Friday, June 25, 2010

Official to pay fine for delayed service

Official to pay fine for delayed service

TNN, Jun 24, 2010, 09.50pm IST

MANGALORE: The Karnataka Information Commission has imposed a fine of Rs 2,000 on A H Bijapur, assistant registrar-cum-assistant administrative officer and public information officer, Dakshina Kannada District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. The Commission has levied the penalty under powers vested in it by section 20 (1) of Right to Information Act and directed that the penalty amount be paid out of the salary of the officer.

The action against Bijapur follows for what the state information commissioner K A Thippeswamy, who passed the order, observed was failure on part of the official to discharge his duties as PIO. The officer had unduly delayed in providing the information sought by B Prakash Bhat and furnished the required information only when the president of the forum conducted an inquiry and took strong objection to the delay.

The Commission directed the president of the forum to recover the penalty of Rs 2,000 levied on Bijapur in two equal monthly instalments of Rs 1,000 out of the salary of the respondent for the months of April and May 2010, payable during the months of months of May and June 2010. The Commission directed that the amount so deducted be paid to the head of account 0070-60-118-0-03 - penalties under the Act, a KIC order stated.

Courtesy_

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RTI means Reject The Information Act

RTI means Reject The Information Act

CJ: Supraja

Thu, Jun 10, 2010 10:50:37 IST

WE ARE spending from our pocket and seeking the information. But, the officials of the Government of Andhra Pradesh treat Right to Information as "Reject the Information Act."

Questioning the indifferent attitude of the town planning officials of the Rajendranagar Circle, I wrote to the Appellate Committee for BPS. The Municipal Administration department issued a Memo No. 13745/M2/2008 on 29/8/2008 to the Commissioner, GHMC, Tank Bund, Hyderabad to take necessary immediate action, with a copy to me.

Having not heard anything from the Commissioner's office, I sent email on 9/10/2008 and 21/11/2008 reminding about the Memo. Again wrote letter on 12/6/2009 and 11/8/2009. As there was no information related to the Memo, I was forced to use RTI act.

On Jan. 25, 2010, I sent an RTI application to the Chief Public Information Officer, GHMC, to the status of the memo and action taken. The CPIO forwarded the letter to the Chief City Planner HO on 30/1/2010.

The Chief City Planner GHMC HO, issued a Most Urgent letter - U. O. Note. No. R/75/RTI/CCP/SZ/GHMC/2010/427 dt: 15/2/2010 to the Town Planning Officer, GHMC Rajendranagar Circle 6 to provide the information immediately. The Copy of the same I received it on 15/3/2010.

The Town Planning Officer GHMC Rajendranagar Circle 6 has not provided the information till today (9/6/2010), even after emails sent to Commissioner, CPIO, Dy. Commissioner Rajendranagar Circle on April. 9, 2010. Two commissioners and spl commissioners have failed to comply with the orders.

The Municipal Administration has remained a silent spectator.

The GHMC Commissioner as the appellate authority has not taken any action for the delay in giving information. Such is the state of affairs in the government departments in AP.

In January, 2008, Secretary of the Happy Homes Housing Palace 'A' Flat Owners Association, not satisfied with the explanation given by the Asst. Town Planning Officer of GHMC Rajendranagar Circle 6 related to the issuance of notices to the flat owners for regularisation of flats instead of issuing it to the builder of our constructions. Who admitted in the RR Dist court stating that, there are deviations and ready to regularise if the officials of the Rajendranagar allows him to pay the applicable fees.

The Rajendranagar circle having won the case in the year 2006 and had the power to penalise the builder, made us to file the BPS application.

Courtesy_

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fresh doubts over Govt’s stand on Bhopal liability

Fresh doubts over Govt's stand on Bhopal liability

Washington, June 15 (Agencies): Did the Indian government guarantee Dow Chemicals, the parent company of Union Carbide, that it will not be held liable for the Bhopal gas tragedy? An RTI response has raised fresh questions over the government's position in the case, as it brought to light a letter written in 2006 by Dow Chemicals CEO Andrew Liveris to the then Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen, claiming that the Indian government had said that his company is not liable for the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984.

If Liveris is to be believed, the assurance from the Indian government came even when an Indian court was still deliberating on the issue. A copy of Liveris' letter dated November 8, 2006, was obtained by US-based Somu Kumar of the International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal under the Right to Information Act from the Indian Embassy in Washington. A copy of the letter and other documents obtained by Kumar from the Indian Embassy were circulated among the Indian media here.

"Given the statements made by Government of India representatives in front of all meeting attendees that DOW is not responsible for Bhopal and will not be pursued by the GoI, it will be important to follow through to ensure concrete, sustained actions are taken that are consistent with these statements," Liveris said in his letter to Sen. However, it was clear which meeting Liveris was referring to. "It is shocking that GoI representatives have announced that DOW is not liable even though court is still deliberating on this issue," Kumar said in a statement. Members of the International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal, including Kumar, held a protest demonstration outside the Indian Embassy here.

In 2004, the Jabalpur High Court began hearing the case on who should pay for the sanitisation of the defunct Carbide plant and in 2005 the Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ram Vilas Paswan, sought from Dow Rs 100 crores for the clean-up. "Around the same time, GoI representatives had already announced the verdict that DOW will not be held liable while the court has still not decided on the issue," Kumar said. Liveris' letter also sought withdrawal of the application seeking financial deposits for the clean-up. "His follow-up action plans seems like direct dictation on what Government should do including blatant statement of asking GoI to withdraw its application for financial deposit against remediation costs," Kumar alleged.

In his letter Liveris said: "It follows logically from the GoI's statement regarding the non-liability of Dow, that the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers should now withdraw its application for financial deposit against remediation costs". "Certainly a withdrawal of the application would be positive, tangible demonstration that the GoI means what it says about DOW's lack of responsibility in the matter". Kumar alleged that this shows collusion between high level GoI officials and Dow chemicals for a long time, even though the government is trying to show otherwise in public.

According to the information provided by the Indian Embassy in Washington, under RTI Act, Liveris met the then Indian Ambassador on September 21, 2005 and sent two letters to him later - on February 21, 2006 and November 8, 2006. Liveris also met the then Finance Minister during his visit to New York on the sidelines of the Indo-US CEO Forum meeting on October 25, 2006 and sent him a letter on February 26, 2007.

Also read the related stories

Bhopal tragedy: MP Govt sacks former DGP

New Delhi, June 15 (Agencies): The MP government on Tuesday sacked Swaraj Puri – Bhopal's Superintendent of Police in 1984 - as chief of Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) days after the media aired visuals showing him escorting Union Carbide's CEO Warren Anderson to the airport, four days after the deadly gas tragedy.

The development was confirmed by the Madhya Pradesh government spokesman Dr Narottam Puri, who said, "Chief Minister Shivraj Singh has decided to remove him as the chief of NVDA in the light of reports that he facilitated the safe exit of Anderson shortly after the Bhopal gas tragedy." As per reports, Puri has been holding the post of NVDA chief for past one year. He enjoyed the status similar to a minister of state.

Clearly, the BJP government in the state appears to have sacked Puri to gain the moral high-ground at a time when the Congress party is under increasing pressure over the role played by its leaders in ensuring a safe exit for Anderson, despite an FIR standing against him. Video footage showed that Puri along with Moti Singh, then Bhopal Collector, escorting Union Carbide CEO Anderson till the time he was in Bhopal. The tragedy had led to the death of thousands of innocents.

Puri's removal comes close on the heels of a complaint filed against him and Moti Singh on the charge of facilitating the safe exit of Anderson from here. A similar complaint has also been filed against the state's then chief minister Arjun Singh, who is being blamed by the Congress party as the man who allowed Anderson to escape law. Earlier, Seven Indian officials including then chief of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) Keshub Mahindra were sentenced to two years imprisonment" for causing death due to negligence'.

Also read the related stories

GoM on Bhopal tragedy to meet on Friday: Chidambaram

New Delhi, June 15 (PTI): The reconstituted Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy will meet on Friday, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the panel to submit its report to the Cabinet in 10 days.

"The GoM will meet on the afternoon of June 18," Mr. Chidambaram told reporters here after his briefing on a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. Asked whether former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson's extradition will be part of the GoM discussion, Mr. Chidambaram said he has no idea about the nature of the deliberations that will take place.

"I have no idea. Let us see what papers are circulated by the Ministry of Chemicals and Petrochemicals. They have promised to circulate papers by tomorrow. Let us see what issues are raised by them. And then we will decide whether any additional issues are to be addressed," he said. The Prime Minister had on Monday asked the nine-member GoM headed by Mr. Chidambaram to meet immediately and report to the Cabinet within 10 days.

The GoM, set up last week, has been asked to assess the options and remedies available to the government in the light of the Bhopal court's verdict in the gas tragedy case. The GoM was reconstituted to go into a range of issues including the relief and rehabilitation of victims and their families. The Prime Minister's decision came even as the BJP and the Congress engaged in a fresh war of words on the issue.

Senior Congress leader Arjun Singh, who was Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister in 1984, has maintained a stoic silence over why Anderson was allowed to leave the country soon after the tragedy. Nearly 26 years after the disaster left over 15,000 dead, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others were sentenced to two years imprisonment by a Bhopal court last week.

Courtesy_

Tehsildar penalised for denying information

Tehsildar penalised for denying information

Anju Agnihotri Chaba

Posted: Wed Jun 16 2010, 23:08 hrs

Jalandhar: The state information commissioner has imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on a tehsildar for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The amount will be deducted from the salary of Tehsildar, Jalandhar-1, Rajiv Verma.

Complainant Rabinder Singh had filed an application on February 10, 2009, seeking information on the tenure of Verma's predecessor Harminder Singh and the number of RTI applications receive and dispose of by him.

With no reply in over three months, the complainant appealed to the deputy commissioner of Jalandhar on May 18, 2009. But despite orders from the DC, he was not provided with the information.

In April this year, the complainant finally moved the State Information Commission, which issued a notice to the tehsildar on April 26.

With Verma, through his reader, presenting incomplete information before the commission, it asked him to personally appear on June 10. The tehsildar, however, did not comply and sent his reader, who again provided incomplete information and failed to justify the delay in providing information, which should have been supplied within 30 days.

Information Commissioner Kulbir Singh imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 and mentioned in the order that the DC should ensure this amount was deducted from the salary of the respondent. The case was adjourned to July 15 for further proceedings.

Courtesy_

Question papers also covered under RTI Act

'Question papers also covered under RTI Act'

Jasneet Bindra

Posted: Wed Jun 16 2010, 23:07 hrs

Chandigarh: SIC orders a penalty of Rs 25,000 on PIO of PSEB for denying information; Rs 20,000 compensation for applicant

It is not only answersheets, but question papers for a government recruitment examination are also covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Punjab State Information Commission ruled this while deciding a complaint filed by Harbans Singh Brar of Bathinda. Brar had sought a copy of the question paper for an examination conducted the Punjab State Electricity Board, Patiala, now Powercom, and its master key.

The commission not only imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on the public information officer and awarded a compensation of Rs 20,000 to the appellant, but also directed the public authority to display the information on its website.

The PSEB had turned down Brar's request on the plea that the examination was conducted by the National Thermal Power Corporation. Not buying the argument, Information Commissioner Rupan Deol Bajaj said the PIO could not shrug off the responsibility by saying the work of conducting the examination was contracted to another agency.

In the next hearing, the PIO-cum-nodal officer of the PSEB's RTI Cell said the NTPC had refused to provide information, saying question papers were part of its intellectual property and might be utilised in future for similar recruitment exams.

To this, Bajaj said: "The NTPC had entered into a service contract for delivery of a service to the PSEB, against a payment. Therefore, the NTPC remains answerable to the PSEB... A recruiting agency can maintain a confidential and ready pool of questions, but despite their fondest hopes, those questions cannot remain a secret forever. For all competitive examinations, including the most prestigious IAS conducted by the UPSC, question papers are made readily available to the public to provide guidance to the candidates. NTPC has already sold its 'intellectual services' by framing the question paper and is no longer its owner." Besides, there was no contract containing confidentiality clause between the parties, she added.

Asserting that the PSEB had deliberately violated provisions of the RTI Act and explanations of PIO N S Dhanoa had not been found satisfactory, Bajaj imposed a penalty of Rs 25,000 on him, and said the amount should be deposited in the state treasury and receipt submitted to the commission.

She also directed the chairman of PSEB, now Powercom, that in case Dhanoa failed to deposit the penalty within two months, he should make sure that it was deducted from his September 2010 salary. The commissioner also ordered the PSEB to pay a compensation of Rs 20,000 through a demand draft or account payee cheque to the appellant.

Courtesy_

Friday, June 11, 2010

RTI becomes the tool to fight climate change

Activists dig out climate policy gaps with India's Right to Information Act

07 Jun 2010 15:40:00 GMT

By Teresa Rehman

GUWAHATI, India - Climate activists in India have discovered a crucial tool in their battle to hold the government accountable on its climate policies: the country's landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Passed in 2005, the act requires all government bodies to respond to citizen requests for information within 30 days. Many bodies, threatened with legal action after initially failing to respond, are now delivering information that shows big gaps in the country's knowledge and planning on climate issues, activists say.

"RTI is an excellent tool for a citizen and India has one of the most powerful freedom of information acts in the world," said Manu Sharma, a climate activist who filed 124 of the requests last year and is now getting answers.

Sharma in 2008 launched Climate Revolution, a non-profit organization that aims "to see India adopt reduction in greenhouse gas concentration as the overriding central goal from which all internal development and growth policies...originate."

ACCESSING INFORMATION

But getting basic information on government initiatives on climate change proved a struggle. That led Sharma to the Right to Information Act, which he used last October and November to file requests with a variety of government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the prime minister's office, the Ministry of Power, and the Planning Commission.

Under the act, all government ministries, departments and institutions are required to store information in a manner that makes it easily accessible. Any citizen of India can seek any information available from a public authority with few exemptions. Even in the case of an exemption, the authority must provide the information if its disclosure is in the greater public interest.

On receipt of an application, the public authority must reply within 30 days or transfer the application to another concerned authority within five days if the request does not concern its own department. If it fails to reply within the stipulated period or its answer is unsatisfactory, an appeal can be filed through an internal appeals body at that agency.

If that fails, a second appeal can be filed with a provincial Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). The office of the CIC has powers equivalent to a civil court, and can summon witnesses, order an enquiry, punish the offending officers and award compensation.

Since being passed, the act has been used by citizens as well as activists throughout the country to get information on a wide range of issues, from scarcity of medicines in a government hospital to misuse of government vehicles.

Sharma's requests covered a wide range of subjects, including climate policy, emissions levels, energy efficiency, spending on nuclear power and renewable energy, dissemination of scientific knowledge about climate change within the government and public awareness about climate issues.

EXCELLENT REPLY RATE A SURPRISE

He was happily surprised at the reply rate. While many agencies responded to his requests only after he filed a first appeal, he eventually received responses to about 95 percent of his filings, he said.

The bulk of the replies were received within about two to three months of filing applications and following them up with appeals, he said.

The contents of the replies was another matter. The first instinct of most government departments is to try and evade a detailed reply, especially if the application poses an embarrassing question, Sharma said. The prime minister's office forwarded most of the applications it received to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, even though the prime minister himself chairs the national council on climate change and has a major role in shaping climate policy, the activist said.

Other times, his questions were answered, even though the answers could be seen as embarrassing for the government.

The responses "reveal a government ignorant of the state of climate science, ill-prepared to face resource depletion, unwilling to act as science demands, unconcerned about public safety, unable to determine the right developmental priorities, and ill-prepared to defend its own claims," he charged.

His organization has used the material to issue press releases highlighting areas in which they judge the government's response to the challenges of climate change seriously deficient.

MATERIAL SHOWS POLICY GAPS

One Right to Information application, for instance, revealed that no process exists within the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the prime minister's office to identify, prioritise and pass on new scientific knowledge about climate change to the heads of the two institutions, which play the most significant role in determining India's climate policy.

"A list of notable scientific literature, analyses and climate anomalies ...provided to the ministry of Environment and Forests have not only not been acted upon but ... even find no mention in the records of the ministry," Sharma said.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests also admitted in one of its replies that no evaluation has been carried out of how well members of parliament and bureaucrats perceive the science and urgency of climate change. Nor has there been any capacity building programme for members of parliament and bureaucrats on the subject, he said.

Sharma feels that if the government of a nation as large as India is ignorant of climate science to the extent revealed by his information requests, it cannot hope to effectively address the problem. This ignorance and denial poses a danger to Indian citizens and to people elsewhere, Sharma said.

He pointed to the fact that information applications he made seeking copies of briefs given to Indian negotiators at international climate negotiations, and reports submitted by them to the prime minister's office, have been rejected by the government.

Filed with the prime minister's office and forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the requests have been rejected on the ground that the disclosures "may affect the scientific and economic interests of the country."

"Lack of transparency in the international and national climate policy formation process signifies that government is hiding information which could be embarrassing if released," Sharma said.

Right to Information Act authorities call the act an "important tool" for Indian citizens trying to hold government accountable.

"We expect more and more people to use RTI to get information from government departments on pertinent issues like climate change," said D.N. Dutt, Assam province's Chief Information Commissioner. "RTI is an important tool even to bring certain issues to the notice of the government. Citizens should make the best use of it and we are there to help them."

Teresa Rehman is a journalist based in Northeast India. She can be reached at www.teresarehman.net

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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