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Atul Patankar

From judges to babus, a fight from within for transparency

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Atul Patankar

As reported by A Subramani at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 11 November 2009

 

CHENNAI: By going public with details of his assets, civil servant U Sahayam has joined an elite clique of individuals who have waged a relentless battle from within, and made the system more accountable and transparent.

 

Advocate and Right To Information (RTI) activist Subhash C Aggarwal set off a judicial snowball by submitting an innocuous query seeking to know whether judges of the Supreme Court were adhering to the May 7, 1997 Restatement of Values and declaring their assets regularly.

 

When the apex court was still in the denial mode, with the Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan himself countering the pro-declaration arguments, Justice Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court stepped out of the ranks and declared his assets on August 24. Justice K Kannan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court did not take long thereafter to blog his asset details. The war from within had well and truly begun.

 

That the Supreme Court refused to part with any asset-related information, that the Central Information Commission ruled that the office of CJI too was under the ambit of the RTI Act, that in an unprecedented act the apex court filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court against the information panel's ruling and that the Delhi HC concluded that the CJI's office did come under the RTI umbrella, is history.

 

The logical conclusion was reached when, on September 28, the Supreme Court officially announced that its judges would voluntarily' declare their assets. The disclosure was actually made on November 2.

 

With the last word yet to be said in the appeal proceedings before the Delhi High Court, the journey has already proved to be long and eventful for Aggarwal. Sagayam's battle with babus seems to have just begun, given the fact that most of his colleagues in service are distinctly dismissive and reluctant to disclose. While the judiciary is done with its share of denials and protestations, the state bureaucrats have embarked on the journey only now.

 

Just compare the situations in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The Tamil Nadu bureaucracy is not ready to join the transparency bandwagon, but the Madras High Court is all set to declare the assets and liability details of its judges on November 15. (In fact, Justice K Chandru submitted his details to Chief Justice HL Gokhale on Monday).

 

In Uttar Pradesh, a section of IAS officers serving in the state have already made public their asset details, whereas the 100-odd judges of the Allahabad High Court have adopted a resolution not to make public their asset details !

 

Source: From judges to babus, a fight from within for transparency - Chennai - City - The Times of India

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revribhav

Let's dream for the day when the principles of tranparency & accountability will be applied in letter & spirit.

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      CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION




      Appeal No.ICPB/A-1/CIC/2006


      Right to Information Act – Sections 6/18

      Name of Appellant : Satyapal
      Name of Public Authority : CPIO, TCIL

      DECISION


      Decisions appealed against :
       
       
      The CPIO, TCIL has declined to supply a copy of a document on the ground that the same forms part of “file Noting” which, according to CPIO is exempt under the RTI Act. Appellate authority also has confirmed the decision of the CPIO. The appellant contents that he has the right to seek information contained in the “File Notings”.
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      Shri Satyapal – appellant, a resident of Delhi, applied to the CPIO, TCIL seeking for copies of certain documents by a letter dated 17th October, 2005. By a letter dated 14th November, 2005, CPIO, TCIL furnished copies of certain documents, however, stating that a particular document sought for was a file noting in the Department of Telecom and as such it was exempt from disclosure. By a letter dated 17th Nov. 2005, Shri Satyapal again wrote to the CPIO, TCIL pointing out that the information sought for by him did not fall within the ambit of Section 8 of the RTI Act and as such the same should be supplied. He also brought to the notice of CPIO, TCIL that in respect of information already furnished, a copy of a bill in respect of advertisement relating to independence day 1996 had not been supplied. By a letter dated 28th Nov. 2005, the CPIO, TCIL while furnishing a copy of the bill, once again reiterated that file notings are exempt from disclosure in terms of the clarification given by the Department of Personnel in their website. Aggrieved by this decision, Shri Satyapaul preferred an appeal to the appellate authority by a letter dated 14th Dec. 2005 stating that file notings are not exempt from disclosure in terms of Section 8 of the RTI Act. He followed up the same by letters dated 14th Dec., 31st Dec. 2005 and 5th January, 2006. The appellate authority by a letter dated 5.1.2006 rejected the appeal stating “The information sought by you pertains to the file notings of the Department of Telecommunication as also that of TCIL. I am of the view that TCIL is exempted from disclosing the information sought by you under Section 8(1)(d)&(e) of the RTI Act. UO No.7-17/95-PP dated 4.10.1995 is a part of file notings. You have mentioned in your appeal that the information has been denied misconstruing it as “file notings” by CPIO, TCIL. I confirm that these are notings in the file”. Aggrieved with the decision of the appellate authority, Shri Satyapal has filed this appeal before this Commission. According to Shri Satyapal, there is no specific exemption from disclosure as far as file notings are concerned in Section 8 of RTI Act.
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      It is seen that while the CPIO declined to furnish the information sought for on the ground that file notings are exempt from disclosure, the appellate authority, without confirming or rejecting the stand of CPIO that file notings are exempt from disclosure, has relied on Section 8(1)(d) and (e) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
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      Section 2(j) reads : “Right to information means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of document or records; (iii) …… (iv) …. “. In terms of Section 2(i) “Record” includes (a) any documents, manuscript and file;
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      Sd/-




      (Padma Balasubramanian)




      Information Commissioner




      Sd/-




      (Wajahat Habibullah)



      Chief Information Commissioner


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