage directly in governance reforms.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

CIC cracks down on DOPT over file notings

2 Erring Officials Could Face A Year In Jail
Manoj Mitta | TNN 
Publication: Times Of India Delhi;  Date: Jun 3, 2009;  Section: Front Page;  Page: 1  

New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, the Central Information Commission on Tuesday issued notices to two officers of the department of personnel and training (DoPT), the nodal department of RTI, to show cause why they should not be prosecuted for offences that could land them behind bars for a whole year. 

    The provocation was DoPT’s refusal despite repeated directions to correct the misleading claim on its website that file notings were not part of the information that could be disclosed under RTI. 

    CIC chief Wajahat Habibullah summoned joint secretary S K Sarkar and deputy secretary Anuradha Chagti to appear on June 17 to explain why they should not be prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code and penalized under RTI. 

    While other public authorities, including the Supreme Court, have long accepted the CIC’s ruling that file notings were not exempt from disclosure, DoPT has maintained otherwise on its website, much to the CIC’s chagrin. 


    Despite repeated directions, DoPT has refused to correct misleading claim on its site that file notings are not part of info that can be disclosed under RTI 

    CIC chief Wajahat Habibullah has summoned joint secretary S K Sarkar and deputy secretary Anuradha Chagti to explain why they should not be 

prosecuted under Indian Penal Code 

    CIC says two officers liable under Section 166 IPC, which punishes ‘public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person’ DoPT officials may have to pay 25k fine 

New Delhi: CIC chief Wajahat Habibullah has taken exception to DoPT’s refusal to correct the misleading claim on its website that file notings were not part of the information that could be disclosed under RTI. Habibullah found it “appalling” that the nodal department of RTI had “sought to emasculate the mandate” of Section 19(7) which stipulates that the CIC’s decisions were “binding”. 

    On an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the CIC said that by disobeying its directions, the two DoPT officers had rendered themselves liable to be punished under Section 166 IPC, which imposes imprisonment up to one year on a “public servant disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person.” The other two offences cited in the order are punishable with imprisonment up to six months: while Section 187 pertains to “omission to assist public servant when bound by law to give assistance”, Section 188 deals with “disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant.” 

    Besides responding to allegations of committing criminal offences, Sarkar and Chagti will have to explain on June 17 why each of them shouldn’t be imposed the maximum prescribed penalty under RTI of Rs 25,000. 

HC refuses to share info on errant judges

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: May 31, 2009; Section: Times City; Page: 6
Abhinav Garg | TNN 

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court thinks any transparency on action taken against errant trial court judges is ‘‘an unwarranted invasion of their privacy’’. 

    For it has quelled an attempt to access these details in an application made to it under the Right to Information Act. HC has sought refuge behind its rule 5 (b) of Delhi HC (RTI rules) to block information as the rule allows it to withhold information on this ground. 

    ‘‘A number of complaints against judicial officers have been received in the vigilance branch during the last 10 years and on the basis of that, necessary action has been taken against erring judicial officers. The details of same can’t be disclosed as it would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual’’ says an RTI reply received from HC. 

    The reply came on an RTI filed by a lawyer who had asked the method by which HC monitors the conduct of trial court judges, along with details of action taken against whom complaints were received pertaining to corruption or misconduct. 

    While HC was quick to acknowledge that it has a vigilance branch for ‘‘supervizing and keeping watch on the conduct of trial court judges’’ it chose to be non-transparent when asked to elaborate. For instance, the RTI pleas’ pointed query on details of 10 oldest complaints still pending against trial court judges was shot down, again on the ground that it would cause ‘‘unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual.’’ 

    Similarly, when the RTI plea demanded to know the standards on which performance of judges is evaluated, HC promptly outlines these as — knowledge of law/procedure, disposal of cases, quality of judgments, efficiency, reputation for honesty etc. But it remained unyielding on disclosing anything more. On being pressed for details like ‘‘how many judges have failed to meet the required evaluation consideration’’ or ‘‘what action is taken against a judge who fails to meet the standard’’ — HC relied on its special RTI rule to deny information. 

    The most that the court was willing to reveal was that whenever a complaint is received against any judicial officer, it is ‘‘laid before chief justice for consideration and necessary action is then taken.’’