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  1. As reported by Manoj Mitta at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 5 August 2009 NEW DELHI: Hard-pressed as it is to provide accommodation in the Capital to fresh appointees, the government is faced with the bizarre prospect of the Speaker herself turning into a squatter. Though Meira Kumar is all set to move into 20, Akbar Road, which is the designated bungalow for the Speaker, there is no sign yet of her giving up equally palatial 6, Krishna Menon Marg, which had been allotted to her when she was a minister in UPA-I. Ever since her father Babu Jagjivan Ram died way back in 1986, Meira has been trying hard to convert the Krishna Menon Marg house into a memorial as that is where he had stayed for four decades. But in view of the general policy against letting government bungalows in New Delhi be converted into memorials, successive governments balked at granting her formal permission even as they allowed her family to retain control over the property in deference to the deceased leader's standing among Dalits. This is even after she was forced to leave the Type VIII bungalow as an ex-MP during the NDA reign in 2002 when her mother Indrani Devi had died. Two years later, when it was re-allotted to her after she became a minister in UPA-I, Meira did not shift back to Krishna Menon Marg as she continued to stay in her own house at New Friends Colony in south Delhi. The 2004 allotment was instead used by her to impart a semblance of legitimacy to the unauthorized occupation of the building by Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Trust. The arrangement between the government and Meira over 6, Krishna Menon Marg has been disrupted by her elevation to Speaker's office, which comes with designated residence at 20, Akbar Road. She no longer has the option of passing off Krishna Menon Marg as her residential allotment. The change is evident from a disclosure made by the ministry of urban development on July 13 in response to an RTI query from activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal. To the question on what would happen to 6, Krishna Menon Marg after Meira moves into 20, Akbar Road, the ministry said, It will be free for further allotment. But then, given the social and political sensitivities involved, it remains to be seen whether the government will have the will to evict the unrecognized Jagjivan Ram memorial along with his marble bust installed in the front lawn. Asked if she would give up her dream of converting the Krishna Menon Marg house into her father's memorial, Meira's OSD K P Balyan said, All options are open, including the possibility of the government finally giving formal permission for the memorial. As minister for social justice and empowerment in the previous Manmohan government, Meira had sought to promote her family's cause by setting up Babu Jagjivan Ram National Foundation with a corpus grant of Rs 50 crore. In a glaring instance of conflict of interest, the foundation was established by Meira with public funds with the object of, among other things, acquiring places connected with Babuji and raising memorials. But then, Meira could argue in her defense that she was only following the precedent of memorials being raised in the erstwhile government houses of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Source: Meira wishes to turn home allotted earlier into memorial - India - NEWS - The Times of India
  2. RTI ‘transgressing into govt functioning’, Moily wants a debate D K Singh Posted: Sun Sep 25 2011, 01:19 hrs New Delhi: can be seen here : http://www.indianexpress.com/news/rti-transgressing-into-govt-functioning-moily-wants-a-debate/851360/0 Denying any rift between Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily today called for a “national debate” on the scope of the Right to Information Act (RTI), saying it “transgresses into the independent functioning of the government”. This came in the context of Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy citing a Finance Ministry note that has brought the spotlight on Chidambaram’s role in the 2G spectrum allocation, which was obtained through RTI. “We call it argumentative India. Every person or ministry has the right to express views but you cannot interpret it as differences between Pranab Mukherjee and Chidambaram. In the context of RTI exposures, people are misreading things. Transparency, yes, but it cannot scuttle the independence of individuals and ministries expressing difference of opinion. It’s time for a national debate on this issue,” Veerappa Moily told The Sunday Express. As for the Finance Ministry’s purported letter regarding the role of Chidambaram, the Corporate Affairs Minister said it could not be construed as infighting in the government. The note sent to the PMO says that had the Finance Ministry, then under Chidambaram, stuck to the auction option, the grant of licences could have been cancelled. It adds that the note “had been seen by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee”. “Just because there is exchange of views on administrative matters, one cannot call it infighting. In a democratic process that our Cabinet system follows, there is free exchange of views to arrive at a correct decision. Even at the Prime Minister’s level, we express our differences. How can democracy function otherwise? But RTI obtain some extracts of such exchange of views and attribute motives to them. If this continues, no officer or minister will discuss anything. Even the judiciary should appreciate it. Time has come to re-visit the issue of (making public) file notes and discussions,” said Moily. The Corporate Affairs Minister, however, refused to discuss specific changes in the RTI Act, preferring a national debate first. Moily had earlier backed Chidambaram, slamming opposition parties for demanding his resignation. While the Congress has been quick to back Chidambaram, party president Sonia Gandhi has refrained from making any intervention so far. Sources said she has not spoken to either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Mukherjee or Chidambaram. “Let’s see how the court treats this matter,” said a senior Congress leader, maintaining that the party was not inclined to interfere in issues concerning governance. Congress sources, however, said many senior leaders have raised the issue of a “rift” in the top echelons of the government with her. “She had made some interventions in the past but that apparently did not last long. We are sure she will have a serious talk with the Prime Minister upon his return,” said a senior party functionary.
  3. As reported at deccanherald.com on 8 May 2011 At a time when even the Supreme court judges have put details of their assets and wealth online, the two houses of parliament have ruled out publishing such details of its members online. In reply to a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Rajya Sabha's ethics committee said it was felt that since details of assets and liabilities of members can be availed by anyone after written permission from the Rajya Sabha chairman, uploading could be avoided. “It was the considered view of the committee that since any person could ask for the information of the Register (of Declaration of Assets and Liabilities), there appears no need to place the same on the website," committee director Sunita Sekaran said. She was replying to a RTI application filed by activist S.C. Aggarwal, who had asked for information on the steps taken by the union government for the declaration of wealth of members of legislature and judiciary on government website. In its reply, the Lok Sabha secretariat said that no steps were taken by it for uploading the assets and liabilities on its website."Lok Sabha Secretariat maintains information pertaining to assets and liabilities of members of Lok Sabha as required under the provisions of Representation of the People Act, 1951 and Members of Lok Sabha (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Rules, 2004,” said Lok Sabha information cell under secretary Savita Sharma
  4. As reported by PHEROZE L. VINCENT at telegraphindia.com on February 5 , 2011 New Delhi, Feb. 4: Nearly 150 MPs and former MPs and other bigwigs have been creative with their bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi, building rooms, toilets, sheds, badminton courts and verandas without authorisation. The central public works department (CPWD) has admitted this in reply to an RTI petition by activist S.C. Agrawal. Topping the list is the BJP. Its national and Delhi state headquarters together account for 1,853.3sqm of illegal constructions, including rooms, servants’ quarters and prefabricated structures. Amar Singh comes second at 1,398sqm. Those with more than 300sqm of unauthorised construction include Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu Prasad, Mayavati, former Punjab home minister M.S. Bitta, the Congress’s Deepender Hooda and Suresh Kalmadi, and the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha, V.K. Malhotra and S.S. Ahluwalia. Among the others are Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, L.K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sharad Yadav, Shibu Soren, Ram Jethmalani, Oscar Fernandes and Ahmed Patel as well as cricketer politicians Navjot Sidhu and Mohammad Azharuddin. The lone Bengal MP on the list is Sudip Bandopadhyay, whose bungalow has 35sqm of unauthorised construction —a room and a toilet — the CPWD says. He claimed he had only got a partially demolished toilet repaired, and that it was 35sqft, not 35sqm. “The repairs were done under the supervision of the CPWD district executive engineer and I had to pay for it,” he said. The previous occupant of his bungalow was minister of state Bharatsinh Solanki. Shyam Jaju, who is in charge of the BJP headquarters, claimed that all the additional constructions were temporary structures, which are permitted. However, regular visitors to the party’s offices say many permanent structures have come up there. CPWD officials weren’t available for comment. Their RTI reply says that all unauthorised constructions would be removed when the occupants change. The CPWD has written routine letters to the occupants and the secretariats of their Houses advising demolition. The CPWD has itself built an unauthorised room for an assistant engineer at its North Avenue office, the RTI reply admits. It lists Advani as having a shed and other unauthorised structures across 55sqm. Advani’s personal assistant Deepak Chopra texted: “Not a single sq mm unauthorised constructed by Shri Advani at 30 Prithviraj Road. All construction done by CPWD.” Amar Singh said: “The previous occupant of my house was Keshubhai Patel, the former Gujarat chief minister. The house was in the most dilapidated condition. I renovated it and built an office, which the CPWD told me I wasn’t supposed to. I got all additional constructions made by me bulldozed at my own expense, except a staircase to the roof. I installed a wooden temporary cabin with permission. If there are still any illegal structures, they have been built before my time.” The RTI reply says Amar built four rooms, a temporary steel structure, a main building and an office. Paswan’s personal assistant said: “Other MPs too have done it, why are you asking only about my leader?”
  5. As reported by The Hindu on February 1, 2009 New Delhi (PTI): The PMO has decided to keep the assets of ministers and their relatives under wraps saying information in this regard is exempted from the Right to Information Act. In a reply to the application of RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the PMO has termed the information as exempt under the Section 8 of the RTI Act and refused to divulge it for the same. The PMO had reportedly provided the details to the cabinet secretariat to facilitate answering of RTI applications in this regard but later took an about turn and denied the information to the applicant. Agrawal had filed an RTI application last year seeking seeking details of assets of Union Ministers and their relatives for the last two years from Cabinet Secretariat. The letter was forwarded to Prime Minister's Office for necessary action on the application. "In a letter dated May 19, 2008 the PMO provided the details of assets and liabilities of members of Union Council of Ministers to cabinet secretariat to deal with such RTI applications," Agrawal said. "But after that I did not get any response from either of the offices. I had even moved an application with the Central Information Commission in this regard," he added. After six months, PMO in a letter dated December 17, 2008 told Agrawal that the information sought could not be provided as it was exempt under the RTI Act provisions. The office sought exemption under clauses 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) which relate to immunity granted to "documents fiduciary relationship" and "Cabinet Documents" under the RTI Act, 2005 respectively. Source : The Hindu News Update Service
  6. As reported at rediff.com/business on November 12, 2010 Disclosure of expenditure incurred on domestic and international tours of Railway Minister will endanger her life-- this was the argument cited by the ministry while denying information about the travels undertaken by her. Activist S C Agrawal had filed an RTI application seeking to know the travel expenses of Members of Parliament and ministers, which was transferred to Railway Ministry for giving details about domestic as well as international tours undertaken by their minister and two ministers of State. "The information sought by the applicant is not maintained in the format as desired by the applicant. The revelation of information relating to movement of high dignitaries could endanger their life and physical safety and exemption is sought under clause 8(g) of the RTI Act, 2005," Under Secretary Protocol Sudhir Kumar said in the reply. But at the same time, the ministry has provided file notings on the movement of RTI application, sought by the applicant, wherein the protocol officer has said Minister of State for Railways E Ahmed has taken one foreign visit. However, Agarwal said he will appeal against the decision. "How can information about tours undertaken in the past endanger lives of Ministers? It is beyond comprehension why Railway is not ready to share expenses of its minister and ministers of state," Agrawal said.
  7. As reported by Himanshi Dhawan at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Nov 15, 2010 NEW DELHI: The department of telecom is playing coy about the 2G spectrum case in Supreme Court. Faced with an RTI petition about the embarrassing case, it batted aside the query taking shelter behind technicalities, and passed the buck to the PMO. On the flip side, the PMO replied — with uncharacteristic promptness — within hours to the very same query stating clearly that PM and his office were aware of the matter relating to allotment of 2G spectrum before the SC. RTI activist S C Agrawal had asked DoT if PM or PMO was aware of the 2G spectrum case, the names of the parties in court, whether Union minister A Raja was party to the case in his official or personal capacity and whether advocates representing him were being paid for by the minister or by a public authority. In a reply dated November 9, the telecom ministry's CPIO R K Gupta said, "It is observed that no specific court case has been mentioned for which the information has been sought." Using the plea that the information sought pertained to the PMO, Gupta said "information can be provided by this office only after the information furnished by PMO". Significantly, PMO in its reply dated the same day said, "The PM/PMO are aware that the matter relating to allotment of 2G spectrum is before the SC." The response from telecom department comes at a time when a CAG report submitted recently estimated that the public exchequer incurred a revenue loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
  8. Atul Patankar

    ITDC hotels pay for MPs' overstay

    As reported by Sowmya Aji at indiatoday.intoday.in on September 29, 2010 The India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) hotels, the Ashok and Janpath, in the Capital are paying the price for allowing some parliamentarians to overstay. Ten MPs of the 14th Lok Sabha, including actors Dharmendra, Jaya Prada and Govinda, together ran up a bill of Rs 1.2 crore at the two hotels, but nobody appears to be willing to pay. The details were revealed by the Ashok hotel in a reply to activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal's query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The hotel has been running from pillar to post for the past one year trying to recover the dues, but to no avail. "The hotels have not been able to get the money back as neither the government nor the MPs have come forward to pay the bills," Agrawal said. The parliamentarians overstayed at the hotels despite being allotted government accommodation. When MPs are elected, they are put up in the ITDC hotels till the directorate of estates allots them government accommodation. While the bill for this temporary stay is borne by the government, there does not appear to be any guideline on who will pay if the MPs continue to stay at the hotels even after being allotted government accommodation. "This lack of clarity has resulted in the hotels having to bear the burden," Agrawal said. Bollywood's He-man and BJP MP Dharmendra's bill for overstay from June 1, 2004 to January 14, 2005, is Rs 80,979. His dues are much less compared with the others. Congress MP Govinda's outstanding dues for the stay from December 8, 2004, to November 16, 2005 is Rs 5,53,361. Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Prada overstayed from May 21, 2004, to September 2, 2005, and ran a bill of Rs 5,98,350 for this period. The worst offender was Rashtriya Janata Dal MP and former minister of state for human resource development Mohd A. A. Fatmi, who ran up a bill of ` 18,13,044 for overstaying at the hotel from June 10, 2004, to September 6, 2005. In a letter written to the Lok Sabha secretary-general on November 27, 2009, Rajiv Makin, director (commercial and marketing) of the ITDC, sought his help in recovering the entire amount - Rs 1,20,18,491. Makin said the two ITDC hotels had already waived the revised tariffs and taxes to the tune of over Rs 6 lakh for the MPs in both hotels. "The outstanding of Rs 1.2 crore has still remained unsettled. Already considerable time has elapsed and no progress has been made in this regard. I would request you to kindly use your good offices for the needful in the matter,'' the letter said. However, there has been no action so far. In response to another RTI petition filed by Agrawal, the two hotels said several letters had been written to the secretaries- general of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha seeking payment of the outstanding amount. Even meetings were held with the joint secretary of the Lok Sabha and the director of the Rajya Sabha secretariat, but to no avail, they said. In its latest reply to Agrawal on the matter, the Ashok said: "The matter of recovery was taken up at the corporate level with the secretary-general of the Lok Sabha and the directorate of estates telephonically and through personal visits. Since the amount of Rs 1,20,18,491 has not been received, copy of remittance is not available." The only saving grace is that the Lok Sabha secretariat and the directorate of estates seem to have realised the problem and ensured that no MP of the 15th Lok Sabha overstayed in any ITDC hotel. The Ashok has made it clear that no 'credit stay' facility will be available for the MPs. The question of who will pay the outstanding of the freeloading MPs, however, still remains.
  9. Atul Patankar

    No decision on CWG complimentary tickets

    As reported at economictimes.indiatimes.com on 15 SEP, 2010 NEW DELHI: With 18 days to go for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), no decision on the distribution of complimentary tickets/passes has been taken by the Organising Committee (OC) yet, documents obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act revealed Wednesday. Three questions in the RTI query, filed by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, garnered the same answer from the OC: "It is still under discussion." Agrawal was seeking detailed information on the quota of free complimentary tickets for various organisations, authorities, people etc., names and authorities entitled to issue the passes and how many and details of complimentary passes at the chairpersons' discretion. The answer pegged the anticipated sale of the tickets at around Rs.100 crore.
  10. Ministry fined for not disclosing Cola drink ingredients as reported by STAFF WRITER of PTI New Delhi, Jun 27 What is it about Cola drinks that the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is trying to hide? Ministry officials are apparently willing to pay the penalty imposed by the Central Information Commission rather than reveal details of the ingredients of cola drinks sold in the country. One year and seven months have passed since RTI applicant S C Agrawal enquired why ingredients of Cola drinks were not printed on Cola bottles. He has yet to get an answer. Under the Right to Information Act a person seeking information has to get an answer within one month. This seemingly deliberate delay angered Central Information Commissioner Deepak Sandhu so much that she imposed the maximum allowable penalty of Rs 25,000 on the Ministry official -- the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO). fullstory
  11. As reported on ptinews.com on 13 June 2010: fullstory RTI activist's name 'misused' for filing applications New Delhi, Jun 13 (PTI) Fame sometimes extracts a high price! There are others who can lay claim to your identity and even misuse it. One such person is RTI Activist S C Agrawal who is grappling with the problem of bogus RTI applicants who are using his name and address to file RTI pleas to embarrass specific officials and settle personal scores with them. Agrawal who had used the RTI route to raise several controversial issues including the successful campaign to get assets of judges made public, recently got an RTI reply from Air India on a petition he did not file. Fearing that his name was being misused, Agrawal called up Air India's Public Information Officer and asked for a copy of the RTI application the reply of which had been sent to him.
  12. Nine terrorists have sought commutation of death sentence as reported by Vidya Subrahmaniam in the Hindu, Jun 05, 2010 NEW DELHI: Terrorism knows no religion, and as much emerges from a scrutiny of 29 mercy petitions filed by Indian death row prisoners. Of these, 26 are pending with the President's Secretariat, while the others, including the petition filed by Afzal Guru, who was convicted in the Parliament attack case, are “under examination” in the Home Ministry. The details, which were accessed by Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, show that in all, nine convicted terrorists, including Afzal Guru, have sought commutation of the death sentence. But, significantly, Afzal Guru is the only “Muslim” terrorist on the list. His petition is also the most recent. Rajiv Gandhi's assailants — Murugan, Santhan and Arivu — top the list with a mercy petition that dates back to 2000. The petition took five years to reach the President's Secretariat, where it has since been pending Next comes Devender Pal Singh, who was sentenced to death for a terrorist act by a Special TADA Court in August 2001. The sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in March 2003. The same year, Singh, who was convicted in a bomb blast case, filed a mercy petition. It reached the President's office in 2005. The third terrorism case involves Simon, Gnanaprakash, Madaiah and Bilavendra, who were convicted of killing 22 Karnataka police personnel by blasting landmines. In September 2001, a trial court in Karnataka awarded all of them life imprisonment, which was enhanced by the Supreme Court to the death penalty. Their collective mercy petition, filed in 2004, has been pending with the President since 2005. Afzal Guru was sentenced to death in December 2002. The trial court's sentence was confirmed by the Delhi High Court in November 2003 and by the Supreme Court in August 2005. His mercy petition, filed in 2006, has been going back and forth between the Home Ministry and the Delhi government. Mercy petitions can be sent to either the President's office or the Home Ministry. However, the Constitution prescribes no time limit for their disposal, leading to indecision by successive Presidents, and in some cases, by governments. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam decided only two mercy petitions — in 2004 he rejected the plea of rape convict Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was later hanged, and in 2006, he commuted Kheraj Ram's death penalty to life imprisonment. President K.R. Narayanan did not clear any mercy petition. President Pratibha Patil, who inherited a backlog of 25-odd cases, the earliest dating back to 1997, has decided only one case so far. In November 2009, she commuted R. Govindasamy's death sentence to life imprisonment. The Hindu : National : Nine terrorists have sought commutation of death sentence
  13. As reported at beta.thehindu.com on May 11, 2010 Overriding the suggestion of the State Home Secretary for a 15-day parole to Jessica Lal murder case convict Manu Sharma, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had extended it to one month. Manu Sharma allegedly violated his parole norms during the period last year. Son of Haryana Congress leader Vinode Sharma, Siddarth Vashisth alias Manu Sharma was given a one-month parole on September 18, 2009 within 22 days of submitting his application, the file notings received under the RTI Act show. Manu Sharma had approached the Delhi government on August 27, 2009 for a three-month parole citing three major reasons — to take part in the last rites of his grandmother who had died in 2008, his mother’s ailment and to attend neglected business interest. Delhi Police in its report dated September 10, 2009 said: “His (Manu Sharma’s) personal attention is not required to look after his mother... As on date, the company is still running its business without any hindrance. Grounds taken by the convict are not appealing enough to grant him parole.” The notings made available under the Right to Information Act to S.C. Agrawal have revealed that Delhi Home Secretary G.L. Meena had forwarded the application within a day of receiving the Delhi Police report. He placed the Delhi Police report on record but cited positive recommendations of Tihar Jail officials and Chandigarh Police to “consider his case for grant of parole for 15 days”. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, on the next day, September 11, 2009 wrote on the file, “It would be right to cut down his request for three months to one month.” The file was received by the Lt. Governor on the same day. Based on these recommendations, the Lt. Governor ordered a one month parole on September 18, 2009. Manu Sharma again approached the Delhi government with a request to extend his parole by another month on October 7, 2009 which was processed within 14 days. On October 21, 2009 the extension of parole was granted by the Lt. Governor “to attend his business and related activities”. The Delhi High Court had also come down heavily on the government for granting with “utmost speed” parole to Manu Sharma and giving preferential treatment to convicts having high connections. Justice Kailash Gambhir had said that in normal cases the government takes three to six months to decide the parole application of a convict but in case of Manu Sharma it disposed of his plea within 20 days. Manu Sharma is serving life sentence at the Tihar jail for killing model Jessica Lal by shooting her on the night of April 29, 1999 at the Tamarind Court Bar owned by socialite Bina Ramani. He returned to the Tihar jail on his own 12 days before his parole was to expire following mounting criticism that he violated norms under which he was granted the parole. Source: The Hindu : News / National : Delhi CM overrode Home Secretary’s advice on parole for Manu Sharma
  14. Atul Patankar

    Chawla seeks amendment to protect ECs

    As reported at economictimes.indiatimes.com on 22 Mar 2010 NEW DELHI: Over a year after his predecessor N Gopalaswami recommended his removal, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Navin Chawla has sought a constitutional amendment to protect Election Commissioners from being “arbitrarily” sacked. Mr Chawla, who has made the demand in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said Election Commissioners should also enjoy protection from the Constitution, which is at present only given to the CEC. “The Commission strongly feels that so long as provisions of Article 324 (5) stand as they are, recurrence of episodes of the nature described above cannot be ruled out in future, against bringing into serious disrepute and shaking the confidence of the millions of citizens in the integrity and neutrality of the Commission,” Mr Chawla said in his letter to the prime minister. The CEC’s letter was provided by the Election Commission in response to an RTI query made by Subhash Chandra Agrawal. Mr Gopalaswami had said last January that his recommendation, which came just three months ahead of his retirement, was based on “his own experience and observations” of Mr Chawla’s work as Election Commissioner. In his affidavit to the Supreme Court, Mr Gopalaswami had said the CEC had suo motu power to recommend removal of an Election Commissioner. Mr Chawla had denied permission last year for disclosure of the letter written by Mr Gopalaswami to the President recommending his removal. The same Mr Agrawal had sought a copy of the letter from the President’s secretariat which refused to disclose the matter, following which he approached the Central Information Commission (CIC). The CIC had directed the President’s secretariat to seek Mr Chawla’s consent. Mr Agrawal had argued that contents of the letter were already in the media and hence there was no reason to claim “invasion of privacy”. In 2006, BJP had submitted a petition to President A P J Abdul Kalam seeking Mr Chawla’s removal as he was “close to the Congress Party”. Mr Kalam forwarded the petition to the prime minister, but the UPA government found no merit in the allegations. In January 2008, the BJP leaders took the matter up with Mr Gopalaswami who served a notice on Mr Chawla. Source: Chawla seeks amendment to protect ECs- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times
  15. As reported at sify.com on 12 March 2010 The law ministry has no list of judges whose files for being elevated to the Supreme Court were returned at least once by the president. Nor is it aware of who might have this information, a reply under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed. RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had asked the law and justice ministry for the list of judges whose files for being elevated as judge of Supreme Court or as judge/chief justice of a high court were returned at least once by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He has also asked for information regarding the names of judges who were ultimately elevated as judge of Supreme Court or as judge/chief justice of the high court after their files for elevation were returned at least once by Rashtrapati Bhavan. 'The CPIO (Central Public Information Officer) informed the applicant that no such list is maintained by this department and therefore no information can be furnished,' said Ramesh Abhishek of the justice department in his reply to Agrawal. 'I am not aware of any other public authority who might be having the information sought by the applicant.' Source: Law ministry unaware of judges' files: RTI reply
  16. As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 16 July 2009 NEW DELHI: Former defence minister George Fernandes, Jagdish Tytler and Kanshiram Rana are among 36 former ministers and MPs whose cases have been referred by Ministry of Urban Development to litigation division for unauthorised occupation of government bungalows in Delhi’s posh Lutyen's zone. The Department of Estates has prepared a list of 36 "unauthorised" occupants of General Pool bungalows which includes names of several former ministers such as Ram Vilas Paswan, Mahavir Prasad, Kanti Singh, Jagdish Tytler, Kashiram Rana among others. The cases came to light after an RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal filed an application under the Act seeking list of unauthorised occupants in government accommodation including parliamentarians retired after recent Lok Sabha elections. In his questions pertaining to the procedure and present status of getting government accommodation evacuated from such unauthorised occupants, the Department of Estates said "cancellation of allotment is made against the allottee in case of unauthorised occupation and eviction proceedings under the P.P. Act 1971 is initiated to get accommodation vacated." "All such cases have been referred to Litigation Division for necessary action," it said. Other names which figured in this list include former Members of Parliament and ministers A Narendra, L Ganesan, Saleem I Sherwani, Basangouda R Patil, Faggan Singh Kulaste, Jual Oram, Santosh Gangwar, Vallabhbhai Khathiriya, Charanjit Singh Atwal, S N Jatiya, S S Badal, Subhash Maharia. The reply also includes names of TDP leader Yarran Naidu, V Radhika Selvi, Naranbhai Rathwa, Raghunath Jha, Renuka Chowdhury, Shankarsinh Vaghela, Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Taslimuddin, Mani Shakar Aiyar, Suryakanta Patil, Santosh Mohan Dev, Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, Md Ali Ashraf Fatmi, Jaiprakash Nayarayan Yadav, Shakeel Ahmed and P R Kyndiah. The Directorate of Estates in its reply has also stated that national political parties are eligible for allotment of one housing unit from General Pool in Delhi for their office use as per policy guidelines. The list of political parties given in the reply shows that while Congress (I) has been allotted four bungalows for their offices, BJP has two. Congress has been allotted 24, Akbar Road, 5, Raisina Road, 26 Akbar Road and CII/109 Chankyapuri. The BJP has been allotted 11, Ashoka Road and 14 Pandit Pant Marg for their offices in the Lutyen's zone. Source: 36 ex-MPs occupying 'unauthorised' govt bungalows in Delhi - India - NEWS - The Times of India
  17. Atul Patankar

    RBI against loan prepayment penalty

    As reported by Himanshi Dhawan at timesofindia.indiatimes.com 22 September 2009 NEW DELHI: The Reserve Bank of India has frowned on the practice of banks slapping penalty charges on premature repayment of loans, saying it did not approve of such charges. However, it stepped back from any role in actually enforcing its point of view. Replying to a query filed under the Right to Information Act, the central bank said, "RBI does not approve of charging penalty or foreclosure charges. We have... advised banks to lay out appropriate internal principles and procedures so that usurious interest including processing and other charges are not levied by them on loans and advances." The central bank also admitted that it had received complaints on charging of penalty on premature payment of loans by banks who had been "suitably advised". But RBI was silent on what action had been taken against banks who refused to follow the advice. The charges disadvantage those wanting to either pay off a loan or move to one offering better terms. Even though most banks operating in India impose such charges, RBI's reply to the RTI query noted, "In the context of granting greater functional autonomy to banks, operational freedom has been given to scheduled commercial banks on all matters pertaining to banking transactions, including foreclosure of loans." The applicant asked RBI if it was aware of private and multinational banks levying foreclosure charges or penalties for premature payment of loans and what steps had been taken in this matter. RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal also asked what steps had been taken by RBI to ensure that uniform interest rates were charged by all banks. For credit card operations, RBI has advised banks to formulate a well documented policy and a fair practice code that charges interest rates that could depend on the payment or the default history of the cardholder. "There should be transparency in levying of such differential interest rates... banks should upfront indicate to the credit card holder, the methodology of calculation of finance charges with illustrative examples, particularly in situations where a part of the amount outstanding is paid by the customer," RBI's CPIO said. The central bank said in order to ensure transparency, banks should use only external or market-based rupee benchmark interest rates for pricing of their floating rate loan products. "Banks should not offer floating rate loans linked to their own internal benchmarks or any other derived rate," it said. Source: RBI against loan prepayment penalty - India Business - Business - NEWS - The Times of India
  18. As reported at economictimes.indiatimes.com on 16 February 2010 NEW DELHI: At a time when Air India was starved for cash, the airline paid over Rs 13 crore in just a year to foreign companies for simulator-training programme for pilots. The national carrier did not conduct any survey on the cost of buying simulators and training the pilots here in comparison to the cost incurred in training pilots in simulators abroad. The amount spent on simulator training in 2008-09 alone was Rs 13 crore. This is besides the expenses incurred on lodging and other allowances paid to pilots who underwent training. AI revealed this in response to an RTI application by Mr S C Aggarwal. The amount paid during 2007-08 was just over Rs 1.7 crore and in 2006-07 it was around Rs 2.5 crore. “No cost comparison study between own simulator versus outsourced training was conducted since we did not own our own simulator,” it said in response to the RTI query. The companies which provided training on Boeing and Airbus simulators include UK’s Alteon Training, Oxford Training Academy, Emirates, Lufthansa, Jordan Airline Training and Simulation, Delta Air and Egypt Air. Air India has not owned a B-777 simulator till now and since training on it was a mandatory requirement for training, conversion and licence renewal of pilots, it cannot be carried out unless the required training was completed. “This is an inevitable requirement which has to be met. In the absence of the simulator, the company had to outsource the training to suitably approved training establishments,” Air India said. The aviation industry and military services use a flight simulator for training pilots as a direct attempt on powered flight can prove to be dangerous. These enable fresh pilots to get used to controls of the plane, even if not actually airborne. It allows customisation of airplane sensitivities, stability, weight and many other parameters, as well as changing weather conditions at the flying sites. AI, which is struck by its worst crisis ever, declared losses of Rs 5,550 crore last fiscal year and has Rs 14,000 crore in debt. The government has promised the airline a Rs 800-crore equity infusion besides the budgetary provision for another Rs 1,200 crore. Source: AI spends Rs 13 cr a yr on pilot training- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times
  19. Atul Patankar

    Delhi HC reviewing RTI rules

    As reported by CJ SUbhash Chandra Agarwal at merinews.com THE CHIEF Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah deserves compliments for his welcome initiative to rectify the wrong, by reviewing RTI rules at Delhi High Court which contradict the Right-To-Information Act as passed by the Parliament and given assent by the President of India. It is regrettable that the then competent authority at Delhi High Court allowed such rules which could even be tantamount to contempt of Parliament. Administrative action is needed against those responsible for framing such rules at Delhi High Court which deprived users of the RTI Act from seeking information from Delhi High Court. Observations by Justice AP Shah pleading for replacing the oath of secrecy into an oath of transparency making the judicial system accountable and transparent are worth appreciating. It is regretted that a judge with such noble thoughts could not be elevated to the Apex Court despite intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office. He has rightly observed the highlights of RTI Act in a judicial system like a check towards filing of false affidavits Source : Delhi HC reviewing RTI rules
  20. 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
  21. Atul Patankar

    No rap for errant MPs

    As reported by Sowmya Aji at indiatoday.intoday.in on November 17, 2009 Our MPs owe the nation crores of rupees in unpaid telephone, electricity and water bills.Worse still, there is no law or provision to recover the dues once their terms end. A partial assessment of the total figure owed by the MPs - both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha - submitted as part of a petition in the Delhi High Court puts just the outstanding telephone bills at a whopping Rs 8.18 crore. The arrears cover a period from 1979, the start of the seventh Lok Sabha to June, 2008. "If the common man does not pay his bill, his telephone connection, water and power supplies are immediately disconnected. But MPs, who are supposed to set an example for all of us, are allowed to get away with huge outstanding bills. How is that allowed?" asked RTI activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal. The problem is in recovering dues once the MPs term finishes. The ministry of parliamentary affairs has admitted in a reply to Aggarwal's application that according to the Salary, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament Act (1954), there is no provision to deduct the dues from the pensions of the MPs. According to the Act, telephone dues and house rent can be recovered from a current MP's salary and travel and dearness allowances. But, once his tenure is over, there is no way the money can be recovered. As the ministry of parliamentary affairs states: "There are no provisions in the Act to block payment of salaries of existing or pensions of former members of the Houses who have defaulted on dues." The list of 'offenders' includes former Andhra Pradesh chief minister K. Vijaybhaskar Reddy, former Karnataka CM R. Gundu Rao, former Haryana CM Bhajan Lal, Bihar leader Suraj Mandal and former Union ministers Raghuvansh Pratap Singh and C. P. Thakur. The biggest offender, according to a reply provided by the Lok Sabha secretariat to Aggarwal, is former MP ABA Ghani Khan Choudhary, who owes the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) Rs 39 lakh and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Rs 40 lakh. In this case, the recovery was stopped after he expired. There are others against whom recovery proceedings have been stopped only because they are no longer members of the Lok Sabha. Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda owes the NDMC Rs 3,64,237. But, this money cannot be recovered from him. "Monthly recovery was being made until he ceased to be a member of Lok Sabha and was appointed the chief minister of Haryana," according to the department of parliamentary affairs. This means, after he became CM, he is not liable to pay his dues to the NMDC. The same is the case with Shibu Soren, who owes the NMDC Rs 6,63,924. "Monthly recovery was made until he ceased to be a member of Lok Sabha and a Union minister," the department states. The list of similar defaulters is long. The MTNL list goes back to 1979. The 10th Lok Sabha has the highest number of defaulters - 110 MPs, running up dues of Rs 2.86 crore. The just concluded 14th Lok Sabha has 91 MPs with outstanding bills totaling up to Rs 1.89 crore. The amount due from Rajya Sabha MPs up to June, 2008 adds up to a more moderate Rs 28 lakh Source: No rap for errant MPs: India Today - Latest Breaking News from India, World, Business, Cricket, Sports, Bollywood.
  22. As reported by A Subramani at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 11 November 2009 CHENNAI: By going public with details of his assets, civil servant U Sahayam has joined an elite clique of individuals who have waged a relentless battle from within, and made the system more accountable and transparent. Advocate and Right To Information (RTI) activist Subhash C Aggarwal set off a judicial snowball by submitting an innocuous query seeking to know whether judges of the Supreme Court were adhering to the May 7, 1997 Restatement of Values and declaring their assets regularly. When the apex court was still in the denial mode, with the Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan himself countering the pro-declaration arguments, Justice Shylendra Kumar of the Karnataka High Court stepped out of the ranks and declared his assets on August 24. Justice K Kannan of the Punjab and Haryana High Court did not take long thereafter to blog his asset details. The war from within had well and truly begun. That the Supreme Court refused to part with any asset-related information, that the Central Information Commission ruled that the office of CJI too was under the ambit of the RTI Act, that in an unprecedented act the apex court filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court against the information panel's ruling and that the Delhi HC concluded that the CJI's office did come under the RTI umbrella, is history. The logical conclusion was reached when, on September 28, the Supreme Court officially announced that its judges would voluntarily' declare their assets. The disclosure was actually made on November 2. With the last word yet to be said in the appeal proceedings before the Delhi High Court, the journey has already proved to be long and eventful for Aggarwal. Sagayam's battle with babus seems to have just begun, given the fact that most of his colleagues in service are distinctly dismissive and reluctant to disclose. While the judiciary is done with its share of denials and protestations, the state bureaucrats have embarked on the journey only now. Just compare the situations in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. The Tamil Nadu bureaucracy is not ready to join the transparency bandwagon, but the Madras High Court is all set to declare the assets and liability details of its judges on November 15. (In fact, Justice K Chandru submitted his details to Chief Justice HL Gokhale on Monday). In Uttar Pradesh, a section of IAS officers serving in the state have already made public their asset details, whereas the 100-odd judges of the Allahabad High Court have adopted a resolution not to make public their asset details ! Source: From judges to babus, a fight from within for transparency - Chennai - City - The Times of India
  23. Atul Patankar

    Air India leased defective aircraft

    As reported by Saurabh Sinha & Himanshi Dhawan at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 4 October 2009 NEW DELHI: Thanks to Right to Information, shocking instances of mismanagement over the years are now coming to light that show how Air India's Maharaja has now been reduced to a pauper. A query filed by RTI activist S C Agrawal has led to confirmation of what was till now a whisper - expensive aircraft lease (rent) deals being made by the airline with these agreements favouring rental companies and not AI. The airline has admitted to renting at least two aircraft that did not prove to be airworthy or safe to fly and then losing over $29 million while terminating the lease agreement prematurely. This particular case dates back to 1996 when AI took two aircraft from West Indian company Caribjet. One of the aircraft, an Airbus A-310, developed technical snags time and again. The situation came such a point that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had to ask AI to stop using that aircraft. In its reply, AI has given a letter written by DGCA to the airline in September 1996 about the aircraft (VT-LEJ, the A-310) which says: "The aircraft is having repeat nature of defects despite maintenance action... AI should consider not to utilise the said aircraft as (its) airworthiness/safety of operation cannot be ensured (sic)." This aircraft had a host of problems. On two occasions, it had to return to land soon after taking off. It got delayed at Heathrow for days due to a problem in the cargo door and defects in fuel quantity indicator. After the DGCA warning, AI wrote to Caribjet about early termination of leases of this aircraft and another one hired from the same company (VT-LEK). By doing so, reveals the RTI reply filed by the airline, AI had to pay a whopping $23.6 million to Caribjet and an additional $6 million as interest! While AI has owned up to one costly error, questions on its lease policy are still being raised. Three years back, the AI-IA combine placed orders for 111 new aircraft, including the yet-to-fly Boeing Dreamliner 787. The massive shortage of aircraft during the times of the aviation boom ” that was busted by last year's global recession and Indian slowdown ” led AI to take many aircraft on lease from foreign companies. But since there were no pilots to fly them, the planes remained idle at Indian airports while the Maharaja continued shelling out money to the companies. Source: Air India leased defective aircraft - India Business - Business - NEWS - The Times of India
  24. As reported at ddinews.gov.in on 09 September, 2009 The Supreme Court has said it has no information about the Union minister, who allegedly approached a Madras High Court Judge to influence his decision in an anticipatory bail case. The Supreme Court registry also did not exercise section 6 (3) of the RTI Act wherein a public authority needs to transfer the application to the appropriate office, if the asked information was not in its possession. "Information sought by you is not handled and dealt with by the Registry of the Supreme Court of India," the reply of the Central Public Information Officer Raj Pal Arora said. RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal had sought the details from the apex court about the Union minister who allegedly approached Justice R Raghupathy of Madras High Court to influence his judicial decisions. Agrawal quoted media reports claiming that Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had said that Justice Raghupathy had written to Chief Justice of the Madras High Court that the Minister had not spoken to him directly. Agrawal then filed the first appeal in the apex court and said that in a recent decision, Delhi High Court had clarified that office of Chief Justice of India comes under the RTI Act and if any details are held by it, his application should be transfered to it as per section 6 (3) the Act Source: No info about Min who tried to influenced Madras HC Judge: SC - www.ddinews.com
  25. As reported at Latest News, India News, Breaking News, India Latest News Online - The Indian Express on 25 May 2009 New Delhi : The CIC has asked the office of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha to explain the reasons for denying information about correspondence among L K Advani, the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister on the issue of "black money" stashed in Swiss banks. "The Commission directs you to offer comments on this complaint...clearly giving justification for denial of information," Deputy secretary at CIC Pankaj Shreyaskar wrote to the Public Information Officer, Office of the Leader of Opposition on the complaint of an activist Subhash Agrawal. Agrawal had filed an RTI application in the Office of Leader of Opposition L K Advani seeking detailed information on the letter written by the former Home Minister to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister's reply to it. He demanded copy of the letter, its reply, file notings and other relevant documents on the issue of "black money" in the Swiss banks under the RTI Act. The matter surfaced during the pre-election debates when BJP leader Advani promised to make efforts to bring back the "black money" stashed in Swiss accounts. Since there was no reply from the office of opposition leader, which holds status of Union Cabinet Minister, Agrawal filed complaint at the Central Information Commission. Source: Explain denial of info in black money case: CIC to Advani
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