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  1. As reported at indianexpress.com on Nov 23, 2009 Lucknow : Effective implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act has played an important role in helping the Congress, led by Sheila Dikshit, to form government for three consecutive terms in New Delhi, feels Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Central Information Commissioner. In fact, it had also helped late Y S R Reddy to regain power in Andhra Pradesh, Habibullah claimed, stressing that RTI doesn’t only empower common people but governments too. He was addressing around 200 RTI activists from Uttar Pradesh during a two-day workshop-cum-seminar on People’s Right to Information on Sunday. “While through RTI, as aam admi gets to know what elected representatives are doing for their welfare during their five-year term, MPs and MLAs can also come clean and win over voters by ensuring transparency,” said Habibullah, who is waiting to be relieved of his responsibilities in New Delhi and head the J&K information panel. Urging governments to ensure implementation of Section 4(1)B of the RTI Act (make transparent the functioning of government organisations), Habibullah said the House will itself get into order once the process of putting data on the website of every department begins. Prominent RTI activist Shekhar Singh, whose name is also in consideration for the post of CIC, spoke about safeguarding RTI and described how the law was drafted to catch corrupt officials in government departments. Founder member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), Singh also presented the findings of a recent nationwide survey conducted by his group. The survey tested the knowledge over 35,000 citizens across 10 states regarding RTI. Unfortunately, Uttar Pradesh did not figure in the survey as the State Information Commission could not supply them with the required records. The experts also expressed dismay over the proposed amendments to the RTI Act that include the introduction of an exemption for so-called “vexatious and frivolous” applications. A silent march to the Vidhan Sabha demanding that the government does not bring about any amendments into the Act, concluded the two-day workshop. Source: ‘RTI played major role in forming Cong govts in Delhi’
  2. As reported at dnaindia.com on November 20, 2009 The suprme court today argued before the Central Information Commission (CIC) that Right to Information (RTI) cannot apply unless the sought information is "lawfully" held by an authority in a manner a title of property is held, which was rejected by CIC. Presenting the apex court's arguments before the Commission, advocate Devadatt Kamat said the word "held" as mentioned section 2 (j) of the RTI Act does not does not mean possession of it unless there is a sanction of law behind holding of information. Hence, there cannot be any Right to Information, he maintained. Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the argument was not correct and would "strike out the root of the RTI Act" as in that case no information could be asked under the transparency law. Habibullah said the word "held" mentioned in the section means ordinarily held adding it does not say lawfully held or held like property title as mentioned by apex court. The CIC was hearing the plea of information rights activist SC Agrawal whose application seeking complete correspondence with the CJI in the case of justice R Reghupati of Madras high court being allegedly approached by a Union minister to influence his decisions was rejected by the supreme court registry. Section 2 (j) says "right to information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority. Source: RTI can't apply unless info is lawfully held: SC to CIC - dnaindia.com
  3. Atul Patankar

    Padma award notings to be made public

    As reported by Himanshi Dhawan at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 12 November 2009 Gopalaswami's letter on Chawla can be made public, says CIC NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) on Wednesday allowed former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami's letter on his successor Navin Chawla to be made public but with a rider. Ruling that the letter sent by Gopalaswami to the President related to a third party, the CIC said that Chawla's views be taken before the disclosure. The decision comes months after Gopalaswami's letter raised a storm over the constitutional propriety of such an action. The Opposition had in fact gone to town alleging that Chawla was prejudiced towards the ruling party. The President's secretariat had refused to give a copy of the letter which had hogged limelight as it was alleged that Gopalaswami had recommended to the President that Chawla be removed from office for alleged "partisan" functioning. RTI activist S C Agrawal had sought the copy of Gopalaswami's letter which was rejected by the President's secretariat saying its disclosure would be an invasion of privacy and had invoked the related clause section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act to deny the information. Agrawal argued that contents of the letter were already in the media and hence there was no reason to claim `invasion of privacy' and that in fact disclosure would ensure verification of the facts that had been reported. Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, in his decision, said that there was "no doubt that the information sought is third party and held in confidence by the President. This is therefore clearly third party information qualifying for the protection allowed by the Act as such". The CIC has asked the President secretariat CPIO to refer the matter to Chawla to "obtain his opinion on the disclosibility of this information". Source: Gopalaswami's letter on Chawla can be made public, says CIC - India - The Times of India
  4. As reported by Shashwat Gupta Ray at sakaaltimes.com on October 24th, 2009 PUNE: The implementation of new Right to Information (RTI) Act in militancy-troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) would help in removing the disquiet in people for almost two decades by enabling their participation in the governance system, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Government of India and J&K State CIC designate Wajahat Habibullah said here on Friday. “The genesis of unrest in Jammu and Kashmir is the feeling of alienation in the daily governance system. They have developed a sense of mistrust against the state governments ruling the region till now,” Habibullah told Sakaal Times. Habibullah was in the city to attend a function organised by Public Concern for Governance Trust (Pune Chapter) to analyse the completion of four years of RTI Act in the country. However, the recently introduced RTI Act of 2009 in J&K would help in resolving the disquiet of almost two decades amongst people of the state as it would help in removing the sense of alienation among them and allow them to participate in the governance system, the CIC said. A draft bill on RTI Act was tabled on March 7, 2009, and passed by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council by March 12. The Act subsequently came into force on March 20. The government is presently in the process of appointing Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Assistant PIOs. “This sense of alienation led people believe that they don’t have any stakes in the government’s decision making and it was acting on the behest of Delhi. But now, empowered with the RTI, they can question the government on its policies and remove their doubts,” Habibullah said. According to the senior bureaucrat, this will help people develop sense of belongingness with the government. “People will know whether the state government works for them or it is a stooge of Delhi, as some disgruntled groups want the people to believe. The transparency through flow of information will encourage more public participation in the governance, which is the essence of freedom and democracy,” the CIC said. Source: RTI Act in J&K will help remove disquiet: CIC
  5. As reported in thehindu.com on 24 October 2009: The Hindu : National : Government campaign on RTI not enough: Habibullah Government campaign on RTI not enough: Habibullah PUNE: Outgoing Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah said here on Friday that the State governments had not done enough to spread awareness of the Right to Information Act (RTI). Speaking at the fourth anniversary celebrations of the Act organised by the Public Concern for Governance Trust here, Mr. Habibullah, who recently resigned to become RTI watchdog in Jammu and Kashmir, said: “Under Section 25 of the Act, it is the responsibility of the government to make sure that people know about the Act. Though the Doordarshan and the All India Radio have timely programmes about the RTI, the government is yet to start a huge campaign to create awareness.” Citing a study done by Shekhar Singh of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, Mr. Habibullah said, only 30 per cent of Indians knew about the Act. The percentage dipped in rural areas to 10. He observed that these people knew about the Act by word of mouth or through the radio but not because of any efforts taken by the government. Similarly, the awareness in urban areas was thanks to the media and non-governmental organisations. Mr. Habibullah said that the RTI could hold up a mirror to people’s needs. “If a particular department receives a huge number of queries,” he said, “the government will know that the department is inefficient and people want a change in its working.” “Conducting elections is not enough for a democracy. Some sections of society, like Naxals, do not think they are stakeholders yet. Whether the RTI is able to make people feel like stakeholders in governance is its ultimate test.” Mr. Habibullah said that government departments had the responsibility to put up information related to them outside their offices under section 4 of the Act. In addition, they also ought to computerise records and make them freely available on websites. As this had not been done yet, a majority of the queries received under the RTI so far related to trivial information. This built undue pressure on the RTI machinery. State information commissioner Vijay Kuwalekar (Pune division) said, 90 per cent of the queries were of a personal nature. “Some applicants even attach 500 typed pages with their applications,” he said. “Like in Karnataka, applications should be made in less than 150 words.” The RTI activists pointed out other flaws in the machinery like non-updation of the State Information Commission website in over three years and non-payment of penalties by public information officers.
  6. As reported by Ishfaq Naseem at kashmirlive.com on September 03, 2009 Five months after the Jammu and Kashmir government brought the state's Right to Information (RTI) Act on par with the Central Act, it is setting up its State Information Commission. According to government officials, while the state has begun its search for an official to head the State Information Commission, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is keen on Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah heading the organisation. In fact, officials said, Omar has also talked to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibuallah will retire on September 30 next year when he attains the age of 65. Habibullah, however, said he will decide on joining as the Chief Information Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir only when he gets a formal offer. “Let the offer come from the state government,” he said. The state’s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar said the State Information Commission will start functioning shortly. The term of the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Information Commissioner will be for five years—similar to the Central Chief Information Commissioner’s term. Source: Omar wants Wajahat to head J-K info panel - KashmirLive.Com
  7. As reported at indiaenews.com/bollywood on September 01, 2009 Aimed at highlighting the common man's struggles and the role of Right to Information (RTI) in bringing a change in his life, an International RTI Film Festival (IRFF) is being organised by a team of NGOs and civil society groups here next month. 'The films made on RTI have played a major role in spreading awareness about its importance and usage among people. This usage of Right to Information and its effect on the life of the common man has been beautifully taken up by various filmmakers,' Neeraj Kumar of Kabir, an NGO, told IANS Tuesday. 'The main motive of this film festival is to bring all such films (dealing with work done in the direction of achieving a transparent system) in front of public and to make them realise that the crying need of the hour is not to complain but to act,' he said. 'We plan to carry it forward to other major cities of the country. We are working on a plan for Lucknow, Bhubaneswar and Bhopal,' Kumar further said. The films will be selected by a screening committee comprising of Chief of Central Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah, Orissa Information Commissioner Jagadananda (one name), Magsaysay award winner RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and others. 'The films could be on RTI and on issues like self-governance, transparency and accountability. The entries can include the success stories, grassroots initiatives, community efforts, issues and solutions,' Kumar added. Source: India eNews - International RTI Film Festival in Delhi in October
  8. As reported by Chetan Chauhan at hindustantimes.com on 17 AUgust 2009 This is as transparent as it can get. The Central Information Commission (CIC), India’s information watchdog, has decided that complaints against its own information commissioners can now be accessed under Right to Information Act from the commission’s secretary. But the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the corruption watchdog, allows providing information on only those corruption cases where the charges have been proved and penal action recommended against an official. Information watchdog has therefore, quite literally, outwitted the corruption watchdog in transparency. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said in a recent order that as the commission is not competent to hold inquiry against an information commissioner the best way to ensure transparency is to allow inspection of the files pertaining to complaints under RTI. Habibullah was delivering an order in an appeal filed by Mizubir Rehman of Chhattisgarh. Rehman’s RTI application, seeking copies of complaint against information commissioner A.N. Tiwari, had been rejected CIC officials. “In the interest of full accountability in the future complaints received against any information commissioner or chief information commissioner would be maintained at the secretary’s office and allowed inspection under RTI,” Habibullah said in the order. Rehman was aggrieved with the commission as he was neither provided with the copies of orders issued by Tiwari, which he had sought, nor the copies of the complaints against him. “The decision of the commission was flawed as the information has to be provided in the form it has been sought,” Habibullah said. A move by CVC to put information of corruption cases on its website had evoked a strong reaction from the bureaucracy, which claimed that it would amount to indicting a person even before the inquiry has completed. Now, the CVC puts information of officials against whom action has been recommended on its website. Habibullah, through this order, made CIC among the first institutions in India to allow inspection of complaints against his fellow commissioners. Source: RTI officials within right to info reach!- Hindustan Times
  9. As reported by Esha Roy at expressindia.com on 17 August, 2009 New Delhi In a recent decision, the Ministry of Home Affairs has decided “not to entertain” any fresh claims or applications from freedom fighters or their families from this year. The reason — the number of complaints the ministry has been receiving regarding the misuse of benefits set aside for freedom fighters. The decision follows a direction issued by the Chief Information Commissioner, reported earlier by Newsline, asking the Ministry to formulate a “comprehensive list” which should be continually updated on its website. The ministry is, therefore, in the process of digitising all its records regarding freedom fighters and martyrs. Senior ministry officials say the freedom fighters and martyrs will be detailed as two separate categories. The database will be created over the next six months, said the Minister of State for Home, Ajay Maken. As more than 60 years have passed since Independence, it has become difficult to authenticate freedom fighters. “We have been receiving complaints of the misuse of benefits — and since we do not have a database, there is no way for us to authenticate claims,” Maken said. The Home Ministry has already approached HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to help them create a database of freedom fighters . The work is to be undertaken by the Indian Council of Historical Research, which comes under the HRD Ministry. “Apart from creating a database for the Home Ministry, the ICHR will also publish a ‘Who’s Who of Freedom Fighters’ — which will be a permanent record,” added Maken. Ironically, the Home Ministry has a fully staffed department — the Freedom Fighter Division — to implement the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension Scheme, 1980. Under the scheme, pension and related facilities are provided to freedom fighters and to the families of martyrs. The families are also entitled to health benefits, railway passes among others. Ministry officials say apart from the existing pension claims, the ministry has lakhs of rupees tied up in arrears on older claims. Following a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by a senior citizen, Karol Bagh resident Panna Lal, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, as reported in Newsline, had observed: “We note with some concern that though public money is being spent on pensions for freedom fighters, the government does not seem to have a comprehensive list either of martyrs or of pensioners despite the fact that there is a full division of the Ministry of Home Affairs attending to the issue of freedom fighters’ pension.” R C Nayak, Deputy Secretary with the ministry’s Freedom Fighters Division, told the CIC in a hearing on June 4 that though sanction has been given to 1.7 lakh applicants of the 7 lakh who had applied, the Home Ministry was certain of only 20,000 pensioners. Source: To stop misuse, MHA to say no to fresh claims from freedom fighters - Express India
  10. Atul Patankar

    Call to make use of RTI Act

    As reported at expressbuzz.com on 12 Aug 2009 HYDERABAD: The University of Hyderabad hosted a workshop concerning the Right to Information (RTI) Act, in an attempt to give an academic perspective to the issue, its implementation and the difficulties encountered while implementing them. The workshop was inaugurated by Chief Information Commissioner of India, Wajahat Habibullah, who slammed the educated masses for being ignorant of the RTI Act and its implications in public life.While the RTI Act has been around for some time, the process of implementation and its use in public life has been an issue that has usually not garnered much support in terms of discussion, especially in the academic circles. Stressing on the need to ensure transparency and equality in the civil society, Habibullah said that “democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency. It is this accountability and transparency that are the key factors in the successful implementation of Right to Information Act,” to which he added, saying that “issues concerning the implementation, awareness and the use of the RTI Act among the students is the lowest in any community in our country.” Activist Aruna Roy, who was present at the event as guest of honour noted that despite the shortcomings in the implementation of the RTI Act, “a considerable section of rural India has been successful in using the RTI.” Habibullah in his talk continued to say that the implementation of e-governance is an issue that needs to be given due respect, “and still has a long way to go to become an effective system of administration.” Habibullah also chided government websites for not disclosing full facts and figures, and for publishing incomplete data. “It is ironic to note that the system of disclosure through the Internet is a medium that is out of reach for most Indians,.” he said.He concluded his talk by insisting that the onus of utilising the Act is up to individuals and the government bodies in turn, “should make provisions for making information freely available in printed or other forms,” to people who lack access to communication services. Source: Call to make use of RTI Act
  11. As reported at ptinews.com on 17 July, 2009 New Delhi, Jul 17 (PTI) The Chief Justice of India and the Supreme Court cannot be two distinct entities, the Central Information Commission has held directing the registry of the apex court to provide information to an RTI applicant even if it is held by the office of the Chief Justice. "The Institution and its head cannot be two distinct Public Authorities. They are one and the same. Information therefore available with Chief Justice of India must be deemed to be available with the Supreme Court of India," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibuallah said. The Commission was hearing the plea of RTI applicant 77-year-old P K Dalmia who sought to know the fate of his complaint, filed with the Chief Justice of India, of alleged malpractices by a designated company judge Sunil Ambwani in the liquidation of UP State Cement Corporation Limited. Source: fullstory
  12. DoPT has issued two similar circulars (one each in respect of CIC and SIC's) clarifying that inter alia that there is no provision in the RTI Act for constitution of benches. It seems that the Department of legal affairs has also opined that under Sec 12(4) and 15(4) the Chief Information Commissioners of CIC and SIC do not have any powers to constitute such benches. The two circulars are attached to this post. 1_1_2009-IR_1.pdf 1_1_2009-IR_2.pdf
  13. As reported at tmcnet.com on July 13, 2009 NEW DELHI, Jul 13, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- India's Central Information Commission has asked the Public Sector Enterprises to institutionalise training of the Central Public Information Officers (CPIO) on the Right to Information Act. Speaking at a seminar organised by the Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE) here yesterday, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the training would help in minimizing the problems faced by CPIOs in their day-to-day functioning. Habibullah also advised PSEs to improve their grievance redressal mechanism. "If the grievances of the employees are properly addressed within the redressal mechanism, the number of RTI applications from the employees may be substantially reduced," he said. The CIC asked PSEs to make extensive use of video-conferencing for expediting the disposal of cases. "In CIC Offices, video conferencing is being used as an effective tool for expediting the cases as it saves time and cost," he said. Addressing the apprehensions of PSEs that disclosure of commercial decisions would harm their interests, he said, "Certain exemptions from disclosure of information have been provided under Section 8(1)(d) of the Act and these could be utilized on the merits of the case." The interaction was attended by a large number of chief executives, directors and senior executives of PSEs. Source: INDIA'S CIC ASKS PSE TO INSTITUTIONALIZE TRAINING OF CPIO
  14. As reported by Himanshi Dhawan and Akshaya Mukul of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 19 June 2009: Proposal to exempt file notings may leave RTI toothless - India - The Times of India Proposal to exempt file notings may leave RTI toothless NEW DELHI: In a body blow to claims of transparency, the UPA government has proposed amendments to the RTI Act exempting all file notings except those dealing with social and development issues besides restricting access to pending policy decisions, cabinet documents and exam related documents. The amendments also envisage increasing RTI fees substantially. The draft amendments -- proposed by the DoPT -- signal that the government is keen to bring in changes in the law that it had been forced to drop in 2006 under pressure from Left parties and RTI activists. According to law ministry sources, the draft is at a preliminary stage. "The amendments will be taken up for consideration at the highest level. This is just an initial draft and there are likely to be many changes in it,'' source said. Despite the overwhelming opposition to amendments in the law last time, the government has revisited the clause of allowing file notings only of social and development related subjects. Under the existing draft all file notings that do not relate to social and development issues will be exempt from disclosure if this amendment is carried through. Amongst the other amendments that are being considered include restrictions on access to cabinet documents, so that citizens can no longer access material and documents on which the union cabinet has taken a particular decision. Exam related information could also be blocked out. In a move aimed at discouraging "chronic and motivated information seekers'' the DoPT ministry has suggested that payment -- at present Rs 10 -- should be hiked. There is a view within the government that the citizens should be made to pay for the salary of the officers working on RTI besides the amount for photocopying or accessing the information sought. Another amendment that is being considered is aimed at granting anonymity to officers in those cases where file notings can be accessed. Sources said that this would mean that citizens will no longer have the right to know the name and designation of the officials who gave their opinions or advise on any matter when it was pending before the government even after the decision has been taken while there is also a move to block out any information, legal advice, observation while a policy or executive decision is under consideration. RTI activists say that these amendments will lay restrict transparency in the government's decision making process. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) representative Venkatesh Nayak said, "If any of these amendments are being considered, it would subvert the effort towards accountability and transparency.''
  15. As reported at zeenews.com on June 24, 2009 New Delhi, June 23: Several mistakes in the Hindi version of the RTI Act seen on the Department of Personnel and Training website have been corrected after 14 months, thanks to the efforts of an activist. The Law Ministry has incorporated 34 changes in the Hindi version of Act which will soon be put on the ministry's website as well as that of DoPT. "The law ministry has prepared this corrigendum. They have told us that it has been published in the gadget," said K G Verma, director of DoPT. While the English version of the RTI Act, which was enacted four years ago, defined 'public authority' as any authority, body or institution that comes under the Central and the state governments, the Hindi version considered it as a body owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Centre only thus giving an excuse to state government authorities to deny information. Besides this, there were several other errors in the Hindi version which were pointed out by a retired Commodore Lokesh Batra, in April last year. Batra wrote to the Prime Minister's office as well as Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibulah about the issue. With his applications failing to get any response, Batra filed an RTI with the PMO seeking details of follow-up action on his complaint. Not satisfied with the PMO's reply, Batra went for appeal at Central Information Commission where CPIO of PMO said they has written to DoPT about the issue. "The PMO wrote a letter to the department on June 11, 2008 asking them to look into the issue. But for one year, the application was lying in the files and no substantial action was taken," Batra said. Batra again filed an RTI in June with the DoPT asking the follow-up action on the issue. "It was after this application that ball started rolling and finally the changes were made by the Law Ministry," he said. Source: Mistakes in Hindi version of RTI Act corrected
  16. karira

    CIC admonishes FAA of the PMO

    In a recent order, CIC W Habibullah has admonished the FAA of the PMO for making short shrift of the appellants First Appeal and not going into the issues raised by the appellant. The appellant had tried to make a strong case as to why "opinion" is also a part of "information" as defined in Sec 2(f) of the RTI Act. http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Orders/WB-27042009-02.pdf At the same time, we find that the disposal of the RTI application and first appeal in the PMO has been so summary as to make short shrift of an appeal painstakingly prepared by a conscientious citizen exercising what he perceives as his right. Particularly in his first appeal, appellant Shri Ratna has made a case as to why “opinion” is to be treated as information u/s 2(f), but response of JS Ms. Vini Mahajan Appellate Authority does not even attempt to address the issue but is summarily dismissed, an action unbecoming of an appellate authority particularly in so august a public authority as the PMO.
  17. Atul Patankar

    Privacy defined to check invasion

    As reported by Rakesh Bhatnagar at dnaindia.com on June 17, 2009 The Central Information Commission has tried to create a plausible definition of ‘privacy’ to assist lawmakers who might enact a clear law against ‘invasion of privacy’. “One who intentionally intrudes, physically or otherwise, upon the solitude of another or his private affairs or concerns, is subject to liability to the other for invasion of his privacy, if the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person,” the CIC picked up the definition from the US Restatement of the Law on Torts. In a ruling on Tuesday, the information watchdog headed by Wajahat Habibullah ruled that details of property belonging to erstwhile princely states and owned by maharajas cannot be disclosed under the RTI. Basanti Lal Singhvi, an applicant, wanted to know about Saheliyon-Ki-Bari — a private property of the erstwhile maharaja of Udaipur. He claimed to have purchased land from the royal in 1963. But a PIL said the property belonged to the government which the royal had no right to sell.In 1951, the ministry of states agreed to recognise Laxmi Vilas Palace and Sahelion-ki-badi gardens as the royal’s private property. The issue of privacy cropped up after former ruler Arvind Singh said he would be harassed if the disclosure was made. He did not argue on violation of privacy. “If an MP had sought information about the property, the home ministry would have taken the same stand and denied information,” Habibullah said. The CIC chief regretted that “we do not have a law of privacy in India. There’s no definition of ‘invasion of privacy’ in the RTI Act. Source: Privacy defined to check invasion
  18. Atul Patankar

    Siri wins national award on RTI

    As reported at thehindu.com on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2009 GUNTUR: Guntur-based organisation Siri has bagged the prestigious award instituted by the Central Chief Information Commission. Its director T.V. Bhaskar received the award from Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. Mr. Bhaskar, who addressed a meeting of RTI activists here, said every one has a right to obtain any information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) and the officials concerned have to furnish information within 30 days. If the official has failed to provide information or has given incorrect information, the Public Information Officers (PIO) could be fined Rs.25,000 and liable to pay compensation to the applicant. Citing some of the memorable victories he had with RTI, Mr. Bhaskar said they could force the Secretariat to pay salary dues worth Rs.2.40 lakh to an employee, bring the Phirangipuram Panchayat to book for forcibly constructing a wall and unearthing a land distribution scandal in Medikonduru mandal. He also appealed to people to bring any inconvenience caused to his notice (cell no 9441127220). Source: The Hindu : Andhra Pradesh / Guntur News : Siri wins national award on RTI
  19. As reported at business-standard.com on June 16, 2009 Information about private properties of third party serving no public interest is "deniable" under the RTI Act, the CIC today said. The observation came while deciding a plea seeking details of assets belonging to ex-Maharaja of Udaipur. "If a Member of Parliament would have asked for information about the private properties of the third party (ex-maharaja of Udaipur in this case), the (Home) ministry would have taken the same stand and would have denied information," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. He said under such circumstances, it appears that the information is, per se, "deniable". "If it is deniable to the Member of Parliament, there is every reason to believe that its disclosure cannot be held to be in public interest. The claim of exemption is, therefore, held justifiable," he said. The case relates to an RTI application of one Basanti Lal Singhvi who sought details regarding - Saheliyon-Ki-Bari - which was the private property of erstwhile Maharaja of Udaipur in Rajasthan. Singhvi said he had purchased land from Maharaja of Udaipur in December 1963. But later a PIL was filed in the court claiming that property sold by ex-Maharaja to Singhvi family is a state government property and Maharaja was not authorised to sell it. Source: Info on pvt property with no public interest is deniable: CIC
  20. As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal at indianexpress.com on Jun 12, 2009 New Delhi : Dialling 100 may not be as confidential as you think. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has categorised telephone calls to the police control room (PCR) as a “public activity”. All call details can now be accessed through the Right to Information (RTI) Act even if it is at the cost of someone’s privacy. This recent judgment comes after an appeal by an RTI applicant, who had requested information from the Delhi Police about a particular call to the PCR, wherein a woman had accused him of assault. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah recently ruled: “A telephone call to the Police Control Room is clearly a public activity.” The Bench observed that under Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act, information could be exempted from disclosure provided it does not have any relationship with a public activity. Wajahat Habibullah told Newsline on Thursday: “A call to the PCR is a formal complaint made to a public institution, the police. There is no reason for the police to keep it confidential unless the caller specifically requests his or her identity to be kept a secret for fear of compromising his or her security.” However, the police’s Public Relations Officer and Assistant Commissioner Rajan Bhagat begs to differ. He said: “If divulging details of the PCR call impedes the process of investigation in a case, the details are kept confidential. If the suspect in the case himself asks for call details, it surely will not be disclosed. In such a case, the information is exempted of disclosure under the RTI Act.” In this particular case, one Surindra Bhayana of Rohini had on September 20, 2007 asked the Deputy Commissioner of Police (PCR) for information about a call made by a woman of the same locality, named Santosh. He wanted the ‘daily diary’ register details about the call made at 4 pm by Santosh. She had alleged Bhayana attempted to “offend her and hit her with a knife”. The police replied stating the alleged victim had objected to the call details from being shared. Deputy Commissioner of Police and PIO (PCR), V K Mishra, also told the CIC that Santosh had specifically said the copy of her complaint should not be provided to Surindra Bhayana. Bhayana, meanwhile, argued it was necessary for him to know the call details as he was “the aggrieved party and his character was assassinated by the complaint (PCR call)”. The Commission noted that Santosh’s refusal was not a well-founded reason to deny Bhayana the information under RTI. The Commission has directed Additional Commissioner of Police (Operations) Ujjwal Mishra to re-examine the case. Source: Dialling 100 to complain? Your call details may be shared
  21. As reported at indopia.in on June 11, 2009 New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) The CIC has asked one of its Information Commissioners, entrusted to hear cases of Oil PSUs, to give details of his expenses during his official visit to Chennai. Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah while hearing the plea of an RTI applicant Pankaj Khanna directed the CPIO of Commission to provide details regarding travel, boarding and lodging expenses incurred by Information Commissioner M M Ansari during his Chennai visit. Khanna has filed an RTI at CIC seeking details about news reports that Ansari availed hospitality from IOC during his Chennai visit. He sought to know whether it was personal or official visit besides all the expenses borne by the Commission during the visit. The Commission in its reply accepted that it was an official trip and that it did not incur any expense for the same. The Central Public Information Officer also transferred the request for expense details to Indian Oil Corporation under the provisions of RTI Act." The office of the Commission is expected to keep a record of all official visits undertaken by the Commissioners including details of expenses. CPIOWill obtain information from the assistant registrar attached to the Bench of Information Commission M M Ansari and submit the same to us.,"Habibullah said in his order during the second appeal. Source: National : CIC asks its officials to provide details of ICs visit : 596336
  22. As reported by Noor Khan at www.samaylive.com on 23 April 2009 New Delhi, Apr 23 : The CIC today agreed to review its decision in a case involving a former RAW official and National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), admitting that the matter was "mishandled" by its officials. During the hearing of his complaint at Central Information Commission, former RAW official V K Singh quoted the RTI reply given by the CIC which shows that two key witnesses in the case were not properly informed for the final hearing by the Commission's officials. Singh also alleged that he was not also not given any information about the hearing. "As a constitutional authority, I have been authorised to re-examine any decision that has been taken on the basis of some law or fact...File a fresh application for the review," said Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah agreeing that case was "mishandled" by the officials. Author of the controversial book "India's External Intelligence Secrets of R&AW" V K Singh is facing CBI enquiry for alleged violation of Official Secrets Act for giving details of the intelligence agency's working his book. Singh has contended that material used by him was highlighted in a chapter on Intelligence in a report on National Security prepared by Group of Minister in 2001, which was not a confidential document as claimed NSCS and should be given under RTI. But the CIC had left the decision on NSCS on whether the report could be given or not under RTI Source: CIC to review its decision in case of ex-RAW official :: Samay Live
  23. As reported at www.business-standard.com on 12 May 2009 In order to ease RTI application process from abroad, the Central Information Commission has framed new rules enabling NRIs to pay application fees and information costs at the Indian embassies and missions abroad. NRIs will also be able to avail audio-video conference facilities in case of first and second appeals. "We have finalised new rules and regulations which will help NRIs to easily process their applications while exercising their Right to Information. There will be an easy-to-follow procedure for paying fee against the information in Indian Embassies and audio-video conferencing facility in case of first and second appeals," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah told PTI. As per the new procedure envisaged, Habibullah said, "Embassies may accept only the fee and information cost and provide e-receipts to applicants who can then directly file their RTIs to public authorities in India by email along with proof of payment." The CIC said, "I will soon meet concerned officials at the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Personnel and Training other stake holders for this." NRIs have often complained of a cumbersome process of fee-payment for seeking information. "Till now, there is no definite procedure to deposit the fee of Rs 10 from outside to the public authority anywhere in India which is a big difficulty for accessing the information," RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra, who filed an RTI with Indian mission in Washington to assess the problems faced by NRIs in filing the applications, said. According to the Indian Embassy website, people can submit applications along with documentary proof of Indian citizenship and send prescribed fee in local currency, equivalent to Indian Rs 10 in cheque or demand draft. However, "they need to send the fee directly to public authority here in India for which the process is quiet vague. Also there is no provision of audio-video conferencing facility in case of first and second appeals," Batra said. "From abroad, payment in India in Rupees for RTI Fee is a cumbersome process, especially when different modes of payment and amount being prescribed and accepted by Centre, State Governments and other Public Authorities like Courts. "In Uttar Pradesh, one has to apply and paste treasury stamp for getting copy of State Information Commission's order. How can a person travel all the way from America to paste stamp and get the information?", he asked. Source : CIC frames new rules for RTI applications from abroad
  24. As reported at www.hindu.com on April 29, 2009 New Delhi (PTI) The CIC has issued a show cause notice to the Armed Forces Medical Services for "obstructing" the furnishing of information under the RTI Act despite orders from the Commission. "The CPIO is directed to show cause as to why the non-compliance with the decision of the Commission ... should not be treated as obstruction to the furnishing of information or knowingly giving incomplete information thus making Director CPIO AFMS liable to a penalty of Rs 25,000 under section 20 (1) of the RTI Act," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. A Lucknow resident Col. (retired) Inder Paul had sought papers and notings related to review selection board meetings held on January 14 and eight, 2003 from AFMS, the medical wing of the defence forces. But his request was rejected on the grounds that information sought was confidential. Rejecting the grounds cited by AFMS, the CIC on May 12, 2008 ordered that proceedings of the department promotion committees, except those relating to annual confidential reports, be made available to Col. Paul. Source: The Hindu News Update Service
  25. As reported at www.indopia.in on 27 April 2009 The CIC has issued a show cause notice to Supreme Court officials for not providing information to an RTI applicant in a timely manner. "Central Public Information Officer Supreme Court of India is further directed to show cause as to why a penalty of Rs 250 per day from the date when the information fell due - 20-05-2007 - to the date when the information is actually supplied . Should not be imposed on him," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said. The case relates to the RTI application filed by one Trilokchand Gajanan Verma of Aurangabad who wanted to know the status of the"special leave petition"filed by him in the apex court. His application, which was filed on February 20, 2007, was not responded to by Supreme Court officials. His first appeal filed on October 22, 2007 against the non-supply of the information was also not decided within the time frame prescribed under the RTI Act. The officials did not respond to the complaint notice sent by the CIC on March 31 this year, Habibullah said. Source: National : CIC issues show cause notice to Supreme Court officials : 559456
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