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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dissent over posts, defective ads give rise to AMU’s RTI activism

Eram Agha, TNN | Aug 11, 2014, 10.10 PM IST

ALIGARH: Dissent over appointments, misleading advertisements for posts and action taken reports on fictitious claims has brought Aligarh Muslim University's culture of RTI activism to the fore. The culture has been on the rise as has been administrative arbitrariness, claim some AMU professors. 

Seasoned RTI activist and assistant professor in the business management department Mohd Naved Khan said, "There has been a rise despite the fact we have lost around 30% of our university's RTI activists due to fear of the administration. There are many reasons for it — we fight the system while staying in the system, which reacts by hitting back at us. The way it is perceived — as an act of causing harm — is wrong. Through RTI, we intend to set things right as that will make AMU better. Some have sided with the administration but activism is growing because now I have been motivating others to file RTIs to seek answers if they feel something is wrong." 

Professor Hasan Mateen-Ul-Islam from the statistics department said, "Some former RTI activists have now sided with administration for favours. Those with vested interests find it convenient to part ways." Islam had filed an RTI regarding an advertisement for the selection committee post. His query read: an Advertisement for Selection Committee post is defective (sic) because it does specify which department had the opening. Islam said he was still fighting the battle and will take it to legal action if need be. 

Assistant professor for the MBA course Asif Ali Syed showed TOI a copy of his RTI that sought a copy of the complaints filed against him. He said, "I was told that the administration has received complaints against me." The response to his query read: "In order to provide copies (of the complaints) you are required to deposit Rs 82 at the rate of Rs 2 per page for 41 pages. Syed said, "These complaints are coming out of pure imagination." 
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Satish Shetty case to be soon closed in pressure: Brothers had told me before hand

Satish Shetty case to be soon closed in pressure: Brothers had told me before hand

I present an important information brought to my notice in public domain for the sake of justice and for larger public interest.

RTI activist Satish Shetty’s brothers Sandip living in Pune and Santosh, living in USA had contacted me on phone and email in the beginning of July 2014. Santosh had sent me an email dated 03 July 2014 where he had apprehended closure of the murder case. He said “Without public support this case will be closed within the next one year. I am pleading to people like to help and guide us.”

Later Sandip told me on phone that the investigating officer (IO) of the Satish Shetty murder case, S P Singh from CBI, had told him that he is being put under tremendous pressure from senior officers of CBI to file a closure report in the case in the next few days but he is finding it very difficult to follow this dictate because there are enough evidence on record to charge sheet the accused.

Sandip also told me that S P Singh told him that a few senior CBI officers were doing so for huge money and very soon a closure report would be filed.

Again on 10 August (Sunday), both Santosh and Sandip called me on phone and told me that they have known from the IO that CBI shall file the closure report on Monday (11 August). They called me to Pune, where today I was witness to an irrefutable evidence which talked of the investigating officer lamenting about the improper pressure built on him by certain senior CBI officers under influence of money, to an extent that the IO was thinking of resigning from the service and taking up the cause.

Considering the extremely serious nature of these facts, I am also bringing them to the notice of the Prime Minister of India for appropriate action.

Amitabh Thakur
# 094155-34526

Friday, August 8, 2014

All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 Amended

The Government of India has recently  issued a Press Release stating that the Conduct Rules applicable to the three All India Services- Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) have been amended (readers may please note that the elite Indian Foreign Service is a Group A Service only). The text of the amendment is given in a Press Information Bureau Release accessible at this link: and copied below. The text of the AIS Conduct Rules, 1968 is accessible at this link:

The importance of the amendment lies in the requirement for IAS, IPS and IFoS Officers to maintain accountability and transparency amongst other values listed under the new sub-rule 1A. However clause (xii) inserted under sub-rule 2B further down, requires the officers of these three services to maintain confidentiality of information in relation to one's duties as required by existing laws and rules. Particular emphasis is placed on maintaining confidentiality and refraining from disclosing information if it may predjudicially affect the interests protected under Section 8(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act, 2005

What is novel about this amendment?
While many RTI activists and experts including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have recommended replacement of the Oath of Secrecy which officers take while joining the civil service, the newly amended rules somewhat temper that Oath. Officers of these elite services have often asked questions about the contradiction between their oath and the requirements of transparency under the RTI Act.

However, these amendments also raise some fundamental questions. If AIS officers acting as Public Information Officers (PIOs), deemed PIOs and First Appellate Authorities (FAA) refuse to provide access to information in an unreasonable manner, i.e., in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, can aggrieved applicants henceforth allege contravention of the Conduct Rules in addition to demanding imposition of penalty under Section 20 of the RTI Act?

As the AIS Rules apply to IAS, IPS and IFoS officers serving in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) also, can residents of J&K who are denied information under the J&K RTI Act, 2009 demand disciplinary action against AIS officers serving in that State for violating the value of transparency and accountability when they refuse access to information in an unreasonable manner?

Readers may please enlighten me whether violation of the requirement of maintaining transparency and accountability as ring-fenced by the twin RTI Acts and other laws and also the grounds specified under clause (xii) of sub-rule 2B amount to ' professional misconduct' and will this become a ground for launching disciplinary proceedings under the AIS (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969. These Rules are available at this link:

If it does amount to 'professional misconduct', can an aggrieved RTI applicant demand action against an AIS Officer who is either a PIO or deemed PIO or an FAA. Can he/she be a complainant or can the Central/State Information Commission recommend that disciplinary proceedings be launched even for a single instance of unreasonable contravention of the RTI Acts? So who will be the Complainant in such cases is the next question.

The Government of India has amended All India Services (Conduct) Rules,1968, in rule 3(1) after sub-rule (1) by inserting sub-rule (1A) and rule 3(2) after sub-rule (2A) by inserting sub-rule (2B) and these rules are called the All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014.

Under sub-rule (1A), every member of the Service shall maintain:-

(i) High ethical standards, integrity and honesty;
(ii) Political neutrality;
(iii) Promoting of the principles of merit, fairness and impartiality in the discharge of duties;
(iv) Accountability and transparency;
(v) Responsiveness to the public, particularly to the weaker section;
(vi) Courtesy and good behaviour with the public.

Under sub-rule (2B), every member of the Service shall:-

(i) Commit himself to and uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and democratic values;

(ii) Defend and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, public order, decency and morality;

(iii) Maintain integrity in public service;

(iv) Take decisions solely in public interest and use or cause to use public resources efficiently, effectively and economically;

(v) Declare any private interests relating to his public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts in a way that protects the public interest;

(vi) Not place himself under any financial or other obligations to any individual or organisation which may influence him in the performance of his official duties;

(vii) Not misuse his position as civil servant and not take decisions in order to derive financial or material benefits for himself, his family or his friends;

(viii) Make choices, take decisions and make recommendations on merit alone;

(ix) Act with fairness and impartiality and not discriminate against anyone, particularly the poor and the under-privileged sections of society;

(x) Refrain from doing anything which is or may be contrary to any law, rules, regulations and established practices;

(xi) Maintain discipline in the discharge of his duties and be liable to implement the lawful orders duly communicated to him;

(xii) Be liable to maintain confidentiality in the performance of his official duties as required by any laws for the time being in force, particularly with regard to information, disclosure of which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, friendly relation with foreign countries or lead to incitement of an offence or illegal or unlawful gains to any person;

(xiii) Perform and discharge his duties with the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to the best of his abilities."
Courtesy: Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, B-117, 1st Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave, New Delhi- 110 017, Tel: +91-11-43120201/ 43180215, Fax: +91-11-26864688