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karira

Maharashtra quietly amends its RTI Rules

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Ketan Modi

Dear All,

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chauhan, fearing Adarsh like fall outs due to usage of RTI Act has amended the rules and now there is a cap of 150 words covering only one topic. This is being challenged by the RTI Stake Holders and this evening, I have been informed, that some Stake Holders are likely to meet him. There was a news two three days back on the subject. Once I get to know what happened today, I shall keep this one thread updated.

Ketan Modi

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rameshneotech

hame shock nahi hona chahiye ki limit 150 word hai aisa rule govermnet hamesa lati jise sabhi bharat ke logo ko gulam banake un per raj kar sake

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karira

As reported by Pramit Bhattacharya in livemint.com on 06 April 2012:

Views | The curious changes in Maharashtra

 

Views | The curious changes in Maharashtra’s RTI rules

 

The Maharashtra government’s clandestine amendments to right to information (RTI) rules appear to be turning into a major embarrassment at a time when its senior officials are in the dock for their involvement in the so-called Adarsh scam, involving the construction of a swank residential tower on land that was reserved for war widows. Several murky details of the scam that led to the resignation of the then chief minister, Ashok Chavan, were exposed using provisions of the RTI Act.

 

70632D2A-1D38-4D85-A2D6-5388E19F9A4EArtVPF.gifThe amendments made in January were not published immediately, and have come to light only recently. The restrictions on RTI applicants imposed by the government in its amendment appear to have been drafted by characters from an Orwellian world.

The government has made three key changes and the strangest of them all is the one that says that an RTI applicant can only use a pencil while making notes, when he or she is inspecting government records. Mercifully, it does not specify whether the pencil has to be a HB pencil or otherwise.

 

The government has introduced a word-cap of 150 words on all RTI applications. It is not known whether the word-cap was designed to avoid too many questions or was inspired by twitter that has a similar word cap of 140 words. Also, an RTI application in Maharashtra can henceforth relate to only ‘one subject matter’; a subjective clause that remains open to interpretation and endows discretionary powers on individual information officials.RTI activists are of course not amused and have drafted a letter to the chief minister, which they plan to send after getting signatures from eminent public personas. The lack of any consultation by the government on these changes has made it vulnerable to the charge of trying to stifle an act that has been used by opposition parties as well as independent activists to expose many of its misdeeds.

 

Ironically, as a central minister of state in the prime minister’s office, Maharashtra’s current chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan had expressed reservations on similar amendments that were proposed by the Centre and later dropped owing to howls of protests from RTI groups.

 

The letter to Chavan, drafted by RTI activists Nikhil Dey and Bhaskar Prabhu, among others, points out that the way the changes were made was not in sync with either the spirit of the RTI law that aims at transparency or with the letter of the law that mandates the state to publicize key changes.

 

The landmark RTI act is arguably the best legislation drafted by civil society groups in recent years and has helped uncover crucial information on how public resources are managed. While there are instances of abuses of the provisions of the act, it is equally true that many government departments are obdurate when it comes to sharing information. Most RTI activists or even media-persons file RTI applications only as a last resort.

 

Erecting hurdles on their path does not bode well for a chief minister, who came to power on the mandate of transparency.

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skmishra1970

Now another side, If people continue to use RTI, the number of applications may havily go up unexpected which will creates additional burdon on PIO too.

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sharmajee

Its highly deplorable. However many central govt websites which offers link to submit public grievances on their website also have such idiotic and ridiculous limit of words (see dept of posts website) clubbed with restrictions of special characters, leaving hardly any room to public to express facts of his case with relevent refrences of various communications already had (lette,r no.s of offices invariably have /, -, : ;, dates with slash marks, which are special characters).

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aslamkhan
Now another side, If people continue to use RTI, the number of applications may havily go up unexpected which will creates additional burdon on PIO too.

do you want to say citizen must stop using RTI for Information??? just because number of applications may go up???

 

If PIO is good enough he/she must provide the Information to Information seeker so that Information seeker should not approach FAA,SIC/CIC.

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karira

As reported by Geetanjali Minhas in governancenow.com on 04 April 2012:

GovernanceNow.com | Activists decry Maharashtra move to amend RTI Act

 

[h=2]Activists decry Maharashtra move to amend RTI Act[/h]

In 2008, for the first time at the advice of Karnataka State Information Commission amendments were brought into the RTI Act after its CIC KK Mishra argued for curtailment citing the reason that is an insult to the PIO as he already busy doing other things. This when only 3 applications in KSIC had asked 25-30 questions. Despite protests amendments were carried out. Thereafter the menace spread in Bihar with amendments in 2009.

 

"This speaks of how committed the government is to curtail RTI Act," says Venkatesh Nayak of CHRI. "Later during the time when the present Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was at the DoPT in the centre proposal to amend RTI rules to 250 words per subject could not take off after huge protests. But now with first available opportunity they have done it in Maharashtra in an extremely irrational manner. This when as a central minister Chavan had said that without public consultations and debate there will be no amendments to RTI act. Now why has he now allowed that to happen in Maharashtra without any consultation and debate?”asks Nayak.

 

Advocate Vinod Sampat, also member of RTI Union, stumbled upon the amendments while buying a publication outside City Civil Court.

 

Julio F Ribeiro, retired IPS officer and trustee of PCGT who has been helping people file RTI applications, expressed extreme disappointment at the arbitrary step take by Maharashtra government to amend RTI act. “We are extremely flabbergasted at the state government for taking such a step clandestinely. Situation in the country is very bad and RTI is better than Lokpal which is for higher democracy.”

 

Riberio has sought an appointment with Chavan today to decide on future course of action. He said that no CIC has been appointed in the state and vacancies for IC have been pending for a long time due to which pendency of appeals and review petitions are rising. “They are killing a powerful information weapon and taking it away from common man” he said and added that earlier too they had written two letters to the CM for appointment of CIC and IC but the government has chosen to sit quietly over the issue and not do anything about it. Ribeiro has now written to the leader of opposition who part of 3 member committee to appoint SIC and IC.

 

RTI activist and journalist Krishnaraj Rao said that despite DoPT circular asking for patterning RTI uniformly across states on existing central RTI rules everyone is going on opposite directions. Last year the government wanted to amend central RTI act by keeping a word limit of 250 words which was vociferously opposed by all. “How did they put in a limit of 150 words in Maharashtra? There seems to be some kind of grand design to amend RTI rules across states boundaries the same pattern. Is there a secret circular or are Information Commissioners sitting and discussing this” questioned Rao.

 

Gravely concerned at arbitrary amendments by state govt, RTI experts say that the laws are made to make people feel secure and not spring a surprise and make them wonder what is the government doing behind people’s back. The government is supposed to take people into confidence and discuss it.

 

The wording of rule gives rise to multiple interpretations giving the PIO discretionary powers which he can misuse. This is dilution. One subject per application will lead to multiple applications, add to fees and further multiply pendency of appeals. Without considering the fact that thousands and thousands of applications are merely a page long state government has pushed amendments relying on mere anecdotal instances of some three or ten page applications.Every PIO will be waiting for such restrictive amendments as such things generate a lot of enthusiasm in implementing them say experts .

 

“This is not a solitary pursuit . There has to be country wide campaign directed at DoPT who has to issue a diktat for rules to be followed .It has to be taken up collectively. People will have to take up its ownership otherwise we richly deserve what we are getting. RTI Act gave you information but the rules have to articulate that freedom and not curtail that freedom. Bad rules are being introduced at the discretion of ‘competent’ public authorities .We need to preserve RTI on a united front and not look at it on individual state basis ”says Rao.

 

The activists plan to fight tooth and nail to preserve the spirit of act before it is maimed by government. “In the current state of affairs we need a minimum 5 information commissioners as the pendencie’s are going up at the rate of 3000 cases per month."

Bhavesh Patel, President of Anna Hazare’s anti corruption outfit, Bhrashtachar Virodhi Andolan, said that they want to make it a toothless act, weaken it and eventually eliminate the act. The amendments have been brought to basically to harass the citizens so that when seeking information become lengthy process the citizen it gives up altogether. after many cases of corruption coming to light with RTI the govt is now systematically curtailing the act . It is now that citizens should come together to protest this.

 

Speaking on amendments to act Nayak says that based on factual data the govt should make its reasons public and if the problem is serious we can explore other options. PIO’s can divide their work, respond to RTI queries within one month keeping in mind their other work and mention the no of queries they will respond to and also mention the amount of money charged for providing copies. In case of complaints the application can go to appellate authorities who can decide how many questions can be answered in 30 days considering the work burden of PIO.

 

“The govt should do a study on RTI applications as large majority of applications as in rural areas are for proactively disclosure of information under 4: 1(b) which is about scheme, beneficiaries, project and development funds , NREGA, wage payments etc;. Why this information is not put up on internet or panchayat walls. Realizing strong opposition to amendment of RTI act one by one the states have started curtailing it through rules or judicial route” says Nayak .

 

Another example of Govt resistance to RTI can be seen from the fact that much before the amendments were introduced, govt of Madhya Pradesh had merely on here say that central govt was bringing in amendments of 250 words pre subject matter started implementing the same .

 

Patel is hoping that the near future Anna Hazare who went on hunger strike to implement RTI in Maharashtra in 2003 before GoI made in into a Central Act in 2005 will step in for support.

 

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dr.s.malhotra

Unless such matters are taken at an united National forum , the rights of the citizens will continue to suffer similarly .

Evil needs to be nipped in the bud .

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bpagrawal

March - 2012 Issue N0. 3 (V0. 2)

 

THE MAHARASHTRA RIGHT TO INFORMATION

(AMENDMENT) RULES, 2012, DT. 16.1.2012

 

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMEN'l`

 

Manlralaya, Mumbai 400 O32, dated the 16 January 2012.

 

NOTIFICATION

 

MAHARASHTRA RIGHT TO INFORMATION RULES, 2005,

 

No. CRTl./2009/C.R.398/09/VI.-ln exercise of the powers conferred by sub-seciions (1) and

(2) ofsectiou 27 ofthe Right lo Information Act, 2005 (22 of 2005 the Government of Maharashtra

is hereby pleased lo make the following rules furïher to amend the Maharashtra Right lo lnfonnation

Rules, 2005, as follows, l1arnely:-

 

1. These rules may be called the Maharashtra Right to Information (Amendment) Rules,

2012.

Read more :

Law Web: Maharashtra RTI amendment rules 2012

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Newstrackindia.com on Apr 25, 2012

Activists flay Maharashtra's new stringent RTI rules

 

Mumbai, April 24 (IANS) Social activists in Maharashtra Tuesday flayed amendments in the state's Right To Information (RTI) rules which could bestow discretionary powers on officials to deny information to the public.

 

Leading RTI activist Anil Galgali said that the amendments were passed in the recent budget session of Maharashtra legislature and the new rules will be announced April 30.

 

"This was despite many of us, including Julio F. Ribeiro, Narayan Varma and other formally approaching Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and opposition leaders in both houses, and giving them written submissions," Galgali said.

 

The new rules stipulate that any request for information must not exceed 150 words, should be related to one subject matter only and if required, separate applications must be made if it relates to more than one topic, the public information officer (PIO) must allow the person inspecting documents to take a pencil only and all other writing instruments would be barred.

 

Galgali said that these new RTI rules would restrict the use of the act and give the PIOs discretionary powers to withhold information or harass the RTI users, leading to conflicts and increased number of appeals.

 

He accused the government of including these rules 'secretly,' without any public discussions, as mandated by Sec. 4 (1) of the act.

 

The 150-word limit on applications may deter a majority of Maharashtra's people, especially the semi-literate and underprivileged sections who lack concise drafting skills, he added.

 

"We also object to the arbitrary nature of this rule change. By what process was the 150 word-limit arrived at? Why not 250 words? Or 10 words for that matter? Unless it is based on study and judicious reasoning, this rule is arbitrary," Galgali demanded.

 

Similarly, he said that even the stipulation of single subject mater would give unnecessary discretionary powers to the PIOs to reject applications, result in disputes and delays in getting information.

 

Terming it as "a sad development," Galgali said that Maharashtra is not the only state to have passed such restrictive rules.

 

Even Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have passed such rules and attempts have been made in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, creating hurdles for people to get imformation.

 

Galgali urged the need for all RTI activists in the country to unite and pursue uniform rules which are in harmony with the Central RTI Rules.

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Dnaindia.com on Apr 27, 2012

Sinister amendments - Mumbai - DNA

 

There is something sinister about the Maharashtra government’s move to surreptitiously introduce amendments to the Right to Information Act. According to the amendments — which, incidentally, were introduced on January 16 but did not come to light till late March when activists chanced upon it — an applicant can ask questions only on a single subject, her application cannot exceed 150 words, and, during inspection, she can carry no other writing instruments barring a pencil.

 

Such rules have clearly been brought in to rein in not just enthusiastic activists, but also the common man. There is also something ironic about the manner in which our bureaucrats, who often use three words where one would do, demand brevity from citizens, many of whom are mostly illiterate people for whom the RTI Act is the last resort after all other avenues have failed them. That the government did not even bother to have a public debate on the amendments, something that it is mandated to do by law, not only shows it is motivated but also makes the amendments illegal.

 

As such, the state is floundering on the RTI front thanks to a dearth of commissioners and many other posts all the way down the hierarchy that have remained vacant for a long time. At such a juncture, by focussing its energy on making information-seeking harder rather than striving to ensure the smooth functioning of the system, the state has clearly betrayed its motives. The only way forward now is for the state to strike down the amendments, sit down with RTI activists and look at positive changes in the law that will make information-seeking more user-friendly.

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Indianexpress.com on 28 Apr 2012

Lawyer moves HC against RTI curbs - Indian Express

 

A Solapur-based lawyer has moved the Bombay HC against new restrictions in the Maharashtra Right to Information Rules, claiming they restrict freedom of expression. Petitioner Sanjay Kshirsagar has challenged Rule 3A, under which a request for information must relate only to one subject and shall not exceed 150 words. Kshirsagar claims the amended rules are against the objectives of the original RTI Act, 2005. The petition has been placed before a division bench of Justice D D Sinha and Justice, V K Tahilramani.

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skmishra1970

Nandi Sahab, this is a very good news, now the ball is in the court of Bombay HC where Maharastra Govt. have to clarify that how they have rule making power or wing cutting power for RTI ? Please keep updates to this forum.

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skmishra1970

Sometimes I have seen message - "Your post will not be visible until a moderator has approved it for posting". But sometimes message / reply posted immediately. Moderator are requested to please clarify the same. Somtimes I fail to upload any documents on this forum. I can not understand the principles.

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skmishra1970
do you want to say citizen must stop using RTI for Information??? just because number of applications may go up???

 

If PIO is good enough he/she must provide the Information to Information seeker so that Information seeker should not approach FAA,SIC/CIC.

 

 

Dear Khan Sahab,

 

I am not telling that people should stop using RTI, but want to convey the govt. that amendments are neither in the interest of general public nor in the interest of PIO. So please stop to cut wing of RTI.

 

People who have tested RTI will not forget it resulting number of Applications will go up which will create an unexpected growing of workload to your PIO too.

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karira

Bombay High Court has issued a notice to the State Government ion this matter - and returnable in 6 weeks time.

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karira

As reported by T N Raghunatha in daily[pioneer.com on 12 May 2012:

HC seeks Maharashtra take on RTI rule change

 

 

HC seeks Maharashtra take on RTI rule change

 

 

The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the Maharashtra Government to file its say on the controversial amendment to the Maharashtra Right Information Rules, 2005, which mandates that a request for information “shall relate to one subject matter” and “shall not ordinarily” exceed 150 words.

Hearing a public interest litigation filed by an advocate from Solapur district Shivaji Jagannath Kshirsagar, a High Court Division Bench comprising Justices DD Sinha and Vijaya Tahilramani asked the State Government to explain the logic behind inclusion of such a rule.

“This is a sensitive act and such matters are very important in larger public interest,” the Bench observed, while directing the State Government to file its reply within six weeks.

In his petition, Kshirsagar has challenged the notification dated January 16, 2012, amending Maharashtra Right to Information Rules, 2005 to facilitate insertion of Rule 3A in the Act. The amended relevant section of the Rules reads thus: “3A. Request relates only to single subject matter: A request in writing for information under Section 6 of the Act shall relate to one subject matter and it shall not ordinarily exceed one hundred and fifty words”.

“If an applicant wishes to seek information on more than one subject matter he shall make separate applications: Provided that, in case the request made relates to more than one subject matter, the Public Information Officer may respond to the request relating to the first subject matter only and may advice the applicant to make a separate application for each of the other subject matters,” the newly inserted section adds.

Making a strong case for quashing the controversial amendment, Kshirsagar argued that the impugned notification was “unconstitutional” and “against the law”.

The petitioner also pointed out that the Maharashtra Right to Information (Amendment) Rules, 2012 in which the controversial change has been made, went against the objectives of the Right To Information Act, 2005. The controversial amendment was also against natural justice and it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Kshirsagar stated that the amendment would result in harassment to the citizens seeking information under the Right To Information Act, as the new provision “gives discretionary powers to Public Information Officers”.

“This discretion will be used against the applicants to deprive them from seeking information. It provides weapons to the Public Information Officer to reject the applications,” he said.

Alluding to the Supreme Court’s observation in the Maneka Gandhi’s case that every law should be “just, fair and reasonable”, the petitioner stated that the impugned notification seeking amendment to the Maharashtra Right To Information Rules, 2005, “is against the freedom of expression as it restricts the contents of the application to 150 words and one subject only”

“Moreover the notification has put unreasonable restrictions on the applicants and thereby violates Article 21 of the Constitution … The impugned notification does not satisfy the reasonability test. Hence (it) may be set aside,” the petitioner added.

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Ashutosh Shukla in Dnaindia.com on May 23, 2012

Mumbai activists demand clarity on RTI amendments - Mumbai - DNA

 

After slamming the government for amending the RTI rules, activists have demanded clarity regarding what the government really intends through the amendments.

 

Activists are calling for more clarity on certain issues, prominently the 150 word limit and the issue of multiple subject matters.

 

“If read strictly by the printed word, the amendment pertains to subject matter and not the description (where most of the content in an application exists). The description can be as long possible,” said Bhaskar Prabu, an RTI activist.

 

Vijay Kumbhar, another RTI activist and columnist, said, “What will the PIO (public information officer) do in that scenario? What if the application is 151 words? Will the application be rejected altogether?”

 

According to Prabhu, if there are multiple subject matters in an application, the PIO is supposed to give information only on the first subject matter as per the amendments.

 

The activists will soon voice these issues to the government’s subordinate legislation committee.

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Khushachand Baheti

can you post Maharashtra Governments recent amendment, restricting RTI application on only one subject and 150 words.

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karira
can you post Maharashtra Governments recent amendment, restricting RTI application on only one subject and 150 words.

 

Your post has been merged with another thread on the same topic/subject.

 

Read the full thread above.

 

The Amendment is attached to the first post in this thread 9it has several pages).

 

The notification about laying on the table of the house is attached to the post, just above your post.

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Khushachand Baheti

Thanks alot sir. The amendment to use pencil while inspection of documents was necessary.

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Khushachand Baheti

This amendment doesnt restrict the querry in 150 words. Is it any other amendment ? A news in Times of India few days ago says that PIO need not reply if querry exceeds 150 words. Can you enlighten sir.

Regards,

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karira
This amendment doesnt restrict the querry in 150 words. Is it any other amendment ? A news in Times of India few days ago says that PIO need not reply if querry exceeds 150 words. Can you enlighten sir.

Regards,

 

Please read the attachment to the first post in this thread !

 

(​The thread has several pages !)

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