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  1. ashakantasharma


    CONCEPT OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION The concept of democracy in India is enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of India wherein opening words provide that "We, the People of India ―and in the end it lays down‖give to ourselves this Constitution". The citizens have the fundamental right to know what the government is doing in its name. Freedom of speech is the lifeblood of democracy. The Apex Court in the case of K. v. Secretary of State for the Home Department Ex. P. Simms, held that the free flow of information and ideas informs political debate. It is a safety valve; people are more ready to accept decisions that go against them if they can in principle seek to influence them. It acts as a brake on the abuse of power by public officials. It facilitates the exposure of errors in the governance and administration of justice in the country. Ancient India had a feudal culture and hierarchical social structure. The Maharaja‘s, the Mughals and the British Rulers defended themselves behind ramparts of secrecy. The Britishers passed Official Secrets Act 1923, which was mainly a defense mechanism against the rising tide of nationalism initiated by M.K. Gandhi in 1917. As Indians were distrusted by British Government, so nobody had any access to official information under this Act.59 The Indian Legal System, largely being a colonial vintage, stresses on secrecy laws and such provisions are contained in Official Secrets Act 1923, the Indian Evidence Act 1872 and the infamous Rowlatt Act 1919 etc. After independence India adopted democratic form of government, which implies the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its creedal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing. The citizens have a right to decide by whom and by what rules they shall be governed and they are entitled to call on those who can survive without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that the people should have information about the functioning of government. It is only if people know how government is functioning that they can fulfill the role which democracy assigns to them and make democracy a really effective participatory democracy. "Knowledge", said James Madison, "will forever govern ignorance and a people who meant to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. The Supreme Court in the case of S.P. Gupta v Union of India held that "the citizens' right to know the facts, the true facts, about the administration of the country is, thus, one of the pillars of a democratic State and that is why the demand for openness in the government is increasingly growing in different parts of the world. With the globalization of trade and industry and well knit world today, the disclosure of information may be of the purity, potency and price of commodities in the market or the functioning of the government is necessary and for this purpose various Conventions have been held at National and International levels, which suggested imparting of the information on the working of the government to its citizens subject to some restrictions being imposed by the law in the interest of security of the country etc. The demand for openness in the government is based principally on two reasons. It is now widely accepted that democracy does not consist merely in people exercising their franchise once is five years to choose their rulers and, once the vote is cast, then retiring in passivity and not taking any interest in the government. Today it is common ground that democracy has a more positive content and its orchestration has to be continuous and pervasive. This means inter alia that people should not only cast intelligent and rational votes but should also exercise sound judgment on the conduct of the government and the merits of public policies, so that democracy does not remain merely a sporadic exercise in voting but becomes a continuous process of government an attitude and habit of mind. But this important role people can fulfill in a democracy only if it is an open government where there is full access to information in regard to the functioning of the government. For a long period the working of the Government had been shrouded in secrecy and the poor citizens had to run from pillar to post even to get small information about his application to get copies of record-of-rights or his representation made to the government functionaries and instances are not lacking where he had not received reply to his genuine request for years together. The Supreme Court of India, while interpreting Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India clearly laid down in a number of decisions that the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression includes right to acquire information and to disseminate it which is necessary for self expression enabling the people to contribute to debate on social and moral issues. In view of this, provisions were made in various Acts passed by the legislature for imparting information to the citizens from time to time. The Indian Evidence Act, give right to the person to know about the contents of the public documents and in this connection section 70 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, lays down that the public officials shall provide copies of public documents to any person, who has the right to inspect them. Under the Factories Act, compulsory disclosure of information has to be provided to factory workers regarding dangers including health hazards arising from their exposure to dangerous materials and the measures to overcome such hazards. Under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, every State is required to maintain a register of information on water pollution and it is further provided that so much of the register as relates to any outlet or any effluent from any land or premises shall be open to inspection at ail reasonable hours by any person interested in or affected by such outlet, land or premises. Under the Representation of the People Act, a candidate contesting elections is required to furnish in his nomination paper the information in the form of an affidavit concerning, accusation of any offence punishable with two or more years of imprisonment in any case including the framing of charges in pending cases; and conviction of an offence and sentence of one or more than one year imprisonment. Before the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act, 2002, legislative steps though some were taken but only a little could be achieved in the field of right to information through the following enactments. 1. The Constitution of India, 1950 2. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860) 3. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 4. The Representation of the People Act, 1951 5. The Companies Act, 1956 6. The Atomic Energy Act, 1962 7. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and 1973 8. The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 9. The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 10. The Trade Marks Act, 1999 11. The Designs Act, 2000 12. The Semi Conductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000 13. The Information Technology Act, 2000 14. The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Right Act, 2001 15. The Competition Act, 2002 16. The Delimitation Act, 2002 17. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Regulations, 2003 18. The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 19. The All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 Former judge of Supreme Court of India in his open letter dated 26th December, 1989 took up the matter regarding right to information to the citizens with the then Prime Minister of India96 in which it was categorically highlighted that "the right to know and the freedom of information are inalienable components of the freedom of expression and participation in public affairs, which Constitution confers on every citizen of the country. It is heartening that, in the very first broadcast to the nation you emphasized the importance of the freedom of information and the annihilation of secrecy as a crafty art of Government accepting this postulate, some things require to be done immediately so that, the credibility of the Indian community in the changed ethos of open government may be created. The Report of National Commission for Review of Working of the Constitution recognized the right to information wherein it is provided that major assumption behind a new style of governance is the citizen's access to information. Much of the common man's distress and helplessness could be traced to his lack of access to information and lack of knowledge of decision-making processes. He remains ignorant and unaware of the process that virtually affects his interest. Government procedures and regulations shrouded in veil of secrecy do not allow the litigants to know how their cases are being handled. They shy away from questioning officers handling their cases because of the latter's snobbish attitude and bow-wow style. Right to information should be guaranteed and needs to be given real substance. In this regard government must assume a major responsibility and mobilize skills to ensure flow of information to citizens. The traditional insistence on secrecy should be discarded. In fact, we should have an oath of transparency in place of an oath of secrecy. Administration should become transparent and participatory, right to minimizing manipulative and dilatory tactics of the babudom, and, last but most importantly putting a considerable check on graft and corruption. During the last decade, the right to information has got a momentum as never before and on the civil societies side also some organizations; social activists and individuals did excellent work in this field. The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) has done a great job in the field of right to information in rural India and its struggle for minimum wages and to get the information regarding Muster Rolls being maintained compelled the Government of Rajasthan to enact Right to Information Act and then various other State Governments enacted the Right to Information Acts. viz. 1. The Tamil Nadu Right to Information Act, 1997. 2. The Goa Right to Information Act, 1997. 3. The Karnataka Right to Information Act, 2000. 4. The Rajasthan Right to Information Act, 2000. 5. The Assam Right to Information Act, 2001. 6. The Delhi Right to Information Act, 2001. 7. The Orissa Right to Information Act, 2002. 8. The Maharashtra Right to Information Act, 2003. 9. The Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2004. The Freedom of Information Act, 2002 (5 of 2003) was enacted by the Government of India to provide for freedom to every citizen to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, consistent with public interest, in order to promote openness, transparency and accountability in administration and in relation to matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Statement of Objects and Reasons appended to the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 laid down that the Freedom of Information Bill seeks to achieve the following objects: 1. The need to enact a law on right to information was recognized unanimously at New Delhi. In its 38th Report relating to Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recommended that the Government should take measures for enactment of such legislation. 2. In order to make the Government more transparent, and accountable to the public, the Government of India appointed a Working Group on Right to information and Promotion of Open and Transparent Government. The working group was asked to examine the feasibility and need for either full-fledged Right to Information Act or its introduction in a phased manner to meet the needs of open and responsive governance and also to examine the frame work of rules with reference to the Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and Manual of Office Procedure. The said Working Group submitted its report in May 1997 along with a draft Freedom of Information Bill to the Government. The working Group also recommended suitable amendments to the Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and the Manual of Departmental Security instructions with a view to bring them in harmony with the proposed Bill. 3. The draft Bill submitted by the Working Group was subsequently deliberated by the Group of Ministers constituted by the Central Government to ensure that free flow of information was available to the public, while inter alia, protecting the national interest, sovereignty and integrity of India, and friendly relations with foreign States. 4. The proposed Bill is in accord with both Article 19 of the Constitution as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. 5. In our present democratic frame work, free flow of information for the citizens and non-Government institutions suffers from several bottlenecks including the existing legal frame-work, lack of infrastructure at the grass root levels and an attitude of secrecy within the Civil Service as a result of the old frame work of rules. The Government proposes to deal with all these aspects in a phased manner so that the Freedom of Information Act becomes a reality consistent with the objective of having a stable, honest, transparent and efficient Government. 6. The proposed Bill will enable the citizens to have an access to information on a statutory basis. With a view to further this objective, clause 3 of the proposed Bill specifies that subject to the provisions of this Act, every citizen shall have right to freedom of information. Obligation is cast upon every public authority under clause 4 to provide information and to maintain all records consistent with its operational requirements duly catalogued, indexed and published at such intervals as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government or the competent authority. With the passage of time, it was felt that even this Act failed to fulfil the aspiration of the citizens of India in the field of right to know and to get information since this Act was never enforced. In order to ensure greater and more effective access to information, it was thought that the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 must be made more progressive, participatory and meaningful. On this issue National Advisory Council suggested certain important changes to be incorporated into the said Act to ensure smoother and greater access to information. After examiner the suggestions of the National Advisory Council and others, the government decided to make a number of changes in the law. In view of the signifies changes proposed by the National Advisory Council and others, it was decide to repeal the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and enact another law for providing an effective framework for effectuating the right of information recognized under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.To achieve this object, The Right to Information Bill was introduced in the Parliament in December 2004. The important changes proposed to be incorporated, inter alia, include establishment of an appellate machinery with investigating powers to review decisions of the Public Information Officers; penal provisions for failure to provide information as per law; provisions to ensure maximum disclosure and minimum exemptions consistent with the constitutional provisions, and effective mechanism for access to information and disclosure by authorities, etc. In view of the significant changes proposed in the existing Act, the government decided to repeal the Freedom of Information Act and in the proposed legislation to provide an effective framework for effectuating the right to information. Indian Parliament passed the Right to Information Act, 2005, which came into force on 15.06.2005. This enactment set out its objectives in the Preamble, which aims to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. This Act was brought into Statute book on the premise that informed citizenry and transparencies of information are vital to the vibrant democracy. Thus, the Right to Information Act, 2005, which came into force in India in totality is regarded as a milestone in the history of social legislation to impart information to citizens of India regarding working of the government and its corporations, etc. to make them more transparent as a result of which corruption, if not eliminated at all, would be checked to a greater extent. The Right to Information Act thus provides an effective framework for effectuating the right of information, a fundamental right, recognized under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The Preamble to the Right to Information Act, 2005 lays down that whereas the Constitution of India has established democratic Republic; and whereas democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed; and whereas revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information and whereas it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramount of the democratic ideal and, therefore, it is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it. It is not out of place to mention here that most of the problems today are the result of non-observance of moral values by the younger generations after the independence that have prompted them to make money by fair or foul means. The absence of availability of information on the working of the government generally generate corruption and nepotism and, therefore, the enactment of this Act is an important milestone in furtherance of the democratic process whereby it shall be possible for the citizens to get information on all important issues and decisions affecting them and thereafter to adjudge the performance of the government, which they elected, for themselves
  2. ashakantasharma


    DEFINITION OF RIGHT TO INFORMATION Right to Information‖ means the right to information which can be obtained from the public authorities or 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 documents or records; (iii) taking certified samples of material; (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device. According to Madison, "a popular government without popular information, or the means of obtaining it, is but a prologue to a farce or tragedy or perhaps both." Right to Information empowers every citizen to seek any information from the Government and the authorities acting under the authority of the Government. This right is regarded as oxygen of democracy as because exercise of this right ensures transparency and prevention of corruptions in the functioning of the Public Authorities and thereby helps to survive and strengthen the democracy. According to Thomas Jefferson, "it is their sweat which is to earn all the expenses of the war and their blood which is to flow in expiation of the cause of it." Freedom of information legislation must respect the individual's right, to privacy, the right to be let alone which, in the classic words of the great American Judge, Louis Brandeis, is "the most comprehensive of rights and the rights most valued by civilized men." Freedom of information, as Norman Marsh has aptly pointed out, "is not meant to provide open government in the sense of the whole administrative, business of government being carried on in the market place. There is what is called the 'privacy of government decision-taking. Whilst there can be no doubt about the public's entitlement to know what is decided on its behalf, the right to know cannot always be extended to the internal deliberations of government. The fact that the right to information is included in the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and expression has been recognized by Supreme Court decisions challenging governmental control over newsprint and bans on the distribution of newspapers. In a landmark case the petitioners, publishers of one of the leading national dailies, challenged restrictions in the Newsprint Control Order on the acquisition, sale and use of newsprint. The Supreme Court struck down the restrictions on the basis that they interfered with the petitioners' right to publish and circulate their paper freely, which was included in their right to freedom of speech and expression. In a subsequent case, the Supreme Court held that media controlled by public bodies were required to allow both sides of an issue to be aired. The right to know has been reaffirmed in the context of environmental issues that have an impact upon people's very survival. Several High Court decisions have upheld the right of citizens' groups to access information where an environmental issue was concerned. For example, in different cases the right to inspect copies of applications for building permissions and the accompanying plans, and the right to have full information about a municipality‘s sanitation programme, has been affirmed. The overall impact of these decisions has been to establish clearly that the right to freedom of information or the public‘s right to know, is embedded in the provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights in the Constitution.
  3. ashakantasharma

    Kinds of Rights

    Kinds of Rights Rights can be of many types such as natural, positive, legal etc. (a) Natural and Legal right According to some views, certain rights derive from a deity or nature. Natural rights are rights which are derived from nature. They are universal; that is, they apply to all people, and do not derive from the laws of any specific society. They exist necessarily, inhere in every individual, and can't be taken away. For example, it has been argued that humans have a natural right to life. They are sometimes called moral rights or inalienable rights. Legal rights, in contrast, are based on a society's customs, laws, statutes or actions by legislature. An example of a legal right is the right to vote of citizens. Citizenship, itself, is often considered as the basis for having legal rights, and has been defined as civil rights, the "right to have rights". Legal rights are sometimes called statutory rights and are culturally and politically relative since they depend on a specific societal context to have meaning. Some thinkers see rights in only one sense while others accept that both senses have a measure of validity. There has been considerable philosophical debate about these senses throughout history. According to Jeremy Bentham legal rights are the essence of rights, and he denied the existence of natural rights. According to Thomas Aquinas the rights which were purported by positive law but not grounded in natural law were not properly rights at all, but only a facade or pretense of rights. (b) Positive rights and Negative rights In one sense, a right is a permission to do something or an entitlement to a specific service or treatment, and these rights are called positive rights. However, in another sense, rights may allow or require inaction, and these are called negative rights; they permit or require doing nothing. For example, in some democracies e.g. the United States of America, citizens have the positive right to vote and they have the negative right not to vote; people can stay home and watch television instead, if they desire. In other democracies e.g. Australia, however, citizens have a positive right to vote but they don't have a negative right to not vote, since non-voting citizens can be fined. Positive rights are permissions to do things, or entitlements to be done. One example of a positive right is the purported "right to welfare." Negative rights are permissions not to do things, or entitlements to be left alone. Often the distinction is invoked by libertarians who think of a negative right as an entitlement to "non-interference" such as a right against being assaulted. Though similarly named, positive and negative rights should not be confused with active rights which encompass "privileges" and "powers" and passive rights which encompass "claims" and "immunities"
  4. ashakantasharma


    DEFINITION OF RIGHT An entitlement to something, whether to concepts like justice and due process, or to ownership of property or some interest in property, real or personal. These rights include various freedoms, protection against interference with enjoyment of life and property, civil rights enjoyed by citizens such as voting and access to courts, natural rights accepted by civilized societies and human rights to protect people through out the world from terror and torture. Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory. Rights are of essential importance in such disciplines as law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology. Rights are often considered fundamental to civilization, being regarded as established pillars of society and culture, and the history of social conflicts can be found in the history of each right and its development. The connection between rights and struggle cannot be overstated. Rights are not as much granted or endowed as they are fought for and claimed, and the essence of struggles past and ancient are encoded in the spirit of current concepts of rights and their modern formulations. The Modern English word right derives from Old English riht or reht, in turn from Proto-Germanic ‘riχtaz’ meaning "right" or "direct", and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ‘reg-to’ meaning "having moved in a straight line", in turn from ‘(o)reg'(a)’ meaning "to straighten or direct". In several different Indo-European languages, a single word derived from the same root means both "right" and "law", such as French droit, Spanish derecho and German recht. Rights are widely regarded as the basis of law, some theorists suggest civil disobedience is, itself, a right, and it was advocated by famous thinkers. There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definition and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial
  5. ashakantasharma

    Can RTI Be Misused ?

    Can RTI Be Misused in any way possible by anyone ?
  6. How I became an Information Commissioner
  7. What is the logic behind removing political parties from the purview of RTI Act in India?
  8. ashakantasharma

    Who killed Lalit Mehta ?

    Who killed Lalit Mehta ? Submitted by Hardnews on Fri, 07/04/2008 - 09:05 The widespread corruption in the Ćagship scheme of the UPA government, NREGA, is hidden from none. Social audits conducted by civil society groups and individuals have proved the existence of corrupt practices being followed by the district administration of various states. These social audits are threatening the people who have been brazenly siphoning oĂ funds from public schemes for decades. Consequently, this public accountability in grassroots democracy is turning out to be dangerous for those directly involved in exposing irregularities in the scheme. That is, those who want the NREGA to be a success. On May 15, a mutilated body (eyes gouged out and face smashed) was found near the Kanda forest in Palamu district of Jharkhand. The body was that of Lalit Mehta, secretary of Vikas Sahyog Kendra, an NGO that has been actively working on the right to food and NREGA schemes. He blew the whistle on widespread corruption in the scheme in Palamu. Lalit Mehta was last seen on May 14 with Jean Dreze, well known economist, former member of the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi, and one of the architects of NREGA. He was seen in the small town of Daltoganj. He left in the evening for Chatarpur in Jharkhand. His dead body was later recovered by the adjoining Bishrampur Police Station. Some people who live near the spot saw a man being beaten by a group. One man in Silda village went to check his well at night since he thought that the body might have been dumped there. No arrests have been made till date. Instead, the district administration has implicated Jean Dreze in its report. Activists claim that this is a brazen attempt to protect the criminals. The report mentions that Robert, Lalit's brother-in-law, was aggressive and violent and always opposed his marriage with his sister. The report states that the other motive of the murder could have been the huge money transactions that took place at Vikas Sahyog Kendra. "This is totally baseless as it has been 10 years since Lalit has been married. So the Robert angle never arises. As far as money is concerned, Lalit has not paid his rent for months, his LIC policy has expired and his bank account has only Rs 800," says Jawahar Mehta, an activist who worked closely with the activist. "The report shows that the police have made no serious enquiries into Lalit Mehta's murder. It does not provide any credible clue to this murder, but raises a number of mischievous conjectures using selective evidence. For instance, the report refers to interviews with Lalit Mehta's brother and his sons, without mentioning that the sons are one and three years old, respectively. Meanwhile, evidence from extensive interviews with Lalit's wife, Ashrita, is ignored. Further, the report is full of factual mistakes. Even the date of the murder is incorrect: Lalit Mehta was murdered on May 14, not on May 15, as stated in the report," said Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Prabhash Joshi, Harsh Mander, among other eminent activists, writers and journalists, in a statement. Locals in Jharkhand complain of an entrenched nexus of politicians, contractors and district oćcials. They believe that Lalit was murdered so that no one would dare to enter these areas to conduct a social audit. Jean Dreze and Balram (NREGA advisor to the food commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court of India) in a joint statement said, "If this murder was an act to intimidation, it did not succeed. Friends and supporters from all over Jharkhand gathered at Vikas Sahyog Kendra and unanimously resolved to continue the campaign against corruption and exploitation in the area." After facing pressure from various quarters, the state government, after more than a month of the murder, ordered a CBI probe. But the case has not yet reached the Public Grievances Cell which will take a call on it and then pass it on to the Central Vigilance Committee, which will then forward it to the CBI. Then, it's up to the CBI to take the case. The high profile Arushi murder case was taken over by an ‘active CBI' in 24 hours after the UP government's request, but no one knows how much time the CBI would take in Jharkhand. The case has been transferred to the CBI, but the local CID is reportedly still interfering. Said NBA's Medha Patkar: "They must get to the bottom of the case. This is not only the responsibility of the Jharkhand government, but also that of the Centre. This is a central scheme." However, in Jharkhand, the circle of murders continues. Kameshwar Yadav, a prominent NREGA activist of Khatauri village, Deori Block in Giridih district, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in June 7. Yadav was a member of the CPI-ML (Liberation), an overground organisation working with the poor. He was involved in exposing the corrupt role of contractors and middlemen. He relentlessly highlighted irregularities in the NREGS and mobilised landless labourers and job-seekers for implementation of the scheme. The district administration has arrested two individuals, but the case has not been cracked. The Congress-RJD backed coalition in Jharkhand seems rather non-committal, even while NREGA is the UPA's baby. Tek Lal Mahto, JMM MP in Giridh, told : "I am not aware of any of these murders as I am not involved in any of the NREGA work. I am aware of the high level corruption among senior government oćcials in my constituency. I have also raised this issue in Parliament." In recent past, several such incidents have occurred in different parts of the country where social audits are being conducted. Members of these teams are warned, physically threatened, provoked and sometimes brutally beaten up. Recalling the violence in Jhalawar, Rajasthan, Aruna Roy, member of the Centre's Employment Guarantee Council, said, "When we went to do social audit in Jhalawar, we were chased away. Someone even tied a noose around the neck of one of the women. If a little force would have been used, she too would have died." http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2008/07/2264
  9. ashakantasharma

    RTI : Challenges

    RTI : Challenges Posted on September 6th, 2017 at 7:56 am Context: In April, the government of India proposed amendments to the RTI Act The most controversial amendment pertained to Rule 12. Amendment to Rule 12 and controversy: 1. It would allow the withdrawal of an application in case of the applicant’s death, making the job of those who file RTIs even more risky. 2. The RTI activists are already exposed to violence, all the more so as the Whistle Blowers Protection Act (2011) is not implemented. 3. 69 activists have been killed, according to the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information Violence against RTI Activists The states which have largest number of casualties are rich states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka Rich states are the most dangerous ones for RTI activists because they fight against the appropriation of public goods by predatory and vested interests, which are comparatively stronger in affluent provinces. Problems pertaining to land, illegal construction and property disputes are the root cause of most of the cases. Then come conflicts due to government schemes (including MGNREGA), either because those who should have benefitted from them have not, or because of embezzlement at the local level. The third category that is also well represented is made of illegal mining, including the sand mafia’s activities. The RTI activists fight for their rights and/or those of others, but they are hardly protected by the police and judiciary. RTI Activists – Importance RTI applications cover a wide range of issues and even if no action is taken, the media often publicize the cases and give bad publicity to the offending bureaucrats, industrialists or politicians. The RTI activists not only expose corrupt practices and crimes, but also provide alternative leadership at the local level. Some of them have become community mobilisers and have been elected sarpanch. The RTI Act has offered space to young Dalits, Adivasis and members of the minorities who would have been helpless otherwise. The role of “RTI clinics”, often in the form of itinerant vans and helplines, has been key. Challenges faced by RTI Activists: Information Commissions are burdened with huge pendencies The number of applications filed could easily decrease: If the frequently asked questions were identified and proactively disclose information for those questions But delays and backlogs are also due to the fact that the job of Information Commissioner has become a post-retirement sinecure for former bureaucrats who do not necessarily feel the urge of idealism. The attitude of the government of India is another big challenge. Some of its agencies refuse to disclose the required information. In PMO, the rejection rate is very high. The Commission does not have enough power for getting responses to its questions It does not have the mechanisms for following up on whether its orders have been complied with. The Information Officers do not necessarily get the right training Universities could include the RTI Act in their curriculum and offer not only degrees, but also continuing training for helping this major achievement to remain relevant. Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/its-lonely-on-the-ground-4827124/ http://www.ias4sure.com/wikiias/gs2/rti-challenges/
  10. ashakantasharma

    10 years after RTI, transparency under cloud

    10 years after RTI, transparency under cloud NEW DELHI:, MAY 16, 2015 10:56 IST Ten years after the Right to Information Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005, its implementation remains inefficient and transparency and accountability seem to be under threat in India. Experts cite poor record-keeping practices within the bureaucracy, lack of infrastructure and staff for running Information Commissions, and dilution of supplementary laws such as the one for whistleblower protection as reasons for this. Madabhushi Sridhar, Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission, says: “In my office, my secretary doubles up as the stenographer, registrar, deputy registrar and personal assistant who must also respond to letters my office receives. Compare this with the kind of staff support courts receive. With such poor staffing how can we be expected to discharge our responsibilities efficiently?” He points to the problems posed by missing files in government offices. “The information sought by citizens can be provided only if the records are maintained properly. If the RTI has to succeed, then the Public Records Act must be implemented,” he says. Inefficient implementation has delayed the settlement of information appeals. An October 2014 report brought out by the RTI Assessment and Analysis Group (RAAG) showed a waiting period of up to 60 years in Madhya Pradesh and up to 18 years in West Bengal, calculated on the basis of current rates of pendency in Information Commissions. “In less than 3 per cent of cases, penalties were imposed on government departments denying information sought,” Amrita Johri of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says. What the RTI Act has managed to achieve in the last decade is to unleash a silent citizen’s movement for government accountability across the country. The RAAG report found that on an average, 4-5 million applications are filed under the Act every year. But this has not been without its negative consequences. Forty activists who had demanded crucial information, with the potential to expose corruption within the government, had been killed. This has necessitated supplementary laws such as whistleblower protection laws to ensure protection for information activists. Diluted laws But the Whistleblowers Protection (Amendment), Bill, 2015, passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday has renewed concerns regarding the vulnerability of information seekers making disclosures in the public interest. “The original intention of the whistleblower protection law was to protect citizens disclosing information regarding wrongdoing in the larger public interest. But the proposed amendments have turned the law into a ‘Whistleblower Prevention and Victimisation Act’,” quips Venkatesh Nayak, Access to Information programme coordinator at Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. The amendments do not provide immunity to whistleblowers, making them liable for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, he says. The Bill completely dilutes the provisions of the earlier law removing everything exempted under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act from within the ambit of whistle-blowing. “If the government wanted to ensure that sensitive information regarding national security, integrity, etc., is not made public, then the law could have been appropriately amended to ensure additional safeguards or by making provisions for a mechanism for confidential disclosure. What is sought to be done now is a blanket ban on disclosures containing sensitive information,” Anjali Bharadwaj of Satark Nagarik Sangathan says. Empowering citizens Despite these developments, the culture of transparency brought about by the RTI Act in the past decade has now made it easier for citizens to access parliamentary proceedings online, and track proceedings of various State legislatures. However, the legislatures in the Northeast and lower courts are yet to put up documents regarding their proceedings proactively, activists say. Commenting on the rise of an entire political movement on the basis of the movement for transparency and accountability in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party since 2011, Shankar Singh, a founder-member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan, says, “There is something about the nature of political power that corrupts people no matter how dedicated they might be to the cause of transparency. That is why we need to continue to empower ordinary people with tools like the RTI so they can hold those holding political power accountable.” www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/10-years-after-rti-transparency-under-cloud/article7213480.ece
  11. Misuse of Public Safety Act Brought up at Jammu and Kashmir RTI Workshop BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 24/07/2017 Referring to allegations of children being held under the Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah today asserted the need for involving youth in the ongoing debate on current issues in the state. Habibullah, who was delivering the keynote address at an interactive workshop on J&K Right to Information (RTI) Act in Srinagar, also noted that public confidence in elected governments is undermined if access to routine information about the working of the administration is denied. He demanded that RTI be used as an instrument for building public trust in the government. “RTI enables the public and government to work together to find solutions to problems of governance and development,” he said, adding that “involving the youth would be a crucial measure to reduce the current atmosphere of discontent.” It was also pointed out at the meeting that despite the Public Safety Act prohibiting the detention of minors, children had been detained under it. In his address, vice chancellor of Central University Kashmir (CUK), Professor Mehraj-ud-din said RTI was an invaluable tool for lawyers to get access to facts and records. He also announced the setting up of an RTI Clinic in the University’s Law Department to help and train RTI applicants in seeking information under the law. Speaking of the need to use RTI as a tool for data-driven research, Sanjoy Hazarika, director of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, lamented that RTI was rarely used by academics for research. He pointed out that data on a large number of government websites was often dated. “Data tells stories, stories give perspective, perspective gives the space for asking questions and interrogating the norm,” he said. Hazarika also spoke about how RTI opened up opportunities for researchers to access official data which was not easily available otherwise and provide feedback to government for inclusion in processes and policies. Justice (Rtd.) M.S. Khan spoke of the need to protect whistleblowers. He lamented that there was no mechanism for protecting an RTI applicant who seeks information to demand transparency and accountability for wrongdoing in public authorities. As a result, several citizens have lost their lives or have been brutally attacked for seeking information across the country, he pointed out. While a legal expert, Professor Altaf Hussain Ahangar, spoke of the need for using RTI as a tool to redress the grievances of the most disadvantaged segments of society, the sub-divisional magistrate of Srinagar, Dr. Syed Haneef Balkhi said the need of the hour was to reduce the time taken for supplying information to RTI applicants from the present outer limit of 30 days. “This will ensure speedy disposal of cases,” he said. Leading RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak made a presentation on key court judgments to explain the developing trends in the RTI-related case law around the country. One of the most pertinent comments on the importance of RTI came from dean of students welfare at CUK, Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nika, who while voicing the need for spreading awareness about the RTI Act among the disadvantaged groups said: “Laws will be effective only when people know about them and use them in the right spirit.” https://thewire.in/161280/public-safety-act-jammu-and-kashmir-rti-workshop/
  12. Judges’ Medical Expenses Will Not Be Disclosed Under RTI, says SC BY PTI ON 02/07/2015 New Delhi: The Supreme Court today held that the medical expenses incurred on judges and their family members cannot be disclosed or made public under the Right to Information Act. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court verdict which had dismissed a plea seeking details of medical reimbursements of Supreme Court judges, saying it had personal information and providing it would amount to invasion of their privacy. “We understand that we are getting the reimbursement from public money for our treatment and we are entitled for it as per the service conditions of judges,” the bench, which comprised justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, observed. The bench said, “there should be some respect for privacy and if such informations are being disclosed, there will be no stopping.” “Today he is asking informations for medical expenses. Tomorrow he will ask what are the medicines purchased by the judges. When there will be a list of medicines he can make out what type of ailment the judge is suffering from. It starts like this. Where does this stop,” the bench further observed. The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal against the April 17 judgement of a division bench of the High Court which had upheld decision of its single judge that the information about reimbursement of medical bills of judges and their families cannot be disclosed under RTI law. The single judge had set aside the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) direction holding that judges have to disclose such informations. The apex court did not agree with advocate Prashant Bhushan that since citizens are entitled to know how public money is spent by other public servants, they also have a right to know how these funds were being utilised for medical treatment of judges. The bench was unmoved by Bhushan’s argument that when it comes to demand for providing information about politicians, bureaucrats and other public servants, the Supreme Court passes “good judgements” but there is an impression that same yardstick and principle is not applied when information relating to judges is sought under the transaparency law. “The court sits in judgement on its own cause. The apparent conflict of interest arises,” he submitted while adding that reimbursment of medical bills of judges comes from the Consolidated Fund of India. “Can it then be said that reimbursment of medical bill from consolidated fund has no relation to public activity or public interest,” the activist lawyer argued. Bhushan said the case was important and sensitive because whatever would be applied to the judges would automatically set a precedent and applied to other public servants on the issue of medical bills. “So can’t say one law will apply to judges and other law will be applicable on other public servants. That will defeat the purpose of RTI law,” he submitted, while adding that there was a plea for only seeking information on medical bills and not on the type of ailments. He assailed the High Court decision which said that providing such information would lead to invasion of privacy. “That is my (public) money which goes for reimbursment. Am I not entitled to how it is spend. How is this a invasion of privacy,” he argued before the petition was dismissed. The High Court had held that there was no larger public interest involved in seeking details of medical facilities availed by individual judges and no direction whatsoever can be issued under the RTI Act. “The information sought by appellant includes details of the medical facilities availed by the individual judges. The same being personal information, we are of the view that providing such information would undoubtedly amount to invasion of their privacy. “We have also taken note of the fact that it was conceded before the single judge by the appellant that no larger public interest is involved in seeking details of medical facilities availed by individual judges. “…we are unable to understand how the public interest requires disclosure of the details of the medical facilities availed by the individual judges. In the absence of any such larger public interest, no direction whatsoever can be issued under the RTI Act by the appellate authorities,” the High Court had said. CIC had passed its order on Agarwal’s plea against the apex court’s response that it does not keep records of medical reimbursement of individual judges and declining to furnish him the information sought by him under the transparency law. The Commission had in 2010, while asking the apex court’s registry to make arrangements to maintain details of medical reimbursement made to judges, specified that the same be maintained in digital format so that their retrieval and disclosure could be easier. However, the apex court had refused, citing a stay by the Delhi High Court in a similar case, prompting Agarwal to again approach CIC. In its second order of 2012, CIC had directed the apex court to place the order before the Secretary General of the Supreme Court so that he can ensure its compliance. It is against this order that the apex court registry had moved the High Court in appeal. https://thewire.in/5337/judges-medical-expenses-will-not-be-disclosed-under-rti-says-sc/
  13. The Supreme Court Still Adamantly Refuses to Yield to RTI BY ANIKET AGA ON 03/09/2015 While the government often comes under fire for not effectively implementing the RTI Act, few have noticed that India’s highest court violates the Act routinely, and with an impunity that makes the government’s evasion of the RTI Act seem benign. Consider the following: On 20th February 2008, Satnam Singh, a prisoner in Ludhiana’s Central Jail sent a Right to Information (RTI) request to the Supreme Court (SC) asking for a copy of its guidelines on police reforms. The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the SC denied the request and referred Singh to the SC website. Singh filed a first appeal pointing out that as a prisoner, he had no access to a computer, and that, by not sending him the information, the SC was denying him his right. Hearing the appeal, the Registrar, SC too denied the request, now asking him to apply under the Supreme Court Rules 1966, instead of the RTI Act. On 10th November 2007, Subhash Chandra Agrawal filed an RTI request with the SC asking for information concerning declaration of assets by Supreme Court Judges, among other things. The PIO denied the request, claiming he did not hold the information. Agrawal filed a first appeal asking that his application may be transferred to the Public Authority holding the information. The Registrar asked the PIO to re-consider the request, but he denied the information again. Agrawal moved the Central Information Commission (CIC) which in January 2009, asked the PIO to furnish the information [PDF].The SC challenged this order twice before the Delhi High Court (HC) even as it made some information about judges’ assets public on its website, but the HC upheld the CIC’s ruling. In 2007, N. Anbarasan filed an RTI request before the Karnataka High Court (HC) for information pertaining to the scrutiny and classification of writ petitions, among other things. The PIO denied the information and asked Anbarasan to apply under the Karnataka HC Act and Rules. Anbarasan approached the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), which ruled in his favor. The PIO challenged the KIC’s order before the HC, which quashed it. Subsequently, AKM Nayak, the State Chief Information Commissioner, and a former Additional Chief Secretary, appealed against the HC ruling before the SC. The SC not only dismissed the appeal but fined Nayak 1 lakh rupees for “wasting public money for satisfying their ego.” [PDF] Although the SC frequently agonises over governments’ lack of transparency, its own Registry has steadfastly resisted yielding information under the Act. In the past decade of the Act’s existence, the SC has fought many RTI applicants tooth and nail, forcing them to the stage of second appeal. Where the CIC has ruled in favor of the applicants, the SC has typically challenged its decisions before the Delhi HC. The SC has fought these battles not for some significant intrusion of transparency, but for routine matters such as providing pendency figures: for example, the applicant who sought this information in 2009 had to wait until 2014 just to get the Delhi High Court to rule that the [PDF] SC may provide the information. I was unaware of the SC’s hostility towards the RTI Act, until two years ago, when I called the office of the Assistant Registrar & PIO to confirm the address where I should send an RTI request. For my research, I wanted a copy of the affidavits filed in a public interest litigation (PIL) heard by the SC between 1999 and 2004. The official who answered my call wouldn’t identify himself, and asked me if I was party to the case. When I answered no, he said, “We do not provide copies of the judicial record to non-parties,” and hung up. In all my experience of seeking information under the RTI Act, never before had an officer declined to provide information so transparently. I called back to ask how might one access judicial records. The official asked me to look up SC Rules 1966. RTI Act vs Supreme Court Rules As I found out after reading about several RTI cases involving the SC, referring applicants to its own rules is a significant tool deployed by the SC to keep the RTI Act at bay. Order XII, Rule 2 of the SC Rules 1966 [PDF] says: “The Court, on the application of a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, may on good cause shown, allow such person search, inspect or get copies of all pleadings and other documents or records in the case, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges.” In several ways, this rule gives the SC greater powers to withhold information from citizens, vis-à-vis the RTI Act. Unlike the RTI act: The rule insists on the applicant providing a reason, and makes the availability of information contingent upon “good cause shown.” It prescribes no time limit within which information is to be provided. It lists no penalties for delaying or failing to provide the information. It has no mechanisms for appeal. These inconsistencies have to be resolved in favour of the RTI Act as per the non-obstante clause provided in Section 22 of the RTI Act. Yet, I found that the SC has been maintaining that it can deny RTI requests, and limit citizens to the SC Rules. The SC, represented by its Assistant Registrar and Registrar has been relying on two ruses. First, as per the SC Rules, it was “the Court” [PDF] which could take a decision on admitting requests to access judicial records and the humble Registrar and the humbler Assistant Registrar could scarcely usurp the authority of “the Court.” Second was the ruse that the RTI Act, under Section 6(3), allowed Public Authorities to frame rules to access information and the SCR were Supreme Court’s Rules to address RTI. By this logic, the Supreme Court had framed rules in 1966 itself anticipating the RTI Act, which came after 40 years. The Role of the CIC The dispute over RTI and SC Rules came before the CIC as early as 2006 – a year after the passage of the Act – in the case of Manish Khanna vs. The Supreme Court of India. [PDF] The appeal was heard by former bureaucrat and then Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah. Ignoring the four fundamental inconsistencies listed above, Habibullah startlingly ruled that there was “no inherent inconsistency” between the Act and Order XII Rule 2. In his view, Rule 2 merely provided an “alternative procedure” to access the information without denying it in any way – ignoring the “on good cause shown” condition. With this as the foundation, he ruled that the Rule 2 was a “special enactment,” not superseded by a general law enacted later. This ruling established the precedent by which the CIC has consistently ruled in favour of the SC Rules 1966 against the RTI Act. By my rough calculation, the SC’s refusal to provide information about judicial records under the RTI Act has come before the CIC nearly 50 times in the last ten years – this is just counting the cases which have been decided by the CIC; many more await a hearing. Keeping in mind that not every applicant has the time, resources and the skills to draft first and second appeals, one can say that a very large number of RTI requests are being summarily denied by the SC each year – conservatively speaking about 20 annually. Thus, on the back of this ruling, the SC Registry has found a third ruse to deny information: citing the precedent set by Habibullah’s ruling. The only exception to this has been a decision in 2011 by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who observed that Order XII curtailed the fundamental right of citizens to free information because of the aforementioned inconsistencies. He ruled [PDF] that the PIO must provide information subject to the provisions of the RTI Act, and that it was up to applicants to decide whether they wished to seek information under the RTI Act or the SC Rules. The SC instantly moved the Delhi HC against this ruling, where Justice S. Muralidhar immediately stayed the matter and, further, restrained the CIC from hearing matters on similar questions. The case remains pending before the HC. Perhaps to do away with the criticism that rules framed in 1966 could scarcely be said to address a landmark law enacted in 2005, the Supreme Court revised its rules in 2013. Under SC Rules 2013, issued in August 2014, Order XII Rule 2 has become Order XIII Rule 2 – with no meaningful difference for the information-seeker. Seeking information Despite the nameless SC officer telling me outright that they will not provide me with copies of the affidavits I was seeking, I decided in January 2014 to file my RTI request anyway. For good measure, I requested the same information under Order XII, Rule 2 as well. It would be one thing if the SC was providing information to citizens under its own rules, but even that is not the case, as I found out, and as others have experienced too [PDF]. The PIO denied my RTI request and asked me to approach the Court under Order XII Rule 2, which I had already done. This second request got no reply for over a month, at which point I followed up with the SC over the phone. After several evasive conversations, an officer finally informed me, again, that they would not release the information to me. When I asked the officer for her name so that I may state this position in my first appeal, she declined and hung up. I eventually received a reply to my request under Order XII, Rule 2. The Assistant Registrar (Copying) now insisted that I apply under Order XII, Rule 2 read with Order X Rule 6(1), i.e., I present my application for information in person at the filing counter of the Court. This additional hurdle was entirely new, as the SC had not mentioned it before the CIC. Moreover, it is entirely inconsistent with the RTI Act because it limits the availability of information only to those who can make their way to the filing counter of the SC – not the easiest of tasks for most citizens, particularly the vast majority of Indians who do not live in Delhi. I filed a first appeal before the Registrar, pointing out that SC had refused information through both the routes, and invented new hurdles to access information. The Registrar found my appeal “to be without any merit” and dismissed it. I filed a second appeal before the CIC in July 2014, which is yet to be scheduled for hearing. In my experience of filing RTI requests with multiple public authorities, no government body comes close to the SC in terms of contempt towards RTI applications. This attitude seems to be pervasive in the higher judiciary. The summary denials, fighting ordinary applicants before the CIC, and even hauling them before the Delhi HC suggests that as far as India’s higher judiciary is concerned, transparency is good for others, not for itself. Aniket Aga is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology, Yale University. He tweets at @AgaAniket https://thewire.in/9856/the-supreme-court-still-adamantly-refuses-to-yield-to-rti/
  14. Burdened by Infrastructural Deficiencies the RTI Act Is Becoming Ineffective BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 22/05/2017 At a recent seminar, a number of stakeholders sought wide-ranging reforms to ensure that the RTI Act remains an effective tool for ordinary people to access information with. In light of growing support against the RTI Act within the present dispensation (which sees it as a UPA legacy), a retired senior bureaucrat recently observed at a seminar that the Act needs to be preserved as an effective tool to ensure accountability. At a discussion organised by the Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), the bureaucrat said that at the moment, RTI applications are seen as a “nuisance” by a large number of officials. However, RTI being the only tool an ordinary citizen can access information with, the bureaucrat suggested that the media should be involved in the process of ensuring accountability and said the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) should be made to realise that it is the only way forward. He also suggested that a list of deficiencies towards implementing the Act in states should be sent to the state chief secretary regularly by the Central Information Commission (CIC) for necessary corrective action. Proactive disclosure Chief information commissioner R. K. Mathur said a committee constituted by the DoPT has failed to ensure that all the ministries mention RTI implementation in their annual reports. Given that 70-80% of all RTI applications arise from personal grievances, he said it would help if the ministries start opening up their own files to aid the flow of information. “It would amount to proactive disclosure to the applicant,” he said. In several cases, when people are not satisfied with the replies, second appeals are filed which increase the burden of appeals. This becomes counterproductive when only a certain category of privileged and educated people have their second appeals addressed. Thus, he said, prompt disclosure would help the masses. Stating that most officers do not maintain proper records, Mathur urged every public information officer to maintain records of the cases handled by them to ensure better continuity in operations. Former chief justice of the Delhi high court Justice A.P. Shah suggested that the commission refer to “supportive judgments” to better comply with Section 4 of the RTI Act. “If despite the order, a department does not comply, you can go to the high court,” he said. Justice Shah also suggested that information commissions use the services of lawyers and law students as “law clerks” to help draft orders and to make documents legally sound. This, he said, would address the problem of the commission’s orders not being legally tenable, as has been pointed out by the RAAG-SNS report titled ‘Tilting the Balance of Power: Adjudicating the RTI Act.’ To this effect, he said that every information commissioner undergo a short legal education programme. Furthermore, he said that penalties should be imposed selectively. “We should not have a penalty regime, but few orders with heavy penalties”. Other concerns A number of past and present information commissioners also spoke at the meet. Central information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad brought up the issue of courts striking down penalties imposed by commissioners and pointed to instances when the high court declared such orders “ultra vires”. He also referred to a flood of vexatious appeals and demanded that a mechanism be devised to deal with frivolous applications which seek volumes of information. Former chief information commissioner M.L. Sharma wanted the Centre to place more resources with the information commissions. He also suggested that the powers of the commissions be rethought, since all they can do in matters of Section 4 violations is make suggestions. “Section 4 is too weak a law and it should be made more specific,” he said, adding that as of now the “commissions are helpless in enforcing their orders.” Vinson Paul, chief information commissioner of Kerala pointed out that commissions were suffering delays in appointments. While seven posts for information commissioners were vacant in Kerala, he was the only one in office. As a consequence, the number of pending cases had risen to 13,000 cases. In Kashmir, only 80 of the 300 public authorities surveyed took to proactive disclosure under Section 4. “In our state, many of the departments do not even have their own websites,” the chief information commissioner for Kashmir said, suggesting that the CIC should engage the states by meeting chief secretaries on a regular basis. Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said heavier penalities had not helped in Karnataka as the number of petitions and instances of non-compliance have also registered an increase. He also noted that the Committee of Secretaries had, in a regressive decision, diluted provisions that sought to make heads of departments responsible for violations of the Act. Shekhar Singh, founder of NCPRI, said India was the land of a thousand parliaments with different institutions passing orders at their own discretion. The same discretion, he said, was responsible for non-compliance with Section 4 regulations. Quoting from an NCPRI report, he said the solution lay in compensating those seeking information, issuing notices to public authorities for non-compliance, penalising the heads of departments and making public the information disclosed. NCPRI also suggested that the penalty for performance deficiencies should be exposed by the media and legal remedies should be resorted to when necessary. https://thewire.in/138804/rti-commissions-right-to-information/
  15. Judiciary Does Not Want Any Accountability or Transparency, Allege RTI Activists BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 17/04/2017 The RTI Act has faced resistance from the courts in recent years, especially when information is sought about their functioning as public authorities, a new report says. The jury is out on whether the judiciary has over the years played the role it ought to while dealing with matters pertaining to promoting transparency in general and the Right to Information (RTI) Act in particular. Legal luminaries and RTI activists alike believe the court’s must play a more supportive role if greater transparency in public life is to be achieved. A recent report titled ‘Tilting the Balance of Power – Adjudicating the RTI Act’ by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and the Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), notes that before the RTI law was passed, the judiciary played a seminal role in recognising and furthering peoples’ right to information in India. In fact, as far back as 1975, 30 years before the RTI law was enacted, the Supreme Court adjudged the right to information to be a fundamental right. Besides being the final adjudicatory authority for the law, the Supreme Court and high courts are also public authorities under the RTI Act. The report, authored by RTI activists Amrita Johri, Anjali Bhardwaj and Shekhar Singh, suggests that the RTI Act appears to be facing resistance from the courts, especially when information is sought about their functioning as public authorities. Is RTI facing resistance from the judiciary? In the last ten years, scores of RTI applications have been filed by citizens seeking information from the courts, many of which have required judicial adjudication. Five such matters reached the Supreme Court, three of which were referred to a constitution bench that is yet to be set up. The other two cases were dismissed by the apex court at the stage of admission. About the cases that were dismissed, the RaaG-SNS report notes: “Unfortunately, these cases raised matters of great public interest but were dismissed by the SC without providing any details or reasons in their orders. One of them sought information using the RTI Act, about cases pending with the Supreme Court in which the arguments had already been heard but orders had been reserved. In the other matter, the applicant sought the total amount of medical expenses of individual judges reimbursed by the Supreme Court, citing a Delhi high court ruling of 2010 which stated that, ‘The information on the expenditure of the government money in an official capacity cannot be termed as personal information’.” Information denied on appointment of judges In one of the three cases referred to the constitution bench, an RTI applicant filed a request to the Supreme Court in 2009 seeking a copy of the complete correspondence, with file notings, exchanged between the chief justice of India (CJI) and other concerned constitutional authorities relating to the appointment of Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A. K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha as judges of the Supreme Court, superseding the seniority of Justice A.P. Shah, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.K. Gupta. The information sought was denied. When the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed that the information be furnished, the information officer of the apex court appealed directly to the Supreme Court against the order. CIC order on assets of judges challenged before apex court In the second case, the RTI applicant asked if any declaration of assets was ever filed by the judges of the Supreme Court or high courts to the respective CJIs. The Supreme Court’s 1997 resolution requires judges to declare to the CJI the assets held by them in their own name, in the name of their spouse or any person dependent on them. The information was denied but the CIC directed that the information sought by the applicant be provided. The CIC order was challenged by the Supreme Court in the Delhi high court, which held that the contents of asset declarations were entitled to be treated as personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, but since the applicant only sought to know whether the 1997 resolution was complied with, the sought information should be provided. A three-judge bench of the high court stated: “…A judge must keep himself absolutely above suspicion, to preserve the impartiality and independence of the judiciary and to have the public confidence thereof.…Accountability of the judiciary cannot be seen in isolation. It must be viewed in the context of a general trend to render governors answerable to the people in ways that are transparent, accessible and effective. Well defined and publicly known standards and procedures complement, rather than diminish, the notion of judicial independence. Democracy expects openness and openness is concomitant of free society. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’’ This judgement was subsequently challenged by the chief public information officer before the Supreme Court. In the third case, quoting a media report, an RTI application was filed with the Supreme Court seeking copies of correspondence between the then CJI and a judge of the Madras high court regarding the attempt of a union minister to influence judicial decisions of the said high court. The applicant also sought information regarding the name of the concerned union minister. The CIC, in its order, overturned the decision of the public information officer, which denied the information sought. Bypassing the Delhi high court, the public information officer of the Supreme Court directly moved a petition before the SC challenging the CIC order to disclose information. Three cases clubbed together In its order, the Supreme Court, while hearing the case related to correspondence between the CJI and other constitutional authorities about the appointment of judges, clubbed the other two cases with the matter. The apex court order stated that the consideration of a larger bench was required as grave constitutional issues were at stake, including the need to balance the independence of the judiciary and the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression. The court listed three sets of questions which, according to them, raised substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the constitution: Whether the concept of independence of judiciary requires and demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought? Whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary? Whether the information sought for cannot be furnished to avoid any erosion in the credibility of the decisions and to ensure a free and frank expression of honest opinion by all the constitutional functionaries, which is essential for effective consultation and for taking the right decision? Whether the information sought for is personal information and therefore exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act? The report by RaaG and SNS notes that while the first two sets of questions do seem to relate to constitutional issues, like the adverse impact peoples’ right to information might have on judicial independence, or amount to interference in the functioning of the judiciary, or compromise its credibility, it is not clear how the third question relating to exemption on grounds that it is personal information under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act raises any constitutional concerns. The report goes on to highlight the contradictions inherent in the stand taken by courts in these matters by quoting judgements of the Supreme Court in which the court has itself discussed one or more of these issues in relation to the judiciary and other public functionaries and ruled in favour of transparency. For instance, the Supreme Court in Manohar s/o Manikrao Anchule vs State of Maharashtra & Anr in 2012 stated that “It cannot be doubted that transparency is the sine qua non of restraint on abuse of judicial powers. Transparency in decision-making not only makes the judges and decision-makers less prone to errors but also makes them subject to broader scrutiny.” In Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms, 2002, the court directed the Election Commission to call for information from all candidates seeking election to parliament or a state legislature, and from their spouses and dependants, about their assets as, “…there are widespread allegations of corruption against the persons holding post and power. In such a situation, question is not of knowing personal affairs but to have openness in democracy for attempting to cure cancerous growth of corruptions by few rays of light. Hence, citizens who elect MPs or MLAs are entitled to know that their representative has not miscomputed himself in collecting wealth after being elected.” In PUCL vs Union of India in 2003, while examining the plea that contesting candidates should not be required to disclose the assets and liabilities of their spouses as it would violate the right to privacy of the spouses, the Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to information of a voter and citizen is promoted when contesting candidates are required to disclose the assets and liabilities of their spouses. The SC ruled that when there is a competition between the right to privacy of an individual and the right to information of the citizens, the former right has to be subordinated to the latter right, as the latter serves a larger public interest. Similarly, to ensure transparency and improve the process of selection of judges in Supreme Court in Advocates-on-Record Association and Ors. vs Union of India in 2015, a five-judge bench laid down broad guidelines for the government of India which was tasked with the responsibility of preparing the Memorandum of Procedure for the appointment of judges. Among other things, the guidelines stated that the eligibility criteria and procedure for selection of judges must be transparent and put up on the website of the court concerned and the department of justice. In addition, they required the provision of an appropriate procedure for minuting the discussions including recording the dissenting opinion of the judges in the collegium. Supreme Court’s changing position Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi believes the Supreme Court’s stance towards RTI has changed in the past few years. “If I look at the Supreme Court judgments on transparency and Right to Information before the Act came in 2005 and after the Act, it looks like these are two different countries, two different courts,” he said. Gandhi said he had earlier come out with another report which showed how out of 17 orders of the SC on RTI, in only two it ordered information to be given. On what could have prompted the change, he said, “I can guess very easily. Before the RTI Act came freedom of speech was fine but nobody questioned the court and nobody tried to find out anything about the courts and people would only say, “I have great faith in the judiciary”. The Right to Information for the first time changed that paradigm. A reporter of any newspaper would be wary of what he writes as far as the judiciary is concerned. But RTI people started asking all kind of inconvenient questions. And some things have come out which have been very unpalatable, to say the least.” Gandhi said now the judiciary refuses to look at RTI applications that have anything to do with them. “When you are in a public office and right to information is there, people will ask all kinds of things. When I was a commissioner, someone had filed an RTI application asking how much bribe Shailesh Gandhi has taken in the last two years. Now, things like this can be upsetting to people. And in my opinion, that is why they have gone against transparency and RTI Act.” He said that often the judiciary has been very direct in showing its anger against the RTI. “In the first CBSE judgment, they said RTI should not be allowed to damage the peace, integrity and harmony of India. Such a view is okay for terrorists, but not for citizens. I have noticed over time that everyone in power dislikes being transparent.” Recalling how the website of the Supreme Court was probably the best which existed under Section 4(1)(b) when he was the chief information commissioner, the first chief of the CIC, Wajahat Habibullah said he also, however, understands that having a website and making disclosures are two different things. “And therefore it is quite possible that in this case the Supreme Court has not been very favourably inclined towards the RTI. It simply means that the current phase of RTI in the courts is one that is defensive. It is not anti-RTI, it is more defensive in terms of the openness of the RTI.” ‘Judiciary too resists accountability’ Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan concurred that the judiciary too does not like transparency when it concerns its own accountability. “Unfortunately we have seen that when it comes to themselves, the courts do not want any accountability or any transparency and this we have seen in all kinds of issues.” For example, he said, “in judicial appointments, the court shies away from transparency, by and large, some judges are exceptions who ask for it, but otherwise they don’t want transparency. Same thing happens with accountability. They don’t want any accountability and, in fact, they have progressively whittled down their accountability.” Habibullah believes that at the moment “RTI is facing challenges”. “When I was there [as the Chief Information Commissioner] my dealing was basically at the high court level as there were few cases in the Supreme Court then. The high court decisions were generally very supportive of the RTI. It was the time of the actual establishment of the jurisdiction or expanse of the RTI and these orders were very constructive. Now it is passing through a different phase where there has been some sort of a retreat,” he said. ‘Public pressure can change the tune’ Bhushan said the judiciary has also very often taken contempt action against people who have written anything against the judiciary or the judges. “Therefore, it is very clear that by and large judges do not want any accountability, nor any transparency. And that is why now that the RTI Act has also been applied to them they are passing judicial orders basically obstructing the orders of the CIC. This is what has happened. Ultimately these matters are for the courts to decide. But once there is sufficient public opinion then probably they will change their tune.” According to Bhardwaj of SNS, given the extremely progressive orders related to transparency by the Supreme Court before the RTI Act was passed, people expect the judiciary to champion the cause of transparency and expand the scope of the law. “The reluctance of the judiciary to submit itself to the RTI Act is very concerning and we really hope that the constitution bench will give a progressive ruling on the questions referred to it. One of the main objectives of the RaaG-SNS report is to provoke a public debate on the manner in which the RTI Act is being interpreted by the adjudicators and to mobilise public opinion to demand greater openness in the functioning of all public authorities including the courts.” https://thewire.in/124766/judiciary-accountability-transparency-rti/
  16. Stakeholders Need to Work Together to Improve RTI Implementation, Says Study BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 24/01/2017 A report from several civil society actors has found that the Right to Information Act is not functioning as it should be. New Delhi: Two organisations working in the field of right to information assessment and advocacy and a publishing house have come together to bring out ‘Tilting the Balance of Power: Adjudicating the RTI Act for the Oppressed and the Marginalised’, which is a detailed analysis of the orders of the Supreme Court, various high courts and information commissions, pertaining to the RTI Act in India, in terms of their implication on the quality of governance. The analysis by Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Rajpal and Sons Publications is, according to its authors, aimed at improving “the quality of governance in India, especially in terms of its impact on the oppressed and marginalised sections of society.” Need to make RTI Act more effective The report, they said, specifically looks at how the RTI Act can be made more effective for improving governance, especially by bringing about systemic changes through better adjudication. Towards that end, the report has analysed orders and directions of the Supreme Court, along with recent orders of the various high courts, pertaining to the RTI Act. This apart, a sample of orders of information commissions have also been analysed in the “hope that the analysis and critique presented here provokes a public debate on the manner in which the RTI Act is being understood and interpreted by the adjudicators. Underlying this hope is the belief that in India there is inadequate informed public feedback to adjudicators, on interpreting and applying legal provisions critical to the upholding of fundamental public interest.” Higher judiciary denied access to public debate The analysis points out the adjudicators, especially the higher judiciary, are denied access to an informed public debate. “This is especially critical as the higher judiciary in India not only adjudicate on matters of law, on which they undoubtedly have great expertise, but on many other matters on which they could well benefit from the views of the public and of experts among the public,” it said. Another objective of the report, the authors said, was to reach out to information commissioners to alert them on the common errors that have crept into many of their orders and raise issues that need further detailed consideration. “The findings of this report suggest that trends set by earlier commissioners often get emulated by new commissioners in the same commission. For example, the original commissioners in many of the information commissions, from the time they were set up, were hesitant to impose penalties and this tendency has been emulated by most, if not all, of their successors,” it pointed out. Similarly, in the Central Information Commission, the report said a trend had started of remanding complaints to first appellate authorities and this seems to have caught on, so much so that in the sample analysed for this study almost 80% of the complaints received were so remanded. When orders ignore relevant provisions of law In the chapter on ‘overarching issues’, the report has noted that “some of the judicial orders, both of the Supreme Court and of various high courts, and many of the orders of information commissions, seem to either ignore the relevant provisions of the law or give interpretations that are not easily understood, often unexplained, and sometimes seem wrong.” The report also deals at length with “inadequately reasoned orders”, “orders lacking essential facts” and “orders going beyond the law”. Many information commission orders devoid of reasoning It also observed that “unfortunately, an overwhelming proportion of information commission orders analysed as part of the study were so devoid of reasoning and factual details that it was often impossible to determine which sections of the law they were invoking to deny information or condone the PIO’s decision, action, or inaction. One consequence of this was that while analysing how courts and commissions interpreted different sections of the RTI Act, it often became difficult to classify and analyse IC orders.” The report has also pointed out how information commissions were functioning without commissioners, the backlog of cases, which stood at over 1.87 lakh cases on December 31, 2015 and lack of transparency in the functioning of many of them. Also, it said, the pendency was worryingly on a rise in several states like Assam, Odisha and Punjab. In view of the various findings, the report has given strong indications that the adjudicatory system around the RTI Act needs urgent corrective measures. Expectations from courts, the government and society Bearing in mind the various shortcomings, it has also suggested remedial action at different levels. It has called for a consideration by judges of the Supreme Court and the various high courts of the issues and arguments raised pertaining to judicial orders, and the interpretation of the law noting that hopefully these would be found to be of use when they would next hear a matter concerning the RTI Act. Similarly, the report has called for consideration by information commissioners, with the hope that they would be willing to participate in public debates relating to the relevant issues and to introspect on their functioning and on their interpretation of the law. The analysis has also demanded a consideration of the relevant recommendations by governments so that they could consider bringing about the recommended changes in administrative processes and practices and, where required, in the law, by moving parliament. It has urged RTI activists, people’s movements, NGOs and institutions outside the government to also act in order to improve governance by making the RTI Act more effective. For this, it said, they would have to individually and collectively play an active role in pushing the government and the adjudicatory authorities to accept and implement the recommendations and take other remedial steps. The authors have also asked the media to play a proactive role in ensuring that “lackadaisical and inept implementation, and ineffective adjudication, do not slowly strangle the RTI Act.” Towards this end, they have demanded that the media run campaigns on various issues. Finally, the analysis has sought to rope in progressive, pro-transparency lawyers to “help move the various high courts and the Supreme Court to get orders that could definitively interpret some of the sections of the law that are currently being misinterpreted, and to reiterate those provisions of the law that are being widely ignored and violated.” https://thewire.in/102443/rti-implementation-study/
  17. Over Half Information Commission Orders Contain Deficiencies, Report Finds BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 22/04/2017 RTI activists demand penalties against public information officers, insist RTI Act being killed by ‘misrepresentation’. A recent report, ‘Tilting the Balance of Power: Adjudicating the RTI Act,’ on the most critical challenges in the implementation of the Right to Information Act, 11 years after its enactment, has established that more than 60% of the orders contained deficiencies in that they had not recorded critical facts. The report, brought out by by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG) and authored by Anjali Bhardwaj, Shekhar Singh and Amrita Johri, analysed 2000 orders of four information commissions (ICs) across the country, including the Central Information Commission (CIC), cited various orders of the Supreme Court that caution against the tendency to give cryptic, unreasoned orders. In Manohar s/o Manikrao Anchule Vs State of Maharashtra, the court categorically, and in great detail, laid down that judicial, quasi-judicial, and even administrative orders must contain detailed reasoning for their decisions. Decisions in just two-three lines Despite clear judicial pronouncements, the study found that in a large number of cases, decisions of the commissions, including those of the CIC, were provided in just two or three lines without giving any grounds or basis for the decision. In this regard, it pointed out that the Rajasthan and Bihar state ICs were found to be the worst performers, with 74% and 73% of the orders respectively not even describing the information that was sought. Most of these orders made no reference to the background or the essential relevant facts of the case like dates, details of information sought, previous decision of the public information officer (PIO) or the first appellate authority (FAA). According to Bhardwaj of SNS, the phenomenon of not passing speaking orders is problematic for several reasons: “First, information seekers, the concerned public authorities, and the public at large, have no way of finding out the rationale for the decisions of ICs. This leaves people in the dark and prevents effective public scrutiny and accountability of the ICs. Most importantly, orders of ICs are often challenged before courts. The tests of legality, fairness and reasonableness become exponentially more difficult to pass when the orders don’t speak for themselves and lack essential information, facts and reasoning.” Bhardwaj said the issue becomes especially problematic as ICs are often not made a party in legal challenges to their orders before the court and therefore they have no opportunity to present any material in defence of their directions, which is not contained in the original order. “Deficiencies in IC orders therefore burden the information seekers with the task of defending orders of the ICs before courts. Vague use of language, insufficient or incorrect recording of facts and not recording basis of orders, weigh in in favour of the petitioner assailing the order of the commission.” Orders of ICs often seem to violate the legal dictum that in appeals and complaints, the onus of proof is on the PIO and the denier of information. Perhaps the most controversial illegality found in IC orders relates to the imposition of penalties, wherein case after case penalties are waived or ignored despite being legally mandatory. Need to initiate penalty proceedings It is the contention of the RaaG-SNS report that in all cases where a violation of the RTI Act occurs, ICs must proceed with the procedure laid down in Section 20 of the Act to initiate penalty proceedings against errant PIOs. Across the sample of ICs (excluding Rajasthan), the study found that an average of 59% orders recorded one or more violations listed in Section 20 of the RTI Act, based on which the IC should have triggered the process of penalty imposition. However, in only 24% of these cases did the IC issue a notice to the PIO asking him or her to show cause why penalty should not be levied. Finally penalty was imposed in only 1.3% of the cases in which it was imposable. An analysis of 1469 orders undertaken for the purpose of the study showed that by foregoing penalties in cases where they were impossible, even at a conservative estimate, a loss of around Rs 285 crores was caused to the public exchequer, which could in fact be construed to be an offence under the IPC and other laws. Johri of SNS added that “even more important than the revenue lost is the loss of deterrence value that the threat of penalty was supposed to have provided. This destroys the basic framework of incentives and disincentives built into the RTI law, and promotes a culture of impunity.” Singh said there were numerous instances of non-imposition of penalties by the commissioners where they ought to be imposed. “The analysis done in the earlier RaaG report showed that, as an average, information was only provided to 45% of the RTI applicants, and that the average time taken to provide information was 60 days, while the legally mandated maximum is 30 days. The laxity in imposing penalties is also allowing PIOs to take liberties with the RTI Act, at the cost of the public,” he said. ‘CIC was setting a precedent with earlier detailed decisions’ Former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah believes while in its earlier days the CIC was trying to set benchmarks that is no longer the case now and this is probably what explains the concise nature of the orders. “So far as the quality of RTI decisions is concerned in the CIC, when I was there the cases were relatively new and so it became compulsory for the Commission to in fact deal with the cases and establish and state the law and the legal point much more comprehensively. Due to this the decisions were much longer. They were setting a precedent then. That is not so now. In an effort to speed up the disposal of orders there has been a certain kind of deterioration. Therefore it would be good for the commission to have a relook at their manner of disposal and how they can keep the pace up without actually compromising on the quality of decisions,” Habibullah said. Citizenry, media has a bigger role to play On what could be done about this situation, Habibullah said if the judiciary and the bureaucracy, which runs the commission, do not act as they should, it is time for the media and the citizenry to play a bigger role. “If the three arms are moved by someone, and if there is a public campaign or a movement then why would they continue to behave this way. Public debate and the media has a major role to play. If you want RTI Act to be effective, then you should do something about it.” ‘RTI Act being killed by misrepresentation’ Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who had set a record in clearing over 20,000 cases in a short span of time, said the RTI Act was being killed by “misinterpretation”. He too advocated the need for citizens to create a discussion around the RTI Act. “In fact, I have been suggesting to people that there should be a colloquium held with judges, lawyers, information commissioners and RTI users to arrive at what the law says. A template for orders? The RaaG- SNS report recommended a template for the IC orders and states that it would be useful if the ICs adopt a uniform checklist of points they need to consider before they finalise their orders and uniform formats for their orders. ICs must ensure that, wherever applicable, reasons for every part of their order must be contained in the order. “In keeping with the Supreme Court diktat that orders of judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative orders must give detailed reasoning for their decisions, orders of the ICs must be well reasoned and complete in all respects. This is critical to ensure a robust transparency regime which empowers citizens to hold governments accountable”, says Bhardwaj. Gandhi also expressed his exasperation with the vagueness of the orders. “If a petitioner does not provide you the details, you will not even know what the case is about.” Questioning why hyperlinks to the original petition and orders of PIO, FAA and others not provided when the entire system is computerised, he said “it is primarily due to laziness and ‘I don’t care’ attitude. When you put all this there, then your accountability becomes even higher. Right now you put out a simple order and most people would not know what the matter is about.” Gandhi feared that attempts are being made to discourage the appellants. “The PIOs have been obstructing flow of information. So we will need to create a public opinion about it. If we will not do anything, in another 10 years it will become like the Consumer Act where the orders are there but there is negligible impact.” https://thewire.in/127035/rti-information-commission/
  18. Poor Implementation and Delays Are Making the RTI Act Redundant, Says Study BY GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR ON 09/11/2016 Studies conducted by Research, Assessment & Analysis Group and Satark Nagrik Sangathan have found that pendency rates have been rising in information commissions across the country, making applications irrelevant by the time they are actually heard. While information commissions (ICs) are mandated to safeguard and facilitate people’s fundamental right to information, two national studies on the implementation of the Right to Information Act, undertaken by Research, Assessment & Analysis Group (RaaG) and Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), have revealed that the functioning of the ICs themselves are posing a “major bottleneck” in the implementation of the Act. Moreover, the commissions are now facing a huge backlog of cases while the petitioners are often left with a very “poor quality of orders”. In fact, the two organisations have stated that this has resulted in a situation where several orders of the ICs have been challenged in high courts and the Supreme Court and resulted in judgments that have shaped the contours of the RTI legislation. At a public hearing organised by the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the implementation of the RTI Act and the challenges faced by people in using the law were discussed in the presence of well-known RTI users and activists including chief information commissioner, R. K. Mathur, information commissioner, Acharyulu and former commissioners M.M. Ansari, Shailesh Gandhi and A.N. Tiwari. After listening to the testimonies of the RTI users, made in the presence of NCPRI members Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey and Venkatesh Nayak among others, the chief information commissioners acknowledged that long waiting time was a key issue which needed to be addressed. Mathur said listening to peoples’ testimonies made him realise how much people valued the RTI Act and how it was often the only resort in their struggle to access basic rights and entitlements. He promised that the commission will examine and adopt a mechanism to ensure that matters relating to basic rights and entitlements are expedited for hearing by the Central Information Commission (CIC). Earlier, RTI users recorded testimonies of their experiences of using the Act in the context of the findings of the RAAG and the SNS study. Kanso Devi, a resident of Savitri Nagar, spoke about how she filed an RTI application asking for details as to why her old age pension of Rs 1000 per month from the municipal corporation of Delhi was stopped suddenly. When she didn’t receive a reply, she filed an appeal and eventually a second appeal, before the CIC in November 2015. Despite a year having elapsed, the case has still not come up for hearing. Another resident of Delhi, Balraj, narrated the difficulty he faced in accessing information about the status of his daughter, Deepika’s application for the Ladli Scheme. After five years with no word on the status of the application, his wife had filed an RTI application in 2015. Only after the matter reached the CIC in August 2016 did the Delhi government release Rs. 18,500 to Deepika under the scheme, as per the orders of the commission. Similarly, several other people receiving old age or disabled pension spoke about the problems they suffered when their pensions were stopped without any reason or without any information being provided to them. Sanno Devi, a person with speech and hearing impairment, who possessed an Antodyaya ration card, which is provided to the poorest of the poor, recalled how her ration was stopped in 2012 and it was the CIC which finally ordered a compensation of Rs 18,000 each to her and seven others whose ration had been stopped similarly. But the Delhi government challenged the order and took the matter to court. It lost there too but still did not release the compensation amount. It was only after the Delhi high court ordered a compliance of the order in December 2015 that Sanno Devi and others received the compensation amount. All these cases highlighted the importance of the RTI Act in the lives of the poor and the needy. The study had taken into consideration all the 27 RTI Act related orders of the Supreme Court, nearly 300 orders of the high courts from across the country and about 2,000 orders of the CIC and the state information commissions of Bihar, Assam and Rajasthan for a preparation of the study report. Poor quality of orders The studies pointed out that while the Supreme Court had in numerous orders cautioned against the tendency of adjudicators to give cryptic and unreasoned orders, “more than 60% of the orders of the information commissions contained deficiencies in terms of not recording critical facts”. The study revealed that while in the case of the CIC 63% of the orders did not describe the information sought, things were slightly better at 35 % in Assam, but worse off at 73 % in Rajasthan and 74% in Bihar. This, the study pointed out, was “problematic” because, for the concerned public authorities and people, there was no way to find out the rationale for these decisions. “Therefore, passing a non-speaking order, which only records the decision of the IC without providing the reasons for its decisions or other relevant details, is a violation of people’s right to information and goes against the fundamental principles of transparency,” it had noted. Noting that the RTI act was extensively used by the poor and marginalised, the study found that several orders of the ICs were set aside by the courts due to lack of reasoning or because orders were ultra vires of the Act. It also stated that deficient orders prevented effective public scrutiny and accountability of the information commissions and commissioners. Pending cases on the rise Anjali Bharadwaj of SNS told The Wire that what was most worrisome was the huge backlog of cases in the information commissions. “In some states like Assam, on average it would now take about 30 years for a new appeal to be heard. Similarly, in West Bengal, a new matter would come up for hearing after 11 years and in Kerala after 7 years. This is unthinkable as most of the appeals pertain to immediate issues related to basic entitlements like subsidised rations, old age pensions, medical facilities and minimum wages. With such huge delays, it would become meaningless for the applicants to take recourse to the RTI Act for getting any information or to get their grievances redressed,” The study revealed that in 16 information commissions for which data was available, there were 187,974 pending cases as on December 31, 2015. Worse still, this data was showing a rising trend as pendency in the Assam state information commission had gone up by 240% while that in Odisha and Punjab had increased by 60%, in just two years. And this is not all. The state information commissioner of Madhya Pradesh, which had the longest waiting time of 60 years as per the previous report, did not share its data at all this time. Observing that often the huge pendency and waiting time are a consequence of commissioners not being appointed to the ICs, the study has suggested that “there needs to emerge, through a broad consensus, an agreement on the number of cases a commissioner should be expected to deal with every month” and these norms should also be made public so the appellants and complainants know what to expect. Also, the study had demanded that well before a commissioner is due to demit office, the process of appointment of his replacement should be initiated so that the new commissioner joins as soon as the previous one leaves. The study has also called for a review of the structures and processes of the ICs. With the help of a trained cadre of officers, the burden of work will be shared and the process of first communication from the IC can be restricted to 30 days. Hearings become more efficient that way, as the composite position in terms of the grounds for appeal remains with the responses of the public information officers (PIOs). Talking to The Wire, former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi – who is known to have during his tenure cleared nearly 6,000 cases annually – said “At the time of the selection of the information commissioners itself, a deposition should be taken from them stating that they would strive to clear at least 5,000 cases per annum”. He said in most of the cases, templates can be followed for quick disposal. Gandhi said another prerequisite for quick disposal of cases is adequate staff which should be provided for. Also, he said, payment of compensation for denial of information to the applicants is a quick and sure shot way of reducing litigation. “When I was covering the municipal corporation of Delhi, I ordered a large number of compensations. Ultimately it eased the flow of information and brought the number of applications down,” he recalled. Non-imposition of penalty’s on erring PIOs Bharadwaj also lamented the fact that the information commissions were not imposing penalties of up to Rs 25,000 on the erring PIOs for violations of the RTI Act. She said this provision is meant to ensure proper conduct from the PIOs so that the cases are not delayed unnecessarily and relevant information is also not withheld. The study found that ICs imposed a penalty only for an extremely small fraction of the cases in which the penalty was imposable. Across the sample ICs, the study found that the penalty was finally imposed on only 1.3 % of the cases in which it was imposable. “As a huge proportion of the IC orders were non-speaking or unreasoned or otherwise deficient, the appeals and complaints that have been judged to be such that a penalty was imposable are limited to those where there was a clear case of delay, or where the IC held that the PIO had wrongly denied information,” the study said. It also noted that “the non-imposition of the penalty has many serious implications as it sends a message that violations of the law will not invite any adverse consequences. This destroys the basic framework of incentives and disincentives built into the RTI law and promotes a culture of impunity.” In absolute terms of penalty, the study revealed that of the 1,469 cases, in which it was imposable, the ICs caused a loss of over Rs 2.13 crore. This, it said, extrapolates to an estimated loss of Rs 290 crores annually due to non-imposition of penalty on erring PIOs by the ICs. Lack of transparency The study also found that the websites of most information commissions do not provide adequate information about their functioning. It said of the 28 IC websites it analysed, including that of the CIC, it found that those of two states – Goa and Jharkhand – were not accessible at all, while 8 did not provide information on appeals and complaints received by them; 10 did not provide information on the appeals and complaints pending at the end of 2014 or 2015, while in the case of 7 states the orders for 2016 could not be accessed directly. With many of the sites not providing the annual reports or not being updated regularly, the study has demanded that “each information commission must ensure that all relevant information must be displayed on its website” and that, “as legally required, they submit their annual report to the parliament/state assemblies in time.” The study has criticised the “growing tendency among PIOs and adjudicators to exempt information from disclosure citing sections of the RTI Act that do not allow for such exemptions.” From among the 252 appeals at the CIC, Assam and Bihar, where part or full information was denied, it said, 50% denial was in violation of the RTI Act. https://thewire.in/78983/rti-study-poor-implementation/
  19. Catalyst Mechanism: A Step Towards Human Rights Nishantl Mittal, Pushpit Bansal Editor’s Note: Human rights two simple words but when put together they constitute the very foundation of our existence. INDIA being a diverse country with its multicultural, multiethnic, and multi religious population, the protection of human right is the Sine Qua Non for peaceful existence. However the legislature have tried to define human rights as “The right relating to life, liberty, equality & dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international reforms and enforceable by courts in India” under the human rights Act, 1993. The role of judiciary cannot be neglected as our Indian judiciary explored the new instruments for the protection of human rights i.e. PIL, judicial activism, writ petitions, speedy trials, expansion of Article 21 and still more and more instruments are invented for the promotion of human rights like media because campaigning is always regarded as the first step to a noble cause and aims at building awareness among the masses. In a great country India, the largest democracy of the world, campaign is the authentic way to social change. The mass media can be an instrument for educators, educational institutions & government and non- government organization for the emancipation of human rights. These above mentioned devices have become an integral part in the promotion of human rights in India. Although even after the implementation of so many efforts, the Indian judiciary still lacks somewhere. There exist loopholes till date such as: inadequate resources, overcrowded courts fiscal deficiency, delay in judgments, inadequate legal aid, expansive legal services etc. but National human right commission helps judiciary to overcome this problem by exercising their power as given under HRA, 1993. INTRODUCTION Human Rights are those rights of individuals which have been considered to be very basic for their full physical mental and spiritual development. These rights are derived from the dignity and worth inherent in the human persons. Human beings are rational beings. They by virtue of their being human have certain basic rights which are commonly known as Human rights. These are the rights which all men everywhere at all times ought to have, something of which no one may be deprived without a grave affront to justice. Human Rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. The principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. This principle, as first emphasized in the UDHR in 1948 has been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions Indian Judiciary over a period of six decades has acquired a well entrenched system adopted came forward from other two organs of the Government to protect and assert the Human Rights of women with suitable corrections whenever and wherever required. Furthermore establishment of NHRC by human rights Act, 1993 was a landmark development done in the field of human rights, although all the organs of the country is working for the protection and promotion of Human right but the question arise that does all the law are properly implemented ? Does judiciary is delivering justice to the needy one? Does people in 21st century aware about their human rights? Does only judiciary and legislature are responsible for protection of Human Rights? This paper will analyze all the questions and solution for the same. TYPES OF MECHANISM 1. INDIAN JUDICIARY It is a hallmark of democracy that the judicial organs need to be independent. The judiciary is an important and vital organ to promote not only the principles of democracy, natural justice and the rule of law, but also ensure that human rights are protected in the true spirit and philosophy with which they are advocated. The judiciary with no doubt has played a vital role in protection of human rights over the decades. Some of the unpleasant violations of human rights like Sati, child marriage, honor killings, slavery, child labour etc. have been abolished wholly owning to widespread awareness and strict implementation measures taken by the judiciary. The apex court has many times declared that it has a special responsibility, to enlarge the range and meaning of the fundamental rights and to advance the human rights jurisprudence. The writ jurisdiction under article 32 and 226 are those constitutional remedies in which person can directly approach the apex court or high court if his/her fundamental rights or any other question of law violated. Many cases are determined by the courts by the way of writs which result in the protection of human rights. The major contribution of the judiciary in the protection and promotion of human rights in INDIA can be traced as follows: I. The substantive expansion of the article 21:- Indian constitution is one of the largest legal documents in the world as well as largest constitution to have provisions for human rights. The fundamental rights are the modern name for what have been traditionally known as natural rights and natural rights are also said to be as human rights. The expansion of article 21 was the turning point for Indian judiciary in the field of Human Rights protection. The expansion of article 21 can be traced as:- 1. The interpretation of “Right to life and personnel liberty” Person reputation have also get the shelter under Article 21 as it is compared to be the integral part of the human life. 2. It also includes tradition; culture and heritage of a person concerned 3. It also includes right to food, clothing, decent environment and reasonable accommodation to live which includes growing in all aspects i.e. physical, mental and intellectual. 4. The scope is expanded when supreme court extend the limit of Article 21 by saying that “to all those limit and faculties by which life is enjoyed”. 5. Right to speech and expression is a fundamental right which cannot be separated from prisoners even by law. 6. Right to move is also an important human right as it is deeply connected for living. Due to the outstanding work of the Indian judiciary right to move comes under the concept of life. So to travel is also a matter of fact of life. 7. To get justice is a basic human right for each and every citizen and to with the procedure of law , so to promote the Human Rights the procedure should be, right just and fair, and not arbitatory, fanciful and oppressive. In order to achieve it the concept of natural justice is promoted. Thus, the successful approach of Indian judiciary helped for the protection of human rights which cannot be neglected. The concept of Article 21 in context of human right can be further seen in the following in which Indian judiciary have well protected the human rights 1. Quality of life 2. Right to livelihood 3. Slum dwellers 4. Right to medical care 5. Health of labour 6. Care Homes 7. Right to Shelter 8. Sexual harassment 9. Right to privacy 10. Right to reputation 11. Environment protection 12. Right to health II. PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION Public interest litigation is a procedural innovation of Indian judiciary which in the recent years has become a popular weapon of Indian judiciary for enforcement of human rights. In the Indian society it is noticed that most of the violation of human right is caused to people who are poor ignorant or economical disadvantageous thus, the PIL has been introduced with a view to bring to in justice within easy reach of a poor disadvantageous section of the society. Public interest matters today focus more and move on the interest of Indian middle classes rather on the oppressed class PIL sealing order for implementation of consumer protection law, Removal of corrupt ministers, the concept of PIL has been promoted when Supreme Court started accepting it on the basis of mere letters PIL has turned to make a remarkable history for the promotion of Human Right which helped a nation-wide legal aid scheme to be established with the initiative f the Supreme Court in 1982, the Supreme Court promised to examine a range of relevant issues concerning PIL procedure. As justice Krishna iyer remarks: It is too late to burke PIL, but always welcome to re affirm and refine, eliminate the entropy and abuse of process28. It is quite possible that the burden of backlog of causes awaiting adjudication is what worries the court. But this never a reason when “we the people of India demand social justice” reminds J. iyyer. The judiciary should never bite more than its chew is a statement made as a caution in respect of Article 21 of the constitution. Article 21 embodies a judicially enforceable right. The another efforts for protection of HR by the way of PIL is when the guidelines of supreme court was issued in the all cases for arrest and detention by the state interrogatory agencies till legal provision are made on that behalf as preventive measures. Thus PIL plays an important role in ensuring the principle of rule of law by making the administration accountable to the people. PIL was an invention essentially to safeguard and protect the human rights of those people who are unable to protect themselves. III. JUDICIAL ACTIVISM Judicial activism believes that the judges assume our role as independent policy makers or independent trustees in behalf of societies that goes beyond the tradition role as interpreters of the constitution and the law. Judicial activism has set a right of number of wrongs committed by the state and further gives us contribution for the protection of human rights. The examples are as follows:- Ban on Smoking in public places. Protection against in Human Treatment in jail. Child protection from working in hazardous factories Protection of Ecology and Environment Pollution. Handicapped should be job opportunities. Power to commute death sentence into life imprisonment. Guidelines against the sexual harassment in work place. 2. NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHT COMMISSION Human Rights are the rights related to life, liberty and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the constitution or embodied in the international convenance and enforceable by the courts in INDIA. The government of India established the NHRC in 1993 in order to give effect to the National Human Rights Act.1993. As per sec. 12 of the provision of the act, the commission is empowered to enquire either on its own or based on a petition submitted by a victim or any person on behalf of the victim on the violation of human rights. It can also participate in the proceeding of the court with prior permission of such court to defend or to plays information relating to violation of such human rights that are in trial before such courts. For e.g. In Chakma refugee case on the bases of a complaint filed by NGO committee for citizen ship rights of the chakmas in order to enforce the rights of about 65,000 Chakma tribal’s it is moves to supreme court through a PIL under article 32 of constitution to seek and enforce the right of them under article 21 of the constitution. Further NHRC took full advantages from the provisions of the act for the protection of HR in INDIA, further the efforts of NHRC can be traced by the following:- 1. Formulation of a plan to prevent the trafficking in women and children. 2. Financial contribution to various other organizations working for welfare of Human rights. 3. NHRC efforts were seen while enhancing the “Right to food” in the shelter of Article 21 of the constitution. 4. Right to health. 5. Spreading awareness among the individuals through organizing seminars & conferences. 6. Provide justice by the way of suo motu cases. 3. NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS(NGO’S) Non Government Organizations are legal entities, like companies and cooperatives. They are formed by like-minded individuals who come together to promote their ideas or product The Constitution allows these collective activities under the right to associate and to follow one’s livelihood, as long as their aims and objectives are legal and non-violent47.thus, NGO is an organization that is neither a part of a government nor a part of any conventional for-profit business. NGO fill the gap which created due to failure of state to live up the expectations of people. NGO’s in a nut shell, act as critics, capacity builders, innovators, advocators and policy partners in general and in particular in promotion and realization of human rights. There is 1 NGO for every 600 people in INDIA. “The 21st century will be an era of NGOs. “Yes, NGO play a vital role in the local, regional, national and international promotion, protection and realization of human rights. Thus functions can be traced as follows:- 1. Involving people from all sector of Society. 2. Acting as effective instruments of preventive diplomacy. 3. Lobbying for better legislative measures. 4. Monitoring implementation of various schemes. Further NGO’s works in 3 dimensions for the protection of human rights:- 1. Educational dimension 2. Economical dimension 3. Social dimension In India NGO’s has played a vital role in the protection of human rights for example:- 1. Child relief and you (CRY):- it is a voluntary organization committed to the uplifment of millions of children’s who have been deprived of their childhood due to various reasons. 2. Campaign against child labour (CACL):- the campaign against child labour is a joint initiative of youth for voluntary actions (YUVA), Pune and Tere des homes (Germany) India programme. 3. Organizations like saheli and chetna are actively involved in the protection women’s rights. They provide free legal aid to women to fight for their rights against gender bias and discrimination. Furthermore role of NGO can trace in India by instating the landmark cases of the following:- 1. Abolishment of bonded labour. 2. Protection of women from sex exploitation in workplace. 3. It provides strict guidance for providing compensation for the tortuous act of government servants. 4. Strict guidance to provide compensation for the cruelty done by police in jail. 5. Landmark case for giving compensation for the illegal acts of police. It was the continuous fight by the NGOs’, a number of new legislations are adopted and existing ones have been amended in India. For ex. Environmental Protection Act, legislations on women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, recognition of live in relationships, right to food, and a number of other aspects came into existence. Problems of enforcement mechanisms in INDIA NHRC 1. Chairman consent not taken into consideration The consent of chairman is not taken into consideration while selecting the members of the commission which may lead to appointment of under qualified or undeserving persons. 2. Delay in making amendments The act itself faces some weaknesses and there is a need to amend the laws in it but the commission has constrains in doing. Any ignorance or delay in amendments leads to ineffectiveness of NHRC. The Act must, therefore, be amended to make the Commission a strong, independent and vibrant institution, supporting democracy and good governance. 3. Cannot investigate forces NHRC is not authorized to enquire in the complaints of violation of human rights by the armed forces, BSF or any other Para legal forces.This is the another weakness of the commission as a very large number of complaints of human rights violations are directed against the members of the “armed forces”, 4. Only an investigative and recommendatory body NHRC cannot prosecute the cases as the body can only investigate the complaints and recommend the same to the higher authorities for the justice. The chief contribution if this organization is to create awareness regarding human rights in common masses and to develop trust in system of justice and security. 5. Commission has no right to enforce its decisions Where the enquiry conducted by the Commission discloses violation of human rights, it can only advise the government to take action against guilty persons or grant relief to the victim. If any Government refuses to accept the advice, as was done recently by the Bihar Government in a case of granting relief, there is no provision in law which empowers the Commission to force the Government to implement its advice. 6. Dependent on the government for its manpower requirements Section 11 of the act makes it dependent on the government for staff for the work of research, investigation, technical and administrative work.The commission is supposed to be completely independent even though the act does not say so. Indian Judiciary 1. Time consuming & Expensive litigation Cost Most of the times the individuals whose human rights were violated are not in a position to build up their case due to expensive litigation cost. In such cases the hearing took long period of time to give justice to the individual. As some of them sacrifices the cost but almost broke at that point. 2. Multiplicity of cases In the court of law there are number of cases which need to be solved within limited time. Thus the cases got multiplied as court has to investigate each and every case before giving any judgment. As Supreme Court stated that multiplicity of cases should be avoid in cases. 3. Excessive number of laws While fighting the case there are number of laws which can be used by the lawyers to mold the decision of the case on their side and they do so, but the Indian judiciary has so many contradicting laws that give relief on one side but took it on the other side. Thus it is very difficult for the judge to give the judgment. 4. Inadequate information about laws, the rights arising out of them and the prevailing Practices In present day also, a common man does not know about his/her rights which were given by birth, mostly poor people were not aware of their rights and by taking that advantage some people violates their rights as poor man remains unaware of the violation of his right. NGO’s 1. Lack of funds According to survey conducted in the last few years a report generated which states that 68,000 NGO’s were funded by the government with Rs. 31,900 Cr in 2008-2011. This strength of NGO’s funded is only 33% of the total number of NGO’s working in INDIA. 2. Limited capacity NGOs recognize that many of them have limited technical and organizational capacity. Few NGOs are able or willing to pay for such capacity building. Weak capacity was identified in fundraising, governance, technical areas of development, and leadership and management. 3. Misusing of tax benefits INDIAN government gives many tax benefits to the NGO’s funding and their working practices, NGO’s involved in relief work and in the distribution of relief supplies to the needy are 100% exempt from the Indian customs duty on import of food, medicines, clothing etc. 4. Work for profit motive and Misuse of foreign funds In present scenario most of the NGO’s were only established to make money and improve their standard of living in the society as they do not work for the welfare of the common man. Majority of these NGO groups are non-functional and 80% of these groups do not mention proper records about their functioning. About 75% of these groups do not submit their income and expenditure accounts.64 Many NGO’s were misusing their foreign funds in illegal activities, Union government to crack whip against 188 NGOs for misuse of foreign funds. Conclusion Human rights which seems to be simple words but in reality it’s hard to justify these words. In country like India which is the largest democracy in the world, which has a constitution full of UDHR’s provision, which have the catalyst mechanism like judiciary, NHRC, SHRCS,NGO etc. somewhere fails to protect the human rights of the individuals due to above stated reasons. But these mechanics have promoted the concept of human rights a lot by the landmark cases and from the Vedic times the concepts of HRS have improved and many new concepts came under the shelter of Human Rights. Atlast it may be observed that firstly, The main and popular instrument of Indian judiciary is discovered as writs, PIL, speedy trails, and judicial activism for the protection of human rights, Indian judiciary played a significant role in the situation where the executive and legislature have failed to address the problem of people at large. Secondly, NHRC and SHRC worked a lot for the protection of human rights, by taking suo moto cases, by making recommendations to government for enacting laws etc. by still they are lacking behind to achieve the desire goal. And main reason behind it is huge no. of uneducated population. Thirdly, Although NGOs have worked a lot for protection of human rights but now days NGOs have became the source of income rather than a medium of social services. And moreover there is sufficient no. of NGOs in India but these NGOs are lacking behind in terms of volunteers. Therefore best mechanism for enforcement of human rights is by respecting the rights of others. Suggestions 1. More powers must be granted to the NHRC including the staff selection, as NHRC lacks on the part of authoritative powers and decision making powers. 2. There must a strict regulatory board to examine and analyze all the audit reports, funding sources and work history moreover to keep an eye on the working of the NGO’s in INDIA, to avoid the misuse of reliefs or exemptions from taxes granted by the INDIAN government for the benefit of the people. 3. The more and more HRs court should be setup in each and every district of the state as under section 30 of protection of human right Act. For providing the effective remedy in the case of violation of Human Rights. 4. NHRC and SHRC should encourage more and more research in the field of human rights by organizing seminars , internship and workshops and recommend the result to the government for enacting the laws. 5. Litigation cost and multiplicity of cases should be decrease, so that justice can be reached to each and every hand. https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/catalyst-mechanism-step-towards-human-rights/
  20. Extension of Right To Information To Private Sector By Mukul Sharma, School of Law, KIIT University “Editor’s note: Right to Information has evolved as a tool to ensure transparency in the governance of the country. The right being granted to every citizen of India, it becomes important to examine the coverage of the act that grants this right. While the applicability of this right against government bodies is unquestionable, whether the right covers private bodies has always been an unsettled matter. The author in this paper focuses on this grey area by emphasizing on the need of the private bodies to fall under this act. A number of suggestions have been made to make the process of extracting information under this act easier.” Introduction “A right-based enactment is akin to a welfare measure. [It] should receive a liberal interpretation”. The Right to Information Act, 2005 (hereinafter RTI Act) was enacted by the parliament of India “to provide for setting out a practical regime of right to information for citizens” and replace the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002.[ii] Under this Act, information can be sought by any citizen from a “public authority”, who is required to dispense it expeditiously within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerize their records for wide dissemination. Previously, information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and various other special laws, which is relaxed by the new Right to Information Act. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 13 October 2005.[iii] The state-level RTI Acts were first successfully enacted by the state government of Karnataka in 2000, Goa in 1997, Rajasthan in 2000, Tamil Nadu in 2001, Delhi in 2001, Maharashtra in 2002, Assam in 2002, Madhya Pradesh in 2003, Jammu and Kashmir in 2004, and Haryana in 2005. Freedom of information, defined as the freedom to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”[iv], has received a spectacular legislative response in the recent years. As per the global survey, nearly 70 countries had adopted comprehensive Freedom of Information Acts till June 2006.[v] Of these, the Acts of 19 countries apply to information held by government as well as private bodies, whereas the others apply to government information only.[vi]This means that in those countries where the private sector has been excluded from jurisdiction of the freedom of information laws, individuals can access information from government, subject to certain exemptions, but cannot access information from private bodies as a legal right. In this globalization and anti-nationalization era, the involvement of the private bodies in the public activities are vital and to impose accountability through transparency in relation to private as well as public functionaries is inevitable. The promotion of access to Information Act, 2000 of South Africa prepared to accept a healthier experiment by including the private sector in the regime of right to information. However as per the above mentioned act, if any information with regard to a private body is with the public authority, such information can be accessible or available to disclosure after issuing a notice to the private body.[vii] Right to Information in Private Bodies Private bodies were not included in the Act by the Indian legislators directly. In the landmark decision of Sarbajit Roy v. Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission,[viii] the Central Information Commission also reaffirmed that privatized public utility companies continue to be within the RTI Act, notwithstanding their privatization. The common misconception that has been raised presently is that only entities and organizations which are substantially aided or funded by the Government are covered under the RTI Act but the fact is that private entities are covered under the RTI Act irrespective of whether they are substantially aided or funded by the Government. Private Entities are not covered under Sec 2(a) of the Act As per Section 2(a),[ix] “appropriate Government” refers to a public authority which is established, constituted, owned, controlled or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly— (i) by the Central Government or the Union territory administration, (ii) by the State Government, But Private Entities are covered under section 2(f) of the Act As per Section 2 (f)[x] “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; Also Section 8 (j)[xi] is relevant here which provides that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. To summarize the argument / point of view: Private Entities are not covered under Section 2 (a)[xii] of the Act. Private Entities are covered under Section 2 (f)[xiii] of the Act. With reference to Section 8 (j)[xiv] of the Act, one can reasonably infer and conclude that: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Public Authority with which the Private Entity is registered shall not be denied to any person. Hence, Private Entities are covered under the RTI Act through the Public Authority with which they are registered. It becomes imperative to find the public authority with which the particular private entity has registered itself. For example, Co-operative Societies register themselves through Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Society’s and Banks through the Reserve Bank of India[xv] M.M. Ansari[xvi], Information Commissioner at the Central Information Commission[xvii] (CIC), told a national daily[xviii] that as long as these companies reported to a regulator or a government department, they were within the purview of the law. The commission[xix] said that the companies would not have to appoint information officers to deal with right to information demands unlike the government entities. Applicants shall route their requests through the relevant agency. Information on telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile telephony firm, could be accessed through the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India[xx]; for banks through the Reserve Bank of India[xxi]; and on brokerages and foreign investors active in stock markets from the Securities and Exchange Board of India[xxii]. “Applicants have every right to seek information on a private company even though it is in the private sector, if it reports to a government body,” said Ansari[xxiii]. It was also added by him that only applications that served public interest would be dealt with, not those that sought to erode a company’s competitive position. For instance, any citizen can ask a Cola[xxiv] company for details on how much water it used and where the water came from, but not the formula of its fizzy drink. If there is any difference of opinion on what constitutes public interest and what doesn’t, the commission will arbitrate and decide. According to a number of authoritative sources[xxv], “the act is under-utilized when it comes to gathering information on the private sector, but it does have a provision for seeking information on the corporate sector”. Private Sector & The Purview of RTI: Detailed Analysis While Right to Information Act states that only those private organizations which have “substantial” funding from the government come under the purview of the RTI Act, in cases where these entities are in partnership with the government, it is possible to get necessary information out of them. With municipal corporations, state and central governments increasingly opting for Public Private Partnerships (PPP), transparency could take a beating, as private organizations have been given an opportunity to duck under the Right to Information Act. The Act says that only if private organizations are “substantially” funded then they come under the purview of public domain. But the question about the authority which is going to take decisions regarding “substantial funding” remains unanswered. Benefitting from this loophole, the private bodies take cover and refuse to give information to the person or group. A sterling case is that of the Ideal Road Builders (IRB), a private agency which collects toll fees from most of the highways in Maharashtra, including the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. It is impossible to procure information regarding the data of toll collection. However, in such cases, since their partnership is with a government body, citizen can get access to such information from the government organization. Strangely, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the government body in this case which is mandated to monitor the toll collection itself has not monitored the revenues of the IRB despite appointing an independent engineering consultant, STUP Consultants Pvt. Ltd. However, citizens demanded this information under RTI Act; and thereby the MSRDC was compelled to request the IRB to send the data of toll collection, year-wise. One of the officials confessed that they had only recently asked the IRB to supply information due to pressure of RTI queries which was previously untouched. Similarly, Metros that are being “forced” upon citizens in several towns and cities across the country, without proper planning, are mostly constructed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Here too, the DMRC is a private body and any query under RTI is denied. In the case of the Pune Metro, the DMRC has disastrously planned the metro and submitted a shoddy and superficial Detailed Project Report (DPR). Despite the project report not satisfying the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) terms of reference and it not abiding by the central government guidelines while making the DPR, the PMC’s general body and the administration has blindly passed the project. It now lies with the state government, which failed to allot finance for it in the current budget. The scandal of this Rs10, 000-odd crores’ infrastructure that is going to add to the chaos of the already congested roads in Pune and become a heavy tax burden for citizens for many years, came to light due to the RTI invoked at the PMC. Thus, in private-public partnerships one can get access to public documents by putting a query to the ‘public partner’. The key approach and philosophy of the RTI Act appears to be that since the State acts on behalf of the citizens, wherever the State gives money, the citizen has a right to know (right to information). In my opinion, if the money given for the running expenses is over either 20% of the running expenses, or Rs. 1 Crore, the body should be considered as receiving ‘substantial finance’ and is covered in the definition of a ‘public authority’. Private Sector Companies with minor Government stake under RTI: High Court[xxvi] The Delhi High Court said that even those companies in which government has a minority stake can be brought under the purview of Right to Information Act and declared National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) as public authority. Interpreting the Act, Justice S. Muralidhar said there is no need to have deep or pervasive government control over an institution to bring it under the ambit of the transparency law. “The absence of any adjective like deep or pervasive qualifying the word controlled in the RTI Act means that any control over the body by the central government will suffice to make it a public authority,” the court said adding “a controlling interest through shareholding does not necessarily mean majority shareholding.” Issues Involved in Extension of Right to Information Laws to the Private Sector Balancing the right to know and commercial confidentiality is more relevant for private sector information, as compared to the government due to high sensitivity of information. This will require defining the exceptions rather narrowly, which can be an uphill task. If the information accessed from a private body reveals a wrongdoing, it indicates that an obligation is imposed on the private body to fix the problem. For this reason, the private sector may resist transparency beyond a certain point to preserve its repute in the market. Extension of the right to information laws can increase the costs of collection and provision of information. This is one important criticism leveled against this extension issue. Moreover, mechanism will have to be evolved to ensure that the information provided is free from “spin”, and is presented in a way that the public is able to comprehend it. Conclusion The author would like to conclude this essay by suggesting some recommendations in favor of implementing or extending scope of right to information laws in private sector. The competent authorities need to make specific rules to facilitate the seeking of information from private bodies by the people. The rules must clearly lay down the obligations of the concerned public authorities and private bodies, and specify the procedures that need to be followed to process applications demanding information from private bodies under section 2(f)[xxvii]. Appropriate governments should periodically inform the private sector about their obligations under section 2(f) of the RTI Act, as most of them are unaware that they are covered by the act. The appropriate governments should also bring out a guide indicating the type of information that can be accessed from different private bodies under various provisions of law. This would greatly help the public in using the RTI Act to access information from the private sector, thereby significantly increasing their accountability. With expansion in public sector, it is undertaking many public functions that were conventionally performed by the government. This change has occurred due to rapid privatization, de-regulation, and economic globalization.[xxviii] As a result, a substantial amount of information about public functions, which was previously in the possession of governments, now belongs to the private sector. Information related to private banks, telecommunication companies, hospitals, and universities can be considered as an example. Thus, exclusion of the private sector from the right to information laws effectively means that individuals can no longer access information from these important sources. Public demand for extending right to information law to private sector is increasing because this expansion of private sector has put much information outside the scope of the law introduced in 2005. Therefore, a need is being felt to bring in more private organizations under the purview of the right to information law, particularly those involved in building and maintaining hospitals, schools, leisure and sports trusts. Extension of right to information laws to the private sector is necessary to supplement the disclosure regimes for improving their effectiveness. https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/extension-right-information-private-sector/
  21. What is the difference in "RTI Request" and "RTI Appeal" in RTI act of India?
  22. ashakantasharma

    Rights of Information - Recognition

    Our Rights to Information was also recognized by the Supreme Court of India four decades ago in State of UP v/s Raj Narain AIR 1975 SC 865 by Justice K K Mathew in the following words- “In a government….where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people….have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way….. The responsibility of officials to explain or to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption.”
  23. An Interview with Shailesh Gandhi, convener of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information by Rediff.com readers on the Right to Information Act. The Right to Information Act 2005 is hailed as a revolution in India's evolution as a democracy. It empowers the ordinary citizen who has hither-to been armed with only his vote, with the tools of information that propel government decisions. Thanks to the legislation, citizens can seek -- and get within 30 days - information on how the government arrived at decisions, be it about his ration card application or the money spent on lighting a bridge outside his home. Shailesh Gandhi, convenor of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information, answered questions put forth by rediff.com readers on the Right to Information Act. Here's the transcript: ff asked, Do you think RTI Act should be all pervasive? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Transparency and truth would help everyone. tester asked, I have been cheated by a foreign bank and want to sue them legally...can any one of you guide me please Shailesh Gandhi answers, This would not be covered under RTI.tester asked, Hi, I will like to know if we can get the RTI act for foreign bank who operate in India or how is it possible Shailesh Gandhi answers, We can get information on foreign banks to the extent that the RBI or any other regulator under the law can access. pajama asked, Do you think the RTI act should encompass the judiciary? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The law covers the judiciary very clearly and it is not the matter of anybody's opinion. desi asked, Hi Mr Gandhi, How do you think common man should benefit from RTI? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The test of RTI will be how much the common man benefits. If the common man does not benefit, it will remain one more tool in the hands of the powerful. The popularity of RTI is its potential promise to really benefit the individual common citizen. sanjay asked, Sir, can we give someone the copies of Cashbook, copies of Tenders without informing the Third Party. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Copies of cashbook of third party cannot be given. Tenders and quotations must be given since there can be no exemption clause under RTI, which would normally cover these. pramod asked, Sir, Are the unaided, recognised public Schools under purview of RTI? IF yes, who is PIO in their case - is it Dte of education or Principal Shailesh Gandhi answers, Unaided schools or colleges are not under the purview of RTI. ASC asked, how to catch people and get their details who default paying government dues Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could ask for details of defaulters and the amounts of default. Simultaneously, you could ask about action taken against defaulters, which would achieve the desired objective better. cxvczxv asked, how to get upsc cut off marks Shailesh Gandhi answers, In my opinion, they should be available though there is some controversy about this. Going by the letter and spirit of the RTI, the UPSC cut-off marks should be available. daya asked, Can we get All the accounts of the properties of MLA,MP and IAS and State administrative officers and their dependents by RTI. Can any action be taken to forfeit the ILLGOTTEN wealth ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The accounts properties of MLA,MP, IAS and state administrative officers are supposed to be submitted to the govt regularly and hence can certainly be accessed. sp asked, Mr.Gandhi is there a website or from where we can learn more about RTI? Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am giving you two or three websites. there are others as well. www.righttoinformation.com www.righttoinformation.org www.satyamevajayate.info Mahesh asked, Can I get the copies of my Income Tax Returns from the IT Dept under the RTI Act. My petition was rejected U/s.8(1)(j) Shailesh Gandhi answers, This should 100 per cent be available and the rejection is wrong. Please do file the appeal arguing that you cannot possibly invade your own privacy.anandpankaj asked, Hi Sir, I have recently filed an application with a reputed public school in Delhi seeking certain information. My sense is that they will either not provide information in 30 days or may come back saying that they are not a public authority as defined in RTIA, 2005. What is the recourse for me? Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the public school is substantially aided by the govt or controlled by govt, then they are obliged to give you information since they are a public authority. In spite of this if they do not, file a first appeal and subsequently if required a second appeal to the information commission. cxvczxv asked, some state public service commissions have been ordered to disclose answer sheets are they obeying the orders by respective information commissions? Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am not exactly sure about the current position, but I think some case has been filed in the courts on this. anandpankaj asked, Sir you say that recognised unaided public schools are not covered but the CIC in a recent order against Sanskriti School, New Delhi termed them as public authority because they had accessed government funds/resources for infrastructure at the time of their inception. This order was passed by the IC, Mr Kejriwal and is a strong precedence. Shailesh Gandhi answers, What you are describing means there is funding of the government. deven asked, How many days govt officials take to provide information? and if he or she failed to reply what is the course of action Shailesh Gandhi answers, The public information officer has to reply to you in 30 days. Failure to do this without reasonable cause can invite a personal penalty of Rs 250/day. In case you do not receive a reply in 30 days, please ensure that you file your first appeal to the first appellate authority within 60 days of your RTI application. vijay asked, as an individual do I have the rti why a company is withdrawing a product from the market and to reintroduce it again with a different name ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, No bharati asked, How to secure information on Compensation on land acquired by Municipal Corporation for Road widening without giving and accepting any claim (even not single paise) Shailesh Gandhi answers, One method could be to get the record of the previous owner and then ask under RTI what compensation was paid for acquiring this land. pavithran asked, hello sir good evening. is it possible to get details regarding departmental promotional committee proceedings as well as the proceedings relating to appointments which are closed door sessions and said as confidential through RTI methods. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. sp asked, Sir Can I ask for the mark sheets of my college examinations which were held between 1999-2002 Shailesh Gandhi answers, If your college is govt-aided and the mark sheets are available, you can get them under RTI. Please remember, information has to exist for you to be able to get it. sandeepjain asked, hello, thanks for your contribution with reg to RTI. Can I ask PSU to give information regarding pricing policy to various customers. We are already customers to Hindustan Copper Ltd. We doubt difference in their sales policy Shailesh Gandhi answers, This might be difficult unless you feel that for the same quantities and terms they are charging different prices. However, I think their need for commercial confidence and decision making would probably lead to their denying this information. Mayank asked, Is there any website available to submit request for any information under RTI? Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is no such website (But things have changed now and we are having an online facilities now) ali asked, I want right to information on line. so all you query should be submitted online also Shailesh Gandhi answers, Presently, it is not very practical though the law does have a provision. The main reason is that most govt offices are not email savvy and the other problem is linking the application fee of Rs 10 with your email. Lu asked, Photocopies of Cash book can be given to anybody. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Whose cash book are you referring to? sp asked, Sir I would like to know the scope of RTI , whether it is only regarding matters of our concern or matters which we have an interest in or general cases like details regarding land ownership of other person Shailesh Gandhi answers, Under RTI, you need no purpose or locus standi. However, you should read the 10 exemption clauses of the RTI Act given under Section 8(1). PSen asked, Dear Sir, I want to see my ACR .is it possible using RTI? thanks a lot Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes, as per the RTI Act, it is certainly possible to see your own ACR. Mahesh asked, Sir can the SC direct the CIC to furnish information or the CIC is the final authority Shailesh Gandhi answers, As far as giving the information is concerned, the information commission is the authority to order giving of information. The SC can only be approached if someone feels that the law has been wrongly interpreted by the information commission. RTIGenie asked, Do you think the rules of Delhi High Court contravene the RTI Act? If so, what can we do about it? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Unfortunately, most courts across the country have been defiant of the RTI law. I have really no solution as to how we can counter the lawlessness of the law interpreters. Raju asked, Hi, Mr. Gandhi ! Sir, some times RTI is used to ask for information harass the PIO or the Public Servant as it would take far too much labour and time to compile. Also, too many RTI applications made in too many repetitive presumptive allegations. It seems to border on absurdity. Is it mandatory to respond to everything asked ? Is there any remedy where such a harassing motive is visible? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The RTI act provides for no such remedy. However, if it requires very large amount of resources to furnish the information, then it can be refused. However, one must always remember that giving information and keeping records properly should be the norm. tejas asked, Sir, Is it possible for us to apply online to any govt. organisation asking for the details under RTI Act? If Yes, How? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Theoretically, it is possible. But in practice, it doesn't work presently in most cases. Coelho asked, Sir my organization has making decisions that have no basis. Can one seek information on how they could arrive at such decisions, through RTI? Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the organisation is a govt organisation or a govt-aided organisation, then yes. Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Can the Public Authority deny on the ground that the information sought is personal nature and is not having any public interest? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Certainly, if your question if your query is an invasion on someone else's privacy and has no public interest, it would be refused. It is necessary to realise and understand that all citizens also have right to privacy. vbkondalkar asked, Hello Sir, I have prepared a small book consisting nearly 25 pages on the RTI can i forward it you to comment on the same Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can forward it to my email. Coelho asked, Sir Can queries regarding decisions be made under RTI Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can ask for information on the basis of which these decisions were arrived at. aries13 asked, I want to get details of all arms license issued in my district in the last 5 years. Will RTI suffice ? Whom should I give the Rs 10 fees ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, You will have to find out the authority, which gives the arms licenses. You can ask the public information officer of the authority and also pay the fees to to him. Ramkumar asked, Sir, Whether the Govt. employee who seeks info through RTI act should apply through proper channel? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Under RTI, all citizens of India have right to apply and there is no 'proper channel.' rami asked, I didn't get my pf amount and also tax refund. Is there any possibilities are there to get my amount through rti act? Shailesh Gandhi answers, This is the kind of problem for which RTI acts very well. You ask about the progress of your file specifically asking which officer had the file for how many days and what action did he/she take on it. Also ask for the norms for doing work as per Section 4 of the Act. teomal asked, can we know i.e. have information about agreements made govt of India with maharaja of Kutch and Kashmir Shailesh Gandhi answers, To my understanding, Yes. scp asked, With the latest High Court judgment asking UPSC to divulge the preliminary results , can I apply for old mark sheets also ?? Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the old mark sheets are kept by the UPSC, you will get them. PSen asked, why CIC does not contain a High court or Supreme Court judge? will it help RTI cause? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some of the commissions do have retired judges. And I am personally not at all impressed or happy with the way our courts are functioning. I think the commissions should have a mix of various professions. But I am not really in favour of people from the judiciary to whom delays are a habit. prashant asked, it is necessary and bound to the govt organization to place the board stating the names and designations of PIO Shailesh Gandhi answers, This is a requirement of the Act. However, as an applicant, you can submit your application to the PIO of a particular office and need not worry about his name. vijay asked, sir, in continuation of my query, pl tell whether I have rti to know why a product is sold by a company for a period of time and then withdraw it from the market. isn't it something like the mnc's are taking advantage of our legal loopholes. Shailesh Gandhi answers, No, there is no such provision. teomal asked, should already information supplied through be published on web sites Shailesh Gandhi answers, It would be a good idea to do this. But I don't think this is being done by most organisations. sp asked, sir regarding my prev question is there a govt rule which states how long the papers are to be retained because now under RTI it would become compulsory for such institutions to maintain such records Shailesh Gandhi answers, How long records of any nature will be kept is primarily the prerogative of the organisation depending on its needs for record-keeping. teomal asked, can supreme court and I courts give particulars of orders to third parties Shailesh Gandhi answers, Even without RTI, this is being done. anandpankaj asked, Sir I have filed two identical applications to two different bodies, both of who can provide information on the subject. What should I do if there is variance in their reply? Who do I move to? Shailesh Gandhi answers, If there is a variance in their reply, make a complaint to the information commission that one of them has given you false information. prashant asked, for making appeal it is possible that person other than the applicant be present at the appeal hearing Shailesh Gandhi answers, The law does not make any special proviso. However, it is commonly accepted that someone else can appear for the applicant if a letter of authority is given. ak asked, Is it mandatory to give all replies under RTI Act? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. The reply can be the information is not available or exempt but giving a reply to a citizen is a normal courtesy, which the government should be following. The RTI act only reinforces this. ajoyksen asked, Sir, I would like to get interest calculation for determination of EMI against home loan from ICICI. Am I eligible & can I ask them to give in writing? Shailesh Gandhi answers, I am not sure but ICICI is not owned by the government. However, if the govt has a significant take, then it is covered and you can ask for the information. Tushar asked, I am in central govt job. Every year we use give Annual assessment report(AAR) in prescribed format. But we don't know, what our reporting authority is doing regarding gradation(marking. Can we see our AAR/CR through RTI, Please guide us. Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can access your own ACR. varun asked, Aren't nuisance-mongers trying to abuse n misuse this wonderful piece of legislation, sir? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Any human endeavour or activity will always have some people using it wrongly, but overall the RTI is a great boon for citizens of India. Abhinav asked, How to use RTI by post Shailesh Gandhi answers, I personally sent all my RTI queries through registered AD post or courier. The POD that we get is the proof that the RTI application has been given. Saivani asked, Can the information be denied stating that it is having commercial interest? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some commercial interests are safeguarded under RTI if there is no public interest. jayesh asked, May I get the copy of last 10 years question papers for the post of P&A Officer and IRO of Graduate Trainee Test conducted for ONGC, MRPL or any company of ONGC Group under RTI Act. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. if they are available with the public authority. Question: - You think some peoples are misusing the Act and started job of white collar extortion, if yes what could be steps you think to stop them and the benefit of intention of the Act should be delivered to poor people Shailesh Gandhi answers, Some public authorities have talked of this and my suggestion is that they should put the names of such applicants with the questions and their answers in public domain. This can be done on Internet or even on a notice board. sudhakar asked, why is the fee for rti application not standard in all the states Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is very great need for a uniform fee, application format and payment mode to be uniform throughout the country. This will come about only when citizens exert themselves to bring this about. nlad asked, Is there any guideline available on writing RTI requests as how they should be drafted ? For eg : Whether it should be written as "I would like to know" or "I demand to know". Shailesh Gandhi answers, The better method is to only state: "I want the following information" udai asked, Sir, after getting information under RTI if I find the information does not matches with the actual implementation. Can I file a case in court? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The court is always available but is a fairly painful exercise. If you use RTI and bring into public domain things that are wrong, it does have a salutary effect on the govt. dev asked, sir I want to see CBI report of Nithari. Can I? if yes how. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Presently, this may be denied by saying that the investigations are on. shelendra asked, Mr. Gandi- can we seek details to collection and expenditure accrued by GOI under some head (say education cess) for last FY (06-07). I am interested in following details: 01. Amount collected state wise. 02. Amount spent on creating the facilities (state wise). 03. Amount spent for paying the salaries or revenue expenditures (state wise). 04. The total surplus or deficit for FY 06-07. Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes, if accounts are maintained in this manner. Coelho asked, Sir, Can a officer designated as Assistant Public Information Officer seek information from his own office when certain irregularities in functioning have been detected and no action is taken? Shailesh Gandhi answers, The assistant public information officer is also a citizen of India and therefore has a right to ask for information under RTI. sucker asked, are there any other countries having acts like RTI sailesh??? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Around a hundred countries now have similar acts. Freedom of information and right to information are synonymous words and the first such act came in Sweden in 1766. sp asked, Can we use RTI to get information of the activity in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Shailesh Gandhi answers, All information that is recorded is available. unnikrishnan asked, Sir, What we do in case if the information is not given by a particular Govt. Dept in a stipulated period. Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can file an appeal and ultimately move the commission asking for penal provisions to be applied. Pravin asked, Hello Sir, can we get the information from tahsildar related NA Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. raki asked, hello sir, what happens if we did not get the information that we want to the respective officer? what should we do if we didn't get the information we want from the respective officer. should we file a case in the court? Shailesh Gandhi answers, In such a case, please file a first appeal. It is useful to follow the simple process of RTI, which can be done sitting at your house. Anand asked, Sir I have applied for passport in lucknow office in feb 2005, all the process has been complete. I haven't got the passport ,I applied for RTI regarding the passport. It has been more then 30 days and still don't have any information. I want to ask is it still working, or it's just an act which is there but does not get implemented. What should i do now next? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Please file a first appeal and if your particular passport office is really lawless and still does not reply, do file a second appeal to the commission. A lot of govt offices are used to adopting an arrogant attitude towards citizens and a consistent use of RTI will bring about a positive change. scp asked, Sir ,under this act Can I ask to divulge the cabinet discussions or the frivolous India-Pakistan talk details ?? Shailesh Gandhi answers, You cannot ask for minutes of the Cabinet meetings but you can ask for the decisions taken at these meetings and the basis on which these decisions were taken. aries13 asked, We are a Residents Welfare association ( all are senior citizens) but we are not registered - just a voluntary body. Can we use RTI collectively ? or our society needs to be registered in order to file RTI application ? kindly clarify Shailesh Gandhi answers, RTI is available to the individual citizen of India. There is no need to form any society to use this. You or any of your members can use the RTI act. vbkondalkar asked, Do you think the Government Machinery are well educated enough to implement the Act. Shailesh Gandhi answers, At present, the govt machinery and society in general does not have the attitude to observe all laws. However, all of us need to work towards this. harshada asked, is any such thing which cannot b included in this act? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Except the 10 exemptions listen under Section 8 (1) and some of the security organisations mentioned in the act, all other information is available. HSB asked, Hello Sir. Its not very clear whether File notings for Public servants can be made public or not. Can you please clarify the same Shailesh Gandhi answers, File notings are clearly included in the definition of information as per the act. The information commissions have also consistently given rulings on this. The controversy however continues because the department of personnel and training of the Central govt continues to maintain an illegal stand. Awadhesh asked, Sir my builder is maintaining the society where we lived. he charged Rs 1400/ per month per flat. Is there any provision in RTI to ask my builder to provide me the details of the expenses like electricity bill for the lifts, plumber /gardener/ security payments etc Shailesh Gandhi answers, No. Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Can the Public Authority deny on the ground that the information sought by an individual with regard to his own ACR's and other files, is personal nature and is not having public interest? Shailesh Gandhi answers, An interpretation of this nature, which says that one can invade one's own privacy is laughable. This would be like saying I can't see myself undressed. aries13 asked, In Jharkhand RTI is in very dire straits. Recently officials in the District Magistrate laughed when I went to submit an RTI application. They said it is not valid in Jharkhand. Is it true ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, It is certainly valid in Jharkhand, which is a part of India. If they refuse to take it in person, please try and send it by registered AD. vbkondalkar asked, When the appeal in the Information Commissioner stand dispose off then we do not have any remedy in the case, and don't you think Mr. Suresh Joshi have acted in some case in bias manner, I think the provision to appeal in the directly High Court or Supreme Court should be get incorporated after the appeal been heard by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi answers, If a citizen feels that the information commission has not interpreted the law properly, there is a provision for going to court. sp asked, Sir Regarding the question asked by aries13 , isn't it invasion of privacy when one asks for the details of all arms licence issued. The detail is not going to help anyone in anyway Shailesh Gandhi answers, I was referring to details in terms of numbers issued and so on. The issue of whether the names should be given or not would lie in a grey area of the law. Mahesh asked, Can the sister of a Labour ask information about from a PSU (Employer)about the suspension/dismissal of her brother. Shailesh Gandhi answers, The sister can ask. But it would useful to attach a letter from the brother saying that he has no objection to the information being given under the RTI application. Otherwise the PIO might say that this would be an intrusion on the privacy of the brother. Alternately, it could be a good idea for the aggrieved employee himself to ask. aries13 asked, Can I ask the Municipality, Notified area for copies of building plans of my neighbour using RTI ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. kja asked, What is the time limit within which a reply can be expected on any question asked under RTI?? Shailesh Gandhi answers, 30 days. Prasad asked, Dear Sir, Even after closing an investigation, the Public Organisation is responding that information can not be disclosed as investigation in the case is going on. As Charge sheet is filed in the case, can they refuse the information? Shailesh Gandhi answers, If chargesheet is filed and information is being refused, it is wrong and you should appeal. vbkondalkar asked, don't you think the upper level appellant authorities are bias in case of RTI, because the appellant authorities are from the same organisation and they normally try to protect the mistake done by their juniors Shailesh Gandhi answers, The appellate authority is a device basically for a review within the organisation. In the absence of this, the likelihood would be that the load on the information commissions would be impossible to handle. aries13 asked, Does State bank of India com under RTI ? My loan application was rejected can I ask the reasons using RTI ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, SBI does come under RTI. You can ask for the details. sp asked, sir Can we use the RTI act to get board resolutions general/special of public sector companies Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. Ramkumar asked, I have asked some info about the complaint lodged against me: i) Copy of complaint ii) Copy of supportive evidences and proof submitted by the witness iii) Decision taken by the authorities But the info has not been provided to me under clause 8(h). Guidance please... Shailesh Gandhi answers, If the investigation is continuing, the information is likely to be refused. Rajat asked, Sir, My retirement benefits are pending for last 8 yrs with department . Can I ask explanation from the department. Shailesh Gandhi answers, You should use RTI using the simple device of asking the progress of your case or file. If you have not sent any written application in the last few years, you could first sent the written application and then follow up with an RTI asking for the progress. teomal asked, will you like to publish answers given by you to some web site Shailesh Gandhi answers, All my answers are in public domain. aries13 asked, Are co-operative housing societies covered under RTI ? My society refuses to answer RTI application. Can you site some judgements ? Shailesh Gandhi answers, Cooperative societies are not covered unless they are govt-funded. http://www.rediff.com/news/report/rtichat/20070417.htm
  24. Right to Information is Slowly but Surely Being Suffocated BY SHAILESH GANDHI ON 07/08/2015 - The Wire Those who say that the Right to Information has made a great impact point out that it is responsible for creating the culture of transparency in the government. The widespread usage of RTI is proof of this. This claim is reasonable and is obvious in the empowerment of citizens and the scams it has exposed. The sudden feeling that corruption has risen in the last few years, and the India Against Corruption movement were also partly the outcome of greater confidence of citizens to demand and get accountability. However, accountability and transparency have not yet become embedded in the DNA of those with power, and this is a change that will take much longer. Indeed, there are now worrying signs that we may have reached a point of stagnation, which could lead to RTI’s regression. This cannot be good for the citizen. Many techniques have been developed by the officers to stall RTI inquiries. At times absurdly high charges in tens of thousands are sought as costs for gathering the information. Another way is to offer piles of files for inspection without indexing and pagination. I once asked a government department about a list of transfers of senior officers in violation of Act 21 of 2006; they sent it to over 30 different offices. One more technique is to transfer the application multiple times. All these are against the letter and spirit of the law. First let us analyse the reasons for RTI’s success and wide proliferation. The main reason was the fact that it was reasonably well crafted because of active civil society intervention and participation. There were people’s movements like Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan which had championed this law. The teeth of the act were the penalty provisions which for the first time provided for a financial penalty up to Rs. 25000 to be paid by a public information officer, if he/she did not provide information without reasonable cause. This for the first time recognised the sovereignty of the individual citizen. Government fears Civil society organisations and individuals very enthusiastically took upon themselves the job of educating people. Citizens took ownership of this law. Government officials feared the Information Commissions and felt they would have a difficult time if the matters went to courts in writs. Among the first few cases which went to courts, various high courts acknowledged that this was a fundamental right of citizens which had been earlier defined in various Supreme Court judgements, such as the in Raj Narain case, R.Rajagopal, SP Gupta, ADR-PUCL and others. However after the first few years of this honeymoon, the resistance to RTI began building up within the establishment. The establishment soon realised that it had unleashed a genie, which curbs its powers for arbitrariness and corruption. In less than a year the government decided to amend the act to dilute its effectiveness. There were intense protests across the country by citizens and the government had to retract. After that there were at least two more efforts to dilute the Act but these too failed. The last time was when the Central Information Commission ruled that six major political parties were ‘public authorities’ as defined by the law and hence would have to give information in RTI. The parties ganged up together so that they could carry on with their opaque operations with black money, undemocratic working and in contravention of their constitutions. Citizen opposition managed to again stop this. But political parties have jointly decided to defy the orders of the Commission to display their pompous arrogance. They have refused to appoint Public Information Officers or give any information in RTI. They are disregarding the orders of the Commission with not even a fig leaf of getting a stay from a Courts. Most state governments and the present one at the centre are showing great reluctance to follow the RTI Act. They have developed techniques to wear out the applicant. The lackadaisical ways of the Information Commissions have helped and emboldened them. It has been noticed that most Information Commissions impose fines penalties in the rarest of cases, as if they are imposing a death penalty. Governments often do not appoint Commissioners. Amongst the few times that the former PM spoke he had mentioned his distress at what he called ‘frivolous and vexatious’ RTI applications and the time taken up in these. A RTI query about this revealed that it was a casual observation based on his perception and irritation with pestering RTI queries by the powerless citizen. There was no evidence. The present PMO has refused to even provide information about the visitors to the PM! Why should this be so? The PM works round the clock in the service of people and such reluctance appears suspicious. Will revealing those names hurt the PM’s image? The present government appears to be institutionalising mechanisms whereby citizens know only what the government wants them to know. It is absurd that citizens who are mature enough to elect those who should govern the nation are not mature enough to be trusted about information on those who represent them. This claim is made by those who are in power, and who do not understand and subscribe to democratic working. After getting power, people’s mindset undergoes a transformation. It is a matter of deep distress that even the present CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal, who become nationally famous for his work in the RTI campaign, has not brought about any significant change in his government towards transparency. Information Commissioners are mainly selected as an act of political patronage. Many of them have no predilection for transparency, though they may pay lip service to it. The lack of effective working, accountability and transparency at most of the commissions is heart wrenching. Many commissioners do not understand the law, nor the basic rationale for transparency or democracy. Apart from this the lazy way in which many work has built up mounting pendencies, and it appears that they will be largely responsible for frustrating RTI. Too many exemptions It is unfortunate that the last few years have seen decisions by most quasi-judicial and judicial bodies expanding the interpretations of the exemptions and constricting the citizen’s right. Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju has said “I therefore submit that an amendment be made to the RTI Act by providing that an RTI query should be first examined carefully by the RTI officer, and only if he is prima facie satisfied on merits, for reasons to be recorded in writing that the query has some substance that he should call upon the authority concerned to reply. Frivolous and vexatious queries should be rejected forthwith and heavy costs should be imposed on the person making them.” A former Chief Justice of India said in April 2012, “The RTI Act is a good law but there has to be a limit to it.” At this rate and logic, we may be asked to justify why we wish to speak or express ourselves! A study of all the Supreme Court judgements by this writer appears to show that the Right to Information is being constricted by interpretation. Government departments get stays from Courts to many progressive orders of the Information Commissions. Citizens do not have the wherewithal to fight protracted legal battles. It is clear that the citizen’s fundamental right to information is now facing fairly strong challenges, owing to its great success and the fact that it has changed the discourse and paradigm of power. Our democracy is at a crossroads. The next decade could result in increasing the scope of transparency to result in a true democracy. However if the forces opposing transparency gain over the demos a regression can take place. If this happens, those in power must note that the citizen will not stand for it. Citizen groups must take active measures to defend their right, including demanding a transparent process of selecting commissioners and making the political leadership aware that they will resist any dilution of the law. RTI has to be saved and allowed to flower. Author - Shailesh Gandhi is a former Central Information Commissioner. https://thewire.in/7970/right-to-information-is-slowly-but-surely-being-suffocated/
  25. What are some of the shocking, weirdest, silliest RTI requests made in India? As Abraham Lincoln said “Government is of the people, by the people, for the people” The government is our servant and we have no duty to explain why we seek information from them. The government holds all the information in our behalf, in trust. Like a banker can’t ask you why you want to see your bank account statement, similarly the government can’t deny if you ask them how they are governing our country. With the mechanism of RTI we can actually participate in the working of the government. RTI or Right To Information is an act of Indian parliament that empowers the common people to seek information from the government. It empowers the Indian citizens to inspect the government work, take notes and get certified photocopies to know the status of work. It’s been ten years since the RTI Act came into existence to empower people and bring transparency to the system. However, people have been using it in rather unconventional ways. The queries that the government receives often fall in the range from being funny to outright absurd. In technical terms, these queries fall under the frivolous or vexatious category which means they denote an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant. In the language of the internet, they were filed just to troll people. Here are some of the funniest RTI applications filed by people in India: 1. RTI for Indian nuclear launch code: A guy has asked in his Right To Information query undoubtedly is too much of funny. The Twitterati could not believe their eyes when Vivek Kumar, deputy secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and an Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officer, shared on the micro blogging site that a person has filed a RTI seeking the launch codes to India’s nuclear arsenal. Could you believe it? Does the person not know that nobody but the serving prime minister of India has access to the launch codes of nuclear weapons? Please do not take it as a joke, for statutory fee of Rs 10 had also been deposited in this regard. The application was obviously rejected. It had to be. It is a funny story of a RTI activist whose identity remained hidden. 2. RTI regarding Lord Venkateshwara: Yes you read that right. In 2014, Mr Narashimha Murthy, a social activist, allegedly filed a RTI to the TTD (Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam) trust questioning them whether Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Kubera had been cleared or how much was still left. His basis of filing the RTI was his allegation that the trust had hoodwinked the public by weaving a story about the Lord owing a debt. A funny RTI query has been made by a Bengalurean to Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam (TTD), asking for information about the money Lord Venkateshwara has borrowed from Kubera at the time of his marriage with Padmavathi and how much he has returned. TTD is yet to give a reply. The RTI applicant alleges that TTD is hoodwinking people by stating that the lord is still paying back interest for the principal amount he had borrowed from Kubera from the proceeds of the famous Tirupati 'Hundi'. Narasimha Murty, a Bangalore-based RTI activist, visited Tirupati and saw a board which spoke about the money borrowed from Kubera, the lord of wealth, by Lord Srinivasa and the need for the latter to pay interest on the loan among other things. "After I saw the board, I was taken aback at the way people are being fooled by this mythology. They all use god's name to make gains, which made me file this RTI query," Narasimha Murty said. Murty has addressed this RTI to the accounts officer and to the public information officer. "TTD says that the lord is still paying interest to Kubera and it is the money given by devotees that only can help in this mission. As a citizen of this country, I have all rights to know the accounts of the TTD. But even after much time, TTD has not given me any details about the accounts. So, I have gone before the Andhra Pradesh information commissioner. Even after repeating request letters, TTD is not answering the questions I have posed," Murty said. The story: According to mythology, Lord Venkateshwara who was believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, was named as Srinivasa. There was a king called Akasha Raja who was ruling the state that time. Many a time, Srinivasa quarrelled with his divine consort Lakshmi and on one occasion came to Tirupati to do penance in an anthill. He was doing penance all day and no one knew about this. Every day, one cow used to come to that place and give milk to Srinivasa. Once the cow was back home, it stopped giving milk. Confused by this, shepherds who were looking after this cow followed it, and found it looking after Srinivasa who was inside the anthill. They went to hit the cow with a stick but to safeguard the animal, Srinivasa came out and took the blows on his head. While the attackers left the place, a bleeding Srinivasa was rescued by a woman called Okkala Devi who took him to her place and brought him up as her son. He started staying with her and one day he saw Padmavathi, the Princes of the region. Srinivasa fell in love with her which she also reciprocated. Okkala Devi then approached the king Akasha Raja requesting him to allow the two to marry. The king asked Okkala Devi about her status and about money she had to conduct the wedding. It is at this juncture that Srinivasa was forced to go to Kubera, the lord of wealth and riches, for a loan. After processing the loan, Srinivasa got to marry Padmavathi. Mythology says that from that day till date, Srinivasa is repaying Kubera his loan. "Based on this story, the Devastanam still says that Lord Balaji is paying the interest and it is pressuring devotees to give more and more money. Emotional devotees believe all this and part with crores of rupees. I have heard of rich people like the Amabanis, Vijay Mallya and several other politicians donating huge sums to Lord Balaji. Is there an account for all this," Murty questions and says he will fight till he gets answers for his questions. Narasimha Murty is an RTI activist who has been fighting regarding the property and the gold which came out after opening of the doors at Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala, as well as the death of an IAS officer who was looking after the temple. Post-this battle, Karnataka Golf Association was also declared a public authority based on his application. Well, the story in the News article has few discrepancies; nevertheless the gist is the same. This must have possibly been a creative petition to let the people think twice before donating at the temple. 3. RTI Query: “Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before he came into politics, worked in any Ramlila Troop? If yes, what role he played?” The PMO replied: “Information sought is not part of record.” 4. RTI Query on of another applicant wanted to know “how many and which type of cylinder” were “used in (the PM’s) kitchen” in October 2014 and May 2015. The applicant also sought “copies of bills of cylinders” and “copies of bills and spices” bought in May 2015. The PMO replied: “The kitchen expense of the Prime Minister is personal in nature and not incurred on government account.” This exchange is just one example of the nature of queries relating to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that have been raised by applicants and responded to by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The below are some of the RTI Queries: Q: Records and documents which show that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is the Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister. A: “There is no proposal to change the official designation of PM.” Q: Has the Prime Minister read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister supposed to read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister assumed to have read Indian constitution? Has anyone in the PMO till date told the Prime Minister what his duties are towards India? A: “Information sought does not fall under the definition of information.” Q: Who helps the Prime Minister in sending tweets in regional and foreign languages? Names of individual (s) for each regional language. A: “Information sought is not maintained on record.” (Another reply says that the “Prime Minister himself is managing his personal social media accounts.”) Q: Number of sick or casual or health leave availed by the Prime Minister in the last 10 years. A: “No leave has been availed by the present Prime Minister since taking over the office.” (Replying to a related query on whether Prime Minister Modi was on leave during the Bihar election campaign last year, the PMO responded: “Tours on election campaign are not official.”) Q: Percentage of marks Modi secured while graduating in 1977 from Delhi University. A: “Does not form part of records.” Q: Can one get the mobile number of the PM under RTI? A: “The PMO has not given any mobile phone to Prime Minister.” Q: Legal status of announcements made by the Prime Minister. A: “Once the announcement is made, the ministries concerned are entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the announcements and monitoring their implementation.” Q: Does the PMO communicate; send letters, etc., in the official language Hindi? A: “Letters in Hindi received from Union Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, etc., are replied to in Hindi… Hindi letters from public are also replied in Hindi.” Q: Roza iftar parties Prime Minister Modi attended in 2014 and 2015. A: “None.” And finally this: Q: Has the Principal Secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, ever taken his colleagues in the PMO on a picnic? If yes, who all went, how much money was spent, were family members also invited on such excursion, and what was the food menu? Was the food ordered from an external caterer? Was the venue fixed by general consensus or was it decided solely by Misra? A: “No picnic/excursion was ever organised by Nripendra Misra.” 5. A RTI Application also asked Who officially declared Gandhi as Father of the Nation (since we always read it in our text books) The 10 year old girl had filed an RTI query seeking information on Gandhi Ji’s title of ‘father of nation’ In a written reply, the government said that Mahatma Gandhi cannot be accorded the 'Father of the Nation' title by government as the Constitution does not permit any titles except educational and military ones. While giving reference to the Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the MHA had said that it does not permit any titles except education and military ones. The MHA had transferred her appeal to the National Archives of India. The Central Information Commissioner Basant Seth then had stated, "There is no order/document on record by which Gandhiji was given the title of "Rastrapita". Ans: No official declaration done till now. 6. Who declared Gandhi Jayanti, Republic day, Independence Day as national holidays? Ans: Such orders were never issued. Bangalore, Aug 14: The reply to an RTI query has come as a shock to all those Indians who believed that Aug 15, Jan 26 and Oct 2 are national holidays. Apparently, these three dates were never notified by the government. It was the persistent efforts of one Aishwarya Parashar that revealed this amazing fact. Earlier this year in April, the 10-year-old had asked the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for a copy of the particular government order (GO) that specified the national holidays. The PMO passed on her query to the Ministry of Home, which at first claimed that the matter does not pertain to it. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) should provide the answer, the Home Ministry averred. Finally, the latter clarified on May 17 that it could not find any GO that notified Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as national holidays. Aishwarya was bemused by the reply because she has been taught in school that Jan 26, Aug 15 and Oct 2 are national holidays. When she filed an appeal to find out the truth, the appellate authority not only confirmed that the Home Ministry's statement was correct but also requested the National Archives to provide the 10-year-old a copy of the GO if any exists. A determined Aishwarya has since shot off letters to the President and the Prime Minister, demanding the GO. Now the onus is on both Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh to satisfy her curiosity. 7. A RTI Applicate asked what is the Speed of internet at the PMO? Is his internet faster than ours? Brave Right to Information warriors have exposed how fast Modi’s wifi is! The average Indian gets 2Mbps, and Modi gets 34Mbps. (If you think that’s fast, the ‘Startup Village’ in Kochi has 1Gbps connectivity - 30 times as fast as the PM’s office!) The RTI also found that the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) uses Windows 7/Windows 8, and there's no money spent on running the @PMOIndia Twitter handle. While the RTI was brought in for transparency, some geniuses are turning it into a joke. Sample these RTI petitions. Yes these are real. Ans: 34 Mbps. 8. Did you know that Hockey is not our National game? This was revealed in an RTI filed by a class VII student, Aishwarya Parashar who sought information on a government order pertaining to India’s national game. Quite surprisingly, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in its response stated that ministry has not declared any sport as its national game. Same as ENERGY, STUPIDITY can be neither created nor be destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another. All these does not ends here only as many have asked: • Can we have the election symbols with the rainbow filter? (On Voting Machines) A political activist asked Election Commission of India why elections symbol used in electronic voting machines are black and white and not colourful. • An RTI doesn't really have an age limit - legally, even a six year old can file one. And 9 year old Pranav filed an RTI that forced the Delhi police to register his stolen bike. He even asked for a Rs. 2500 compensation, and demanded action against the assistant sub-inspector! The police were given a challenge by a 9-year-old boy named Pranav who used an RTI to force the police officers to file an FIR for his lost bicycle. The police had initially refused the to file the FIR for a trivial offense. I have a feeling that this kid is going to grow up and do some great stuff. • Do you know what underpants should you wear before the Prime Minister? It is one of the most absurd queries received by RTI act provoked by a ridiculous reason. A “troubled” citizen filed a petition asking what undergarments can be worn before the Prime Minister. The question was asked directly to the PMO’s Office asking for the exact “specification of undergarments.” Why? Because previously he had been arrested for stripping down to his briefs scribbled with anti-government slogans in a government convention addressed by the PM. I am so impressed by this guy’s guts. • RTI vs. RTI! In 2009, a Pune RTI activist revealed how local politicians were using the RTI to spy on him, and try to stop him before he revealed their illegal activities! • Um, just for research purposes. An RTI applicant literally asked where exam papers for the Aligarh Muslim University were printed, and where they were checked. • Some people can confuse RTI with Shaadi.com A man in his late forties from Kutch Gujarat filed a request under the RTI Act demanding information on the eligible females in the government department for marriage. The request was made to the Tamil Nadu state information commission. In his application, he also stated the fact that an eligible bachelor from any government department would do for him. He just really wanted to get married to a government employee. • Kya Ache Din Aa Gaye Hain? Someone literally asked the Prime Minister's office if "achhe din" are here. We can imagine the response was “Work in progress” • Time is money, but how much money exactly? Time is money, but how much money is it according to Indian scriptures? An RTI asked the Punjab University this question. • Saar, how much is cost of 1 wife @ MRP? The same Punjab University RTI also asked how much a pretty and religious bride would cost, according to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata! • How religious in the governor ? A resident of Hyderabad sought details from Andhra Pradesh governor on how many times does he visit temples in a day and also copy of the dinner menu hosted at his official residence. • How much ‘paan’ do MCD officials really chew ? Blood red stains might be compulsory artwork at every sarkari office, but this Delhi resident had had enough! He filed an application asking how much 'paan' and tobacco an MCD official consumes on average in a day, and even asked about the paan ingredients! • Where'd I go wrong? A wannabe Delhi University (DU) lecturer who didn't get the university job filed an RTI asking DU where his answers weren't as good as other people who applied. • RTI = student discount? A duplicate Delhi University marksheet costs Rs. 500. An RTI costs Rs. 10. Which is why Delhi students thought they'd get a duplicate marksheet for Rs. 10. Nah, it doesn't work like that. • A disgruntled applicant wanted to know if Arvind Kejriwal’s reads the comments on his social media channels. In his application, he asked that when Arvind Kejriwal posts asks “silly and stupid questions” on Facebook and twitter, does he check the comments he receives on such posts. This information being personal in nature, can’t be answered under RTI. Even then, it doesn’t stop people from trying their luck! • A Delhi University student, filed an RTI against the girl he fell in love with. After few months of dating, he found out that she was married! He wanted to know what he can do to complain against her and get her punished for the mental agony she had caused. • This is around the time our country directed a lot of anger towards Fawad Khan. We had questions coming in asking if Fawad Khan was allowed to legally work and stay in India for his movie “Ae dil hai mushkil”. • An emotional applicant had asked whether astrologists and priests are authorized to declare someone a “manglik”. If someone has “mangal dosh” and their spouse dies, is there any reason to believe that the “manglik” person is to be blamed? Quite a few RTI cases demand information from religious bodies. • Private companies do not fall under RTI, which is a problem for many people. We received a query demanding call recording of a TataSky customer support call. Unfortunately, private companies are not required to answer RTI questions. • RTI Registration number : MHOME/R/2016/50729: Applicant : Ajay Kumar Information sought: I am concerned about the readiness of our government in the event of an invasion by Aliens Zombies and Extradimensional beings . 1. What are our chances against them? 2. What means does the ministry of Home affair have at its disposal to defeat them? 3. Can we do it without Will Smith? The government promptly replied that information that is available can be shared under RTI . Since no info about hypothetical situations is available, it cannot be given. This has to be the most polite reply given under the RTI act! • The applicant, a resident of Ahmedabad, had sought information about Mahatma Gandhi, some of the former Presidents of India and other Ministers asking for their correct date and time of birth, their blood group and above all their IQ. • How many bullock cart tracks are in Delhi? How many trees in the capital are green and how many are dead? How many cups of tea are consumed by the police personnel? • Where did the laddoos go ? A UP girl sent the erstwhile President George Bush some laddoos for 'Raksha bandhan'. Either he ate them and forgot about them, or his Secret Service did. Either way, she didn’t get a thank you mail. Our brave girl then approached the National Human Rights Commission to take action! A UP girl asked NHRC on why 'ladoos' sent by her to US President George W. Bush on 'Rakshabandhan' never reached him and requested the commission to take appropriate action. • In January 2010, a 47-year-old man from Kutch, Gujarat, requested the Tamil Nadu state information commission to provide him information on life partner for marriage from any govt department. • How much maggie was wasted during its ban? • Please send sarkari wife! A 47-year-old man asked the Tamil Nadu state information commission to let him know about a suitable life partner working at any government department. • Who made you Bapu? A class VI girl asked if MK Gandhi ever got an actual ‘Father of the Nation’ title. What was even more awesome was that this was in 2012, when the Congress party was in power. The question went to the PMO, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and then to the National Archives of India– no one had an answer. • Perhaps this is who people on Twitter refer to as ‘chaddi warriors’! An activist protested by stripping naked at a convention where former PM Manmohan Singh was speaking, and then filed an RTI asking the PMO if they needed to approve his brand of underwear! • Someone asked about how much tea is used in Indian Army on daily bases. • Haryana Police: Wives of Haryana Police officers filled a series of RTIs, asking for the information related to the salary of their husbands and what are there duty timings. • RTI revealed how the President Pratibha Patil tried to construct a retirement home out of govt. funds much in excess of her entitlement. It also revealed the hundreds of crores spent on her foreign travel which had little impact on the future of India. • Hindi, not a national language: Court Gujarat High Court has observed that though majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country. The observation was made by division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Suresh Kachhadia. Mr. Kachhadia had filed the PIL last year seeking direction to Central and State government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to print details of goods like price, ingredients and date of manufacture in Hindi. The court observed, “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.” “No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” it further said. It was contended by Mr. Kachhadia’s lawyer that Hindi was the national language and was understood by a large number of persons in the country. The Counsel representing central government submitted that specific provision has been made under the Standard of Weight and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977 that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English. The court said that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.” However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language. The court in its order said Part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English. • Highest number of Indian prisoners are in Saudi Arabia: As many as 6,569 Indian nationals are currently lodged in prisons of 67 foreign countries, including 254 in Pakistan reveals a RTI query. The Arab countries topped the list with Saudi Arabia (1691), Kuwait (1161) and UAE (1012), according to the information provided by the MEA on April 22 to lawyer and RTI activist DB Binu. Italy has 121 Indian prisoners. The list also showed that UK has 426, USA 155, China 157, Bangladesh 62, Afghanistan 28, Bahrain 18 and Nepal 377 Indian prisoners. • IIM reveals admission criteria: Despite an impressive percentile Vaishnavi Kasturi, a visually-impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes. She then filed an RTI application to request the institution to disclose the admission process. Though Vaishnavi did not get admission in any of the IIMs, her doubts over admission procedure were clarified. In a response to the query, the Chairman said “CAT scores are just one-fifth of the criteria for admissions. Forty per cent weight age is given for class X, XII and bachelor's scores. Work experience is given weight age too but it’s mostly performance in the group discussion and interview that counts which is up to 35 per cent, plus 5 per cent weight age is there if you have done a chartered accountancy course.” • The national anthem of India does not contain the word - "Sindh" - since 1950. Prof. Shrikant Malushte, a retired professor, challenged the word "Sindh" in the national anthem of India on the following grounds: "When Rabrindranath Tagore's poem was adapted by the Constituent Assembly in 1950 as the national anthem, the word 'Sindh' was replaced by 'Sindhu' considering the fact that the region was part of Pakistan partitioned from India. The newly replaced word Sindhu denotes the river that originated in Pakistan but flows through the Indian valleys," said 75-year-old Shreekanth Malushte. However, despite the correction made by the Constituent Assembly, the government continued to prescribe the original poem written by Tagore, leading to a situation where the anthem was sung in two versions[1]. Prof. Shrikant then availed the RTI Act and obtained papers from the Ministry of Home Affarirs which confirmed that the correct version of the national anthem had the word 'Sindhu'[2]. He then moved the Bombay High Court that agreed with his observations and said that 'Sindh' in national anthem is probably a mistake and directed the center to provide its point of view. However, in 2005, the Supreme court had dismissed a similar case by mentioning that the authentic text contained "Sindh". Therefore, eventually the Bombay High court decided that 'Sindh will remain in the national anthem' • You know there's money being flushed down the toilet - or the Ganga, when startups can build empires from bedrooms, and yet a single 'Clean Ganga' meeting costs over 40 lakh Rupees. That was the budget for a single Vigyan Bhawan meeting by the Modi government's high level team to clean the Ganga! This was revealed through by RTI application. They've somehow managed to spend Rs 75,000 on "floral decorations"- and here's the other math: Meetings and accommodation of guests: Rs 26.7 lakh Officials' travel: Rs 8.8 lakh Advertising the event: Rs 5.1 lakh. Other arrangements: Rs 2.3 lakh Actually cleaning the Ganga: JEERO! • If the legal age of a Man to get sexually active is 18 years and the legal age for him to get married is 21... Then what are we actually suggesting he should do these 3 years? • Now if the legal age for a Man to get married is 21 years and the legal age for him to start drinking is 25 years... then how do you suggest he survives the first 4 years of marriage??? • The most awkward RTI demanded copies of all RTIs filed in the country and their replies. 1. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-funny-question-asked-by-RTI-applicant 2. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-weirdest-silliest-RTI-requests-made-in-India 3. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-interesting-RTI-questions-asked 4. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/prime-minister-narendra-modi-right-to-information-act-rti-application-2922517/ 5. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-weirdest-silliest-RTI-requests-made-in-India 6. http://www.ndtv.com/offbeat/is-india-prepared-for-a-zombie-apocalypse-rti-asking-this-goes-viral-1464688 7. http://www.outlookindia.com/news/article/bizarre-rti-query-what-is-mahatma-gandhi-iq-level/708015 8. http://www.firstpost.com/living/many-trees-green-many-cups-tea-drink-bizarre-rti-queries-sent-delhi-police-2026359.html 9. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/consumer-legal/6-funniest-rti-applications-filed-in-india/slideshow/39658972.cms 10. http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/crime/He-seeks-answers-from-the-god-of-big-things/articleshow/45461478.cms 11. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Hindi-not-a-national-language-Court/article16839525.ece 12. https://www.oneindia.com/2012/08/14/august-15-not-a-national-holiday-home-ministry-1053692.html 13. https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-greatest-truths-that-RTI-Right-to-Information-Act-India-revealed 14. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-08/mumbai/30130317_1_national-anthem-sanjeev-bhatnagar-word 15. https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/these-are-the-most-ridiculous-rti-petitions-filed-in-india-228214.html 16. https://www.storypick.com/funny-rti-application/
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