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  1. This is to remind you of your statement against RTI Activist on the floor of Assembly on 6th of February 2018. You have told the Legislative Assembly that RTI Activists are big blackmailers which is absolutely condemnable. I along with my associates at J&K RTI Foundation, am a campaigner of the revolutionary Right to Information Act (RTI) Act since my first year of Engineering Studies and you have no right to call me a blackmailer. Mr. Haq, there bare uncountable stories on success through RTI and the empowerment of common man; and believe me, nobody till date could give a single evidence of blackmailing through RTI. Have you ever thought that the blackmailing is only possible if the government officials are corrupt…I have personally observed that the PIOs are using RTI for creating smoothness in their offices! Recently an officer called my friend to obtain some information from his office through RTI which he could not provide to the people because of some higher authority orders. RTI is the only tool in the state that could expose wrong doings in the offices and the whistleblowers must be appreciated for their acts rather than calling them blackmailers. Mr. Haq, now decide who is a blackmailer? A common man using RTI or a corrupt official who is not allowed to misappropriate government funds and is hence blaming whistle blowers? I am not saying that all RTI Applicants are RTI Activists, there may be some who act indecently; but there is no scope of blackmailing when an honest official faces an RTI Applicant. Read more at: https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/are-we-blackmailers/275761.html Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http [irfan Banka is Chairman, J&K RTI Foundation]
  2. Reported by Thehansindia.com on Feb 13, 2018 People’s RTI vs State’s RTI [Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http] Right to information is people’s right ever since Evidence Act was passed in 1872 as its Sections 74 and 76 provided access to public records on payment of copying charges. This right was constitutionalised in 1950 under Article 19(1)(a) and then legally facilitated in 2005 through Right to Information Act. While right to vote made India democratic with equal chance of exercising its choice of governors, the RTI took a step forward to empower the citizen with information. If liberty of thought is basis for expression right which included right to vote, the right to information formed foundation for free speech. People have right to know and right to information from the government. The Aadhaar Act, 2016 is exactly in juxtaposition to the RTI Act, as that gives ‘authority of Government to secure the information of the people. Interestingly, the privacy holds these two Acts in two hands in opposite directions. While the RTI of the people about state is denied practically by the PIOs of public authorities on the wrongful claim of privacy, the state’s Aadhaar law and scheme has every danger of invading the privacy of the citizen. Misuse of privacy clauses With rigid mindset of babus and their agents to defy RTI Act supported by a few anti-transparency orders of judiciary, the privacy is being used as an excuse to block the information flow to people, whereas, the ‘state’ through UIDAI is sucking the demographic and biometric information of the people through high power-houses and bore wells. Aristotle said man is a social animal. His social life demands sharing of information not hiding, except some core family related information. Marriage, social association with people and man’s relationship with the state, makes his information ‘public’ and the information of public servant, mostly should be in public domain. The balance of protecting privacy and need to publish public servant’s information related to public affairs is prescribed in RTI Act through ‘public interest’ clauses. The Supreme Court upheld this balance in its historic privacy judgment in August 2017. Official secret: An oxymoron Official secret is a self contradiction by itself. It could be even an oxymoron. If it is official how that could be personal or secret? We still are being ruled by British legacy of Official Secrets Act 1923, which leaders of independence movement demanded to be repealed. Right to information in theory overrides the OS Act. But enough scope was created in the exceptions for survival of Official secrets. Official secrecy survives the RTI! Civil death The law in general provided for presumption of civil death. If a man is unheard of for seven years, law presumes him to be dead, which of course can be rebutted by his existence. Secondly when a man converts into a different religion, he suffers civil death as far as his original religious group is concerned and the wife gets a right to relinquish him. The third way of civil death presumption is when a person renounces the world. Now the Aadhaar Act adds a fourth dimension to presumption of civil death, i.e., a person devoid of Aadhaar will be denied all benefits, pension, account, certification etc. If the crematorium wants Aadhaar before a dead body is allowed inside, or darshan of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirupati mandates the furnishing of Aadhaar number, or if someone wants to recommend some eminent person for Padmashree award, should necessarily quote Aadhaar, is that in consistent with the Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms? Niraadhaar Aadhaar in Sanskrit, Hindi and Telugu means the basis or lifeline. Niraadhaar means devoid of lifeline. Now, Aadhaar is a 12-digit number called the unique identification (UID) number that is assigned to all residents. This programme is called the world's largest biometric ID system, with over 119 crore enrolled members as of 30 Nov 2017. Fear of becoming Niraadhaar was spread and enrolment touched 98 per cent. Current population of India is 135 crore and 16 crore are yet to be enrolled. It is reported that 9 crore were excluded for reasons not explained. Then, what is the fate of these 25 crore residents? Without Aadhaar, do they suffer civil death? Can any duly elected government exclude 25 crore of its population from welfare schemes simply because Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) failed to enroll them? The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 made it mandatory for UIDAI to assign Aadhaar, but in practice it is mandatory for citizens to enroll for Aadhaar number. As Aadhaar has been linked with every aspect of social life, lack of it means denial of that ‘social life’. It raises a doubt: are they not included in ‘we the people of India…” or excluded from application of right to life in Article 21’s or Article 14’s right to equality? Will they be considered to be living, at least? They have right to life, but do they survive, without pension or ration card? The issue involved is more serious than right to privacy; it is an issue of dignity, too. The basic right to life of people has to be decided by the Supreme Court. Though Aadhaar Act apparently, did not make it compulsory for citizen, the citizen has no choice to be out of it, as that means no access to social life, and once enrolled, no scope of opting out of it. The flaw of the law is that there is no alternative to Aadhaar, and if UIDAI denies the enrolment for any reason, it amounts to denial of living resources for him. For any reason if citizen does not enroll, or Aadhaar is denied, or cancelled after enrolled by UIDAI, that citizen does not have any means of existence and no remedy at all. Aadhaar Act did not provide a remedy for wrongful denial of Aadhaar card. The bench waited for the decision on right to privacy and the Supreme Court emphatically declared it as fundamental right and advised the Centre to pass a law. Till today, the Center did not enact any law on privacy and data protection. Is it possible to decide constitutionality of Aadhaar without having such a law? What this number means? Aadhaar neither confers citizenship nor guarantees any rights, benefits, or entitlements nor aims to replace any existing identity cards. Aadhaar is a random number, not loaded with profiling or intelligence into identity numbers that makes it insusceptible to fraud, theft and provides privacy in such perspective. The state and state bodies declared that it qualifies as a valid ID while availing various government services, like an LPG connection or subsidised ration or kerosene from PDS or benefits under NSAP or pension schemes, e-sign, digital locker, besides being a Universal Account Number (UAN) under EPFO and also for some other services, like a SIM card or opening a bank account or securing a caste certificate. The Center has declared that Aadhaar card will be mandatory for opening new bank accounts and for transactions above Rs. 50,000. All existing account holders will also have to submit their Aadhaar details by March 31, 2018, failing which accounts will be deemed invalid. A five-judge bench on December 15, 2017 agreed to the Central government’s decision to extend the deadline of linking of "everything", including mobile phones and bank accounts, to Aadhaar card till March 31, 2018. But SC also ordered that an Aadhaar card holder opening a new bank account will have to furnish his Aadhaar card to the bank. Data theft or leakage Is the biometric data of a billion people safe? It was reported by The Tribune on January 4, 2018 that for Rs 500 an access to a billion identities on UID database is possible. It was also reported that there are one lakh illegal users of UID data, including anonymous groups created on WhatsApp. Government websites and educational institutions displayed personal information along with UID numbers in November 2017. Around 36 per cent people are excluded from PDS in Rajasthan, because they could not authenticate due to finger print failures. In Jharkhand, many starved to death because they could not link UID numbers with their ration cards. When data has already been breached what is the purpose of Data Protection Laws and Aadhaar Act? Biometrics is known as untested technology even by the UIDAI’s own admission. Critics question the imposition of such technology on entire population exposing the citizens to tracking. RTI Act mandates the state to be transparent to its people, but most of the information is denied under privacy clause, whereas the UDI allows every individual to be profiled and tracked by state and private companies.
  3. The Act specifies that citizens have a right to request any information (as defined), to take copies of documents and to obtain information in form of printouts, diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts. The Act gives the right to access to information held by “public authorities” which includes authorities, bodies, institution of self government which are established or constituted by the Constitution, by a law of Parliament or a State Legislature, by notification or an order of the State or Central Governments, bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed by the State or Central Governments, including non-government organisations which receive substantial government funds directly or indirectly. Thus the Act applies to the executives of the Union, the States and the Union Territories, Parliament, State Legislatures, Legislatures for Union Territories, Panchayats and Municipalities; the Supreme Court, High Courts in the States, Subordinate Courts and Tribunals. Read more at: Why RTI Act matters to us
  4. "Aadhaar has created third civil death for citizens," says CIC Prof Dr Sridhar Acharyulu “There are two Indian laws, that can declare a person socially dead. Aadhaar has created third civil death for citizens. This is because leakages in Aadhaar data is reality, no option (from linking Aadhaar) is a reality and that there is no opt out option from Aadhaar," says Prof Dr M Sridhar Acharyulu, Central Information Commissioner under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He was speaking at a program on "RTI, Privacy and Aadhaar" organised by Moneylife Foundation's RTI Centre at Pune. UIDAI and the government have been claiming through advertisement and press releases that there are 1.2 billion Aadhaar holders across the country. "This means there are about 16 crore people who still do not have Aadhaar and around nine crore unique numbers (UIDs) are discarded by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDA). So what happens to these 25 crore citizens, in case Aadhaar is made mandatory for everything? Will they live or die?" Prof Dr Acharyulu asked. Prof Dr Acharyulu, said, “There is no provision in UIDAI to prosecute offenders. And even for filing a complaint against UIDAI itself, you have to approach the same Authority. UIDAI does not share any information to Aadhaar holders, but the same it give to private parties and government agencies. UIDAI collects data from residents without explicit consent, but refuses to share their data sharing agreement with third parties under the RTI. We citizens must demand complete transparency from UIDAI, especially about data they have collected from residents.” “Citizens need protection from the State,” the CIC said, adding “the State cannot claim privacy (for not sharing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, over citizens, but citizens have a right to protect own privacy.” Participating in the panel discussion, Dr Pralhad Kachare, who has worked with YASHADA as Additional Collector and Associate Professor, said, "I had worked with UIDAI and know the limitations of Aadhaar project. While I recognise apprehensions in this project, I feel it needs to be revisited to make it more comprehensive." Dr Kachare also mentioned that people have no issues with sharing all data with private parties, like Google or Facebook and then call Aadhaar as surveillance tool. Responding to this, Prof Dr Acharyulu said, “We hear this argument several times. But just because a private party is collecting data from people cannot be a reason for the government to do so. In fact the government itself should object to such data collection from third parties.” Participating in the discussion, Dr Anupam Saraph, trustee of Moneylife Foundation and an expert on identification system, who has was the CIO of Pune city and was an advisor to Goa government, explained the difference between data collected by private parties and by the government through third parties. He said, “For example, when you open a Gmail account, there is an agreement you have to sign and there you have an option to opt-out. In Aadhaar there is neither any agreement nor an option to opt-out.” Dr Saraph also explained the difference between data sharing between two parties and giving access to third parties. He said, “When I carry out a transaction with my bank, the data is shared and transferred between the bank and me. It also gives me data protection from third parties and saves me from a possible fraud. When Aadhaar is used, we have no control on who will get access to the data that was supposed to be between two concerned parties.” Dr Saraph has used RTI for obtaining information from UIDAI, which reveals that their record is not unique and it cannot be used for de-duplication. “Nobody from UIDAI certifies Aadhaar. Identification and authentication are different and UIDAI has no definition on either of this, as per the reply I received under the RTI,” he added. The panel discussion was moderated by senior journalist Sucheta Dalal, Founder-Trustee of Moneylife Foundation. She said, "We as citizens need to be alert and resist all efforts to mandatory linking of Aadhaar with several services not related with use of government subsidy. Citizens need to wake up to dangers of the way Aadhaar is implemented and raise their voices now". Several RTI activist including former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, Vijay Kumbhar, Vinita Deshmukh, Sulaiman Bhimani, as well as citizens, activists from Pune and Mumbai participated in the program.
  5. Recently Rural Development & Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan gave an irresponsible statement from the floor of legislative assembly. While responding to MLA Kupwara Bashir Ahmad Dar, Khan said “RTI activists are big blackmailers”. Minister Abdul Haq Khan was replying to a query while a private members RTI amendment bill was introduced by the MLA from Kupwara. Being a campaigner for the Right to Information in Jammu & Kashmir, I, along with selfless colleagues of RTI Movement have been hurt with this statement. Mr Abdul Haq Khan is not only State’s Rural Development Minister but also holds the charge of J&K’s Law Ministry & happens to be a senior lawyer who is well versed with the provisions of law. He himself knows how useful and revolutionary RTI Act is. He has himself used the law in past, I believe. How is RTI helpful to people ? Read more at: https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/rti-a-tool-in-the-hands-of-oppressed/275206.html Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and chnage https to http
  6. Parties fighting against RTI Political parties are fighting tooth and nail not to reveal their financial details. They do not want give information under the RTI Act. All parties are united, forgetting their differences, to fight against the transparency. Thanks to ADR and MKSS, we have at least the information about criminal, educational (or lack of it) or financial background of each contesting candidate. But unfortunately, there are no penal consequences for false declarations. The fudging of accounts of expenditure by candidates to keep it low within limits is never probed. The source of their donations and names of donors continue to remain secret. While whole population pays maximum 30 per cent income tax, the political parties enjoy exemption without any accountability. If they get donations of Rs 1,000 crore per annum, they should have paid Rs 300 crore tax, had there been no exemption. There is neither regulation of political parties, nor possibility of regulating the media. Not it is possible to imbibe culture of responsible commenting on social media. Expression right cannot survive without information and suppressing information is not good for democracy. The people should not continue to be left out to remain subjects, they should empower themselves with information to become vibrant citizens and question the parties and wrongs by media and social media. The political parties and the media should voluntarily come under the RTI and give information to the people to make India a real democracy. Read more at: Freedom of press & democracy Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  7. Right to Information Act (RTI Act 2005) codifies a fundamental right of citizens. Under the provisions of the RTI Act 2005, any citizen of India can request information from a ‘public authority’. The concerned instrumentality of State must reply within the time of thirty days. The Right to Information Act also requires each governmental body to computerize their records for wide dissemination, so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. RTI Act 2005 serves as a replacement for Freedom of information Act, 2002. The Act was passed by the Parliament of India on 15th June 2005; it provides the ‘right to information’ to citizens of India. The Right to Information Act also relaxes restrictions on disclosure of information mentioned in the Official Secrets Act 1923. Read more at: RTI Act 2005: All You Need To Know About The Right To Information Act
  8. To streamline the working of State Information Commission (SIC), a seminar was organized at Sher-I- Kashmir Police Academy Udhampur on Saturday, wherein Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, was the Chief Guest. State Information commissioner Mohammad Ashraf Mir, Director SKPA, M.S Salaria, Secretary Information Commission Ashok Kumar Pandita besides First Appellate Authorities (FAAs),and Public Information Officers (PIOs) of different units and wings of police department of the state were present in the programme. CIC said that the essence of the Act is to ensure greater transparency, accountability and corruption free governance. “RTI Act is not merely a provision but a potent tool to strengthen democracy and promote good governance”, he added. He maintained that Suo -Moto disclosure of information under section 4 needs to be followed in letter and spirit by all Public Authorities. Read more at: Essence of RTI is to ensure corruption free governance: CIC | State Times Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  9. Why Is the Municipal Corporation Acting the Raja with Praja? Why Is the Municipal Corporation Acting the Raja with Praja? On 19th January, I was among the five concerned Mumbaikars who petitioned chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, against the Mumbai municipal commissioner’s decision to declare Praja Foundation, a non-government organisation (NGO) with a long and credible track record as persona non grata. What exactly does this mean? Well, Praja has received formal letters from various municipal departments that queries from its employees under the Right to Information (RTI) Act will not be entertained; they also won’t get appointments to discuss legitimate issues with municipal officials. The enormity of this action is apparent, but becomes frightening when put in the right context. BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) presides over India’s financial capital and has a bigger budget than many states in India. Naturally, it is exploited to the hilt by a corrupt and brazen nexus of netas, babus and businessmen, while the city suffers illegal encroachments, pathetic roads and infrastructure, repeated deaths due to fires, illegal construction, proliferation of illegal slums and public health issues. Rules and regulations are deliberately opaque, excessive, outdated and non-transparent, so as to allow corruption to thrive. BMC officials have mastered the art of cover-up by issuing show-cause notices against illegal actions without initiating any follow-up action or stopping it. Even in the recent fire tragedy at Kamala Mills, only restaurant owners have been arrested, while municipal officials, who probably extorted large sums of money, have merely been suspended. And, yet, BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta’s first reaction to the Kamala Mills fire that killed 22 people was to tarnish activists who had repeatedly pointed to illegal permissions. He claimed that ‘activists’ were part of a corrupt nexus with his officials, without naming names or initiating specific action. This surely wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark; it is part of a worrying pattern of actions meant to subjugate citizens by terrorising and maligning those who dare to protest. The BMC succeeded, when it went after popular comedian Kapil Sharma, who foolishly tweeted about endless extortion while his own bungalow had flouted rules. BMC gleefully retaliated by going on a demolition drive that included his neighbours as well. It was a sharp lesson to celebrities not to be tempted to use their star-power to speak up. The harassment of Bombay Gymkhana by the BMC plays out in the public domain without protest, only because it is seen as an elite club. Very few of its star members and sportspersons have dared to speak out. But BMC’s strategy boomeranged when municipal officers went after radio jockey Mallishka for lampooning Mumbai’s bad roads in the monsoons, when every Mumbaikar’s patience wears thin. The BMC’s attempts to frame charges of dengue breeding at her home caused such a backlash that it beat a hasty retreat. The charges against ‘activists’ after the Kamala Mills fire killed 22 people are in line with this practice. This is where organisations such as Praja Foundation become a thorn in BMC’s flesh. This NGO has been doing stellar work with the same municipal corporation for over two decades. In 1997, it worked with BMC to jointly develop a Citizens’ Charter that was released by Nani Palkhiwala in 1999. In 2003, it collaborated with the BMC in developing an online complaint management system (OCMS), which gave some desperately needed efficiency to the complaints process. It also trained over 200 municipal staffers to handle these complaints. Since 2011, it has trained over 75% of the past BMC councillors and 90% of new councillors on how to ask questions regarding BMC’s functioning. It has conducted training programmes on how budgets are made and how funds are allocated to corporators. It has also produced ready-reckoners on how the BMC functions. All its data are collated by filing over 2,500 RTI applications a year. This data ought to be in the public domain in the first place (Section 4 of the RTI Act mandates it); but even an NGO that wrote the BMC charter has to file applications to get the information from BMC. Nitai Mehta, founder of Praja, says, “We build tools of governance that can be used by all three stakeholders—citizens/citizen groups, elected representatives and the government. Our approach is a dialogue with all stakeholders with the objective of improving the quality of lives of Mumbaikars.” What exactly is the BMC’s problem with Praja, after 20 years of committed work? Apparently, it has an issue with the facts put out by Praja and has accused it of distortion. These pertain to issues such as poor health standards in the city, the number of tuberculosis related deaths, malnourishment among children and a consistent reduction in the number of students attending municipal schools. If the problem was with the data put out by Praja, the answer should have been to provide correct data. If it is with interpretation, the solution is to discuss it and explain. After all, Praja has worked with the BMC for two decades and cannot possibly want to score self-goals by drawing false conclusions. Obviously, the problem lies elsewhere. It is about the BMC wanting to suppress negative reports or slap down criticism about its functioning. This BMC's strategy of demonising and ostracising those who expose it has, hopefully, backfired. The petition to the chief minister was signed by former police commissioner, Julio Ribero, former municipal commissioner, DM Sukthankar, and former central information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, as well as scores of leading activists. RTI activist, Kamlakar Shenoy, has filed a petition against the municipal commissioner in the Bombay High Court, while advocate Godfrey Pimenta, who heads Watchdog Foundation, has moved the Lok Ayukta for similar action. Mr Sukthankar was critical about the ‘degradation of democratic processes at one of the oldest civic bodies in India’; Mr Ribeiro emphatically condemned the action against Praja while Shailesh Gandhi said it is tantamount to denial of a fundamental rights. The RTI Act has no provision for any government organisation to declare a set of individuals as persona non grata or deny them information. Even prisoners on death row have the right to obtain information and routinely do so. How can a municipal commissioner arrogate such extra-judicial powers to himself that he dares to deny information? Because he probably did not expect to be challenged. Over the past decade, we have seen a sharp decline in accountability of public representatives, regulators and government organisations. This starts right at the top with the empty benches in parliament when pertinent questions affecting citizens are raised. Our elected representatives often fail to notice incomplete or tangential answers to their questions, which were treated with great care and seriousness a couple of decades ago. Regulators forget to table key regulations in parliament for two years (like SEBI’s insider trading regulations) and nobody so much as notices. The government is busy setting up new regulators and institutions at public expense, but cannot be bothered about ensuring the checks & balances that go with it. Ironically, much of the rot, including regulatory capture of institutions accelerated under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Young inheritors and princelings with Ivy League management school degrees passed draconian legislation without bothering about the consequences. The Companies Act 2013, amendments to the SEBI Act giving it sweeping punitive powers and allocation of thousands of crores of public funds to Aadhaar without even a statute, are among the atrocities of that time. Most other MPs are unconcerned about governance, economic and financial issues, with the result that absurd theories, divisive politics and mindless protests hog media space and public discourse. It is time we woke up to what is happening. The manipulation of public sentiment to demonise, malign and ostracise anyone who dares to question or criticise has to be protested most vociferously. It is an attack on our fundamental rights, freedom and democracy itself. What the Mumbai municipal commissioner had officially done to Praja Foundation is unofficially practised against media and activists by many regulators and government bodies. Will we, the people, allow them to get away with it? Or stand up and be heard?
  10. Every public authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to Information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country. It is connected on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated within one hundred and twenty days from the enactment of the Act. Read more at: Not Found Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  11. Right to Information (RTI) should be supreme over the Data Protection Act and citizens should be provided the information they seek without any secrecy. Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, has proposed the RTI Act should have primacy as every citizen should have access to information. Citizens can submit their inputs and concerns regarding RTI to the Expert Committee on the Data Protection Act at MyGov Innovation | White Paper of the Committee of Experts on Data Protection Framework for India before January 30, 2018. The Expert Committee has proposed India should have a Data Protection Act as it is important for citizens. But it has nowhere recognised or noted the fact that there is a certain overlap and conflict with the citizen’s Right to Information. RTI has been recognised by the Supreme Court to be a fundamental right of citizens under Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution. Gandhi stated if the Data Protection Act is implemented, it will be an unwarranted curtailment of the Right To Information. Gandhi mentioned, “The applicability and beneficial aspects of RTI are far higher and affect a large part of our populace. Relatively, the Data Protection Act is likely to serve only the needs of the elite therefore the RTI Act should have primacy. If there is data which is not required by government, and is an invasion on privacy, it should normally not be on government records.” Read more at: Mumbai: RTI should be considered supreme, says former CIC Shailesh Gandhi | Free Press Journal
  12. Security for RTI applicant is an important subject not dealt with by the RTI Act. Does it mean that Act cares not for the lives of the applicants? No. If a person’s life is under threat simply because he asked for some information, which is a legally guaranteed right, who should be responsible? Harinder Dhingra filed an urgent petition saying that he was receiving multiple threats to his life and safety in the past 24 hours, to stop his efforts to secure information about the impersonation scandal in the appointments of LDCs and SSO (Inspectors) in ESIC, Faridabad. He also stated that because the ESIC was not implementing the orders of CIC, threats to him had been started. He wrote to the Commission that he filed representations to the official email IDs of Haryana police, the Ministry and the ESIC today (i.e, January 5, 2018). The appellant approached the Commission through his representative during the lunch time and also forwarded the copies of his representations to the three aforementioned public authorities. The appellant filed various RTI applications wherein directions were issued on 24th March, 2017 which was partly compiled with by ESIC and the matter was also referred to the CBI. The Commission directed the ESIC to provide information regarding appointment/recruitment of Social Service Officers (Inspectors). It was noticed that though there was a serious suspicion about impersonation, as visible from the contentions of both the parties, nothing tangible could come out of the exercise under RTI and other investigations. One of the reasons for this is weeding out of records like the copies of admit cards etc. The officers representing the public authority represented to the Commission that the ESIC had learnt from its past experiences like this and was making foolproof arrangements to prevent any possibility of impersonation in the examination. The officers also submitted about the measures to increase the transparency and publish the results on website immediately after the completion of the evaluation along with the merit list to prevent the irregularities. The Commission felt that there was a need to inquire into the allegations of impersonation and irregularities raised by the appellant. The Commission recommended a follow-up action on letter dated 09.08.2017 and reminder dated 30.09.2017 addressed to Joint Director (TFC), CBI, requesting them to use the services of the handwriting experts through CFSL to bring out the persons involved in the impersonation scandal in ESIC. The Commission directed the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to inform the appellant when they would respond to the letter dated 25.09.2017 forwarded from the Additional Commissioner of ESIC and provide a certified copy of their conclusions to the appellant within 15 days from the date of preparing such letter/report, and the CPIO of ESIC is directed to forward this Order to CPIO concerned, Central Forensic Science Laboratory and follow-up accordingly. The Commission directs the respondent authority to inform the appellant about the progress in the investigation and action taken on the serious issue raised by the appellant. The Commission also directed the public authority to provide certified copies of the extract of weeding out register and also directed the Chief Vigilance Officer, ESIC, to inform the status of inquiry, along with latest action status, within 15 days from the date of receipt of the order. Dhingra also submitted that: “I am pursuing this case of fraud played on deserving candidates, who lost out on the jobs to non-deserving candidates, which in turn turned this Mafia against me, who can be seen roaming around my residence enquiring about me. The delay in not providing information by ESIC has exposed me to risk of being physically harmed and as such it is prayed that ESIC is directed to provide information and also put on public domain so that risk to the appellant is minimized.” It was personally represented that after this Commission ordered the public authority to furnish the copies of report of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), who analysed the admit-cards and attendance sheets, and the orders were uploaded on the official website of the Commission on 30.12.2017, the threats started pouring in. It was represented that some unidentified people passing by him, when he was walking in his colony, threatened him to stop pursuing the RTI cases, and were leaving the scene immediately, even when Dhingra was asking him to come home and discuss. The appellant said that such incidents happened at different times involving different people in the last 24 hours. The Commission found that threats were serious in nature and risk to life and liberty of appellant increased. He also wanted the action-related information on his representation for protection filed before the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Chairman ESIC and the Director General of Police, Haryana. In view of the urgency and seriousness of the matters, the Commission considered that this complaint of non-compliance as an immediate extension of second appeals in the above referred numbers and directed the authorities concerned to initiate measures to secure the life and liberty of the appellant and his family members and inform him the steps taken to assure him of protection. The CIC order says: A.The Commission directs Shri Raj Kumar, IAS, Director General of ESIC, to take necessary measures to ensure the life and safety of the appellant Mr. Harinder Dhingra and his family members, and file compliance report within 48 hours. B.The Commission directs Shri Arun Kumar, Insurance Commissioner, (Revenue & Benefit, Recruitment, Inspection & Actuarial, Pubic Relations, P&A Except E-II, E-IV & E-VI), Ministry of Labour and Employment, to initiate necessary steps to secure the life and safety of the appellant and his family members, besides instructing speedy investigation and strict action against the culprits, who are obviously behind the threats, and because any delay in investigation might increase the risk of appellant and others, and file compliance report within 48 hours. C.The Commission also directs Shri Baljit Singh Sandhu, Director General of Police, Haryana, to urgently act on this complaint and provide adequate security to Mr. Harinder Dhingra and his family members, besides, inform him the action taken and submit compliance report to the Commission within 48 hours. D.The Commission also directs the CPIO, ESIC Hqrs., Faridabad, to comply the order dated 11.12.2017 and send the compliance report within 10 days. The Whistle Blower Protection Bill 2011 is part of a drive to eliminate corruption in the country's bureaucracy and it was passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011 and by Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President's assent on 9 May 2014. This is “an Act to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption or willful misuse of power or willful misuse of discretion against any public servant and to inquire or cause an inquiry into such disclosure and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto”. The salient features are: What: It seeks to protect whistle blowers, i.e., persons making a public interest disclosure related to an act of corruption, misuse of power, or criminal offense by a public servant. Who: Anybody can be a whistle blower: Any public servant or any other person including a non-governmental organisation may make such a disclosure to the Central or the State Vigilance Commission. Identity: It insists on disclosure of identity. Every complaint has to include the identity of the complainant. Confidentiality: However, the Act protected identity from disclosure: The Vigilance Commission shall not disclose the identity of the complainant except to the head of the department if he deems it necessary. The Act penalises any person who has disclosed the identity of the complainant. Penalising complainant: The Act has a controversial clause that prescribes penalties for knowingly making false complaints. Whether this Act extends protection to the information seekers under RTI Act? Whether information seekers fall under the category of ‘persons who made disclosures to State or Central Vigilance Commissioner’? (Based on decision in CIC/ESICO/A/2017/142254, Harinder Dhingra v. PIO, ESIC, Faridabad, on 5.1.2018) The news article is available at: Which law protects info seekers?
  13. Terming Right to Information Act as a vital tool for quality development and effective public services delivery, Chief Information Commissioner, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai today called for implementation of the Act in letter and spirit. The CIC was addressing the Roundtable of First Appellate Authorities (FAAs), Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Assistant Public Information Officer (APIO) of district Rajouri. Read more at: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/rti-act-vital-tool-effective-development-public-service-delivery-cic/ Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  14. Recently the State Information Commissioner in one of his orders said that Right to Information Act (RTI) can’t be used to settle personal scores or to seek redressal of grievance or settling service matter. The State Information Commissioner issued this order while hearing a 2nd appeal filed by a retired employee of Power Development Department before the State Information Commission (SIC). Some local dailies even carried news reports on this issue. As a campaigner and advocate of Right to Information Act (RTI), I feel this order needs to be revisited as it may leave very serious imprints. In future many Government officials may quote this order and seek undue relief by not revealing genuine information to aggrieved. Read more at: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/redressal-of-genuine-service-matter/ Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  15. Sarvesh Kaushal, Special Chief Secretary-cum-Director-General, MGSIPA, Chandigarh, inaugurated a Right to Information (RTI) awareness camp at DAV College here today. Sarvesh Kaushal said besides providing relief to the people, the Act had also brought transparency, accountability and efficiency in the administrative system. “It has proved to be a useful tool for good governance. Its goal is to make people aware of the procedures in their surroundings as well as the complex policies of the government.” Read more at: https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/jalandhar/rti-promotes-transparency-accountability-sarvesh-kaushal/531440.html Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  16. The Jammu & Kashmir RTI Foundation, for the universalization of the RTI or keeping it, at least, within the reach of the common people, for establishment of more RTI cells, for improvement of the training programs has been rooting for the disclosure of Budget(s) The foundation always demanded that bureaucratic expenditure, expenditure for MLA’S and so on should be curtailed and the amount should be diverted for RTI Awareness. Since 2009, no budget is being allocated for implementation of RTI Act in Jammu and Kashmir. However, activists work day and night for its awareness. Thus, whatever might be the propaganda, the allocation is being done not to cater to the RTI but to provide the capitalist class a profitable field for investment, and for creating the environment in the field of governance suitable for private investment. This is despite the intense crisis of capitalism so that they can continue to extort maximum profit by draining the common people. Read more at: Budgets and their Disclosure under the RTI Act 2009 | Kashmir Reader [sheikh Maqbool is the Chief spokesperson of the J&K RTI foundation]
  17. Read the related news article at: Positive approach should be adopted towards RTI : Naveen Agrawal - Nagpur Today : Nagpur News
  18. Read the related news article at: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/filing-online-rti-applications/ Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  19. Read the related news article at: Its 31 days & Syndicate Bank yet to credit wrongly debited money to a customer; we helped with RTI
  20. Read the related news article at: No need of Aadhaar for RTI Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  21. Read the related news article at: https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/awareness-imperative-for-effective-implementation-of-rti-act-cic/ Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  22. RTI activists are playing the role of responsible torch bearers to help the country come out of the labyrinth of corruption, Justice R.K. Merathia, a retired judge of Jharkhand High Court said. Read more at: RTI Act status in graft fight
  23. How is a judge appointed in the High Court or elevated to the Supreme Court, how is a judge appointed as the Chief Justice of a High Court and how and when is a judge transferred from one high Court to another high court? The simple answer is, the public does not know. The reason has been the Supreme Court’s general attitude towards Right to Information, despite its judgments declaring how vital the public’s right to know is for a democracy, how sunlight is the best disinfectant and that the public has a right to know how its public institutions with public functionaries are functioning. Read more at: Transparency Eclipsed - The Statesman Yogesh Pratap Singh is Associate Professor of Law at NLU Odisha and Deputy Registrar, Supreme Court of India.
  24. Read the related news article at: https://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/opinion/violating-the-rti/269777.html Note: Open the link in a new browser tab and change https to http
  25. The Narendra Modi government has made an oft-repeated commitment to promote transparency and participatory decision-making processes to contain the scourge of corruption in public life. While the Right to Information (RTI) Act is used for promoting free flow of information, the policy of ‘minimum government and maximum governance’ has been pursued to ensure transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government. However, the evidence presented in the 12th Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission (CIC) on December 6, 2017, is contrary to the above claims made by the government. Read more at: Is the Modi Government Hiding More Than What It Is Revealing With the RTI Act? - The Wire [M.M. Ansari is a former chief information commissioner.]
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