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  1. Following chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar's green signal, chief secretary, vigilance, has decided to seek explanations from Chandigarh deputy commissioner Mohammad Shayin and three other senior bureaucrats for their alleged roles in the misappropriation of funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employee Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in Ambala district. Besides, former Ambala deputy commissioner, RP Bhardwaj has also been asked to furnish his reply on the vigilance bureau report against him.This was stated by the state vigilance department in a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by PP Kapoor, a resident of Samalkha in Panipat on Monday.Read at: Ambala MNREGS scam: Govt to seek explanation from Chandigarh DC Shayin, four others
  2. Delhi High Court adjourns PIL for appointment of CIC and 3 Information Commissioners for ASG to seek instructions 1. The PIL,(W.P.© No.3386/2015) filed by Shri R.K. Jain, Shri Lokesh Batra and Shri Subhash Agrawal came up for hearing on 8-4-2015 before the bench of Hon’ble Chief Justice and Hon'ble Mr Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of Delhi High Court. 2. Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate appeared for the petitioners and Shri Sanjay Jain, ASG, appeared for the respondents. 3. Initially, the Court wanted to know from the ASG as to what steps has been taken for the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and 3 Information Commissioners since August, 2014 as in April, 2015, it is a long time. Court indicated that appointments be made within 4 weeks. However on the submissions of ASG, the matter was adjourned for tomorrow i.e. 9-4-2015, so that he may seek instructions and make further submissions in the matter. 4. Copy of the Writ Petition is attached. R.K. Jain v. UOI - PIL - CIC Appointment.pdf
  3. Investors, depositors have right to seek compensation in financial fraud In an historical decision, the NCDRC held that the remedy before a consumer forum is primarily a civil remedy, whereas the prosecution before and conviction by a designated court constituted under MPID Act is a criminal remedy The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), in a significant decision, has held that investors and depositors have a right to seek compensation under the Consumer Protection Act in case of defaults from a financial establishment. In a related case, the apex consumer Commission has asked Nagpur-based Shivaji Estate Livestock And Farms Pvt Ltd to refund money invested along with a 9% interest from filing the complaint. The NCDRC also directed the company to pay 10% of the amount invested as compensation and Rs1,000 as cost of litigation to the complainant. The NCDRC judgement ratifies a financial consumer's right to seek compensation for a fraudulent default on part of a financial establishment. A Bench of Justice VK Jain and Dr BC Gupta, said, "It would be seen from a perusal of the provisions contained in Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (MPID) Act that the designated court has no power to grant compensation to a person who is a victim of the fraudulent default on the part of a Financial Establishment. Therefore, it would be difficult to say that the said MPID Act provides an adequate redressal of the grievances of a person who suffers on account of the fraudulent default on the part of a Financial Establishment, where such defaults also constitutes deficiency in the services rendered by a service provider to its consumer. We are also in agreement with the learned counsel for the complainant that the remedy before a consumer forum is primarily a civil remedy, whereas the prosecution before and conviction by a designated court constituted under MPID Act is a criminal remedy available to the victim of a fraudulent default on the part of a Financial Establishment." In this case, the complainants, Pratibha Adelkar and 372 others were represented by Adv Shirish Deshpande of the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat. Shivaji Estate Livestock invited investors to invest in its goat farming and allied activities by purchasing units of several schemes floated by it. In its brochure, Shivaji Estate Livestock said it has arranged about 500 goats in each goat shed with 25-50 such shed in each rearing centre, 100% of the livestock would be insured and there would be 100% guarantee of the invested amount. The company also told investors that they would have hypothetical charge on 1,000 sq ft of land of Shivaji Estate Livestock and one time investment would offer consistent benefit for 15 years, experienced vets and professionals would look after livestock. The company also assured minimum expected return on the investment and if targets are achieved, investors were also promised additional bonus. The schemes also provided for pre-mature withdrawals by giving 45 days’ notice. Initially, Shivaji Estate Livestock made payments of some instalments due to the investors under the schemes but later on did not fulfil the terms (for repayment to investors). When the investors applied for pre-mature withdrawals, the company failed to honour its commitment. Alleging deficiency in the services offered by Shivaji Estate Livestock, the complainants filed appeal before the NCDRC. No one except a director of Shivaji Estate Livestock filed any reply. In the reply, the company director took a preliminary objection that in view of the provisions contained in the MPID Act, the NCDRC has no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint, since the Act provides complete machinery for recovery of investors' deposits. It also stated that a complaint and FIR was filed against the company. A charge sheet was filed against the Company and nine others, under Section 420 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3 and 4 of the MPID Act and the case was pending before the Designated Court. Shivaji Estate Livestock, however did not deny floating of schemes and accepting deposits from the complainants. The NDCRD Bench, said, "As per Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, 'consumer' means any person, who either buys goods or hires or avails services for a consideration, but does not include a person, who avails of such services for any commercial purpose. The term 'service' has been defined in Section 2(a) of the Act to mean service of any description, which is made available to potential users. The Complainants hired or availed the services of the opposite party for investing their savings in the schemes floated by Shivaji Estate Livestock, and deposited money with it for investing on their behalf in goat farming and allied activities. Therefore, it can hardly be disputed that the complainants are consumers of Shivaji Estate Livestock within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act." The Bench then decided on whether the jurisdiction of NCDRC is barred under sub-section of Section 6 of the MPID Act. Adv Deshpande contented that since the consumer forum is not a court; the provisions of Section 6(2) of the MPID Act are not applicable to such forum. He also submitted that the remedy provided before a consumer forum is a civil remedy in a case where the fraudulent default, as defined in MPID Act also constitutes deficiency in the services rendered by a service provider, whereas MPID Act provides for criminal prosecution and punishment of the persons indulging in such fraudulent defaults. "...the designated court constituted under the provisions of MPID Act has no power to grant compensation, which a consumer forum can grant in a case of deficiency in the services rendered to a consumer," Adv Deshpande pointed out. Accepting the contention, the Bench said, "Section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act provides that the provisions of the said Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. The MPID Act came to be enacted much later than enactment of the Consumer Protection Act. Despite that the Legislation in its wisdom used only the expression 'Court' and not the expression 'Court or any other forum' in sub-Section (2) of Section 6 of the said Act. In these circumstances, it would be difficult to say that the legislative intent behind the enactment of sub-Section (2) of the Section 6 was also to exclude the jurisdiction of the consumer forum in a case where fraudulent default on the part of the Financial Establishment also constitutes deficiency in the service rendered to a consumer. Therefore, in our view, for the purpose of the sub-Section (2) of Section 6 of the MPID Act, consumer forum cannot be said to be a 'court'." While disposing of the complaint, the apex consumer forum, then directed Shivaji Estate Livestock to refund to investors, money deposited in different schemes along with an interest of 9% from the date of filing complaint. Read More: Investors, depositors have right to seek compensation in financial fraud - Moneylife
  4. Members of the Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan and Civil Society Forum on Human Rights on Thursday met Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati and demanded a high-level inquiry into the murder of RTI user Ganesh Chandra Panda in Brahmapur last year.Submitting a five-point charter of demands to the Chief Secretary, a delegation of rights activists comprising Pradip Pradhan, Akhanda, Pradipta Nayak and Chandra Nath Dani urged him to order for high-level inquiry to find out the circumstances leading to brutal murder of RTI activist Ganesh Chandra Panda. Read at: RTI activists meet CS, seek protection
  5. The legality over the continuation of AP State Information Commission's (APSIC) territorial jurisdiction in both states has come under scanner from RTI activists. Read details: RTI activists seek clarity on APSIC - The Times of India
  6. Have right, will seek information 1 Aug, 2007, 0310 hrs IST, The Right to Information Act (RTI Act) finds its genesis in the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Constitution of India. Only an informed public opinion can ensure effective exercise of the freedom of speech and expression. Although it has been a little over two years since the revolutionary Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) was enacted, the level of awareness among the people regarding its use and effectiveness continues to be low. The RTI Act provides a right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. So, seeking information from public authorities as a matter of right, which had remained the prerogative of a select few hitherto, has devolved down to the common citizen of India. The RTI Act has provided an alternate redressal mechanism to combat a system, which is often addressed as lethargic and careless. And it works, how, because when you ask questions such as — why has my work not been done so far, who were responsible for doing my work, when will my work be done now — your work gets expedited. Let us take an illustration of Dr PK Singh, an Indian citizen and a medical practitioner. He has a refund due as per his income tax return, which is pending for long. When the wait seemed endless, he ventured out to meet the tax authorities for his refund, which does not yield a result. What can Mr Singh do to know the status of his refund and the reasons for its delay? Under The RTI Act, the income tax department, being one of the public authorities, has to necessarily appoint a Public Information Officer (PIO). Dr. Singh, being a citizen of India, can approach the jurisdictional PIO and specify the particulars of the information sought on a plain piece of paper along with a nominal fee of Rs 10. In fact, he would not even be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. The PIO is duty-bound to provide the information within 30 days of the receipt of the request failing, which he is liable to a penalty of maximum up to Rs 25,000/- and a possible disciplinary action. Further, if Dr Singh is not satisfied with response of the PIO, he can appeal to the appellate authorities as appointed by the Income Tax department. This brings us to an interesting question as to whether it is possible for Mr X, a third party, to seek information about the personal income tax details filed by Dr Singh under The RTI Act. The Central Information Commission (CIC), the nodal agency to implement and administer the RTI Act and the income tax department seem to differ on this point. CIC, in one of the cases, had held that the assessment order (not the tax return) can be made available to a third party under the RTI Act. However, the tax department has refused to divulge the information in the absence of the consent of the third party. Can a company take recourse to the RTI Act for getting information from public authorities? Perhaps not, as only citizens are allowed to be the applicant and it has been interpreted to mean individuals only. However, NRIs are eligible applicants under the RTI Act. There have been various successful stories of people using the RTI Act to successfully claim their rightful refunds or obtain other information. Various matters relating to the delay in refund, arbitrariness in proceedings, harassment, etc, has been successfully dealt with the use of this Act. Statistics show that states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi have seen wider usage of the Act. However, the awareness levels remain low and the RTI Act is grossly underrated and underutilised. The message is clear — public authorities would find it increasingly difficult to say ‘No’ to your information request as long as you know that you have a ‘Right to Know’! (The authors are with Ernst & Young) http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2247409.cms
  7. Anil uses RTI to seek info on Mukesh's deal A 7.5-hectare plot at Bandra-Kurla Complex has become the new battleground for the Ambani brothers. After losing the bid to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for the said plot, Anil Ambani's Reliance Energy Limited (REL) has sought clarification under Right to Information Act on whether Floor Space Index (FSI) was raised from 1.53 to 4 for this land to benefit Mukesh. At the same time, Anil's Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has also filed a case in the Bombay High Court saying norms of bidding were violated. REL claims that the additional FSI gives Mukesh an extra 1,85,000 sq mt of land worth an estimated Rs 7,700 crore. The story goes back to December 2005, when the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) invited bids to develop, operate and maintain a convention and exhibition centre in BKC. Times of India, Ahmedabad 20.05.2007 #StrangeDecision
  8. Citizens cannot invoke their right to information in seeking opinions and advices from government over interpretation of a law, the country's apex RTI body has held. This was said by the Central Information Commission (CIC) over a retired senior officer's plea seeking from the Centre an interpretation of an Income Tax Act provision over tax exemption limits on rent payable by an assessee. In his RTI application filed before Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Jaipur-resident L K Verma also sought a review of proposal by the Finance Ministry to increase such exemption limits. The matter was taken up with the Commission after CBDT said it was not obliged under the RTI law to provide an interpretation in respect to a provision of the I-T law. Upholding CBDT's view on the matter, Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said, "To try to force the department to change its line of thinking and its interpretation of a given set of laws through ingenious use of RTI Act cannot be supported." The Commission also rejected Verma's submission that the definition of "information," as entailed in section 2(f) of RTI Act, included the expression "opinions and advices." "It is important to note that the expressions 'opinions' and 'advices' in the section refer to opinions, advices which form part of material such as advices and opinion present on files, documents, records and so on," Tiwari said. "It would be wholly incorrect to read these expressions to mean that an information-seeker can demand from a public authority its opinion and seek advice in a matter of the petitioner's interest," the Commissioner added. No RTI to seek Govt's opinion on interpretation of laws: CIC- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times
  9. The question was forwarded to me thourgh Private Message: Can RBI seek exemption under Section 8(1)(e) of RTI for information related with Cooperative Banks collected as part of their monitoring?
  10. Petition challenges right to seek information from court Chandigarh, October 5 The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notices to Union Law Ministry on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the powers of various Information Commissioners in seeking information (under RTI Act) from High Courts and the Supreme Court. Filed by an advocate, the PIL has challenged the powers of even the Chief Information Commissioners at state and central level, as such power interferes with the independence of the Judiciary, which is part of the basic structure of the Indian Constituion. The petitioner argued that no such power can be conferred on information commissioners under the RTI Act, without bringing an amendment to the Constitution of India. He also challenged the criteria and procedure used in appointing information commissioners at the state and central level by relying on a judgment of Constitution Bench in N Sampath Kumar’s case (1987), wherein it was held that no appointment to the post of chairman and administrative member of the Central Administrative Tribunal can be made by the central or state governments alone, as those members have to decide cases filed by employees against the government. The petitioner further argued that the SC had given two options to the Union Government, viz. (i) Consult the Chief Justice of India (CJI) before making such appointments or constitute a committee headed by the CJI or some other Judge for recommending the names. The central or state governments therefore cannot make appointments to the post of Information Commissioners without consultation in this manner, argued the advocate. He also argued the fact that since no specific qualifications have been prescribed for appointment to these posts, arbitrary powers conferred on the governments to make such appointments lowers the constitutional status of Judges of the High Courts, including Chief Justices of the High Courts and Supreme Courts Judges, argued the advocate. He called for a procedure that was somewhat comparable to that of the appointment of High Court and Supreme Court Judges. Petition challenges right to seek information from court
  11. Neha Satav Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to force or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Need for RTI Theoretically, right to information (RTI) recognises that every person has a guaranteed right to access information held by the government. Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to free speech and expression. The pre-requisite for enjoying this right is knowledge and information. The absence of authentic information on matters of public interest will only encourage wild rumours and speculations. Thus, RTI has been given the status of a constitutional right to free speech and expression, which includes the right to receive and collect information, helping the citizens perform their fundamental duties as set out in Article 51(a) of Constitution. RTI has already received judicial recognition as a part of the fundamental right to free speech and expression and right to liberty. However, an act was necessary to provide statutory framework to lay down the procedure for translating this right into reality. Passing of the Act: The RTI Bill replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002 that was never implemented. The Act became operative from October 12, 2005. Critical evaluation The strength of RTI is judged on the basis of five parameters: 1. Application of the Act: Under the Act, right to information is given only to a citizen of this country, though no such restriction is made in most countries. Information can be obtained only from a public authority. The Act specifically excludes information from private authorities. In the era of privatisation, not providing for access to private information is less than desirable. 2. Accessible information: The Act defines ‘information” but “file noting” has been excluded from the purview of the definition of “information and record.” There was wide criticism on this count, leading the government to make some discounted changes. On December 1, 2005, under the instruction of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it was decided to incorporate certain changes in the rules under the RTI Act. It was decided that “file noting” relating to identifiable individuals, group of individuals, organisations, appointment matters relating to inquires and departmental proceedings shall not be disclosed. 3. Severability: Section 10 of the RTI Act provided relief to save the requests for information from the rigidity of exemptions mentioned in S.8 and S.9. The provision is excellent and is universally followed. However, two changes are suggested: a) Decision to sever must also be subject to appeal, and b) The document should be made available in its original copy after blacking out the severable portions. Suo moto disclosure: Suo moto disclosure is one of the most important provisions of the RTI Act; public authorities are to give reasons for decisions, publishing and communicating to the persons likely to be affected and the relevant information available before initiating the projects. The law should establish both a general obligation to publish and key categories of information that must be published. Exemptions: No right is absolute. The Act has provided a long list of documents, material or information, which cannot be accessed. Section 8 and Section 9 of the Act together provide about 11 grounds of exemption, some of them such as threat to security of the state, disclosure expressly forbidden by the court, personal information, information held in fiduciary relationship etc. However, provisions pertaining to commercial secrets contained in Section 8(d) appear innocuous. Also, there is no need to exempt Cabinet papers from disclosure if they compromise public interest. Exempted organisations: Section 24 gives power to the government to add a list of organisations to which the Act does not apply. The power given under this section is too wide and unnecessary, and may also be said to be devoid of any rationale. Surprisingly, the list also includes the police force. Overriding provision: It is necessary to make an overriding provision that any information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament and State Legislature, will not be denied to any citizen. The Act contains a similar provision, but it is only as a proviso, thus limiting its application to personal information of public interest. This provision should have an overriding effect on all other exemptions. 4. Institutions and adjudicating authorities: The most outstanding provision of the RTI Act is the appointment of an information commission. A high level commission is dedicated to implementation of the Act. The Act also envisages a chief information commissioner appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Chief Justice of India. Public information officer: Another good feature is that it provides for the executive to enforce the freedom of information. It authorises public authority to appoint public information officers, who shall deal with requests for information. However, Section 5 does not mention the level in the administrative ladder at which the information officer should be appointed. It is also not clear if the public information officer can decide to give or withhold information unilaterally, or if there will be some internal system. Adjudicatory authority: One of the serious weaknesses of the Act is that there is no provision for an appeal to an independent authority. Both the appeals are to the government itself. Section 23 of the Act also bars the jurisdiction against the orders passed under this Act. Thus, the only remedy against the orders passed in appeal by the government would be to approach the High court or Supreme Court by means of writ jurisdiction, a remedy that would be impractical for most citizens. 5. Penalties: The Act makes it clear that subject to certain safeguards, there is public interest in allowing access to such information. The Act lays down a general duty for public officers to provide information and the failure to do so attracts penal liability to the tune of Rs 250 per day. However, it fails to check vexatious or repetitious requests for information as it does not absolve the public officer from this duty; nor does it provide penalty for such requests. Conclusion With the passage of the Act, an important right has now been recognised by the Parliament. There is, however, a long struggle ahead before this Act becomes an effective instrument for securing the citizens’ right to information and bringing about transparency in functioning of the government and its agencies. The right to part with information will require a change in the mindset of legislators and bureaucrats for whom secrecy in governance is a prime legacy. Information is power and it really takes courage to share it. DNA - Money - Right to information — easy to seek, hard to secure - Daily News & Analysis
  12. Panaji, July 12 (IANS) Goa got its Right to Information (RTI) law almost a decade ago but its citizens are now pressing for greater transparency in governance under India's federal law on RTI passed in 2005. While there has been some debate about how the two laws compare with each other, and whether the old state law (passed in 1997) has been repealed or not, campaigners here are largely agreed that the state could do with more transparency in its governance. The New Delhi-based Media Information and Communication Centre of India (MICCI), the International Centre, Goa, and the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), which has its branches in New Delhi, held a state-wide in Goa meet to take RTI initiatives forward. This saw the setting up of a Goa RTI Forum at the end of a two-day seminar. Goa's former chief minister and currently assembly speaker, Pratapsinh Rane, argued that RTI laws need to be used but not misused. But he conceded that not many even among the educated were aware of its existence and how it was to be deployed. Salgaocar Law College principal M. Pinheiro said government officials fail to adequately acknowledge that if official information is suo motu made available to people, then a lot of time - of the people as well as government officials - will be saved instead of taking resort to applications under RTI. Journalists from Mumbai and Goa noted how the media could do much more to create awareness about the act and its success stories. It was also felt that the media itself should use RTI more than before, particularly in a state where the Right to Information Act has been under implementation for 10 years. It was strongly felt that the Goan government should voluntarily maintain a fair share of transparency and should index, catalogue and disclose all relevant information as required under the 2005 central Right to Information Act. Mangalorean.Com- Serving Mangaloreans Around The World!
  13. Nepalgunj, March 30: A two-day mid-western regional workshop on Right to Information was held here for the past two-days with a view to promote national awareness on Right to Information. Organized by Freedom Forum Nepal in cooperation of the ICIMOD, the workshop deliberated on the rationale of a Right to Information law in Nepal as one of the most effective tools to consolidate people's power. About fifty delegates representing political parties, non-government organizations, civil societies, lawyers, media professionals and freelance intellectuals took part in the two-day workshop, discussing various dimensions of Right to Information (RTI) in relation to people. Nepal defined 'right to information' as part of the people's fundamental rights in its first democratic constitution in 1990 but it could not be implemented due to lack of law which is still absent. "Failure to make RTI law was an unfortunate thing for us," said Krishna Prasad Upadhyaya, chief judge of the Appellate Court Nepalgunj while addressing the inaugural session of the workshop on Thursday, 29 March. He said, now that the initiative has been taken, constant lobbying by concerned professionals could inspire authorities to make the much needed RTI law in Nepal. Chairman of the Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said the two-day workshop also sought to collect suggestion and comments for bringing effective RTI law in Nepal. He said such a law helps citizens to feel that they are sovereign and empowered. Nepal recently drafted a bill on right to information, but members of the drafting committee claim the government has forwarded the bill to parliament with some "unacceptable" changes. Representatives of various political parties, including Nepali Congress, CPN (UML), Nepali Congress (Democratic) , CPN (Maoist), Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandidevi), Nepal Bar Association, Federation of Nepalese Journalists and other organizations are taking part in the two-day workshop. In the context that the bill is yet to be passed, the workshop issued several recommendations to make the proposed RTI law effective. Freedom Forum has already held three such workshops in eastern, central and western regions of Nepal. A similar workshop is being held in far western town of Dhangadhi tomorrow. http://www.nepalhumanrightsnews.com/news.asp?id=814
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