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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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crusader

Are budget document an official secret

Question

crusader

Ar ethe budget paper of the government an official secret?

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Shrawan

Yes, they are official secrets. They will not cease to be official secret even after they are later on published. They are official secret s till they are published.

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crusader

Ok! thank You. That was very quick. :)

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maneesh

By disclosing budget papers prior to laying before parliament no public interest will be served.

Infact some people may derive benifts which will go again the basic tenets of the RTI act.

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nk agarwal

Unauthorised leaking of information secret or open is punishable.

RTI ACt-2005 has not opened the flood gate to leak information unauthorisedly, the info is to be provided through due process of law irrespective of RTI ACt-2005.

Budget documents or any document cannot be disclosed without the due process, this has nothing to do with secrecy or openness of a document.

The classification of secrecy or confidential etc. as goverend by OSA cannot be done arbitrarily and indiscrimatenely by anyone to hold back the info.

The info that can be obtained under RTI ACt-2005 may not be diclosable otherwise.

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RAVEENA_O
Unauthorised leaking of information secret or open is punishable.

RTI ACt-2005 has not opened the flood gate to leak information unauthorisedly, the info is to be provided through due process of law irrespective of RTI ACt-2005.

Budget documents or any document cannot be disclosed without the due process, this has nothing to do with secrecy or openness of a document.

The classification of secrecy or confidential etc. as goverend by OSA cannot be done arbitrarily and indiscrimatenely by anyone to hold back the info.

The info that can be obtained under RTI ACt-2005 may not be diclosable otherwise.

 

After coming into force of RTI Act, 2005, the words 'confidential', 'secret' stand modified and carries meaning to the extent of Sec.8 & 9 of RTI Act. All other Acts or Rules inconsistent with the provisions of RTI Act also stands repelled. No official of Government or Parliament is empowered to withhold any information except under the provisions under Sec-8 & 9. The budget document is RIGHTLY a secret document till its presentation before the Parliament, which aspect is covered under Sec.8

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nk agarwal

Pl. correct me if I have understood correctly that provisions of RTI ACt-2005 would come into force only if an info is asked under RTI Act-2005 otherwise not and the matter would be dealt under OSA if it is applicable.

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R Madhok

Yes Budget document are official secret. It is being guarded like Gold in a fort. High tech tapping devices, Security personnel, sophisticated surveillance gadgetry, digital deterrents, electronic sweeping devices and jammers, huge scanners are the few gadgets provided for the security of the budget. The union budget documents are being kept under the tightest security.

In this electronic age, the finance ministry does not take chances and high security is provided till the budget is to be presented by the Finance Minister. Now the security agencies have started to set up a small telephone tapping exchange in North block. The electronic contraption can intercept private mobile operators’ cell numbers. Electronic sweeping devices are being installed on either side of the corridors of the finance ministry section of the North Block, fortify the security futher The mini intercepting exchange also keep a close eye on the 100 odd landline telephone numbers installed in the chambers of various bureaucrats. The intelligence bureau also block e-mail facilities to most of the computers in the offices of Union Finance Ministry.

Kindly take a note that the entrances of the finance ministry itself used to be cocooned in an electronic umbrella. A huge steel frame, housing a special X-ray scanner used to be fitted with computers. Those have been mounted at the gates to prevent anyone from taking anything unwelcome inside the North block or more importantly smuggling anything out.

 

Friends take a note The finance ministry office, in the North Block of the Central Secretariat is normally open round the year and you can easily walk in after obtaining a pass at the reception. No more. At lest not till the finance minister presents his Budget proposals in Parliament. Till then the hush-hush exercise of the Budget making the Prime Minsiter and the finance minister keep on exchanging ideas and suggestions. And the very important person’s job is to translate these ideas into facts and figures that go in the Budget Speech and Budget papers.

 

Conclusion is that the unauthorized leaking of information Secret open is punishable. But consider it that it is next to impossible to have a leakage of the budget proposals. The question of OSA cannot arise as the documents are kept in such a great lock up that the officials themselves don’t have the access to the budget documents. The funishing of documents under RTI Act can never be possible because the PIO and FAA and the other offcials don’t have access to the documents themselves. Then how can they deliver the information that is not in their possession.

Rajneesh madhok,

B-xxx/63, Nehru nagar, St. No. 2,

Railway Road,

Phagwara (Pb)

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  • Similar Content

    • jeevan
      By jeevan
      If the information officer is subordinate in rank of the officer who classified the information as secret of confidential, can be override the decision of his supervisor?
    • Shrawan
      By Shrawan
      What is contained in confidential reports is undoubtedly ‘personal information’ about that employee. The ACRs are protected from disclosure because arguably such disclosure seriously harm interpersonal relationship in a given organization. Further, the ACR notings represent an interaction based on trust and confidence between the officers involved in initiating, reviewing or accepting the ACRs. These officers could be seriously embarrassed and even compromised if their notings are made public. There are, thus, reasonable grounds to protect all such information through a proper classification under the Official Secrets Act.
       


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