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Friday, January 29, 2010

CIC slams UGC for lack of transparency

Himanshi Dhawan | TNN
New Delhi: In the wake of the deemed university controversy, Central Information Commission has slammed University Grants Commission (UGC) for lack of transparency in information related to deemed universities. Ruling that UGC appeared to act as if the RTI Act did not apply to it, the information watchdog has awarded a compensation of Rs 2,000 to an applicant and issued a showcause notice to UGC for not responding within the stipulated 30-day period.
Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ruled that UGC had no reasons for refusing the information. In his order, Gandhi said, “It is a very sad state of affairs that UGC appears to be operating without any understanding of what is happening. The commission has earlier also directed UGC to put up various information under its Section-4 obligations. UGC has failed to comply with these.”

The order added, “UGC appears to be operating with no respect for the rule of law and it is behaving as if the RTI Act does not apply to it. The commission takes a very dim view of such behaviour by UGC and recommends the chairman to ensure that its officers are trained in the RTI Act and learn how to respect the law.”

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

CIC lashes out at AMU for appointing sick employees as PIOs!

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)to deal with his employees in a compassionate manner and ensure that people suffering from serious ill health are not given the job of being Public Information Officers (PIOs). It is indeed callous for a public authority to appoint people with very bad health as public information officers.

In the instant case the complainant was Dr. Anisul Ain Usmani, Department of Physics, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, and the respondent was Mr. Qazi Javed Ahmad, Public Information Officer, AMU, Office of The Registrar, AMU.

The Complainant had sought information from PIO –Aligarh Muslim University regarding Instructions and orders of the Vice Chancellor, file noting, Name and designation of all concerned officials, Present status of the concerned file regarding his letter of July 09, 2009 wherein he had pointed out financial embezzlement of huge quantum in the Department of Physics. He had also attached copy of the letter.
1. Instructions and orders of the Vice Chancellor with dates.
2. Complete file noting till date.
3. Daily progress of the said application.
4. Name and designation of all concerned officials stating definite reason of their relationship with the matter.
5. Present status of the concerned file.
6. As sought in the said letter has an inquiry been instituted till date by the Vice Chancellor, the reason thereof?
7. In case, no inquiry has been instituted till date by the Vice Chancellor, the reason thereof.
8. Is any official responsible for an extra ordinary delay? If yes, name and designation of that official.
9.Any other information.

The PIO in his reply after receiving the Commission’s notice dated 17/09/2009 said “In this connection, it is to inform you that the file, with regard to your queries, is presently not traceable, hence, this office is unable to provide you the desired information vide his letter no. R-072-073/CIC/RTI/DE/D. No. 0109/SP dated 09-10-2009”.

The PIO initially gave no information and on 09/10/2009 after the notice of the Information Commission informed the Complainant that the file was “not traceable”. CIC observed that it is very surprising that a file relating to financial embezzlement and the letter of 09 July 2009 was not available by 27 July 2009despite that fact that the complainant had also attached the letter about which he was seeking information. Ultimately the PIO has given the information giving the copy of the complete file notings regarding the matter on 23/10/2009.

The Respondent claims that the PIO Mr. Qazi Javed Ahmad has Coronary Artery Disease and that he does not attend office regularly. It is a very sad comment on the management of the University that it can not find a person who does not suffer form ill health to act as PIO. The First Appeal was filed on 24/08/2009. The FAA’s order is given to the Commission dated 21/09/2009. It is revealing that no mention is made of the PIO’s ill health in the FAA’s order nor is any mention made of the file not being available. The FAA had ordered that the information must be provided with in 10 days but this order was also not implemented. Given the fact that the medical reports of the PIO have been submitted that the PIO has been suffering from severe Coronary problems and has been advised angiography the Commission is not taking any action against the PIO on humanitarian grounds.

RTI application filed on : 24/07/2009
PIO replied : No reply
First appeal filed on : 24/08/2009
First Appellate Authority order : No order
Second Appeal received on : 15/09/2009
Date of Notice of Hearing : 18-11-2009
Hearing Held on : 21/12/2009

This is not the first time that this particular PIO, namely, Mr Qazi Javed, has got way without any fine being imposed by the CIC. One previous occasions too, Mr Javed got away with a light reprimand by feigning ignorance. It appears that the CIC has a short memory and public authorities like AMU are exploiting this fact merrily.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AMU revokes suspension order against faculty member


Aligarh, Jan 18 (PTI) Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor P K Abdul Aziz today "revoked the suspension order pending finalisation of proceedings" against senior faculty member and RTI activist Tariq Islam, an official notification here said.

Islam, a reader in the department of philosophy was placed under suspension in August last year on charges of "tampering his academic record" while applying for the job at the varsity nearly 25 years ago.

The suspension had led to a furore in the varsity campus with AMU teachers association launching an agitation against the step. The association alleged that Islam had been "suspended primarily because of his role as an RTI activist at the campus".

The vice chancellor had ordered an enquiry into the matter in November and the enquiry committee had submitted its report on December 21 last year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

CJI comes under RTI ambit, says Delhi HC bench, SC Will Appeal To Itself Now

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jan 13, 2010; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Abhinav Garg | TNN

New Delhi: In an unusual display of checks and balances within the judiciary, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday rejected the contention of the Supreme Court that the office of the Chief Justice of India was beyond the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

A full bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice A P Shah, Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice S Muralidhar unanimously dispelled the fear raised by the apex court that the extension of RTI to the CJI’s office would undermine judicial independence.

Referring to a resolution adopted by Supreme Court judges in 1997, a resolution adopted by a conference of chief justices in 1999 and the UN-sponsored 2001 Bangalore principles of judicial conduct, the HC said, ‘‘Well defined and publicly known standards and procedures complement, rather than diminish, the notion of judicial independence.’’

Dismissing the Supreme Court’s appeal for the second time in four months, it said, ‘‘Higher the judiciary, higher the accountability.’’ SC will now file an appeal before itself.

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Babus’ assets come under RTI Give Public Access To Info, Says CIC

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date: Jan 8, 2010; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Viju B | TNN

Mumbai: After politicians and Supreme Court judges, now the assets of babus have been prised open to public scrutiny. In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission has said disclosure of information such as assets of a public servant, routinely collected by the public authority, should be made available to the public under the Right to Information Act.

Passing the order in a case of an officer with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted that such disclosure could not be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual and therefore, it should be made public under the Act.

Out In The Open

CIC says such info not ‘‘personal’’. Details of assets are collected routinely by public authorities

So far, disclosure of assets by babus an internal affair, between the official and his superior

CIC cites SC order that netas, who seek to be public servants by getting elected, declare property details

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How to make a whistle-blower howl !

His public-spirited act of exposing a power theft was rewarded with torture in police custody. Now, police officials say the SHRC file recommending action against the cops concerned is ‘lost’


Three years ago, he blew the lid off a power theft being indulged in by his landlord. Cut to the present, and this whistle-blower has found to his chagrin how bureaucracy can make a mockery of public-spirited vigilantism.

Thirty-eight-year-old T Christy has been running from pillar to post to see that disciplinary action is taken against two policemen who allegedly colluded with his landlord and tortured him. But as so often happens within the corridors of officialdom, the file pertaining to his case is apparently ‘lost’.

According to Christy, his former landlord Anthony was supplying water to nearly 30 of his tenants by using the power meant for agricultural purposes (for which the tariff is low) and collecting money from them. “The particular pole inside his Rosary Farm in Arogyapa Layout was allotted to him for agricultural purposes. BESCOM charges a minimum amount in such cases, but Anthony had taken the law for granted. He was supplying water to nearly 30 tenants and making a lot of money, in the process causing a loss to BESCOM. How can someone use the free electricity meant for agricultural purposes either for domestic or commercial use?” said Christy.


He complained to the vigilance unit of BESCOM, which found Anthony guilty of misusing the power supplied. A fine of Rs 12,000 was slapped on the landlord. “By that time, I had shifted to another house in Kempapura. Anthony and his brothers framed me in a false extortion case and on Feb 6, 2008, I was arrested by the Yelahanka police and taken to the station in a vehicle provided by Anthony. Sub-Inspector Shankarappa pressured me to keep quiet, saying he would get me Rs 50,000 from Anthony. He even threatened to kill me. I was beaten up by him and a constable, Narayanaswamy, and was released after four hours. They did not even bother to show me a copy of the complaint filed against me,” Christy said.

Christy approached the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which found the two policemen guilty of acting at the behest of Anthony. The rights panel recommended exemplary action against the cops in a letter to the police commissioner in September 2008. Surprisingly, the file is missing from the police commissioner’s office and the accused cops are yet to face any action.”I have been making the rounds of the police commissioner’s office for the last five months, but the officials there keep saying they have to search for the file,” he said.

A desperate Christy called up joint commissioner Alok Kumar on Friday to enquire about the file, but did not get a positive response. He now plans to approach the SHRC to have the papers pertaining to his case sent once again to the police chief’s office.

Penalised, but do they care?

When T Christy was not told by the local police why he had been detained, he filed an RTI application with the police commissioner’s office. But there was no response forthcoming.That prompted him to shoot off another RTI application for details of officials who have been penalised for failing to furnish information on time. The following is the gist of the reply from the Karnataka Information Commission:
A total of 103 officials were found guilty for not responding to RTI queries within the stipulated 30 days.

The penalty collected from such officials totalled Rs 3.97 lakh between August 2006 and May 2009.

The maximum penalty collected from individual officials was Rs 25,000, while the minimum amount was Rs 250.