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  1. Reported by Atimes.com on November 30, 2017 Political funding in India all set to be less transparent | Asia Times The Aam Aadmi Party, (AAP) a regional party which is in power in Delhi state, has just received a notice from the Income tax Department alleging that it had “incorrectly disclosed hawala money as voluntary donations”. Hawala is a colloquial Indian term for the informal and illegal transfer of cash across borders. The IT Department has raised a demand for Rs 300 million in taxes, upon the sum of Rs 680 million which AAP declared it had received in the fiscal year, 2014-15. Political parties in India are supposed to receive 100 per cent exemption from tax under Section 13A of the Income Tax Act. But parties have to file income tax returns, along with the details of every entity that has contributed over Rs 20,000. The AAP’s leaders have responded angrily to the IT notice, saying that this is a “vindictive” attempt on the part of the BJP, which rules at the Center, to use government agencies to harass the AAP. The AAP has also pointed out that national parties such as the BJP and the INC receive far more in the way of funding from “unknown sources”. Indeed, the reported financials of India’s two largest national parties do indicate vast amounts coming from anonymous sources. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), an NGO working for electoral and political reforms, has released many reports analyzing the nature of political funding. Big Spending, Low Transparency According to the ADR analysis for 2015-16 (April 2015-March 2016), the BJP declared Rs 5.708 billion in total income for 2015-16. As much as Rs 4.6 billion (81% ) came from unknown sources. The INC declared Rs 2.615 billion in total income and received Rs 1.86 billion (71 %) from unknown sources. Anonymous funding is possible due to a loophole in tax-reporting norms. Until March 31, 2017, political parties could receive cash donations of up to Rs 20,000 per donation from anonymous sources. This meant that in effect, large cash donations could be broken up into multiples of Rs 20,000 and entered anonymously. Political observers claim that this mode of “book-cooking” is standard practice. Campaign expenditure is believed to be the biggest sinkhole for black money in the Indian economy. Hundreds of billions are spent in every General Election, much of it on buying local goons, as well as on the gratification of voters by offers of cash and liquor. The Center for Media Studies, a Delhi-based NGO estimated that around Rs 300 billion was spent in the General Election of 2014 . This is orders of magnitude more than the officially declared expenditure of all parties and candidates. This CMS estimate includes Rs 35 billion which was spent by the Election Commission. The major political parties declared that they spent only about Rs 17 billion in campaigning. The BJP claims that it spent Rs 7.1 billion while the INC stated that it spent around Rs 5.2 billion. Individual candidates could also spend up to an official personal limit of Rs 7 million, in addition to party expenditure (which has no mandated upper limit). Mysterious Changes The last Union Budget in February introduced two clauses that could change the nature of political funding. One was cosmetic. The Budget lowered the limit for anonymous donations to Rs 2,000. As cynics pointed out, this would mean a little more work for accountants, who would have to break up large cash donations into smaller fractions. The second change was puzzling, given that it was touted as a move towards transparency. The Budget introduced the concept of “election bonds” a new financial instrument, which would allow corporates to donate anonymously to political parties. What’s more, the Budget amended Company Law to remove a cap on corporate donations to political parties. Eight months into the fiscal, further details about the nature of the proposed bonds are unavailable. Right To Information (RTI) requests for information have been stonewalled with various departments of the Ministry of Finance, the RBI and the Election Commission denying that they have any information to furnish. Under the previous tax regime, a corporation could not donate more than 7.5 per cent of the average net profit of the past three years to political parties. Corporations had to declare the quantum of political donations and the recipients of those donations in their audited balance sheets. This was a fairly transparent system. Under the new rules, corporations can donate as much as they choose, to any party. They also don’t have to disclose the recipients. The instrument for this is a bearer bond, which is to be issued by the RBI. A corporation can buy these election bonds and transfer them to the political party of choice, which can then encash these instruments. This scheme would make the process of donation completely opaque to citizens. It would also encourage the setting up of shell companies purely as vehicles to funnel political donations. Under this system it would be unclear to citizens which corporate donated how much, to which party. However, the RBI will have to oversee this instrument, which would be processed through the banking system. Hence, the RBI would be aware of the identity of both donor and recipient. Opposition politicians and Right To Information activists say that this, in effect would mean that only the ruling party would have access to this information via its control of government agencies. That is a situation, which could lend itself to obvious abuse. Assuming this system gets off the ground, it could remove all transparency and completely skew access to funding in future elections.
  2. Read the related news article at: Shri Radha Krishna Mathur CIC delivers 25th CVC lecture on the topic RTI Act for Transparency and Accountability - newkerala news #293398
  3. PIOs and FAAs are designated officers by Public Authorities and have to discharge their duties independently under RTI Act-2005. (1) Under RTI Act-2005 is it permissible to put their designations as well while replying RTI applications or sending orders? (2) As the powers of parent designation have not to be invoked while discharging their obligations as PIOs and FAAs why they add their designations, is it permissible. Let us bring accountability and transparency while seeking info under RTI Act-2005.
  4. Activists are warrior in today’s time they are fighting the war with the corrupt officers without gun and sharp weapons but not without giving lives. It is a well-known fact that around 65 RTI activist have lost their lives in India while bringing accountability and transparency in system.Beside deaths, activists have to face the mental torture and harassment by corrupt officer. Read more at: https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/towards-transparency/266778.html Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  5. I witnessed SHO of Police Station calling my friend regarding a civil dispute. First SHO is not suppose to conduct Kangaroo courts in PS as per the Govt order.SHO again cannot call parties to PS wherein already a case is under trial in court.Further,SHO abused and threatened my friend and asked him to settle the dispute in PS.An office staff working at SSP office influenced the SHO to conduct Kangaroo court and settle the dispute in his favour.The office staff sat at PS along with SHO and threatened us to settle the dispute.We immediately filed an oral complaint with the superiors and recorded the same. All these has happened without the knowledge of SSP who happens to be the FAA I filed an RTI the very next day seeking CCTV footage for all the installations for the day on which the issue occurred. SHO has replied that " CCTV was installed in PS for transparency in operation of PS and its staff,to make the police more responsible,to eradicate corruption and to protect the Government secrets held at PS.Henceforth, at any cost I will not provide CCTV Footage" No sections quoted, They have installed 4 camera's out of which one is an outdoor camera at the entrance. The PIO received the above stated reply from SHO and forwarded it to me. CCTV footage will clearly indicate that office staff of SSP and SHO conducting kangaroo courts.They deliberately denied the footage. Looking for help on grounds of appeal. PIL says install CCTV cameras in police stations | Chennai News - Times of India
  6. As head of the TV Today Network's research and RTI cell, I filed some 100-odd requests with various central ministries over the past three months to get answers to some basic questions. The replies I received manifest a systemic departure from transparency - the centrepiece of the landmark legislation. Read more at: How I found government is withholding information and rendering RTI Act useless
  7. Read the related news article at: https://www.livelaw.in/transparency-collegium-strengthens-independence/ Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  8. When 1st Appealhas been disposed where in the FAA dittos the ("false info") reply -info not available. This leads to filing of 2nd Appeal and for which date ofhearing has been already fixed. A new PIO, 4 days before the hearing of 2ndAppeal sends a letter to the applicant, attaching some info (veracity of whichis yet to be established, that the applicant is doing separately) stating thathe found the requested info. Copy of this letter is submitted to the Commissionon the date of hearing. The Appellant was not present during the hearing andwho had already (timely) submitted a request to the Information Commission todefer the date of hearing by one week as the appellant would be out of stn. andrequested him specifically to hear him before disposing the appeal (copy ofthis request was also endorsed to the PIO & FAA) . However, the IC disposedthe 2nd Appeal without providing opportunity of being heard to the Appellant.Latter on speaking to the IC, it was learnt that the application of defermentwas not put in record due to clerical error? (LESSON LEARNT - I SHOULD NOT HAVEENDORSED THIS COPY TO PIO & FAA, anyway). Now I have following fundamental queries : (1) Under what provisions of RTI Act-2005 the PIO can send info on whichalready the FAA has dittoed the PIO's reply that info does not exist (mind youthe FAA has performed Quasi-judicial duty, and his disposal of 1st appeal hasreached finality). He did not gave any directions to the PIO to search andreply to the appellant. (The New PIO in fact contradicts the false info givenby the earlier PIO and the FAA). Since the FAA dittoed the PIO's false info,the 2nd Appeal was filed and disposed off as above. As an information seeker, I am not only interested in obtaining info but, aminterested also in that the Public Authorities become pro-active in providinginfo to the applicants and un-necessary 1st Appeals & 2nd Appeals gets avoided.The corner stone of RTI ACt-2005 is "to promote transparency &accountability in the working of every public authority". This cannot beachieved when the PIOs & FAA's do not adhere to the provisions of the RTIAct-2005, already Section 5(3) enjoins responsibility on every PIO to"render reasonable assistance to persons seeking info". So if thePIO's and FAA's act contrary to the provisions of RTI Act-2005, should the informationseeker sit quiet once by his persistence he gets info?
  9. [h=1]Maintain daily order sheet: Delhi High Court directs CIC[/h] New Delhi, Mar 31 (PTI) Delhi High Court has directed the Central Information Commission to maintain daily order sheets following complaints that while appellants contentions were agreed upon during hearing, these were dismissed when final orders are passed by the transparency panel. "Since the CIC is a quasi-judicial body, this Court was also of the view that its records must reflect a true and correct state of affairs. Even the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Fruit Merchant Union vs Chief Information Commissioner and Others...had directed the State Information Commission to maintain daily order sheets," Justice Manmohan said in his order. Read more at: Maintain daily order sheet: Delhi High Court directs CIC : PTI feed, News - India Today
  10. Read the related news article at: CIC Calls for Greater Transparency in Bank, Insurance Exams - The Wire
  11. Read the related news article at: Govt depts, ministries may soon be ranked for transparency record | India News - Times of India
  12. Read the related news article at: Transparency Has Taken a Backseat Under Modi Rule, Says RTI Activist - The Wire
  13. On Friday, the Supreme Court collegium said it would upload its decisions on the appointment and transfer of judges of the apex court and High Courts on the Supreme Court’s website. These details would be available as collegium resolutions. This is the first significant step towards opening up a process heavily criticised for its opaqueness. The criticism had grown after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission as unconstitutional in 2015. The National Judicial Appointments Commission was proposed as a replacement for the collegium, which is made up of the chief justice of India and the top court’s four most senior judges. In contrast, the Commission included the chief justice of India, the Supreme Court’s two most senior judges, the law minister, and two “eminent persons” – who would be nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The idea behind it was to make appointments to the higher judiciary more transparent. The collegium’s decisions were a closely-guarded secret and beyond public scrutiny. They were also kept out of the purview of the Right to Information Act. The collegium’s decision on Friday to make its resolutions public comes 11 days after Justice Jayant Patel of the Karnataka High Court resigned in the wake of his transfer to the Allahabad High Court, which cost him the chance to become chief justice in the southern state. Senior lawyers such as Dushyant Dave have alleged that the reason Patel was sidelined was because he had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry in the Ishrat Jahan case – in which the college student from Maharashtra was deemed a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and shot dead by the Gujarat Police allegedly in a staged encounter in 2004. The names of several of its top officials cropping up in the investigation had embarrassed the Gujarat government, which was then led by Narendra Modi as chief minister. The Supreme Court’s transparency move is also expected to lead to demands that the government make public its role in the judicial appointment process. The collegium sends its recommendations to the Centre, which can send them back for reconsideration. However, the collegium has the final say in the matter. Read the related news article at: SC collegium makes decisions on judges’ appointments public, two years after it struck down NJAC
  14. [h=1]CIC Pulls up Child Rights Protection Body for Refusing to Reveal Basic Information[/h] [h=3]The Central Information Commission said the questions raised before the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights were in “public interest”.[/h] The Central Information Commission (CIC) has called into question the conduct of the chief public information officer (CPIO) and of a consultant and an adviser at the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), for denying information to an appellant, Ajit Kumar Singh, about the the number of complaints received by the panel, the decisions in the cases where the accused were found guilty and the relief that was granted to them. While the NCPCR’s mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the child rights perspective as enshrined in the constitution of India and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the denial of information by the commission has raised doubts about the transparency of the organisation. Read More: CIC Pulls up Child Rights Protection Body for Refusing to Reveal Basic Information - The Wire
  15. In a verdict widening the ambit of the Right To Information Act, the Delhi high court has declared that Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports concerning cases of corruption and human rights violation fall under the transparency law. These can be disclosed under the RTI Act, as long as they don't affect core security and intelligence operations of security agencies. Read more at: IB: IB files on graft can be disclosed under RTI: HC | India News - Times of India
  16. Shrinking Transparency: Why? An Open Letter To MoS. Dr Jitendra Singh By Commodore Lokesh Batra Respected Hon’ble Minister, Greetings, 1. Sir, today it is exactly one year since Government invited applications for the “Appointment of two Information Commissioners (ICs)” in the ‘Central Information Commission (CIC)’, vide DoPT reference... Read more at: Shrinking Transparency: Why? An Open Letter To MoS. Dr Jitendra Singh By Commodore Lokesh Batra | Live Law
  17. The SC barred access of the video footage to lawyers, litigants and general public through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. "We may make it clear that footage of the CCTV cameras will not be available under the RTI Act and will not be supplied to anyone without the permission of the concerned high court. Installation may be completed within three months from today," the bench ordered. Read more at: SC takes first step towards video recording of court trial | India News - Times of India
  18. As reported at ptinews.com on 31 July, 2009 New Delhi, Jul 31 (PTI) The Central Information Commission has ruled that political parties are not covered under the Right to Information Act. Dismissing a petition of an RTI applicant, the CIC said political parties could not be covered under the Act just because they are provided government subsidies like premises at prime locations and free airtime for media broadcast during elections among others. "Even under Section 2 (h) (of the RTI Act) simply concessions provided to any private agency by Government cannot be construed as that agency being owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by Government," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said while rejecting a petition filed by RTI applicant Balwant Singh Khera. Khera who hails from Hoshiarpur in Punjab has sought some information from 12 political parties including Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM among others but did not got any answer from them. Source: fullstory
  19. I was reading an article which is mentioned below - The whole system is playing pass - pass on question whether Political parties should come under RTI Act In RTI Act 2005 Public authorities will come under rti is mentioned and all parties are public organisation and they should come under RTI But please see following article than The Indian Express Published:August 25, 2015 12:45 am The government has opposed in Supreme Court a plea to bring political parties under the ambit of RTI Act, saying this would adversely impact their internal working and political functioning. Submitting an affidavit, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has said the Central Information Commission (CIC) erroneously ruled in June 2013 that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act and, hence, are accountable under the transparency law. “If political parties are held to be public authorities under RTI Act, it would hamper their smooth internal working, which is not the objective of the RTI Act and was not envisaged by Parliament. Further, it is apprehended that political rivals might file RTI applications with malicious intentions, adversely affecting their political functioning,” the affidavit stated. The DoPT claimed that the CIC had made a “very liberal” interpretation of RTI Act, “leading to an erroneous conclusion” that political parties are public authorities. In its judgment, the CIC had said political parties should be held accountable under the RTI Act since their constitution was akin to setting up a body by the government and they also performed public functions after availing various financial aid and concessions by the Centre. But this judgment remained on paper and the parties did not comply with the mandate of RTI Act. Complaining non-compliance, applicants Subhash Chandra Aggarwal and Anil Bairwal of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) approached the CIC which, in March, directed the DoPT to take action. ADR and Aggarwal moved a PIL in Supreme Court, seeking a declaration that political parties are public authorities and should disclose details of income and expenditure for public scrutiny. A bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu issued notice in July and the DoPT filed an affidavit last Friday, stating RTI Act never envisaged to bring political parties under its ambit. It said the CIC was wrong in its judgment since political parties cannot be termed as public authorities because they are formed neither under the Constitution nor under any law of Parliament. Performance of public duty is also not a condition mentioned under the law for defining a body as a public authority, it stated. About checks on financial transactions of parties, the DoPT said there were provisions under the Representation of the People Act and the Income Tax Act, fastening a liability on them to make sufficient disclosure regarding income and expenditure. Adequate provisions for explanations and penalties, it claimed, were also stipulated under these Acts and that Election Commission places all requisite information on its website. These provisions ensure adequate transparency in financial aspects of a political party, the DoPT said. With a view to “annul the adverse effects of the erroneous conclusion by the CIC,” the government said, a Bill was introduced in 2013 to amend the RTI Act so as to specifically exclude political parties from the definition of public authority but it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014. My request to all website users is to please suggest something on What can we do to bring political parties under RTI . Recent newspaper article --- The CIC has postponed the hearing by its newly constituted bench of complaints against political parties for not adhering to its order to function within the ambit of the RTI Act after a complainant alleged that it was not set up "properly and legally". Noted lawyer and activist R K Jain has objected to the manner in which the earlier three-member bench headed by Sridhar Acharyulu was dissolved without assigning any reason and a new four-member bench was constituted by Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur. Jain -- who is a petitioner in complaints filed against six national parties -- the BJP, the Congress, the CPM, the CPI, the BSP and the NCP -- has cited several verdicts of the Supreme Court and High Courts to buttress his claim that the new bench did not conform to courts' directives in various cases. After the submissions were received, a meeting was called by the Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur where it was decided to defer the hearing scheduled for August 16 till legal opinion was taken. In the file notings related to postponement of the hearing it was recorded, "It seems appropriate to seek legal opinion in the matter. The hearing by the bench in the matter may be postponed till a view is taken in the matter." A full Bench of the Commission had brought six national parties-- the Congress, the BJP, the NCP, the CPI, the CPM and the BSP under the ambit of the RTI Act on 3 June, 2013. But these parties did not adhere to directives of the Commission and did not respond to RTI applications filed by Jain and other activists including Subhash Agrawal. Jain filed a complaint against these parties with the Commission. Not getting a hearing, he approached the Delhi High Court which directed the CIC to complete the hearing within six months. On July 22, 2016, a three-member Bench headed by Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu started hearing the matter and Bimal Julka, one of its members, decided to recuse himself citing workload in December last year. After his recusal, Mathur had put the matter in abeyance. No member of the bench headed by Acharyulu, which had heard the matter for nearly five months, has found a place on the new panel. Earlier, Acharyulu was taken off cases pertaining to the Ministry of Human Resource Development after he ordered disclosure of academic records of the BA course of Delhi University of 1978, the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is understood to have passed the examination. In his objection submitted to the Commission, Jain said the Chief Information Commissioner has no power under the RTI Act to dissolve an already constituted full bench of three information commissioners and form a fresh bench without assigning or recording any reason. He said that none of the members on the new bench possesses legal qualification and experience in the legal field which goes against the directives of the Supreme Court in a separate matter related to the RTI Act. "The full bench of three Information Commissioners, which has been dissolved, was presided by M S Acharyulu who is a legally qualified person being LL.M. and with experience in the legal field, while the present four-member bench constituted in place thereof, does not comprise any member who possesses legal qualifications and experience in the field of law," Jain claimed. It is against the apex court directives, he added. Citing a Gujarat High Court verdict, he said Chief Justice of the High Court cannot constitute a larger Bench unless the matter is referred to him by a competent bench. He said none of the members of the three-member bench has referred the matter back to the Chief Information Commissioner, hence, he has no jurisdiction to constitute a larger bench of four Information Commissioners.
  20. By Inayat Anaita Sabhikhi in Thewire.in on 17/08/2017 Understanding the Difference Between Public Service Delivery and Right to Grievance Redress At present, there is some confusion over the differences between the right to public service delivery and the right to grievance redress. Over 20 states of varying political dispositions have passed service delivery laws. Only Bihar has passed a grievance redress law. At the national level, there is no law governing the delivery of services or the redressal of grievances. The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of Grievances Bill, advocated by the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information, sought to address this legislative gap. This Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 and subsequently lapsed. According tonews reports, the present government plans to introduce a Delivery of Services and Grievances Redressal Scheme – 2015 and not a legal entitlement to redress. This legislation is often equated with the public service delivery laws in states. On the surface, there are similarities between the two, which gives rise to the confusion. Both relate to the timely delivery of public services by government agencies, both have digitised databases, appellate mechanisms and penalties on erring officials. However, there are critical differences in the fundamental architecture. Bihar is the only state to have both laws, a Bihar Right to Public Services Act, 2011 and Bihar Right to Public Grievance Redressal Act, 2015. Understanding the distinction is crucial to understanding and advocating for greater accountability of government in the delivery of public services. Timely service versus timely redressal of a complaint The right to a service, under the Public Services Act, is defined as the designated public servant providing a notified service within a time limit. So for example, the law notifies that pension applications are to be processed by the block development officer (BDO) within 21 days. This means that when I file an application for an old age pension, I have statutory backing that the application has to be processed within three weeks. However, if I don’t get it on time, have to pay a bribe, or I feel the pension is too low, these issues are not covered there. The right to public grievance redressal, on the other hand, means the right to file a complaint, for it to be heard, to be redressed and to get information about the decision of redressal within a time frame. So if the postmaster siphoned off my pension money, then I can file a complaint under the Public Grievance Redressal Act and expect redress within the time frame of 60 days. Restricted versus universal As a citizen I have a legal right under the Public Service Act only if I am eligible for a particular service. But any citizen can use a Grievance Redress Act. Given that the bulk of issues on welfare benefits relate to wrongful exclusion, this is an important distinction to note. For example, if I have lost my below poverty line card and cannot demonstrate eligibility for an old age pension, I have no legal recourse under the Public Services Act. However, I can use the Public Grievance Redress Act to file a complaint on my lost card, and ask for my pension application to be considered. Department coverage versus all public authorities Under the Public Service Act, only certain departments notify certain services to be covered under the law. So for example, the police department is not notified and none of the services provided are covered under this law. Within the social welfare department, under old age pensions, only the application and verification will be covered and nothing else. At present 20 services, and 49 sub-services are notified. Under the Grievance Redress Act, however, entire departments and schemes are notified, and all functions performed by the department related to that service are covered. At present 44 departments and 438 schemes are notified. Implementing agencies versus public grievance redress officers The Public Service Act covers officials who are in any case tasked with implementing the programme or delivering the concerned service to the public. The Grievance Redress Act on the other hand, creates the position of a Public Grievance Redress Officer (PGRO), who is independent from the implementing departments. So for example, if the BDO is sitting on my pension application and not processing it, as per the Public Service Act, I can then approach the appellate authority within the department, who will be the supervisor of the BDO. This is likely to not lead me anywhere. Under the Grievance Redress Act, I can now approach someone outside the department, who is senior to the BDO and who has the powers to summon them and hear out my complaint, thus increasing the chance of redress. Onus on citizen versus facilitation by the state Under the Right to Public Service, the citizen has to do all the leg work and running around, of putting together their papers and documentation, to be filed with the department. The Grievance Redress Act however, introduces the much-needed concept of facilitation. Information and facilitation centres have been set up at the sub-district level, which are staffed to help people fill out their complaint forms and submit them to the PGRO. At the time of filing a complaint, the citizen only needs to state the grievance, and not provide any further documentation of proof, neither does she have to specify which department and which officer is responsible for this. This is a hugely progressive move, as citizens cannot be expected to be knowledgeable about department processes and role-responsibilities. Unlike any such provision in the Public Service Act, the Grievance Redress Act provides for the right to a hearing. The PGRO, summons the concerned person in the government department, as well as the citizen and hears the complaint out face to face. This has been shown to be very effective in bringing about greater accountability and speed of resolution. Lessons from Bihar As the only state with service delivery and grievance redress laws, Bihar has introduced some mechanisms through a legal framework that are genuinely citizen friendly. If made to work, these could offer citizens some reprieve from a broken and unaccountable system of service delivery. However, there are several areas where the law can be improved. The national legislation, which was approved by a parliamentary standing committee has many more progressive measures. These include setting up the facilitation centres at the block level so that more people can use it. Coming to the sub-district level has obvious opportunity costs for citizens. Secondly, instead of each department notifying services, there should be clearly defined job charts and citizen charters of each public department for each public function. Violations to those should be considered as a complaint or grievance. Thirdly, it is essential that the appellate structures are independent to the department. While this law creates an independent PGRO, there is also the need for independent appellate mechanisms and an independent state level commission. The state information commissions, under the right to information (RTI) law are an example for this architecture that is working fairly well for citizens. Lastly, apart from penalties, there is a need to also compensate citizens who have followed the due process to get their service, but have been denied and shunted about the place. Both laws in Bihar have put in place digitised systems to file and track applications and complaints. In both, the citizen receives some kind of tracking ID, by which they can log in and see the progress of their application or complaint. However, the overall information system on the performance of these laws is missing form the public domain. Given that the laws relate to public services and are widely used by citizens, it is also essential that citizens have a stake in the overall policy design and monitoring of such a system. To do this, the first step would be put out publicly the management information systems of the functioning of these laws. This would include all the information that is being collected and tracked by the state, such as adherence to timelines, pendencies at various department and official levels, penalties charged and so on. The lessons from RTI are at our disposal. The department of personnel and training and state information commissions have ordered that all RTI requests and replies should be in the public domain, as it relates to a public matter that should any way have been proactively disclosed by the public authority. The presence of information on the working of the public service and public grievance redress laws, in the public domain, will increase peoples understanding of their provisions, and built their ability to use and monitor it. To conclude, there are fundamental differences between public service delivery laws and a comprehensive grievance redress architecture. While the former attempts to streamline existing processes within a department, a grievance redress law goes into the very DNA of our public administration. Envisioned and executed properly, it could bring about greater accountability in our systems, which are severely citizen unfriendly. Building on the lessons of the RTI, which brought in a culture of transparency in the government, a grievance redress law seeks to do much more than just public service delivery, but bring in greater accountability overall. [inayat Anaita Sabhikhi is a fellow of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and works in Bihar and Jharkhand on social welfare entitlements.]
  21. Read the related news article at: https://www.edexlive.com/live-story/2017/aug/16/tired-of-lack-of-transparency-in-admissions-jnu-students-plan-mass-rti-campaign-993.html Note: Open the link in a new browser window and change https to http
  22. By Gayatri Vinayak in In.news.yahoo.com on 14th August 2017 https://in.news.yahoo.com/10-progressive-acts-helped-india-remain-free-democratic-society-045032040.html For a democracy as diverse and large as India to survive seven decades of independence, it requires some tough and progressive Acts and Laws to hold it together. On that front, India has done a remarkable job in drawing and passing some of the most progressive Acts and Laws in the world. However, where the country has lagged in many ways is in spreading awareness and implementation. As India celebrates its 71st Independence Day, we take a look 10 progressive Acts that have been passed in the country since Independence: Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 1951: The landmark act which set the ball rolling to bring in Universal Adult Franchise in the country is among the most important Acts that have been passed in the seven decades of Indian Independence. The Representation of the Peoples Act came into force in 1950, laying down the allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies, the methodology for preparing of electoral rolls and the manner of filling seats in the Council of States. The 1951 Act by the same name laid down the methodology for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliaments and to the Houses of Legislatures in each state, to the declaration of the results. A number of amendments been implemented in the process of conducting elections since, including reducing the canvassing time from a month to a fortnight and decreasing the minimum age from 21 to 18. However, the fact that free and fair elections, without any discrimination, have been conducted right from the birth of the nation is a great achievement in itself. Special Marriage Act, 1954: Enacted in 1954, the Special Marriage Act allowed for a special form of marriage for people who had renounced their religion altogether, and for those who wished to inter-marry. The marriage allows any person of Indian nationality residing in India or abroad, irrespective of caste, religion or community, to marry outside their caste/religion. Unlike other religious marriages, a special marriage does not follow any religious rituals, and only requires that the parties file a notice expressing their intention to marry each other with the Marriage Registrar at least 30 days prior to the date of marriage. The Act, which replaced an older Act III from 1872, covers registration of special marriages and divorces in such cases, as well. In a country which is still caught up in caste and religion, this progressive Act encourages love without any communal boundaries. Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955: In 1950, the Constitution of India officially abolished one of the most heinous practices which were prevalent in India – untouchability, through Article 17 of the Constitution of India. It took the Government five more years to enact the Law penalising untouchability, with the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. The Law, however, had many loopholes, and so from 1976, the law was revamped as Protection of Civil Rights Act. It still did not do much to address violent crimes against members of the SC/ST community. Hence, in 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi Government passed the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 to deal with violence being perpetrated against people in the name of caste. However, cases of violence against people on the basis of caste still exists. Right to Information Act, 2005: For any democracy to function smoothly, transparency, access to information and accountability in administrative matters are vital. These were addressed in the landmark Right to Information Act, 2005, which replaces the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the Act, any citizen of India has the right to request information from any public authority which is required to reply within 30 days. It also requires that public agencies make their records available digitally so that people have minimum need to specifically request for it. While it has been hailed as one of the most progressive transparency Acts in the world, lack of awareness, poor implementation and delays have led to the Act not being as successful as it should. Protection of Children From Sexual Abuse (POCSO) Act, 2012: In a country where crime against children are common, and on the increase, the Protection of Children From Sexual Abuse (POCSO) Act, 2012, is notable in addressing sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children. The Act defines different forms of abuse, which includes both penetrative and non-penetrative assault, harassment and pornography. The law is gender neutral and requires that sexual abuse be reported. Lack of awareness and social stigmas attached in sexual abuse cases, unfortunately, has led to many not using the Law. Right of Chldren to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2010: On April 1, 2010, India became one among 135 countries to make education a fundamental right for every child, when it enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE). The Act provides for free and compulsory education for every child between the ages 6-14 and also specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It also makes it compulsory for all private schools to reserve 25 percent of seats to children based on economic and caste based reservations. According to the World Bank specialist for India, Sam Carlson, the RTE is the first legislation in the world which puts the onus of enrolling children in school on the Government. The Act has, unfortunately, come under criticism for being hastily drafted. Lack of awareness and difficulty in obtaining the necessary documents has also held back enrollment under the Act. Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013: In a country where corruption is rampant across all levels of the public and private sectors, a Bill to look into corruption charges was much needed. India got its Act together in 2013, after it passed Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013. The Lokpal Bill covers all sectors of public servants, including the Prime Minister, but excludes the armed forces. The Bill had been floating around for five decades, with the idea of an ombudsman to overlook an anti-corruption body, first being mooted in 1963. While the Lokpak Bill was first introduced in Parliament in 1968, it was not passed. Since then, eight attempts had been made to pass it till 2011, but none succeeded. A Bill amending the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, was passed in 2016. The Amendment did away with the time limit for public servants to furnish details of their assets, which as per the original Bill was by July 31st, every year. National Food Security Act, 2013: Ensuring ‘access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices’ and linking food with the right a life of dignity, the National Food Security Act, 2013, aims at providing subsidised food grains to two-thirds of the country’s population. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services and the Public Distribution Scheme, all fall within its ambit. It also entitles pregnant women, lactating mothers and certain categories of children to daily free cereals. Though hailed as being progressive, the Bill has also been one of the most debated and contentious ones, with parties pushing for an increase in entitlements, among others. Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016: On March 2017, India took a step towards progressive healthcare when it introduced the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, which aims at removing the stigmas associated with mental illness, and ensuring a right to live with dignity. The Bill provides for access to mental health care for people while ensuring that they are not discriminated against. The Bill provides for free treatment of people with mental illness, living below the poverty line, and for those who are homeless. It also ensures the right to confidentiality of people suffering from mental illness and empowers the government to set up the Central Mental health Authority at the Centre – level and the State Mental Health Authority, at the state level. The Bill has been lauded as being patient centric, and one which accepts that mental illness is not a permanent state, but one that can be cured if provided access to adequate healthcare. Goods and Services Act 2017: The country saw the biggest reform of its indirect taxation policy since independence, when the Goods and Services Act 2017, was launched at midnight on July 1, 2017. With the passing of the GST Act, the government moved a step towards realising the ‘One Nation-One Tax Market’ goal. The tax reform process started three decades ago, in 1986, with the introduction of the Modified Value Added Tax (MODVAT). The GST replaced a number of former taxes and levies such as the central excise duty, services tax, additional customs duty, surcharges, state-level value added tax and Octroi.
  23. Govt not interested in strengthening transparency watchdog Note: Please copy the link address in new browser window, and change https to http, then it is opening correctly
  24. [h=1]Govternment’s claim that 4 crore fake ration cards were deleted in over two years questioned by activists[/h] [h=2]The activists said that there is no evidence to back the Prime Minister’s claim, as neither is the information available publicly, nor were the relevant authorities able to provide it under the Right to Information.[/h]Activists for food security and transparency on Tuesday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement in Lok Sabha in February that nearly 4 crore fake ration cards were deleted in the last two-and-a-half years with the help of technology and Aadhaar. The activists said that there is no evidence to back the Prime Minister’s claim, as neither is the information available publicly, nor were the relevant authorities able to provide it under the Right to Information. Read More: Govternment’s claim that 4 crore fake ration cards were deleted in over two years questioned by activists | The Indian Express
  25. This article has been posted at our #LawSegment. To read the full article follow this link: Reason for withdrawal of RFP to be informed to the vendors in Defence Procurement and to subscribe to our daily mailer follow this link - RTI INDIA. there should be greater transparency and accountability in the process of Defence Procurement, in as much as the vendors should be apprised of the reason for withdrawal of proposals or rejection of proposals. Read more › The law segment is available here RTI INDIA - Invoking Your Rights Read the complete article here...
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