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‘AWWA is welfare body, not under RTI’

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‘AWWA is welfare body, not under RTI’

 

 

Chandigarh, June 25: CAN an NGO, Army Wives Welfare Organisation (AWWA), have an office adjacent to the office of GOC-in-C Western Command in the high security zone of Western Command Headquarter? Can serving officers be attached or employed with AWWA?

These and some other questions were asked under the RTI Act from the Western Command authorities but the latter refused to entertain the query. It replied, “AWWA, being an NGO and a welfare organisation, does not fall within the purview of the RTI Act.”

 

Guneet Chaudhary, lawyer, vide an application to Public Information Officer (PIO) Western Command sought information regarding the Army’s association with AWWA, an NGO constituted with the aim of welfare of wives and children of Army officers and jawans as well as rehabilitation of war widows.

 

The applicant, while seeking information, relied upon the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India which pointed out an unauthorised expenditure of Rs 75 crore by spouses of Air force and Army chiefs who are presidents of AWWA and AFWWA. The report also indicted the Army for irregularities in hiring of light vehicles and their misuse for AWWA.

 

Chaudhary specifically sought information regarding the legal status of AWWA, source of funding, serving officers/other ranks deployed on AWWA duties, provisions under which AWWA is using Army building/infrastructure in top security zones, details of rent, if any, paid by AWWA to the Army, details of welfare activities undertaken by AWWA, details of amount spent on travelling and other facilities provided to AWWA president Western Command, AWWA’s annual audited balance sheets, list of war widows who have been given grants by AWWA, etc.

 

Surprisingly, the PIO, through letter dated June 18, 2007, told the applicant that since AWWA is a welfare organisation and an NGO, it is not a public authority and also not within the purview of the RTI Act.

However, the definition of Public Authority as provided under Section 2h(d) of the RTI Act includes an NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government. Since AWWA got the initial corpus from the Ministry of Defence and is funded from different heads like canteen profits and various grants of the Ministry of Defence earmarked for the welfare of defence personnel, it’s very much a Public Authority under the RTI Act.

 

As per the applicant, the reply forwarded by the Public Information Officer amounts to deliberate denial of information and as such makes the officer liable for penal action under the RTI Act.

Chaudhary is now planning to approach the appellant authority in the matter. He said, “The Army has a negative attitude towards complying with the provisions of the RTI Act 2005. The PIO appointed at various Army locations are naïve.”

 

‘AWWA is welfare body, not under RTI’

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RTI: Army fails to respond to application seeking information on AWWA status

Chandigarh, July 09: After not getting a response to his Right to Information application filed with the ADG-PIO, Army Headquarters, South Block, New Delhi, on May 28, 2007, regarding the functioning of the AWWA, Supreme Court advocate Guneet Chaudhary has now appealed to the appellate authority in the matter.

Full details of the news available at:

RTI: Army fails to respond to application seeking information on AWWA status

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Many thanks Ganpat for this.

Actually. Like smnislam, I also feel that AWWA should be a PA as defined in the RTI Act.

Once the two appeals, reach the CIC, the matter will be clarified once and for all.

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I think I have replied this issue many times at various forums. AWWA cannot escape from the ambit of theRTI Act. Though the wife of Army commander is its President, it is run by serving Army Officers and government staff. This is akin to the PM's relief Fund. I was surprised to see that this issue is not settled tillnow.

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not only awwa but also other NGO like womens organisations of wifes of govt. officials which operate from govt. land and buildings and use official resourses/facilities should also be brought within the purview of the RTI act

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Army deserts its wives' welfare club

by Ajay Sura 21 Nov 2008, Times of India

 

CHANDIGARH: Caught in an RTI poser that sought information on the funding of Army Wives' Welfare Association (AWWA), the Army in a shocking reply to the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instead disowned it.

 

Offices of AWWA are scattered across Army cantonments in India and its headquarters is in South Block, Delhi like the Army headquarters. It is, on the face of it, a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

 

Giving a new twist to the ongoing debate over functioning and funding of AWWA, the Army has in a five-page reply, filed on behalf of the chief of staff, Western Command, said it has nothing to do with funds for the association either.

 

The reply, a copy of which is with TOI, is to be submitted before the CIC next Monday (November 24). It comes over a year after the Army declined to provide information on where money for AWWA came from, taking recourse in the plea that as the body was not funded by the government it did not fall under the RTI purview.

 

In fact, the Army has gone on to plead with Major (retd) Guneet Chaudhary to withdraw the petition since "he too has donned the Olive Green and he is well aware of the yeoman's service done by AWWA for jawans. We leave it to his wisdom and discretion whether he should continue to insist on or persist with the issue which was closer to his heart at one point of time and in any case is a non-issue when it comes to questioning it. He may seek to withdraw his appeal and put a full stop on the issue''.

 

In the RTI application, Chaudhary had sought information from Western Command about the legal status of AWWA, source of funding, organizational structure, number of officers and other ranks attached with it, reason for giving office space in the high security zones of western command headquarters, grants given to widows and orphaned children of Army in the last five years and the AWWA president using Army aircraft and Army vehicles.

 

"As regards funding, we reiterate with all emphasis that Western Command (or Army) does not fund AWWA in any manner,'' states the reply even as documents procured by TOI on Wednesday revealed that AWWA was funded by a total of 18 HQ brigades in 2004 and by 16 HQ brigades and divisions in 2007.

 

Record reveals that all AWWA offices are run with the financial assistance from various units. Even the officer in-charge of the schools run by AWWA are serving Army officers of the rank of Lt. Col. An interestingly point: If the Army doesn't pump in money for AWWA, it's a miracle who runs the sprawling network as there is no subscription fee for membership.

 

Moreover, all vehicles used by AWWA in their day-to-day functioning belong to the Army and the wives' association even finds a mention in the Army's official website. The matter will be finally heard by the commission on November 24.

 

Army deserts its wives' welfare club-India-The Times of India

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As reported by Rakesh Bhatnagar (24 December 2008) in DNA India

 

The central information commission (CIC) has summoned army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor’s wife Kirti Kapoor to explain the legal status of the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) she heads. Kirti acts as AWWA’s ex-officio president.

Retired Major Guneet Chaudhary has moved the commission, invoking the right to information (RTI), to seek details about the association’s working, funding and legal status.

 

The army’s information officers have distanced themselves from Maj Chaudhary’s query. Kirti could engage a lawyer to appear before the CIC and disclose the unclassified information to the applicant. The CIC has not fixed the date of hearing.

The summons issued by information commission Satyanand Mishra says, “The real issue of consideration is whether AWWA is a public authority. The contention of the appellant is that it is a part of the army and, hence, the army authorities should provide all information in respect of AWWA.”

It also says, “Before taking any view on the nature of AWWA..., it would be just and fair to give AWWA an opportunity of hearing. During the course of hearing, we were given to understand that the AWWA had been registered as a society under the Registration of Society Act, not only at the Central level, but also at various Command level”.

The CIC said, “It should be made clear that if it (AWWA) fails to be present through any of its office bearers or through any authorised representatives, the matter would be heard and decided ex parte”.

Earlier this month, a full-bench of CIC castigated the all-powerful cabinet secretariat and the department of personnel, training and pensions (DOPT) for adopting delaying tactics in imparting information to the applicants.

The bench said CIC was above all government departments. “In fact, they should have known that no level in government is higher than the provisions of an RTI Act passed by parliament. In fact the issue boils down to an authority like the cabinet secretariat going against the sanctity of the very Act itself,” CIC said.

“As such, the commission sees no reason whatsoever to delay the matter further and directs the respondents (DOPT and CS) to abide by the commission’s decision,” CIC said in an order.

 

SOurce : DNA - India - CIC summons army chief’s wife

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As reported in zeenews Bureau on Dec 23

 

New Delhi, Dec 23: The Central Information Commission has summoned the Army chief's wife, who is also the ex-officio President of Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), to answer questions raised by a retired Army officer about the functioning of the association.

 

spacer.gif Kirti Kapoor, wife of General Deepak Kapoor, by virtue of being the present head of the Association or her attorney will appear before the Information Commission Satyanand Mishra to explain the legal status of the Association as a Public Authority.

 

"We have sent the summons to her. The date of hearing is yet to be decided," CIC office said.

 

Maj (retd) Guneet Chaudhary had sought details about the working, funding and legal status of the Association in his RTI application addressed to the Army. But the Information Officers of Army distanced themselves saying that AWWA was a non-governmental organisation and they could not provide any details about it.

 

Information Commissioner Mishra, in his order said "The real issue of consideration is whether AWWA is a public authority. The contention of the appellant is that it is a part of the Army and, hence, the Army authorities should provide all information in respect of AWWA."

 

The Commission asked the CPIO of the Army to clarify whether AWWA was part of the Army or Ministry of Defence, besides if the association has been allotted any official accommodation by the Army to run its offices.

 

It also asked whether the AWWA is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Army and did it spend any funds on the travelling of various office bearers of AWWA.

 

In the same order, Information Commissioner Mishra said since AWWA was not heard in the matter it would not be correct on his part to pass any order in regard to its character as a public authority as defined in RTI Act.

 

"Before taking any view on the nature of AWWA as a public authority it would be just and fair to give AWWA an opportunity of hearing. During the course of hearing, we were given to understand that the AWWA had been registered as a society under the Registration of Society Act not only at the Central level, but also at various Command level," he mentioned.

 

The Information Commissioner ordered that notice should be sent to AWWA at the central level to present its point of view on whether it is a public authority under the RTI Act.

 

"It should be made clear that if it fails to be present through any of its office bearers or through any authorised representatives, the matter would be heard and decided exparte," he ordered.

 

source :

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As reported by Vikas Kahol at indiatoday.digitaltoday.in on December 27,2008

 

A Right to Information (RTI) application seeking information on the legal status of the Army Wives’ Welfare Association ( AWWA) has put the defence authorities in a spot. A Chief Information Commission (CIC) bench has issued a notice to Kirti Kapoor, president, AWWA asking her to furnish details relating to its funding and functioning.

 

Kapoor— wife of chief of the Army staff General Deepak Kapoor— was ordered to appear in person or present her case through a representative.

 

The bench, headed by Satyanand Mishra, in a recent order asked the AWWA to furnish the list of government premises occupied by the association and the number of serving Army officers and other personnel working ( even voluntarily) for it.

 

The CIC also sought a copy of the circular issued by the ministry of defence or the Army headquarters authorising these officers and employees to work, even voluntarily, for the AWWA. The CIC also issued notices to Lt- Col Tomarjeet, central public information officer, and Lt- Col Anil Chandra, a representative of the first appellate Authority, Western Command headquarters, on an appeal by Chandigarh- based lawyer Major Guneet Chaudhary. The Army had denied him information regarding the AWWA’s functioning under the RTI Act.

 

Chaudhary had sought the reason from the Army for providing office space to the AWWA in the high- security western command headquarters.

 

He also questioned why the AWWA president used Army aircraft and vehicles.

 

Besides, Chaudhary asked the Army to provide him information on the funding and organisational structure of the AWWA, as well as the number of officers and other ranks attached with it.

 

The Army, however, declined him the information on the pretext that the AWWA was an NGO and did not form a part of the Army. It also said it had never funded the AWWA. Reacting to the Army’s submission, Chaudhary had moved the CIC. During the last hearing, Chaudhary had placed on record a document substantiating that a part of the profits earned by the Canteen Stores Department ( CSD) was given to AWWA. He had also submitted before the CIC that the AWWA’s Memorandum of Association clearly stated that its income included financial aid from the government and share in centralised canteen profits.

 

The record, according to Chaudhary, showed the AWWA offices were run with the financial assistance from various Army units. Even the officersin- charge of the schools run by the AWWA were serving Army officers of the rank of Lieutenant- Colonels. Moreover, all vehicles used by AWWA in their functioning were provided by the Army and the association had also found a mention on the Army’s official website.

 

The AWWA offices are scattered across Army cantonments in India and its headquarters are in South Block, Delhi.

 

Source : India Today - India's most widely read magazine.

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Apropos the subject AWWA is welfare body, not under RTI Act 2005?

 

Before commenting on the subjet, it is essential to comment on the conspicuous anxiety exhibited by AWWA to remain outside the purview of the RTI Act 2005. If AWWA is transparent in their dealings and really act for the welfare of Military personnel, what prompt them from escaping the rigours of transparency and accountability, which the RTI Act imposes for good governance in order to weed out corruption at different levels/transparancy in dealings. Indeed there is a lot to be gained in terms of improving the public perception about the AWWA to the provisions of the RTI Act. Under what circumstances the AWWA hide the information sought by an RTI Applicant under the provisions of RTI Act 2005, that too when the information was sought by an Army person. Can the same be denied taking the matter in its right perspective. It is a matter of real concern that top functionaries' spouses misuse the official powers of High ranking officers, thus draining out the money/fund meant for deserving cases. In the event of somebody points out the finger or seek information to furnish from the Agency, the wrath definitely put on the person who is seeking the information. It is pertinent to mention here that RTI applicants are/were put to ordeals because of the fact that these applicants are seeking discomfort information, which will not suit the P.As and ultimately ends in legal battle. Our expert members may kindly draw their attention reg. the subject matter - Hon'Judges decline to declare their assests, PMO office refuses to divulge the asset information of close relatives of Ministers/High P.As/CVC/I.T Deptt. seek exemption from the purview of RTI Act 2005 etc. etc.

 

If an Act has been made applicable to the citizens of the Country, which was passed in the Parliament after deabte, the highest authority of the Country, what is harm in abiding the law, taking the right spirit of the Act. You may be high, but law is above all.

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I know AWWA in and out. It is a public authority in every respect. I just could not open mouth when I was in Army and scared to do so even now. I am keenly waiting for the President AWWA's reply to the querries raised by CIC.

 

Let me quote a trailer. Army Chief's wife follow her husband travelling in Air Force Helicopter when they visit places of their interest. Normally no civilian or family members of Armed Forces personel is allowed to travel in Air Force Helicopter. Army Chief's wife is allowed to travel on a plea that she is on official duty in her personal capacity as the Presaident of AWWA. Affairs of AWWA are run by serving Army Officers in government buildings in High Security Area.

 

It will be interesting to watch someone claiming that it is a private organisation run by private fund by private individuals.

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the trailer is interesting. is it that the president AWWA designation is something like ex-officio(sic) i.e the lady wife of the chief is invariably the president? during one of my tenures i learnt that it is the station commander's lady wife who calls the shots at the station level in AWWA. some prime defence land is being utilised by AWWA, i learnt.

 

i guess it does some good work also; not that it makes them immune from rti act. in one of my earlier stations it ran a boutique and restaurant on defence land. would utilisation of govt land alone qualify it to be under the ambit of rti act? there may be other grounds as well but this is one that i know for sure.

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Apropos the news items posted by Col.Kurup.

 

Thanks for the post. Since he is hailing from military background, can well assess what is happening inside in such Agencies. It is a known fact that most of the high ranking military personnel are misusing their official post and Public cannot question their authorities as the public cannot access the activities of the military personnel in normal circumstances. Moreover if one ventures to do so, he/she may be termed as a traitor and action will be proceeded against them. I was reading a news paper itme in which a RAW employee has been involved in a corruption case. Then, what to speak of the other departments. Let GOD only save this Country.

 

MOHANDAS.

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Why overload the God ? He is too busy. We can at least create waves that when unified can flush out corrupt practices to certain extend. Just see the consequences of a simple RTI application from a Retired Major on AWWA.

 

3 weeks back Sri. Palat Mohandas, the SIC, Kerala has given a wonderful interpretation of the term 'substantially financed". According to him spending even Rs.1/- from government sources is good enough to fulfil the requirement of substantially financed.

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Why overload the God ? He is too busy. We can at least create waves that when unified can flush out corrupt practices to certain extend. Just see the consequences of a simple RTI application from a Retired Major on AWWA.

 

I am sure Mohandas had no such intention, but we in India invoke God too many times to shift responsibility from our shoulder.

 

In this age, knowledge itself is god. And RTI is taking this god to masses!

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In this age, knowledge itself is god. And RTI is taking this god to masses!

 

quite a statement. best in many many days.

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In a recent order, IC SM has finally ruled that AWWA is not a PA under the RTI Act.

 

However, he has suggested that two aspects of AWWA - housing of it offices and appointment of serving officers to work as staff officers in AWWA - give the public the impression that AWWA ia a Public Authority.

 

He has therefore hoped that the authorities concerned take the necessary steps so that such a impression is removed from the minds of citizens.

 

The full order is attached to this post.

SM-18032009-04.pdf

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This is a mockery on the defenition of Public Authority, RTI Act and WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA. Even the examples given is good enough reason to consider it as a public authority It is a pity that the Commisssion ignored its source of funds, whether it is paying the taxes etc.

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Few days before during my visit to Army Headquarter I have seen that a army truck was converted into AWWA canteen. Driver of the vehicle was a Sepoy in uniform. Now I am planning to file a RTI application to Army authorities to know the following :

 

1. Rules under which the army trucks are permitted to be hired by AWWA.

2. Rate at which such army trucks are hired by AWWA.

3. Total amount received by Indian Army from AWWA for hiring of such truck in last one year.

4. Amount due from AWWA for hiring of such trucks.

 

Please suggest any more points.

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Please add following.:

 

1. copy of order sanctioning use of ibid Army vehicle for AWWA

2. Total number of occassions army vehicle has been used for AWWA by you during the current financial year.

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Thank you kurup sir. I am also adding the following points:

 

1. Head of account in which the amount received from AWWA is credited.

2. List of occasions on which the army transport can be hired by a civil authority along with copy of rules.

 

I think the same points can also be used to know the rent the AWWA is paying for using Army premises.

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