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Thursday, January 6, 2011

PIO says “File destroyed”? Use this RTI format, based on Public Records Act, to expose lies

Dear fellow activists,


Public Information Officers sometimes falsely say that the file or document sought by you has been destroyed or disposed of. However, they cannot support this statement with evidence. Now you can use the Public Records Act & Rules to demand evidence or to expose improper and unlawful disposal.

Central Public Records ACT 1993 (Section 9) and Maharashtra Public Records Act 2005 (Sec 8) lay down strict terms & conditions, and procedure to be followed before destroying any government document. Public Records RULE no 9 (of both Centre & State) says that no public record shall be destroyed without being recorded, reviewed and properly documented. Public Records Act Sec 10 (Maharashtra Sec 9) states that improper destruction, defacement etc. is punishable with 5 years imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fine.

By demanding details of the procedure by which this document or file was supposedly disposed of, you can create pressure on government departments to disclose information. Ask for the following details:

1) Name & designation of the persons who destroyed/disposed of the above-mentioned Public Records.

2) Name & designation of your department’s Records Officer appointed as per Public Records Act and Rule 3 of Public Record Rules

3) Pages of Standing Guard file (maintained by Records Officer as per Rule 4) which refers to the document or file that has supposedly been disposed off

4) List of destroyed records maintained as per Rule no. 9(3)

5) Report, log-book and other records of burning or shredding in the presence of Records Officer

6) Half-yearly report furnished by Records Officer to Director General or Head of Archives as per Rule no. 9(4), especially the reviewing and weeding record.

7) All correspondence with reference to the above-mentioned destruction and disposal of public records

MARATHI & ENGLISH SPEAKERS PLEASE NOTE: The Maharashtra Act & Rules are almost exact translation of the Union Public Records Act & Rules. So, it will be sufficient if you can read and understand one of them. But take care while citing Section numbers of the Act, which are slightly different e.g. Section 10 (Penalties) in Union Act corresponds to Section 9 in Maharashtra Act.


  1. Maharashtra Public Records Act 2005

  1. Maharashtra Public Records RULES 2007


  1. Central Public Records Act 1993

  1. Central Public Records RULES 1997

Friends, please study the Public Records Act & Rules, and start using them. They will be as useful as the RTI Act 2005, because they will enable RTI activists to become more effective!

Warm Regards



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

RTI Activists: Why attacks happen, and how to stay safe

4th Jan 2011: The Sunday attack on two RTI activists (in Bhandup, Yashwant Gavand and in Talegaon, Arun Mane) has raised a big question in all our minds: HOW TO ENSURE OUR OWN SAFETY? I will offer you my own ideas, and the ideas of some colleagues. Firstly, let us talk about prevention, and then about cure.

PREVENTION -- Practice Clean RTI Activism:

1) PUBLICIZE & SHARE YOUR WORK ON A REGULAR BASIS. Many RTI activists make the mistake of stocking-piling the documents that they reveal through RTI, dreaming of the day that they will hold a press conference and suddenly reveal all their findings, or file a dramatic PIL. Some people also issue threats and warnings that one day, they will go public with everything that they know, but they keep postponing and looking for more dramatic material. This sort of behaviour gives wrongdoers a reason and motive to silence the RTI activist with threats, assault or killing. Please understand that if you are pursuing RTI activism, your safety lies in doing so openly and without any secrets. Sharing your work with journalists, fellow activists and the general public will not only prevent the threat-factors from building up around you, it will also enable your fellow-activists to assist you in your RTI investigations with their knowledge and expertise.

2) TEAMWORK & SAFETY IN NUMBERS. As far as possible, avoid working on a cause alone. Try to build up a team of like-minded people. Even if you don’t succeed, your team-building efforts will increase your visibility and cause other people around you to be aware of what you are doing, and also who the wrong-doers are. This reduces the probability of your being targeted.

3) AVOID MAKING THINGS PERSONAL. Please remember that you are fighting for a cause, and not fighting against an individual or a group of individuals. Doing letter-baazi without going face-to-face is often wise. One can file clearly-worded RTI applications, RTI appeals etc. and demand all replies in writing. From the very beginning, avoid all personal contact such as meetings and phone-calls with those who you feel are directly involved in corrupt activities. At all costs, avoid the temptation to challenge the person and saying heroic things like, “Mein tumko dekh loonga, parda-faash karke rakh doonga”. Do what you must do to fight corruption and seek justice, but please minimize ego-clashes. Because ego-clashes can trigger violent behavior.

4) STAY FOCUSED ON THE SYSTEM, NOT ON INDIVIDUAL INCIDENTS OF INJUSTICE. Our entire system is full of corruption and injustice. So please ask yourself whether you are wasting your life fighting against one individual or group. Take a broad perspective and fight for the larger cause. That way, you will gather a lot of support from other activists, and also make a bigger and more lasting impact. The important thing is that when you take up systemic reforms as an agenda, even the “bad guys” are forced to agree with you, because even they want to live in a clean and lawful world.

5) DON’T BE ASHAMED TO OCCASIONALLY RETREAT FROM A BATTLE, OR EVEN ACCEPT DEFEAT. Not every battle is worth taking a do-or-die sort of stand. We are only human, and therefore, we should be willing to take defeat in our stride. Sometimes, we should also be willing to give up battles that we feel are too much of a drain on our energies, or that have become too dangerous.

CURE -- If you have been threatened, widely publicize it with documents:

6) FILE NON-COGNIZABLE COMPLAINT (NC) & GIVE COPIES TO COLLEAGUES: Register a non-cognizable complaint with the police, and hand over copies of this NC to some RTI activists and friends. In case something untoward happens to you, the finger of suspicion will directly point to the person named in the NC, which can be circulated by your friends and relatives.

7) PREPARE A DETAILED AFFIDAVIT & GIVE COPIES: RTI and Human Rights Activist Pushkar Damle feels that filing an NC is not sufficiently detailed. He feels that one should prepare a detailed affidavit, which clearly states who you are, what RTI activism you are doing, and what are the corrupt and criminal activities you are exposing, because of which you may be targeted. Give the names and details of persons who may have reason to harm you, and also enclose copies of all the relevant RTI documents. Have this affidavit notarized, and hand over copies to RTI activists and friends, which they can hand over to the police and upload on the internet in case something untoward should happen to you. And above all, MAKE IT KNOWN TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHOM YOU FEAR that their black deeds are well-documented.

Last but not least, our safety depends on the OVERALL ENVIRONMENT of the state & country that we are living in. So please send this letter to Chief Minister, Prime Minister and NAC chairman Sonia Gandhi on own letterhead:

Warm Regards,


98215 88114

Monday, January 3, 2011

Remove root causes of attacks on RTI activists: Letter to Maharashtra CM

Shri Prithviraj Chavan,
Chief Minister of Maharashtra,
Mantralaya, 6th Floor,
Madame Cama Road,
Mumbai 400032

Sub: Disclose politicians’ businesses to restore Rule of Law & prevent attacks on Activists


The New Year has started inauspiciously for RTI activists of Maharashtra. On Sunday, January 2, two RTI activists were brutally attacked in Mumbai (Bhandup) and Pune (Talegaon) on Sunday. The finger of suspicion points towards powerful politicians and concessionaires of large government contracts:

· In Bhandup, Yashwant Gavand was attacked by about 30 persons connected to the local Shiv Sena Corporator Suresh Shinde. We learn that Mr Gavand had successfully exposed, through RTI, several assets that were not declared to the Election Commission in the last election, including a 4,000 square-metre plot.

· In Talegaon, Arun Mane – an associate of the slain activist Satish Shetty -- was attacked with a sharp instrument, and warned to stay away from the Shetty murder case. We are told that he was investigating matters connected with toll-tax collection and real-estate agents IRB Infrastructure Developers, believed to be involved in the Shetty murder.

Last year, there were 11 attacks on activists in various parts of Maharashtra, and five of them were fatal. Our state was the leading state in attacks on activists, accounting for 50% of such attacks nationwide. Appended at the end of this letter is a tally of attacks on activists in 2010, all of which remain unsolved cases in the police registers.

After every attack and murder, the state administration’s standard reply is, “Matter is under investigation. We will find the culprits.” That is eyewash, because the top brass knows exactly what is going on: an innocent citizen blew the whistle on the rackets run by politically-connected people, and they bumped him off.

Sir, last year, soon after the Shetty murder, Mumbai’s Police Commissioner issued a circular for protection of Activists. This was closely followed by a GR issued by Govt. of Maharashtra. Both of these suggested several measures, including a mandate to promptly register FIRs in response to complaint by activists. Please read these documents:

a) Police Commissioner’s Circular:

b) Maharashtra GR on protection to Activists:

However, our common experience as activists and civil society is that these circulars were not implemented at all; these circulars were nothing but a damage-control exercise of the government, drafted for the benefit of the press.

What you must do to ensure Rule of Law in Maharashtra

IMPOSE 6-MONTH DEADLINE FOR SUO MOTO DISCLOSURE OF ASSETS & SOURCES OF INCOME OF POLICITIANS, BUREAUCRATS, JUDGES & THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS. Please make necessary laws and rules to ensure that MLAs, MPs, Municipal Corporators, judges and leaders of political parties come clean about their assets and business dealings. The secrecy surrounding the phenomenal growth of their personal wealth is the main cause of corruption, growth of mafias and the killing of activists. Failure to meet 6-month disclosure deadline must invite automatic disqualification and prosecution.

FRAME APPEAL PROCEDURE RULES FOR RTI IN MAHARASHTRA, WITH A CLAUSE THAT RTI PENALTY CLAUSE (SECTION 20) IS TO BE STRICTLY ENFORCED: By not penalizing slippery public information officers and by not compelling evasive public authorities to provide information, State Information Commissioners are deliberately blunting the activist’s sword and prolonging his battle for years and years, until somebody gets him in the end. Make appropriate rules to ensure strict compliance with RTI Act 2005.

ORDER STRICT ACTION AGAINST POLICEMEN WHO SHIRK THEIR MANDATED DUTY TO REGISTER FIR WITHIN 48 HOURS, BASED ON DOCUMENTS THAT THE RTI ACTIVIST PAINSTAKINGLY GATHERS. Through deliberate inaction, the State Home Department and police leave the citizen-activist standing in the line of fire for months and years, alone, undefended and crying out for justice. He is an orphan, an easy target. It is police’s mandated duty to register an FIR within 48 hours, based on documents and information that the citizen-activist painstakingly gathers, and this has been reiterated repeatedly by various laws, authorities and apex courts. Please read the following:
A) What CrPC says about the duty of police to register FIR:
B) What Maharashtra DGP’s order said:
C) What Supreme Court ordered in 2008:
D) What Bombay High Court (full bench) said in 2009:

PASS A GOVT. RESOLUTION (GR) DIRECTING ALL DEPARTMENTS TO RECEIVE CITIZENS’ COMPLAINTS ABOUT CORRUPTION, MISUSE OF POWER & NON-ENFORCEMENT OF RULES & LAWS. Please set up time-bound mechanisms for departmental inquiry and disciplinary action. Currently, faced with of blatant corruption in govt. departments, some RTI activists act as investigating agencies for months and years in order to go to court, becoming highly visible and risking their own lives.

We trust you will take up this matter with utmost urgency.

Yours Sincerely,

G R Vora
Address: Plot - 275 / 3,
Gope Nivas, Sion E, Mumbai - 400022.

Mohd. Afzal 9820490435

Krishnaraj Rao 9821588114

Sunil Ahya 9821070606

Copy to:
1. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, South Block, New Delhi - 110001.
2. NAC Chairperson Mrs Sonia Gandhi, 10 Janpath, New Delhi - 110001.

Maharashtra’s Table of Shame: Attacks on Activists in 2010

Name of Activist




Probable reason for attack

Nayana Kathpalia

Fired at in her Churchgate home

Jan 2010


PIL against hawkers in Mumbai

Satish Shetty


Jan 2010


Exposing land scams incl. those by IRB Infrastructure

Arun Sawant

Attacked, permanently paralysed

Feb 2010


Exposing land scams at Badlapur Municipal Council

Sumaira Abdulali, Naseer Jalal and Viju B

Murderous assault by mob on highway

March 2010


Exposing illegal sand mining, involvement of local MLA

Vithal Gite


April 2010


Exposed corruption at Panchayat & Block levels

Abhay Patil

Mobbed & threatened

April 2010


Made corruption charges against politician

Dattatreya Patil


May 2010


Exposing corruption in Handloom Sector

Stalin D and Debi Goenka


May 2010


While inspecting site of mangrove destruction

Ashok Shinde


July 2010


For filing PIL against corruption PWD officials

Ramdas Ghadegaokar


Aug 2010


RTI against irregularities in fuel and grain sales in Public Distribution System

Irfan Yusuf Qazi


Dec 2010


Protest against nuclear power plant in Jaitapur

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

“Lost file” excuse? Get FIR against Records Officer using these sections of Public Records Act

Dear RTI activists,

Just as we have the Public Information Officer (PIO) in every public authority, there is a Records Officer (RO) in almost every government department who can be fined Rs 10,000 or imprisoned for five years if documents are lost or tampered.

FOR CENTRAL GOVT DOCUMENTS, read Sec 10 of “Public Records Act 1993”:

FOR MAHARASHTRA GOVT DOCUMENTS, read Sec 9 of “Maharashtra Act No 4 of 2006”:

Quite often, we are denied information due to our own ignorance of these laws. No government employee can blandly say, “File lost” to an information seeker. There are clear-cut laws providing for who is to be held responsible and what is to be done in case documents or files are lost, misplaced or stolen. Therefore, under RTI, “File lost” can only be given as a reason for DELAY in providing information, but not as a reason for DENIAL of information.

If a file is lost, there is a clear-cut procedure that the officer designated as “Records Officer” has to follow. This may be summarized as “SRF” i.e.
b) RECONSTRUCT the file
c) Register FIR.

Every records creating agency shall nominate one of its officers as records officer to discharge the functions under this Act.

Every records creating agency may set up such number of record rooms in such places as it deems fit and shall place each record room under the charge of a records officer.

The records officer shall, in the event of any unauthorised removal, destruction, defacement or alteration of any public records under his charge, forthwith take appropriate action for the recovery or restoration of such public records.

The records officer shall submit a report in writing to the Director General or as the case may be, the head of the Archives without any delay on any information about any unauthorised removal, destruction, defacement or alteration of any public record under his charge and about the action initiated by him and shall take action as he may deem necessary, subject to the directions, if any, given by Director General or, as the case may be, head of the Archives.

The records officer may seek assistance from any government officer or any other person for the purpose of recovery or restoration of public records and such officer or person shall render all assistance to the records officer.

SECTION 10: Whoever contravenes any of the provisions of section 4 or section 8 shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.

MAHARASHTRA ACTIVISTS: The corresponding sections of the State Act are 5, 7 & 9.

Exactly how, when and where must public records be classified, preserved, withdrawn or destroyed? Study Public Records RULES 1997:
(These rules apply to Central Govt documents, but there must be similar rules for State Govt.)

Especially read the forms given at the bottom of the Rules, particularly Form 8, which enables citizens to enroll as “Research Scholars” and study the documents at National Archives of India. Many hidden treasures may lie in these archives, waiting to be discovered by you!

Warm Regards,
98215 88114