For More Info Log on to

Google Groups Subscribe to RTI Group
Browse Archives at

Saturday, October 23, 2010

RTI Act to be amended to extend CIC's term

The nodal department of personnel and training has recommended to the
Government of India that the path breaking Right to Information Act be
amended to effectively allow a minimum 2 year term for the country's
Chief Information Commissioner.

The amendment will align the posts of Information Commissions to those
of the Election Commission of India. The Election Commissioners enjoy
a term of 6 years in office or till 65 years (extendable by 1 year if
appointed as Chief information Commissioner).

The first beneficiary of this amendment is expected to be the present
Chief Information Commissioner Shri Anugraha Narayan Tiwari who
previously he

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

AMU alumnus Adil Hossain is one of the top 5 young faces of RTI movement in India

OUTLOOK has selected AMU alumnus Adil Hossain (MA Mass Communication 2009-10) as one of the top 5 young faces of RTI movement in India ( Adil was unceremoniously thrown out of AMU by the regime of Prof P K Abdul Azis, Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University, on charges of “damaging the reputation and tarnishing the image of AMU”. He is credited with encouraging the spread of RTI in AMU. According to OUTLOOK, Adil also used RTI to probe AMU’s infamous on-campus Local Intelligence Unit (which spied on the now-dead gay professor Shrinivas Siras), sought data on disciplinary action against students and questioned the cancellation of student polls. He is said to have irked the AMU administration by posting information obtained through RTI online.

For more details please visit

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mission accomplished with Anna Hazare, now fasting in Mumbai Khar West

Dear friends,

Annaji has moved into the battle for transparent selection of State Information Commissioners. The district and taluka level presidents of his various organizations were asked to send strongly worded faxes to CM, Deputy CM, Governor and leader of opposition demanding scrapping of this selected batch, and proper procedure for future selections. Simultaneously, Anna has dispatched a strong letter to CM, Dy CM etc: ), besides giving TV interviews on IBN-Lokmat to the same effect.

So my work in Ralegan Siddhi is over and I have returned to Mumbai this morning. Couple of post-return photos here:

However, the appointment of the present batch is yet to be cancelled by the Governor. And so my fasting continues. Thanks to support from activist Anandini Thakoor & friends, I shall continue my fast at the below address:

Courtyard of Khar Library,

(Next to Café Coffee Day),

Chitrakar Dhurandar Marg,

Khar West

(5 minutes walk from Khar Rly Stn)

I shall be there at this location 9 pm onwards tonight.

I am yet in good health and fine spirits. So I invite you to meet me here, enjoy some fine conversation (not necessarily about serious stuff) and even stay the night with me to show your support. Arrangement for beds on floors will be made, I’m told. Feel free to call and discuss ;-)

Warm Regards,


Monday, October 11, 2010

HT & others: Anna Hazare will take on state on info chief selection

Mumbai, October 11, 2010: Anna Hazare, the anti-corruption crusader, will question the state government on the process followed for the appointment of the state’s chief information commissioner (CIC) and information commissioners (IC). Hazare agreed to intervene after Right To Information (RTI) a Neelambari Bhoge ctivists, including GR Vora and Raja Bunch, met him on the sixth day of fellow activist Krishnaraj Rao’s fast-unto-death in Ralegan Siddhi. Rao is fasting to protest the allegedly unlawful appointment procedure followed by the State.

Hazare’s aide, Anil Sharma, said: “He (Hazare) has studied the issue and decided that he’ll question the government on why these appointments were made without advertising for the posts. He will call the governor immediately and exhort him to stop the unlawful appointments.”

A state panel comprising Ashok Chavan, chief minister (CM), Chhagan Bhujbal, deputy CM and Eknath Khadse, opposition leader, met on Friday and appointed Vilas Patil, former bureaucrat and Nagpur’s information commissioner, the CIC.

The Right to Information Act, 2005, says only eminent people with ‘wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance’ shall be made the state CIC and IC.

Activists allege that the state did not invite applications from such persons or advertised the post’s vacancy. They are elated about Hazare stepping in. “It’s a big boost for us. When person of his stature is supporting us, the state will be forced to listen,” Vora said.

On Saturday night, the Parner police told Rao to discontinue his fast. “I was picked up by officers from Parner police station and taken to the tehsildar where I was asked why I had not taken permission to go on a fast inside Ralegan Siddhi,” Rao said. “They have warned me to not fast within the limits of Ralegan Siddhi.”

Rao has decided to spend the night at Parner and travel to Ralegan Siddhi ashram every morning.

Kunal Purohit, Hindustan Times

TOI: 'Selection of state info chiefs flawed'

Oct 10, 2010, MUMBAI: Social activist Anna Hazare has said that he strongly opposed the recent selection of the four information commissioners for Maharashtra and that he would urge the governor not to swear them in.

Hazare said this to a bunch of RTI activists who had been camping at his village, Ralegan Siddhi, from October 6, seeking his intervention in the selection process. According to Gaurang Vora, one of the activists, Hazare told them on Sunday evening that he would speak to Governor K Sankarnarayanan, urging him not to swear in the information commissioners as they had not been chosen in an open and transparent manner.

Hazare could not be reached but his private assistant Anil Sharma said Hazare had always opposed the appointment of retired bureaucrats as info commissioners.

According to Vora, Hazare had in 2006 opposed the selection of Vilas Patil as Nagpur information Commissioner. Patil, who retired as principal secretary, has now been named as CIC in place of Suresh Joshi. The others named as information commissioners are: P D Patil (Nagpur), M S Shah (Nashik) and D B Deshpande (Aurangabad). While Pail is a retired joint registrar, the other two are former PWD secretaries.

Krishnaraj Rao, one of the RTI activists who is on fast since Oct 6 at Ralegan Siddhi, said he was thrilled at Hazare's decision but would not break his fast immediately.

RTI activists have been saying from the beginning that the state has been ignoring section 15 (5) of the RTI Act, 2005, which says that the info chiefs should be "persons of eminence in public life with wide experience and knowledge of law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media, or administration and governance."

RTI activists have also been complaining that there is no transparency in these selections and applicants are not told why they have been disqualified.

State can have 11 information commissioners but Maharashtra currently has only seven, Of these, six are retired bureaucrats, and one, Vijay Kuvlekar, is a former journalist.

Pune Mirror: ‘Make CIC’s appointment transparent’

RTI activist is on a fast unto death since October 6, protesting ‘arbitrary’ appointment of the State Chief Information Commissioner.

The government should advertise and invite applications from the citizens for this post. They should consider applications of officers who are in public services or have knowledge of public services.” —Krishnaraj Rao, RTI activist

Following in the footsteps of activists such as Mahatma Gandhi, Irom Sharmila, Anna Hazare, Mumbai-based Right to Information activist Krishnaraj Rao has started his fast unto death from October 6, 2010, in Ralegan Siddhi, in Parner taluka, Ahmednagar district.

He is demanding a transparent and lawful appointment of the State Chief Information Commissioner.

He is protesting against what he calls the arbitrary appointment of the information officers. The 45-year-old journalist and activist told Pune Mirror, “The candidate, Mr Vilas Patil, who has been selected as

Maharashtra’s new Chief

Information Commissioner, has not been appointed yet. There is still time to pressure the system to stop the illegal process of appointing the CIC. For this, all activists and right-minded citizens should write emails/letters or send via fax their requests to the state government.”

Talking about the legal way of appointing the CIC, Rao said, “The government should advertise and invite applications from the citizens for this post. They should consider applications of officers who are in public services or have knowledge of public services.

From these applications, they should shortlist applicants who fit the criteria of Information Commissioners and then this shortlist should be further trimmed by a selection committee. All we want is an end to arbitrary selection of officers.”

Mirror approached a city-based general practitioner, Dr Ajay Dhakephalkar, to find out how people can survive without food for long durations. He said, “Dedication and will power allows a person to go through his striking period successfully.

From a scientific point of view, the body has water and glucose reserves, which help in its survival. As days pass, these levels deplete, and can hamper the health of the fasting person. However, hunger strikes can deteriorate the health of a person.”

Neelambari Bhoge

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fast-unto-death : Protest to Governor.


Dear friends,

I am writing on behalf of RTI activist - Mr Krishnaraj Rao.

A gentle reminder : RTI activist - Mr Krishnaraj Rao is in the third day of fast-unto-death at Ralegan Siddhi (in Gandhian Shri Annaji Hazare's Ashram in Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra). Link to the pics are enclosed below.

As you may be aware, Mr Vilas Patil has been selected yesterday at 9 pm as the Maharashtra's new Chief Info. Commissioner. (In addition to three other Info Commissioners - for Nashik, Nagpur and Aurangabad.)

This appointment will be done by the Maha. Governor in the coming days. So now we need to pressurise the Governor - Mr K Shankarnarayanan to not go ahead with this non-transparent selection of the Info. Commissioners.

Let's send our faxes / phonograms / e-mails etc. to the Maha. Governor stating :-

“Do not appoint Chief State Information Commissioner and other Info Commissioners selected through non-transparent process. Closed door selection of SIC without criteria, rules and procedure is totally against the spirit of the RTI Act. It was known many days before the selection committee meeting that Mr. Vilas Patil was the favoured candidate for this post. How can a former bureaucrat, who is the Govt’s favourite, order the disclosure of embrassing Govt documents to the RTI appellant. It defies logic."

Or send a one-liner to the Governor stating :--

“ Do not appoint as C-SIC and other Info Commissioners selected by non-transparent process."

The name and contact details of the Maharashtra 's Governor is :--

Mr K Shankarnarayanan,

Governor of Maharashtra,

Raj Bhavan,

Malabar Hill,

Mumbai - 400035.

Ph :-- (022) 23632343

Fax :-- (022) 23630878

E--mail :

Link to the pics of RTI activist - Mr Krishnaraj Rao on the second day of the fast-unto-death at Ralegan Siddhi :--


Krishnaraj Rao - Cell : 09821588114)

Please act now to halt this illegal process of Info Commissioners' appointments.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Maharashtra GAD advised to advertise for SIC candidates, but CM ignored

October 6, Mumbai: As far back as three years ago, Maharashtra Government’s General Administration Department (GAD) advised Chief Minister and Chief Secretary that there was a shortage of good candidates for consideration to the post of State Information Commissioner, and that it would be worthwhile in future to advertise in newspapers to attract a wider selection of candidates. This was revealed by a recent RTI reply to Pune activist Vihar Durve. See red-circled paragraph in file notings:

Alas, GAD’s sound advice fell on deaf ears, and these posts are not yet advertised. Today, the Chief Minister’s selection committee is slated to meet and choose a successor to Chief Information Commissioner Dr Suresh Joshi, who is about to retire within a week. SIC Vilas Patil, who currently sits in Nagpur, is said to be likely to be promoted into this post. They may also select fresh Information Commissioners – although whom they will select is absolutely anybody’s guess.

RTI activists all over the state (and indeed, nationwide) have been crying themselves hoarse, asking for the selection process to be conducted in an open and transparent manner, so that eminent persons from civil society may apply as intended by the Act in section 15(5), and come to be selected on merit. The positions of SIC and Chief SIC are currently being used as a plum post-retirement position for favourite bureaucrats, although these posts actually require persons with a judicious mind and independent stance. This is because SICs are always under pressure from the political and bureaucratic establishment to refrain from asking for disclosure of embarrassing documents.

Unfortunately, the lack of selection criteria and procedure are so stark that if Chief Minister Ashok Chavan today chooses, he may even have his driver declared as the Chief State Information Commissioner! Given the 2:1 majority that the ruling party enjoys in such committees, the opposition leader would have no say in this matter. (This is not hype; it was amply demonstrated in the recent selections of Tamil Nadu’s Chief Information Commissioner, and also the Chief Central Vigilance Commissioner.) No matter who is selected today, RTI activists will suffer from having as a second appellate authority someone who is deeply indebted to the Chief Minister and his friends.

We have decided to fiercely oppose the non-transparent, arbitrary selection that will happen today in Maharashtra. This time, we say, “Enough! Thus far and no further”.

For details, contact

· Vihar Durve: 98605 86039

· G R Vora: 98691 95785

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Five Years of RTI: Battle for Information - Part 1

Though the RTI Act came into force five years back, the government officials supposed to follow the RTI Act in letter and spirit try their bets to avoid providing information. Dainik Jagran, Aligarh, is coming out with a series on the state of implementation of RTI Act.
The following news clipping published in Dainik Jagran (5th October 2010) is first Part of the series and highlights the ongoing battle of information seekers. It shows how Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) avoided providing information to former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) Mr Wasim Ahmed, when he asked for a copy of the Audit Report on financial mismanagement at AMU, prepared by the Principal Accountant General, Uttar Pradesh.
It also shows how AMU has provided misleading information to RTI Group member, Dr Mohammed Naved Khan, when he sought information on withholding of Grant by UGC on account of financial irregularities committed by AMU.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Right to Information -- The Battle for True Citizenship

Dear friends,

The passing of Right to Information Act 2005 was like the unfurling of a flag, heralding the coming-of-age of ‘We the People’. It was not just another mundane event in the life of our nation; it showed a shift in the national psyche.

By winning Independence Struggle I, we sent the British ruler home, but we inherited the baggage they left behind:

(i) A bureaucratic structure that was, as Wajahat Habibullah noted, suited more for colonial slave India than free democratic India

(ii) A legal structure biased towards maintaining the inequality between the rulers and the ruled. Upon the foundation of Official Secrets Act 1923 and other archaic and dysfunctional laws (such as Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888), we unthinkingly based our more recent laws. Our Constitution – painstakingly debated and written between 1947 and 1950 -- is forward-looking and seeks to empower citizens

(iii) Our judiciary, with its archaic privileges and untrammeled powers. And now it is like a schizophrenic in character – struggling to retain these privileges, but simultaneously wishing to respond to the common man’s cry for better governance and cleaner administration.

As a result of our inherited historical baggage, our establishment thinks like East India Company. Without any guilt, it is plundering tribal lands with economic policies and at gunpoint, because it believes in the rightness of achieving economic growth at all costs. It guiltlessly goes about facilitating massive land acquisition, suspension of labour laws and massive tax breaks for the wealthy in Special Economic Zones. The government talks about inclusive growth and progress for all without even realizing the irony of what they are doing.

Our own daily public behavior as citizens reflects the slave-citizen’s urge to gather and hoard up undue privileges, influence and power. We seek to encash and leverage every tiny piece of privileged information, every discretionary power and every scrap of political influence that we each have. Like toxic pesticides getting concentrated as it goes up the food chain, each citizen’s greed to pick up the biggest slice of cake gets concentrated thousand-fold as it goes up the local self-government chain. By the time it reaches the level of the ministries, the greed assumes demonic proportions.

Independence Struggle II, which started in the late 90s, and flowered with the passing of the RTI Act 2005, is ongoing. This struggle is against misuse of powers by bureaucracy, the political class and the vested interests. Thousands of us civil-society members are now soldiers, spending time and money to battle against the demon that we ourselves feed in our daily lives. Thousands of us are actively risking their lives to make our system transparent and responsive to the common man. The stepped-up rate of attacks on activists and whistle-blowers in 2010 is testimony to this battle.

This phenomenon has dimensions that we have not yet fully understood and assimilated. The ongoing changes are historical, political, social, cultural and legal. Let us look at these changes.

1) A POLITICAL & HISTORICAL REVOLUTION IS IN PROGRESS. From 1947 till 2005, citizens in general only used to vote and pay taxes. They did not actively participate in governance. Till around 1980, the only citizens who participated in politics were Gandhian-types and independent-minded journalists. Later, there was the growth of NGOs, but as they sought government support and funding, most of them did not oppose the government in a meaningful way. It is only since the passing of RTI Act 2005 that citizens at large have begun to participate in governance, and hold the govt. and administration accountable by asking tough questions and demanding answers. In fact, after RTI ordinances were passed of Maharashtra and other states in 2002, thousands of activist citizens all over the country started filing RTI applications and unearthing dirt and corruption. This number has now swelled to several lakhs. This is a major aspect of Independence Struggle II.

2) THERE IS A SHIFT IN BALANCE OF POWER TOWARDS ORDINARY CITIZEN. The passing of the Right To Information Act in 2005 gave citizens a new locus standivis-à-vis the government and administration, enabling ordinary people to demand access to documents that were hitherto “official secrets” or “marked confidential”. By ending the stranglehold of the pre-colonial Official Secrets Act 1923, the RTI Act changed the balance of power between citizens and bureaucracy. Early pioneers (like late Prakash Kardaley, Late Kewal Semlani and Shailesh Gandhi and Anna Hazare in Maharashtra, Aruna Roy in Rajasthan and Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi region) systematically taught people the logic of RTI, creating a well-informed swarm of citizens to question the government on non-performance, arbitrariness and corruption.

Technology is playing a key role in this sweeping change. Email groups, blogs and mobile technology are acting as hubs in the further education of citizens and media by a second generation of RTI activists and experts. With hundreds of aggressive activists scooping out skeletons, there is now a mass movement that is no longer dependent on the initiatives of a few enlightened persons. Indeed, judicial and administrative reforms today provokes popular emotions that were earlier seen only in issues like river-water-sharing, linguistic borders and reservations.

3) CRIME-FIGHTING IS NOW A SOCIALLY RECOGNIZED ACTIVITY. It is no exaggeration to say that RTI “activists” (as opposed to RTI “users”) are modern-day detectives and crime-fighters. Unlike Phantom, Spiderman and other imaginary super-heroes, they don’t use fists and guns; like Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason, they use their brains to get expose crime and sleaze. Forced by deliberate failure of authorities to stop ongoing criminal activities, they set out to expose the crimes and the complicity of officials. (Sometimes, crime-fighting originates from personal vendetta, or results in personal vendetta, or both. It can be a vicious death-cycle.)

Unknowingly, the State is itself creating such crime-fighters through its inaction. Agonizingly slow case disposal by Information Commissioners discourages many information seekers. But it also turns substantial numbers of information seekers into experts and hard-boiled activists. During the 6-18 months of waiting for hearings at State and Central Information Commissioners (SICs/CICs), frustrated RTI applicants get lots of free advice from senior colleagues, network together and establish groups. Together, they evolve ingenious ways of challenging the system with a combination of RTI applications to various public authorities, complaints,letter-baazi, sting operations, media exposes etc. They develop various legal, administrative and arm-twisting methods for seeking remedy. The slow-moving system is thus helping to create an army of its own enemies.

Crime-fighting is a dangerous activity. Over recent decades, the power to get an FIR registered with the police or Anti-Corruption Bureau with basic evidence of wrongdoing has slipped out of the common citizen’s hands, and accumulated in the hands of the powerful, influential and rich. CrPC sections 154 and 156 say that for FIR to be registered, cognizable offence must be “made out” by the citizen’s complaint; it is the job of the police investigation to gather enough evidence to later frame a charge-sheet and place it before the court. Due to police officials’ unwillingness to perform their legal duties – no doubt under political and bureaucratic pressures – RTI activists endanger their lives trying to gather more and more documentary evidence to nail the culprits in court -- a dangerous activity, especially when powerful MLAs, MPs, ministers and history-sheeters are involved.

4) WHERE THERE IS A REVOLUTION, THERE IS ALSO A COUNTER-REVOLUTION. The government policy of routinely selecting political appointees and retired babus for the posts of Information Commissioners is an effort to subvert the effectiveness of the RTI Act. Does anybody believe that after decades in the administration, a retired IAS officer will force his former colleagues to give out embarrassing information? Is it likely that bureaucrats or political party workers will compel disclosure of documents that may be used as evidence in court? Appointment of such people as SICs/CICs violates the basic tenet of natural justice, viz. “No one should be judge in his own cause.” While minimizing the chances of timely information disclosure and justice, such appointments maximize the chances of the activist’s strategies being leaked the Information Commissioner or his staff to land and mining mafias etc, leading to threats, attacks and killings. For thousands of activists countrywide, this is not a hypothetical scenario but a regular occurrence.

5) LEGAL AWARENESS OF ORDINARY CITIZENS IS RISING. The RTI Act is seen as the only law that enables a citizen to get a bureaucrat or government servant penalized, or be subjected to departmental enquiry and disciplinary action. This has excited and attracted the common citizen – included semi-educated types – into an effort to take ownership of this law, and understand its workings in the practical world. It has also brought the common citizen closer to laws in general. Lakhs of educated information-seekers and activists spend hours daily exchanging legal notes on the internet. The hits and updates on dedicated RTI websites like, or email forums, possibly exceed the hits by lawyers on law websites like (In fact, a growing proportion of hits on law websites come from RTI activists looking for Court judgments to cite in their appeals before Information Commissioners!)

Even where internet has not reached, there are, on any given day of the week, a score of activists and NGO workers sitting with villagers and slum-dwellers, patiently explaining the rules of the game and helping to draft requests for information, and appeals against unjustified delay and denial. Through RTI, legal awareness has entered India’s DNA. RTI activists and users are not only studying RTI Act and rules of various States, courts, etc, but also scrutinizing the rules, norms, manuals, guidelines, contracts, penalty clauses, etc. of various government organizations, public works awarded to contractors etc. Also, they are studying and discussing the structure of various other laws such as Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code etc., which was earlier left only to lawyers and judges.


Ultimately, the success or failure of an RTI applicant depends on a clear understanding of the workings and limitations of the RTI Act and the mechanisms for its implementation, and accordingly, in the precise wordings of his RTI application and later, RTI appeals. It also depends on a clear understanding of how administration and government works at its various levels, and how various existing systems of checks-and-balances work. Civil society as a whole, because of its long dormancy and overdependence on administration, had forgotten how to activate checks-and-balances. Large numbers of citizens currently need familiarization with existing mechanisms. They also need some help with thought and reflection to alter their own bad habits of thinking and behaviour.

Hence, there is need for capacity-building and mentoring of active citizens in all these respects to facilitate the ongoing revolution. We cannot afford to wait for NGOs and trusts to do this; individual activists must take it upon themselves to perform this crucial task. It is as important as filing RTI applications, writing complaints and attending appeal hearings.

To remain a few steps ahead of vested interests, we, the active citizens, must innovate and build hybrid checks-and-balance mechanisms using existing legal structures and new communication technologies. Instead of passively waiting for the legislature to pass new laws, let us explore and create new ways of doing things – establishing new behavioural and thought patterns -- to attain clean governance. There will of course be failures… and then there will be successes.

When we build with faith and love, God builds in our midst. So let us build.

Warm Regards,


98215 88114