Monday, January 18, 2010

Bar Councils open to public scrutiny under RTI Act: CIC

Bar Councils open to public scrutiny under RTI Act: CIC

New Delhi, Jan 17 (PTI): The Bar Councils are open to public scrutiny under the Right to Information Act (RTI) and should set-up a mechanism to facilitate processing of applications directed to them under the transparency law, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.

The Bar Council of India and Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana had rejected several RTI applications saying though they were set-up under the Advocates Act, 1961 they did not get direct or indirect funding from Government, hence out of the purview of the RTI Act.

However, the Commission in a recent order held that the councils might not have been financed by the Central or State governments but they were set-up under an Act passed by the Parliament and hence they are covered by the RTI Act.

"It is held that the Bar Councils - Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils - are public authorities within the RTI Act...the Bar Councils are directed to take all necessary steps to carry out their duties and responsibilities assigned by the RTI Act," Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said while directing them to respond to all RTI queries addressed to them.

The Commission had clubbed 10 cases for hearing as in all of them information was rejected by the Bar Councils saying their "main source" of fund was not the Government but Enrolment fee collected from members and that the Government had provided some grants only occasionally.

The Councils also put forth a decision of Maharashtra State Commission that they are analogous to cooperative societies, hence not covered under the transparency law.

"It is admitted by them that the Bar Council of India and other State Bar Councils...were 'statutory bodies'. But, they oppose any proposition that for that reason alone they are a public authority...Their plea is that they did not satisfy the requirement of being substantially funded directly or indirectly by the government," Tiwari said.

He said their argument is that unless an entity satisfies all elements of qualifications mentioned in the RTI Act, it cannot be defined as a public authority under it.

Tiwari said qualification specified under the RTI Act for bringing some entity under it are mutually exclusive although one or more than one element may be present in a given entity.

"Even one of these elements is sufficient for an entity to be characterised as public authority," he said.

Courtesy_

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PPs need not divulge State information: HC

Public Prosecutors need not divulge State information: HC

Express News Service

06 Jan 2010 03:31:00 AM IST

CHENNAI: Eventhough Public Prosecutors (PPs) are public authorities, they are basically advocates and they need not divulge privileged information relating to their client -- i.e. the State -- under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Madras High Court has observed.

Justice K Chandru made the observation while allowing a writ petition from the office of the Public Prosecutor attached to the Madras High Court challenging an order dated October 22, 2008 and the subsequent summons issued on September 10, 2009 of the Registrar of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission requiring the PP to appear before it with necessary documents.

By an application dated July 7, 2008 to the Additional PP, who was designated as the Information Officer, one M Sivaraj sought information relating to an FIR registered by the Dharmapuri town police in an incident on February 22, 2008 and the photocopies of the documents relating to the case. The APP rejected the plea. Sivaraj moved the State Information Commission, which directed the APP to furnish the information and later issued the summons.

Hence the present petition from the office of the PP.

Allowing the petition and quashing the summons, Justice Chandru observed that the PPs were indeed public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. However, as enjoined by the Advocates Act, they were also advocates as much as other advocates. The Bar Council of India had framed rules under Section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act prescribing the professional conduct and etiquette. Section II prescribed an advocate's duty to his client.

Therefore, the petitioner (PP) was perfectly right in contending that the information sought for by Sivaraj was a privileged communication and he could not disclose them without the express consent of the client -- the State. The information sought by Sivaraj was completely privileged and disclosure of the same was barred by Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Section 22 of the RTI Act providing an overriding effect over the Official Secrets Act or any other law could not undoubtedly override Section 126 of the Evidence Act.

A careful reading of Section 126 of the Evidence Act as well as the standards of professional conduct framed under Section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates Act would clearly show that it was not as if the information could not be asked from the government directly rather than asking the PP to divulge the nature of the advice tendered by him.

Since there was a statutory bar against the counsel (PP) from disclosing such information, which would result in civil consequences for the counsel, Section 8(2) of the RTI Act could not be read in isolation so as to jettison the obligation of an advocate from disclosing the information, which were privileged and barred by statutes, the judge said.

Courtesy_

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Elected representatives not 'public authorities' under RTI

Elected representatives not 'public authorities' under RTI

Sowmya Aji

New Delhi, January 5, 2010: In India, unlike in the US, an elected representative is not liable to answer queries on personal matters under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

So queries such as that of Dr Awadesh Mishra, an RTI applicant, asking how many NGOs Rahul Gandhi had recommended to departments and ministries for participation in their schemes, go unanswered.

A recent order issued by the Central Information Commission (CIC) has given elected representatives a loophole to slip through the RTI Act. They can now state they are not " public authorities" who can be directly queried under the Act.

Many queries under the RTI Act have been ignored by public representatives.

A case in point is that of activist Subash Chandra Aggarwal. He had asked: " Under what law does Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi have two wives?'' The legislative branch Central Public Information Officer, Ramisetty Srinivas, in his reply upheld by the CIC, said: " We hold no identifiable information to provide the applicant. We are not obliged to create or interpret the information, solve the problems raised by applicants, or to furnish replies to hypothetical questions.'' Aggarwal pointed out that he had raised the issue in public interest, as people such as Karunanidhi were emulated by many. " All my petitions were rejected because no one other than Karunanidhi was in a position to answer. And he is not covered under the RTI Act,'' he said.

The issue has been debated by the CIC in five cases filed before it, seeking information from MPs Rahul and Sonia Gandhi, Delhi MLA Sahib Singh Chouhan and Delhi municipal councillor Savita Sharma.

The queries, including Mishra's query to Rahul, were not answered.

The applicants then appealed to the CIC, which debated the cases and sought legal opinion from several luminaries.

" We must conclude that individuals, whether MPs, MLAs, councillors or members of panchayats, cannot in themselves be deemed public authorities,'' the CIC said.

This essentially relieves them of the responsibility to reply to any query from the public under the RTI Act.

The CIC also said: " Organisations and committees, which fulfil their obligations under the Constitution, are indeed organisations defined as public authorities.

Such information on activities, as are performed by these named representatives as members of such organisations, is therefore to be deemed accessible to the citizenry."

Courtesy_


Monday, January 4, 2010

RTI can’t be used to question court orders: SC

RTI can't be used to question court orders: SC

PTI

The Right to Information Act cannot be used for questioning orders passed by courts, the Supreme Court on Monday said and expressed its displeasure that such pleas are made under the transparency law.

"There is no right to anybody to demand such information. Such pleas are perverse and not maintainable," a Bench comprising Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan and Justice B. S. Chauhan said.

The orders passed by the lower courts cannot be questioned before any other forum and has to be challenged in the higher courts, the bench said noting that instead of choosing to appeal, the petitioners preferred to resort to RTI Act.

"In the RTI application, the petitioner wanted to know why his legal submissions were not considered and what was the basis for the order. The petitioner wanted other sources of information...and also wanted to know so many other extraneous matters which amount to contempt of court," the bench said.

The bench was hearing an appeal of one Khanapuram Gandaiah who was denied such information under the RTI Act.

Courtesy_

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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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