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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Press Release: Cops’ odd behavior makes RTI activists ask, “What are they hiding?”

Tuesday 22 June, Mumbai: On Saturday, RTI activists’ alarm bells started ringing when a dozen cops in police van no. MH01-SA-3313 parked on Western Express Highway near Borivli National Park, behaved strangely. A posse of cops loitering outside the compound of an under-construction high-rise building belonging to matka-king-turned-builder Pappu Sawla refused to identify themselves or their superior officer. A couple of them covered their name plates with their hand when activist Krishnaraj Rao tried to note their names. They also avoided identifying the senior officer in charge of their van when asked, until the police control room was contacted.

Rao had approached the cops saying that he wanted to report destruction of a public property. The footpath that the cops were standing on was being driven over by trucks and drilling rigs entering the construction site from the highway. Rao asked the cops to check whether the contractor had any papers authorizing this. To his chagrin, the cops shied away. So much for Mumbai Police vaunted campaign asking people to be Alert Citizens!

In the midst of this heated argument (at about 11.40 pm), activist Girish Mittal, who was passing by, dialed 100 Police Control Room and gave the phone to Rao. When Rao talked to the police headquarters about the cops’ strange behavior and tried to give the phone to the cops, they refused to take it, but pleaded, “Please get off the phone, we will tell you our senior’s name”. Then one cop reluctantly identified himself as Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) S G Sarang and said he was in charge of the van. Sarang claimed that the vehicle was patrolling the highway from Dahisar to Goregaon, and had one constable each from many police stations between Dahisar and Goregaon.

Sarang then asked Rao to go with him to Kasturba Marg police station and register a complaint against the builder, to which the latter readily agreed. At the police station, however, duty officer Duduskar bluntly refused to register the complaint. (Note: Rao had approached Mr Duduskar and his boss, Senior Inspector Rajendra Thakur, the previous day. They had refused to write down a complaint, and told Rao to get directions from the municipal corporation first.)

Two years ago, activist G R Vora (98691 95785) had a similar experience near CST station when he tried to note down a traffic policeman’s name and badge number. The cop turned aggressive and nearly hauled him off to the nearby Azad Maidan police station. Only timely intervention by a very senior journalist, who was passing by, saved Vora from further unpleasantness. “Citizens are expected to produce their driving license and identification when cops demand it. So what gives cops the right to hide their identification?” asks Vora.

Activist Sunil Ahya (98200 71606) had a similar incident last year when he had an exchange with some traffic cops at Goregaon signal, and tried to read their nameplate and note down their names on his mobile. They turned abusive and threatened to take him to a police station. “It seems that policemen have still not got used to the idea that citizens can and will hold them accountable. They seem to believe that their authority entitles them to get away with anything,” remarks Ahya.

“If the cops are upholding the spirit of the law, they have nothing to fear from us,” avers Rao. “If they act suspicious, hide their names and intimidate citizens who ask them legitimate questions, what are the remedies before a citizen? Where should a citizen lodge a complaint against such behavior,” he asks.

Background information & Photos
“Sai-Iscon” construction work started on a plot (CTS no. 550, 551 and 552) that is said to belong to matka king Pappu Sawla (Also see Times of India, 20th June, page 5). This landlocked plot has no entry or exit other than the highway, and is therefore, construction is illegal as per Section 18 of Development Control (DC) Regulations. However, Section 22(5) of the regulations says that the Municipal Commissioner can order the occupants of the adjoining plot to give access. So, if Sai-Iscon is built without proper authorization to open a gate on the highway, the building will be “regularized” by using Rao’s building compound as thoroughfare, causing a nuisance. Rao phoned BMC’s 24-hour complaint line 1916 and submitted two complaints (No. 0720833366 and -68), and is struggling to get various authorities to sit up and take note of various violations.

Contrary to popular misconception that only the municipal corporation is responsible in preventing such illegalities, the police is also responsible as per the Indian Penal Code. However, because of police refusal to register complaints and take prompt action, and because of endless buck-passing between police, Mumbai’s municipal corporation, MMRDA, PWD and other authorities, builders get away with all sorts of illegalities and public-spirited citizens are frustrated in their efforts to bring them to book.

1. Photos of the patrol van & evasive cops outside construction site, taken by Rao:

2. Photos of the construction work violating numerous provisions: (i) destroying footpath near highway (ii) cutting trees (iii) carrying out piling work for foundation less than one metre away from adjoining building compounds:

Issued in public interest by Krishnaraj Rao
98215 88114

Friday, June 11, 2010

RTI reveals how babus steal ‘power’ from civil society

Mumbai, 11 June: Opaque and unaccountable selection of Information Commissioners is the tip of the iceberg. Girish Mittal’s RTI applications are veiling a more widespread scam being carried on in broad daylight. There are literally hundreds of posts under various central ministries, theoretically meant for ‘eminent citizens’ from all walks of life, but in practice available only to political cronies, retiring bureaucrats and other insiders in the corridors of power. Ironically, various legal provisions and rules are cited as justification for such patently lawless appointments; the truth is that many of these legal provisions have no criteria for identifying suitable candidates. The appointment of 14 members of National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare is a classic example of this.

I. Let us see how such posts are legitimately supposed to be filled.

A. What does the Constitution say? Article 16 is about Equality of Opportunity in Matters of Public Employment. It says, “There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.

B. What is DoPT’s acknowledged role? As per DoPT’s induction material 2008: “The role of the Department of Personnel & Training can be conceptually divided into two parts, In its large nodal role, it acts as the formulator of policy and the watch-dog of the Government ensuring that certain accepted standards and norms, as laid down by it, are followed by all Ministries/Departments, in the recruitment, regulation of service conditions, posting/transfers, deputation of personnel as well as other related issues. Towards this end, guidelines are issued by it for the benefit of all Ministries/Departments and it monitors the implementation of these guidelines. It also advises all organizations of the Central Government on issues of personnel Management. At a more immediate level, the Department has the direct responsibility of being the cadre controlling authority for the IAS and the three Secretariat Services in the Central Secretariat. The Department also operates the Central Staffing Scheme under which suitable officers from All India Services and Group ‘A’ Central Services are selected and then placed in posts at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director and Joint Secretary, on the basis of tenure deputation. The Department also deals with cases of appointment to posts of Chairman, Managing Director, full-time functional Director/Member of the Board of Management of various Public Sector Undertakings/ Enterprises, Corporations, Banks and financial institutions. It also deals with the assignment of Indian experts to various developing countries.”

C. What do DoPT’s guidelines say?
Point 3(1)(i) of Search Committees guidelines 1994 says, “A Search Committee can be constituted only for posts that do not fall within UPSC’s purview. Point 3(1)(ii) says, “It is to be kept in mind that as a rule, appointments in government are to be made on the basis of open advertisement. Therefore, proper advertisement of vacancies to be filled up by direct recruitment is an essential requirement. There may, however, be situations where advertisement itself may not result in adequate response for recruitment to similar posts which require specialized scientific/technical knowledge and experience. It is only in these situations that Search Committee should normally be appointed to locate suitable persons with the desired qualifications and experience to augment the response to the advertisement.
Further, the introductory paragraph of Search Committee guidelines ‘07 clarifies, “These instructions are primarily applicable to posts in the Government but also apply mutatis mutandis in the case of posts in autonomous / statutory organizations.”

II. Let us see the Information
unearthed by RTI applications.

Activist Girish Mittal & his father Kishanlal filed RTI applications with several authorities under various central ministries asking about selection procedures.

a) RTI application to NCPSEW (National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare) under Revenue Department of Finance Ministry
Information sought: Minutes of meetings held for selection of members of National Committee for Promotion of Social and Economic Welfare
Reply given: “There is no provision in law / rule of Income Tax Act 1962 to hold a meeting for selection of members of National Committee. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 35 AC of the Income Tax Act read with sub-rule (1) and (3) of Rule 11G of Income Tax Rules 1962, the Central Government appoints the persons as Chairman and Members of the National Committee from among persons of eminence in public life.
Download this RTI application and replies:

b) RTI application to Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment
Information sought: In respect of various commissions under this ministry, viz. National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, National Minorities Commission, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, detailed information was sought about selection procedures followed.
Reply given: Replies have been received so far from three of these Commissions. They all are saying the same thing: All the replies blandly assert that the appointments are as per applicable legal provisions and rules. Appointments are being made without attracting applications, issuing advertisements or circulars, and holding meetings of selection committees as mandated by DoPT’s guidelines. No minutes of meetings or correspondence are being provided as to when and how these selections and appointments are made. In two of the three cases, Mittal is asked to inspect the records. National Commission for Backward Classes states that no such material exists. Information regarding names, designations and bio data of candidates who applied for the post is denied by all three Commissions on various grounds.
Download this RTI application and replies from three Commissions:

Mittal’s earlier investigations had unveiled appointments of Central Information Commissioners without any due procedure, and often in completely crooked and convoluted ways. The appointment of A N Tiwari, Satyananda Mishra and Omita Paul at Central Information Commission were terrible instances of lack of due procedure.

Clearly, accountability and transparency in appointments are missing throughout the administration.

III. Why the buck stops with DoPT.

DoPT’s induction material 2008 indicates that the buck stops with DoPT, which, being directly under the Prime Minister, is the only department empowered to tackle these malpractices in various ways. The induction material gives details of various watchdog mechanisms on corruption and administrative malpractices, all under DoPT:
4.5.1 Administrative Vigilance
An important element of personnel management is the maintenance of the professional ethics and standards of the bureaucracy. The Department of Personnel & Training determines Government policy for the maintenance of the integrity of the public services and eradication of corruption and coordinates the activities of various Ministries/Departments in that area. However, all Ministries/Departments and offices of the Government of India have the direct responsibility for the maintenance of discipline and integrity of their staff by taking preventive measures and eradication of corruption in their operational area of work.
4.6 Central Vigilance Commission
Advice on all vigilance matters is provided by Central Vigilance Commission. It has jurisdiction and power in respect of all matters to which the executive power of the Central Government extends. The Commission enjoys the same measure of independence and autonomy as the Union public Service Commission. The Commission has its office at Satarkta Bhavan, INA Colony, New Delhi.
4.7 Central Bureau of Investigation
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of the country and watchdog of the nation to arrest the growing menace of corruption as also to investigate the various types of banking, non-banking and the multitude of economic and other conventional offences. A new addition to its function is investigation of inquiries into terrorist crimes, vandalism etc. Cases are referred to this agency, on the basis of concurrence of the State Governments, by the High Court as well as by the Supreme Court and there is an ever growing public demand for CBI investigation on account of the general perception that investigation by the CBI is more objective. The CBI has its headquarters office in Block No. 3, CGO Complex, New Delhi.
4.8 Joint Consultative Machinery
There is a well-structured machinery for joint consultation between the Central Government and its employees on a wide variety of service matters having a bearing on the administration and the general interests of the Government employees. It is a three-tier machinery consisting of the National Council, the Department Council and the Regional/Office Council. Service matters, pertaining to the interests of the generality of the employees or specific groups of them, are dealt with by this machinery.
4.9 Central Administrative Tribunal
In spite of the elaborate system of rules and regulations, which govern personnel management, there are Government employees who feel aggrieved by the Government decisions. The courts used to take many year to decide these cases and litigation was expensive. In order to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to employees aggrieved by Government decisions, the Government set up the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in 1985, which now deals with all cases relating to service matters which were previously dealt with by courts up to and including the High Court. There are now 17 regular Benches of the CAT functioning in various parts of the country, including its Principal Bench at Delhi.

For updates and queries, contact Girish Mittal mittalgirish{AT},

Warm Regards,
98215 88114

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In Andhra Pradesh, even your steno can become Information Commissioner. Apply NOW!

Dear fellow citizens & activists,

Of the four Information Commissioners that Andhra Pradesh has, one is a former bureaucrat – C D Arha. The remaining three, however, are lightweight personalities who are very far from “eminent” -- a lawyer, a journalist and a congress worker.

Chief Information Commissioner Arha is due for retirement in July. At least one vacancy will arise in July. So, civil society members have less than a month to apply for the post and ensure that the next round of appointments happen according to a transparent procedure. The other Information Commissioners, appointed in 2005, will retire before the year-end, creating more vacancies; so keep spreading the word among your friends and colleagues.

To apply for Andhra Pradesh SIC, click here:

Do you worry about your lack of qualifications and experience for the job of Andhra Pradesh State Information Commissioner? Then have a look at APSIC K Sudhakar Rao’s official biodata:
The “previous experience” of this 60-year-old engineering graduate is as follows:
1. Participated in student activities in college and school days.
2. Participated in social service like bringing up downtrodden and weaker sections of the society.
3. Very much interested in management of industries.
4. Also interested in development of Science and Technology.

Surely your experience has more substance?

The biodatas of the other two worthy gentlemen are only slightly better:
A Subba Rao:
Dileep Reddy:

We are reliably informed that these gentlemen were relatively unknown in their own professional circles, but somewhat better-known in political circles. So, one may be forgiven for terming them as political stooges.

Sudhakar Rao continued to conduct himself as a congress worker even after being appointed as Information Commissioner. Here, you can read a juicy news story about the embarrassing activities of this Information Commissioner during by-elections in November 2006:

Conclusion: The reason why such people get appointed is because there is no transparent procedure for appointing Information Commissioners. And this alone is sufficient to kill the RTI act. Hence it is imperative to act now to ensure that the next round of appointments happen through a transparent procedure. Please hasten to apply for the post of APSIC. Act now to save RTI.
Warm Regards,

Madhav Vishnubhatta , Chennai, 98403 27303

Krishnaraj Rao, Mumbai, 98215 88114

Monday, June 7, 2010

Anti-Corruption Act Abridged & Simplified for RTI Activists

After many months and years of battling for information, activists sometimes succeed in uncovering documentary evidence of corruption. But then they are left wondering, “What next?” How to use these hard-won documents for seeking justice? There is a shortage of suitable forums for punishing corruption and criminal misconduct of public servants. Going to high court with writs and PILs is our last option, not our first; before we do that, we are required by law to exhaust all the other remedies, especially police complaints.

Read & understand SIMPLIFIED & ABRIDGED Prevention of Corruption Act 1988:
Originally 6045 words, we reduced it to 3,324 words, and made sentences short and easy.

After Bombay High Court’s order in September ‘09 order, The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) 1988 is available to us in Maharashtra. A home department circular that made it ineffective has been stayed, and will probably be quashed. PCA now enables us to register FIR with Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and start prosecuting corrupt officials. ACB has a special duty to take action in such matters.

The reader-friendly website of ACB Maharashtra gives plenty of contact details, and promises actions within a clear timeframe. Similar links are available for ACB in other states also. Worth trying!

Plus points of Prevention of Corrupt Act 1988:
1) It gives a wide scope to the concept of “public servant”. The term includes judges, arbitrators, election officials, employees of public corporations, selection committee members and anybody in the “service and pay of local authority”, office bearers of cooperative societies of various kinds, and recipients of government funding. It is applicable to Information Commissioners and other quasi-judicial authorities.

2) As PCA 1988 includes judges and judge-like authorities, it seems to nullify some of the wide protection to judges under Judges Protection Act 1985.

3) It also gives wide interpretation to “gratification other than legal remuneration” and “criminal misconduct”. Thus, it is not necessary to prove that a public servant actually sought a bribe in cash, or was actually given. It is enough to show that undue favour or disfavor (or undue service or disservice) were given or sought to be given.

4) It spreads the net wide by including abetment of the offences and conspiracy, and thereby includes private parties such as touts and dalals, besides superiors, colleagues and others who assist indirectly and collude in the corrupt practices.

5) It has provisions for granting immunity from prosecution to bribe-givers or bribe-takers who turn into whistle-blowers and assist in the prosecution.

6) It provides for a summary trial, and restricts the scope for appeals before higher courts.

7) Offences under this Act will be tried by a Special Judge with special powers to attach the offender’s properties etc.

8) It mandates hearings on a daily basis.

Limitation of PCA 1988: After FIR is registered and after the police investigation is complete, the prosecuting authority ie. Anti Corruption Bureau must seek approval from the State or Central Government, or from competent authority, to prosecute the corrupt official. According to ACB Maharashtra website, this approval requires three months… But that is not such a long time, is it?

My friends have a saying about such things: Lag gaya toh teer, nahin toh tukkah. We have everything to gain from trying to get an FIR registered under PCA 1988, and we have very little to lose. So let us try our best.

Warm Regards,
Krishnaraj Rao []
98215 88114

PS: We will shortly publish easy formats and guidelines for drafting complaints to Anti Corruption Bureau, for getting FIRs registered.