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Pvt schools come under RTI Act: CIC

The Times of India- 05.06.2014

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In a significant order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered that private schools, whether public authority or not, must provide information on service records and salaries. The order came on an RTI plea filed by an ex-employee of Jindal Public School with Directorate of Education seeking a certified copy of service book from her past employ

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31809&articlexml=Pvt-schools-come-under-RTI-Act-CIC-05062014009097

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HCA declines response to RTI quer TIMES NEWS NETWORK

TIMES NEWS NETWORK    

27.03.2014

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Hyderabad: The state information commission is all set to recommend to the state government to take appropriate action against the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) for refusal to give replies to queries under the Right to information (RTI) Act.
HCA in reply to a question on land allotments and incentives it received from the state government, argued that it was a registered society and, hence, did not come under the ambit of the RTI Act.
Using the powers conferred on it as that of civil court under section 18 (1) of the RTI court, the state government summoned HCA twice, in December 2013 and February this year. In the first instance, the HCA advocate attended the hearing while in the second case, neither the representative nor the advocate turned up for the hearing. “Although HCA says that it does not come under the purview of RTI Act, there are many precedents in the county where the courts have categorically stated that sports associations come under the RTI” information commissioner P Vijaybabu told TOI.
Under normal circumstances, the commissonarate will impose a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 to the organizations which don’t provide information under RTI. But under section 20, 25 of the RTI Act, it can recommend proper action. Although this provision has not been used so far by the state informationcommission, it is planning to do so against HCA. “Sports associations certainly come under RTI, they cannot escape the liability” said D Rakesh, an information activist.
The state information commissonarate is of the view that under section 2(h) of the RTI act, a non-government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government are described as public authority under the RTI act.
Earlier, the Punjab and Haryana High Court upheld the decision of the Punjab state information commission which ruled out that the Punjab cricket association should be covered by RTI. The Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High court decision which designated members of Kerala Cricket association as “public servants”.

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Babudom stifling RTI, PIL in SC says - The Times of India

Babudom stifling RTI, PIL in SC says - The Times of India | Right to Information | Scoop.it

stifAdvocate Sanjeeb Panigrahi has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court saying the eight-year-old RTI Act was struggling to achieve the objective because of bureaucratic red tape.

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Babudom stifling RTI

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One size will not fit all

One size will not fit all | Right to Information | Scoop.it
The Nachiket Mor panel’s suggestions on priority sector lending should not extend to private and foreign banks.
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One size will not fit all

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Crime against Women

Crime against Women | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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Jubleehills,  Hyderabad, Ap, India 

DC, 16.12.2013

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RTI Not for Research: Gov Information officers told to provide matter with authorities and not draw inference

Times of India  30.11.2013

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RTI ACT UPDATE

RTI Not for Research: Govt

Information officers told to provide matter with authorities and not draw inference

AMAN SHARMA NEW DELHI 


The government is not supposed to conduct ‘research’ on behalf of the citizen in response to Right to Information (RTI) pleas by way of deducing a conclusion from available material, states an update on the RTI Act, 2005 prepared by the Department of Personnel and Training. 
Apparently exasperated by ‘vague’ RTI pleas, the DoPT has laid out rules on what is supposed to be entertained by Public Information Officers (PIOs). “Some information seekers request PIOs to cull out information from document(s) and give such extracted information to them. A citizen has a right to get ‘material’ from a public authority, however, the Act does not require the PIO to deduce some conclusion from the ‘material’ and supply it to the applicant,” the update states. 
The DoPT document also says that PIOs are “not supposed to create information” that is not a part of the record of the public authority. “The PIO is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inference and/or making of assumptions; or to interpret information; or to solve the problems raised by the applicants; or to furnish replies to hypothetical questions,” the document says, stressing only such information can be supplied that is “available and existing”. 
DoPT also wants citizens to not list out their grievances in the RTI plea and rather be more specific on what information they need to avoid ambiguity. “Instead of simply asking why my area is not being cleaned, cleaning schedule of the area should be asked. Similarly, instead of asking when we will get water supply, water supply planning of the area should be asked,” the document says. 
The government has also clarified that the RTI Act gives the right to information only to the citizens of India and not to corporations, associations or companies – which have been filing RTIs in vain. “They are legal entities or persons, but not citizens. However, if an application is made by an employee or office-bearer of any corporation, association, company or non-government organization indicating his name and citizenship, information may be supplied to him. In such cases, it would be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the corporation,” the DoPT guidelines says. 
The guide also says that the government has issued guidelines that certain categories of information should be suo-moto published on their websites by public authorities to avoid RTI pleas regarding them. This includes details on foreign tours of prime minister, ministers and senior officers, information relating to procurement, public-private partnerships, transfer policy and transfer orders and discretionary and non-discretionary grants. Not on the PIO List PUBLIC INFORMATION 
Officer (PIO) not to deduce anything from the material 
NOT SUPPOSED to create information that is not a part of the public record 
NOT REQUIRED TO 
furnish information which requires making assumptions or interpretations

 

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Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar flouts poll code: RTI activist

Bharat Ratna to Sachin Tendulkar flouts poll code: RTI activist | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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NEW DELHI: An RTI activist may have struck a sour note in the UPA celebrations on awarding the Bharat Ratna to cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar.

RTI activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya on Tuesday complained to the Election Commission (EC) accusing the Congress government for violating the model conduct of conduct and influencing voters in the five election- bound states of Delhi, Mizoram,Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In his complaint, the activist said that the government has announced the Bharat Ratna for Tendulkar in "haste" to gain the goodwill of voters and to influence them. Tendulkar is a Congress-nominated Rajya Sabha member since 2012.

He added, "A large number of intellectuals were also influenced by the ruling party when a Bharat Ratna was awarded to scientist CNR Rao. In the history of independent India never has it happened that in the midst of ongoing elections the Bharat Ratna was awarded to anybody."

Bhattacharya said that if the EC did not take an "exemplary view" of this act, then there would be more such decisions taken on the basis of caste, religion and community.

"The government of the day has made a mockery of the standards of election ethics and the Election Commission is certainly expected to take necessary action to provide the equal battle field for all parties to contest in elections," he said.

Bhattacharya has also filed an RTI with the PMO seeking information on the circumstances related to the decision. He has sought information on who has recommended the names of the two awardees and who were the others in the contention for the country's highest civilian honour.

The government announced the Bharat Ratna for Tendulkar and scientist C N R Rao on November 16.

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Political parties can come under RTI ambit: A Doesn’t Favour Law To Undo CIC Orde Dhananjay Mahapatra TNN

Times of India 23.10.2013

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New Delhi: Attorney general G E Vahanvati on Tuesday opposed the bill pending

New Delhi: Attorney general G E Vahanvati on Tuesday opposed the bill pending in Parliament which seeks to keep political parties outside the scope of the Right to Information Act, raising the prospect that the antitransparency move may not go through.
Appearing before Parliament’s standing committee on departments of personnel, public grievances, law and justice, the AG said political parties should accept the Central Information Commission’s June 3 ruling bringing them within the purview of RTI Act, disregarding the argument that subjecting them to RTI would render political parties vulnerable to harassment or embarrassment.
Vahanvati’s caution follows growing misgivings among the political class about resistance to be exposed to the sunlight of transparency. BJP had opposed the bill which was brought to negate the CIC order, resulting in the matter being referred to the standing committee. ‘Political parties can challenge CIC order’
New Delhi: There have also been indications that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may oppose the move as a follow-up to his assault on the ordinance for convicted politicians.
In fact, individual ministers like Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resource development, have already opposed the legislation in their “personal” capacity.
Although Vahanvati said it was open to political parties to individually challenge the CIC order in higher courts, it will be interesting to see which one will stick out, considering the emergence of a new constituency which values transparency and accountability.
Vahanvati refused to divulge what he said before the committee, but one of the attendees told TOI that thAG said existing framework provided adequate safeguards for political parties. He also said that it would not be advisable to amend the RTI Act to shield political parties from answering questions from the public about their functioning.
The source said the Centre’s top law officer cited of Sections 2 (providing among others the definition of public authority) and 8 (exemption from disclosure of information) of the RTI Act to observe that these would cushion political parties against harassment.
What had riled the political parties, with their opaque funding practices, was the CIC’s ruling that “people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties and by the candidates in the process of election”.
On June 3, The CIC had ordered, “We have no hesitation in concluding that INC/ AICC, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the central government and, therefore, they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
The standing committee headed by Shantaram Naik is examining the scope of the definition of ‘public authority’ as provided in Section 2(h) of the Act and whether the CIC had expanded the definition to bring in political parties, triggering the introduction of the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013.


4 MONTHS OF STALLING TACTICS
June 3 | CIC directs 6 national political parties to
appoint public information officers within 6 weeks
Aug 1 | Union Cabinet clears amendment in RTI Act to exclude political parties from its ambit
Aug 12 | Bill tabled in Lok Sabha Sept 5 | Referred to parliamentary standing committee


Times View
The attorney general is right when he suggests that the government should not seek to overturn the Supreme Court order on RTI by bringing in a new law. In fact, even political parties should not seek to get the order reversed. Given the extremely low level of credibility that politicians as a class have in India, they must see this as an opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the aam admi. If they willingly embrace transparency, it would help them bridge this credibility gap. If, on the other hand, they choose to fight it, they will only confirm the suspicion that they have much to hide.

in Parliament which seeks to keep political parties outside the scope of the Right to Information Act, raising the prospect that the antitransparency move may not go through.
Appearing before Parliament’s standing committee on departments of personnel, public grievances, law and justice, the AG said political parties should accept the Central Information Commission’s June 3 ruling bringing them within the purview of RTI Act, disregarding the argument that subjecting them to RTI would render political parties vulnerable to harassment or embarrassment.
Vahanvati’s caution follows growing misgivings among the political class about resistance to be exposed to the sunlight of transparency. BJP had opposed the bill which was brought to negate the CIC order, resulting in the matter being referred to the standing committee. ‘Political parties can challenge CIC order’
New Delhi: There have also been indications that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may oppose the move as a follow-up to his assault on the ordinance for convicted politicians.
In fact, individual ministers like Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resource development, have already opposed the legislation in their “personal” capacity.
Although Vahanvati said it was open to political parties to individually challenge the CIC order in higher courts, it will be interesting to see which one will stick out, considering the emergence of a new constituency which values transparency and accountability.
Vahanvati refused to divulge what he said before the committee, but one of the attendees told TOI that thAG said existing framework provided adequate safeguards for political parties. He also said that it would not be advisable to amend the RTI Act to shield political parties from answering questions from the public about their functioning.
The source said the Centre’s top law officer cited of Sections 2 (providing among others the definition of public authority) and 8 (exemption from disclosure of information) of the RTI Act to observe that these would cushion political parties against harassment.
What had riled the political parties, with their opaque funding practices, was the CIC’s ruling that “people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties and by the candidates in the process of election”.
On June 3, The CIC had ordered, “We have no hesitation in concluding that INC/ AICC, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the central government and, therefore, they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
The standing committee headed by Shantaram Naik is examining the scope of the definition of ‘public authority’ as provided in Section 2(h) of the Act and whether the CIC had expanded the definition to bring in political parties, triggering the introduction of the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013.


4 MONTHS OF STALLING TACTICS
June 3 | CIC directs 6 national political parties to
appoint public information officers within 6 weeks
Aug 1 | Union Cabinet clears amendment in RTI Act to exclude political parties from its ambit
Aug 12 | Bill tabled in Lok Sabha Sept 5 | Referred to parliamentary standing committee


Times View
The attorney general is right when he suggests that the government should not seek to overturn the Supreme Court order on RTI by bringing in a new law. In fact, even political parties should not seek to get the order reversed. Given the extremely low level of credibility that politicians as a class have in India, they must see this as an opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the aam admi. If they willingly embrace transparency, it would help them bridge this credibility gap. If, on the other hand, they choose to fight it, they will only confirm the suspicion that they have much to hide.

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Online RTI filing service extends to 37 central government ministries and departments

Online RTI filing service extends to 37 central government ministries and departments | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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RTI Online, earlier launched as a pilot projectbeing restricted for information related to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), today extends to 37 central government ministries and departments, reports ET. The Indian citizens can now file RTI applications online in all central government ministries and departments in the national capital through this portal.

The list of ministries will now also include The President and Vice President’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, External Affairs Ministry and Union Public Service Commission. However, the facility is currently not proposed to be extended for field offices, attached or subordinate offices of the central government.

Currently, the information seeker can upload an application of not more than 3000 characters on the website with a minimal payout of INR 10. The payment can be made via credit cards, debit cards or net banking through SBI and its associated banks. In case an application contains more than 3000 characters, it can be uploaded as an attachment, by using column “Supporting document”.

On submission of an application, a unique registration number will be issued, which may be referred by the applicant for any future reference. An applicant can keep track of his application status through ‘View Status’ option in the RTI Online Portal. An e-mail alert will be sent to the applicant for the same. Though optional, an information seeker can also get sms alerts on his or her mobile about movement of the applications.

To know more about the portal, the citizens can get their queries answered on telephone number 011-24622461 during normal office hours.

 

(sarfaraz.shaik@cgg.gov.in)

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17,000 tonnes of grain wasted in 3 years

17,000 tonnes of grain wasted in 3 years | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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NEW DELHI: At least 17,546 tonnes of foodgrain were damaged between 2009-10 and July 2012 in Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns , an RTI reply has revealed at a time when Parliament looks poised to pass the food security bill.

The revelation exposes how the government is struggling on two counts — safe storage of foodgrain and inadequate storage facilities for food items. On Friday, food processing industries minister Sharad Pawar had told Parliament that inadequate storage infrastructure resulted in wastage of fruits, grain and vegetables worth Rs 44,000 crore every year.

In an RTI reply to activist Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, FCI provided details of damaged foodgrain in its godowns in 23 states and Union Territories. Though the data shows year-wise decline in damage of foodgrain, it shows how the government's major grain procuring arm has a tough task at hand. During the said period , the maximum loss was of wheat at around 7,185 tonnes, while 6,905 tonnes of rice was also damaged.

"As per World Health Organization guidelines, a minimum of 250g foodgrain is required per person per day to survive. The cumulative loss could have fed at least seven crore people," Bhattacharya said. He added that the government should provide three months' worth of grain at a time to each family so that they can store at home rather than at FCI godowns where these get damaged.

The details show that West Bengal reported higher percentage of damaged rice between 2009-10 and 2011-12 with a loss of around 2,300 tonnes. In Punjab, the loss reduced drastically from 2,223 tonnes in 2009-10 to only 37 tonnes during 2011-12 .

On Friday, the opposition had cornered the government for its failure to protect procured foodgrain. BJP MPNaresh Gujral had said that till June, 12.5 million tonnes of foodgrain were lying uncovered in the outside in Punjab, with another 6 million tonnes lying in the open in Haryana. In Punjab, 2.5 million tonnes of this was just lying in the fields.

"If we have to feed our people , there has to be storage facility ," Gujral said. Pointing to the food ministry's reply that only 6 million tonnes storage capacity would be added this year, he said this was illogical when 18.5 million tonnes of wheat was lying in the open in just two states.

In his response, food minister K V Thomas had said that for the food security scheme, the government annually needs 62 million tonnes of foodgrain. "Last year, we procured around 82 million tonnes of foodgrain. Our transportation and storage loss was less than 0.07%," he said. The minister added that five years back, while the storage capacity was 55 million tonnes, now it has gone up to 74 million tonnes.

He said the government has requested state governments to have intermediate storage capacities for four months of the Public Distribution Scheme requirement — about four lakh tonnes.

Poor from Rajasthan urge MPs to pass food bill

Agroup of around 40 poor women and men from the Sahariya and Gadasia communities in Rajasthan have been knocking at the doors of MPs, appealing them to end the logjam in Lok Sabha and have a fruitful discussion on the food security bill. Most of these elderly have Antyodaya cards and are entitled to free monthly rations of wheat, pulses and ghee. TNN

 

(sarfaraz.shaik@cgg.gov.in)

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6 Reasons Why ‘Save RTI Movement’ Is Very Important For India #SaveRTI

6 Reasons Why ‘Save RTI Movement’ Is Very Important For India #SaveRTI | Right to Information | Scoop.it
Centre for Good Governance's insight:

Governing a democracy is a privilege. But when the country in question is a democracy teeming with a billion citizens, governing is anything but simple. An ideal democracy highlights the need for clear and demarcated laws, ably enforced and duly abided. Drawing examples from countries all over the globe, transparency in governance has been the way to go, simply because of its importance and necessity. A good example is the Right To Information Act, passed by the government of India in 2005. The RTI’s relevance certainly cannot be disputed, but is the RTI attaining what it set out to?

Here are 6 reasons why the Save RTI Movement is very important for India:


Empowering the Aam Aadmi:
This is the first and the most obvious reason why this movement is important for India. The RTI has a direct grasp on the cornerstone of democracy – It is meant For the people. Though not currently in the spotlight, Anna Hazare succeeded in voicing strong concerns about citizen empowerment – something which the RTI has been making progress towards, for almost a decade now. While a lot of requests for information are filed in the urban offices, a substantial proportion of such requests happen outside the cities, away from the spotlight as well. The RTI, just by giving information, turns an Aam Aadmi into an activist – an activist, whose blood boils due to the corruption looming large around him.

Political Parties do not want to be accountable:
According to the Central Information Commission’s ruling, political parties directly qualify as public organizations under the ambit of RTI, by virtue of substantial subsidization and government spending on them. While the end result of a political party is to cater to the needs of the public, it is only logical that the public has the right to know about parties’ source of funding and choice of candidature. However, more recently, there have been efforts to amend the RTI to keep the Political Parties away from the reach of people. When the very people who govern the country do not want the RTI, what would be the fate of this act after these amendments?

Brings down Corruption:
India is no stranger to corruption. Since 1947, the country has lost a whopping $462 billion via illicit financial flows due to tax-evasion, crime and post-independence-corruption. Not surprisingly, even government policies don’t escape corruption. The alleged loss in the infamous NREGA scam was estimated to be in excess of 10,000 crores. With RTI empowering citizens, even a villager in a nook of India, when endowed with the information, could pose a threat to illegal operations. Hence, the RTI, indirectly, shrinks the extent of corruption by having records of public organizations at the disposal of its citizens.

Protecting Whistle-blowers:
It is unrealistic for a country to expect its citizens to put their lives at stake to uncover government scams. India has had a notorious history of dirty linen washed in public, with 12 of its whistle-blowers killed, and 40 of them assaulted. And these are just the official figures. The success of RTI lies in ensuring that whistle-blowers are amply incentivized and secure from threats – something that’s evidently lacking; the statistics stand testimony to that.

Non-Uniformity in Implementation:
Surprisingly, the blame game doesn’t really work here. Different interpretations of the RTI by different state governments have rendered the act infertile in many parts of the country. For instance, Karnataka has imposed a 150 word-limit on information-request applications. The application fee in the Gujarat High Court is 50 rupees, which could hike tenfold, if the requested information pertains to tenders. While the Central Right to Information Act prescribes the application fee as Rs.10, the fee in courts in Allahabad and Sikkim gets as high as Rs.500 – fifty times the prescribed amount.

Why is Jammu cordoned off from the Central RTI?
Since the inception of RTI, the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir have actively lobbied against separate laws for their state as opposed to falling under the central act for the rest of India. In a reactive decision, the government of J&K passed the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information in 2008. The act, despite containing several amendments, tried to come closer to the central RTI, 2005. Though the act was officially in action, it was heavily criticized for diluting the key concepts of RTI (2005) and hence, was never implemented in spirit. The rules of the act were never published, and the proposed state information commission was never constituted and appointed.

The RTI is a tool that can delve deep through political and entrepreneurial masquerades and annihilate corruption, render citizens king-makers, and create a transparent democracy. Clearly, it is easier said than done. The power and scope of the RTI is so strong that one is promptly tempted to envision an ideal democracy, which, for obvious reasons, can’t materialize. The best that the Save RTI Movement can do, is gather steam, and prevent the act from suffering multiple amendments and mutilating into a distorted version that can be manipulated at will by the very governing body of our country which enforced it.

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Judge recuses himself from RTI case

Justice V.K. Jain of the Delhi High Court on Wednesday recused himself from hearing an appeal by RTI activist S.C. Agarwal challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) order declaring the Attorney-General (AG) office as not a public authority.

 

Centre for Good Governance's insight:

 

Justice Jain withdrew from the case without citing any reasons. He said the matter should be transferred to another bench and posted the matter on August 22 for further hearing.

Justice G.S. Sistani had in April sought a reply from the AG’s office on Mr. Agarwal’s appeal.

Appeal

In the appeal, Mr. Agarwal argued that AG’s office was a public authority under the Right to Information Act as it was set up under a constitutional mandate. The Union Government’s line of argument was that the advice given by the AG enjoyed the privilege of the client-lawyer relationship which could not be shared with the public.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel of Mr. Agarwal, argued that any attempt to keep the office out of the purview of the transparency law would be contrary to the fundamental right to seek information.

The AG’s office further argued that it was in a fiduciary relationship with the government. Besides this, no establishment was attached with it.

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Union cabinet okays RTI Act amendment

The Cabinet on Thursday gave its nod to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep political parties out of the ambit of transparency law

Centre for Good Governance's insight:

 

2 August 2013, New Delhi, Team MP

The Cabinet on Thursday gave its nod to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep political parties out of the ambit of transparency law.
The decision to change the RTI Act was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, official sources said.

The move followed after the Central Information Commission (CIC) had in June held that six national parties -- Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP -- have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and were required to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act.

The decision from transparency watchdog evoked sharp reactions from political parties, especially Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law but is opposed to the CIC’s directive.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal department for the implementation of the RTI Act, in consultation with Law Ministry decided to amend the law.
The government seeks to change the definition of public authorities mentioned under Section 2 of the RTI Act to keep all recognised political parties out of the jurisdiction of RTI, the sources said.

The government will have to introduce a Bill in this regard in the monsoon session of Parliament beginning Monday, they said.
The Centre’s flagship Right to Information Act empowers a citizen to seek time-bound information on all matters of governance by paying a fee of      Rs 10

 

(sarfaraz.shaik@cgg.gov.in)

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Prithviraj Chavan says if UPA hadn’t enacted RTI, scams wouldn’t have surfaced during UPA-II

02.05.2014

Centre for Good Governance's insight:

With 16 days to go before the 2014 elections tally is totalled, one of the big questions is how heavy a toll the many scam allegations that surfaced during UPA rule will take on its performance. In a recent interview Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has attempted to put the issue in its 'proper perspective'. He argues that it was only the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) law during the tenure of UPA-I that enabled big scams to emerge during its second outing. But hard facts belie this claim. From 2G and CWG cases to Coalgate, most big exposes didn't hinge on RTI.

It was the CAG's report on irregularities in auctioning coal blocks that raised the storm called Coalgate. In the 2G case it was media's relentless coverage topped by another CAG report that blew the lid on irregularities. In the CWG case media investigative work was strongly reinforced by CVC. RTI is admittedly a great anti-corruption tool. It has been instrumental in providing critical breakthroughs in the likes of the Adarsh racket. But it is completely incorrect to say that without RTI scams which have battered UPA's reputation would have remained buried.

After all, scams had an unhappy habit of surfacing long before RTI was enacted. Congressmen still flinch at the memory of Bofors. But they hardly stand alone in the swamp of corruption. TMC carries the albatross of Saradha chit fund scam, BJP of an incorrigible Yeddyurappa, Mayawati of both an exotic Taj Heritage Corridor and a murderous NRHM swindle, Lalu Prasad of fiddling with fodder, the list can go on and on. Chavan hopes that voters will consider UPA's scam taint cleansed byits RTI halo. While RTI is certainly a signal achievement of the UPA, the two are separate issues.

COUNTERVIEW

An effective weapon to uncover graft

Chandan Nandy

Among some of the most discussed laws of recent times, the 2005 Right to Information Act, even in its infancy, has resulted in a sea change in relations between the authorities and citizens. By all accounts, the radical law has helped uncover corruption, fraud or embezzlement of public funds, including not just the Adarsh housing scam in Mumbai but also former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa spending crores of money to renovate his Bangalore house, and official incompetence. RTI is as much a necessity for citizens as it is a precondition for good governance.

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan's defence of the law and its success is based on facts because RTI queries were the starting point of exposes in several corruption cases, including the Commonwealth Games and 2G scam. From the 2007 scam involving the public distribution system in Assam to misappropriation of relief funds in Punjab in 2008 to the Bangalore-based IIM making its admission criteria public, RTI has emerged as a powerful tool for civil society to promote and advocate transparency besides holding the political class and the bureaucracy accountable.

More than aiding individual RTI activists in seeking information that the government would otherwise suppress, the law has enabled people, especially in the country's rural backwaters, to ask important questions about governance and obtain records of decisions critically impacting their lives. As the principal means to ensure no corruption scams take place in future the next government at the Centre must continue to pursue a rights-based approach to governance, ensuring high levels of awareness among people, making sincere efforts for greater capacity building of principal information officers and appointing more commissioners in the states.

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How BJP used RTI to embarrass Congress - The Economic Times

How BJP used RTI to embarrass Congress - The Economic Times | Right to Information | Scoop.it
In last four years, the RTI cell of the BJP, probably the only recognised political party to have such a unit, has filed more than 2,000 applications.
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TTD a public authority under RTI: Madabhushi

TTD a public authority under RTI: Madabhushi | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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TTD a public authority under RTI

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Aids

Aids | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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JUbleehils,  Hyderabad, AP India

Eenadu                 16.13.2013

 

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Govt issues new RTI circular

Times of India    04.11.2013

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PANAJI: After protests from RTI activists over the state government's decision that made producing proof of Indian nationality mandatory to obtain information under the Right To Information Act, the government has issued a new circular which states that if assistant public information officers (APIOs) and (public information officers) PIOs have doubts about the applicant's citizenship, they can ask for proof.

The circular has been issued by the department of information and publicity. Swapnil Naik, director of information and publicity said all PIOs and APIOs are required to ensure that the person seeking information under the act is a citizen of India, before providing any information.

"If the APIO or PIO has a doubt about the nationality of the applicant, he/she can ask for a copy of the applicant's passport or EPIC card or any other document including a sworn affidavit to comply with the above statutory requirement," Naik said. The circular stated that this provision shall not be used as a means to deny information or cause inconvenience to the applicants seeking information.

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Get info under RTI without revealing your identity

Hindustan Times            25.11.2013

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In a move to protect whistle-blowers in the country, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday ruled that a petition under the Right to Information (RTI) Act can be made by using only a post box number without giving the name and address.

 

The ruling was aimed at protecting applicants or RTI activists from attack or harassment by persons who do not want information about their activities to be disclosed.

Acting chief justice Ashim Kumar Banerjee and justice Debangsu Basak passed the order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Avishek Goenka, challenging the rejection of his RTI application made to a central government department by using his post box number to protect his identity.

  

 

Goenka had applied under the RTI Act by using his post box number, but his application was rejected on the ground that he had not disclosed his identity by mentioning his address.

According to estimates, during the last six years, about 150 RTI activists had become victims for seeking information by giving their names and addresses:

Attacks against RTI activists 

Killed24Assaulted52Harassed74

 

Moving the petition, Goenka argued that a person has the right to apply for obtaining information under the RTI Act by using post box to protect his life.

“RTI activists are vulnerable human rights defenders in India. They often act alone, moved by anger at corruption and other illegal activities of public authorities and political leaders who do not want information about their activities to be disclosed,” Goenka said.

“RTI activists receive media attention only when killed or seriously injured. When complaints are made by RTI activists, law enforcement personnel (who often work with corrupt officials) do not take appropriate action. Therefore, such activists should not have been identified and their lives could have been protected if they were allowed to apply under the RTI Act by using post box number,” Goenka said.

Protection of RTI activists was also raised in Parliament several times during 2010. The Bombay High Court, when hearing the case of the murder of RTI activist Satish Shetty in Maharashtra on 7 May 2010, ordered the state to provide police protection to any person complaining of threats or the use of force after filing RTI application.

The order of the Calcutta High Court means that it would be applicable only in West Bengal and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Other states may follow the order but it is not a binding upon them.

 

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Govt puts off bid to keep parties out of RT Himanshi Dhawan TNN

Sep.6th 2013

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New Delhi: The government on Thursday shelved its plan to keep parties out of the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, referring the proposed amendment to the law to a parliamentary committee. 
    The last minute change of heart was being attributed to the 
pressure of public opinion and the realization that the amendment may not withstand legal scrutiny. 
    The shift in the government’s position came about after BJP leaders told parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath that the amendment be referred to a standing committee as its provisions needed more detailed consideration. “We told the government that law makers excluding themselves from RTI does not send the right signal,” said the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. 
    The move to alter the RTI Act followed a June 3 order of the Central Information Commission that recognized six national parties as political authorities and directed them to appoint public information officers to deal with RTI queries

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Ex-chief election commissioner slams Centre's plan to amend RTI Act

RTI Act|Right To Information Act|Former Chief Election Commissioner23.08.2013
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CHENNAI: Former chief election commissioner T S Krishnamurthy on Friday slammed the Centre's plan to amend the Right to Information Act.

Speaking to TOI on the sidelines of a seminar, he said political parties should come under the ambit of the RTI Act to bring more transparency. "I don't think there is any need to amend the Act. The political parties could have disclosed all information except their political strategies," said Krishnamurthy.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) recently issued an order bringing the political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act and asked them to appoint public information officers and an appellate authority. But the Centre tabled the RTI Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha against the order of the CIC.

When asked about the Supreme Court ruling on disqualifying MPs and MLAs from holding membership in the Parliament and the state legislatures if convicted in criminal cases, Krishnamurthy said such people should not be allowed in politics. 


Krishnamurthy said the country was going through economic and social crises. "It's unfortunate that poverty is yet to be eliminated in the country even after the government introduced various schemes."

 

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RTI to Food Security: Sonia’s five rights, India’s misery

RTI to Food Security: Sonia’s five rights, India’s misery | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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She had just concluded her speech in Hindi in support of the Food Security Bill when Sonia Gandhi asked Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar for permission to ‘look back a little’. Switching to English, the Congress President made clear in no uncertain terms what she believes is the political USP of her party.

She spoke of the five “rights” that the UPA had given the people of India over the last nine years: Information, Work, Forest Rights, Education and now Food. She wasn’t really looking back. She was looking forward to the next general election.

Credit must be given where it is due. In terms of the phrasing of political rhetoric, the Congress President has won her battle.  The ‘rights-based’ labelling of blatant populism has wrong-footed the opposition. The allegedly centre-right BJP ended up opposing the Food Security Bill from a CPI (M) point of view, arguing that it didn’t go far enough by not universalizing coverage. Opposition simply dissipates every time the UPA introduces a ‘right-to-something’. In principle, political parties of any persuasion find it impossible to argue against the goal of food for all, or education for all or work for all.


Sonia Gandhi extolled the virtues of the five key legislation the UPA had passed. PTI

The problem is not the ultimate goal, but in the design that the Congress wants to use to achieve the goal. The BJP and other opposition parties should have criticised the ‘rights-based’ legislation on their implementation strategies. But they tied themselves in knots over the symbolism. On the ground, all five legislations that Mrs. Gandhi trumpeted as achievements of the UPA have been deeply counter- productive.

Take the most unexceptionable one first: the Right to Information. It can be no one’s case that the functioning of Government should not be made transparent by enabling citizens to access details of the decision-making process. But if the end result of the law is that decision-making gets paralysed because the system doesn’t have safeguards to defend decisions taken in good faith, then the Act defeats its purpose.

Needless to say, if the consequence of this act is the disappearance of files that relate to genuinely controversial decisions, then it is encouraging dishonesty of the worst kind, rather than promoting transparency. India must ponder whether the UPA ever wanted to make governance more transparent or was interested in mere tokenism.

The MGNREGA, or the Right to Work, was allegedly an attempt to provide a social safety net for the poorest rural households. Plenty has been said about the leakages that have happened and the corruption that it has spawned. But what is more damaging is the consequence it has had on labour markets.

By extending MGNREGA indiscriminately across India, the government has created or exacerbated labour shortages in a labour-surplus country.  A social safety net is counter-productive the moment it encourages people to stay at home rather than take up gainful employment.  Look at how Europe has suffered because of this.

The Forests Right Acts sounds noble enough. It seeks to empower tribals and other communities which depend on forests for their livelihoods and sustenance.

However, the design of the law has effectively meant that no modern industrialisation can take place in the most backward areas of the country. How can the UPA assume that tribals and forest dwellers do not have material aspirations beyond subsistence? Of course, the economy is also paying a high price for the halt on mining and other industrial activities in these areas.

Universal education is a goal of every society and government in the world. The failure to educate its people is one of India’s greatest failures. But the Right to Education Act is not going to set things right. It may actually make things worse.

Consider the provision in the Act which requires all private schools to pay teachers at least as much as government school teachers. It will simply put several schools in rural areas, which actually do a better job of imparting education than government schools with rampant teacher absenteeism, out of business. The government’s crude attempt to outsource its own responsibilities by making it mandatory or private schools to reserve 25 percent of seats for children from economically backward sections won’t work. It assumes that private schools across India are of the same quality as a select few in metropolitan cities.  If the government was serious about public-private-partnership in school education it should have considered vouchers.

Much has been written about the disastrous Food Security Act, which will do little to achieve the goal of ‘eliminating hunger and malnutrition.’ The PDS system is so leaky that most beneficiaries will be left out.  Worse, they will be forced to buy cereals from the open market at higher prices because the government will now procure more rice and wheat directly from farmers, leaving fewer quantities to be traded in the open market. The agricultural market will end up more distorted than it is as present. In any case, just providing cheap rice and wheat doesn’t address the problem of malnutrition.

One of Amartya Sen’s seminal contributions to the literature on famines was that starvation happens not because there isn’t enough supply of food, but because people don’t have the purchasing power to buy it. It’s a pity that both Sen and his disciples in the UPA  ignore the second part of that proposition. The only sustainable way to increase the purchasing power of the poor is to find them gainful employment. That will come through sustained double-digit growth and an emphasis on manufacturing. It will never come through ‘rights-based’ legislation which if anything impede the trajectory of growth and disincentive industrialization.

It’s a pity that neither the UPA nor the Opposition see any political capital in making that obvious point

 

(sarfaraz.shaik@cgg.gov.in)

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File online RTI pleas for all central government departments from Wednesday

File online RTI pleas for all central government departments from Wednesday | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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Delhi:  Citizens will be able to file Right to Information (RTI) applications online from tomorrow in all central government ministries and departments in the national capital.

Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy will launch the portal - www.rtionline.gov.in - at a function in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Moving further towards greater transparency in governance, the government has started as a pilot project the facility of filing online RTI applications from April.

The facility, which was earlier restricted for information related to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), was in a phased-manner extended to 37 central government ministries and departments.

"This facility would be extended to all the Ministries or Departments of Government of India with effect from August 21, 2013," said an official of DoPT, which acts as nodal department for the implementation of the transparency law.

The Centre's flagship Right to Information Act, which was enacted in 2005, mandates timely response - within 30 days - to citizen requests for government information. One has to pay a fee of Rs. 10 for seeking information.

An information seeker can submit a fee of Rs. 10 via Internet banking through SBI and its associated banks using the website. One can also use credit or debit cards. At present, the text of an application that can be uploaded at the prescribed column (on the website while filing application) is confined to 500 words only.

"In case an application contains more than 500 words, it can be uploaded as an attachment," the official said, adding that an applicant will also get an alert on his or her mobile about movement of the applications.

Information seekers can also get answers to their queries related to the portal on telephone number 011-24622461 during normal office hours, the official said.

The President and Vice President's Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, External Affairs Ministry and Union Public Service Commission are among 37 ministries or departments facilitating online RTI applications.

"This is a very progressive achievement it will help people who are technological savvy to file RTI applications online," said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator (access to information programme), Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

The facility of filing online RTI applications is currently not proposed to be extended for field offices, attached or subordinate offices of the central government.

 

(sarfaraz.shaik@cgg.gov.in)

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Cabinet approves changes to RTI Act to keep political parties out

Cabinet approves changes to RTI Act to keep political parties out | Right to Information | Scoop.it
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New Delhi: The Cabinet today cleared crucial changes to the Right to Information Act to block political parties from being covered under RTI.These amendments would exempt parties from being obliged to share details of their funding or how they choose their candidates.

Petroleum Minister Veerappa Moily was the only minister who reportedly voiced his dissent against the move, but Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government is doing this because majority of the political parties want these amendments.

In June, the Central Information Commission or CIC, which ensures the RTI Act is implemented and public queries are answered by government departments, ruled that the six major national parties including the Congress and BJP are public authorities and must respond to RTI applications. The parties were given six weeks to appoint officers to handle RTI requests.

The flagship RTI Act was introduced by the Congress in 2005 for increasing transparency.

Activists Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal had said the six national parties get indirect but substantial funding from the central government, an argument that was accepted by the Central Information Commission.

"Large tracts of land in prime areas of Delhi have been placed at the disposal of the political parties in question at exceptionally low rates. Besides, huge government accommodations have been placed at the disposal of political parties at hugely cheap rates thereby bestowing financial benefits on them," it said.

The Commission also said political parties "affect the lives of the citizens, directly or indirectly in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty. It is, therefore, important that they become accountable to public."

However, parties had argued that they are monitored and accountable for funding and other issues to the Election Commission

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