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Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India

According to a “Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India” prepared by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Centre for Equity Studies (CES), transparency is a key to promoting peoples’ trust in public institutions. The assessment found that several ICs were non-functional or were functioning at reduced capacity, despite large backlogs, as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner (CIC), were vacant during the period under review. In many cases, the appointments of information commissioners were found to be set aside by courts due to lack of transparency in the process of appointment and for being in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act and directions of the Supreme Court.
In addition, the Report, says, “By failing to disclose information on their functioning, ICs continue to evade real accountability to the people of the country whom they are supposed to serve. The legal requirement for the central and state information commissions to submit annual reports every year to Parliament and state legislatures respectively, is to make, among other things, their activities transparent and available for public scrutiny. However, very few ICs fulfil this obligation, and even fewer do it in time”. 
As part of the assessment, and in order to access information about the functioning of information commissions, both SNS and CES filed RTI applications with the 28 state information commissions (SIC) and the Central Information Commission (CIC). A total of 169 RTI applications were filed seeking identical information from all the 29 information commissions. The RTI applications were tracked to assess how each information commission performed as a public authority, in terms of maintaining and disclosing information. Three information commissions from Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu did not respond to, or even acknowledge, the RTI applications filed within stipulated time.
"Several ICs, like from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh rejected requests for information invoking provisions seemingly in violation of the RTI Act. In all these cases, an appeal was filed against the denial of information. However, till the time of publication of this report, the requisite information had not been disclosed," the report says.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, three State Information Commissions (SICs), Odisha, Sikkim and Kerala returned the RTI applications citing procedural deficiencies.
Only 13 out of 29 ICs provided full information in response to the RTI applications filed as part of this assessment. Of the 107 chief information commissioners for whom data was obtained, the overwhelming majority (84%) were retired government servants including 67% retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers and another 17% from other services. Of the remainder, 10% had a background in law (5% former judges and 5% lawyers or judicial officers).
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Resistance from banks in revealing Loan details to corporate entities

The RTI query, sent to the Ministry of Finance, sought details on individual exposure of various PSBs to corporate borrowers. The questions that were asked in the RTI query sought information on the loans given to the Reliance Industries, Adani Group, GVK Group, GMR and Jaypee Group. The RTI was first directed to the Finance Ministry, which then forwarded the RTI request to various banks asking them to provide the information. The RTI had questions on the money loaned to big industrial houses by government-run banks. However, all public sector banks except Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have refused to divulge information citing either the 'personal nature' of questions or how they don't fit under the provisions of the RTI Act. 
In their reply to the RTI query, the banks have said that the information available with banks under "fiduciary relationship" is exempted from disclosure.
Read about: Fiduciary Relationship under RTI
While Andhra Bank and Allahabad Bank have disclosed the loans given to big corporates, all other lenders refused to do so. Banks which did not disclose any detail in their reply to the RTI query include State Bank of India (SBI), Bank of Maharashtra, Corporation Bank, Indian Bank, Canara Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of India and Syndicate Bank. Earlier this month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley informed the Rajya Sabha that loans worth Rs 81,683 crore were written-off by public sector banks (PSBs) in 2016-17.
Country's largest public sector lender, the SBI, said, "The information sought by you under point number three to eight is the third party personal information held by the bank in a fiduciary capacity, the disclosure of which is not warranted for any larger public interest and as such is exempted from disclosure."
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Upper limit of Rs 50 imposed on RTI Fee by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court fixed on Tuesday an upper limit of Rs 50 as application fee that government authorities can charge those seeking information under the right to information (RTI) act, the country’s transparency law.
Also, a bench of justices AK Goel and UU Lalit said public authorities cannot ask for more than Rs 5 for each page as photocopying charge, and an applicant need not mention the “motive” while filling out the application form.
The order came on petitions challenging high fees set by different public bodies, including high courts and state assemblies.
The decision can be downloaded from here:
 
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43 years for RTI case finalisation in West Bengal- study

A biennial study conducted by Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Centre for Equity Studies has revealed a grim picture of RTI Act implementation with waiting time at information commissions running in years and commissions in several states becoming non-functional owing to unfilled vacancies. The study has found that if an RTI appeal were to be filed in West Bengal state information commission on November 1, 2017, it would be disposed of in 2060 – after 43 years. In Kerala, it would take six years six months and Odisha 5 years 3 months. The main reason for such a long waiting time is the reduced number of information commissioners that commissions are working with. 
The report has brought out, what it calls a “concerning trend”. The information commissions, which are the last resort for the common man to complain against wrongful denial of information, are increasingly returning cases. The highest number of cases have been returned by CIC, followed by Gujarat, Assam and Uttarakhand.
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Shrawan

appeal from Sh. N. Anbarasan Vs IOB, Chennai

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Shrawan

Central Information Commission

 

Decision No.286/IC(A)/2006

F. No.CIC/MA/A/2006/00453

 

Dated, the 20th September, 2006

 

  • Name of the Appellant : Sh. N. Anbarasan, APPLESOFT, #39,1st, Cross, 1st Main, Shivnagar, W.C. Road,Bangalore – 560 010.

  • Name of the Public Authority: Indian Overseas Bank, Central Office, Customer Service Department, P.B.No.3765, 763, Anna Salai, Chennai – 600 002.

 

DECISION

 

Facts of the Case:

 

  1. The appellant had sought the following information from the CPIO of the Indian Overseas Bank:

    1. “Request/invitation for proposal/quotation, Quotations, Technical bid, Commercial bid submitted by various language software (like Hind isoftware, Tamil software etc.) suppliers related to supply of software to all the Head/corporate offices and sub-ordinate offices/branches.
    2. Purchase Order/Supply Order placed on various language software suppliers related to supply of software.
    3. Request/invitation for proposal/quotation, Quotations, Technical bid, Commercial bid submitted by various vendors/dealers related to purchase of computers like PC, Server, Thin client etc. to the Head/Corporate offices and sub-ordinate offices/branches. Minutes/proceedings of the various committees involved in the
      purchase of software/hardware.
    4. Delivery Challans, Bills/Invoice, orders passed to make the payment, letter of sanction etc. related to purchase of computers like PC, Server, Thin client etc. to the sub-ordinate offices/branches.”
    5. [*]In his reply, the CPIO informed that information sought is: “Exempted under Section 8(1)(d) of the Act as the information falls under “commercial confidence” and “Trade Secrets” which would harm the competitive position of the third parties and the larger public interest does not warrant such disclosure.”

      [*]The appellate authority has upheld the decision of the CPIO.

      Commission’s Decision

       

      1. In a recent decision of the Commission, the following was observed: (Decision No.216 dated 31st August 2006):
        “Transparency in functioning of public authorities is expected to be ensured through the exercise of right to know, so that a citizen can scrutinize the fairness and objectivity of every public action. This objective cannot be achieved unless the information that is created and generated by public bodies is disclosed in the form in which it exists with them.
        Therefore, an information is to be provided in the form in which it is sought, u/s 7(9) of the Act. And, if it does not exist in the form in which it is asked for and provided to the applicant, there is no way that proper scrutiny of public action could be made to determine any deviations from the established practices or accepted policies.”
      2. In view of this, the information sought relate to the public action with regard to the processes that have been followed in purchase of computers and other accessories. Such actions clearly fall under the public domain and therefore exemption claimed u/s 8(1)(d) is not justified.
      3. The CPIO is, therefore, directed to furnish the information sought within 15 working days from the issue of this decision.

      The appeal is accordingly disposed of.

       

      Sd/-

      (Prof. M.M. Ansari)

      Information Commissioner

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  • Similar Content

    • Shrawan
      By Shrawan
      Central Information Commission



      Decision No.285/IC(A)/2006
      F. No.CIC/MA/A/2006/00653
       
      Dated, the 20th September, 2006



      Name of the Appellant : Sh. Pradipta Dutta, B-141 Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi – 110 019
      Name of the Public Authority: Directorate of Income Tax (Legal & Research) (DIT), 3rd floor, Drumshaped Building, I.P.Estate, New Delhi- 110 002. DECISION
       
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      The appellant had sought certain information in the form of queries, whichhave been duly responded by the CPIO and the appellate authority as well. Hehas however filed an appeal before the Commission against the reply of theappellate authority and prayed that the CPIO of DIT (L&R) be directed to furnishinformation with respect to his following queries:
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      Kindly inform why ITOs at DIT (L&R) are being forced, under threat of disciplinary action, to perform the functions of an Asstt.Commissioner without being paid officiating pay.”
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      In its oft-repeated decisions, the Commission has advised the informationseekers that they ought not seek the views and comments of the CPIO on the questions asked by them. Yet, in the garb of seeking information mainly for redressal of their grievances, applications from requesters are filed. The CPIO’s in turn, have also ventured to answer them. Thus, the information seekers as providers have erred in interpreting the definition of information.
      A CPIO of any public authority is not expected to create and generate a fresh, an information because it has been sought by an appellant. The appellant is, therefore, advised to specify the required information, which may be provided, if it exists, in the form in which it is sought by him.
      The information sought relate to duties and responsibilities of ITOs deployed at different locations and the salary or compensation paid to them.Under Section 4(1) of the Act, all the public authorities are required to disclose such information as above. Had it been done by the respondent, the CPIO could have informed the applicant about the source where from he could have obtained the information. The need for filing application for information and this appeal could have thus been avoided. In pursuance of the principle of maximum disclosure, as u/s 4(1) of the Act, the CPIO is directed to disseminate the information so that in future, such applications are minimized.
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      Sd/-
      (Prof. M.M. Ansari)
      Information Commissioner
      Download the Decision from Download segment.


       

    • arunonline
      By arunonline
      As per section 10 (2) (e), there is a power with the Public Information Officer to review his own orders. Is there such power of review with the first and second Appellate authorities?


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