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  1. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : R.K. Jain Vs. Union of India JT 2013 (10) SC 430 The issue before the Court: The information requested was inspection of adverse confidential remarks against ‘integrity’ of a member of Tribunal and follow up actions taken on issue of integrity. Exemption was claimed on the basis of Section 8 (1) (j). The Court held that: Inter alia relying upon the ruling made in Girish Ramchandra Deshpande case, the information is exempted from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (j). read with section 11 of the RTI Act. Para 13”…. Under Section 11(1), if the information relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by the third party, and if the Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer intends to disclose any such information or record on a request made under the Act, in such case after written notice to the third party of the request, the Officer may disclose the information, if the third party agrees to such request or if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.” Our analysis of the judgment: Section 11 (1) is quoted hereunder: SECTION 11: Third-party information: (1) “Where a Central Public Information Officer or a State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information: Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.” (emphasis supplied by us) The Supreme Court appears to have given an interpretation to Section 11 which does not appear to be justified by the words of the Act. Section 11 is not an exemption but only a procedural provision to safeguard the interests of the third party. The Court’s statement above implies that if third party objects to the disclosure of information, it can only be given if there is a larger public interest in disclosure. It may clearly be understood that denial of information in RTI Act can only be done under Section 8 or 9 as clearly mentioned in Section 7 (1). In Section 8 (1) the need to show a larger public interest arises only when an exemption under Section 8 (1) applies. The Act states that when a PIO ‘intends to disclose’ information regarding third party which third party has treated as confidential, he shall intimate the third party that he intends to disclose the information. The PIO can only decide to disclose the information if he comes to the conclusion that it is not exempt. The law states that ‘submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information’. The PIO can only deny information as per the provisions of the exemptions of Section 8 (1) or 9. The RTI Act does not give veto power to the third party, but provides it with an opportunity to raise his legitimate objections, and if the PIO is convinced that the information is exempt, he may change his earlier decision to disclose by denying the information as per the provision of Section 8 (1) or Section 9. In case the PIO does not agree that the information is exempt, he should decide to disclose the information and reject the third party’s objection. In such an event the concerned third party may prefer an Appeal against the decision of the PIO, as per the provisions of Section 11 (2) to 11 (4). These express provisions 11(2) to 11(4) make it clear that the third party is not rendered remediless, in cases where PIO disagrees with the third party’s objection in disclosure of information. Section 7 (1) of the RTI Act clearly states that denial of information can only be based on Section 8 or 9. Section 3 states that ‘Subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have the Right to Information.’ Thus the denial of any information can only be on the basis of the RTI Act where only Section 8 and 9 detail the information which can be denied. The Court has raised the procedure of Section 11 to that of an exemption of Section 8 (1). This judgement is an erroneous reading of Section 11. Information was denied, partly depending on Girish Deshpande judgement where there was no ratio decidendi, and a flawed interpretation of Section 11. It also does not address the earlier R. Rajagopal judgment. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  2. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : Bihar Public Service Commission Vs. Saiyad Hussain Abbas Rizvi JT 2012 (12) SC 552 The main issue before the Court: The applicant had asked for names and addresses of interviewers in an interview board selecting candidates for Bihar government jobs. The Court held that: the Commission is not bound to disclose the information asked for by the applicant under Query No.1 of the application. Our analysis of the judgment: The applicant had in 2008 sought the names and addresses of persons who had conducted interviews for Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) in 2002. This was denied claiming exemption on grounds of Section 8 (1) (j). The State Commission had upheld the denial and the matter was finally contested in the Division Bench of the High Court. The Division Bench upheld the contention of the applicant and ordered the names of the interviewers to be provided. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has done a very detailed and well-argued analysis4 of this matter from which some parts are being reproduced below: “2.1 The Special Leave Petition (SLP) was admitted in March, 2012 and a two‐judge bench of the Supreme Court (the Court) comprising of Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar decided the matter within nine months. The Court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgement of the Division Bench. Writing the judgement for the Court, Justice Swatanter Kumar held that BPSC was not bound to disclose any information beyond what was provided already. A summary of the Court’s reasoning is provided below: (i) BPSC had relied heavily on Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act while rejecting the request for names and addresses and also during the proceedings before the Bihar State Information Commission and the Patna High Court. 1Though BPSC claimed the protection of Section 8 (1) (j) in its petition, it did not press this point during the hearings before the Court. Therefore the Court did not go into the correctness of the Division Bench’s judgement about this line of reasoning. (ii) BPSC changed track and claimed that the names and addresses of the subject experts could not be disclosed as it was entitled to the protection of both Section 8 (1) (e) and Section 8 (1) (g) of the RTI Act. The Court rejected the claim to Section 8 (1) (e) in light of the principles governing a fiduciary relationship recognised by the Court in an earlier RTI‐related matter. The Court ruled that there was no fiduciary relationship between BPSC and the interviewers (subject experts) or the candidates interviewed. (iii) The Court upheld BPSC’s claim of Section 8 (1) (g) of the RTI Act by linking it to Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees protection for life and liberty of a person. It reasoned that the members of the Board are likely to be exposed to danger to their lives or physical safety if their names and addresses are disclosed. “The disclosure of names and addresses of the members of the interview Board would ex facie endanger their lives or physical safety. The possibility of a failed candidate attempting to take revenge from such persons cannot be ruled out,” the Court held. (iv) The Court gave two more reasons for rejecting the request for names and addresses. First, it held that the disclosure of names and addresses of examiners would hamper effective performance and the discharge of their duties. Second, it held that disclosure would serve no fruitful much less any public purpose. The Division Bench of the High Court had earlier rejected the contention of the PIO about applicability of Section 8 (1) (g) by stating: “13. … In the present case, the names of the interviewers cannot be denied for various reasons. The interviewers are visible to the candidates while the interview is being held. They have public egress and ingress to the venue of the interview… 14. To make a comparison with the court/judicial proceedings, vis‐à‐vis an interview; Court proceeding is open and the names of the Judges who are hearing the matter are ‐known to all the parties. When court proceedings can be held in broad daylight and the names of the judges are known to all the parties, why not the names of interviewers be disclosed to the applicant.” As nothing in the BPSC judgement indicates that the Court weighed and measured this line of reasoning of the Division Bench, before dismissing it, in our humble opinion, it is difficult to accept the rationale for rejection. (iii) Third, the Division Bench clearly pointed out that denying information about interviewers could defeat the very purpose of the Act in the following manner: “13. …It is a possible situation that the applicant may have reasons for suspicion that a particular interviewer was on the interview board and his close relation was appearing. Such determination cannot be made unless the names of the interviewer and the candidate who appeared are disclosed. If he denies this information, it would be defeating the aims and objects, the preamble, and the legislative intent of the Act. We cannot countenance such an obstruction to such a laudable Act which is intended to bring about transparency in governance, and root out corruption, in this country. The Judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of A.K. Kraipak and others vs.Union of India and others (A.I.R. 1970 S.C. 150) is an appropriate example to show that one of the members of the Board was himself a candidate for promotion from the State cadre to the Central cadre of Indian Forest Service. If we prohibit the information which the applicant is seeking to obtain, the misdeed as had taken place in A.K. Kraipak vs. Union of India (supra), may not be set at naught.” The Division Bench was clearly referring to potential conflicts of interests that may be identified if the names of the interviewers were disclosed. If not, they would remain hidden under a cloak of secrecy. It is respectfully submitted that instead of weighing and measuring this line of reasoning which is based on a very real case adjudicated by the Court earlier (amounting to material facts justifying the disclosure of names), the Court has rejected it by holding that preventing bias in the selection process cannot be a ground for denying BPSC the protection of Section 8 (1) (g). In our humble opinion the Court has not adequately appreciated the reasoning of the Division Bench which by ordering disclosure sought to uphold the very public interests mentioned in the Preamble of the RTI Act, viz., ‘bringing about transparency in governance’ and ‘containing corruption’. (iv) Fourth, nowhere in its judgement does the Court recognise that the Division Bench had refused to order disclosure of the addresses of the interviewers.” It sounds highly improbable that a candidate, who was not selected in an interview in 2002, would seek the names of the interviewers in 2008 and pursue the matter in the Supreme Court with the intention of physically harming the interviewers. Imagination is being stretched too far if it is assumed that the unsuccessful candidate would harm the interviewers after 6 years. The Division Bench of the High Court had come to a very reasonable conclusion that most probably the attempt was to expose nepotism in the selection process. The Supreme Court ruling has led to a situation where the denial of information under Section 8 (1) (g) has been done by thinking of a remote highly unlikely probability to deny information. A PIO has to merely imagine the probability of some likely harm to deny information. A mere apprehension that some interest may be affected has been dubbed to be adequate to deny information. This decision makes it difficult for citizens to expose corruption and favouritism. Besides it opens the possibility to imagine new ways to deny information by conjuring even a highly improbable harm. Many High Court decisions including the Bhagat Singh case quoted earlier stated that the harm to a protected interest must be a reasonable possibility, not a distant probability. This approach of the apex court of thinking of a remote possibility to apply the exemption is becoming a haven for denying information to the citizens. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  3. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment: Manohar s/o Manikrao Anchule vs. State of Maharashtra AIR 2013 SC 681 The issue before the Court: It was a case where disciplinary action had been recommended against the PIO under Section 20 (2) of the Act by the Information Commission. The observations of the Court: Para 11. The impugned orders do not take the basic facts of the case into consideration that after a short duration the appellant was transferred from the post in question and had acted upon the application seeking information within the prescribed time. Thus, no default, much less a negligence, was attributable to the appellant. 12. Despite service, nobody appeared on behalf of the State Information Commission. The State filed no counter affidavit.” The Court held that: The Commission’s order recommending disciplinary action against the PIO under Section 20 (2) of the Act, was quashed and set aside. Our analysis of the judgment: The Supreme Court having regard to the factual matrix of the case, set aside the decision of the Commission and the High Court. Can this be a legitimate exercise in SLP jurisdiction or in Writ jurisdiction by High Courts ? The eleven judge bench of the Supreme Court in Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Ahmad Ishaque 1955-IS 1104 : ((S) AIR 1955 SC 233) has laid down that – (1) Certiorari will be issued for correcting errors of jurisdiction; (2) Certiorari will also be issued when the Court or Tribunal acts illegally in the exercise of its undoubted jurisdiction, as when it decides without giving an opportunity to the parties to be heard, or violates the principles of natural justice; (3) The court issuing a writ of certiorari acts in exercise of a supervisory and not appellate jurisdiction. One consequence of this is that the court will not review findings of fact reached by the inferior court or tribunal, even if they be erroneous. (4) An error in the decision or determination itself may also be amenable to a writ of certiorari if it is a manifest error apparent on the face of the proceedings, e.g., when it is based on clear ignorance or disregard of the provisions of law. In other words, it is a patent error which can be corrected by certiorari but not a mere wrong decision." The RTI Act does not have any provision for an appeal beyond the Commission as per Section 23. The Writ jurisdiction being a Constitutional remedy, may be resorted only in cases as set out hereinbefore in Hari Vishnu Kamath’s case. If the Order of the Commission does not fall into any of the 4 criterion stated in the aforesaid ruling, the High Courts and the Apex Court should not exercise their Writ or SLP jurisdiction. The judgment of the Supreme Court is based on its own assessment of the “facts of the case” which is not consistent with the decision in aforesaid Hari Vishnu Kamath and also series of rulings of the Apex Court, wherein it is held that, in SLP jurisdiction the Apex Court would not interfere in finding of facts, unless perversity in finding of fact is demonstrated. In the present case, there is no finding by the Apex Court that findings of the Commission was perverse or irrational. It appears the court has treated this is an appeal, for which it has no jurisdiction. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  4. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : Girish Ramchandra Deshpande Vs. Central Information Commission & Ors. (2013) 1 SCC 212 The issue before the Court: Whether the information pertaining to a Public Servant in respect of his service career and also the details of his assets and liabilities, movable and immovable properties, can be denied on the ground that the information sought for was qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The observations of the Court: 12. The petitioner herein sought for copies of all memos, show cause notices and censure/punishment awarded to the third respondent from his employer and also details viz. movable and immovable properties and also the details of his investments, lending and borrowing from Banks and other financial institutions. Further, he has also sought for the details of gifts stated to have accepted by the third respondent, his family members and friends and relatives at the marriage of his son. The information mostly sought for finds a place in the income tax returns of the third respondent. The question that has come up for consideration is whether the above-mentioned information sought for qualifies to be "personal information" as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. 13. We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression "personal information", the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right. 14. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are "personal information" which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.” The Court held that: The Apex Court held that copies of all memos, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment, assets, income tax returns, details of gifts received etc. by a public servant are personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act and hence exempted and cannot be furnished under RTI Act. Our analysis of the judgment: The judgement has expanded the scope of Section 8 (1) (j) far beyond its wording, without any discussion or interpretation of the law whatsoever. The only justification given for denial is that the Court agrees with the decision of the CIC. The Court mentions,” The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer”, forgetting that the employer is ‘we the people’ who gave ourselves the constitution. Section 8 (1) (j) exempts “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.” The Supreme Court has missed realising that the exemption applies to personal information only if it has no relationship to any public activity or is an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual. The court has not even quoted the important proviso. Effectively the court has read Section 8(1) (j) as: information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.” Forty seven words out of the eighty seven words have not been considered and the important proviso has not even been mentioned in the judgment. The clear intent of Section 8 (1) (j) is to ensure that if some record is held by the public authority which has no relationship to any public activity it is exempted from disclosure. Even if it is a public record and disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual, this should not be given. The proviso provides an acid test and before refusing information under Section 8 (1) (j) a subjective assessment has to be made whether it would have been denied to Parliament or State Legislature. The aforesaid judgment clearly appears to be contrary to the following two judgements of the Supreme Court: 1. R Rajagopal and Anr. v state of Tamil Nadu (1994), SC The ratio of this judgement was: “28. We may now summarise the broad principles flowing from the above discussion: (1) the right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a "right to be let alone." A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education among other matters. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent - whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages Position may, however be different, if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites or raises a controversy. (2) The rule aforesaid is subject to the exception, that any publication concerning the aforesaid aspects becomes unobjectionable if such publication is based upon public records including Court records. This is for the reason that once a matter becomes a matter of public record, the right to privacy no longer subsists and it becomes a legitimate subject for comment by press and media among others. We are, however, of the opinion that in the interest of decency (Article 19(2)) an exception must be carved out to this rule, viz., a female who is the victim of a sexual assault, kidnap, abduction or a like offense should not further be subjected to the indignity of her name and the incident being published in press/media. (3) There is yet another exception to the Rule in (1) above - indeed, this is not an exception but an independent rule. In the case of public officials, it is obvious, right to privacy, or for that matter, the remedy of action for damages is simply not available with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties.” Public record as defined in the Public Records Act is any record held by any Government office. This judgement at point 2 clearly states that for information in public records, the right to privacy can be claimed only in rare cases. This is similar to the proposition in Section 8 (1) (j) which does not exempt personal information which has relationship to public activity or interest. It also talks of certain kinds of personal information not being disclosed which has been covered in the Act by exempting disclosure of personal information which would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual. At point 3 it categorically emphasizes that for public officials the right to privacy cannot be claimed with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. Privacy is to do with matters within a home, a person’s body, sexual preferences etc as mentioned in the apex court’s earlier decisions in Kharak Singh and R.Rajagopal cases. This is in line with Article 19 (2) which mentions placing restrictions on Article 19 (1) (a) in the interest of ‘decency or morality’. If however it is felt that the information is not the result of any public activity, or disclosing it would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual, it must be subjected to the acid test of the proviso: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. The proviso is meant as a test which must be applied before denying information claiming exemption under Section 8 (1) (j). Public servants have been used to answering questions raised in Parliament and the Legislature. It is difficult for them to develop the attitude of answering demands for information from citizens. Hence before denying personal information, the law has given an acid test: Would they would give this information to the elected representatives. If they come to the subjective assessment, that they would provide the information to MPs and MLAs they will have to provide it to citizens, since the MPs and MLAs derive legitimacy from the citizens. Another perspective is that personal information is to be denied to citizens based on the presumption that disclosure would cause harm to some interest of an individual. If however the information can be given to legislature it means the likely harm is not much of a threat since what is given to legislature will be in public domain. It is worth remembering that the first draft of the bill which had been presented to the parliament in December 2004 had the provision as Section 8 (2) and stated: (2) Information which cannot be denied to Parliament or Legislature of a State, as the case may be, shall not be denied to any person. In the final draft passed by parliament in May 2005, this section was put as a proviso only for section 8 (1) (j). Thus it was a conscious choice of parliament to have this as a proviso only for Section 8 (1) (j). It is necessary that when information is denied based on the provision of Section 8 (1) (j), the person denying the information must give his subjective assessment whether it would be denied to Parliament or State legislature if sought. The Girish Deshpande judgement is clearly contrary to the earlier judgement, since it accepts the claim of privacy for Public servants for matters relating to public activity which are on Public records. 2. The Supreme Court judgement in the ADR/PUCL case [(2002) 5 SCC 294] had clearly laid down that citizens have a right to know about the assets of those who want to be Public servants (stand for elections). It should be obvious that if citizens have a right to know about the assets of those who want to become Public servants, their right to get information about those who are Public servants cannot be lesser. This would be tantamount to arguing that a prospective groom must declare certain matters to his wife-to-be, but after marriage the same category of information need not be disclosed! When quoting Section 8 (1) (j) the Court has forgotten to mention the important proviso to this Section which stipulates, ‘Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.’ The Supreme Court did not even mention this in its judgement when quoting section 8 (1) (j) and has not considered it. If this proviso was quoted the Court would have had to record that in its opinion the said information would be denied to Parliament. The Court forgot its ruling in CIVIL APPEAL NOs.10787-10788 OF 2011 (Arising out of S.L.P(C) (judgement 2 above) at para 36: “ It is one of the well known canons of interpretation that no statute should be interpreted in such a manner as to render a part of it redundant or surplusage.” Bihar Government, Gujarat government, Municipal Corporation of Mumbai and many others had displayed the assets of all the officials on their website. The decision of the Supreme Court will reverse the transparency march and constrict Right to Information. It appears that the Court has not taken into account the two earlier judgements mentioned above, and the important proviso to Section 8 (1) (j) and hence the decision in Girish Deshpande’s case may be per incuriam. Besides, there does not appear to any ‘ratio decidendi’ in this judgement, that is to say, the judgment does not spells out any reason for the conclusion it reached. Hence this judgement cannot be a precedent. Unfortunately this judgment has resulted in most information about public officials being denied including that regarding their work. Consequently arbitrary favours by Public servants and their corruption has been obscured from the eyes of the public. Maharashtra government has issued a circular based on this judgement in which it instructs that all personal information of public servants must be refused because of the Girish Deshpande judgement. It is worth recording that the main ground for the judgement is agreement with the CIC decision. A perusal of the CIC decision also does not display any proper reasoning but is based on an earlier decision by a bench of the Commission. The bench decision which was relied on by CIC, did not even relate to information about a public servant! Besides the said CIC decision in the matter of Milap Choraria vs. CBDT did not analyse Section 8 (1) (j) fully, and grossly misinterpreted Section 11. Many High Court judgments and one by the Supreme Court have declared that ‘personal information’ cannot be given, unless a larger public interest is shown. It has become very popular with PIOs, First appellate authorities and Information Commissioner’s to deny most information relating to public servants. In the opinion of the Authors this judgment is not in consonance with the law and earlier Supreme Court judgments. It has created a exemption not in the law. This results in a constriction of the citizen’s fundamental right and the law’s objective of curbing corruption and wrong doings is defeated. It is worth remembering two judgments of the Supreme Court. A five judge bench has ruled in P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka case no. appeal (crl.) 535.: “Courts can declare the law, they can interpret the law, they can remove obvious lacunae and fill the gaps but they cannot entrench upon in the field of legislation properly meant for the legislature” In Rajiv Singh Dalal (Dr.) Vs. Chaudhari Devilal University, Sirsa and another (2008), the Supreme Court, after referring to its earlier decisions, has observed as follows. "The decision of a Court is a precedent, if it lays down some principle of law supported by reasons. Mere casual observations or directions without laying down any principle of law and without giving reasons does not amount to a precedent." The Girish Ramchandra Deshpande appears to have no ratio, nor does it lay down any principle with reasons. It has not considered the R. Rajagopal and ADR/PUCL judgments. Hence it should not considered as a precedent. But it has become the law, since everyone in power finds it convenient. This violates the RTI Act and is constricting the cit satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  5. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgments: Namit Sharma Vs. Union of India (2013) 1 SCC 745 The issue before the Court: The Constitutional validity of Sections 12(5), 12(6), 15(5) and 15(6) of RTI Act, were challenged, which deals with the appointment and qualifications of Information Commissioners. The Court held that: The Court ruled that all Information Commissions must sit in benches of two, one of whom should be a retired judge and there should be transparency in the selection of Commissioners. Our analysis of the judgment: This judgement would have resulted in the effective disposal rates of all Commissions being reduced to less than 50% and possibly made it difficult for citizens to approach Commissions without lawyers. Its immediate impact was that many Commissions stopped working and backlogs which were already high became unmanageable. Presently the cost per decision of the Central Information Commission is about Rs.5000 to 7000 per decision. This would have doubled. Since the speed of disposals would have reduced to less than 50% citizens would have had to wait for years at the commissions. This would have made RTI irrelevant. The Apex Court by doing this, was in effect re-writing the RTI Act, which is otherwise the province of the Parliament. Just see, how this petition was decided: (Taken from DOPT’s affidavit for Review.) Preliminary Hearing Listed & Part heard 11/7/2012 18/7/2012 no respondent no respondent DOPT learnt on 18/7 about the petition; and briefed the Additional Solicitor General (ASG); ASG asked for time to file a counter affidavit. 19/7 /2012 Court said this was not necessary and ASG should give his arguments. ASG gave his verbal arguments and judgement was reserved on19/7/2012 DOPT filed written submissions11/09/2012 Court’s 107 page judgement allowing writ issued on 13/09/2012 DOPT’s anguished statement in the review petition: “ T. FOR THAT this Hon’ble Court, in the impugned judgment, has neither considered the oral arguments of the Petitioner herein, nor the Written Submissions filed by the Petitioner on 11.09.2012, putting forth the case of the Petitioner. The impugned judgment, at no place, records the submissions made by the counsel for the Petitioner when the matter was heard.” The respondent, Union of India,-in the petition is mentioned only once in the 107 page judgement,- in the title. The entire judgement reads as if there is only a petitioner and the Court! The judgement disrupted the working of some Information Commissions. If implemented it would have dropped the disposal rate to less than 50% since two Commissioners would have to sit together, one of whom would have to be a retired judge. Generally retired judges insist on lawyers arguing matters before them, whereas currently less than 1% of the appellants have a lawyer. This would have discouraged most ordinary citizens from approaching the Commission. The judgment appears to have been given without regard to the mandate of RTI law. If it had not been reviewed it would have damaged RTI permanently. The order was partly stayed in judgment 7 and the main objectionable parts of the judgement which had been given were withdrawn. The revised judgment claimed that the direction of transparency in appointments was still in operation, but gave no meaningful directions. Consequently the appointment of Commissioners continues on the basis of arbitrariness and patronage. The only change which has come is that the government spends money in conducting the farce of advertising the posts. After that the arbitrariness and patronage continue. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  6. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : CPIO, Supreme Court Vs. Subhash Chandra Agrwal (2011) 1 SCC 496. Case to be decided by Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. The Constitution Bench is yet to be constituted. The issue before the Court: Whereas the information sought pertains to the Appointment of Judges in the Apex Court itself, the court framed the following issues to be addressed, 1. 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? 2. 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? 3. Whether the information sought for is exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act? The observations of the Court: Para 3:. The respondent Subhash Chandra Agarwal requested the CPIO, Supreme Court of India to arrange to send him a copy of “complete file/s (only as available in Supreme Court) inclusive of copies of complete correspondence exchanged between concerned constitutional authorities with file notings relating to said appointment of Mr. Justice HL Dattu, Mr. Justice AK Ganguly and Mr. Justice RM Lodha superseding seniority of Mr. Justice P Shah, Mr. Justice AK Patnaik and Mr. Justice VK Gupta as allegedly objected to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) also”. Para 12: “The case on hand raises important questions of constitutional importance relating to the position of Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India under the Constitution and the independence of the Judiciary in the scheme of the Constitution on the one hand and on the other, fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. Right to information is an integral part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Right to Information Act merely recognizes the constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression. Independence of Judiciary forms part of basic structure of the Constitution of India. The independence of Judiciary and the fundamental right to free speech and expression are of a great value and both of them are required to be balanced.” The Court held that: Registry to place this matter before Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India for constitution of a Bench of appropriate strength. Our analysis of the judgment: The CIC, the single judge of Delhi High Court and division bench of Delhi High Court had given rulings against the PIO of the Supreme Court and ordered information to be provided. The Supreme Court violating the basic principle of natural justice,- that nobody can be judge in his own cause,- stayed these judgements in a writ before itself. It has held that a Constitution bench will hear this matter. Since 2010 no hearing has been held. No great harm would have come to the Supreme Court if it had displayed the wisdom of gracefully accepting the verdict of the CIC and the High Court and avoided making itself a judge in its own cause, who then does not decide the matter. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not considered this matter to be important enough to be decided. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  7. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : Khanpuram Gandaiah Vs. Administrative Officer AIR 2010 SC 615 The issue before the Court: The scope of the definition of “Information” contained in section 2(f) of the RTI Act. The observations of the Court: Para 6. Under the RTI Act "information" is defined under Section 2(f) which provides: "information" means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, 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. This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under law. Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed, especially in matters pertaining to judicial decisions. A Judge speaks through his judgments or orders passed by him. If any party feels aggrieved by the order/judgment passed by a Judge, the remedy available to such a party is either to challenge the same by way of appeal or by revision or any other legally permissible mode. No litigant can be allowed to seek information as to why and for what reasons the Judge had come to a particular decision or conclusion. A Judge is not bound to explain later on for what reasons he had come to such a conclusion.” The Court held that: No information could be given, as none existed. Our analysis of the judgment: The denial was completely justified, as if no information existed on record, as per the judgement. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  8. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : Inst. Of Chartered Accountants Vs Shaunak H. Satya AIR 2011 SC 3336 The issue before the Court: (i) Whether the instructions and solutions to questions (if any) given by ICAI to examiners and moderators, are intellectual property of the ICAI, disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of third parties and therefore exempted under section 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act ? (ii) Whether providing access to the information sought (that is instructions and solutions to questions issued by ICAI to examiners and moderators) would involve an infringement of the copyright and therefore the request for information is liable to be rejected under section 9 of the RTI Act? (iii) Whether the instructions and solutions to questions are information made available to examiners and moderators in their fiduciary capacity and therefore exempted under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act? The observations of the Court: The Court first held at para 12 that denial of information could not be justified under Section 8(1) (d). It also held at para 13 and 14 that denial could not be justified under Section 9. At para 16 and 17 it held that the information is exempt under Section 8 (1) (e): Para 16: “The instructions and `solutions to questions' issued to the examiners and moderators in connection with evaluation of answer scripts, as noticed above, is the intellectual property of ICAI. These are made available by ICAI to the examiners and moderators to enable them to evaluate the answer scripts correctly and effectively, in a proper manner, to achieve uniformity and consistency in evaluation, as a large number of evaluators and moderators are engaged by ICAI in connection with the evaluation. The instructions and solutions to questions are given by the ICAI to the examiners and moderators to be held in confidence. The examiners and moderators are required to maintain absolute secrecy and cannot disclose the answer scripts, the evaluation of answer scripts, the instructions of ICAI and the solutions to questions made available by ICAI, to anyone. The examiners and moderators are in the position of agents and ICAI is in the position of principal in regard to such information which ICAI gives to the examiners and moderators to achieve uniformity, consistency and exactness of evaluation of the answer scripts. When anything is given and taken in trust or in confidence, requiring or expecting secrecy and confidentiality to be maintained in that behalf, it is held by the recipient in a fiduciary relationship.” Para 17: “It should be noted that section 8(1)(e) uses the words “information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship”. Significantly section 8(1)(e) does not use the words “information available to a public authority in its fiduciary relationship”. The use of the words “person” shows that the holder of the information in a fiduciary relationship need not only be a `public authority' as the word `person' is of much wider import than the word `public authority'. Therefore the exemption under section 8(1)(e) is available not only in regard to information that is held by a public authority (in this case the examining body) in a fiduciary capacity, but also to any information that is given or made available by a public authority to anyone else for being held in a fiduciary relationship. In other words, anything given and taken in confidence expecting confidentiality to be maintained will be information available to a person in fiduciary relationship. As a consequence, it has to be held that the instructions and solutions to questions communicated by the examining body to the examiners, head examiners and moderators, are information available to such persons in their fiduciary relationship and therefore exempted from disclosure undersection 8(1)(d) of RTI Act.”(appears to be a typing error and should be 8 (1)(e). Our analysis of the judgment: ICAI contended that instructions to examiners and model answers cannot be disclosed since they were exempt. Commission denied the information but the High Court accepted the applicant’s right to get the information. The apex court ruled out the applicability of Section 8 (1) (d) and Section 9. The Supreme Court then upheld the denial of Model answers by the examining body to the applicant holding it to be information held by ICAI in a fiduciary relationship. It is interesting to note that in paras 23 and 26 in the CBSE case referred earlier the Supreme Court had stated that an examining body is not in a fiduciary relationship with the examiners or examinees. If an examining body is not holding information in a fiduciary relationship with examiners or examinees then it cannot deny it by contending that the model answers are held in a fiduciary capacity. The court has correctly ruled that the examiners, moderators and head-examiners hold the information in a fiduciary relationship. But that does not necessarily mean that the examining body holds the information in a fiduciary relationship as per its pronouncements in the CBSE case. If a patient goes to a doctor and shares his information, the doctor holds the information in a fiduciary relationship. But there is never any expectation that the advice given by the doctor is held by the patient in a fiduciary capacity. It appears there is a logical fallacy, since the converse of any statement is not necessarily true. satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  9. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment : Chief Information Commissioner Vs. State of Manipur AIR 2012 SC 864 The main issue before the Court: Whether the Information Commissioner can direct the disclosure of information when a complaint is made u/s 18 of the RTI Act. The observations of the Court: Para 36: “This Court accepts the argument of the appellant that any other construction would render the provision of Section 19(8) of the Act totally redundant. It is one of the well known canons of interpretation that no statute should be interpreted in such a manner as to render a part of it redundant or surplusage.” Para 37: “ We are of the view that Sections 18 and 19 of the Act serve two different purposes and lay down two different procedures and they provide two different remedies. One cannot be a substitute for the other.” The Court held that: No information can be ordered to be given in complaints made u/s 18 of the RTI Act. Our analysis of the judgment: The information which was sought by the applicant was regarding magisterial enquiries. A complaint was filed since no response was received. The Commission ordered information to be provided. A single judge of High Court upheld the Commission’s order. This was challenged before a division bench, which held that in a complaint under Section 18 the Information Commission cannot pass an order to release information. The Supreme Court adopted a literal interpretation of the RTI Act and refused to consider whether a purposive interpretation would have served the purpose of the Act better. This is in contrast to the Allahabad High Court judgement in AP 3262 (MB) of 2008 which said, ‘“We are also of the view that the Commission while enquiring into the complaint under Section 18, can issue necessary directions for supply/disclosure of the information asked for, in case the Commission is satisfied that the information has been wrongly withheld or has not been completely given or incorrect information has been given.” By this judgement an RTI applicant who files a complaint will have to file a separate appeal for the same matter to obtain information. If a PIO refuses to accept an RTI application the applicant will have to first go in a complaint to the Commission and perhaps get the PIO penalised if she is lucky. After this if the PIO takes her application but denies the information saying it is ‘unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption’, she can be denied her fundamental satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  10. Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 By Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Information Commissioner Judgment 1: CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay (2011) 8 SCC 497 The main issue before the Court: Whether an examinee's (Students) right to information under the RTI Act includes a right to inspect his evaluated answer books in a public examination and taking certified copies of the same. The examining body,-CBSE,- had claimed that it held the information in a fiduciary relationship and hence this was exempt under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act. The observations of the Court: Para 18: “Section 22 of RTI Act provides that the provisions of the said Act will have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time in force. Therefore the provisions of the RTI Act will prevail over the provisions of the bye-laws/rules of the examining bodies in regard to examinations. As a result, unless the examining body is able to demonstrate that the answer-books fall under the exempted category of information described in clause (e) of section 8(1) of RTI Act, the examining body will be bound to provide access to an examinee to inspect and take copies of his evaluated answer-books, even if such inspection or taking copies is barred under the rules/bye-laws of the examining body governing the examinations.” Para 23. “It cannot therefore be said that the examining body is in a fiduciary relationship either with reference to the examinee who participates in the examination and whose answer-books are evaluated by the examining body.” Para 26: “The examining bodies contend that even if fiduciary relationship does not exist with reference to the examinee, it exists with reference to the examiner who evaluates the answer-books. On a careful examination we find that this contention has no merit….. Therefore it cannot be said that the examining body holds the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship, qua the examiner. Para 37. “Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. “ The Court held that: The Court ruled that corrected answer sheets were information which should be provided to students who seek them under RTI. Our analysis of the judgment: The Court ordered the information to be provided. It held that it was not exempt since the examining body did not hold any information in a fiduciary relationship with the examiners or examinees. Unfortunately, despite the Supreme Court’s observation at para 18 that the provisions of the RTI Act will prevail over the provisions of the bye-laws/rules, Public Information Officers (PIOs) of most Courts refuse to give information in RTI to citizens regarding various matters saying citizens should approach them under relevant Court rules. They erroneously hold that the Court rules overrule the RTI Act! The observations made by Apex Court in Para 37 hereinabove are unsubstantiated and wholly uncalled for. There was no cause or reason for those observations. It does not befit the Supreme Court to make such disparaging remarks in respect of a fundamental right of citizens. There is not a shred of evidence that RTI is ‘obstructing the national development and integration, or destroying the peace, tranquillity and harmony amongst its citizens.’ To label citizens exercising their fundamental right as oppressors and intimidators is unacceptable. These observations from the apex court have been gleefully picked up by public officials and quoted to curb the citizen’s fundamental right. RTI has been recognised by the Supreme Court as being integral to Article 19 (1) (a) which states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression subject only to the restrictions laid out in Article 19 (2) of the constitution. Section 8 (1) effectively covers these and goes a little beyond. These remarks cannot be explained by any facts and runs contrary to all the earlier judgments on Right to Information. If it is argued that right to information should be related to transparency and accountability and eradication of corruption, it will then be argued that the freedom of speech and expression should be subjected to this test. With these statements the court dealt a serious blow to the fundamental right of citizens. This has warmed the hearts of many PIOs and Information Commissioners, and they are now parroting these lines to deny legitimate information. As for the accusation of RTI taking up 75% of time, I did the following calculation: By all accounts the total number of RTI applications in India is less than 10 million annually. The total number of all government employees is over 20 million. Assuming a 6 hour working day for all employees for 250 working days it would be seen that there are 30000 million working hours. Even if an average of 3 hours is spent per RTI application 10 million applications would require 30 million hours, which is 0.1% of the total working hours. This means it would require 3.2% staff working for 3.2% of their time in furnishing information to citizens. This too could be reduced drastically if computerised working and automatic updating of information was done as specified in Section 4 of the RTI Act. If Section 4 of the Act is properly implemented as envisaged in the law, the number of RTI applications would be less than 50% of the current level. The Supreme Court did not comment on the lack of Section 4 compliance by all public authorities but decided to pass unwarranted and unsubstantiated strictures against citizens using their fundamental right. An extensive study done by Right to Information Assessment and Analysis Group [RAAG] led by the scholarly and respected Shekhar Singh, shows that – 1. Around 54% of the RTI applications sought information which should have been displayed suo moto by the public authorities under their obligations under Section 4; About 20% of the RTI applicants were asking for information 2. Which should have been provided to them without their ever having to file an application or even without using the RTI Act. These applicants were seeking acknowledgement or response to earlier, often long pending, missives, or seeking feedback about, or an update on an ongoing interaction with the public authority. The Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedures, (Thirteenth Edition, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances. September, 2010) mandates that proper replies to all communications from citizens should be sent within 30 days. Thus only 26% of the applications asked for information that was not required to be disclosed proactively, either publicly or privately to the applicants. It would have been appropriate if the Supreme Court had directed public authorities to do their duty as per the RTI Act instead of castigating citizens using their fundamental right as if they were interlopers or terrorists. SAtyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf
  11. ashakantasharma

    One year of RTI: Success stories

    One year of RTI: Success stories Oct 11, 2006 13:53 IST In Haryana A 70-old-woman gained access to files regarding pension and other benefits of her dead son — a Delhi Police constable who died in a road accident five years ago. Laxmi Devi of Bhiwani district had appealed to the Central Information Commission for access to notings in files pertaining to her son’s terminal benefits worth Rs 4 lakh. Laxmi was penniless after her son Anoop Singh’s death. Her daughter-in-law was drawing pension even after her remarriage in August 2005, Laxmi Devi told the panel. In Karnataka It was a unique combination of the right to information and the right to food. Villagers received their quota of ration through the Public Distribution System after villagers of Channagiri Taluka forced authorities to conduct public hearings to redress their grievances by filing RTI petitions. The villagers were not getting wheat for Rs 2 and rice at Rs 3 as announced by the state government. In Mumbai A resident of Borivili, Devraj Roy, filed an application under RTI asking for information about various projects announced by the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation. He found that most of the schemes were either on paper or had progressed marginally. But the officials had spent Rs 36 crore on hotel accommodation and in air-fare to foreign destinations. It jolted the officials. In Delhi The government cut a sorry figure when RTI activist Shekhar Singh moved the CIC demanding information on how far the government had progressed in granting 20 per cent reservation to students from the economically weaker section in private schools. The CIC said the government had failed to furnish “full information” on 40 applications. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/one-year-of-rti-success-stories/story-Smq7niTszhWgRi9bqw7fYJ.html
  12. Can documents received via RTI be produced in courts as Secondary Evidences ?
  13. Has anyone extorted money using government tools like RTI?
  14. What are some limitations of RTI Act 2005?
  15. ashakantasharma

    A Look at Some RTI Success Stories

    The Right-to-Information Act has emerged as a powerful tool for India’s civil society to promote transparency and hold those in power accountable. The law, which allows Indian citizens to seek information from most government bodies, was first implemented in October 2005. Adarsh Housing Society, Commonwealth Games, and 2G are just a few of the scams and scandals that spring to mind when musing about the impact of the The Right To Information Act, over the past several year. And while the RTI, which came into force on October 12, 2005, has exposed the rot and corruption of the country's institutions and leaders, it has also played a huge role in improving the daily lives of people by making government accessible and accountable. The sweep of questions and concerns covered in tens of millions of RTI applications is impossible to catalogue, but whether it is seeking entitlements, exposing hoarding at local ration shops, or getting a village road constructed, these queries and complaints are all guided by the principle of standing up and being counted. The below are some of the most successful RTI cases:- Adarsh Society Scam: The applications filed by RTI activists like Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were instrumental in bringing to light links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-storey building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives. The scandal has already led to the resignation of Ashok Chavan, the former chief minister of Maharashtra. Other state officials are also under the scanner. Public Distribution Scam in Assam: In 2007, members of an anti-corruption non-governmental organization based in Assam, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, filed an RTI request that revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people below the poverty line. The allegations of corruption were probed and several government officials arrested. Appropriation of Relief Funds: Information obtained through an RTI application by an NGO based in Punjab, in 2008 revealed that bureaucrats heading local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society used money intended for victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills – among other things. Local courts charged the officials found responsible with fraud and the funds were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. IIM’s Admission Criteria: 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 – despite her impressive score at the entrance examination. Ms. Kasturi wanted to know why, and wondered whether it was because of her physical disability. She filed an RTI application to request the institute to disclose their selection process. Although she failed to gain admission to the institute, her RTI application meant that IIM had to make its admission criteria public. It emerged that the entrance exam, the Common Admission Test, actually mattered little compared to Class 10 and 12 results. Absconding Teacher: Soon after the Act came into force, parents in Panchampur village in the district of Banda, Uttar Pradesh, used it to track their local school teacher, who rarely made an appearance in the classroom. After learning from RTI activists that they could seek attendance and leave records of the government school teacher, 15 villagers filed an applicationasking about his whereabouts, and also questioned the responsibility of the Primary Education Department in such a situation. Immediate action was taken: a new school teacher was appointed to the village school, and an enquiry was ordered against the absconder. Chandigarh--Smoke Free City: In 2007, Chandigarh became the first smoke free city in India, which meant banning smoke in indoor spaces as well as prohibiting it in outdoor public places likes parks and markets. But Hemant Ghosh didn't expect his RTI applications to lead to such a landmark decision, which would influence other cities to enforce smoke-free laws in the years to come. His work is widely regarded as the trigger for the campaign to create awareness about the hazards of smoking, involving public service messages on television and cinemas, which has grown over the years. Soon after the Act came into force, Ghosh inundated the governments of Punjab and Haryana with over 300 queries on how The 2003 Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA),which sets out provisions to address smoking in public places, was being implemented in their shared capital. According to the 2003 law, his application asked whether the No Smoking Area Smoking here is an offence warning was displayed in offices and premises under government control." In 2007, 1,800 "warning boards" appeared in all government departments, police stations, hospitals and schools. Ghosh, who heads a Chandigarh-based NGO called Burning Brain Society, said that he was only trying to hold the government accountable. "What has been most satisfying is to see this replicated across the country," he said. Almost ten years on, however, another RTI application filed by Gaurav Bansal, a 21-year-old resident of Chandigarh, revealed that only fined 78 people were fined for smoking in public in 2013, which included 61 people in just the one area of sector 19. "Despite the claims of the administration to make the city a smoke-free one, only 78 persons were challenged (fined) in an entire year," he said. The Seven Ponds: In 2010, K.S. Sagaria smelt a rat when the paperwork showed that seven ponds had been constructed for below poverty lines families in Kushmal village of Orissa, but no one in the village could spot them. So he filed an RTI application which revealed that the ponds were never dug, the “labourers” who worked to “construct” the ponds included dead people. Following complaints, the administration suspended the officials involved in the subterfuge, and the project was renewed, but this time, the villagers vowed to keep a check on its progress. Scholarships For Students: While several of his classmates and their parents were fretting when they didn't receive their scholarships for the academic year of 2011-2012, nine-year-old Manoj, a student at the government primary school in Vailpoor, Nizamabad district of Telangana, filed an application. In his application directed at the Labour Welfare Department, the class 4 student asked why the money had not reached the students, and by when they could expect their scholarships. Manoj's RTI application secured scholarships for 10 students, who are the children of beedi workers. School Uniforms: When students of Gulrahai Primary School in Allahabad did not receive their school uniforms in December 2006, nine parents filed an RTI application questioning the administration about the missing uniforms, which led to school dresses being delivered in the first week of January, 2007. Parents of a government school in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, also procured school uniforms by filing an RTI application. Unjustifiable restrictions imposed by CBSE on the examinees: A must- read information which may be helpful to a large number of our fellow citizens. A landmark decision with respect to unjustifiable restrictions imposed by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Patna on the examinees delivered by Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Prof.M.Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar). This is one of the best decisions delivered ever by CIC which may be useful to a large cross section of society. The appellant, father of a student has sought copies of the answer sheets of his son for the subjects Maths and Science of 12th Class examination appeared in 2013 and the related matters. The information sought was denied by CPIO on the following grounds: 1. The request for the supply of evaluated answer sheets was made, not by the candidate, who appeared in the examination, but by his father, as the rules framed by the CBSE vide its Notification dated 17.06.2013 mandates the candidate should to make application. 2. The last date for the receipt of requests through online for the supply of evaluated answer sheets was 3.7.2013, and the RTI request, made by the candidate’s father was 12.8.2013. 3. Requests/applications for supply of answer sheets should be made only through online within 10 days from the date of declaration of the result. 4. After downloading the hardcopy of the printout of the request/ confirmation page, from the website, the candidate should get the same reached to the CBSE office, before the specified date, along with the fee and other prescribed enclosures. 5. Among the documents to be enclosed along with the application, there is an undertaking from the candidate, written in his own handwriting and under his own signature and not by anyone else on his behalf. The signature should correspond to that present on the Admit Card of the candidate. The candidate cannot question the evaluation done by the examiner. The candidate can only point out the errors in the totaling of marks, or the answers which were not evaluated by the examiner. These errors should be communicated by the candidate in writing to the CBSE within 10 days from the date of receipt of the evaluated answer sheets. There is no provision in the CBSE Rules, for the revaluation of the answer sheets again. 6. The candidate should also undertake that the copies of his answer sheets shall not be given to any institution or school for display, commercial purpose or to print media. The Commission considered that the respondent authority has created several unreasonable conditions to either limit or delay and deny the right to information of the student who appeared for the examination conducted by CBSE in 2013. The reasonability and legality or validity or otherwise of the contentions of the CBSE are given below: 1. The CBSE has no authority to impose such restriction on the rights of minor and his guardian. The natural guardian (father) has a legal duty and authority to secure the rights and benefits of the minor boy. In that capacity he has every right to seek right to information of his son be implemented and any injustice occurring to his son in evaluation of his answer scripts which might affect his career forever. The CBSE did not explain in reasonable terms why it has denied the natural guardian from exercising his legal duty to secure the legal interests of his son including his right to information. Hence the reason cited to deny the ‘father’ is unreasonable and illegal and also in violation of rights of the minor boy. The CBSE has no authority to impose such restriction on the rights of minor and his guardian. Hence the Commission holds that the appellant who is the father of the candidate is entitled for the copies of the answer sheets of his son, which shall be supplied to him. 2. Application was submitted beyond last date prescribed by the CBSE. The appellant has exercised his right to information under RTI Act, 2005 according to which the public authority should give information held by it. The CBSE has not denied the fact of holding the answer scripts of the son of appellant as on the date of RTI application. Once the RTI has been filed, it has no authority to destroy the answer scripts since the demand under statute is pending. Hence the contention that appellant approached beyond the last date does not hold good under RTI Act. 3. The candidate has to sign undertaking papers relinquishing his right to reevaluation has been imposed unreasonably. If a student has a legally recognized right to reevaluation, why should he relinquish it simply because he wanted to exercise another legal right to information by seeking to have copy of the answer script? The recognition and guaranteeing of right to information is aimed at making the public authority ‘accountable’. But by imposing this condition the CBSE is not only restricting that right to information, but also insulating itself from being accountable. This condition that student should sign off his rights by an undertaking is a serious obstruction to right to information of minor boy and his guardian. 4. Condition to relinquish right to share answer script with others, media to question the wrong evaluation etc. Another unreasonable condition imposed by CBSE is that candidate shall not display answer script after obtaining it under RTI Act. He should not share with print media also. These are unconstitutional restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution. 5. Condition against using information for commercial purposes. This is yet another unreasonable condition on use of information obtained under RTI Act. The CBSE wanted the appellant to file an undertaking saying he would not use it for commercial purposes. How can CBSE impose restrictions on the use of information obtained by the citizen, which were not imposed by the Right to Information Act, 2005. CIC has passed following Directions/ Order: 1. The undertakings prescribed by the CBSE have the effect of seriously obstructing the access to information beyond what was permitted by the Right to Information Act, 2005. By prescribing such rules and imposing conditions such as above, the CBSE tried to legislate something which is not prescribed or authorized by the Parliament through the Right to Information Act, 2005. 2. The Commission directs the CBSE to put in place such system with conducive practices by which the Right to information of the appellants is not limited but facilitated, by removing the obstacles such as undertaking to give up their legal rights, as mentioned above. 3. The Commission further directs the CBSE to pay a compensation of Rs.25,000/ to the appellant within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order for harassing him and compelling him to sign illegal undertaking to give up rights. The Commission directs the CBSE to furnish the certified copies of the answer scripts as required to the appellant, free of cost, within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order. Massive stink over Planning Commission's Rs 35 lakh toilets: The government may be speaking of austerity and curbing expenditure on various public schemes, but the the Planning Commission must not have got that memo and an RTI application has revealed a massive Rs 35 lakh to renovate two toilets at Yojana Bhavan. According to the RTI application filed by activist Subhash Agrawal, not only were the two toilets renovated for this sum, an additional five lakhs was spent on installing a smart-card system which restricted access to the toilets to 60 senior officials who work at the complex. NDTV reported that the commission also planned to install security cameras in the corridors leading to these toilets to ensure equipment was not stolen. The 35-lakh toilets were, according to plans, to serve as models for upgrading another three toilets in the building at a later stage. Whether they would also have access through smart cards was not clear. The petitioner S Agarwal meanwhile, hit out at the Planning Commission, and said his RTI application had revealed that another three such toilets were in the works. "It will not end here. Some other government and public offices will follow the same trend. This kind of wasteful expenditure when the government is talking about austerity and when the planning commissioner says that Rs 28 is the poverty line, is ridiculous", he said. The revelations of the RTI application has drawn massive criticism from opposition parties. Senior BJP spokesman Balbir Punj said that the revelation was 'shocking' and strongly condemned the move. Meanwhile the news has prompted the phrase Rs 35 to start trending on Twitter, with some well intentioned 'toilet humor'. @Roflindian said, "Spending Rs 35 lakhs for two toilets must be the most expensive way to relieve a south block in the morning", while @RameshSrivats said "By spending Rs. 35 lakhs on renovating two toilets. India has made it clear that it is an emerging superpower." There have also been some obvious references made to the extravagance of the planning commission, particularly comparing the large sum of money to the much criticized Rs 28 urban poverty line that was decided upon by the members of the commission. Travel costs of Planning Commissioner Montek Singh Alhuwalia were also criticized in a recent report in The Hindu. columnist P Sainath argued, based on RTI information obtained by other journalists, how massive the overseas travel expenses of Montek, who is otherwise known for his justification of the poverty-line argument, were. The highlight of Sainath’s article was that the average daily expense of Alhuwalia was Rs. 2.02 lakhs during his overseas travel between May and October last year. Using Montek’s own Rs 26 a day calculation, this could have sustained a poor person in rural India for more than 20 years! http://www.firstpost.com/india/massive-stink-over-planning-commissions-rs-35-lakh-toilets-333970.html https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-most-valuable-information-ever-asked-using-the-RTI-Act-in-India http://rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_RM_A_2014_000014_M_174361.pdf https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/10/14/a-look-at-some-rti-success-stories/ https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/10/13/rti-10-years_n_8277290.html
  16. ashakantasharma

    How I became an Information Commissioner ?

    How I became an Information Commissioner ? AUGUST 28, 2017 BY SHAILESH GANDHI Some friends wonder how I have the gall to be critical of the lack of process in selecting Information Commissioners, since they believe I must have resorted to influence and patronage for my selection. Let me detail the story of how i got selected: In the first week of August 2008 Arvind Kejriwal learnt that the government had decided on the names of four persons whom they would appoint as Central Information Commissioners. These were: Satyananda Mishra M.L.Sharma Annapurna Dixit R.B.Sreekumar I believe there is a tacit understanding between the ruling party and the opposition on such matters and overall there is a certain give and take in matters of appointments. Arvind discussed with me that though we had been fighting for appointment of good Commissioners and transparency in the selection process we were not making any headway. He therefore suggested that we propose four names from civil society. We got together a list of credible persons and Arvind arranged to get letters sent to the PM, Advani and Prithvraj Chavan by some prominent civil society members recommending these. On 20 August Prithviraj Chavan asked for a meeting of the Selection Committee to be called on 21 August at 6.00pm. I have heard that on 20 night the four names were shown to LK Advani. Advani strongly objected to the name of Sreekumar since he had been a senior police officer in Gujarat at the time of the Godhra riots and openly criticized Narendra Modi. He said he would oppose Sreekumar’s selection and said, ‘Why not one of the names suggested by civil society?’ The selection Committee meeting was not held on 21 August. I did not know Prithviraj Chavan, nor did he know me. Whether he made any checks about the other three members of our panel I do not know. As for me, he called up a business person in Mumbai and asked him what kind of person I was. This person had never met me, but based on what he had read in the papers he said I would be a good choice. After this Prithviraj Chavan called me and asked me if I would accept if I was selected as a Central Information Commissioner, and I said yes. On 27 August a meeting was called and my name was put in place of R.B. Sreekumar. Some of this information is available at http://persmin.gov.in/DOPT/RTICorner/ImpFiles/6_4_2008_IR_Vol_I_Noting.pdf I can assure all of you, that I did not use any influence or network. It was a random occurrence, but my selection was also without any process and a random occurrence. The record also shows Asok K Mahaptra’s name and I do not have any knowledge of how his name was dropped. I would urge RTI activists who have an understanding of the legal issues of the law to apply for the positions of Information Commissioners. Ciitizens should put forward names of persons with a background in transparency and build pressure I would also like to point out two matters as a personal clarification: I had informed the government that I was paying volunteers to work with me is mentioned on page 22. Whereas in 2007-2008 five Commissioners disposed 7722 cases I alone averaged about 5400 cases per year. All my emails are in public domain By Shailesh Gandhi Shailesh Gandhi is a first generation entrepreneur and a Distinguished Alumnus awardee of IIT Bombay. He sold his company to become a RTI activist. Shailesh was part of the National RTI movement which was involved in drafting the National Act. He was convener of the National Campaign for People’s Right To Information. He has used RTI and also trained many citizens and government officials in over 1000 workshops to use it. The only RTI activist to have been chosen as a Central Information Commissioner, he disposed a record of over 20000 cases in 3 years and 9 months, and ensured that most cases were decided in less than 90 days. He gave many landmark decisions on RTI, apart from organizing the first digital paper-less office in the Commission. He is passionately pursuing the cause of evolving ways for a time bound justice delivery system, and improving governance systems. Amongst many awards he has been awarded the Nani Palkhiwala Civil Liberties award, and the MR Pai award. He has published a book: RTI Act- authentic interpretation of the Statute and a paper critiquing Supreme Court judgments on RTI. http://satyamevajayate.info/2017/08/28/how-i-became-an-information-commissioner/
  17. ashakantasharma

    Right To Information Constricted

    RTI constricted RTI usage and propagation is moving at a fast pace because of citizen enthusiasm and desire for accountable governance. The biggest gain has been in empowering individual citizens to translate the promise of ‘democracy of the people, by the people, for the people’ into a living reality. The law as framed by Parliament has outstandingly codified this fundamental right of citizens. When framing the law cognizance had been taken of various landmark decisions of the Supreme Court on this subject. One of the objectives of this law mentioned in its preamble is to contain corruption. It is a simple, easy to understand statute, which common people can understand. However, there are some decisions of information commissions and courts which are constricting this fundamental right of citizens which is neither sanctioned by the constitution or the law. This paper is an effort to highlight one such instance,- the Girish Ramchandra Deshpande judgment,- which is resulting in an effective amendment of the law without Parliamentary sanction. The denial of information has been justified on the basis of Section 8 (1) (j) which allows denial of information, when: information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. The RTI Act mandates that all citizens have the right to information subject to the provisions of the Act. Section 7 (1) clearly states that information can only be refused for the reasons specified in Section 8 and 9. Section 22 of the Act ensures that no prior laws or rules can be used to deny information. I would also draw attention to the fact that the reasonable restrictions which may be placed on the freedom of expression under Article 19 (1) (a) have been mentioned in Article 19 (2) in the constitution as affecting “the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.” It is worth remembering two judgments of the Supreme Court. A five judge bench has ruled in P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka case no. appeal (crl.) 535.: “Courts can declare the law, they can interpret the law, they can remove obvious lacunae and fill the gaps but they cannot entrench upon in the field of legislation properly meant for the legislature”. In Rajiv Singh Dalal (Dr.) Vs. Chaudhari Devilal University, Sirsa and another (2008), the Supreme Court, after referring to its earlier decisions, has observed as follows. “The decision of a Court is a precedent, if it lays down some principle of law supported by reasons. Mere casual observations or directions without laying down any principle of law and without giving reasons does not amount to a precedent.” The Supreme Court’s judgment in the Girish Ramchandra Deshpande[1] judgment is being treated as the law throughout the country and I will argue that this has the effect of amending Section 8 (1) (j) without legitimacy. This paper will seek to show that the impugned judgment does not lay down the law and is being wrongly used to constrict the citizen’s fundamental right to information. Girish Ramchandra Deshpande had sought copies of memos, show cause notices and censure/punishment awarded to a public servant. He had also demanded details of assets and gifts received by him. Since the Central Information Commission gave an adverse ruling he finally went to the Supreme Court. The main part of the judgment states: “12. The petitioner herein sought for copies of all memos, show cause notices and censure/punishment awarded to the third respondent from his employer and also details viz. movable and immovable properties and also the details of his investments, lending and borrowing from Banks and other financial institutions. Further, he has also sought for the details of gifts stated to have accepted by the third respondent, his family members and friends and relatives at the marriage of his son. The information mostly sought for finds a place in the income tax returns of the third respondent. The question that has come up for consideration is whether the above-mentioned information sought for qualifies to be “personal information” as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. We are in agreement with the CIC and the courts below that the details called for by the petitioner i.e. copies of all memos issued to the third respondent, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment etc. are qualified to be personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The performance of an employee/officer in an organization is primarily a matter between the employee and the employer and normally those aspects are governed by the service rules which fall under the expression “personal information”, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or public interest. On the other hand, the disclosure of which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of that individual. Of course, in a given case, if the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer of the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information, appropriate orders could be passed but the petitioner cannot claim those details as a matter of right. The details disclosed by a person in his income tax returns are “personal information” which stand exempted from disclosure under clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act, unless involves a larger public interest and the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.” A careful reading of the law shows that personal Information held by a public authority may be denied under section 8(1)(j), under the following two circumstances: Where the information requested, is personal information and the nature of the information requested is such that, it has apparently no relationship to any public activity or interest; or Where the information requested, is personal information, and the disclosure of the said information would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. If the information is personal information, it must be seen whether the information came to the public authority as a consequence of a public activity. Generally most of the information in public records arises from a public activity. Applying for a job, or ration card are examples of public activity. However there may be some personal information which may be with public authorities which is not a consequence of a public activity, eg. Medical records, or transactions with a public sector bank. Similarly a public authority may come into possession of some information during a raid or seizure which may have no relationship to any public activity. Even if the information has arisen by a public activity it could still be exempt if disclosing it would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual. Privacy is to do with matters within a home, a person’s body, sexual preferences etc as mentioned in the apex court’s earlier decisions in Kharak Singh and R.Rajagopal cases. This is in line with Article 19 (2) which mentions placing restrictions on Article 19 (1) (a) in the interest of ‘decency or morality’. If however it is felt that the information is not the result of any public activity, or disclosing it would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual, it must be subjected to the acid test of the proviso: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. The proviso is meant as a test which must be applied before denying information claiming exemption under Section 8 (1) (j). Public servants have been used to answering questions raised in Parliament and the Legislature. It is difficult for them to develop the attitude of answering demands for information from citizens. Hence before denying personal information, the law has given an acid test: Would they would give this information to the elected representatives. If they come to the subjective assessment, that they would provide the information to MPs and MLAs they will have to provide it to citizens, since the MPs and MLAs derive legitimacy from the citizens. Another perspective is that personal information is to be denied to citizens based on the presumption that disclosure would cause harm to some interest of an individual. If however the information can be given to legislature it means the likely harm is not much of a threat since what is given to legislature will be in public domain. It is worth remembering that the first draft of the bill which had been presented to the parliament in December 2004 had the provision as Section 8 (2) and stated: (2) Information which cannot be denied to Parliament or Legislature of a State, as the case may be, shall not be denied to any person. In the final draft passed by parliament in May 2005, this section was put as a proviso only for section 8 (1) (j). Thus it was a conscious choice of parliament to have this as a proviso only for Section 8 (1) (j). It is necessary that when information is denied based on the provision of Section 8 (1) (j), the person denying the information must give his subjective assessment whether it would be denied to Parliament or State legislature if sought. It is worth noting that in the Privacy bill 2014 it was proposed that Sensitive personal data should be defined as Personal data relating to: “(a) physical and mental health including medical history, (b) biometric, bodily or genetic information, (c) criminal convictions (d) password, (e) banking credit and financial data (f) narco analysis or polygraph test data, (g) sexual orientation. Provided that any information that is freely available or accessible in public domain or to be furnished under the Right to Information Act 2005 or any other law for time being in force shall not be regarded as sensitive personal data for the purposes of this Act”. Only if a reasoned conclusion is reached that the information has no relationship to any public activity or that disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual a subjective assessment has to be made whether it would be given to Parliament or State legislature. If it is felt that it would not be given, then an assessment has to be made as Section 8 (2) whether there is a larger public interest in disclosure than the harm to the protected interest. If no exemption applies there is no requirement of showing a larger public interest. In the impugned judgment a RTI request for copies of all memos, show cause notices, orders of censure/punishment, assets, income tax returns, details of gifts received etc. of a public servant was denied. The court has ruled without giving any legal arguments merely by saying that this is personal information as defined in clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act and hence exempted. The only reason ascribed in this is that the court agrees with the Central Information Commission’s decision. Such a decision does not form a precedent which must be followed. It cannot be justified by Article 19 (2) of the constitution or by the complete provision of Section 8 (1) (j). As per the RTI act denial of information can only be on the basis of the exemptions in the law. The court has denied information by reading Section 8 (1) (j) as exempting: “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.” There are no words in the judgment,- or the CIC decision which it has accepted,- discussing whether the disclosure has any relationship to a public activity, or if disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy. The words which have been struck above have not been considered at all and information was denied merely on the basis that it was personal information. Worse still the proviso ‘Provided that the information…..’ (underlined above) has not even been mentioned and while quoting the entire Section 8 (1) the proviso has been missed . Effectively only 40 of the 87 words in this section were considered. This proviso is very important and the court should have addressed it. I would also like to quote the ratio of R Rajagopal and Anr. v state of Tamil Nadu (1994), SC The ratio of this judgement was: “28. We may now summarise the broad principles flowing from the above discussion: (1) the right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a “right to be let alone.” A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education among other matters. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent – whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages Position may, however be different, if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites or raises a controversy. (2) The rule aforesaid is subject to the exception, that any publication concerning the aforesaid aspects becomes unobjectionable if such publication is based upon public records including Court records. This is for the reason that once a matter becomes a matter of public record, the right to privacy no longer subsists and it becomes a legitimate subject for comment by press and media among others. We are, however, of the opinion that in the interest of decency (Article 19(2)) an exception must be carved out to this rule, viz., a female who is the victim of a sexual assault, kidnap, abduction or a like offense should not further be subjected to the indignity of her name and the incident being published in press/media. (3) There is yet another exception to the Rule in (1) above – indeed, this is not an exception but an independent rule. In the case of public officials, it is obvious, right to privacy, or for that matter, the remedy of action for damages is simply not available with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties.” Public record as defined in the Public Records Act is any record held by any Government office. This judgement at point 2 clearly states that for information in public records, the right to privacy can be claimed only in rare cases. This is similar to the proposition in Section 8 (1) (j) which does not exempt personal information which has relationship to public activity or interest. It also talks of certain kinds of personal information not being disclosed which has been covered in the Act by exempting disclosure of personal information which would be an unwarranted invasion on the privacy of an individual. At point 3 it categorically emphasizes that for public officials the right to privacy cannot be claimed with respect to their acts and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. The Girish Deshpande judgment is clearly contrary to the earlier judgment R.Rajagopal judgment, since it accepts the claim of privacy for Public servants for matters relating to public activity which are on Public records 2. The Supreme Court judgement in the ADR/PUCL Civil Appeal 7178 of 2001 has clearly laid down that citizens have a right to know about the assets of those who want to be Public servants (stand for elections). It should be obvious that if citizens have a right to know about the assets of those who want to become Public servants, their right to get information about those who are Public servants cannot be lesser. This would be tantamount to arguing that a prospective groom must declare certain matters to his wife-to-be, but after marriage the same information need not be disclosed! The Girish Ramchandra Deshpande judgment should not be treated as a precedent which must be followed for the following reasons: It is devoid of any detailed reasoning and does not lay down a ratio. It does not analyse whether a public servant’s work and assets is information which is a public activity or not. The judgment when stating that certain matters are between the employee and the employer misses the fact that the employer is the ‘people of India’. It has completely forgotten the proviso to Section 8 (1) (j) which requires subjecting a proposed denial to this acid test. It has not considered the clear ratio of the Rajagopal judgment or the ADR/PUCL judgment. A major provision of the RTI Act has been amended by a judicial pronouncement which appears to be flawed. A major tool of citizens to bring the shenanigans, arbitrary and corrupt acts of public servants has been affected adversely without a proper reasoning. Commissioners must discuss this and it must be recognized that Girish Ramchandra Deshpande does not lay down the law on Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act., and it is contrary to the ratio of the R.RajagopaI and ADR judgments. A five judge bench has ruled in P. Ramachandra Rao v. State of Karnataka case no. appeal (crl.) 535.: “Courts can declare the law, they can interpret the law, they can remove obvious lacunae and fill the gaps but they cannot entrench upon in the field of legislation properly meant for the legislature.” Shailesh Gandhi shaileshgan@gmail.com Former Central Information Commissioner [1] Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 27734 of 2012; Girish Ramchandra Deshpand Versus Cen. Information Commr. & Ors; KS Radhakrishnan & Dipak Misra; 3 October 2012; (2013) 1 SCC 212 http://satyamevajayate.info/2017/08/28/rti-constricted/
  18. ashakantasharma

    Misuse’ of Right to Information

    'Misuse’ of RTI AUGUST 28, 2017 BY SHAILESH GANDHI As an Information Commissioner who dealt with over 20000 cases I had the opportunity of interacting with a large number of RTI users and Public Information Officers (PIOs). Generally PIOs would refer to most applicants who file RTI applications regularly as blackmailers, harassers and those who were misusing RTI. I would broadly divide those who filed a large number of RTI applications in the following categories: Those who filed RTI applications with the hope of exposing corruption or arbitrariness and hoped to improve and correct governance. Those who filed RTI applications repetitively to correct a wrong which they perceived had been done to them. Their basic intention is to get justice for themselves. Those who used RTI to blackmail people. This category largely targets illegal buildings, mining or some other activity which runs foul of the law. Those who use this to harass a public official to get some undue favour. All these categories together comprise around 20% of the total appeals and complaints before the Commission. These represent persistent users of RTI who are generally knowledgeable about appeals and procedures. Nobody will deny that the first category certainly deserves to be encouraged. In the second category there are some who have been able to get corrective action and some whose grievance may defy resolution. When faced with such applicants, PIOs should speak to the concerned officer to evaluate whether the grievance can be redressed. Generally most of us have a strong aversion for the third and fourth category who are making it a money-earning racket or putting pressure to get an undue favour. The last two categories certainly does not exceed 10% of the total appeals and complaints. I would like to note that most of the average citizens who do not get information are unaware of the process of appeals. Over 40% of those who attempt filing appeals at CIC are discouraged with imperious returns. Thus it appears that the third and fourth category will be much smaller than 10% in terms of RTI applications. I would argue that in the implementation of most laws some people will misuse its provisions. The police often misuse their powers to subvert the law, and so also criminals misuse our judicial system to prolong trials. The misuse of any laws is largely dependent on the kind of people in a society and whether the justice system has the capability of punishing wrongdoers. There are people who go to places of worship with the sole objective of committing theft or other crimes. But society does not define these as the main characteristic of temples. Is it reasonable to expect that only angels will use RTI? To be able to blackmail an officer or someone who has indulged in an illegal activity, there are some illegal actions. Noticing and curbing these is the job of various government officers and the citizen is actually acting as a vigilance monitor. I have often questioned government officers how the blackmailers operate. They state that the RTI blackmailer threatens an illegal action with exposure and thereby extorts money. I have sometimes wondered why society has such touching empathy for the victims who have committed illegal acts. The fourth category must be discouraged and Information Commissioners can do this fairly easily. This can be done by either ordering an inspection of the files by the appellant. Two simple tips to PIOs to handle repetitive RTI queries: Ensuring that the information is provided in less than 10 days by taking applications from such applicants on priority. Ensuring that letter asking for additional fees is sent well in time. I have found such an approach usually leading to reduction of such applications. If however this does not have any effect, then the matter should be highlighted before the Information Commissioner in second appeal. Another good practice which could be adopted would be to upload all queries and the replies on the website. Where information has already been provided applicants may not ask for it. Even if they do ask, the PIO would find it easy to provide it. Besides in a few cases where an applicant is filing what appears to be frivolous or repetitive applications, this would be a restraint since it would expose such applicants. If someone is indeed filing requests for the same information repetitively make him pay each time. The constant refrain of some people to highlight ‘misuse’ of RTI is an attempt to muzzle the citizen’s fundamental right. Freedom of speech and media which also are covered under Article 19 (1) (a) have been expanding with time. There is a national debate when a movie is subjected to cuts or people or media are muzzled by government, political class or ruffians. Yet the nation goes along with this big lie of RTI threatening the peace, harmony and integrity of India. If RTI is curbed the day is not far when we will have to give reasons to speak and establish our identity. A person can be defamed by speech or writing. Should we now have a demand to allow only those persons to speak who give reasons and established their identity ? On the other hand RTI can only seek information which exists on records. One of the most problematic statements by the Supreme Court is quoted in many places: “Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties. “ This needs to be contested. The statement “should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens” would be appropriate for terrorists, not citizens using their fundamental right to information. There is no evidence of RTI damaging the nation. As for the accusation of RTI taking up 75% of time, I did the following calculation: By all accounts the total number of RTI applications in India is less than 10 million annually. The total number of all government employees is over 20 million. Assuming a 6 hour working day for all employees for 250 working days it would be seen that there are 30000 million working hours. Even if an average of 3 hours is spent per RTI application (the average is likely to be less than two hours) 10 million applications would require 30 million hours, which is 0.1% of the total working hours. This means it would require 3.2% staff working for 3.2% of their time in furnishing information to citizens. This too could be reduced drastically if computerised working and automatic updating of information was done as specified in Section 4 of the RTI Act. It is unfortunate that the apex court has not thought it fit to castigate public authorities for their brazen flouting of their obligations under Section 4, but upbraided the sovereign citizens using their fundamental right. I would submit that the powerful find RTI upsetting their arrogance and hence try to discredit it by often talking about its misuse. There are many eminent persons in the country, who berate RTI and say there should be some limit to it. It is accepted widely that freedom of speech is often used to abuse or defame people. It is also used by small papers to resort to blackmail. The concept of paid news has been too well recorded. Despite all these there is never a demand to constrict freedom of speech. But there is a growing tendency from those with power to misinterpret the RTI Act almost to a point where it does not really represent what the law says. There is widespread acceptance of the idea that statements, books and works of literature and art are covered by Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution, and any attempt to curb it meets with very stiff resistance. However, there is no murmur when users of RTI are being labelled deprecatingly, though it is covered by the same article of the constitution. Everyone with power appears to say: “I would risk my life for your right to express your views, but damn you if you use RTI to seek information which would expose my arbitrary or illegal actions.“ An information seeker can only seek information on records. We rate amongst the top five in the world in terms of provisions of the law and 66 in terms of implementation. Any amendments or obstructionist acts will push us closer to our low rank in implementation. I would also submit that such frivolous attitude towards our fundamental right is leading to an impression that RTI needs to be curbed and its activists maybe deprecated, attacked or murdered. Shailesh Gandhi http://satyamevajayate.info/2017/08/28/misuse-of-rti/
  19. ashakantasharma

    Judiciary and RTI

    Judiciary and RTI AUGUST 28, 2017 BY SHAILESH GANDHI The Supreme Court of India consistently held from 1975 to 2005 that RTI is a fundamental right of citizens. However certain decisions and pronouncements of the Courts in the last four years could weaken this powerful fundamental right. These should be discussed by RTI users and the legal fraternity: Challenging decisions of the Information Commission and stay orders: The law provides for no appeals against the decisions of the Commission. However these decisions are being challenged in High Courts through writ petitions by many public authorities to deny information to citizens. In most of these cases a stay is obtained ex-parte. At times, Commissions have been stopped from even investigating matters before them. These cases die down as most of the applicants are unable to respond effectively in Courts for lack of resources. There is a need for the court to examine prima facie whether the grounds fall in the writ jurisdiction of a Court, and whether any irreparable harm would befall the petitioner if a stay is not given, since these continue for many years. The Supreme Court has stated many times that an essential requirement for any judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative order is that reasons must be provided. There are a number of High Court orders staying the disclosure of information as per the orders of the information commissions where no reasons are given. Disclosure of Information: The law has strong provisions to ensure disclosure of most information, and lays down in Section 22 that its provisions supersede all earlier laws. It further stipulates that denial of information can only be done based on the provisions of Section 8 or 9. Additionally the onus to justify denial of information is on the PIO in any appeal proceedings. Denial of information should be rare. An analysis of the judgements of the Supreme Court on the RTI Act shows that out of sixteen judgements disclosure of information was ordered only in the judgement mentioned below at number 1. I am giving my comments on three judgements below: 1 In Appeal No. 6454 of 2011 the Court held, “Some High Courts have held that Section 8 of RTI Act is in the nature of an exception to Section 3 which empowers the citizens with the right to information, which is a derivative from the freedom of speech; and that therefore Section 8 should be construed strictly, literally and narrowly. This may not be the correct approach.” I feel the earlier approach where exemptions are interpreted narrowly, since these abridge a fundamental right of citizens. Another strong statement in the said judgment is : ‘Indiscriminate and impractical demands or directions under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information (unrelated to transparency and accountability in the functioning of public authorities and eradication of corruption) would be counter-productive as it will adversely affect the efficiency of the administration and result in the executive getting bogged down with the non-productive work of collecting and furnishing information. The Act should not be allowed to be misused or abused, to become a tool to obstruct the national development and integration, or to destroy the peace, tranquility and harmony among its citizens. Nor should it be converted into a tool of oppression or intimidation of honest officials striving to do their duty. The nation does not want a scenario where 75% of the staff of public authorities spends 75% of their time in collecting and furnishing information to applicants instead of discharging their regular duties.’ A study by RAAG has shown that about 50% of the RTI applications are made since the departments do not discharge their duty under Section 4 of the RTI Act which mqndates disclosure of most of the information suo moto as per the law. About 25% of the applications seek information about citizens trying to obtain their delayed ration cards, progress of their application for various services or complaints of illegal activities for which the government departments should have replied. There is no condemnation of the officers who,- often for not receiving bribes,- do not do their duty, but the citizen using his fundamental right is strongly admonished without any evidence or basis. 2) In the Girish Ramchandra Deshpande judgement given in October 2012 the Court has held that copies of all memos, show cause notices and orders of censure/punishment, assets, income returns, details of gifts received etc. by a public servant are personal information exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act. It further states that these are matters between the employee and the employer, without realising that the employer is the citizen,- the master of democracy,- who provides legitimacy to the government. This judgement appears to have neither legal reasoning, nor a legal principle and is based on concurring with the denial of information by the information commission. The ratio of the R.Rajagopal judgement given by the Supreme Court in 1994 clearly lays down that no claim to privacy can be claimed for personal information on public records by public servants. It appears this judgement was not presented to the Court. In Section 8 (1) (j) there is a proviso ‘that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person”. There is no mention of this proviso in the judgement and no word that the court was satisfied that this information would not be provided to parliament or state legislature. 3) A Madras High Court judgement on 17 September 2014 has caused considerable confusion since it said that citizens must give reasons for seeking information. This was in direct violation of Section 6 (2) of the Act which states,” An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information”. The court realised this mistake in a week and withdrew this observation. This judgement not only violated the RTI Act it was in violation of Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution. I hope the courts will take an active part in expanding the reach and scope of RTI. If they interpret the RTI Act giving more importance to exemptions and widening their scope, this great law may become ‘Right to Denial of Information’. This would be a sad regression for democracy. Shailesh Gandhi RTI activist and Former Central Information Commissioner http://satyamevajayate.info/2017/08/28/judiciary-and-rti/
  20. ashakantasharma

    RTI Success Stories

    RTI File notings helps 70-yr-old uses RTI to get dead son’s records Posted by rtiact2005 on August 5, 2006 70-yr-old uses RTI to get dead son’s records New Delhi, PTI: A 70-year-old woman from Haryana has used the Right To Information Act to gain access to files regarding the pension and other benefits of her son, a Delhi Traffic Police constable who was killed in a road accident over five years ago. A 70-year-old woman from Haryana has used the Right To Information Act to gain access to files regarding the pension and other benefits of her son, a Delhi Traffic Police constable who was killed in a road accident over five years ago. Laxmi Devi of Bhiwani district in Haryana had appealed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) for gaining access to file notings made by authorities on her son’s dossier regarding the payment of terminal benefits totalling about Rs 4 lakh and his family pension. The CIC’s ruling giving her access comes amidst a controversy over a government proposal to amend the RTI Act to prevent the public from viewing most file notings. Laxmi was left penniless after her son Anoop Singh’s death on January 29, 2001 as her daughter-in-law Mamta, who was drawing the family pension, re-married in August 2005, her petition said. Press in INDIA playing into the hands of BABUS and Politicians by not reporting about RTI and it’s effectiveness ? Posted by rtiact2005 on July 23, 2006 hello, we just organised during 18 – 21 july 2006, a four day awareness campaign at Distt head quarter of Juanpur, a small town in eastern UP. when the distt admin knew abt it they suggested that there was no need for such campaihn as the distt admin was itself doing a campaign. but we persisted. and the response was very good. ppl from all over the district flocked the camp whcih was lcoated at the DM office itself. the first two days press gave very good coverage. but next two days there was a complete black out from ALL Newspapers. we have unconfirmed reports from insiders in the press and the distt admin that the distt admin asked the press not to carry our reports as they were having a tough time handling the difficult public questions plus it was leading the ‘babudom’ in trouble. i will post a complete report shortly, regards, sachin agarwal Society for People’s Action Change and Enforcement (SPACE) ph: 94152 55042 : 93350 15366 RTI exposes Janawad scam Posted by rtiact2005 on July 16, 2006 Rajan Mahan http://www.ndtv.com/template/template.asp?category=National&template=Rti&slug=RTI+exposes+Janawad+scam&id=90240&callid=1 Sunday, July 16, 2006 (Rajsamand): RTI has once again helped come to the rescue of people in nailing those responsible for the “mother of all Rural Development scams” in Rajasthan. In the 1990s, the Janawad Panchayat in Rajsamand district began spending over Rs one crore annually the highest among the 9000 panchayats in the state. Over 70 per cent of the money was siphoned off by a corrupt nexus between the Sarpanch and government officials. The scam was not exposed with the help of any sting operation or hidden cameras but by villagers who used their Right to Information to nab the culprits. A government dispensary in the district is at the heart of the scam in Janawad Panchayat. Though it was built in 1960s but in 1998 the then Sarpanch siphoned off nearly Rs two lakh claiming it to be a new building. Compulsory details Two years later the Rajasthan Information Act made it compulsory to display on Panchayat offices the details of all development works. And villagers soon caught the Sarpanch’s corruption. “They never built a new dispensary, they just fudged government records to make this false claim. In reality, this was built about 40 years ago when I used to study in school,” said Chaman Lal, Resident, Janawad village. Using their Information rights over 70 villagers then collectively demanded the records of their Panchayat and the frauds this revealed is truly staggering. Forty-nine out of the 146 works undertaken simply did not exist. The list includes five wells, seven roads and six primary schools, which existed only in government records but were never built on the ground. “The Right to Information is a strong law and people must use it. In Janawad, government officials colluded from top to bottom for their corrupt deals. Similarly, we need to constantly monitor their work and fight collectively if we want to curb corruption,” said Shanker Singh, Coordinator, MKSS. Tough action Once the government took tough action against the corrupt. The Sarpanch was jailed and 13 government officials involved in the scam were suspended. And annual social audits of Panchayat funds were made mandatory. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had once stated frankly that of every rupee of development funds, barely 15 paisa actually reach the poor on the ground. But villagers here have shown that if people fight together, the Right to Information can help change this situation and combat corruption effectively. Khetramani finally gets her land records through RTI – a case successful Posted by rtiact2005 on July 15, 2006 ———- Forwarded message ———- From: nishikanta mohapatra <nishimohapatra@yahoo.co.in> Date: 15-Jul-2006 12:04 Subject: [antibriberycampaign] Khetramani finally gets her land records through RTI – a case successful Khetramani finally gets her land records through RTI Submitted by CYSD, Bhubaneswar Khetramani Samantrai bought a small piece of land near Dhauli, Bhubaneswar from Subha Behera. Karunakar Swain a notary prepared the land deed documents, which was submitted at the District Sub-Register Office (DSO) in Bhubaneswar after completion of the legal formalities. But Khetramani did not receive the original documents in spite of producing the receipt of the deed. Khetramani Samantrai and Karunakar Swain have been constantly visiting the DSO since the last one and a half years but the clerk concerned did not hand over the documents to them. On 13th July 2006 she came to the RTI camp held in CYSD Bhubaneswar, seeking guidance as to how she could redress her grievances using RTI. At the camp, Khetramani was assisted by volunteers in filling up the application for information under section 6 (1). A few volunteers accompanied her to the DSO and approached the head clerk to know the cause of the delay in providing the original documents. The response from the clerk was not very convincing. The case was discussed with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the DSO. When the volunteers insisted in registering the complain through RTI, the PIO intervened and asked the officials to look into the case and produce the land deed papers immediately. The head clerk then produced the document in *15 minutes* and officially handed it over to Khetramani who finally got justice after resorting to the RTI tool. — “From today you have to wear a crown of thorns. Strive ceaselessly to cultivate truth and non-violence. Be humble. Be forbearing. The British rule no doubt put you on your mettle. But now you will be tested through and through. Beware of power; power corrupts. Do not let yourself to be entrapped by its pomp and pageantry. Remember you are in office to serve the poor in Indian villages. May God help you.” – Mahatma Gandhi on August 15, 1947 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL096.PDF Posted in RTI Success Stories | Leave a Comment » Victim’s father exercises RTI Posted by rtiact2005 on July 13, 2006 Victim’s father exercises RTI SURYA Agarwal Lucknow, July 11 http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/5922_1741758,0015002500000005.htm THE AASHIANA rape victim’s father has turned to the Right to Information Act in a bid to pin the accused down. Sabruddin has filed an application at the district magistrate’s office under the Act. He has sought information on whether three of the accused, who are lodged in a juvenile jail, are actually minors. While surrendering in court, the trio had submitted documents which said they were minors. They are on trial in a juvenile court. The rest of the accused are facing trial in the court of the additional district judge. Sabruddin wants to know if the three accused possess arms licences. If these licences have been issued in their names, no other evidence is required to prove that the accused are not juvenile. Sabruddin will also seek information from the Regional Transport Officer’s office on whether driving licences were issued in their names. He said, “They are not juvenile. All the evidence supporting their claim is fake.” The victim, too, had said that the accused were not juvenile. The father, however, feared that influential family members of the main accused could cause obstacles in getting details from the departments concerned. The main accused, nephew of a don-turned ruling party leader, had first surrendered before a court and claimed he was a minor. Earlier, he had obtained a stay against arrest from the High Court. Police investigation and the evidence corroborated that the don’s nephew was the first to abduct the girl from Aashiana area on May 2, 2004. This was confirmed by the victim herself. The car used in the crime was owned by the elder brother of the main accused. The victim had also stated that it was this youth only who was leading a group of goons in the car. The girl was later taken to the Kapoorthala shop of the youth and from there to a plot owned by the family of the main accused. The accused had taken turns on the girl there, too, before throwing her out of the car near Daliganj railway crossing in a semi-unconscious and critically injured state. Posted in RTI Success Stories | Leave a Comment » RTI is very powerfull and effective tool in our hands – So, go ahead and use it Posted by rtiact2005 on July 8, 2006 Take heart, they used RTI to defeat LDA-builder nexus HT Correspondent Lucknow, July 7 http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/5922_1738669,0015002500000000.htm THE BUILDER-LDA nexus is a familiar story. The combine’s invincibility is an equally familiar knowledge. But, it’s not so now. On October 12, 2005 the Right To Information Act (RTIA) was born and an 85-old-woman-grandson duo utilised its lethal power to optimum effect. Ashish’s grandmother had entered into an agreement with M/s Smart Builders for constructing the Gauri Apartments on their Hilton Road land near the Meera Bai Marg. Everything was fine till the builder had violated the agreement. Gauri Apartments was to be a seven-storey building but the promoters had made it into a nine-storey mansion. “We were aghast,” said Ashish. “This would have landed us in big trouble as we had signed documents for seven floors. We found that be it the map, compounding, application or affidavits – all had been forged and submitted to the LDA. So we approached LDA to show and give us original documents. But they refused.” But Ashish was desperate to take the battle to its logical end. He had quits in the US and in Mumbai to be by his grandma’s side and fight the case. From January 2005 till October 2005 Ashish had made umpteen rounds of the LDA office. For obvious reasons, LDA officers did not let him have a look at the documents. “From the chief engineer to the LDA secretary and the V-C, we approached all but none helped,” Ashish said. By then the RTIA had been announced. Ashish was bracing up for another round of battle, this time armed with the newborn Act. Even before the RTIA came into force, Ashish procured a copy of the Act. He studied it well, did his homework and launched the battle afresh. “On October 12, 2005 the RTIA came into force and on that very day I filed an application demanding various documents and information. Ours was the first application under RTI. In fact, all the first 16 applications under RTI were ours. When the 30-day period elapsed after the first application was filed, I reminded LDA of it. That did the trick. The LDA did their best to delay things but eventually gave in bit by bit. Towards the end of November 2005 they had to show me some files,” Ashish told the people who had come to the RTI camp at the Ambedkar Mahasabha office on Vidhan Sabha Marg on Friday. Speaking on the importance of studying the Act properly he said, “Had I not read the RTIA properly they would have fooled me. I would have been happy that they showed me the files. But instead, I asked them to give me copies of the documents. They asked me to pay Rs 3,000. I did. But again they dithered. Finally, they gave me unsigned and unstamped photocopies. But I demanded certified documents. And then finally in first week of December they gave me a lot of documents that I had demanded. On the basis of it, I filed an FIR against the builder.” The increase in the number of floors was not the only anomaly that the builders had managed, they violated other things too, Ashish said. He said when all this was going on, the builder had started giving possession of the flats to the owners. “They did it even when the Fire Department was yet to give its NOC to the building. In fact, the Fire Department had raised objections regarding fire safety standards adopted,” he added. After the duo won their war, a citizen filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the LDA, while Ashish Dixit moved the High Court. Though the story tells what the RTI can do, Ashish could not but resist a comment, “Believe me. RTI is very powerful and an effective tool in our hands.” So, go ahead and use it. Posted in RTI Success Stories | Leave a Comment » Power of RTI : read this : Can have adverse entry on PIO officals PR Posted by rtiact2005 on July 8, 2006 ramesh wasudeo Says: July 8th, 2006 at 10:03 am emy wife’s as well as my income tax assessments were not fianlized for past 6 years although they were filed in time with requisite papers. i realised that my IT file was not complete for overseas travel last year. my CA had been visiting IT office regularly since last year but invariably returned with mere promises. during November 2005, i personally went to ITO and handed over an application givingphotp copesof all past returns with enclosures and requested them to finalize. there was no rssponse since then inspite of visits and enquiry by my CA. i therefore filed and RTI application seeking progress on my letter of november and present status on my past six years assessment. the divisional commissioner told me that if i did not get any intimation during course of next year, my return is deemed accpeted and ITO need not send you assessment order in such cases where there is no discrepancy or recovery. i told hom that during past 6 years, my self and wife had filed 12 returns and except one, all rest 11 returns were filed with demand for refund order and none were received. he then agreed and asked me to hand over my RTI application a inward clerk who was summoned. i followed the clerk to his desk and he placed acknowledgement stamps on my second copy and made entry in his inward register and rose from his chair for lunch. i asked him as to where i can pay Rs.10/- by cash or through court fee stamp that i carried. he said he had no idea and i must meet commissioner again. commissioner called establishment officer who was totally clue less as to how i was to make payment. finally he gave me a contact asst commissioner at aaykar bhawan. at my instance he tore the office copies taht i handed him. then there was wild goose chase. i went to aaykar bhawan and met one of the PIO asst commissioner there. he spent over two hours to find out as to what is the procedure, what is the chalan number and what are the heads of account under which the cash is to be realized by tresury. finally he got me specific challan form xeroxed in his office and after a lond delay, the specific accounts head details for major and minor account. i completed the challan and went to SBI versova only to learn that i must go to RBI alone for deposit. from kewal semlani, i learnt his friend’s number who told me to go to churchgate RBI near nirmala niketan. after waiting for an hour at 1 p.m the accoy=untant opened his cage and accepted my money. he returned two copies of challan duly stamped. next i visited my ITO office and seposited RTI applications with challan and returned. my phone started ringing after two days and the ITOs – there are seperate ITO for me and wife, have been pestering me to visit ITO office ay my convenience. now when i go there, i get the senior OTO to offer me tea and snacks while my assessment is getting finalized. they have lareadt given me to checks totalling 41,000/- for others, they have asked for indemnity bond and some proof like xerox of bank passbook etc. most of atatchments they have lost and are untracable. now they are pleading that i shold withdarw my RTI application as by 11thjuly, fine will commnse on commissioner who is official PIO. he may also get adverse entry in his CR. in next two days, they are finalizing all my claims and issue refund cheques so that i give them discharge. that is the power of RTI. rameshw asudeo. Posted in RTI Success Stories | Leave a Comment » Couple uses RTI for self-empowerment Posted by rtiact2005 on July 8, 2006 Couple uses RTI for self-empowerment http://www.ndtv.com/template/template.asp?template=rti&slug=Couple+uses+RTI+for+self-empowerment&id =89940&callid=1&category=National NDTV Correspondent Watch story Saturday, July 8, 2006 (New Delhi): The Right to Information (RTI) has emerged as a powerful tool that can be used to hold governments accountable. Besides resolving issues of everyday life, it also helps in influencing major government policies. In the continuing series, NDTV tracks the self-empowerment story of Arif and Zamila Banu. “I bought a flat two and a half years back in my wife’s name. After I bought the flat, the builder gave me a copy of the registry. But I found out later that I needed to get a transfer copy and a blueprint for the flat. I went back to the bank officials, but they said that all the papers had been given. “I had prior knowledge of RTI and that is how I filed one in my wife’s name. I sent this RTI to an officer in the RBI. I received a call within five days from the bank. They asked me about the harassment I had faced. I told them everything. After which they told me that I would have all my paper work done by the next day. “Sure enough, by morning, all my papers were with me. With the help of RTI, I broke the nexus of the bankers and builders who were making me run around. I appeal to all my fellow citizens to understand the power of RTI. We must remember that all these government officers are answerable to us,” said Arif. The RTI is being described by most people as one of the most important pieces of legislation, which makes the bureaucracy and government accountable. Posted in RTI Success Stories | Leave a Comment » Spy who came back from Pak jail resorts to RTI Posted by rtiact2005 on July 7, 2006 Spy who came back from Pak jail resorts to RTI Incarcerated in various Pakistani jails for eight years, Kishori Lal Sharma is yet to get any compensation from the government. Raakhi Jagga http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=191643 Ludhiana, July 6: For 61-yr-old Kishori Lal Sharma, a former agent of the Indian military intelligence, the years between 1966-1974 was spent in various jails of Pakistan. Today, he is yet to be compensated. The financial promised by the state government is yet to come. On September 5, 2005, Punjab government had announced that it would provide financial aid for people like Sharma. The money was to be given from the discretionary quota of the Chief Minister within a month.“I submitted my file with all supporting documents on September 9, 2005, to then Deputy Commissioner Anurag Verma. But I’ve not heard anything about my case since. Whenever I ask, the file is untraceable,” says Sharma. “After I had sent my file to the DC office, I was told that it has been forwarded to the secretary, Department of Home Affairs and Justice, Chandigarh. I checked there as well, but they told me that they are not aware of any such file.” Finally on Tuesday, he filed an application under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, asking the Deputy Commissioner about the status of his case. Sharma did this through the group of youngsters who have organised a 15-day RTI awareness camp at Model Town Extension. Jaskirat Singh, the coordinator of the RTI campaign in the city, told Newsline: “We have asked the first appellant (DC) to tell the status of the case and the dispatch number of the file, when it was forwarded to Chandigarh.” “I am a trained automobile engineer and was assigned the task of finding out the faults in the tanks supplied to Pakistan by China in the aftermath of the 1965 war. But I was caught in 1966 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment,” Sharma says. In 1974, however, he was released under the Simla Agreement along with a few others. “I was just 32 and got married four years later. In jail, I had to bear all sorts of tortures. But they don’t let you die.” Sharma started work in a private firm and now lives in BRS Nagar. But the government “did not provide any financial help since then and at 32 I had to make a fresh start. I was lucky. Because of my professional qualifications, I managed to get a job. But even after the announcement by CM in September, 2005, nothing has happened. Perhaps RTI can be a ray of hope for me.” The RTI awareness camp has entered its sixth day. Till date, over 50 complaints have been received pertaining to the DC office, MC, SSP, income tax department, PUDA, DTO, Chief Secretary, Punjab and many other departments. Apart from Ludhiana, a few complainants had come from Jalandhar and Amritsar as well, said Jaskirat Singh. Posted in RTI Success Stories | 2 Comments » The TN Right to Information Awareness Campaign Posted by rtiact2005 on July 5, 2006 From: Guru Subbaraman <guru.subbaraman@gmail.com> Reply-To: chennairti@googlegroups.com To: chennairti@googlegroups.com Date: Jul 3, 2006 10:50 AM Subject: The TN Right to Information Awareness Campaign. Hi, The national RTI awareness campaign titled “Drive Against Bribe” has started and will go on till July 15. Information about this campaign can be found at www.rightoinformation.org . The Tamil Nadu campaign will begin on Monday, the 10th of July. Around 45 organizations in 19 districts will work together in this campaign. We will soon update all information related to this campaign on our blog/website. We encourage all of you to step forward and volunteer for a few hours during the two weeks of the campaign. Regards, Guru Posted in RTI Success Stories | 2 Comments » https://right2information.wordpress.com/category/rti-success-stories/
  21. ashakantasharma

    Rs 56,000 for information under RTI

    Seeking information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act can be costly at times. Especially when you are asked to cough up as much as Rs 56,000 for some information, you would probably think again before using the Act. Advocate Vinod Sampat, too, was shocked when he was asked by the Andheri Land Records office to pay an amount of Rs 56, 268 to get information on the structures located on collector’s land across the city. Sampat had made an application on September 21 to inquire about it. He needed the accurate information to be part of the reference books he is writing on property matters. “I wanted information on such properties because buying properties situated on collector’s land costs an extra amount,” said Sampat. “However, I was shocked to see the amount asked by the Andheri office,” he said. And the amount was asked only for information on the properties situated under the jurisdiction of Andheri office. A shocked Sampat wrote to the Chief Information Commissioner Suresh Joshi, on Wednesday, asking him to ascertain the amount demanded from him. He also wrote to the Land Records Officer, Andheri, MT Ingle seeking a clarification on how the amount was arrived. As per RTI rules, Rs 2 per page is demanded to provide information. “That means they were giving me 28,000 pages as information,” said an amused Sampat. He said that if his queries were not answered, he would file an appeal with the appellate authority. When contacted, Ingle said he had charged Sampat according to the rates specified by the state government and the revenue department. Joshi said that in such cases, it is better for the applicants to ask for the inspection of the files so that they can pin-point the actual documents needed. They can also come in appeal to the commission, he said. “The information officers can charge rates only as prescribed by the state government and in this case, it is found that the concerned officer is trying to willfully mislead the people, strict action will be taken,” he added. However, Sampat said that the inspection point should have been mentioned in the letter, “instead of just frightening the applicant by demanding such an astronomical amount.” “Do you believe that the Land Records office must have counted all the 28,000 pages?” http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1833687,0008.htm https://right2information.wordpress.com/category/rti-cases/
  22. ashakantasharma

    RTI Success Stories - Vikaspedia.in

    This village has finally tasted the power of RTI: For about two years, Suvarana Bhagyawant made rounds of the panchayat office to get her grandfather's death certificate. Every time, the official there would tell her to come later or pay a bribe of Rs 500 to get the work done. Suvarana, a resident of the Ambhegaon village, needed the certificate so that her grandmother could apply for the widow pension scheme. Finally, Suvarana filed a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. She got the certificate within eight days. "This piece of paper is like a weapon for the powerless to fight against corrupt establishment,'' says Suvarana, pointing to an RTI application. For the villagers of Ambhegaon, the RTI Act has come as long-awaited rain in a drought-prone area. Today, we tell the officials that if they do not look at our problems, we will file an RTI query,'' says Archana Bhagyawant. She was forced to file an RTI query after the officer demanded a bribe of Rs 150 for the issuance of a new ration card. "I waited for a year and finally when I filed an RTI query, I got it within three weeks. The sarpanch personally delivered it at my home,'' said Archana. Suvarana and Archana are part of a unique initiative begun by the Public Concern for Governance Trust (PCGT)-in partnership with the Bahujan Hitay Trust-that aims to improve the quality of lives in villages in Kalyan by using RTI. Voices raised over the issue of overcrowding of jails through RTI: UP jails are overcrowded. Jails in the state lodge prisoners far more in number than they can accommodate comfortably. What makes it a case of human rights violation is that more than half of the prisoners in the different jails of the state are under trials. Out of 81,027 prisoners lodged in various jails of the state, 55,460 (more than 60%) are under trials. Many of them have been behind bars for much more number of years than what the punishment for their offence would have allowed. The response to an RTI query by national working committee member, NCPRI, Raja John Bunch, by IG (prisons) showed that the total number of prisoners lodged in state jails is more than the maximum population of prisoners that each of the jail can support. In March 2013, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a notice to the Centre and all states giving them five weeks' time to respond to a PIL which said that 64.7% of the total prison population of the country comprises of under trials. There are about 2.41 lakh under trials in Indian prisons. SC issued the notice to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) as well and 'urged it to intervene and direct government to frame a policy to grant bail to prisoners facing trial for offences in which punishment ranges between three and seven years.' “Sir, did you get a cut on my dam?” The agriculture department official told Banabai Kumre that nothing would come of her complaint of corruption, because he had already paid hush money to the district collector and the chief minister. So the septuagenarian did what she thought was best: she went to Mumbai and asked the Maharashtra’s chief minister if he had received a cut on the check dam on her land. Banabai hails from village Kharula in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Banabai’s family of six barely managed to make ends meet. Though her extended family of more than 20 owned a farm as big as 10 hectares, only parts of it were cultivable where they grew jowar, pulses and paddy. But their routine was upset in early June this year when a check dam flooded after a spell of heavy rains. The rushing waters destroyed the seedlings on Banabai’s land. The dam was not very old. It was constructed barely a year ago. Banabai decided to report the matter to the agriculture department’s office at Yavatmal tehsil. After all Rs 3 lakh was spent under the prime minister’s relief package for constructing the dam. An inspection team of the department visited the site on June 16,2008. It confirmed Banabai’s allegations that inferior quality material was used to construct the dam. Fearing consequences, the supervisor with the agriculture department, who was involved with the construction of the dam, went to Banabai’s house and unleashed a volley of threats. He accused her of breaking the dam and told her that he had “fixed” all higher ups. Unfazed, Banabai filed a second complaint with the district collector, mentioning the supervisor's threats and demanded that the official be suspended. She alleged that only Rs 1 lakh had been spent on the dam, instead of the officially sanctioned Rs 3 lakh. She also alleged that instead of black soil, murum (a local variety of thick gravel) was used to construct the dam. But there was no action. So Banabai went back to the collector’s office on July 1, and asked him directly, “ Tumhi paise khalle ka (did you take a bribe)?” The collector was initially speechless. But within moments his team was in a hustle. An inspection team was dispatched immediately to the check dam site.The memory of that day is precious to Banabai. “The inspection team and I had to travel by the collector’s own lal divyachi gadi’ (official vehicle with a red lamp), because there was no other vehicle at the collectorate at that time,” she says with a smile. The team’s findings confirmed Banabai’s allegations. With media support, Yavatmal district’s panchayat Samiti resolution supporting Banabai’s demand and intervention of the Chief Minister, action was taken against the supervisor. Better Road for Bagepalli Bagepalli is a small town 100kms north of Bangalore with tree lined, tarmac roads. That was until one day, the government officials thought Bagepalli would be better off with double roads & street lights. Road works began in March 2005. Markings were done unprofessionally; dividers were built even before the roads were made making traffic movement haphazard, causing many accidents and deaths. Thankfully for Bagepalli in November, Sakshi Trust presented an RTI workshop that Toufeeq a staffer from ADATS (An NGO), had attended. Towfeeq then used RTI to find out the real story of Bagepalli’s roads. He says, “nearly Rs 1.32 crores were sanctioned for the road but no work was done. Of this 1.32 crores, 1.15 crores was shown as spent in response to my RTI application. WE finally went and confronted the JE with the information he had and he apologized and promised to fix the road. Thanks to RTI the road work is finally being completed.” Toufeeq is now a RTI trainer and conducts RTI training is vernacular languages like Kannada and Telugu. Official fined Rs 18,000 under Info Act In the second incident of penalising an erring officer under the Right to Information Act in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) T N Shrivastava fined Morena District Woman and Child Development Officer (DWCDO) Sajan Aluna for failing to provide information sought under the Act within the time limit and not abiding by the appellate officer's order. The CIC imposed the fine of Rs 18,000 after not being satisfied with the explanation given by Mrs Aluna, who was earlier given show cause notice on the second appeal by Mr Balwant Singh Haihayavanshi, who had sought certain information from the department on December 31,2005. The Act came into force on October 12,2005. The DWCDO rejected the application on the ground that the applicant had been suspended after preliminary inquiry. On an appeal, the Morena District Collector directed the DWCDO to provide copies of the document on payment as the applicant had not sought any confidential document. After dillydallying on one pretext or the other, the DWCDO allowed the applicant to deposit Rs 1200 to provide copies of the documents. The second appeal was made as the required documents were not supplied. The Chief Information Commissioner found Mrs Aluna's conduct as ''unfortunate'' and directed to provide the required documents within seven days. A fortnight ago, Tahsildar R S Chouhan of Gyaraspur in Vidisha district was fined Rs 25,000 for refusing to provide copies of land transfer deed to an applicant under the Right to Information Act. Rajasthan villagers use RTI to end woes Besides losing dealership, the ration shopkeeper was also forced to pay poor families in the village over Rs Four lakh, the cash equivalent of the grains he had sold illegally. Revat Ram and his friends used the Act to get all records of their ration shop in Himmatsar village and by exposing how grains meant for the poor were being black-marketed at a ration shop in Bikaner district. After the move the villagers got the dealer removed. ‘’Earlier we used to be afraid that if we speak against the Sarpanch, he will not give us jobs under drought relief. But now we feel bolder and think that through the new law we can put an end to his frauds,” said a local resident. And now it seems people across Rajasthan are keen to use their information rights. Bunglings have led to 15 sarpanches being removed and a dozen officials suspended. Karnataka villagers insist on Right to Food People in Rural Karnataka have combined the campaigns for the Right to Information and the Right to Food to fight hunger. Poor villagers have successfully participated in social audits and public hearings to demand that the rations due to them are allotted to them at the correct prices. "They were not giving us our monthly rations. We complained, and the officials invited us for a meeting. Now we get rice at Rs 3 wheat at Rs 2 a kg," says Chandramma, a member of the self help group in the Chennagiri Village. "There are nine programmes of food security, but people did not know about them. We staged street theatres and conducted public hearings to spread awareness," says K B Roopa Naik, Channagiri Taluka, Davangere. Positive fallout of the public hearing has been the marked improvement in the quality of food grains which is now being supplied in the villages."After a week of public hearing the people got ration cards and new ration shops were opened," says N M Muthappa, Right to Food Campaign, Karnataka."For the first time women were confident enough to ask why they were not being given rice and wheat at the correct price. This movement must spread to every village and every taluka," says Seetamma, President of the self-help group in Davangere. It can now be hoped that the new tools of empowerment will enable the people to ask tough questions and demand answers as well as action. http://vikaspedia.in/e-governance/about-rti-act-2005/rti-news-update http://cic.gov.in/
  23. 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. 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? 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) • How religious in the governor ? • How much ‘paan’ do MCD officials really chew ? • 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? • 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? • 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' • 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
  24. ashakantasharma

    Attacks on RTI activists in India

    Many Right to Information Act (RTI) activists, including policemen, have been harassed and even murdered for seeking information to "promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority" in India. Many face assaults on a regular basis. People seeking information from their gram panchayat and the local administration also face social ostracism. A few activists who sought information under RTI related to MNREGA scams, were killed.[1][2][3] Many threats and attacks (including murder) go unreported by the media.[4][5] Media reports of more than 300 instances of attacks on or harassment of citizens and at least 51 murders and five suicides can be linked to information sought under The Right to Information Act. Maharashtra followed by Gujarat tops the list for states with the most attacks on RTI users.[6] RTI activists are vulnerable human rights defenders (HRDs) in India. Unlike other HRDs, a majority of the RTI activists are not part of an organisation; they often act alone, moved by anger at corruption and other illegal activities. RTI activists are vulnerable because they live in the same areas as public authorities and political leaders who do not want information about their activities to be disclosed. For the most part, human rights defenders receive media attention only when killed or seriously injured. When complaints are made by RTI activists, law enforcement personnel (who often work with corrupt officials) do not take appropriate action. The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides inadequate protection to whistleblowers. The Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are not mandated to deal with such threats or attacks or to provide protection when needed.[7] Attacks on RTI users have not ceased despite directions from several information commissions and state governments to protect them from harm. While RTI activism became an industry, attacks on RTI activists followed. The number of such attacks now number hundreds and dozens have been killed. Lalit Mehta was exposing a NREGA scam and was killed in 2008. Satish Shetty was exposing land scams in Maharashtra and was stabbed to death in 2010. In the same year Amit Jethwa was shot in the Ahmedabad High Court complex. He was exposing a mining scam. There are many such stories which talk of the bravery of RTI activists. SO WHY THERE IS NO PROTECTION FROM THE GOVERNMENT ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attacks_on_RTI_activists_in_India
  25. Is RTI also applicable in states of Jammu & Kashmir ?
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