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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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.

Search our Blog

Google
 

Subscribe this Blog to your E-mail


Disclaimer

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.

Dinamani - RTI News