Saturday, March 27, 2010

Information Commission's writ plea referred to Division Bench

Information Commission's writ plea referred to Division Bench

Special Correspondent

Kochi: A writ petition challenging the decision of the Committee of Privileges and Ethics of the Kerala Assembly to summon the State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) and a former State Information Commissioner (SIC) in connection with an alleged breach of privilege of the House was referred to a Division Bench by a single judge of the Kerala High Court.

The petition was filed by Palat Mohandas, SCIC, and P.N. Vijayakumar, former SIC. The State Information Commission had directed State Public Information Officer of the Assembly V. Jayalekshmi Amma to furnish a copy of the video recording and the printed record of a speech of Kerala Congress (Jacob) leader T.M. Jacob in the Assembly in 2005 to an applicant under the Right to Information Act. It was found to be prima facie violating the privilege of the Assembly and the Speaker referred the issue to the Privileges and Ethics Committee. They were asked to appear before the committee on March 30 at 4 p.m.

Referring the petition to a Bench, Justice T.R. Ramachandran Nair said that the question involved in the petition was whether proceedings for breach of privilege could be initiated when orders were passed under the Right to Information Act. Yet another question was whether orders passed under the Rules of Business of the House could be subject to judicial review. In view of these important questions, the judge felt that it should be heard by a Division Bench.

SIC contention

The petitioners said that they were only discharging their functions under the Right to Information Act. The Act encompassed all public authorities including the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. In fact, the Assembly, through its Committee of Privileges and Ethics, had usurped a jurisdiction vested in the High Court. The decision of the committee had undermined all protections given to and obligations cast on the SCIC and SIC to discharge their duties under the Act without fear or favour, upholding the Constitution and its laws to the best of their ability and judgment.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu

Courtesy_

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Official fined for delaying RTI information

Official fined for delaying RTI information

By IANS March 24th, 2010

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that excuses like "shortage of staff and work overload" cannot be considered as reasons for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and fined a local official for "delay" in responding.

The commission penalised Mahesh Sharma, an officer of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Rs.25,000 for delaying answers to a petition filed by Shiv Babu, who wanted information about the number of illegal cycle-rickshaws caught and the number of employees in the rickshaw department of the civic agency.

The application was filed Oct 15 last year.

The MCD PIO (Public Information Officer) had sought assistance of Sharma on the petition filed. But the information was provided by Sharma only on Jan 18 and that too was incomplete.

"The commission asked Sharma to explain the reasons for the delay. He states that he is very busy and has to move in the field to catch the illegal rickshaws. He states that he did not have enough knowledge on how to manage his work. He also states that he had a shortage of staff," Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi observed in his order.

The RTI Act stipulates that information should be provided within 30 days.

"These cannot be considered as reasons for not providing information under the RTI Act. All officers have to do all the jobs which their duty enjoins on them. Claiming shortage of staff and overload cannot be considered as excuses and the RTI Act has very clearly put the responsibility on the individual officers who are either PIOs or deemed PIOs. Mahesh Sharma has not advanced any reasonable cause for not providing the information," Gandhi noted.

The commission directed the PIO to provide all the information to the petitioner before April 5.

The CIC ruled this was a fit case for penalising the official and said: "Since the delay in providing the correct information has been over 100 days, the commission is passing an order penalizing Mahesh Sharma Rs.25,000 (Rs.250 per day)."

The commission directed the MCD commissioner to recover the amount from Sharma's salary in five months starting from April by deducting Rs.5,000 every month.

Courtesy_

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Civic body's Rs1 lakh RTI fee stuns applicant

Civic body's Rs1 lakh RTI fee stuns applicant

Ashutosh Shukla / DNA Friday, March 12, 2010 0:38 IST

Mumbai: When he decided to apply for information under the Right to Information Act, Amit Maru had thought it would be a routine affair. So, imagine his shock when he was told that the information he required would cost him a whopping Rs1 lakh.

Maru had sought information on the rooms allotted to project affected persons (PAPs) all over Mumbai since 1995, from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's estate department.

PAPs are allotted rooms by authorities if they come in the way of infrastructural projects after due verification. Maru had also asked for details of the verification done by the authority on these project affected persons. However, he was told something that, according to him, 'makes no sense'.

"Most importantly this letter saying I have to pay Rs1 lakh is not even signed by the public information officer (PIO). Someone has signed on his behalf, which is wrong. A part of the information I require pertains to another department, but instead of forwarding my request, they simply said the information did not belong to them," Maru said. "They are also supposed to justify the amount they ask," he added indignantly.

However, experts said there could be a reason behind the response. "Signing for the PIO is unquestionably wrong, but in certain cases where the information required is a lot, which could be possible in this case, officers check a few files and then give a rough estimate or ask the person to come and inspect the files himself.

What the applicant can now ask for is whether the amount they are asking is for only A4 size papers or are there plans in it. In case they are available in the electronic format, it may be easier to procure it at a cheaper cost. But, if the applicant's intention is to monitor some government project, it is better to mark out an area and then seek details of the place instead of for the entire city," said Bhaskar Prabhu, an RTI activist.

Another activist Krishnaraj Rao said, "It is definitely wrong on the part of the officer not to give a reason behind the exorbitant charge. It is mandatory for them to do so in cases where the information required runs into lakhs of pages. But, in this case the officer has asked the applicant to come and check the files himself, which means that the information is voluminous. Obviously, the applicant had no idea what it meant."

Courtesy_

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Canada: Cabinet ministers' expenses go public

Cabinet ministers' expenses go public

Published Tuesday March 9th, 2010

Expenses for all N.B. cabinet ministers in the month of October totaled $44,754.07

Times & Transcript Staff

FREDERICTON - The latest set of expenses filed for by New Brunswick cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and their executive assistants have been released. The expenses filed cover the last three months of 2009.

Listed expenses cover travel to and from Fredericton, national and international trips carried out for work, food and lodging, as well as living accommodations (cable, phone and cleaning included) for ministers who live away from the provincial capital.

The expenses listed do not include constituency office costs for MLAs. Those costs are covered by the Legislative Assembly.

A breakdown of expenses for New Brunswick's government ministers, deputy ministers and their executive assistants/special assistants can be found on each individual department's homepage linked to www.GNB.ca The link marked 'Expenses' can be found on the left-side column of each department's homepage.

Before this information was first posted online in late August, such expense information was only available after filling out and paying for a request under the Right to Information Act. The provincial government said the move to post the information online was made in an effort to be more transparent.

Expenses filed by government cabinet members and MLAs has become a hot topic in this region as of late.

In Nova Scotia, the province's auditor general released a report showing that some MLAs and former cabinet minister used public money to purchase items such as home-installed generators and big screen televisions.

In the wake Nova Scotia's spending scandal, resignations have been offered and a commitment has been made to post government member expenses online.

Aside from New Brunswick, only Manitoba and Alberta post their government member expenses online. In New Brunswick, the expenses for all cabinet ministers in the month of October totaled $44,754.07 (an average total of $2,237 between all 20 members).

Courtesy_

Sunday, March 7, 2010

SC to appeal before itself over RTI row

SC to appeal before itself over right to information row

PTI Sunday, March 7, 2010 13:23

New Delhi: The Supreme Court would file an appeal before itself in the next few days challenging the judgment of Delhi high court holding that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI )came under the ambit of the RTI Act.

The appeal, though drafted more than a month ago, could not be brought on record before the registry due to a technical glitch but the same would be formalised after the court reopens on Monday after a week-long Holi recess, official sources told PTI.

The sources said that CJI KG Balakrishnan had consultations with other apex court judges on the issue and the grounds taken by it in the appeal are identical to the stand taken in the high court that disclosure of information held by the CJI would hamper independence of judiciary.

Attorney general GE Vahanvati would argue the matter on behalf of the apex court registry when it is listed for hearing shortly.

Sources said the apex court would seek a stay on the operation of the high court direction and would plead for referring it to a larger bench or the constitution bench.

The sources said the appeal was filed after much deliberations as initially there were differences among the apex court judges on whether to go for an appeal or not.

In a path-breaking verdict, the Delhi high court had on January 12 held that the office of the chief justice of India comes under the purview of the RTI Act and rejected a Supreme Court appeal saying judicial independence is not a judge's personal privilege but a responsibility cast upon him.

The verdict was being seen as a setback to Balakrishnan who has consistently been maintaining that his office does not come under the transparency law and hence cannot part with information like disclosure of judges' assets under it.

Holding that CJI is a public authority under the Act, a full bench of the High Court headed by chief justice AP Shah said judges of the superior courts should make public their assets as they are not "less accountable" than the judicial officers of lower courts who are bound by service rules to declare assets.

The bench dismissed the plea of the Supreme Court which had vehemently opposed bringing CJI's office within the purview of the Act on the ground that it would encroach into its judicial independence.

"Judicial independence is not the personal privilege or prerogative of the individual judge," the Bench had said in its judgment.

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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