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  1. ashakantasharma

    Right to Information - International Positions

    Right to Information - International Positions Right to Information (hereinafter read as RTI) which is the cynosure of this discourse is not something new. In fact there is a long history at international level towards the attainment of this right and mobilization of the masses for achieving it. With development of human ideals and establishment of democratic governments in most of the civilized countries, this topic came to the fore. The United States and Sweden constitute the two main models for Freedom of Information. While the Swedish law is a precedent to the American one by 200 years, both are considered important legal precedents that helped shape other Freedom of Information (hereinafter read as FOI) laws around the world. i) Sweden Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, with a king or queen as the head of state (the King or Queen who occupies the throne of Sweden in accordance with the Act of Succession shall be the Head of State). But like in most liberal democracies, the royal head of state has no real political power. The Swedish system is unique because of a high degree of institutional autonomy underlying power dispersal to various levels of government. The Swedish system is known for ―its ideology of local government, which basically means that local governments enjoy a great deal of autonomy, limited only by the legislative powers of its national counterpart. The father of the Swedish Freedom of Information Act (hereinafter read as FOIA), Chydenius, was a member of the Captions party who introduced freedom of information as a means of ―promoting social reforms and opposing the supremacy of the nobility.‖ Chynedius was inspired by John Locke among other political philosophers during that era (which is known in Sweden as ―the age of Liberty).‖ John Locke saw ―the supreme power of the State residing in a legislature and behind the legislature in the people. The people would govern, but ―they were not the government.‖ Chydenius considered the introduction of the right to access for citizens as his greatest lifetime achievement. The Swedish parliament passed the legislation in 1766, and established the world‘s first parliamentary Ombudsman (the word itself is Swedish for delegate and has been imported directly into the English language). Birkinshaw observes that ―a very large degree of Swedish public administration is depoliticized in so far as many, sometimes important, decisions are not taken by political overlords.‖ The principle of openness ―Offentlighetsgrundsatsen‖ (in Swedish public sector) has been long enshrined in Swedish politics. The major underlying incentive for adopting the FOIA in Sweden, was ―an information-starved political opposition that was given a rare chance to pass legislation that would grant them and all citizens access to government-held documents and information‖. The introduction to the Swedish Constitution describes a time of great change: ―the death of Carl XII in 1718 brought to an end not only Sweden‘s great power status but autocratic rule as well. The pendulum now swung back in the other direction. A new form of government took shape, which became significantly known as the Age of Liberty government‖ Swedish FOI system is found in the Swedish Constitution (in the basic principles of the form of government): ―All public power in Sweden proceeds from the people. Swedish democracy is founded on the free formation of opinion and on universal and equal suffrage. It shall be realized through a representative and parliamentary polity and through local self government. Public power shall be exercised under the law.‖ This premise resulted in four fundamental laws found in the Swedish Constitution. One of these laws is the ―Instrument of Government and the Freedom of the Press Act,‖ which specifically provides for freedom of information and the right of citizen‘s access. Chapter 2, Article 1 of ‗the Instrument of Government‘ guarantees that all citizens have the right of: ―freedom of information: that is, the freedom to procure and receive information and otherwise acquaint oneself with the utterances of others.‖ Specific rules on access are contained in the Freedom of the Press Act, which was first adopted in 1766. The current version was adopted in 1949 and amended in 1976. Sweden was the first to enforce the policy of openness in administration. There all governmental information is public unless certain matters are specifically listed as exemptions from the general rule. They have provided for a system of appeal against the wrongful withholding of information by public officials, as long ago as 1766. It provided constitutional safeguards under Freedom of Press Act, 1766, the oldest and probably still the most liberal of its kind in the world. It has been revised and modernized a number of times, most recently in 1978. Sweden has proved that legitimate national interests can as well be safeguarded under conditions of administrative openness. Sweden has established cultures that access to government department and documents as a right and non-access an exception. The principle gives any one, actually even aliens, the right to turn to a State or municipal agencies and ask to be shown any document kept in their files, regardless of whether the document concerns him personally or not. Officials are legally required to comply and even to supply copies of the document requested if this is feasible. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries documents dealing with national security, foreign policy and foreign affairs can be withheld from public scrutiny but the government is bound to give a written statement quoting legal authority for withholding the document ii) United States of America The US constitutional fathers created the three arms of government legislative (Congress), executive (President) and judiciary (the Courts); the separation of powers accounts for a system of checks and balances. At the heart of the US political system is the concept of the ‗balance of power.‘ According to some sources, the US is indeed an important role model for FOI worldwide. Lidberg (2006) notes that, ―the US FOI model grew out of a global move towards more open government following World War II.‖ America and democracy are generally synonymous. America apparently proclaims it to the torchbearer of the plethora of democratic rights that ought to be the part of a true democratic framework. The same applies on the dispensation of information too. Antipathy towards the inherent secrecy is therefore not a surprising attribute exhibited by the Americans. Schwartz observes, ―Americans firmly believe in the healthy effects of publicity and have a strong antipathy to the inherent secretiveness of government agencies.‖ The Freedom of Information Act, 1966 and The Administrative Procedure Act, 1946 are two main statutes which confer RTI. The Constitution of America does not deal specifically with RTI. However, such right is considered to be corollary of the First Amendment freedoms. A provision of a statute was held to be a restriction on the unfettered exercise of First Amendment Rights and hence was declared invalid by the Supreme Court. Similarly in Stanley v. Georgia it was observed that freedom of speech necessarily protects the right to receive information. In America there are three Acts which upheld the freedom of press and information. (A) Freedom of Information Act was made in 1966, which was amended in 1974 to make it more effective, (B) The Privacy Act, 1974 protected individual privacy against the misuse of federal records while granting access to records concerning them which are maintained by federal agencies and (C) The Government in the Sunshine Act, 1976 provided that meetings of government agencies shall be open to the public. The US Supreme Court has recognized the right to know more than fifty years ago. The right to freedom of speech and press has broad scope. This freedom embraces the right to distribute literature and necessarily protects the right to receive it." First Amendment contains no specific guarantee of access to publications. The basis of right to know is the freedom of speech, which is protected under Bill of Rights. The policy behind the Freedom of Information Act is to make disclosure a general rule and not the exception, to provide equal rights of access to all individuals, to place burden on the government to justify the withholding of a document, not on the person who requests it, to provide right to seek injunctive relief in the court if individuals are denied access improperly. Right to know is the cornerstone of citizen participation. Under the Information Act any person, nor merely an affected individual or group, is eligible to ask for information because what is aimed at is not merely redressal of grievances but encouragement of an informed citizenry. The 1966 Freedom of Information Act requires executive branch agencies and independent commissions to make available to citizens, upon request, all documents and record except those, which fall into the following exempt categories: 1. Secret national security or foreign policy information. 2. Internal personnel practices. 3. Information exempted by law. 4. Trade secrets or other confidential commercial or financial information. 5. Inter agency or intra-agency memos. 6. Personal information, personnel or medical files. 7. Law enforcement investigatory information. 8. Information related to reports on financial institutions. 9. Geological and geophysical information. But there are major problems. They are: Bureaucratic delay and cost of bringing suit to force disclosure, and excessive charges levied by the agencies for finding and providing the requested information. To meet these problems, Act was amended in 1974. Main provision of amendment is allowing federal judge to review a decision of the government to classify certain material. Another provision set deadlines for the agency to respond to a request for information under the law. Another amendment permitted judges to order payment of attorney's fees and court costs for plaintiffs who won suits brought for information under the act. Other Countries like Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Australia, Canada, Uganda, the United Kingdom,261 New Zealand and South Africa have also enacted similar legislations to enforce a measure of accountability and transparency on the agencies of the State. To say in the spirit of a democratic world order, it is necessary that each one of us everywhere on this earth under the Sun has a right to know and a duty to shape the course of things, on a national also as on international level. The philosophy of freedom of information and open government has been well described by the U.S. House Committee on Government Operations, which approved the Feedom of Information Act, in 1966, "A democratic society requires an informed, intelligent electorate, and the intelligence of the electorate varies as the quantity and quality of its information varies. A danger signal to our democratic society in the United States is the fact that such a truism needs repeating....". The root truth is that freedom without information is meaningless and liberty without light will perish because "all governments are obscure and invisible." There is a burden on the government to justify secrecy. Failure on this front is bound to spell dangerous consequences. In a democracy, citizens' right to know is assumed rather than guaranteed. This right is derived from the accountability and answerability of the government to the people. In the period of analysis immediately after the war, he US and several other members of the newly formed United Nations concluded that too much secrecy in too many countries had provided fertile soil for conflict. The case of the US displays is a struggle of maintaining the principle and practice access to public records. One expert on US FOIA explains why this is a struggle, the legacy acquired from the British Empire is for bureaucracies to be secretive; since those times knowledge and information meant power; and trading information was ―power trading‖ among bureaucratic agencies. Today, standards should allow for power sharing. Everyone, everywhere has the right to know. In the 1970s in the US, the Department of Defense showed high compliance to FOIA because the military were used to obeying legal orders. Whereas, the Department of Agriculture struggled with the newly adopted practice of power sharing and exercised high levels of secrecy; the bureaucrats were simply not used to openness.‖ In addition, Court records and legislative materials have been open to the public for a long time. In 1946, Congress enacted the Administrative Procedures Act. It required ―that government bodies publish information about their structures, powers and procedures and make available all final opinions or orders in the adjudication of cases (except those required for good cause to be held confidential and not cited as precedents) and all rules.‖ During the 1950‘s both Congress and media groups started to advocate for a more wideranging and assertive law. The first effective attempt for a FOIA came in 1958 in the form of an amendment to the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, which made it mandatory for government agencies to ―keep and maintain records.‖ FOIA forced agency compliance and required that proof of justification be given when denying access to records. Following a long period of hearings based on the 1958 amendment the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted in 1966 and went into effect in 1967. The US FOIA is inspired from and based on the First Amendment of the Constitution. Before 1966, statutes had existed but only allowing the public ―access to government documents if a need to know was established,‖ this also allowed agencies the prerogative to hold withhold information for a good cause. A comprehensive ―Citizens Guide to FOIA‖ published in 1966 points out the paradigm and practice shift that the enactment of this legislation caused; ―the need to know has been replaced by the right to know.‖ Thomas Susman served as Chief Counsel and General Counsel to the Antitrust and Administrative Practice Subcommittees and to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Susman was the principal Senate staff lawyer responsible for development of the 1974 Freedom of Information Act Amendments. He explains that ―prior to 1974 FOIA was ineffective and in fact the real road to change in US government transparency began with the 1974 amendments. In the 1966 version the ability to obtain court reviews was difficult for example.‖ Susman noted that ―the 1974 amendments responded to the failures in the 1966 FOIA but placing fee restrictions for instance.‖ The original 1966 Act only allowed occasional disclosure while after 1974 Americans enjoyed broader maximum disclosure. All information available today was made available because of the successful lawsuits that employed the 1974 Act. FOIA became a long term strategy for advocates, industries, businesses, lawyers, journalists, NGOs and citizens to participate in government processes. The Act was amended most recently in 1996 by the Electronic Freedom of Information Act (which allows any person or organization, regardless of citizenship or country of origin, to ask for records held by federal government agencies). The Act‘s objective is ―to provide public access to an agency‘s records.‖ The applicant does not have to demonstrate a specific interest in a matter to view relevant documents – an idle curiosity suffices. Agencies covered within the Act include ―executive and military departments, government corporations and other entities which perform government functions except for Congress, the courts or the President‘s immediate staff at the White House, including the National Security Council.‖Each agency or public body that is included within the FOIA has to publish in the ‗Federal Register‘ the details of its organization as well as the rules and policies of its procedures. There are nine categories of discretionary exemptions: ―national security, internal agency rules, information protected by other statutes, business information, inter and intra-agency memos, personal privacy, law enforcement records, financial institutions and oil wells data.‖ The US FOIA is similar to the Swedish FOIA in that it emphasizes that ―the request for documents should have priorities; that real avenues for citizen appeals should exist, and that legally binding rulings would ensure repercussions for the public servants that refuse to comply.‖ It differs from the Swedish FOIA because freedom of information in the United States is not a constitutional concept. Moreover, the cost of processing a request and photocopying documents is much higher in the US. Appeals of denials or complaints about extensive delays can be made internally to the agency concerned. The federal courts review appeals and can overturn agency decisions. The courts have heard thousands of cases in the 40 years of the Act. Alongside, FOIA the Sunshine Act (also known as an ‗open meeting‘ law) allows―access to the meeting of those agencies within its scope. Its aim is to open up to the public portions of the ‗deliberative processes‘ of certain agencies.‖ A week‘s notice is required of the time, date, topic and location of the meeting. In addition, ―a named official with a publicized telephone number must be appointed to answer queries.‖ The US FOIA mode of management is characterized by decentralization; The US Justice Department (DOJ) provides some guidance and training for agencies and represents the agencies in most court cases. The 1996 E-FOIA amendments require agencies to create electronic reading rooms and make available electronically the information that must be published along with common documents requested. In 2000, the U.S. federal government received more than two million FOIA requests from citizens, corporations, and foreigners.According to Banisar‘s 2006 survey, the American FOIA ―has been hampered further delay. Many international organizations and regional groups recognized this right to be part of their systems. Swedish Freedom of Information Law (a literal translation of the native term indicates the Freedom of Printing Act) passed in the year 1766 is considered to be the oldest and earliest legislative recognition of RTI. This law was passed by Sweden. A large number of countries have followed the same line and have enacted access laws after it. For example, Finland in 1950, Denmark in 1950, Norway in 1970, and United States of America in 1966 enacted such laws in order to facilitate information access. Before discussing the various international instruments, let us first analyse the status of RTI in the two most developed democracies of the world U.S.A and England. iii) Position in England Democracy has been the basic tenet of England since ages but ‗secrecy‘ is emphasised rather than openness. This is due to the innate tendency of legislature and executive to enshroud policies instead of making it transparent. England has enacted Freedom of Information Act, 2005. But basically, the present law is contained in the Official Secrets Acts of 1911, 1920, 1939. Judiciary in England has approved of openness in Government. The same is reflected in the decision of House of Lords where it established its jurisdiction to order the disclosure of any document. However, it was also emphasized that balance between conflicting interests of secrecy and publicity should be maintained. Importance of freedom of expression in English law can be ascertained by the observation of Lord Steyn in a case which goes as following: ―Freedom of speech is the lifeblood of democracy. The free flow of information and ideas informs political debate. It is a safety valve; people are more ready to accept decisions that go against them if they can in principle seek to influence them. It acts as a brake on the abuse of power by public officials. It facilitates the exposure of errors in the governance and administration of justice of the country….‖ In Britain, the campaign for reduction of secrecy was going on. They have rule for non-disclosure of sensitive information for about thirty years. When 1957 documents were released, they showed that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had ordered suppression of information on the Wind scale nuclear accident. It was a startling revelation because it was the worst known nuclear disaster before Chernobyl. But the nation came to know only after thirty years. Under their Official Secret Act some documents could even be blocked for a hundred years. Even in America the tendency is to increase the items under the list of exemptions to freedom of information. When some documents were released under the Act revealed that FBI and CIA illegally harassed Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and several other things like illegal surveillance of dozens of writers and political groups for over a period of 30 years. In 2000, the Freedom of Information Act came into existence. Australians are amongst the world's most avid media consumers and there is legislation protecting their rights of access to Federal Government documents of interest to them. In December 1982, Australia enacted Freedom of Information legislation, which gives its citizens and persons entitled to permanent resident status in Australia a free access to various Federal Government Records. Main features of this Act are the creation of public right of access to documents, the right to amend or update incorrect government records, the right of appeal against administrative decisions barring access and the waiving of any need to establish interest before being granted access to documents. iv) Public Charter of Official Documents in Finland Finland has a law on the Public Charter of Official Documents in 1951. Norway and Denmark have also statutorised public access to official information sources. Canada and Australia also made useful legislation on this subject. A French Commission on Access to Administrative Documents has been formulated. French Constitution recognizes the free communication of thoughts and opinions as among the most precious rights of man. v) Open Democracy Bill in South Africa The South African Law on this right is a unique example of principle of open governance. The South African Open Democracy Bill provides for public access as "swiftly inexpensively and effortlessly and reasonably possible to information held by governmental and bodies without jeopardising good governance, personal privacy and commercial confidentiality. It also empowers the public to effectively scrutinise and participate in governmental decision making that affects them. It also provided a mechanism to correct the inaccurate information possessed by the government about them and protects individuals against abuse of information about themselves held by the government or private bodies. Canada made Access to Information Act, 1980, and New Zealand enacted the Official Information Act, 1982
  2. Which was the first country in the world to adopt a law giving individuals the right to access information held by public bodies?
  3. How I became an Information Commissioner
  4. What are some of the shocking, weirdest, silliest RTI requests made in India? As Abraham Lincoln said “Government is of the people, by the people, for the people” The government is our servant and we have no duty to explain why we seek information from them. The government holds all the information in our behalf, in trust. Like a banker can’t ask you why you want to see your bank account statement, similarly the government can’t deny if you ask them how they are governing our country. With the mechanism of RTI we can actually participate in the working of the government. RTI or Right To Information is an act of Indian parliament that empowers the common people to seek information from the government. It empowers the Indian citizens to inspect the government work, take notes and get certified photocopies to know the status of work. It’s been ten years since the RTI Act came into existence to empower people and bring transparency to the system. However, people have been using it in rather unconventional ways. The queries that the government receives often fall in the range from being funny to outright absurd. In technical terms, these queries fall under the frivolous or vexatious category which means they denote an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant. In the language of the internet, they were filed just to troll people. Here are some of the funniest RTI applications filed by people in India: 1. RTI for Indian nuclear launch code: A guy has asked in his Right To Information query undoubtedly is too much of funny. The Twitterati could not believe their eyes when Vivek Kumar, deputy secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and an Indian Foreign Services (IFS) officer, shared on the micro blogging site that a person has filed a RTI seeking the launch codes to India’s nuclear arsenal. Could you believe it? Does the person not know that nobody but the serving prime minister of India has access to the launch codes of nuclear weapons? Please do not take it as a joke, for statutory fee of Rs 10 had also been deposited in this regard. The application was obviously rejected. It had to be. It is a funny story of a RTI activist whose identity remained hidden. 2. RTI regarding Lord Venkateshwara: Yes you read that right. In 2014, Mr Narashimha Murthy, a social activist, allegedly filed a RTI to the TTD (Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam) trust questioning them whether Lord Venkateshwara's debt to Kubera had been cleared or how much was still left. His basis of filing the RTI was his allegation that the trust had hoodwinked the public by weaving a story about the Lord owing a debt. A funny RTI query has been made by a Bengalurean to Tirumala Tirupati Devastanam (TTD), asking for information about the money Lord Venkateshwara has borrowed from Kubera at the time of his marriage with Padmavathi and how much he has returned. TTD is yet to give a reply. The RTI applicant alleges that TTD is hoodwinking people by stating that the lord is still paying back interest for the principal amount he had borrowed from Kubera from the proceeds of the famous Tirupati 'Hundi'. Narasimha Murty, a Bangalore-based RTI activist, visited Tirupati and saw a board which spoke about the money borrowed from Kubera, the lord of wealth, by Lord Srinivasa and the need for the latter to pay interest on the loan among other things. "After I saw the board, I was taken aback at the way people are being fooled by this mythology. They all use god's name to make gains, which made me file this RTI query," Narasimha Murty said. Murty has addressed this RTI to the accounts officer and to the public information officer. "TTD says that the lord is still paying interest to Kubera and it is the money given by devotees that only can help in this mission. As a citizen of this country, I have all rights to know the accounts of the TTD. But even after much time, TTD has not given me any details about the accounts. So, I have gone before the Andhra Pradesh information commissioner. Even after repeating request letters, TTD is not answering the questions I have posed," Murty said. The story: According to mythology, Lord Venkateshwara who was believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, was named as Srinivasa. There was a king called Akasha Raja who was ruling the state that time. Many a time, Srinivasa quarrelled with his divine consort Lakshmi and on one occasion came to Tirupati to do penance in an anthill. He was doing penance all day and no one knew about this. Every day, one cow used to come to that place and give milk to Srinivasa. Once the cow was back home, it stopped giving milk. Confused by this, shepherds who were looking after this cow followed it, and found it looking after Srinivasa who was inside the anthill. They went to hit the cow with a stick but to safeguard the animal, Srinivasa came out and took the blows on his head. While the attackers left the place, a bleeding Srinivasa was rescued by a woman called Okkala Devi who took him to her place and brought him up as her son. He started staying with her and one day he saw Padmavathi, the Princes of the region. Srinivasa fell in love with her which she also reciprocated. Okkala Devi then approached the king Akasha Raja requesting him to allow the two to marry. The king asked Okkala Devi about her status and about money she had to conduct the wedding. It is at this juncture that Srinivasa was forced to go to Kubera, the lord of wealth and riches, for a loan. After processing the loan, Srinivasa got to marry Padmavathi. Mythology says that from that day till date, Srinivasa is repaying Kubera his loan. "Based on this story, the Devastanam still says that Lord Balaji is paying the interest and it is pressuring devotees to give more and more money. Emotional devotees believe all this and part with crores of rupees. I have heard of rich people like the Amabanis, Vijay Mallya and several other politicians donating huge sums to Lord Balaji. Is there an account for all this," Murty questions and says he will fight till he gets answers for his questions. Narasimha Murty is an RTI activist who has been fighting regarding the property and the gold which came out after opening of the doors at Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala, as well as the death of an IAS officer who was looking after the temple. Post-this battle, Karnataka Golf Association was also declared a public authority based on his application. Well, the story in the News article has few discrepancies; nevertheless the gist is the same. This must have possibly been a creative petition to let the people think twice before donating at the temple. 3. RTI Query: “Whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before he came into politics, worked in any Ramlila Troop? If yes, what role he played?” The PMO replied: “Information sought is not part of record.” 4. RTI Query on of another applicant wanted to know “how many and which type of cylinder” were “used in (the PM’s) kitchen” in October 2014 and May 2015. The applicant also sought “copies of bills of cylinders” and “copies of bills and spices” bought in May 2015. The PMO replied: “The kitchen expense of the Prime Minister is personal in nature and not incurred on government account.” This exchange is just one example of the nature of queries relating to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that have been raised by applicants and responded to by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The below are some of the RTI Queries: Q: Records and documents which show that the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is the Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister. A: “There is no proposal to change the official designation of PM.” Q: Has the Prime Minister read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister supposed to read the Indian constitution? Is the Prime Minister assumed to have read Indian constitution? Has anyone in the PMO till date told the Prime Minister what his duties are towards India? A: “Information sought does not fall under the definition of information.” Q: Who helps the Prime Minister in sending tweets in regional and foreign languages? Names of individual (s) for each regional language. A: “Information sought is not maintained on record.” (Another reply says that the “Prime Minister himself is managing his personal social media accounts.”) Q: Number of sick or casual or health leave availed by the Prime Minister in the last 10 years. A: “No leave has been availed by the present Prime Minister since taking over the office.” (Replying to a related query on whether Prime Minister Modi was on leave during the Bihar election campaign last year, the PMO responded: “Tours on election campaign are not official.”) Q: Percentage of marks Modi secured while graduating in 1977 from Delhi University. A: “Does not form part of records.” Q: Can one get the mobile number of the PM under RTI? A: “The PMO has not given any mobile phone to Prime Minister.” Q: Legal status of announcements made by the Prime Minister. A: “Once the announcement is made, the ministries concerned are entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the announcements and monitoring their implementation.” Q: Does the PMO communicate; send letters, etc., in the official language Hindi? A: “Letters in Hindi received from Union Ministers, Governors, Chief Ministers, etc., are replied to in Hindi… Hindi letters from public are also replied in Hindi.” Q: Roza iftar parties Prime Minister Modi attended in 2014 and 2015. A: “None.” And finally this: Q: Has the Principal Secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, ever taken his colleagues in the PMO on a picnic? If yes, who all went, how much money was spent, were family members also invited on such excursion, and what was the food menu? Was the food ordered from an external caterer? Was the venue fixed by general consensus or was it decided solely by Misra? A: “No picnic/excursion was ever organised by Nripendra Misra.” 5. A RTI Application also asked Who officially declared Gandhi as Father of the Nation (since we always read it in our text books) The 10 year old girl had filed an RTI query seeking information on Gandhi Ji’s title of ‘father of nation’ In a written reply, the government said that Mahatma Gandhi cannot be accorded the 'Father of the Nation' title by government as the Constitution does not permit any titles except educational and military ones. While giving reference to the Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the MHA had said that it does not permit any titles except education and military ones. The MHA had transferred her appeal to the National Archives of India. The Central Information Commissioner Basant Seth then had stated, "There is no order/document on record by which Gandhiji was given the title of "Rastrapita". Ans: No official declaration done till now. 6. Who declared Gandhi Jayanti, Republic day, Independence Day as national holidays? Ans: Such orders were never issued. Bangalore, Aug 14: The reply to an RTI query has come as a shock to all those Indians who believed that Aug 15, Jan 26 and Oct 2 are national holidays. Apparently, these three dates were never notified by the government. It was the persistent efforts of one Aishwarya Parashar that revealed this amazing fact. Earlier this year in April, the 10-year-old had asked the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) for a copy of the particular government order (GO) that specified the national holidays. The PMO passed on her query to the Ministry of Home, which at first claimed that the matter does not pertain to it. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) should provide the answer, the Home Ministry averred. Finally, the latter clarified on May 17 that it could not find any GO that notified Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti as national holidays. Aishwarya was bemused by the reply because she has been taught in school that Jan 26, Aug 15 and Oct 2 are national holidays. When she filed an appeal to find out the truth, the appellate authority not only confirmed that the Home Ministry's statement was correct but also requested the National Archives to provide the 10-year-old a copy of the GO if any exists. A determined Aishwarya has since shot off letters to the President and the Prime Minister, demanding the GO. Now the onus is on both Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh to satisfy her curiosity. 7. A RTI Applicate asked what is the Speed of internet at the PMO? Is his internet faster than ours? Brave Right to Information warriors have exposed how fast Modi’s wifi is! The average Indian gets 2Mbps, and Modi gets 34Mbps. (If you think that’s fast, the ‘Startup Village’ in Kochi has 1Gbps connectivity - 30 times as fast as the PM’s office!) The RTI also found that the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) uses Windows 7/Windows 8, and there's no money spent on running the @PMOIndia Twitter handle. While the RTI was brought in for transparency, some geniuses are turning it into a joke. Sample these RTI petitions. Yes these are real. Ans: 34 Mbps. 8. Did you know that Hockey is not our National game? This was revealed in an RTI filed by a class VII student, Aishwarya Parashar who sought information on a government order pertaining to India’s national game. Quite surprisingly, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in its response stated that ministry has not declared any sport as its national game. Same as ENERGY, STUPIDITY can be neither created nor be destroyed, but it transforms from one form to another. All these does not ends here only as many have asked: • Can we have the election symbols with the rainbow filter? (On Voting Machines) A political activist asked Election Commission of India why elections symbol used in electronic voting machines are black and white and not colourful. • An RTI doesn't really have an age limit - legally, even a six year old can file one. And 9 year old Pranav filed an RTI that forced the Delhi police to register his stolen bike. He even asked for a Rs. 2500 compensation, and demanded action against the assistant sub-inspector! The police were given a challenge by a 9-year-old boy named Pranav who used an RTI to force the police officers to file an FIR for his lost bicycle. The police had initially refused the to file the FIR for a trivial offense. I have a feeling that this kid is going to grow up and do some great stuff. • Do you know what underpants should you wear before the Prime Minister? It is one of the most absurd queries received by RTI act provoked by a ridiculous reason. A “troubled” citizen filed a petition asking what undergarments can be worn before the Prime Minister. The question was asked directly to the PMO’s Office asking for the exact “specification of undergarments.” Why? Because previously he had been arrested for stripping down to his briefs scribbled with anti-government slogans in a government convention addressed by the PM. I am so impressed by this guy’s guts. • RTI vs. RTI! In 2009, a Pune RTI activist revealed how local politicians were using the RTI to spy on him, and try to stop him before he revealed their illegal activities! • Um, just for research purposes. An RTI applicant literally asked where exam papers for the Aligarh Muslim University were printed, and where they were checked. • Some people can confuse RTI with Shaadi.com A man in his late forties from Kutch Gujarat filed a request under the RTI Act demanding information on the eligible females in the government department for marriage. The request was made to the Tamil Nadu state information commission. In his application, he also stated the fact that an eligible bachelor from any government department would do for him. He just really wanted to get married to a government employee. • Kya Ache Din Aa Gaye Hain? Someone literally asked the Prime Minister's office if "achhe din" are here. We can imagine the response was “Work in progress” • Time is money, but how much money exactly? Time is money, but how much money is it according to Indian scriptures? An RTI asked the Punjab University this question. • Saar, how much is cost of 1 wife @ MRP? The same Punjab University RTI also asked how much a pretty and religious bride would cost, according to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata! • How religious in the governor ? A resident of Hyderabad sought details from Andhra Pradesh governor on how many times does he visit temples in a day and also copy of the dinner menu hosted at his official residence. • How much ‘paan’ do MCD officials really chew ? Blood red stains might be compulsory artwork at every sarkari office, but this Delhi resident had had enough! He filed an application asking how much 'paan' and tobacco an MCD official consumes on average in a day, and even asked about the paan ingredients! • Where'd I go wrong? A wannabe Delhi University (DU) lecturer who didn't get the university job filed an RTI asking DU where his answers weren't as good as other people who applied. • RTI = student discount? A duplicate Delhi University marksheet costs Rs. 500. An RTI costs Rs. 10. Which is why Delhi students thought they'd get a duplicate marksheet for Rs. 10. Nah, it doesn't work like that. • A disgruntled applicant wanted to know if Arvind Kejriwal’s reads the comments on his social media channels. In his application, he asked that when Arvind Kejriwal posts asks “silly and stupid questions” on Facebook and twitter, does he check the comments he receives on such posts. This information being personal in nature, can’t be answered under RTI. Even then, it doesn’t stop people from trying their luck! • A Delhi University student, filed an RTI against the girl he fell in love with. After few months of dating, he found out that she was married! He wanted to know what he can do to complain against her and get her punished for the mental agony she had caused. • This is around the time our country directed a lot of anger towards Fawad Khan. We had questions coming in asking if Fawad Khan was allowed to legally work and stay in India for his movie “Ae dil hai mushkil”. • An emotional applicant had asked whether astrologists and priests are authorized to declare someone a “manglik”. If someone has “mangal dosh” and their spouse dies, is there any reason to believe that the “manglik” person is to be blamed? Quite a few RTI cases demand information from religious bodies. • Private companies do not fall under RTI, which is a problem for many people. We received a query demanding call recording of a TataSky customer support call. Unfortunately, private companies are not required to answer RTI questions. • RTI Registration number : MHOME/R/2016/50729: Applicant : Ajay Kumar Information sought: I am concerned about the readiness of our government in the event of an invasion by Aliens Zombies and Extradimensional beings . 1. What are our chances against them? 2. What means does the ministry of Home affair have at its disposal to defeat them? 3. Can we do it without Will Smith? The government promptly replied that information that is available can be shared under RTI . Since no info about hypothetical situations is available, it cannot be given. This has to be the most polite reply given under the RTI act! • The applicant, a resident of Ahmedabad, had sought information about Mahatma Gandhi, some of the former Presidents of India and other Ministers asking for their correct date and time of birth, their blood group and above all their IQ. • How many bullock cart tracks are in Delhi? How many trees in the capital are green and how many are dead? How many cups of tea are consumed by the police personnel? • Where did the laddoos go ? A UP girl sent the erstwhile President George Bush some laddoos for 'Raksha bandhan'. Either he ate them and forgot about them, or his Secret Service did. Either way, she didn’t get a thank you mail. Our brave girl then approached the National Human Rights Commission to take action! A UP girl asked NHRC on why 'ladoos' sent by her to US President George W. Bush on 'Rakshabandhan' never reached him and requested the commission to take appropriate action. • In January 2010, a 47-year-old man from Kutch, Gujarat, requested the Tamil Nadu state information commission to provide him information on life partner for marriage from any govt department. • How much maggie was wasted during its ban? • Please send sarkari wife! A 47-year-old man asked the Tamil Nadu state information commission to let him know about a suitable life partner working at any government department. • Who made you Bapu? A class VI girl asked if MK Gandhi ever got an actual ‘Father of the Nation’ title. What was even more awesome was that this was in 2012, when the Congress party was in power. The question went to the PMO, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and then to the National Archives of India– no one had an answer. • Perhaps this is who people on Twitter refer to as ‘chaddi warriors’! An activist protested by stripping naked at a convention where former PM Manmohan Singh was speaking, and then filed an RTI asking the PMO if they needed to approve his brand of underwear! • Someone asked about how much tea is used in Indian Army on daily bases. • Haryana Police: Wives of Haryana Police officers filled a series of RTIs, asking for the information related to the salary of their husbands and what are there duty timings. • RTI revealed how the President Pratibha Patil tried to construct a retirement home out of govt. funds much in excess of her entitlement. It also revealed the hundreds of crores spent on her foreign travel which had little impact on the future of India. • Hindi, not a national language: Court Gujarat High Court has observed that though majority of people in India have accepted Hindi as a national language, there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country. The observation was made by division bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and justice A.S. Dave recently while rejecting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by one Suresh Kachhadia. Mr. Kachhadia had filed the PIL last year seeking direction to Central and State government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to print details of goods like price, ingredients and date of manufacture in Hindi. The court observed, “Normally, in India, majority of the people have accepted Hindi as a national language and many people speak Hindi and write in Devanagari script but there is nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.” “No mandamus can be issued on any manufacturer or others for giving details or particulars of package in Hindi in Devanagari script,” it further said. It was contended by Mr. Kachhadia’s lawyer that Hindi was the national language and was understood by a large number of persons in the country. The Counsel representing central government submitted that specific provision has been made under the Standard of Weight and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules of 1977 that particulars of declaration should be in Hindi in Devanagari script or in English. The court said that the Constituent Assembly while discussing the Language Formula noticed the recommendation of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights, which recommended the formula as per which, “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Persian script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union. English shall be the second official language for such period as the Union may, by law, determine.” However, in the constitution, Hindi was declared as an official language and not a national language. The court in its order said Part XVII of the Constitution deals with Official Language. Under Article 343, official language of the Union has been prescribed, which includes Hindi in Devanagari script and English. • Highest number of Indian prisoners are in Saudi Arabia: As many as 6,569 Indian nationals are currently lodged in prisons of 67 foreign countries, including 254 in Pakistan reveals a RTI query. The Arab countries topped the list with Saudi Arabia (1691), Kuwait (1161) and UAE (1012), according to the information provided by the MEA on April 22 to lawyer and RTI activist DB Binu. Italy has 121 Indian prisoners. The list also showed that UK has 426, USA 155, China 157, Bangladesh 62, Afghanistan 28, Bahrain 18 and Nepal 377 Indian prisoners. • IIM reveals admission criteria: Despite an impressive percentile Vaishnavi Kasturi, a visually-impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes. She then filed an RTI application to request the institution to disclose the admission process. Though Vaishnavi did not get admission in any of the IIMs, her doubts over admission procedure were clarified. In a response to the query, the Chairman said “CAT scores are just one-fifth of the criteria for admissions. Forty per cent weight age is given for class X, XII and bachelor's scores. Work experience is given weight age too but it’s mostly performance in the group discussion and interview that counts which is up to 35 per cent, plus 5 per cent weight age is there if you have done a chartered accountancy course.” • The national anthem of India does not contain the word - "Sindh" - since 1950. Prof. Shrikant Malushte, a retired professor, challenged the word "Sindh" in the national anthem of India on the following grounds: "When Rabrindranath Tagore's poem was adapted by the Constituent Assembly in 1950 as the national anthem, the word 'Sindh' was replaced by 'Sindhu' considering the fact that the region was part of Pakistan partitioned from India. The newly replaced word Sindhu denotes the river that originated in Pakistan but flows through the Indian valleys," said 75-year-old Shreekanth Malushte. However, despite the correction made by the Constituent Assembly, the government continued to prescribe the original poem written by Tagore, leading to a situation where the anthem was sung in two versions[1]. Prof. Shrikant then availed the RTI Act and obtained papers from the Ministry of Home Affarirs which confirmed that the correct version of the national anthem had the word 'Sindhu'[2]. He then moved the Bombay High Court that agreed with his observations and said that 'Sindh' in national anthem is probably a mistake and directed the center to provide its point of view. However, in 2005, the Supreme court had dismissed a similar case by mentioning that the authentic text contained "Sindh". Therefore, eventually the Bombay High court decided that 'Sindh will remain in the national anthem' • You know there's money being flushed down the toilet - or the Ganga, when startups can build empires from bedrooms, and yet a single 'Clean Ganga' meeting costs over 40 lakh Rupees. That was the budget for a single Vigyan Bhawan meeting by the Modi government's high level team to clean the Ganga! This was revealed through by RTI application. They've somehow managed to spend Rs 75,000 on "floral decorations"- and here's the other math: Meetings and accommodation of guests: Rs 26.7 lakh Officials' travel: Rs 8.8 lakh Advertising the event: Rs 5.1 lakh. Other arrangements: Rs 2.3 lakh Actually cleaning the Ganga: JEERO! • If the legal age of a Man to get sexually active is 18 years and the legal age for him to get married is 21... Then what are we actually suggesting he should do these 3 years? • Now if the legal age for a Man to get married is 21 years and the legal age for him to start drinking is 25 years... then how do you suggest he survives the first 4 years of marriage??? • The most awkward RTI demanded copies of all RTIs filed in the country and their replies. 1. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-funny-question-asked-by-RTI-applicant 2. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-weirdest-silliest-RTI-requests-made-in-India 3. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-interesting-RTI-questions-asked 4. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/prime-minister-narendra-modi-right-to-information-act-rti-application-2922517/ 5. https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-of-the-weirdest-silliest-RTI-requests-made-in-India 6. http://www.ndtv.com/offbeat/is-india-prepared-for-a-zombie-apocalypse-rti-asking-this-goes-viral-1464688 7. http://www.outlookindia.com/news/article/bizarre-rti-query-what-is-mahatma-gandhi-iq-level/708015 8. http://www.firstpost.com/living/many-trees-green-many-cups-tea-drink-bizarre-rti-queries-sent-delhi-police-2026359.html 9. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/slideshows/consumer-legal/6-funniest-rti-applications-filed-in-india/slideshow/39658972.cms 10. http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/crime/He-seeks-answers-from-the-god-of-big-things/articleshow/45461478.cms 11. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Hindi-not-a-national-language-Court/article16839525.ece 12. https://www.oneindia.com/2012/08/14/august-15-not-a-national-holiday-home-ministry-1053692.html 13. https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-greatest-truths-that-RTI-Right-to-Information-Act-India-revealed 14. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-08/mumbai/30130317_1_national-anthem-sanjeev-bhatnagar-word 15. https://www.indiatimes.com/culture/who-we-are/these-are-the-most-ridiculous-rti-petitions-filed-in-india-228214.html 16. https://www.storypick.com/funny-rti-application/
  5. What are some limitations of RTI Act 2005?
  6. ashakantasharma

    A Look at Some RTI Success Stories

    The Right-to-Information Act has emerged as a powerful tool for India’s civil society to promote transparency and hold those in power accountable. The law, which allows Indian citizens to seek information from most government bodies, was first implemented in October 2005. Adarsh Housing Society, Commonwealth Games, and 2G are just a few of the scams and scandals that spring to mind when musing about the impact of the The Right To Information Act, over the past several year. And while the RTI, which came into force on October 12, 2005, has exposed the rot and corruption of the country's institutions and leaders, it has also played a huge role in improving the daily lives of people by making government accessible and accountable. The sweep of questions and concerns covered in tens of millions of RTI applications is impossible to catalogue, but whether it is seeking entitlements, exposing hoarding at local ration shops, or getting a village road constructed, these queries and complaints are all guided by the principle of standing up and being counted. The below are some of the most successful RTI cases:- Adarsh Society Scam: The applications filed by RTI activists like Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 were instrumental in bringing to light links between politicians and military officials, among others. The 31-storey building, which had permission for six floors only, was originally meant to house war widows and veterans. Instead, the flats went to several politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives. The scandal has already led to the resignation of Ashok Chavan, the former chief minister of Maharashtra. Other state officials are also under the scanner. Public Distribution Scam in Assam: In 2007, members of an anti-corruption non-governmental organization based in Assam, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, filed an RTI request that revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people below the poverty line. The allegations of corruption were probed and several government officials arrested. Appropriation of Relief Funds: Information obtained through an RTI application by an NGO based in Punjab, in 2008 revealed that bureaucrats heading local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society used money intended for victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills – among other things. Local courts charged the officials found responsible with fraud and the funds were transferred to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. IIM’s Admission Criteria: Vaishnavi Kasturi a visually-impaired student, in 2007 was denied a seat in the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, one of the country’s premier management institutes – despite her impressive score at the entrance examination. Ms. Kasturi wanted to know why, and wondered whether it was because of her physical disability. She filed an RTI application to request the institute to disclose their selection process. Although she failed to gain admission to the institute, her RTI application meant that IIM had to make its admission criteria public. It emerged that the entrance exam, the Common Admission Test, actually mattered little compared to Class 10 and 12 results. Absconding Teacher: Soon after the Act came into force, parents in Panchampur village in the district of Banda, Uttar Pradesh, used it to track their local school teacher, who rarely made an appearance in the classroom. After learning from RTI activists that they could seek attendance and leave records of the government school teacher, 15 villagers filed an applicationasking about his whereabouts, and also questioned the responsibility of the Primary Education Department in such a situation. Immediate action was taken: a new school teacher was appointed to the village school, and an enquiry was ordered against the absconder. Chandigarh--Smoke Free City: In 2007, Chandigarh became the first smoke free city in India, which meant banning smoke in indoor spaces as well as prohibiting it in outdoor public places likes parks and markets. But Hemant Ghosh didn't expect his RTI applications to lead to such a landmark decision, which would influence other cities to enforce smoke-free laws in the years to come. His work is widely regarded as the trigger for the campaign to create awareness about the hazards of smoking, involving public service messages on television and cinemas, which has grown over the years. Soon after the Act came into force, Ghosh inundated the governments of Punjab and Haryana with over 300 queries on how The 2003 Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA),which sets out provisions to address smoking in public places, was being implemented in their shared capital. According to the 2003 law, his application asked whether the No Smoking Area Smoking here is an offence warning was displayed in offices and premises under government control." In 2007, 1,800 "warning boards" appeared in all government departments, police stations, hospitals and schools. Ghosh, who heads a Chandigarh-based NGO called Burning Brain Society, said that he was only trying to hold the government accountable. "What has been most satisfying is to see this replicated across the country," he said. Almost ten years on, however, another RTI application filed by Gaurav Bansal, a 21-year-old resident of Chandigarh, revealed that only fined 78 people were fined for smoking in public in 2013, which included 61 people in just the one area of sector 19. "Despite the claims of the administration to make the city a smoke-free one, only 78 persons were challenged (fined) in an entire year," he said. The Seven Ponds: In 2010, K.S. Sagaria smelt a rat when the paperwork showed that seven ponds had been constructed for below poverty lines families in Kushmal village of Orissa, but no one in the village could spot them. So he filed an RTI application which revealed that the ponds were never dug, the “labourers” who worked to “construct” the ponds included dead people. Following complaints, the administration suspended the officials involved in the subterfuge, and the project was renewed, but this time, the villagers vowed to keep a check on its progress. Scholarships For Students: While several of his classmates and their parents were fretting when they didn't receive their scholarships for the academic year of 2011-2012, nine-year-old Manoj, a student at the government primary school in Vailpoor, Nizamabad district of Telangana, filed an application. In his application directed at the Labour Welfare Department, the class 4 student asked why the money had not reached the students, and by when they could expect their scholarships. Manoj's RTI application secured scholarships for 10 students, who are the children of beedi workers. School Uniforms: When students of Gulrahai Primary School in Allahabad did not receive their school uniforms in December 2006, nine parents filed an RTI application questioning the administration about the missing uniforms, which led to school dresses being delivered in the first week of January, 2007. Parents of a government school in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh, also procured school uniforms by filing an RTI application. Unjustifiable restrictions imposed by CBSE on the examinees: A must- read information which may be helpful to a large number of our fellow citizens. A landmark decision with respect to unjustifiable restrictions imposed by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Patna on the examinees delivered by Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Prof.M.Sridhar Acharyulu (Madabhushi Sridhar). This is one of the best decisions delivered ever by CIC which may be useful to a large cross section of society. The appellant, father of a student has sought copies of the answer sheets of his son for the subjects Maths and Science of 12th Class examination appeared in 2013 and the related matters. The information sought was denied by CPIO on the following grounds: 1. The request for the supply of evaluated answer sheets was made, not by the candidate, who appeared in the examination, but by his father, as the rules framed by the CBSE vide its Notification dated 17.06.2013 mandates the candidate should to make application. 2. The last date for the receipt of requests through online for the supply of evaluated answer sheets was 3.7.2013, and the RTI request, made by the candidate’s father was 12.8.2013. 3. Requests/applications for supply of answer sheets should be made only through online within 10 days from the date of declaration of the result. 4. After downloading the hardcopy of the printout of the request/ confirmation page, from the website, the candidate should get the same reached to the CBSE office, before the specified date, along with the fee and other prescribed enclosures. 5. Among the documents to be enclosed along with the application, there is an undertaking from the candidate, written in his own handwriting and under his own signature and not by anyone else on his behalf. The signature should correspond to that present on the Admit Card of the candidate. The candidate cannot question the evaluation done by the examiner. The candidate can only point out the errors in the totaling of marks, or the answers which were not evaluated by the examiner. These errors should be communicated by the candidate in writing to the CBSE within 10 days from the date of receipt of the evaluated answer sheets. There is no provision in the CBSE Rules, for the revaluation of the answer sheets again. 6. The candidate should also undertake that the copies of his answer sheets shall not be given to any institution or school for display, commercial purpose or to print media. The Commission considered that the respondent authority has created several unreasonable conditions to either limit or delay and deny the right to information of the student who appeared for the examination conducted by CBSE in 2013. The reasonability and legality or validity or otherwise of the contentions of the CBSE are given below: 1. The CBSE has no authority to impose such restriction on the rights of minor and his guardian. The natural guardian (father) has a legal duty and authority to secure the rights and benefits of the minor boy. In that capacity he has every right to seek right to information of his son be implemented and any injustice occurring to his son in evaluation of his answer scripts which might affect his career forever. The CBSE did not explain in reasonable terms why it has denied the natural guardian from exercising his legal duty to secure the legal interests of his son including his right to information. Hence the reason cited to deny the ‘father’ is unreasonable and illegal and also in violation of rights of the minor boy. The CBSE has no authority to impose such restriction on the rights of minor and his guardian. Hence the Commission holds that the appellant who is the father of the candidate is entitled for the copies of the answer sheets of his son, which shall be supplied to him. 2. Application was submitted beyond last date prescribed by the CBSE. The appellant has exercised his right to information under RTI Act, 2005 according to which the public authority should give information held by it. The CBSE has not denied the fact of holding the answer scripts of the son of appellant as on the date of RTI application. Once the RTI has been filed, it has no authority to destroy the answer scripts since the demand under statute is pending. Hence the contention that appellant approached beyond the last date does not hold good under RTI Act. 3. The candidate has to sign undertaking papers relinquishing his right to reevaluation has been imposed unreasonably. If a student has a legally recognized right to reevaluation, why should he relinquish it simply because he wanted to exercise another legal right to information by seeking to have copy of the answer script? The recognition and guaranteeing of right to information is aimed at making the public authority ‘accountable’. But by imposing this condition the CBSE is not only restricting that right to information, but also insulating itself from being accountable. This condition that student should sign off his rights by an undertaking is a serious obstruction to right to information of minor boy and his guardian. 4. Condition to relinquish right to share answer script with others, media to question the wrong evaluation etc. Another unreasonable condition imposed by CBSE is that candidate shall not display answer script after obtaining it under RTI Act. He should not share with print media also. These are unconstitutional restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution. 5. Condition against using information for commercial purposes. This is yet another unreasonable condition on use of information obtained under RTI Act. The CBSE wanted the appellant to file an undertaking saying he would not use it for commercial purposes. How can CBSE impose restrictions on the use of information obtained by the citizen, which were not imposed by the Right to Information Act, 2005. CIC has passed following Directions/ Order: 1. The undertakings prescribed by the CBSE have the effect of seriously obstructing the access to information beyond what was permitted by the Right to Information Act, 2005. By prescribing such rules and imposing conditions such as above, the CBSE tried to legislate something which is not prescribed or authorized by the Parliament through the Right to Information Act, 2005. 2. The Commission directs the CBSE to put in place such system with conducive practices by which the Right to information of the appellants is not limited but facilitated, by removing the obstacles such as undertaking to give up their legal rights, as mentioned above. 3. The Commission further directs the CBSE to pay a compensation of Rs.25,000/ to the appellant within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order for harassing him and compelling him to sign illegal undertaking to give up rights. The Commission directs the CBSE to furnish the certified copies of the answer scripts as required to the appellant, free of cost, within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order. Massive stink over Planning Commission's Rs 35 lakh toilets: The government may be speaking of austerity and curbing expenditure on various public schemes, but the the Planning Commission must not have got that memo and an RTI application has revealed a massive Rs 35 lakh to renovate two toilets at Yojana Bhavan. According to the RTI application filed by activist Subhash Agrawal, not only were the two toilets renovated for this sum, an additional five lakhs was spent on installing a smart-card system which restricted access to the toilets to 60 senior officials who work at the complex. NDTV reported that the commission also planned to install security cameras in the corridors leading to these toilets to ensure equipment was not stolen. The 35-lakh toilets were, according to plans, to serve as models for upgrading another three toilets in the building at a later stage. Whether they would also have access through smart cards was not clear. The petitioner S Agarwal meanwhile, hit out at the Planning Commission, and said his RTI application had revealed that another three such toilets were in the works. "It will not end here. Some other government and public offices will follow the same trend. This kind of wasteful expenditure when the government is talking about austerity and when the planning commissioner says that Rs 28 is the poverty line, is ridiculous", he said. The revelations of the RTI application has drawn massive criticism from opposition parties. Senior BJP spokesman Balbir Punj said that the revelation was 'shocking' and strongly condemned the move. Meanwhile the news has prompted the phrase Rs 35 to start trending on Twitter, with some well intentioned 'toilet humor'. @Roflindian said, "Spending Rs 35 lakhs for two toilets must be the most expensive way to relieve a south block in the morning", while @RameshSrivats said "By spending Rs. 35 lakhs on renovating two toilets. India has made it clear that it is an emerging superpower." There have also been some obvious references made to the extravagance of the planning commission, particularly comparing the large sum of money to the much criticized Rs 28 urban poverty line that was decided upon by the members of the commission. Travel costs of Planning Commissioner Montek Singh Alhuwalia were also criticized in a recent report in The Hindu. columnist P Sainath argued, based on RTI information obtained by other journalists, how massive the overseas travel expenses of Montek, who is otherwise known for his justification of the poverty-line argument, were. The highlight of Sainath’s article was that the average daily expense of Alhuwalia was Rs. 2.02 lakhs during his overseas travel between May and October last year. Using Montek’s own Rs 26 a day calculation, this could have sustained a poor person in rural India for more than 20 years! http://www.firstpost.com/india/massive-stink-over-planning-commissions-rs-35-lakh-toilets-333970.html https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-most-valuable-information-ever-asked-using-the-RTI-Act-in-India http://rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/CIC_RM_A_2014_000014_M_174361.pdf https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/10/14/a-look-at-some-rti-success-stories/ https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/10/13/rti-10-years_n_8277290.html
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