Monday, December 29, 2008

Students can seek exam marks details under RTI

Now, students can seek exam marks details under RTI

29 Dec 2008, 0125 hrs IST, Hemali Chhapia, TNN

MUMBAI: In a landmark judgment that will change how examinations are conducted in the country, the Central Information Commission has ruled that authorities must usher in transparency and reveal questionwise marks awarded to candidates, under the Right To Information Act.

The ruling will bring cheer to India's large student population, which has been fighting for access to copies of answer sheets ever since the RTI Act was passed.

In March 2006, Treesa Irish from Kerala became the first student to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to see her exam answer scripts. She lost the battle when a full bench of the Central Information Commission ruled that the data she had requested was of a personal nature, and that its disclosure had no relation to any public interest and would therefore be prohibited under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

The CIC also held that the relationship between the exam-conducting authority and the examiner was fiduciary in nature, and therefore information must be kept confidential under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act.

However, Irish was hardly alone. Students under several education boards across the country have sought copies of their answer booklets under the RTI Act. All failed in their quest, with public information officers conveniently referring to Irish's case as the precedent. That is, until Ajeet Kumar Pathak, a class XII student from Bihar, demanded that the CBSE board provide him details of questionwise marks awarded to him in the chemistry paper.

Here too, the CBSE board stated, ``The larger public interest does not warrant disclosure of such information.'' Pathak then filed his first appeal, which was again defeated, with the authority ruling that ``no candidates shall have the right to obtain questionwise marks''.

But in a dramatic twist, the CIC overturned those rulings. Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who ruled on December 22 that questionwise marks awarded must be shared with the candidate, said, ``None of the exemption clauses in the RTI Act were applicable in this case.'' Gandhi said that this ruling was now ``in principle'' applicable to all authorities conducting examinations across the country.

In Maharashtra too, several students have taken the RTI route to get their hands on copies of their answer sheets. Basanti Roy, divisional secretary of SSC board, said that to date, there has been no provision in the law to part with answer sheets, and that several students had to be turned down. ``But we will wait for orders to flow in from the state government on providing questionwise marks,'' Roy added.

Currently, the Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Examination lets students demand verification, which allows for marks to be re-calculated by opening the answer booklets. Verification also helps ensure that all answers have been marked. However, there is no provision for reassessment, which requires the moderator to read through and reassess the content of the paper.

NCERT joint director G Ravindra said that this ruling was in line with the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, which emphasized transparency in conducting examinations. ``NCF 2005 had suggested several exam reforms, including transparency and stress-free exams. However, NCERT is an advisory body, and it was upto boards to implement NCERT recommendations,'' added Ravindra. Karnataka was the only state in the country that decided to go ahead and hand over answer sheets to students.

Educationist and former chairman of the Mumbai board J M Abhayankar said that while the CIC ruling was something to cheer about, boards must be proactive and provide copies of answer booklets. Abhyankar himself had presented a report to the state government on exam reforms in 2002, but it remains on paper.

``I had recommended that the Maharashtra board also give copies of answer booklets to students. But the state did not accept the recommendations under some pressure,'' he said. He added that providing copies of the answer scripts would ensure better evaluation.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Also read the related stories in THE HINDU as follows:

Disclose question-wise marks to examinee: CIC

New Delhi (PTI): A class XII student is likely to get details of question-wise marks scored by him in Chemistry with the CIC dismissing CBSE's plea that it was exempted from disclosing such information under the RTI, a decision which seems to be in conflict with its earlier judgements.

Manoj Kumar Pathak from Buxar in Bihar had sought the details of question-wise marks in Chemistry of class XII examination in 2006 of an examinee Ajeet Kumar Pathak from CBSE.

But CBSE refused to provide the details saying the information was exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. The CBSE also cited previous decisions of the CIC which had exempted bodies which conduct exams, including UPSC, from making any disclosures.

"The information asked by appellant is exempted under section 8(1)(e) since CBSE shares fiduciary relationships with its evaluators and maintain confidentiality of both the manner and method of evaluation," CBSE replied.

The larger public interest does not warrant the disclosure of information desired by the appellant, the Board said quoting the previous judgments of CIC. The reasons given by CBSE were upheld by the appellate authority.

But Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has now ordered it to provide answer-wise marks sought by appellant.

Gandhi said that CBSE could not advance "reasonable" reasons for denying the information. He added that the onus of proving that denial of information was justified was on the CBSE which it could not do, hence information should be provided to Pathak.

"The CBSE could not justify the reasons for denial. If a public authority fails to provide any substantial reasons for claiming exemptions from RTI claiming 'secrecy', it must give reasons for the same, failing which they should give the information," Shailesh Gandhi told PTI over phone.

He added that this rule applies to even the examination conducting bodies like CBSE.

Asked about the previous judgements of CIC about the exemption given to CBSE from disclosing details related to answersheets, Gandhi refused to comment.

"I can comment about my decisions but not on other decisions of the CIC," he said.

In a judgement dated November 21 2008, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has made a distinction between bodies constituted for conducting examinations like CBSE, SSB and UPSC and "other" public authorities, whose main function was not of conducting examinations but filling up of posts either through promotion or by recruitment.

In his judgement, Habibullah exempted CBSE and bodies like UPSC and SSB from the disclosing details related to evaluated answer sheets.

"...In such cases, a citizen cannot seek disclosure of the evaluated answer sheets under the RTI Act, 2005," he said in his order.

Courtesy_
http://www.hinduonnet.com

Also read the related stories
Kolkata HC: Student to see answer script under RTI

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Commonwealth Games panel approaches Delhi HC against Centre

Commonwealth Games panel approaches Delhi HC against Centre

New Delhi, Dec 09: The organising committee for 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Centre are at loggerheads in the Delhi High Court as the panel has challenged the government's decision of declaring it a public authority, liable to disclose information under Right to Information Act.

The committee, which is charged with responsibility to conduct Commonwealth Games, has contended that it is an independent and autonomous body, not liable to reveal information under RTI Act.

"Petitioner Society (the committee) does not fulfill the criteria of being declared a State under Article 12 of the Constitution and hence it could not be declared a Public Authority under the RTI Act," the organising committee pleaded before Justice G S Sistani.

"It does not fulfill the criteria of being declared a State under Article 12 of the Constitution and hence it could not be declared a Public Authority under the RTI Act," it said.

Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, however, said that almost whole budgetary support to the project is provided by the government and the Committee cannot take the plea that it is an independent body.

"The Centre is providing not only substantial upfront funds but also has undertaken to meet the shortfall between its revenue and expenditure," Malhotra said.

"The audit report of the body for the year 2005-06 shows that out of total receipt of Rs 52.72 crore, it received Rs 52.58 crore from government sources. This proves that the petitioner is receiving almost its entire funding from government sources," he said while justifying the government's decision.

Bureau Report

Courtesy_
http://www.zeenews.com

Calls made to police control room are public documents:CIC

Calls made to police control room are public documents: CIC

9 Dec 2008, 1600 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: The records of calls made to Police Control Room -- on 100 -- are "public documents" details of which should be provided under the RTI Act, even if an accused wants to use it for defence in a Court, Central Information Commission has directed. "Records of calls received in PCR are, in fact, public documents. Their disclosure is incumbent unless that have been made in confidence in which case such a condition will require to be recorded," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

"Unless it is clearly established that such a disclosure would impede the process of investigation or prosecution and not simply that the record will be used in defence by an accused," he said.

The case relates to one Ram Lal who sought details of a call made to the police control room on January 19 and 20, 2007 from Model Town police station. A similar application was moved by one Asha Devi seeking same call details.

The Delhi police refused to give information saying that it "could not be acceded to under section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act."

Not satisfied with the reply, Asha filed an appeal with the police claiming that the calls were made by her and it was her right to know what she informed police.

"There is nothing secret or any such thing which relates to you or any investigation or any third party related matter," she pleaded.

Delhi police again rejected the appeal saying that it will impede the prosecution of an accused.

Asha reached the Central Information Commission with the prayer to direct the officer concern to provide the required information and take action against the official responsible for it.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Indians are yet to take advantage of RTI

The Rediff Interview/Shailesh Gandhi, Central Information Commissioner

'Indians are yet to take advantage of Right to Information'

November 07, 2008

I first met Shailesh Gandhi several years back at a Pan IIT convention in Mumbai. Someone had introduced him to me as the 'relentless crusader of right to information'.

I could not have been more surprised.

A voice inside told me to take this 'five-foot three-inch frame with an infectious smile' little less seriously. Which is when Gandhi offered me a cup of tea and we started talking, about RTI, of course.

Five minutes into the conversation, and my notion about the man stood on its head.

For, here was a man who walked, talked and breathed RTI -- here was someone who had sold his 23-year-old plastic manufacturing company to take up social work as a full time career.

Having won the Nani Palkhivala award for civil liberties earlier this year, Gandhi was recently appointed Central Information Commissioner, New Delhi.

His e-mails and visiting cards carry an interesting tag: Mera Bharat mahan, nahin hain; par yeh dosh mera hain (My India is not great but I am to blame for it).

In an informal chat with Assistant Managing Editor Indrani Roy Mitra, this 61-year-old former IIT alumnus spoke about his dream of an India that would swear by RTI, his achievements as the central information commissioner, Indians' lack of awareness about RTI and many other issues.

What made you give up your business and opt for social work?

Success does not come easy, no matter which field you are in. At one point of time in my life, about six years back, I felt there was nothing else to achieve in the business that I was running.

I was one of those lucky few who had had a good education, a satisfactory career and a happy family life. 'It is high time I gave something back to the society', I told myself and that is how it started.

I disposed of my business and became an RTI activist.

Why RTI?

Just when I was feeling I should do something for society, somebody mentioned at one of the citizens' meetings that RTI would be good for the country. I was instantly drawn towards the subject.

I did a bit of reading and gradually understood what an enormous powerhouse it was.

My first RTI move to do something about political interference in police transfers failed but it did succeed in showing me the right way.

I came to realise what ails India.

Taking the cue from your answer, what ails our country?

A profound lack of awareness is a bane for us. Ours is a funny kind of democracy where each individual functions like a rudderless ship.

There is hardly any group participation in the democracy that we live in. Things are, however, different in the Western world.

In India, each one of us wants to win an individual battle. Everyone wants to challenge the authority or governance but cannot as he finds the process extremely time-consuming and complicated.

Right to information bridges this gap between an individual and an authority. It empowers a citizen to raise an eyebrow and question.

Tell us about the RTI Act. How can it transform India?

This Act empowers people's right to know about the government and governance. Because of the RTI Act, an individual citizen becomes the monitor of the government.

The Right to Information is derived from our Fundamental Right of Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India.

If we do not have information on how our government and public institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it.

This has been clearly stated by various Supreme Court judgments since 1977. This Act reaches to every stratum of the society.

Thanks to the RTI Act, the State's response to non-entities and general people goes up considerably.

Remember how Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was once thrown out of the first class compartment of a South African train in Pietermaritzburg in Natal?

Even at that time (a century back), a letter of complaint was replied to and a railway official had intervened.

This is something one can't imagine in India. RTI is a great ray of hope in this respect.

Was there any specific reason for you to accept the post of central information commissioner?

Working as an RTI activist all these years, I found the number of pending appeals had touched an all-time high -- pleas at state information commission stood at over 16,000, whereas the appeal at the Central Information Commission was over 8,000.

The information commissioner on an average gets to handle 15-200 appeals per month, which is far from satisfactory.

While taking up this new responsibility, I have made a commitment of disposing 350-400 appeals every month and will also try to keep the pendency of a case to a minimum of three months.

I will not make any compromise whatsoever in the process. If the system tries to co-opt me, I may even bid adieu.

Are you happy with progress you have made in the past one and a half months as the CIC?

I would say I have taken the right steps forward.

After assuming office in mid-September I have managed to have 142 cases disposed of and have issued notices in 32 matters wherein principal information officers have been asked to showcause why penalty should not be imposed.

During this time, RTI helped a citizen, Rajesh Kumar, get his security deposit of Rs 5,60,000 from the municipal corporation of Delhi.

The fund had been lying with MCD for eight long years. RTI helped him get his money back.

In another case, the commission upheld an appellant's right to seek information about action taken post his complaints against illegal structures.

The commission found one Vijay Singh guilty and culpable for 30 days' delay and penalised him at the rate of Rs 250 per day of delay as per Section 20 (1) of the RTI Act.

The penalty thus worked out to Rs 7,500 (30 days x Rs 250).

In one of the cases that I handled, RTI findings indicated denial of aid to widows.

The commission found one S K Jha guilty of not furnishing information within 30 days specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act.

Since Jha contended that he had given directions to other officers to provide the information, he was directed to give the list of such officers responsible for this serious lapse to the commission so that it could initiate penal proceedings.

While handling such cases, what hurdles do you face?

The greatest obstacle, I feel, is people's lack of awareness. Even though the RTI Act has been passed, Indians are yet to take full advantage of it.

We are yet to contemplate RTI as our birthright, for it has long been denied to us.

Indians, therefore, either don't put forth their grievances or don't question inordinate delays while seeking redressal.

Also, the lack of a proper system to gauge the RTI growth rate is quite frustrating.

How do you think these issues can be addressed?

I conduct about 25 lectures and workshops across India per month and get to interact with about 50 people each time.

Of late, I do come across a section of the audience who had used the RTI and got a tangible result. The wheel of RTI, I feel, has started rolling, however slow.

The onus now rests on us, the activists, to spread the good word.

Also, the activists have to come up with a feasible standard of measuring RTI progress. It is a difficult task no doubt but it has to be achieved at any cost.

Courtesy_
http://in.rediff.com/news

Friday, November 7, 2008

Penalty is Mandatory and NOT Discriminatory: HC

Penalty is Mandatory and NOT Discriminatory - Punjab & Haryana High Court

Punjab & Haryana High Court has recently delivered a very important judgement on PENALTY PROVISIONS OF RTI ACT.

The main point is reproduced below:

AIR 2008 PUNJAB AND HARYANA 126

M. M. KUMAR AND T. P. S. MANN, JJ.

Ramesh Sharma & Anr. v. State Information Commission, Haryana & Ors.

C. W. P. No. 1924 of 2008, D/- 8-2-2008.

(A) Right to Information Act (22 of 2005), S. 20(1), (2) — Delay in furnishing information — Imposition of penalty on Public Information Officer — Plea that penalty could be imposed only in cases where there is repeated failure to furnish information and that too without any reasonable cause — Not tenable — Even in cases of simple: delay Commission is empowered under sub-section (2) of S.20 to recommend disciplinary action against State/Central Public Information Officer co under Service Rules applicable to such 8 officers. [Para 5]

(B) Right to Information Act (22 of 2005), Ss. 20(2), 26 Delay in furnishing information — Imposition of penalty on Public Information Officer under S. 20(1) is mandatory — Public Information Officer cannot avoid the mandatory provisions of sub-section (1) of S. 20 of Act or seek leniency on excuse that training programme as envisaged by S. 26 has not been organised by Govt. encouraging participation of Public Information Officer in development and organisation of o programmes. [Para 6]

In very clear terms the Bench termed the provisions as MANDATORY.

This means that if the PIO has failed to supply the desired information in time then the Hon'ble Commissioners should at the very outset impose the penalty and then ask them why it should not be realised rather then asking them why penalty be not imposed. Just a minor change of language can make drastic changes in the attitude of non cooperative PIO.

Courtesy_
http://www.rtiindia.org

Download FULL VERSION of this Judgment in PDF Format at:
http://www.rtiindia.org/forum/attachments

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Principal slapped her, Pulled her hair

Principal slapped her, Pulled her hair

As reported by Ritika Chopra in The Hindustan Times, Delhi Edition, on 21 October 2008:

Courtesy_
http://epaper.hindustantimes.com


Govt. employee's educational details open to RTI query: CIC

Govt. employee's educational details open to RTI query: CIC

New Delhi (PTI): A government employee's educational qualification or details of degrees acquired by him while in service cannot be withheld from an RTI applicant on the grounds of being "personal information", the CIC has held.

Hearing the plea of Lt Col Parvinder Ahluwalia, Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said that as educational details of the government employees are in public domain and can be provided under RTI. Ahluwalia had sought information about the legal qualification of Lt Col Mahender Singh Yadav.

He wanted to know the name of the college from where Yadav acquired his Law Degree, the year of his joining the course, the name of the University, whether official permission was required for his joining the course while in service and whether the official nod was granted to him for pursuing the degree course.

The Army refused to share information under section 8 (1) (j) of RTI Act saying "being personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or it should cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual."

Ahluwalia pleaded that exemption of educational qualification from RTI was unjustified. He argued that any information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a state legislature may not be denied to any person. He asserted that the information sought by him is such that it is liable to be given to Parliament.

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

BCCI not covered by RTI law: CIC

BCCI not covered by RTI law: CIC

Press Trust of India

Friday, January 25, 2008 7:42 PM

New Delhi: The country's apex cricket governing body BCCI could not be made accountable to provide information to citizens under the Right to Information law, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.

In a recent order, the CIC rejected a citizen's plea to seek from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) certain information about its affairs.

Nagpur-based Anil Chintaman Khare in his RTI application had submitted that BCCI was registered under the Societies Registration Act and should be termed a "public authority" for the purposes of making it accountable under the transparency law.

The BCCI, however, contested the applicant's claim stating that despite being registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, it was not constituted under the Constitution or any law made by the Parliament or any state legislature.

Concurring with BCCI's stand, Information Commissioner Padma Balasubramanian said: "Registration under an Act is different from being established under it. Merely because BCCI is registered under the Societies Registration Act, does not bring it under the purview of RTI Act."

In its arguments before the Commission, the BCCI had contended that it did not receive any funds, directly or indirectly, from the Centre and also did not have on its board any nominee from any government.

The applicant said BCCI received a lot of tax benefits from the government and hence should be made answerable to the people of the country.

The Commission came to its decision after finding that BCCI did not fall under any of the categories required to bring any public office under the RTI Act.

Courtesy_
http://cricket.ndtv.com

Unaided schools can’t deny affiliation details to RTI applicant, rules CIC

Unaided schools can’t deny affiliation details to RTI applicant, rules CIC

Posted: May 03, 2008 at 2213 hrs IST

New Delhi, May 2: While a school that’s not aided by the Government can refuse to divulge information regarding its management, under the RTI, it cannot deny parting with details regarding its affiliation with the CBSE, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled.

Information Commissioner O P Kejriwal observed that since the CBSE is a public authority, documents submitted by any school — while seeking affiliation or extension of the affiliation — must be disclosed to an information seeker on demand. A school cannot turn down such a request by putting forth the contention that being an unaided institution, it’s not covered under the Right To Information (RTI) Act and hence, not liable to make public any information, noted the Commission.

“The Commission feels that while the school being an unaided one can retain its privacy regarding its management, administration and finance, the basis for being granted an affiliation by the CBSE and an extension of this affiliation are documents in the public domain and hence, must be disclosed,” Kejriwal held.

The CIC’s decision came on an appeal by Sanjay K D Chowdhary, hailing from Gondia in Maharashtra, who was denied information regarding the documents submitted by Shririnbai Neterwala School in Tumsar, Maharashtra, for its affiliation with the CBSE.

The CBSE, in its reply, had told Chowdhary that the information he had sought was with a third party, the school, and the latter had refused to make known the same arguing it was an unaided institution. Refusing to buy the school’s contention, the CIC directed the CBSE to disclose the documents pertaining to the extension of affiliation, as asked for by the appellant, by May 5.

Courtesy_
http://www.indianexpress.com

RTI now a common man’s tool: study: THE HINDU

RTI now a common man’s tool: study

Vidya Subrahmaniam

Study belies propaganda it is used by select social activists

Applicants closed down polluting factories, fought corruption

Villagers see information as key to solving problems


New Delhi: An interim assessment of the Right to Information Act, 2005, undertaken independently, has concluded that more and more people are now using it in new ways, disproving the propaganda that RTI is an instrument handled only by select social activists.

The first of its kind, the comprehensive study, conducted jointly by the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and the Right to Information Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), has been billed as a people’s initiative to assess who is using the Act and to what purpose. The study covered 10 States, besides Delhi.

In their report, “The People’s RTI Assessment 2008,” the NCPRI and RaaG pointed out that so far all information on RTI was either anecdotal or derived primarily from government data. Nor was there any evaluation of how the Act impacted societal actors such as the media, courts, the corporate sector and non-governmental organisations.

The NCPRI and RaaG conducted separate rural and urban surveys and also collected about 5,000 case studies from across the country, culled from the Hindi and English print media and downloaded from websites and blogs. A perusal of the cases showed that more and more people were invoking the Act, and for a variety of reasons.

In many cases, the applicants went beyond securing answers to their questions. They closed down polluting factories, fought corruption, and formed themselves into a larger group to support one another. Internet users formed their own online support groups, and helped applicants fill applications.

Specific examples of enlarging RTI: People in rural Karnataka combined campaigns for the Right to Information and the Right to Food to fight hunger. An 86-year-old Dalit farmer in Maharashtra used the RTI data to prevent his strawberry fields from drying up. In Uttar Pradesh, over 14,000 residents in a cluster of eight villages, 60 km. from Banda, used RTI to fight for their right to have roads, bridges and electricity.

The surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of rural residents saw information as the key to solving village problems. More than two-thirds of rural respondents said they had received a response to their applications and nearly one-third said their problems had been solved though they had received no information or received only partial information.

Among urban respondents, nearly three-fourths said they had received responses though they were slow in coming.

Only a third of respondents said they had received responses within the stipulated one month.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

Monday, October 13, 2008

The hazards of using RTI Act: THE HINDU

The hazards of using RTI Act: THE HINDU

Y.G. MURALIDHARAN

There are reports of officers threatening information seekers with dire consequences

Ever since the Right to Information Act (RTIA) came into force there has been a widespread debate about it usage and its benefits. It is argued that the RTIA can be a tool for achieving what is called good governance. The Act basically has two sides — supply and demand. Its efficacy depends on how these two sides play their roles.

The recent events reported from some parts of the country make one wonder whether the supply side is doing justice to one of the best pieces of legislation seen in post independent India.

There are reports of the Public Information Officers (PIOs) threatening information seekers with dire consequences. In some cases RTI applicants are physically assaulted. Take for instance the case of J.M. Rajashekara, a local journalist and RTI activist from Ranebennur in Haveri district of Karnataka. He filed an application under the Act and sought very general information from the Northeastern Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation.

The corporation instead of providing information or rejecting it issued a legal notice through their advocate. The advocate threatened the applicant with dire consequences and also demanded Rs.2,000 as legal fee for filing an application under the RTIA.

In Chintamani taluk of Kolar district, Manjunath Reddy is running a civil society organisation called Jana Jagruthi Vedike. He found that the quality of roadwork was poor and sought information and documents from the executing agency. He also applied for inspecting the work. The quality inspector was brought and it was proved that work amounting to Rs.2 lakh was not done but paid for.

The contractors lobby hired goondas and instigated the local people against Mr. Reddy. They manhandled him right in front of the officer. Fortunately, the officer was convinced of the poor work and ordered redoing of it. Mr. Reddy has also been a victim of physical assault from contractors of the Public Works Department.

In yet another case, Mr. Paramashivamurthy of Mysore was physically abused by the very PIO from whom the information was sought. The applicant sought details of the work in the Varuna Canal Project in Mysore.

The case of Ravindranath Guru, a consumer and RTI activist from Bangalore, is much worse. He found that his neighbour had violated the building bylaws and constructed a commercial complex on a site meant for residential purposes. He obtained sufficient information by using the RTIA. The next day his house was ransacked. He suspects some politicians were behind the violence.

The RTI provides that the PIO shall not ask for the reason for seeking information. Though the PIOs are not insisting on this in writing, RTI applicants are orally asked to divulge the reasons. In some cases the credentials of the applicants are sought indirectly. Take the case of Ms. Savitha Ranganath of the Mysore District Mahithi Vedike (RTI forum). She sought a copy of the movement register of a doctor of KR Hospital, Mysore. Though a copy was given, the doctor insisted that the applicant be personally present before him. She had to wait from afternoon to evening to get the information.

Forget about PIOs. Even advocates appearing on behalf of PIOs or public authorities have started using their usual legal language to protect their clients. Mr. Veeresh of the Anti Corruption Forum, Bangalore, has been using the RTIA extensively in Bangalore. This is an eyesore to many officials.

In an appeal filed against Mr. Veeresh in the Karnataka Information Commission, an advocate took exception to Mr. Veeresh’s practice of using RTIA. He said that the RTI applicant should come before the Commission with clean hands. After much persuasion and intervention of the Chief Commissioner, the advocate’s petition was withdrawn.

While the brutal murder of Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath gets wide coverage, the threats, abuses and physical assaults that many RTI activists are subjected to go unnoticed. Most of these activists have to wage a lone battle and be ready for any consequences. Can something be done to protect them? May be an amendment to the RTIA?

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

Civic body resolution records permanent: GIC

Civic body resolution records permanent: GIC

18 Aug 2008, 0513 hrs IST,TNN

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) has held that resolutions of the general board held by a municipal corporation are permanent records and taking the grounds that they are not available is not reasonable when they have been demanded under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

GIC has directed Junagadh Municipal Corporation (JMC) to conduct a thorough search of its records in all its branches to look for the missing resolutions and also, to take required measures as per rules to lodge a complaint with police regarding the missing records.

Dahyalal Sarvaiya of Junagadh had, under RTI, sought from the public information officer (PIO) of JMC certified copy of the general board resolution number 219 of July 29, 1987, of Junagadh Nagarpalika, certified copy of the map of land bearing survey number 214, and certified registered sale deed number 2294 of sale of that land.

The PIO informed Sarvaiya that as records were not available, information could not be provided. The appellate authority deciding Sarvaiya's appeal informed him that copy of the resolution was not available. The record clerk at that time, Kishore Vyas, had passed away and he had not handed over the records. For copy of the ownership rights and the sale deed, Sarvaiya's application was transferred to the office of the sub-registrar.

Before GIC, Sarvaiya questioned whether JMC had filed a police complaint in case the fact that Vyas had not handed over the records was correct. JMC contended that the resolution was of 1987 and pertained to Junagadh Nagarpalika which then became Junagadh Mahanagarpalika and was not on records.

Sarvaiya argued that JMC's contention of the copy of the resolution not being on record was incorrect and misleading.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Phone dead for 15 days? Get rent rebate from BSNL only if you ask for it

Phone dead for 15 days? Get rent rebate from BSNL only if you ask for it

Express News Service

Posted: Sep 02, 2008 at 0159 hrs IST

Pune, September 1: In the last 16 months, over 24,430 consumers of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) had to contend with dead telephones for more than 15 days. But only 1720 got rent rebate from the telecom company. The rules state that the telecom company must give a rebate in rent when the phone lines are dead, but they do so only when the consumer asks for it.

This was the information procured from an RTI application filed by Vivek Velankar of Sajag Nagrik Manch. “It is a direct hit on their revenue, which is why they are not moving on it,” Velankar said.

BSNL authorities said that more than revenue, it was a logistical issue. “It takes some time as the field unit needs to file a report on the reason for the phone disconnection. Unless the billing section gets this report, they cannot reduce the rent. Because of the logistics involved, it becomes difficult to unilaterally offer the rebate,” said Vineet Mathur, General Manager, East, Central and Marketing.

He said that consumers were given a rebate within three weeks, if they applied for it. However, the rebate is given only if the phone is found dead for a minimum of seven days. “The minimum rental plan for BSNL is Rs 180. If the phone has been reported dead for 15 days, the rebate would be Rs 90. However, many consumers have a higher plan tarrif,” he said.

This would mean that the telecom company owes its consumers a little over Rs 20 lakh at least.

In a letter to BSNL authorities, which has been circulated in the media, Velankar has said that the company has taken no efforts to educate consumers about this facility; it has also not published this bit of information in telephone directories or telephone bills.

“When you have all the data about for how many days the telephone number is dead, why is the rent rebate not given to all the customers,” he has written.

Courtesy_
http://www.expressindia.com

Bangalore's deadly speed breakers

Bangalore's deadly speed breakers

As if negotiating our dangerous road humps is not bad enough, hundreds of them are unauthorised, to boot. An RTI activist is on the war path to get the BBMP to streamline them.

Did you know that of the innumerable road humps (or speed breakers) in the city, only 282 are authorised by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP)? All the others, according to the BBMP, are unauthorised and do not have any mention in their records. This fact was revealed when BBMP responded to a RTI application regarding the same recently.

Most of us are troubled by the road humps we come across every day. It’s a common feeling that some of them are not required at all, while some of them appear to be hastily put up with no concern for ergonomics, causing damage to motorists’ spines and vehicles’ suspensions. A lot of these humps do not even have white lines marked on them so that they stand out from a distance.


An authorised hump opposite Bethany High school near Koramangala police station, with faded markings. Pic: Supriya Khandekar.

On 12th June last year, Anil Kumar, RTI activist and a member of Kria Katte, an NGO, filed an application to find out if all the road humps in the city were authorised. Negotiating the humps day after day, he had developed problems in his spinal cord, like many others. "Riding my two wheeler (on the humps) had made my life difficult; the growing problem prompted me to file a RTI application to know the reality behind the numerous humps" he says.

Kumar got the response on 11th January this year. He was not surprised to find that a lot of humps were unauthorised, and were not found on BBMP records at all.


List of Standard Road Humps
List of Standard Road Humps

Vital statistics of a road hump

In theory, for any hump to come up on a road the Traffic Police has to notify the Traffic Engineering Cell (TEC) of the BBMP. The TEC consists of three executive engineers, four assistant executive engineers and six assistant engineers. This cell is responsible for constructing all the road humps, pedestrian ways, barricades, road dividers etc.

The Indian Road Congress has made certain rules and regulations specifically to be followed in the construction of road humps. The rules of the Indian Road Congress are as follows:
Road Hump (speed-breaker) specification
  1. Central Height: 10-12 cm; Shape: Parabola; Width: 3.5 metres; Length: same as road width.
  2. Road humps should be painted in a 'V' shape and illuminated by solar cat's eyes (solar cells embedded on pavements/road that reflect sun rays and glow in the dark) to make them visible.
  3. The humps should not be more than five metres away from the junction or the intersection.
  4. Two signboards, one at 20 to 30 metres and another 10 metres away from the hump should be placed for the commuters to know about the road humps ahead. Intrusion of tree branches should be prevented.
  5. Road humps should be put up only on the main roads and not on the cross roads.
  6. In ‘rumble strips’, (humps that have around 5 to 10 strips together), the width of each strip is to be one foot and the gap between each strip, one foot.
Not surprisingly, these rules of the IRC are not available with the BBMP, and thus, not many of the road humps are built according to these standards.

A fatal ride

No markings on this hump on the BTM Ring Road that connects Silk Board and Jayadeva Circle. This is where Suryaprakash Chavan met his end. Pic: Supriya Khandekar.

Coincidentally, around a month after Kumar got the reply to his application he got to know about a fatal accident on the BTM Ring Road (between Silk Board and Jayadeva Circle) that occurred because of an improper hump.

Suryaprakash Chavan, 22, was on his way back home after dropping his friend in BTM Layout at 12 midnight. One of his friends Swagat Senapati was also with him on another two wheeler. Because the road bump was unmarked Chavan missed it; his motorbike jumped the breaker and he hit the divider. Chavan died on the spot.

There was no traffic police at the time of accident, and the Inspector at the Madiwala Police Station filed the FIR. The Inspector who signed the FIR (without writing his name under the signature) has mentioned in the FIR that this accident happened because of driver's negligence, even though eye witness Swagat Senapati’s account (Reg no: 2/2008/24 Sec 174 CrPC) , signed on the same date as of the accident, is with the same police station.

After this accident, G M Chavan, (Suryaprakash Chavan’s father) contacted Kumar for help and fresh applications were filed to get details about the BTM Ring Road humps in particular, and a second appeal was also filed with Karnataka Information Commission. As convenor of Kria Katte Anil Kumar has been following up with the BBMP to get the unscientific humps modified. The case was first heard between 2nd and 7th June this year. The next hearing is on 24th of this month and another hearing with the Police is scheduled for 14th November.

"The continuous poking has changed the mindset of the BBMP and the Police. The BBMP has already called tenders for modifying 400 humps in Bangalore, divided into 10 packages," says Kumar.

This accident might be just one example of the horrifying and irrevocable effects of unplanned and unscientific road humps on the lives of motorists. But similar cases and other minor accidents happen every day. At the very least, this RTI applications have set a process in motion for standardising these otherwise dangerous structures on Bangalore's roads.

15 Sep 2008
Supriya Khandekar is a staff journalist at Citizen Matters.

References

The Indian Road Congress (IRC) is the premier technical body of Highway Engineers in the country, and came into existence in December 1934. It is a national forum for sharing of knowledge and pooling of experience on subjects dealing with the construction & maintenance of roads and bridges, including technology, equipment, research, planning, finance, taxation, organisation and all connected policy issues.

Courtesy_
http://www.rtiindia.org

Also read the related stories at:
http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in

Calcutta HC: Student to see answer script

Kolkata HC: Student to see answer script under RTI

29 Mar 2008, 0445 hrs IST,TNN

KOLKATA: Calcutta High Court set a precedent on Friday by granting the wish of a Presidency College student to see his answer script, although Calcutta University rules apparently have no provision for this.

The directive may open the floodgates, with stude-nts knocking on CU — and possibly the court’s door — with petitions to be allowed a glimpse of their answer sheets.

Pritam Rooz, a second-year mathematics honours student, was upset with the poor marks (28) he got in mathematics paper V. He applied to CU for a review, following which his score was revised to 32 — pass marks, barely.

The student then wanted to know about his mistakes and urged CU to show his script under the Right to Information Act. The authorities denied the request, saying the university has no such rule. Rooz then moved court against the university.

CU's lawyer Sambuddha Chakrabarty argued that Rooz's prayer for showing the script doesn't come under the purview of the RTI Act as the applicant wasn't seeking any information. He is aware of what he wrote in the script, the lawyer argued.

Rooz's counsel Satadal Chatterjee submitted that his client's prayer was valid under Section 3 of the Act — whi-ch includes showing a student his/her script.

While delivering the judgment, Justice Sanjeeb Banerjee observed that a student has the right to see his answer script under Article 19 of the Constitution. He added that a student "might make a silly or a major mistake" while answering questions hurriedly and should be allowed to see the script so that he can rectify himself.

Justice Banerjee also sounded a note of caution for examiners, saying they should be careful in correcting scripts.

He held that the university should take care to protect and preserve answer sheets.

The judge, however, granted a two-week stay on the implementation of his order.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Also read the elaborate stories about this Issue at:
http://www.rtiindia.org


Also read the related stories
Students can seek exam marks details under RTI

Cause list is a public document: CIC to HC

Cause list is a public document: CIC to HC

11 Oct 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Abhinav Garg ,TNN

NEW DELHI: Criticising Delhi High Court (HC) for withholding a copy of cause list to a Right to Information (RTI) seeker, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that a "cause list'' prepared by court administration for listing of cases is a public document, which a citizen has a right to "inspect.''

Asking HC to supply copy of cause lists of a certain period to a lawyer who was denied the same, a bench headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah held that once this list reaches the court master to record next dates of hearing and other case related details, it becomes a public document and falls under the purview of RTI. "A citizen exercising his right under RTI Act becomes entitled to inspect the cause list, take notes, extracts or certified copies,'' CIC said.

HC on its part had refused to part with this detail because it demanded a reason from advocate Manish Khanna on why he wanted this information, saying "no reason was given as to why such information is required.''

The CIC took a dim view of denial on this ground and in its order released on Friday, noted, "The CPIO has clearly overstepped the limits of his powers by demanding the reasons from the appelant for his seeking the information. He is cautioned to refrain from doing so.'' The apex RTI body pointed out that RTI provision makes it explicitly clear that any applicant seeking information "shall not be required to give any reason for requesting information'' and faulted HC on that count.

CIC was hearing an appeal by Khanna against denial of information and was constrained to record its dismay with the manner in which HC blocked copies of cause list from being provided to Khanna. "It will be very unfortunate if information was available on the date it was sought and has been destroyed thereafter and a citizen is deprived of his right to seek information,'' the bench, also comprising information commissioners A N Tiwari and O P Kejariwal added.

Defending its stand, HC in fact claimed that cause list is "transitory and is destroyed...it is just for convenience of court staff.'' The judicial authority insisted there was nothing in HC rules which imposes any obligation to maintain such a list and court wasn't obliged to keep such a list. Interestingly, at the same time HC admitted that list is made available on the internet for a few days.

Khanna had sought the cause list as part of his research work to understand if there was any procedure for granting early hearings to accused in certain cases. "The purpose is not to get information alone but to ensure RTI Act is not rendered infructuous by inaction of HC...the information would expose that ordinary people languished behind bars in Delhi jails, sometimes for over a decade - unheard in trial or in appeal - while rich and influential area heard on priority,'' Khanna alleged in his appeal, seeking more information on procedure for early hearing. However, on HC's stand that this fell under judicial functioning of HC and therefore outside the ambit of RTI, the Commission on Friday gave it 20 days time to come up with written arguments on this issue.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Panel moots changes in RTI Act

Panel moots changes in RTI Act

By Express News Service

13 Oct 2008 03:52:00 AM IST

KOCHI: In an attempt that may thwart the very purpose of the Right To Information Act, the Lok Sabha Committee of Privileges submitted a report before the Lok Sabha Speaker, recommending for amendments, including that the decision taken by the House/Speaker may not be open to review by the Chief Information Commissioner.

The report on `Requests from Courts of Law and investigating agencies, for documents pertaining to proceedings of House, Parliamentary Committees or which are in the custody of the Secretary-General, Lok Sabha, for production in Courts of Law and for investigation purposes’ was laid on the table on April 30, 2008. The 97-page report was submitted by the Committee chaired by V Kishore Chandra S Deo after studying the procedures followed in 35 countries.

The Committee suggests four major amendments. They are - it may be made the incumbent upon an applicant requesting for information/document which come under the jurisdiction of the House to state the reasons for which the information/ documents are required.

If in the opinion of the Speaker the information sought for have the potential to call in question the proceedings of the House or of any committee of the House, in any court he may be empowered to refer such a request to the Committee of Privileges for examination and report.

© Copyright 2008 ExpressBuzz

Courtesy_
http://www.expressbuzz.com

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Video conferencing vital for RTI: CIC

Video conferencing vital for RTI: CIC

Indo-Asian News Service

Sunday, October 05, 2008, (New Delhi): Decentralising the Central Information Commission (CIC) is not the way to clear the pending backlog of appeals and complaints, says India's Right to Information (RTI) chief.

"I don't think decentralising is the answer. Video conferencing is a better option and will work far better," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

"If we decentralise, we will have to set up offices, arrange accommodation and other facilities like transport for the information commissioners and for that also a huge amount of money will have to be spent," he added.

The Right To Information Act was passed by Parliament in 2005 for promoting transparency and accountability in the system.

According to Habibullah, "Decentralisation would also lead to breakdown of coordination between Public Information officers."

"The RTI Act emphasises the use of electronic means, and video conferencing is a revolutionary system of information technology. For RTI, the next step at CIC is the introduction of video conferencing, which is inexpensive and quite efficient," he said.

"Earlier we were using the video conferencing facility at the National Informatics Centre. But it was not always available due to which a lot of our hearings were cancelled," Habibullah explained.

He said that video conferencing facility was available now at one of the CIC offices.

"We have divided time between all information commissioners at the office to use that facility. I am slowly looking towards all information commissioners having their own video conferencing facility so that they don't even have to use it by turn," Habibullah added.

He further stated that whenever there is a huge backlog of cases at a particular place, the information commissioners travel to those places for a few days and hold hearings.

"Chandigarh and Puducherry are just some of the examples," Habibullah added.

Courtesy_
http://www.ndtv.com

Thursday, October 2, 2008

HC to govt: How come you appointed SEC?

HC to govt: How come you appointed SEC?

2 Oct 2008, 0416 hrs IST,TNN

PATNA: The Patna High Court on Wednesday sought a reply from the state government and the State Election Commissioner (SEC) J K Dutta as to how the CM, instead of the governor, appointed the SEC.

A division bench comprising CJ R M Lodha and Justice K K Mandal issued the directive after hearing the PIL of Servers of Society whose lawyer, Ashutosh Ranjan Pandey, submitted that as per the provisions of the Constitution and Bihar Panchayati Raj Act, only the governor can appoint the SEC.

He said the petitioner has the information, procured under the provisions of Right to Information Act, that the CM appointed the SEC in 2006. He sought the removal of SEC J K Dutta on this ground.

Courtesy_
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Chief Secy Office not above RTI: Lucknow SIC

Chief Secy Office not above RTI, says Information Commission

Express News Service Posted: Oct 02, 2008 at 0130 hrs IST

Lucknow, October 1: Refusing to allow the state Chief Secretary to keep his office above the Right To Information Act, the State Information Commission has asked Atul Kumar Gupta to appoint a Public Relations Officer (PRO) in the next 15 days and make the related information public.

While issuing the order, Acting Chief Information Commissioner Gyanendra Sharma quoted judgments of other states in similar cases. The Chief Secretary’s Office, he said, comes under the category of “Public Authority” under Section 2(H) of the RTI Act.

Hearing the appeal of petitioner Paras Nath Verma, on June 26, the Commission had asked the Chief Secretary if any public information officer had been appointed in his office. Sharma had also asked the Chief Secretary to explain why his office does not figure on the Government website along with other departments.

In reply, the Chief Secretary had stated that his office does not fall under the purview of “public authority” and could not be listed for seeking information through RTI.

Disposing of the case, Sharma asked the Chief Secretary to appoint a Public Information Officer and make his phone numaddress public.

Courtesy_
http://www.indianexpress.com

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Academic record of SC judges unavailable

Academic record of SC judges unavailable, RTI applicant told

Agencies Posted: Oct 01, 2008 at 1552 hrs IST

New Delhi, October 1: How much did the Chief Justice of India score in his law degree exam? Or, what was the academic performance of sitting Delhi High Court judges as students?

Questions like these may, perhaps, never get answered through RTI applications. The ministry of law and justice and the Supreme Court have no records on the educational qualification of judges.

This is what Dev Ashish Bhattacharya realised when he drew a blank on his RTI application. He wanted to know the percentage of marks obtained by sitting Supreme Court and Delhi High Court judges in their Class X, graduation and Law degree exam.

Bhattacharya had asked whether department of justice collects these documents during the judges' selection process and gets them verified from the respective educational boards and universities.

The department said the process of initiation of proposal for appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court lies with the Chief Justice of India and for appointment of a High Court Judge it lies with the Chief Justice of that High Court.

Transferring the application to information officers of Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, the department official said it neither gets the certificates verified from educational institutions nor any record is maintained in this regard.

The Delhi High Court in its reply said that the selection process does not require furnishing of or calling for the details of marks obtained by the candidate in matriculation, graduation and law degree hence no record was available.

The apex court Registry also denied having any such record and said that appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges is made by the President and such matters are not handled by it.

Courtesy_
http://www.indianexpress.com

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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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This Blog Spot is meant for publishing reports about the usage of RTI Act (Right to Information Act, 2005) so as to create an awareness to the general public and also to keep it as a ready reckoner by them. So the readers may extend their gratitude towards the Author as we quoted at the bottom of each Post under the title "Courtesy".Furthermore, the Blog Authors are no way responsible for the correctness of the materials published herein and the readers may verify the concerned valuable sources.

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