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Saturday, February 27, 2010

MEDIA RELEASE: Please avoid using "RTI activist" term for people of uncertain credentials

Dear Mediapersons,
W.R.T. the news item in HT (see link and story below), I request all media-persons to please avoid using the term "RTI Activist" for people whose credentials are doubtful. Instead, please frame sentences such as, "He is known to have filed RTI applications against builders etc."
Some of my fellow-activists have been running a background check on this particular "RTI activist". It is learnt from the reporter who filed the story that this so-called "RTI activist" had a chequered past, and his livelihood came from filing RTI applications against various people, and then arm-twisting.
This was independently confirmed by another fellow-activist who contacted three other reporters. We are still trying to re-confirm from various sources.
As in all social groups, there are black sheep among RTI users also. There are complicated shades of gray in society, and we have to be careful whom we support, and what we stand for. Otherwise, the general public and the media may eventually start thinking that all RTI activists are shady characters and blackmailers. It is important to avoid damaging the cause through associating with persons of doubtful motivation and methods.
Warm Regards,
Borivli, Mumbai
Kiran Sonawane, Hindustan Times
Badlapur, February 27, 2010
First Published: 01:42 IST(27/2/2010)
Last Updated: 01:43 IST(27/2/2010)
Two men shot and critically injured Right to Information activist Arun Sawant at Badlapur, Thane, on Friday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to use Magistrate’s Powers for Registering Criminal Complaint

In my earlier email on the importance of exercising our right to have FIR registered, I extensively discussed approaching the police, but only cursorily mentioned approaching Magistrates.

Some better-informed friends immediately wrote back, asking me to correct ambiguities and inaccuracies in this respect.

First, let me recap: We generally approach the police station first and try to get an FIR registered under Section Sec 154(1) of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). If the Senior Inspector in charge of the police station refuses to do so, then we have the option of approaching the Superintendent of Police u/s Sec 154(3) of CrPC. Also, we have other options, as below.

We may approach Magistrate for the below Reasons & Remedies:

1) The police have refused to register FIR, or they dilly-dally with pointless correspondence etc. Therefore we want the Magistrate to direct the police to do so u/s 156(3) of CrPC.


2) Even without approaching the police, we want the Magistrate to direct the police to register an FIR and investigate a crime u/s 156(3). We want to use this method to hold the police accountable for investigating.


3) We want the Magistrate to directly take cognizance of a criminal offence under his powers u/s 190(1)(a) or 190(1)(c), and commence the process of trial by summoning the accused and witnesses. In this case, we – the complainant – have the responsibility of leading evidence in the trial (which otherwise the police would have done).

4) If necessary, we may also approach the Chief Judicial Magistrate and invoke Sec 190(2) to empower a Magistrate of the Second Class to take cognizance of a criminal offence.

IMPORTANT Ifs-and-Buts:

a) Section 156(3) of CrPC empowers the Magistrate to direct police to conduct investigations. Actually, Magistrate will direct the police to register FIR, which mandates the police to conduct investigations. Then the police is expected to report their findings to the Magistrate.

b) Normally, Magistrate expects the citizen to exhaust their remedy of attempting to get an FIR lodged with the police u/s 154(1) before approaching Magistrate u/s 156(3).

c) Section 190 empowers the Magistrate to issue process, i.e. summon the accused to remain present before the court and face the trial. The Magistrate can issue process under three situations, namely on a “private complaint” by a citizen, on an Investigation Report (i.e charge-sheet) of the police, or on coming to know that an offense has happened in his jurisdiction (i.e. suo moto).

d) Read CrPC Sections 200 to 205 to understand what the Magistrate will do next:

There are numerous Magistrates’ courts in every city and district. You can find many of them through a google search. Mumbai activists may find these links useful for locating a Magistrate and getting an advocate for legal assistance:




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: A big thank-you to Milind Kotak, Convenor of Forum for Effective Accountability & Transparency (FEAT), for mentoring and guidance. Also, grateful thanks to Dr Arun Agarwal for promptly pointing out errors and omissions.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

‘Beaten’ up for seeking info?

Posted: 21 Feb 2010 07:00 PM PST Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has asked the Delhi Police Commissioner and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Commissioner to probe an incident wherein RTI users were allegedly beaten up at the behest of a local councillor in the presence of police and MCD personnel.

“Prima facie it appears that there has been serious collusion involved herein,” Gandhi wrote on February 18 in his letters.

The incident referred to RTI users’ NGO Public Grievance and Welfare Society from Kishan Ganj in north Delhi.

For complete news please visit:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reclaim your power to get FIR registered

The law called Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) gives us the right to get an FIR registered when we witness a serious offence being committed. Such offences include encroachment of public spaces etc. which are happening unchecked all around us. Registering FIR -- First Information Report -- sets in motion the police and legal machinery against a crime, even if the name of the perpetrator is not known. It is the duty of the police to investigate and find further evidence, and file a charge-sheet before a magistrate (or alternatively, and to close the case citing insufficient evidence etc.)

While registering FIR, the police officer must only see whether a cognizable offence is made out by the evidence offered by the citizen. The citizen making the complaint does not have to prove that the evidence is true, or that the accused person has committed the offence. That will be for courts to decide during the trial. Therefore, the police cannot refuse to take the citizen’s complaint on the plea that the evidence may be false; he must only see the whether there is enough prima facie evidence of the crime.

Our right to get an FIR registered is at least as important as our right to information. But this is a neglected area. Without this, we are powerless to seek remedies to the wrongs happening all around us.

How right of complaint is diluted and taken away

Currently, the police and administration throughout the country have an unwritten policy that even when our complaint clearly reveals a cognizable offence, an NC (non-cognizable offence) is registered, which cannot be investigated without specific directions from the court. Alternatively, our complaint is taken as an entry in the Police Diary, which has zero value. Thus, the police assume discretionary powers that are not theirs by law.

FIRs are usually registered to favour influential people such as Municipal Councillors, MLAs, MPs and IAS officers. Also, FIRs are freely registered whenever police or civic authorities want to curb citizens who are asking inconvenient questions. With this, they abuse their powers of arrest to terrorize citizens and occasionally extort bribes.

Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) makes it clear that registering FIR is a key power of the common citizen, and it makes it mandatory for police to register FIR. Please read and understand:
All this means that in order to get an FIR registered, you must approach the following authorities in the order given below:
1) Approach the officer in charge of the concerned police station u/s 154 (1) of CrPC with a report of an offence and register a complaint. You may show any evidence of wrongdoing, including photographs and videos on mobile phone etc. The concerned police officer must accordingly put these into writing, and use these details to fill up the FIR form. You may also try to convince the cop to register an FIR, with reasoning based on legal provisions of IPC etc. The cops cannot shout or threaten you for doing so. You must insist on a copy of the FIR, which must be registered immediately, or at most within 48 hours in exceptional cases. This is mandatory as per Judgment of full bench of the Mumbai High Court in Sandeep Rammilan Shukla vs State of Maharashtra 2009: . Please note that as Maharashtra has not gone in appeal against this order, it may be accepted as the final legal position in Maharashtra. As for the rest of India, this issue is under the active consideration of a 3-member bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Lalita Kumari vs Govt of UP & Others. But in the meantime, the Supreme Court has already taken as strong position against Superintendents of Police in July 2008:

2) Approach Superintendent of Police u/s 154(3) of CrPC, in case the concerned police station refuses to register the complaint within the stipulated period.

3) Approach any Magistrate of the First Class u/s 190(1) of CrPC, or any Magistrate of the Second Class if empowered u/s 190(1) or 190(2). They have the power to order the police to register an FIR and to investigate.

To exert moral pressure on the police stations to promptly register FIR, Mumbai activists may cite the recent circular dated 18th January 2010 issued by the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai:

Which offences are cognizable and therefore suitable for registering an FIR? Generally speaking, any offence which attracts seven years of imprisonment is cognizable and requires an FIR to be filed, as against a mere NC or diary-entry. However, for more specific details, refer to this table:

For filing complaints, you may cite the relevant sections of:

Indian Penal Code:

Criminal Procedure Code:

Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act:

Other bare Acts may be found here:

Warm Regards,
Krishnaraj Rao
98215 88114

Friday, February 19, 2010

Suspension and harassment of RTI activists

This is not the first time that RTI activists who are government servants have been suspended or are being harassed. Dr Tariq Islam, RTI Activist and famous whistleblower of Aligarh Muslim University was suspended without assigning any reason by Dr P K Abdul Azis, Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. The AMU authorities are extremely unhappy with the Dr Tariq led RTI Group as it has been working to bring in transparency in AMU. The AMU authorities are gunning for group members in the service of AMU.
Dr. M. Naved Khan was threatened on 19.10.2008 over phone late in the night (11.28PM) by a member of the AMU security staff over the filing of RTI on financial matters in AMU. Dr Khan reported the entire incident (with even the call details) to the insensitive Aligarh Police. After sustained RTI pressure, the AMU authorities were forced to admit in writing that the person who threatened Dr Naved late in the night was their employee.

On previous ocassion, Mr Sharma, a senior retired BSNL employee too was threatened at his home (which is miles away from AMU campus) by people from the Security staff of AMU. Mr Sharma managed to capture images of the entire incident. The face of the AMU employee threatening him was clearly visible. Later on an RTI was filed by RTI Group and again AMU admitted that the person who threatened Mr Sharma was indeed an employee of the "intelligence" wing of AMU! The entire matter was duly reported in writing to police.

As is evident, despite the fact that both the incidents were reported in writing to the police. But till date nothing has been done by the Police. The AMU authorities have been emboldened by this and continue to harass us on a day to day basis!

It appears that we are good at shouting and complaining only when an RTI activist is brutally murdered. So the police also does lip service (if at all) only when an activist is murdered.

We need to remember that we are fighting against a corrupt system which continues to strike at will and with impunity.

We need to get organized without any delay before the system is able to snuff out the lives even more RTI activists.

Let us all join hands and protect the RTI Act itself to protect our DEMOCRACY!

CIC: Ranganath report can be made public


New Delhi: In a nod towards transparency, the Central Information Commission (CIC) allowed disclosure of files relating to the government’s action on the R a n g a n at h Misra Commission report which seeks to extend Scheduled Caste status to dalit Muslims and Christians.
The decision comes in response to an RTI application filed by Franklin Caesar Thomas who sought inspection of “entire files” dealing with action, if any, of the report of National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by Justice Misra with special reference to the extension of SC status to dalit Muslims and dalit Christians.
In the initial reply received in 2008, the PMO refused to grant permission to allow inspection of files related to the commission, which was set up in October 2004, saying, “Papers for the Cabinet before the Cabinet decision are exempted from disclosure under the provisions of 8 (1)(i) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.”
It, however, agreed to allow inspection just before the matter came for hearing before the CIC.

“The file in this matter being with ministry of minority affairs and the PMO having no objection to inspection of the file notings... ministry of minority affairs will now make the relevant file available for inspection,” chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DOPT has no say in Appointment of Information Commissioners?

“Absolutely every decision pertaining to the selection of Central Information Commissioners (CICs) is made by the Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister,” said Shantanu Consul, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Govt of India. In a meeting with eight RTI activists from six states in New Delhi on Friday, 12th February, Mr Consul claimed ignorance of how the name of his predecessor, then DoPT Secretary Satyananda Mishra, had appeared in the short-list of candidates that DoPT had presented to the Committee in July 2008, culminating in his appointment.

DoPT officials present at the meeting included Additional Secretary S.K. Sarkar, Joint Secretary C.B. Paliwal, Deputy Secretary Anuradha Chagti, and K.G. Verma, Director in-charge of RTI.

The eight activists, led by Madhav Vishnubhatta from Chennai, made a formal representation regarding the need for introducing ethical and transparent norms for CIC selections. The representation (Click ) urged Mr Consul, as head of the primary rule-making body and custodian of the Right to Information Act 2005, to adhere to its own stated guidelines for direct recruitments, by issuing circulars and advertisements to invite applications from all over the country. Pointing out that the RTI Act specified that persons from all walks of life should be appointed as CICs, Bimal Khemani, a delegate from Uttar Pradesh, asked why, in a country of 1.1 billion, most CICs were connected to Dilli durbar.

The selection of CICs has been questionable since the seeming self-selection of A N Tiwari as one of the first Information Commissioners of the country in October 2005, while he himself was the DoPT Secretary. The case that clearly established the murkiness in the process of CIC selections was that of Mrs Omita Paul. Mrs Paul, advisor to Cabinet Minister Pranab Mukherjee, was hurriedly selected as CIC one week before the General Elections, even while the Election Code of Conduct was in force. After the UPA government returned to power, she immediately resigned to rejoin the government as advisor to Mr Pranab Mukherjee the same day.

Other members of the activists’ delegation were Vishwas Bhamburkar from Ahmedabad, Vinod Varshney from Aligarh (UP), Dr Arun Agrawal from Gurgaon (Haryana), Rakesh Agarwal and Rasheed Qureshi from New Delhi, and Krishnaraj Rao from Mumbai.

When the delegation members repeatedly pleaded with him to at least publicly disclose the procedures adopted so far for appointing commissioners, as mandated by Section 4 of RTI Act, Mr Consul refused to be drawn into the issue, and concluded that he would refer all suggestions to the Selection Committee, which comes into existence only at the time of appointments, and is promptly disbanded thereafter.

Asked whether he would himself become Information Commissioner soon, Mr Consul remained non-committal, and urged the activists not to be overly suspicious on matters like RTI amendment and CIC appointments.

Krishnaraj Rao


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

RTI Activists Form National Forum


On Sunday (07/02/2010) IRDS Lucknow in support with Manjunath Trust organized a Meeting at IIM Lucknow to remember Sri Satish Shetty, the late RTI activist from Pune. Sri Shetty, who was born in an ordinary family in Lonavla, Mumbai did his matriculation from Bal Vikas Vidyalaya but did not pursue his higher studies as he was not really interested in that kind of bookish knowledge. He used the Right to Information Act many a times to expose corruption and to bring forth truth. Some of his important works included irregularities in land acquisition by the Sable-Waghire Company and IRB Infrastructure Developer in the IRB land scam case, Vaishali Marriage Hall case, Ration Card Scam and exposure of illegal Bungalow construction by a former president of the Talegaon Dabhade Municipal Council.
In the meeting, organized many RTI activists and students of IIM Lucknow made their participation. The meeting paid homage to Sri Shety. Serious objections were raised about the fact that Sri Shetty was not provided security by the local police despite his having specially asked for it. That too when it was well-known that he was on target of many such persons whom he had exposed. Those present in the meeting were really perturbed by this fact that life of a person like Sri Shetty got lost because of this apathy. Concerns were also raised about the progress in the investigation so far. While 5 accused are said to have been arrested, yet as per Sri Sandip’s version many of the real culprits seem to remain untouched so far. It was hoped that with the High Court’s persistent interference, truth might come out soon.
Of those present in the meeting IPS officer Amitabh Thakur spoke about Sri Shetty and his great contributions. Utkarsh Kumar Sinha from CCS implored the condition of the RTI activists in Lucknow. Vishal Gupta, FPM student, IIM Lucknow spoke about Sri Manjunath, his contributions and his murder case. He also spoke about the works done by the Manjunath trust so far. Rajhans Mishra from IIM Lucknow spoke about the need to have a state-wide awareness about RTI and its various facets. Mahendra Kumar from Project Vijay narrated many of his personal experiences and hardships in using RTI. Advocate Jagnarain Sharma severely criticized the fact that the main accused of this heinous murder was an advocate and said that it is people like these who give a bad name to the entire profession. Amit Kumar Pandey from Lucknow University also paid his respect by saying that both Sri Shetty and Sri Manjunath belonged to the same highest category of persons who sacrificed their life for a great cause. RTI activist Akhilesh Saxena said that there was an immediate need to form some kind of association for aiding and assisting all RTI activists in their proper functioning. Hence a decision was taken to form a “RTI Forum” where all the RTI activists shall be brought together.
As a result of this, “National RTI Forum” for all the RTI activists to be brought together has been created. A yahoo group National RTI Forum” has also been created with subscription email- and message email- This RTI Forum shall try to act as a nodal body for all the RTI activists and activities. It shall look into all the matters related with RTI activists in consideration, including their training, guidance, support and security related aspects. A Facebook group by the name of National RTI Forum has also been created. All of you are sincerely requested to join these groups so that all of us join hands and act together in aiding and assisting each other.

Amitabh Thakur, IIM Lucknow # 94155-34526
Dr Nutan Thakur, IRDS Lucknow # 94155-34525
Utkarsh Kumar Sinha, CCS Lucknow # 99357-36877
Vishal Gupta, IIM Lucknow # 94530-12815

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lift accidents in Mumbai-Pune: RTI documents reveal underlying causes

5th February 2010, Mumbai: Bhupendra Singh Gulati, 52, opened the lift door at the 7th floor while talking on his mobile phone, and stepped inside. He plunged six floors down the empty lift well, and died after landing on top of the lift car. This tragedy happened on 3rd June 2008, at Violet Building, Viman Nagar, Pune. Cause of accident: a defective landing door’s lock which allowed the door to be opened, even when the lift was not present. The lift, erected by Escon, had no maintenance contractor.

On the afternoon of 23rd October 2008, 38-year-old Ajay Baliram Ghayatkar was entering the elevator on the 6th floor. When it suddenly started moving upwards, Ajay fell half inside and half out. He was crushed between car ceiling and landing door, with his back and legs hanging two feet below the landing ceiling. This shocking incident happened in Pune’s Bhosale Shinde Arcade, near Deccan Gymkhana, on 23rd October, 2008. The lift was made by Kinetic Transportation, and maintained by Icon Elevators. Causes: Firstly brake slippage; secondly, difference between the counter weights was not as per the rules.

These are a few of the lift accidents mentioned in a log book by PWD’s Lift, Energy and Labour Department. Mumbai RTI activist Mohammed Afzal accessed these records under Right to Information after his brother Mohammed Farooq, a diabetic patient with multiple clots in his brain, had a traumatic experience in a lift some weeks earlier. On 14th January this year, instead of flying kites, Mohammed Afzal and his fellow activist Krishnaraj Rao inspected the documents of this department’s office at Chembur. (Read Afzal’s RTI application here: )

The RTI documents revealed three shocking facts which contribute to accidents:

  • Administrative deficiency: Maharashtra PWD’s Lifts Department is woefully understaffed for doing the work that it is supposed to do. According to Section 11 of Bombay Lifts Act 1939, it is the responsibility of the State Government to inspect each lift twice a year, and recommend to the owner of the lift rectification of various faults. If necessary, it can order the closure of a lift that seems dangerous. The department has 73,324 registered lifts in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Pune region, and only 11 inspectors to handle them. This means around 6,500 lifts per inspector. Assuming that each inspector routinely inspects and reports on an average of 30 lifts per six-day week – a high average considering government holidays, casual leaves, the time taken to file reports, investigate accidents etc. etc. – it will take around four years to inspect each lift even once. In other words, there is a need for at least eight times as many inspectors to ensure bare minimum compliance with the legal requirement of inspecting each lift twice a year. (Read the supporting documents here: )
  • Frequent deficiencies in maintenance: The department’s list of defects is quite comprehensive about the various ways in which maintenance of lifts is neglected: . However, for want of reqular inspections by the statutory authority, such defects are not pointed out in time, and go unnoticed or are neglected by penny-pinching building societies or sloppy maintenance contractors. Often, maintenance contractors remove crucial parts like switches for maintenance without shutting down the lift. This seems to cause quite a few fatal accidents. However, such instances rarely seem to result in police cases, court trials and convictions.
  • A fatal technological flaw: Doors open at the wrong time, when the lift car is not at landing. Conversely, lift cars move when called from upstairs or downstairs, even when doors are still open. A study of the accident log books from 2002 onwards indicates that an overwhelming majority of the accidents have happened because of a technological flaw that allows lifts to start moving even when the door is open, or, alternatively, allows doors to open even when the lift is not in position. After studying the log files and translating some accident reports, RTI Activist Sunil Ahya, who is himself a manufacturer of sundry equipments, observed that it is surely possibly to device ways to make the door mechanism absolutely foolproof. “It is shocking that in this day and age, we put up with such an obvious technological flaw that kills people. With the present level of technology, it is not rocket-science to build lifts where the door will absolutely never open unless the lift car is at the landing floor, and conversely, the car will absolutely never move when the lift door is open.”

In the bulk of the fatal cases, the story goes like this: A person was entering lift, which someone upstairs or downstairs called it. And so the unfortunate person fell and either got crushed between the lift and the landing, or plunged into the lift well.

Mr Sanjay Bhasme, Electrical Inspector (Lifts) of Mumbai, wrote a letter to his superiors asking for around 109 additional personnel to be appointed to various posts on an urgent basis. He pointed out that every year, around 5,500 new lifts were being registered in his jurisdiction of Mumbai-Thane-Pune region, whereas only around 1,200 inspections were currently being carried out. Read his well-reasoned letter in Marathi:

The question is: Is Maharashtra government listening? Or will a big disaster have to happen before netas and babus sit up and take notice?


  6. Mr. SUNIL AHYA – FELLOW ACTIVIST -- 9821070606

Note: Log Books of Fatal and Non-Fatal Accidents, which are handwritten and in Marathi, are too large to scan; Xerox copies can be made available on request. These books give exact details of lift accidents – categorised as fatal and non-fatal. Below are a few specimens of accidents, minus details such as names of victims, buildings, maintenance contractors etc.


30th April 2002, Kalwa: Door open, lift moved, child crushed between doors.

26th July 2002, Kalyan: Lift door opened at wrong time, Man tried stepping out, lift moved.

9th Oct 2002, Nagpur: Lift moved when man was entering lift, man crushed

25th Feb 2003, Mumbai: Lift moved when someone upstairs pressed the button. Man entering the lift was crushed.

8th April 2003, Pune: Child was crushed between inner and outer doors of lifts. Children were playing inside the lift, when the inner door suddenly opened, causing the child to fall out between inner and outer doors.

25th June 2003, Mumbai: Woman put her head into the lift well when the outer door opened without the lift being in place. Her head was torn off by the lift car which suddenly came from above.

4th July 2003, Mumbai: Man was crushed between the doors and the lift when he was entering. The doors closed when lift was called from above.

… and so on.


23rd May 2005, Mumbai: An 8-year-old girl lost her hand when she tried to close the outer door, and someone called the lift. As the lift started unexpectedly moving, it cut off her hand.

19th Sept, 2007, Thane: The lift travelling down with eight persons, failed to stop at the ground floor, and crashed into the spring buffers in the pit.

25th Oct 2007, Mumbai: An NDTV photographer and five other passengers travelling upward in the lift were injured when it suddenly fell down from the third floor and crashed into the buffer pit. It was found that the lift was not erected in compliance with Rule 6 of Mumbai Lift Rules, 1958.

And so on…

TOI: Activists throw rule-book at cops

Mumbai: A 75-year-old small scale industrialist and a 67-year-old veterinary doctor were among a motley group of ten that went to Marine Drive police station on Thursday evening to register an unusual complaint. They wanted to file an FIR against Sanjay Amrute, the senior inspector who arrested them on May 19 last year for disrupting the court of Suresh Joshi, state chief information commissioner . Their contention is that Amrute, now an assistant commissioner posted at the headquarters , falsely implicated and illegally arrested them.

However, assistant commissioner Iqbal Shaikh and senior inspector Jhunjharrao Gharal refused to lodge an FIR against Amrute , saying they would only acknowledge their complaint.

All we did was to sing the national anthem in a meeting with Joshi, who had granted us a fiveminute audience, after his hearing was over, said Gaurang Vora, a pathologist and civic activist from Kings Circle. The group of ten had met Joshi to register their protest against his non-adherence to the Right to Information Act.

Joshi did not demand any justification from the public information officers (PIO) for delay or denial of information, he did not penalise any PIOs for it and neither did he mention the denial/delay in his order, said Vora.

The ten RTI activists were booked for trespassing, assault and rioting the same evening and sent to the lock-up at Azad Maidan police station from where they were dispatched to Arthur Road jail, where they spent a night before being granted bail. Our complaint against the cops is in keeping with Section 154(1) of CrPC, a landmark judgment of Bombay high court, recent pronouncements of Union home ministry and of Mumbai police commissioner D Sivanandhan , said Krishnaraj Rao, a 43-year-old publisher, who was one of the ten arrested.

The RTI activists initiative to file an FIR against the police is supported by Milind Kotak, founder of Forum for Effective Accountability & Transparency (FEAT), as part of the organisations campaign to hold public authorities accountable to the rule of law. He contended that Amrutes actions on May 19, 2009, were in breach of Supreme Court orders and police guidelines. The RTI activists hold that they were targeted at the instance of Joshi and substantiate it with the fact that although the police complaint made on his behalf did not speak of assault, rioting, trespass etc, the Marine Drive police station included such non-bailable offences in the FIR deliberately to justify arresting them under non-bailable sections.

By filing this FIR and carrying out these arrests, the policemen went far beyond the call of their duty, themselves committed many criminal offences under IPC sections 166, 167, 219, 220) and also contempt of the Supreme Court order in the case of Joginder Kumar Vs. State of UP. They also breached clear directions given by Maharashtras DGP in 1994, alleged Rao.
The others from the group of ten who assembled at Marine Drive police station on Thursday were veterinary surgeon Sriram Prabhu , businessman Sanjay Ghatalia, landlord Mohammed Afzal, teacher Ravi Kiran Haldipur, designer-printer and machinery manufacturer Sunil Ahya.


An arrest during the investigation of a cognisable case may be considered justified in one or other of the following circumstances :

· The case involves a grave offence like murder, dacoity, robbery, rape etc., and it is necessary to arrest the accused and bring his movements under restraint to infuse confidence among the terror stricken victims

· The accused is likely to abscond and evade the processes of law

· The accused is given to violent behaviour and is likely to commit further offences unless his movements are brought under restraint

· The accused is a habitual offender and unless kept in custody he is likely to commit similar offences again

Anil Singh I TNN

Further details:

1) Citizens’ Police Complaint made on 4th Feb 2010:

2) Background details, Police guidelines for arrests etc:

3) Detailed account of how the ten Mumbai activists were arrested on 19th May, 2009:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

HAPPENING TODAY: Posse of Activists to file FIR against In-charge of Marine Drive Police Station

4th Feb 2010, Mumbai: A dozen RTI activists will march to Marine Drive Police Station today evening, around 5 pm, and submit a formal police complaint against the former Station In-Charge, Senior Inspector Amrute. In keeping with Section 154(1) of CrPC, a landmark judgement of Bombay High Court, recent pronouncements of Union Home Ministry and of Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandhan, these activists will press for filing of an FIR against the Senior Police Inspector for falsely implicating and illegally arresting ten of them.

This initiative is supported by Milind Kotak, founder of Forum for Effective Accountability & Transparency (FEAT), as part of the organization’s campaign to hold public authorities accountable to the Rule of Law. Given the context of recent attacks on activists, he contends that it is necessary to make the police walk the talk by immediately filing an FIR against their one of their own senior officers for unjustifiably depriving the activists of their liberty, and tainting their reputation with criminal charges. Senior Inspector Amrute’s actions on 19th May, 2009, were in breach of Supreme Court orders and well-known police guidelines, contends Mr Kotak (mob: 98206 43510).

Mr Kotak says that this is only one of several instances where powerful people use the police as puppets to get their opponents illegally arrested in violation of Supreme Court directions and several legal provisions. “To curb this tendency, FEAT is supporting citizens who take action for holding police accountable for complying to arrest guidelines,” says Mr Kotak.

The group of activists holds that they were mala-fidely targeted at the instance of Chief State Information Commissioner Dr Suresh Joshi, in a colorable exercise of power, and substantiate it with the fact that although the complaint made on the Chief SIC’s behalf did not speak of assault, rioting, trespass etc, the Marine Drive Police Station included such non-bailable offences in the FIR deliberately in order to justify jailing the activists. “By filing this FIR and carrying out these arrests, the policemen went far beyond the call of their duty, themselves committed many criminal offences – IPC sections 166, 167, 219, 220 and also contempt of the Supreme Court order in the case of Joginder Kumar Vs. State of UP. They also breached clear directions given by Maharashtra’s Director General of Police in 1994,” they allege.


1) To download the Citizens’ Police Complaint being made on 4th Feb 2010, click on:

2) For other background details, Police guidelines for arrests etc, click on:

3) Detailed account of how the ten activists were arrested on 19th May, 2009:

4) Contact numbers of activists who intend to sign the Complaint today:
G R Vora -- 98691 95785
Mohd Afzal -- 98204 90435
Sunil Ahya -- 98200 71606
Krishnaraj Rao -- 98215 88114
Ravi Kiran Haldipur -- 2837 7214
Dr Sriram Prabhu -- 98330 99990
Sanjay Ghatalia – 98201 50974

5) Relevant IPC Sections mentioned in Press Release & Police Complaint:

166. Public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person

Whoever, being a public servant, knowingly disobeys any direction of the law as to the way in which he is to conduct himself as such public servant, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will, by such disobedience, cause injury to any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.


A, being an officer directed by law to take property in execution, in order to satisfy a decree pronounced in Z's favour by a Court of Justice, knowingly disobeys that direction of law, with the knowledge that he is likely thereby to cause injury to Z. A has committed the offence defined in this section.

167. Public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury

Whoever, being a public servant, and being, as such public servant, charged with the preparation or translation of any document, frames or translates that document in a manner which he knows or believes to be incorrect, intending thereby to cause or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby cause injury to any person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

219. Public servant in judicial proceeding corruptly making report, etc., contrary to law

Whoever, being a public servant, corruptly or maliciously makes or pronounces in any stage of a judicial proceeding, any report, order, verdict, or decision which he knows to be contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.

220. Commitment for trial or confinement by person having authority who knows that he is acting contrary to law

Whoever, being in any office which gives him legal authority to commit persons for trial or to commitment, or to keep persons in confinement, corruptly or maliciously commits any person for trial or to confinement, or keeps any person in confinement, in the exercise of that authority knowing that in so doing he is acting contrary to law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kerala High Court: Co-operative Societies Come Under Ambit of RTI Act

Thalapalam Service Co-Operative Bank vs Union Of India

on 3 April, 2009

Kerala High Court


WP(C).No. 18175 of 2006(L)


... Petitioner



... Respondent






For Petitioner :SRI.P.V.BABY



Dated :03/04/2009




W.P(C).Nos.18175, 20154 & 33318 OF 2006,

17156, 19384, 20308, 23571, 25941, 24513, 32332, 34229, 34798, 35106,

35244, 35285, 36219, 36372, 36800 & 36891 OF 2007, 3324, 3351, 4660, 4793, 5234, 6471, 7584, 12803, 14280, 14936, 15403, 16412, 19729, 19923, 20572 & 22855 OF 2008


Dated this the 3rd day of April, 2009



1. These writ petitions raise the question of applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005, hereinafter, the 'RTI Act', to co-operative societies registered under the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, 1969, for short, the 'KCS Act'.

2. The Registrar of Co-operative Societies issued circular No.23/06, taking the view that all co-operative societies registered under the KCS Act, hereinafter, for short, the 'societies', are under the administrative control of the Registrar and therefore, public authorities for the purpose of the RTI Act. Directions were hence issued, requiring all societies to discharge the obligations as public authorities under the RTI Act and to follow the procedure stated therein. The Information Officers in the Co-operative Department of

the State Government commenced acting on complaints of non-consideration of requests for information made by different persons to societies. These writ petitions are hence filed, seeking to quash the aforesaid circular and for a declaration that the RTI Act does not apply to societies registered under the KCS Act. Certain actions taken by the officers under the KCS Act and orders issued by the State Information Commission touching the issue, in individual cases, are also under challenge.

3. In its gist, the contention advanced by the petitioners is that the societies are not public authorities as defined in Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, but are establishments over which, the

statutory provisions under the KCS Act and Kerala Cooperative Societies Rules 1969, for short, the 'KCS Rules', framed under that Act, apply, providing access to information by recourse to those procedures. On behalf of the petitioners, it is argued that societies are not established or constituted by or under the Constitution; by any other law made by

Parliament; by any other law made by the State Legislature or by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government and that they are not bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided by the appropriate Government and hence, do not fall within the definition of "public authority" under Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act. The obligation to act in terms of Section 4 (1) of the RTI Act is confined only to "public authorities" as defined in that Act and therefore, the Registrar of Co-operative Societies had acted contrary to the statutory provisions and without authority, in issuing the impugned circular, it is contended.

4.Per contra, on behalf of the State of Kerala, the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, the State Information Commission and the contesting private respondents, it is argued that the

applicability of RTI Act to societies cannot be excluded in terms of the clear provisions contained in the RTI Act and that the provisions available in the KCS Act and Rules thereunder is no answer to exclude the applicability of the RTI Act. It is further argued that there is no ambiguity in the RTI Act and the same has to be interpreted to give effect to that Act. It is further argued that at any rate, having regard to the definition of 'information' in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, the access to information in relation to societies cannot be denied. Is the right to information in relation to cooperative societies available under the RTI Act?

5. Section 3 of the RTI Act states that subject to the provisions of that Act, all citizens shall have the right to information. Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act which defines 'information' reads

as follows: "Information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks,contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

6.Going by the afore-quoted, information relating to any private body, which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force is information. The definition of the word 'information' as provided in Section 2 (f) has also to be applied to the word 'information' occurring in that clause itself. Therefore, information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority includes all materials in any form which are enumerated before the use of the conjunction 'and' before the word 'information' occurring in Section 2 (f), in relation to private bodies.

7.It is the contention of the petitioners themselves that the provisions of the KCS Act and Rules empower access to information, following those rules. This is so, pithily because the statutory powers under the KCS Act and KCS Rules are available to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, appointed by the Government under Section 3 (1) of the KCS Act and to all other officers on whom the powers of the Registrar are conferred by the Government in exercise of statutory authority under section 3 (2) of that Act and to different officers in the hierarchy of the executive establishment on whom powers are conferred or delegated by or under the KCS Act and KCS Rules. Those authorities are, beyond doubt, public authorities for the purpose of the RTI Act, they being personnel of the government service

establishment, which is established and constituted by or under the Constitution and the laws made by the State Legislature, including the Kerala Public Services Act, 1968. Over and above that, different provisions in the KCS Act and Rules provide for audit, enquiry, supervision, inspection, surcharge proceedings, power to compel production of documents etc. These provisions indisputably and unequivocally empower the different officers of the Cooperative Department in the Government to access information as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act in so far as they relate to any co-operative society.

8.Unlike in the Freedom of Information Act, 2002, hereinafter referred to as the `FOI Act' (which stands repealed as per Section 31 of the RTI Act), in the RTI Act, "information" means materials in any form, including the different types and modes noticed in the definition of that term in Section 2(f) and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force. For the purpose of the FOI Act, going by Section 2(b) thereof, "information" meant any material in any form relating to the administration, operations or decisions of a public authority. This change in the amplitude of the statute law relating to the field of freedom, right and access to information is noticed to conclude forthwith that even if societies are to be treated only as private bodies, in view of the availability of different provisions under various other laws in force, including the KCS Act and the KCS Rules providing access to information relating to any society by public authorities, such accessible information would fall within the term "information" for the purpose of the RTI Act.

9.Therefore, even if a co-operative society is a private body, any person who desires to obtain any information in relation to a society, is entitled to move the competent public authority and such information in relation to a society would then be accessible through that public authority, unless the access to such information is forbidden by the RTI Act. Access to information is therefore available to citizens in relation to all co-operative societies, in terms of the RTI Act. Are the co-operative societies "public authorities" for the purpose of the RTI Act, to be compelled to perform the statutory duties imposed through the provisions of the RTI Act, occurring in Chapter II of that Act, particularly Sections 4 to 11 thereof?

10. Since it was pointed out that Section 2(h) of RTI Act, which defines "public authorities", has been erroneously quoted in certain publications, that provision, as available in the Gazette of India is extracted hereunder: "public authority" means any authority or body or

institution of self-government established or constituted-

(a) by or under the Constitution;

(b) by any other law made by Parliament;

(c) by any other law made by State Legislature;

(d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-

(i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed;

(ii) non-Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;

11. The incidence of registration of a society under the KCS Act is that such registration shall render it a body corporate by the name under which it is registered, having perpetual succession and a common seal and with power to hold property, enter into contracts, institute and defend suits and other legal proceedings and to do all things necessary for the purpose for which it was constituted. This provision in Section 9 of the KCS Act read with the provisions in Chapter X of that Act would show that societies are not institutions or

establishments constituted under that Act. Sections 71 to 73 provide for winding up of a society and the modalities therefor. The effect of cancellation of registration under Section 74 is that the status as a corporate body is lost. The final authority of a society vests in the General Body of its members in terms of Section 27 and the General Body constitutes a committee to be entrusted with the management of the affairs of the society in terms of Section 28 of the KCS Act. These provisions, put generally, would show that societies are not established or constituted by or under the KCS Act or Rules. Therefore, they do not fall under sub clauses (a) to (d) of clause (h) of Section 2 of the RTI Act.

12.The question that then arises would be as to whether societies would fall under those governed by the expansive limb of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, whereby, public authority

includes any of those which fall under sub clause (i) and (ii) in the inclusive components of Section 2 (h).

13.Here, the argument on behalf of the petitioners is that the said portion of Section 2 (h) is wrongly worded and as it now stands, admits of multifarious interpretations. It is argued

that the words "directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government" in the last limb of Section 2 (h) are essentially vague. It is pointed out that if those words are

placed following sub clause (i), it would amount to reading that the definition of public authority envisages even control of bodies by funds provided by the appropriate Government. It is argued that this is plainly illogical. Next, it is argued that if the afore-quoted words really refer only to financing, the word 'substantially' has no fixed meaning and in the absence of any yardstick being prescribed in the RTI Act, as regards the extent of financing envisaged by the legislature to rope an institution into that Act, there is every likelihood of abuse of power by the authorities under that statute by misuse of the

provisions thereof.

14.Responding, on behalf of the Government and, in particular, the State Information Commission, it was pithily argued that having regard to the provisions commencing from Section 3 of the RTI Act and the rights and obligations created thereby, even if the question calls for a contextual construction, that needs to be done using the legislative prescription that the definition clause in Section 2 of that Act applies only unless the context otherwise requires. It is contended that having regard to the purpose of the RTI Act and the goal sought to be achieved by the said piece of legislation, any deficiency which may be pointed out on a strict but apparently plain reading of the provisions of Section 2 (h) in the definition clause by applying the punctuations, as used in the statute, has necessarily to give way to a purposive construction; if required, by judicially punctuating the contents of Section 2 (h).

15. The appropriate Government, going by Section 2 (a) of the RTI Act, is the Central Government or the State Government, where that term is used in relation to a public authority, which is established, constituted, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the Central Government/Union territory administration or by the State Government, as the case may be.

16.In People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India [(2003) 4 SCC 399], it was noticed that in the Constitution of our democratic Republic, among the fundamental freedoms,

freedom of speech and expression shines radiantly in the firmament of Part III. This cherished freedom has grown from strength to strength in the post-independence era and has been constantly nourished and shaped to new dimensions in tune with the

contemporary needs by the constitutional courts. Pointing out that State of U.P. v. Raj Narain [(1975)4 SCC 428] is, perhaps, the first decision which has adverted to the "right to information", Mathew J was quoted - "The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security" and that "in a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a pubic way, by their pubic functionaries." In S.P.Gupta v. Union of India [(1981) Suppl.SCC 87], the Apex Court noted that "the concept of an open government is the direct emanation from the right to know which seems to be implicit in the right of free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a)" and "therefore, disclosure of information in regard to the functioning of Government must be the rule and secrecy an exception........". It was emphasised that no democratic government can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of the Government. After referring to Raj Narain and S.P.Gupta (supra), the Apex Court made further reference in PUCL (supra) to Dinesh Trivedi v. Union of India [(1997)4 SCC 306] noticing that in modern constitutional democracies, it is axiomatic that citizens have a right to know about the affairs of the Government which, having been elected by them, seeks to formulate sound policies of governance aimed at their welfare and that like all other rights, even this right has recognised limitations and is, by no means, absolute.

17.We, the People of India have constituted ourselves into a democratic Republic; that Nation and her People, being governed by the Constitution of India. Democracy requires an

informed citizenry and transparency of information that are vital to its functioning. Availability of information is necessary to contain corruption. The instrumentalities which meddle with public funds or with the interest of the citizens are to be made accountable. In actual practice, revelation of information is likely to conflict with other public interests,

including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. It is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramount status of the democratic ideal. The RTI Act is enacted in this constitutional backdrop. The object sought to be achieved by that enactment is to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information. The purpose of that is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The RTI Act is a mode to access information. What may come out ultimately could be the assurance that all is well; or should be shocking revelations which may call for appropriate action. This again, would be a matter of concern for the citizenry.

18.As already noticed, the right to information and, therefore, the right of access to information are species of fundamental rights referable to the freedom of speech, enumerated in the Constitution as a fundamental right. This conceptualization is part of the law laid by the Apex Court in the precedents noted above. They are therefore part of the law of the land as emanating from the Constitution, that too, from Part III itself. Effectuation of the fundamental rights does not require any legislation. It inheres unitarily in every citizen and collectively in the citizenry, as a lot. Legislation can be to effect restrictions on the enjoyment of the fundamental rights; to the extent restrictions are permissible within the constitutional parameters. Or, legislations could provide for the free and orderly flow of the modality for the enjoyment of those rights. While the former is a restrictive covenant on the enjoyment and could affect only those who are entitled to enjoy, the latter class of legislative provisions are intended to provide the procedure to reach at the guaranteed fundamental rights, hassle-free.

19. Analysing the RTI Act with the aforesaid in mind, it can be seen that the provision in section 3 thereof that subject to the provisions of that Act, all citizens shall have the right to information, is the legislative recognition of the constitutional right of every citizen to information, including the right to access information. The provisions in the RTI Act, subject to which the citizen could enjoy the right to information, are laws amounting to restrictions made by the Parliament on the right to information and the right to access information, and therefore, restrictions on the freedom of speech. The legitimacy of any such restriction has to answer the constitutional touchstones. The authority to make such restriction is provided for and controlled by Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The said provision enumerates the grounds on which a restriction could be imposed by law on the citizens' fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. The authorization to make law imposing reasonable restrictions on that fundamental right is confined to be only in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with Foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Unlike in clause (6) of that Article which carves out the limits of legislative permissiveness to impose restrictions on the fundamental right to the freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business, clause (2) of Article 19 does not provide the interest of the general public as a ground on which the right to freedom of speech and expression could be curtailed. This distinction is well established. See Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. V. Union of India [AIR 1962 SC 305]. Unless justified under clause (2) of Article 19, any restriction on the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 19(1) (a) would be plainly violative of the freedom of speech and expression, a valuable and cherished fundamental right. The parliamentary presentment through the RTI Act is not a statutory conferment of a right that could be passed off as merely a statutory right. For, legislation cannot whittle down a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution.

20.Apart from the restrictions imposed by its provisions on the right to information inclusive of the right to access information, which restrictions operate against the conferee of that fundamental right, namely, the citizen, the RTI Act is, as its preamble declares, enacted to provide the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information.

21. The aforesaid and the legislative declaration contained in Section 3 of the RTI Act that all citizens shall have the right to information, have to be borne in mind while interpreting the provision "substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly" in Section 2(a) and the provision "substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government" as contained in Section 2 (h), of the RTI Act. "Provide" means to make ready before hand; to supply; to procure supplies, means or what may be desirable; make provision. When one proceeds to provide, the intention is not necessarily that he provides from himself or from his own bag exclusively. If you provide something that someone needs or wants, or if you provide them with it, you give it to them or make it available to them. If you provide for someone, you support them financially and make sure that they have the things that they need. If you provide for something that might happen or might need to be done, you make arrangements to deal with it. The provisions under

interpretation relate to those which are substantially financed by funds which are made available to them by the Government. It is sufficient that the funds reach a society as a

result of the actions taken by the Government, thereby making available, the necessary finance that is required for the society for its activities. The essence of the act of providing is the making available of what is required to be provided. In this view of the matter, "funds provided by the appropriate Government" is not necessarily providing funds from what belong to the appropriate Government, either exclusively or otherwise, but also those provisions which come through the machinery of the appropriate Government, including by allocation or provision of funds with either the concurrence or clearance of the appropriate Government. This view emanates on a plain reading of the provision under consideration, having regard to the object sought to be achieved by the RTI Act and in this view, the said provision has to be read to take within its sweep all funds provided by the appropriate Government, either from its own bag or funds which reach the societies through the appropriate Government or with its concurrence or clearance. Not only do I find no ground to exclude this interpretation, but see much support for it. If the legislative intention were not so, it was unnecessary to state in the RTI Act ". . . . . . .

substantially financed . . . . . . . by funds provided by . . . . . .". It would have been sufficient to state ". . . . . substantially financed by. . . . . . .". The use of the words "by funds provided

by" enlarges and dilates the scope of the words "substantially financed" in that provision. It has to be remembered that it would never be assumed that the legislature uses language

superfluously. The courts will not treat any legislative usage as surplusage, but will look at the very use of the language by the legislature, as intentional of conveying the true and

complete meaning of what the legislature intended to say. As stated by the Apex Court in Babaji Kondaji Garad v. Basik Merchants Coop. Bank Ltd. [(1984) 2 SCC 50], the Legislature uses appropriate language to manifest its intentions. Arming of citizenry with information is not a matter that should be trimmed, crippled, clipped or excluded. It ought to be permitted to be available wherever it could, except where it is impermissible. This is why even in the Act, which transformed the concept of freedom of information to be that of a right to information, clear and specific exceptions and exclusions are legislatively provided and they are the only prohibited zones insulated from access under the RTI Act. This object of the RTI Act has to be achieved and the interpretation adopted above is purposive, to give effect to the legislative intention of that statute.

22.Now, the question for immediate consideration is as to whether the inclusive component of the clause in Section 2 which defines public authority is vague and incapable of application and if so, whether this Court has to read it with appropriate punctuations to give effect to the intention of the legislature.

23.As regards grammar and punctuations, I deem it fit to quote Y.V.Chandrachud, C.J. - State of West Bengal v. Swapan Kumar Guha [(1982) 1 SCC 561]. A question arose regarding the statutory meaning of the expression Money Circulation Scheme defined in Section 2(c) of the statute that fell for consideration in that precedent. Paragraph 5 of that

judgment reads as follows:

"Grammar and punctuation are hapless victims of the pace of life and I prefer in this case not to go merely by the commas used in clause (c) because, though they seem to me to have been placed both as a matter of convenience and of meaningfulness, yet, a more thoughtful use of commas and other gadgets of punctuation would have helped make the

meaning of the clause clear beyond controversy. Besides, how far a clause which follows upon a comma governs every clause that precedes the comma is a matter not free from doubt. I therefore consider it more safe and satisfactory to discover the true meaning of clause (c) by having regard to the substance of the matter as it emerges from the object and purpose of the Act, the context in which the expression is used and the consequences

necessarily following upon the acceptance of any particular interpretation of the provision, the contravention of which is visited by penal consequences."

24.The primary intention of semicolon is to indicate a discontinuity of grammatical construction greater than that indicated by a comma but less than that indicated by a full

stop. "The semicolon separates two or more clauses which are of more or less equal importance and are linked as a pair or series: Economy is no disgrace;m for it is better to live on a little than to outlive a great deal. The temperate man's pleasures are always durable, because they are regular, and all his life is calm and serene, because it is innocent. To err is human; to forgive, divine. Never speak little of what you know; and whether you speak or say not a word, do it with judgement". See Hart's Rules as slightly abridged and provided in Fowler's Modern English Usage, revised third edition by R.W.Burchfield.

25.Semi colon provided at the end of the word "financed" in clause (i) in the inclusive limb of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act is so placed only because of the coma used in that clause, after the word "owned". A semi colon is not used at the end of clause (ii) because no coma is used anywhere in that limb. The meaning sought to be conveyed by the legislative provision in hand is quite clear. The term "fund" relates primarily to money. That, in turn, is relatable only to financing. In any concept of the matter, be it common parlance or technically administrative, the words "directly and indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government" relate only to the term "substantially financed" occurring in clauses (i) and (ii) of the expansive limb of the definition of public authority. As far as the words "body owned" and "controlled" occurring in the first limb are concerned, that usage is also beyond any shade of doubt. That what is conceived and provided for by the legislation is that such owning or control is by the appropriate Government. If any person who is exceptionally well versed in the punctuation of English language needs, I may attempt to add a semi colon after the word "provided" in the last lap of the definition clause. There is really no ambiguity in the matter and this judicial declaration as to the interpretation and construction of the definition of public authority as defined in clauses 2 (h) is only clarificatory of the position which is otherwise explicit, viz., that any body owned or controlled by the appropriate Government and any body substantially financed by funds provided by the appropriate government as also any non-government organisation substantially financed by funds provided by the appropriate Government would fall within the inclusive limb of the definition of public authority in Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

26. Societies are not government organisations. Section 2 (h) (ii) of the RTI Act uses the term "Non-Government organisations", one not defined in the Act. Section 2 (h)(ii), therefore, refers to something that is not part of the Government; which is very true of a society, as pointed out even by the petitioners. If a society is substantially financed,

directly or indirectly by funds provided by appropriate Government, it falls within the inclusive definition of 'public authority'; within the expanse of that definition clause.

Therefore, any co-operative society registered under the KCS Act is a non-government organisation and if it is substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by

appropriate Government, it is a public authority for the purpose of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act.

27. The word "substantial" has no fixed meaning. For the purpose of a legislation, it ought to be understood definitely by construing its context. Unless such definiteness is provided, it may be susceptible to criticism even on the basis of Article 14 of the Constitution. See Shree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. A.V.Viswanatha Sastri (AIR 1955 SC 13 at page 18). The word substantial means - of or having substance: being a substance: essential: in essentials: actually existing: real: corporeal, material: solid and ample: massy and stable: solidly based: durable: enduring: firm, stout, strong: considerable in amount: well-to-do: of sound worth. See the Chambers 20th Century Dictionary. In fact, the concept "substantial" has been understood in different shades and applied contextually. In relation to Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, it was held that a substantial question of law means a question of law having substance, essential, real, important. It was understood as something in contradistinction to - technical, of no substance or consequence, or merely academic. See Santhosh Hazari v. Purushottam Tiwari [(2001) 3 SCC 179]. "Substantial interest" in the context of the Income Tax Act was found to require a contextual construction, having regard to the succeeding expressions which enumerated what substantial interest really meant. See R.Dalmia v. C.I.T. [(1977) 2 SCC 467]. "Substantial portion of such goods", an expression occurring in the Customs Act, was understood to mean substantial portion of the goods, that have been imported keeping in view the quantity as well as the value of the goods that have been imported. See India Steemship Co. Ltd. v. Union of India [(1998) 4 SCC 293]. Such a spectrum of substantial wisdom essentially advises that the provision under consideration has to be looked into from the angle of the purpose of the legislation in hand and the objects sought to be achieved thereby, that is, with a purposive approach. What is intended is the protection of the larger public interests as also private interests. The fundamental purpose is to provide transparency, to contain corruption and to prompt accountability. Taken in that context, funds which the Government deal with, are public funds. They essentially belong to the Sovereign, "We, the People". The collective national interest of the citizenry is always against pilferage of national wealth. This includes the need to ensure complete protection of public funds. In this view of the matter, wherever funds, including all types of public funding, are provided, the word "substantial" has to be understood in contradistinction to the word "trivial" and where the funding is not trivial to be ignored as pittance, the same would be "substantial" funding because it comes from the public funds. Hence, whatever benefit flows to the societies in the form of share capital contribution or subsidy, or any other aid including provisions for writing off bad debts, as also exemptions granted to it from different fiscal provisions for fee, duty, tax etc. amount to substantial finance by funds provided by the appropriate Government, for the purpose of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

28.Now, it needs to be further examined as to whether the provisions of the KCS Act and the KCS Rules are relevant to decide whether the definition clause in Section 2 (h) of the

RTI Act apply to co-operative societies. Sections 43 to 52 in Chapter VI of the KCS Act, which, by virtue of Section 54 of that Act, over-rides other laws, provide direct partnership of Government in societies; indirect partnership of Government in societies; constitution of principal and subsidiary state partnership funds; provision for agreement between

Government and Apex Societies to regulate indirect partnership of Government in societies, etc. They, in particular, the provisions in Section 53 regarding loans and advances by governmental societies; guarantees of various nature etc. would necessarily show the inflow of the funds of the appropriate Government, which go into the financing of the societies. Notifications are issued under Section 40 granting exemptions to the societies from payment of stamp chargeable under the Kerala Stamp Act and also from certain taxes. The societies are granted exemption from the provisions of the Employees Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. More importantly, as already noticed, it needs to be borne in mind that what is required is "substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by appropriate Government". That does not require the funds of the Government, meaning thereby, money over which the State Government may have title in the legal sense. It is sufficient that the Government is a machinery, the intervention of which, is also necessary, for such funds being provided to, and thereby reaching a society for its activities. The Government have the statutory obligation under Section 80 (1) of the KCS Act to classify societies in the State according to their type and financial position. This has been done as per the provisions of the KCS Rules. Rule 15 provides for classification according to types and for the purpose of Section 80 (1), societies are classified in terms of the provision of Rule 182 of the KCS Rules as shown in Appendix III to those Rules. The pay scales of the staff, except those which are prescribed in that Appendix, will be fixed by the Government from time to time. Section 31 of the KCS Act provides that where the Government have subscribed to the share capital of an apex or a central society or have assisted indirectly in the formation or augmentation of the share capital of an apex or a central society or have guaranteed the repayment of principal and payment of interest on debentures issued by an apex or a central society or have guaranteed the repayment of principal and payment of interest on loans and advances to an apex or a central society, the Government shall have the right to nominate not more than 3 persons or 1/3rd of the total number of members of the committee of such society, whichever is less, to be members of that society. A reading of that provision would essentially show that provisions are made by the Government for the said societies' finances. In so far as the different societies falling into different types under Rule 15 are concerned, the participation of government by providing financial assistance is easily discernible because, in all cases where there is funding of any nature, which require the concurrence or approval of the Government or Government department or if the funding by other agencies are extended with the involvement of the Government or Government departments in identifying the societies which are entitled to such financial assistance, it has to be treated that those societies are non-governmental organisations substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government. This view will only give effect to, and further the intention of the legislature and the objects sought to be achieved by having the RTI Act in place.

29. The uncontroverted contention in the counter affidavit is that the Government of Kerala have notified a scheme called Deposit Guarantee Scheme and constituted a corpus fund in terms of Section 57B of the KCS Act and that the Government have contributed amounts to this fund through budget provision. It is also the averment that NABARD provides refinancing facilities to Co-operative Agricultural Credit structure in Kerala at concessional rate. During the financial year 2006-07 NABARD sanctioned 342.65 crores and Banks have withdrawn an amount of Rs.264.19 crores. During the financial year 2007-08 NABARD sanctioned 500 crores and the banks have withdrawn an amount of 405.60 crores. Even in relation to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies which do not receive assistance from NRC(LTO) funds of NABARD, the Government have approved a scheme and framed rules and provisions are made for payment of share capital contribution to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies and Farmers Service Co-operative Banks. These are among the decisions taken and applied by the Government to extend financial aid to the cooperative societies. All financial assistance and subsidies to Co-operative Societies are disbursed to co-operative institutions through Government Orders. As per Agricultural Debt Relief Act, 2001, interest on agricultural loans issued to farmers were written off. These amounts were disbursed to the co-operative banks through Government orders. Exts.R1 (a) to R1(c) disclose the total amounts written off by the Government for years 2004 to 2006, which figures reflect the enormous facility extended under the Agricultural Debt Relief Act, 2001. The Agricultural Debt Waiver Scheme is also applicable to the loans taken from co-operative institutions. The Government gives agricultural production cost incentive

to farmers through co-operatives. Five percentage of principal amount of loans up to Rs.25,000/- will be given to farmers as agricultural production cost incentive. During financial year 2006-07 and 2007-08, 7 crores in each year were disbursed as agricultural production cost incentive. With these uncontrovered facts, it is beyond doubt that the societies are substantially financed by funds provided by the Government.

30. A survey of the different Government Orders, Policy Documents etc. would show that apart from the share capital contribution to the District Co-operative Banks, to the Primary

Agricultural Credit Co-operatives, to the Kerala State Cooperative Bank and capital involvement in Urban Co-operative Banks etc., there is contribution by way of subsidies in

different sectors. Different other types of funding like outright grant and selected funding are also made available to different sectors. None of the writ petitioners has a case that

it does not enjoy any of these facilities. The petitioners cannot sustain a case that they are not substantially financed by the Government. Predominantly, the presumption has necessarily to be in favour of holding that all the societies are substantially financed by funds provided by the State Government. Such finance may trickle by any mode without even any contribution by the Government, from out of its own funds, over which it has title. The Government is the machinery through which the finance reaches the societies, either by way of credits, subsidies, exemptions, other privileges including writing off of

bad debts, which would otherwise have to be paid back into public funds. Having regard to the object sought to be achieved by the RTI Act, it is impermissible to presume to the contrary, particularly when transparency is a matter to be ensured even in the co-operative sector. It needs to be remembered that the promotion of societies by the State, including by its legislative support, is with a view to provide for the orderly development of the co-operative sector by organising the co-operative societies as self governing democratic institutions to achieve the objects of equality, social justice and economic development, as envisaged in the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India. The RTI Act has become operational propounding the need of a democracy to have an informed citizenry. Containing corruption is absolutely essential for a vibrant democracy. Transparency and accountability in societies have necessarily to be provided for. The legislative provision in hand, therefore, requires a purposive construction in the above


31.For the aforesaid reasons, it is held that co-operative societies registered under the KCS Act are public authorities for the purpose of the RTI Act and are bound to act in conformity with the obligations in Chapter II of that Act. Other incidental issues.

32.The question for decision in every other individual case of a society, in the event of any dispute, would be as to whether it is substantially financed by the State Government, in the light of what is stated above. That may have to be determined with reference to the financing of each society. That question would arise for decision only when any co-operative society refuses to act as a public authority. In such event, any citizen whose right to information is legislatively conferred as per Section 3 of RTI Act would be entitled to trigger the duty of the State Information Commission in terms of clauses (b), (e) and (f) of Section 18 (1) of the RTI Act. In that context, the State Information Commission has every jurisdiction to adjudicate and decide on the question as to whether a particular co-operative society, against which a complaint is made under Section 18 (1), is a public authority for the purpose of Section 2 (h). The mere fact that the RTI Act does not expressly prescribe any limits as to finance, to determine the scope of the word "substantially" in Section 2 (h) does not give rise to any presumption of possible abuse of power. This is because, the State Information Commission, as already found, is the authority which can determine that issue on case to case basis. That power is with that high office, the quality of which is statutorily regulated. Declaration of law as made in this judgment would stand to aid as precedent, by law. Advertence to Sections 12, 15, 16 etc. would show that the
legislature has reposed the powers in such a manner that there could be really no room for any presumptive argument as to possible arbitrariness and apprehension of incompetence.

Even with reference to the KCS Act, lots of yardsticks would be available. There is no ground for any such apprehension being recognised with any element of legitimacy.

33.In so far as the contention that information is sought for by different individuals for no rhyme or reason is concerned, the answer is short but clear, and is found in Section 6 (2), which provides that an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.

34. Having found that co-operative societies are public authorities for the purpose of the RTI Act, another issue surface for consideration. In some of the cases in hand, applications for information were submitted to the statutory authorities under the KCS Act and KCS Rules requiring them to summon information from the societies. Instead of summoning information by exercising the authority under the KCS Act and KCS Rules, those officers have forwarded those requests to the societies requiring the societies to answer to queries. The definition of information in the RTI Act includes information as are accessible through such statutory authorities. All such information as are accessible through the mechanism of the KCS Act and KCS Rules thus becomes information for the purpose of the RTI Act. Therefore, the provisions under the RTI Act themselves would be sufficient for reaching at such information. Hence, the question whether the authorities under the KCS Act and KCS Rules should have summoned the documents without requiring the societies to communicate the information, is too technical and should necessarily give way to the primary object of the RTI Act, viz., to provide access to information. Therefore, there is no illegality in any officer vested with powers under the KCS Act and KCS Rules forwarding the request obtained by them to the concerned societies with a request or direction to that society to provide information directly to the person who has sought for the information.

For the aforesaid reasons, these writ petitions fail. They are accordingly dismissed. No costs.




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