Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NGO asked for Rs.2 lakh as fees for information

NGO asked to shell out over Rs.2 lakh as fees for information under RTI ACT

D.Karthikeyan

It sought information about implementation of schemes

MADURAI: Seek information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, but do not be surprised when you are asked to pay as much as Rs.2,16,779.

Public Information Officers and Inspector of Factories I Circle and II Circle, Coimbatore, Tirupur and Pollachi have sought Rs.2,16,779 as fees to provide information under the Act from a Madurai-based non-governmental organisation, Campaign for the Rights of Unorganised Workers.

It made an application on April 24 seeking information on implementation of schemes such as ‘Sumangali Thittam,’ ‘Mangalya Thittam’ and ‘Camp Coolie Thittam’ in textile units based in Coimbatore Zone from April 2000 to March 2008.

The information sought were names and addresses of textile units, number of girls employed, working hours, details on leave and salary given, bonus, social security schemes, food, accommodation and toilet facilities. Details of injuries and compensation paid, number of girls who joined work and those who left after their contract period, and girls who quit before termination of their contract were also sought.

Listing out the costs involved in obtaining the information, Public Information Officers and Inspector of Factories have all sent letters to the NGO (a copy of which is with The Hindu) to send demand drafts to their respective offices. The amount sought is as follows: Circle I, Coimbatore: Rs.81,340; Circle II, Coimbatore: Rs.1,06,420; Circle I, Tirupur: Rs.1,390; Circle II, Tirupur: Rs.6,385 and Rs.21,244 for Pollachi.

Stating that as per RTI rules, Rs.2 a page was demanded to provide information, the petitioner, K. Deivendran, district organiser, Campaign for the Rights of Unorganised Workers, wondered whether they would be given 1,08,389 pages of information if the money was paid. RTI’s major objective of promoting transparency and accountability was at stake here and the letters we received were in a similar tone, he said.

S. Ramakrishanan, State Chief Information Commissioner, told The Hindu on Monday over phone that “the amount of fee depends upon the volume of information sought, and if the petitioner feels that excess fee has been asked, and it is unreasonable, there is a provision under Section 18 of the Act to appeal to the commission…and if it is upheld the public authority should give information at a lesser fee.”

He also said that it would be better for applicants to ask for scrutiny of files and go for precise documents, as there were instances in which volumes of information that was not needed were sought.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Informations which are exempted from RTI Act

Informations which are exempted from disclosure under Right to Information Act

By Deepak Miglani

India is the biggest democracy in the world. People are the masters of a democracy. Therefore the masters have a right to know how the government, meant to serve them are functioning. Every Citizen pays taxes, therefore they have the right to know how their money is being spent.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 has been passed to ensure and define the process of asking information.There is no obligation for the government to give any citizen the following information by :-

* Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security ,the strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.

* Information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court.

* Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

* Information including commercial confidence , trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosures of such information.

* Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

* Information received in confidence from foreign Government.

* Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement for law enforcement or security purposes.

* Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

* Cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers; Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete , or over. If those matters which come the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed.

* Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: provided that the information which can not be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secret Act, 1923 , a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest.

Courtesy_
http://blog.milagrow.in

India's RTI Act better than US's FOIA

India's Right to Information Act better than US: US’s FOIA expert

MyNews Network

Ahmedabad: An expert on the US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which can be termed as the American version of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, late Wednesday said India’s law is better than that of United States.

Thomas Susman, who has been working on FOIA since 1968, was here to share the American experience of the law over the years.

"India has a better law than the us. India has an information commissioner, penalty for delay in providing information, specification on fees to be collected, US has nothing of that kind," said Susman who has already visited four Indian states.

"The experience of the Freedom of Information Act in the US has been great but not good enough. Though enacted in 1966, it came into effect only in 1967, and since then, has gone through a series of amendments over the years," Susman further said.

"In the early days we faced political pressures to shut down information being given to the people," Susman added.

"We did not have a vigorous society or involvement of civil society and activists who pushed for such a regulation. But we had the press and the media, who along with NGOs, have been instrumental in the enactment of FOIA", Susman said.

Talking about his Indian experience on RTI Susman said, "If I sum up my experience here I would say there is a vast difference in implementation of the same act in different parts of the country."

"There are things good and bad in both the laws. RTI is like a tool which will rust if not used," Susman added.

© 2008 mynews.in

Courtesy_
http://mynews.in

RTI Act effective against graft: U.N. report

RTI Act effective against graft: U.N. report

Special Correspondent

“India has implemented key options”

NEW DELHI: The Right to Information Act 2005 was “one of the most progressive legislations” in the developing world for tackling corruption, according to a United Nations report released on Thursday.

India was one of the eight countries in Asia and the Pacific to enact such a legislation, the United Nations Development Report on “Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives – Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific” said, adding it was perhaps too soon to judge whether the legislation had worked throughout the region.

The process through which the Act was drafted and came into force in India illustrated the power of sustained pressure: when the government proposed to amend the law to exclude some administrative files and Cabinet papers from it, intense pressure from civil society organisations forced it to drop the plan, the report said.

India’s law was particularly effective, the report said, because it specified information that must be disclosed on a proactive basis, including some that would help expose corruption.

Precise information

The Act also allowed individuals and organisations investigating corruption to ask for precise information.

For example, while generally excluding information from the intelligence agencies, it specifically allowed for the disclosure of information “pertaining to allegations of corruption or human rights violations.”

According to the report, India had implemented a number of key options to combat corruption.

They included the progressive Right to Information Act, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and e-governance to make the administration more transparent, encouraging media and citizen initiatives and becoming a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

The report found that where democracy was most effective at checking corruption, it did not necessarily do so through the system-level “hardware” such as elections, but through the deeper ability to voice demands that were taken seriously by the government – that of the civil society organisation.

At the same time, there were many other ways individuals could act to combat corruption: asking questions, resisting demands for bribes, reporting the activities of corrupt officials and refusing to deal with corrupt businesses.

Role of media hailed

The report also appreciated the role of the media and investigative journalists against high-profile offenders leading to their resignations and prosecutions.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.thehindu.com

Preamble of the Right to Information Act

Preamble of the Right to Information Act

The Preamble: THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL, 2005

A Bill to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

WHEREAS the Constitution of India has established democratic Republic;

AND WHEREAS democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Goverments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;

AND WHEREAS revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal;

NOW, THEREFORE, it is expedient to provide for furnishing certain information to citizens who desire to have it

Comments: The preamble is the soul of the Act. When there is any confusion or dilemma about the meaning or interpretation of the provisions, it should be tested on the touchstone of the preamble. Just as the basic features of the Constitution are unalterable, and form the basis for interpretation of laws, the preamble of an Act should be understood to arrive at the objectives of the Act. The fact that the Right to Information is part of the fundamental rights of Citizens under Article 19 (1) has been recognised by various Courts, since the landmark decisions in the Raj Narain case, S.P.Gupta case and the ADR case amongst others.

This is not a new right conferred on the Citizens but is a part of our Fundamenatal right to Freedom of Expression under Article 19 (1).

The legislative intent is clear when it admits the need for an informed citizenry, “to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.” Thus the objective of this Act is to enable Citizens to hold all the instrumentalities of the Government accountable. In the next paragraph it recognises that in doing this, there may be a conflict with other public interests including running the Government and limited fiscal resources.

The last paragraph unequivocally declares ,” AND WHEREAS it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal;” . Thus it is clear that in making the law, Parliament has recognised the need to harmonise different needs for running the Government and harmonised them with the paramountcy of the democratic ideal. Very often the various functionaries arrogantly assume that they are a better judge of what is good for governance, and therefore misinterpret all laws through their paradigm of what will lead to good governance. They must understand that these aspects have been considered actively by the lawmakers when framing the law. It is essential that all the elements of society: all the Public servants,- in the legislature, judiciary and the executive;- and the Citizens- the masters of the democracy,- follow all laws. The essence of democracy is that each individual Citizen is a sovereign in her own right, and she gives part of the sovereignty to the State, in return for which she gets the rule of law. Thus it is a negotiation of each individual sovereign with the State for the common rule of law.

Courtesy_
http://shaileshgandhi.blogspot.com

Monday, July 7, 2008

Enforcement of RTI Act in Tamil Nadu

Enforcement of RTI Act in Tamil Nadu

CUDDALORE: Six Commissioners of Tamil Nadu Information Commission are going over to the districts to conduct enquires into the refusal to furnish or delay in furnishing, the required details to the petitioners.

State Commissioners R. Rathinasamy and Sarada Nambi Arooran, who visited Cuddalore to conduct an enquiry, told reporters on Friday that in the about three years of the enactment of the Right to Information Act, the State had so far received 55,000 petitions.

Of these, 2,172 petitions necessitated enquiries and delivery of verdict. As of now, 300 such petitions were pending before the Commission. The Commission had slapped a fine of Rs. 25,000 each on 20 officials, who failed to provide the required information in time.

They were also asked to provide compensation to the petitioners, such as travelling charges and lawyers’ fees. In case of default, the amount would be deducted from their salary or the provisions of the Revenue Recovery Act invoked against them.

Mr. Rathinasamy said if the petitioners were not happy with the Commission verdict, they could go for appeal in the Madras High Court. The petitions related to personal grievances such as seeking old age pension, patta etc., were forwarded to the departments concerned.

Mr. Rathinasamy said Cuddalore was a model district in the implementation of the Act as it had started accepting online petitions. Ms Arooran said it would suffice if the petitioner gave an application with Rs. 10 court fee stamp affixed on it.

However, for certain people it had become a business proposition to sell the prescribed forms to the gullible. She justified the collection of Rs. 2 for each page of information saying that it involved great efforts to cull out the details and take photocopies.

But, after the lapse of time it was the look out of the officials concerned to bear the expenses, she added.

Collector Rajendra Ratnoo said that under the United Nations Development Project, a sum of Rs. 5 lakh had been sanctioned to Cuddalore district for spreading awareness about the Act.

Of this, Rs 2.17 lakh had been sanctioned and the funds were being utilised for staging cultural programmes, putting up hoardings and bringing out compact discs. Of the 27,000 petitions received by the district administration, 23,000 had been disposed, he said.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

Courtesy_
http://www.rtiindia.org

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Information commission refutes NGO claims on RTI applications

Information commission refutes NGO claims on RTI applications

NT NETWORK

PANAJI — The State Information Commission on Wednesday strongly refuted the recent observation made by Kabir, a non-government organisation, in its survey that Goa should be placed last in the list of states which have been sought information under Right to Information Act as only 811 RTI applications have been made to various departments and autonomous bodies in Goa during last three years.

The survey had also observed that various departments in many states, including Goa, were reluctant to reply to the RTI applications. It further observed that the national capital leads the country in terms of applications moved under the RTI with an overwhelming 35,250 petitions being made in Delhi in the last three years.

The State Information Commission maintained that altogether 3,877 applications have been received by 53 government departments as well as autonomous bodies during the year 2006-2007, out of which 3,529 applications have been cleared and only 188 rejected. In all, 300 public authorities and 370 public information officers are taking care of the RTI Act in the state.

The Commission further informed that these 3,877 applications do not include the applications made to various courts and police departments as the rules for information sought from courts and police have not been published in the official gazette.

The applications received under the RTI Act during the year 2007-2008 are still under compilation.

The State Information Commissioner, Mr Gurudas Kambli told ‘The Navhind Times’, on Wednesday evening that the number of RTI applications received during the year 2007-2008 would be definitely more than those received during the year 2006-2007. He also observed, “Taking into consideration the size of Goa, one can safely say that the state is generating lot of interest in the RTI Act.” The statistics for the year 2006-2007 informs that the directorate of panchayats received maximum applications numbering 1,705 under the RTI Act, while 1,589 of them were cleared.

Altogether 204 applicants sought information from the public works department out of which 105 applications were cleared during the period.

The transport department received 216 application and cleared 193, while North Goa collectorate received 174 applications and cleared 158. The electricity department and the health department received 183 and 77 applications, and cleared 145 and 58, respectively.

The department of town and country planning, the vigilance department, the department of science, technology and environment, the agriculture department, and the department of archives and archaeology received 80, 57, 67, 33 and 38 applications seeking information under the RTI Act, respectively.

No information was sought from Raj Bhavan during the year, even though public authority and public information officer have been appointed for the residence of the Governor.

Speaking further, Mr Kambli said that in rare cases the complaints come to the State Information Commission, besides the appeals.

“During the year 2006-2007,” he stated, “70 complaints were filed before the Commission, out of which 54 were cleared, while 102 appeals were made before the Commission, out of which 82 were cleared.”

It was also informed that if the government departments or autonomous bodies do not provide information to the applicants under the Act and are found to have caused them inconvenience, then the Commission orders compensation to be paid to such applicants by the respective department or body.

During the year 2006-2007, there were 13 cases of compensation being paid to the applicants. They include Rs 5,000 paid by the principal chief engineer of the PWD, and Rs 2,000 each paid by the secretary of the village panchayat of Assolna, superintendent of police, South Goa, Margao as well as the Mapusa municipal council, besides other nine cases.

Though the RTI Act came into force in the country from October 12, 2005 its implementation in Goa started around April 2006.

Courtesy_
http://www.navhindtimes.com

File notings of confidential files are exempt from disclosure under RTI

In the judgment F.No.CIC/AT/A/2006/00296 Dated, the 20th November, 2006 in Shri.A.P.Sharma Vs Cdr-At-Arms S.K.Gupta, CPIO (Navy), Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (N) it was decided that the file notings of the confidential files are exempt under Right to Information Act.

The abstract of the decision is quoted here:

File notings in general and in a confidential file in particular are very different from the other sections / parts of the files. These are a form of dialectics between those writing the notes, the underpinning of which is a certain trust that their contents shall not be ordinarily disclosed. If it were to be known that the file notings would be subject to disclosure, those writing these notes would have chosen to write the notes differently or chosen other means of communicating their views to the next superior or to the authority competent to take decision. Trust and a certain confidence in itsconfidentiality is, thus, the very crux of the architecture of the file noting.

That said, it is also necessary to differentiate between files classified as confidential and those not so classified. Arguably in the case of an unclassified file, those recording the notes are aware that the entire file can one day be called into the public domain, or at-least, that people not otherwise authorized to have access to a file may, under certain circumstances, gain access to its contents. This is what distinguishes a classified file from an unclassified one and, supports a theoretical assumption that in respect of the notings in both these genres of files, the approach of those writing the notes can be significantly different.

In case of an unclassified file the employee of a public authority records his notes with full knowledge that these could be accessed at some stage by a larger number of entities, and may even find its way into the public domain under certain given circumstances. It should therefore be assumed that the nature and the character of the fiduciary relationship between the person writing the note and the persons in the chain of command to whom the note is submitted for a decision, is markedly different in case of an unclassified file from a classified one.


On the other hand, in the case of a file classified as confidential / secret or top secret, the fiduciary relationship between officers is underpinned by a certain trust as well as a certain confidence that its contents shall not be accessed by anyone not authorized to access them. Rules even provide punishment for possession of documents of classified files by unauthorized entities. The trust that characterizes file notings in confidential files is thus qualitatively different. The information contained in the notings of such classified files is given by the officer, who is also the third party, in a confidence as described under Section 11(1) of the RTI Act.

It is, therefore, my considered view that the file-notings in the case of files classified as confidential attract the exemption of Section 8(1)(j); and if in a given case it is decided to disclose notings of a confidential file, it has to be done only in terms of Section 11(1) of the RTI Act.

Courtesy_
http://www.rtiindia.org

Non-disclosing file nothings: violation of RTI law: CIC

Not disclosing govt file notings violation of RTI law: CIC

Bureau Report

New Delhi, June 30: The Centre's decision of not disclosing file notings under the Right To Information act has drawn flak from the Central Information Commission which held that this amounted to violation of the transparency law.

Turning down a plea of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) that file notings were exempted under the RTI act, the commission said it meant, "substituting the law".

"The circular of DoPT is curious in that it seeks to substitute the law passed by the parliament with its own interpolation inserted in its website," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

The circular was brought to the notice of the transparency panel during a hearing on a complaint of a retired IAS officer Des Raj Dhingra, alleging that the DoPT had refused to provide him information relating to file noting on his RTI plea.

"What DoPT would appear to wish to do by means of this presumptuous circular is to substitute an opinion of an under secretary for the (earlier) decision of the commission," Habibullah said.

The commission also pointed out that the government's decision of not disclosing file notings under the RTI act has been taken not on the basis of any expert advice but on the recommendation of an under secretary.

The circular issued by the under secretary (RTI), also posted on DoPT website, read: "file noting does not form part of the information under the RTI act and that it is not to be disclosed."

In a recent decision, the CIC held that the website was misleading and asked the DoPT to amend it in order to bring it in spirit with the RTI act.

Holding that the decision of CIC as well as the state commission was "binding" on the government, Habibullah directed the Centre to provide all the information sought by Dhingra.

The commission also sought an explanation from an under secretary for denying information to Dhingra within the required time frame.

Dhingra has filed the RTI application with the DoPT seeking information pertaining to notings and correspondence on his service file.

Courtesy_
http://www.zeenews.com

CIC differs with union minister on file notings

CIC differs with union minister on disclosing file notings

New Delhi, Aug 12: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has differed with a Union Minister's assertion in Rajya Sabha that the denial of file notings under the Right to Information Act is in accordance with law.

Minister of State for Personnel, Public grievances and Pensions Suresh Pachouri had said in a written reply in parliament on May 10 that the decision to deny file notings under the RTI act was in accordance with "legislative intent".

Referring to its full-bench order of January, the commission said, "the response to the unstarred question submitted to parliament is not in accordance with the RTI act".

Pachouri's reply, made in response to an unstarred question in Rajya Sabha, was placed before the commission during a hearing by the department of personnel and training to justify its decision to deny certain file notings.

The commission was hearing an application by IAS officer Naresh Chauturvedi, who had sought from the department file notings of its correspondence with the central vigilance commission regarding departmental proceedings against him.

Rejecting the department's contention on non-disclosure of notings, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah directed it to provide the information to Chaturvedi within 10 days. It also directed that a copy of the order be placed before the vice president in his capacity as chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

The department of personnel and training's website has been maintaining that information disclosable under the RTI act does not include file notings.

While the government says it was the "legislative intent" to keep file notings beyond the ambit of the RTI Act, the commission has consistently held a different view.

Courtesy_
http://www.zeenews.com

West Bengal barely aware of RTI Act

`West Bengal barely aware of right to information'

Bombay News.Net

Tuesday 1st July, 2008 (IANS): West Bengal is barely aware of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and treats the state information commission as a mere grievance cell, state chief information commissioner Arun Kumar Bhattacharyya said here Tuesday.

'West Bengal is quantitatively lagging behind rest of the states in terms of exercising the RTI Act. Of the one million applications in 2007 received by the department across India, only 15,000 were from West Bengal, and that too most of them were complaints against various government departments,' Bhattacharyya told reporters here.

Stating the reasons for this lack of awareness, he said: 'While the act was implemented in June 2005, it was introduced in West Bengal in December 2005. This act is meant for people of the grassroots too and hence, two years is not enough to take it to the interiors of rural Bengal.'

As a remedy to this, he said his department is in talks with the Gram Panchayats, and rural development department.

'Besides we have joined hands with professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Pvt Ltd to chalk out methods to popularise this act and evaluate the results regularly,' he added.

Courtesy_
http://www.bombaynews.net

Kerala Governor's Official fined under RTI Act

Courtesy_
Dinakaran Tamil Daily

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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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