Monday, August 30, 2010

A right and wrongs of RTI Act

A right and wrongs

V. VENKATESAN

The RTI Act needs strengthening, but activists oppose the government's proposals as they suspect its intentions.

AN Act is usually amended to address certain concerns that come up during its implementation. However, the beneficiaries of the Right to Information Act, 2005, oppose any amendment to the Act, because they suspect the government's intentions.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) admitted to considering 11 amendments to the Act in a letter to the RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal in April. Among these were some key amendments aimed at strengthening the Act. One such is a proposal to amend Section 2 (dealing with definitions) to remove the difficulty in ascertaining whether a particular non-governmental organisation should be treated as public authority or not.

Another is to amend Section 4 (dealing with obligations of public authorities) so as to enlarge the scope of suo motu disclosure of information by public authorities. Many public authorities are not forthcoming with their proactive disclosure documents on certain categories of information listed under the Act. Even in those instances where some efforts have been made to put together these documents, they are not easily available except on the Internet.

As a result of this lacuna in implementation, people are forced to seek this information in writing and wait for 30 days for a reply. Those who make the requisition are charged application fees for information that the public authorities are bound to disclose proactively. In some instances, they receive information after three or four weeks. Both actions of the public authorities are against the spirit of the Act. Information disclosed proactively must be made accessible to the person who seeks it without any delay.

The government is also examining an amendment to Section 19 (dealing with appeal) to enable the constitution of the benches in the Central Information Commission (CIC). This is a welcome move, as the DoPT has, in a circular, criticised the creation of benches by the CIC, as in its view they should decide appeals and complaints in a collegium. The Delhi High Court, in a recent case, erroneously upheld this position, which is now under appeal before the Supreme Court. Observers have pointed out that when the Central and State Information Commissions hear cases in benches, they can dispose of cases before them expeditiously, whereas if they hear cases in a collegium, it may lead to a backlog of cases.

What makes RTI activists suspect these seemingly good proposals is that the government is examining them along with ominous ones. A discussion with the stakeholders on these proposals, whenever it is held, would suggest that the government may not, after all, clear the good proposals if there is no agreement on those that are likely to weaken the Act.

Thus, one of the proposals opposed by the activists is the amendment to Section 7 to avoid frivolous or vexatious requests. Section 7 deals with disposal of requests by the Public Information Officer. The definition of what constitutes frivolous or vexatious request will always be debatable.

Another proposal that has invited the wrath of the activists is the one to amend Section 8 (dealing with exemption from disclosure) to modify slightly the provision about disclosure of Cabinet papers "to ensure smooth functioning of the government and to take care of the sensitivity of the office of the Chief Justice of India". This is a sequel to the letter Justice K.G. Balakrishnan (currently Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission) wrote, before his retirement as the Chief Justice of India, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting exemption for the office of the CJI from the purview of the RTI Act. The activists questioned the propriety of the CJI in writing such a letter to the Prime Minister when the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal against the Delhi High Court's judgment that the office of the CJI came under the RTI Act.

What has come as a big relief to the beneficiaries of the Act from this latest reply of the DoPT to an RTI applicant is that the government is no longer considering exempting file notings from its applicability. On October 14, 2009, at a national-level conference of Information Commissioners convened by the DoPT behind closed doors, the department sought their approval for amending the Act to exclude "information regarding discussions/consultations that take place before arriving at a decision in a public authority", a euphemism for "file notings".

Office procedure manuals require all government officers involved in the chain of decision-making on any matter to record their opinion, advice and words of caution in the file concerned. These are called file notings – essentially they are a record of the consultation and discussions that must necessarily be held before any decision is made or action is planned by a public authority.

As the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has suggested in a study, citizens must have the right to hold public functionaries accountable for tendering ill-considered or unlawful advice or advice that is intended to benefit vested interests. This will be possible only if people have access to all information about the decision-making process. If the category of discussions and consultations is excluded, the primary objective of the RTI Act, namely, enabling citizens to hold the government and its instrumentalities accountable, will become impossible to attain. Transparency in the details of the decision-making process will ensure that officials tender only such opinion and recommendations that have a basis in law, are in tune with established norms, and are defensible when questioned.

Following intense opposition from the Information Commissioners, the CIC and civil society, the DoPT appears to have tentatively abandoned the proposal. The DoPT apparently thinks information regarding who gave what opinion or advice in a decision-making process has no relevance to the general public. It is claimed that disclosure of such information will hamper the free flow of thought among officers. Activists, therefore, wonder whether the DoPT's latest proposal to deny information to frivolous and vexatious petitioners is aimed at refusing disclosure of file notings without actually calling it so.

Another proposal under the government's consideration is to amend Section 24 to incorporate a provision about partial exemption of organisations possessing "sensitive information". Section 24, at present, only says the Act shall not apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule of the Constitution, and that information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations shall not be excluded. The expression "sensitive information", therefore, has given rise to misgivings about the government's intentions. The Second Schedule currently includes 22 organisations.

According to the CHRI, the DoPT has announced its intention to review this list and pull out the following organisations: the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Directorate of Enforcement, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Special Frontier Force, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force and the Assam Rifles. The CHRI has welcomed the proposal to remove these entities from the Second Schedule, as this blanket exclusion is against the principle of maximum disclosure that underpins the Act. According to the CHRI, this withdrawal of names of organisations from the Second Schedule does not require an amendment of the RTI Act. It can be accomplished by a simple gazette notification, which the government can place before Parliament later for approval.

The CHRI has suggested that there is a strong case for removing all such organisations from the list. The sensitive information held by such organisations is adequately protected by the exemptions provided under Section 8(1) of the Act as is the case with any other public authority. There is no reason why non-sensitive information about their appointed functions must also be excluded from public authority, the CHRI says.

There are other lacunae in the Act, which have so far not caught the government's attention. The RTI Act and the Rules made under it do not specify a time limit for Information Commissioners to dispose of appeals and complaints. A time limit will ensure that there is no accumulation of cases.

The CHRI has proposed that all Information Commissioners should lay down for themselves a maximum time limit within which to dispose of appeals and complaints and this time limit must be disclosed proactively (for example, at least 90 per cent of the cases must be disposed of within three months).

Section 26 makes the government duty-bound to organise educational programmes with particular emphasis on disadvantaged communities. The CHRI has proposed that the Central and State governments must incorporate public education and training of officers with regard to the RTI as an important component of their regular work in all departments. It has urged all governments to allocate adequate resources for conducting public education programmes and training officers and employees of all public authorities.

A study has found that awareness about the Act in rural areas is much less than in urban areas; awareness among women is much less than among men; and the gap in implementation of the Act is because of the absence of accountability in respect of various functionaries. The CHRI has suggested that these are the result of non-compliance with the obligations under Section 26. The governments have not even allocated adequate resources for public education in their budgets even though Section 26 says disadvantaged communities must be the focus of the government's public education efforts, the CHRI has pointed out.

Courtesy_

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cop fined '25K under RTI Act

Cop fined '25K under RTI Act

Pinaki Das

TNN, Aug 28, 2010, 12.59 am IST

HOWRAH: A sub-inspector with Howrah Police has been slapped a fine of `25,000 under the Right to Information (RTI) Act for furnishing misleading information. The West Bengal Information Commission found A K Maity guilty of "falsehood" in his reply to an RTI application that sought details of a robbery case the officer had investigated.

"Maity's falsehood glaringly testifies his malafide intention in providing misleading information," the Commission said.

On May 7, 2005, some important documents and a mobile phone had been stolen from the apartment of ASI Mousumi Banerjee in the complex inside Howrah police station. Chandan Chatterjee, who lives next to the police compound, was an eyewitness.

The ASI, then posted in Golabari, lodged a complaint and Maity was given the case. In an alleged bid to hush up the case, Maity filed a final report before Howrah's chief judicial magistrate on December 31, 2005, stating no evidence was found in the complaint.

The clinching evidence was a document in which the IO records his meeting with Chatterjee on January 3, 2006 to get his account of the incident three days after submitting the final report.

Courtesy_

RTI Act comes to doctor's aid

RTI Act comes to doctor's aid

K. P. M. BASHEER

KOCHI, August 26, 2010

A Kerala doctor's campaign, using the weapon of Right to Information Act, against an unethical practice by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has turned triumphant with the Medical Council of India (MCI) taking steps against the IMA for endorsing commercial products.

Last week the MCI served a show-cause notice on the IMA for violating its code of ethics by endorsing Pepsi's Tropicana fruit juice and Quaker oats which brought a mealy Rs. 2.25 crore to the largest professional body of doctors in India. The step followed a decision by the MCI's Ethics Committee which met last week. The IMA has been asked to send in a reply by September 1.

Dharam Prakash, IMA's secretary-general, told The Hindu over the phone that the association would soon reply to the notice and that it had already decided not to endorse any products in the future. He, however, said that the Pepsi endorsements would run through March next because of a contractual obligation.

One-man campaign

The MCI's hand was forced by a relentless one-man campaign by K.V. Babu, an ophthalmologist of Payyannur in Kannur district over the past two years. Irked by the unethical endorsement, which 'clearly was for easy monetary gains,' Dr. Babu, himself a member of the IMA's central committee, shot off letter after letter to the IMA asking it to cancel it.

He pointed out that under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics Regulations) 2002, endorsement of commercial products was an unethical act. (Section 6.1.1. says: "Soliciting of patients directly or indirectly, by a physician, by a group of physicians or by institutions or organizations is unethical.")

He moved the MCI, the statutory body authorised to regulate the medical profession, pressing it to get the endorsement cancelled. He petitioned the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare asking it to force the MCI to take action. He also moved the National Human Rights Commission.

Officials in the MCI and Health Ministry as well as the IMA stonewalled initially. But Dr. Babu wouldn't leave it at that. He extensively used the RTI Act to source relevant documents. He marshalled a plethora of information through RTI requests, which helped him argue his case effectively.

In December 2009, the MCI made amendments to its Code of Ethics. Section 6.8 was added to regulate the "code of conduct for doctors and professional associations of doctors in their relationship with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry." Dr. Babu was quick to point out that the IMA came under the definition of 'professional associations of doctors.'

MCI stance

Meanwhile, a few months ago, the Central government sacked the MCI following corruption allegations against its then president Ketan Desai, who was later arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The reconstituted MCI took a lenient view of Dr. Babu's cause. It took the stand that the code of ethics applied to both individual doctors and their associations.

Reacting to Dr. Prakash's stand that the Pepsi endorsement cannot be withdrawn before it ran its full course, Dr. Babu wanted the IMA to cancel the endorsement at once. "How can an act, once it has been proved to be unethical, be allowed to continue for a few more months?"

He wants the MCI to take 'appropriate and exemplary action' against all the 187 doctors who attended the April 12-13, 2008 meeting of the IMA's central committee held at Puri, Orissa. This committee had backed the IMA decision to endorse the Pepsi products.

Courtesy_

Friday, August 27, 2010

Enact privacy act to protect personal information

'Enact privacy act to protect personal information'

Staff Correspondent

Friday, August 27, 2010 Metropolitan

Speakers at a roundtable discussion yesterday called upon the government to enact a privacy act to protect privacy, personal information, correspondence and means of communication of people.

They pointed out that individual privacy is a constitutional right of every citizen and yet it is being violated at every step of everyone's life and no one can take legal actions against such violation.

The discussion titled "Privacy rights and citizen's concerns" was organised by VOICE in association with Privacy International at the Cirdap auditorium in the city.

"Article 43 of the constitution says every citizen shall have the right to privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication," said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, a rights-based organisation.

Now there is no means to ensure this right to the citizens, he said.

"We get phone calls from superstores, marketing firms, and other organisations who are not supposed to have our contact information," said Mahmud, "and yet they have our names, phone numbers and family information-- all without our consent."

Journalist Selim Samad said phones are tapped in the name of security, emails are scrutinised and correspondences are monitored by security agencies.

"We even had to give our fingerprints to the state for the national identity card. These are nothing but criminalising the society," he said.

"Only convicted criminals in the US are required to give their fingerprints to the state," said journalist Shahidul Shuvra. "But here in Bangladesh, every citizen is required to give their fingerprints for the national identity card. This is blatant violation of individual privacy," he said.

In return for providing the state with information, the citizens are not receiving any kind of benefits as well, the discussants said.

"For example, if someone threatens you over telephones and you post a complaint to the law enforcers, they would not be able to take any action because they would not be able track the callers," he said.

The real problem lies in the society's mindset where no one is aware of rights to individual privacy, said journalist Selim Samad.

Our children are brought up in an environment where they are not given any privacy or individual freedom. So, they do not understand the value of privacy, said the discussants.

They said information is an asset and it needs to be protected.

In a country where the state is unable to protect its information from other countries, it is difficult to ensure protection of individual privacy and personal information, the discussants added.

Courtesy_

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Property statements are not 'confidential' info: CIC

Property statements are not 'confidential' info: CIC

Press Trust of India / New Delhi August 26, 2010, 15:12 IST

Property statements filed by civil servants are not confidential information and can be disclosed after taking the views of concerned officials as per the provisions of the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has held.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah rejected the plea of Department of Personnel and Training that these records were held "in confidence" by the government and are hence exempted from disclosure.

"It is clear that the property statements are statements regarding private individuals serving in government and (they) become part of Government records," he said.

Habibullah said by no means these records can be treated as information held "in confidence" by the government.

He said these records come in the category of "personal information" the disclosure of which could amount to invasion of privacy and would attract section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.

There are 10 exemption clauses provided under the section 8(1) of the RTI Act which exempt disclosure of different categories of information. Section 8(1)(j) exempts personal information from disclosure unless larger public interest is demonstrated by the RTI applicant.

The case relates to an RTI application filed by Shyam Lal Yadav where he sought details of property statements filed by bureaucrats and their relatives.

Habibullah said in cases where information of personal nature is sought, section 11 (1) of the Right to Information Act also applies. As per the provision, it is appropriate to make such disclosure after reference to officials about whom information has been sought.

"Issue notice to third parties within five working days of receipt of this decision notice and proceed to disclose the information sought by appellant Shyam Lal Yadav, if no viable objection based on exemption under section 8(1) is received within 10 days of the date of issue of such notice," he said.

Courtesy_

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No dilution of the Act should be allowed: S.C.Agrawal

'No dilution of the Act should be allowed'

AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA

Interview with Subhash Chandra Agrawal, RTI activist.

SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA
S.C. AGRAWAL: "India's RTI Act is one of the best in the world."

SUBHASH CHANDRA AGRAWAL has been a consistent RTI activist since the Act was implemented. He also holds the rare distinction of having filed 800 right to information applications in various government departments, thereby exposing many scams in the system. He and his wife Madhu Agrawal also hold the world record for sending the highest number of letters to newspaper editors in one calendar year, as per the Guinness Book of World Records. Judicial and bureaucratic circles keenly follow his method of using the RTI Act against loopholes and corruption in the system.

While the Supreme Court accepted Agrawal's plea for declaration of wealth by judges of higher courts, the Delhi High Court upheld his plea for bringing the Chief Justice of India under the purview of the RTI Act. Agrawal spoke to Frontline at his Chandni Chowk office in Delhi about his achievements and how the RTI has made the political system more accountable.

What prompted you to use the RTI Act to gather information from various government departments?

I have filed 800 RTI applications till date. More than 150 have reached the Central Information Commission [CIC]. Initially, my main focus was the judicial system. Perhaps, I was the first person to collaborate with the media to reveal the information I gathered through the RTI. The Act became a weapon to aggressively pursue my passion for a cause in the public interest. But what really prompted me was my personal grievance against the higher judiciary.

What are the other areas that you later focussed on?

Almost all issues of public interest. The most important ones are wealth and assets of judges and Ministers, appointment of judicial officers, Ministers influencing the judiciary's decision. These three applications concerning the judiciary have been challenged in the Supreme Court by the Supreme Court itself. Recently, I exposed the inflated construction cost of the Commonwealth Games projects. The cost had gone up several times from what was projected when the Games was first conceived. There were many other applications about corruption among higher officials of the government and Ministers. Another case was about corruption and favouritism in the choice for the Padma awards, which I exposed.

The Judges' Assets Bill is to be introduced in Parliament. That's my success.

After filing so many applications, do you see any lacunae in the RTI Act?

I would say that India's RTI Act is one of the best in the world. But Sections 27 and 28 of the Act should be repealed. These give powers to competent authorities in the State governments to frame their own rules. The provision is often misused by public authorities. For instance, the Delhi High Court had fixed a sum of Rs.500 for an application. This was contrary to the Act. When Justice A.P. Shah became the Chief Justice of Delhi, he reversed all the rules. The Bombay High Court does not accept poster applications. This is also a violation of the Act.

Similarly, written submissions by public authorities, at least 20 days before the scheduled hearing at the CIC, should be made compulsory, with a copy sent to the petitioner. The CIC should have the power to review its single-bench decisions by a larger bench at the Commission itself. No dilution of the Act should be made as demanded by the Department of Personnel and Training [DoPT] and the judiciary.

Your comments on the campaign against amendments to the Act.

The government wants to delete 'file notings applications' from the clauses of the Act. The DoPT, the nodal functionary, was never interested in including file notings in the Act. Even its website stated that file notings are not carried under the Act. The CIC, in its various verdicts, held that the RTI Act covered file notings. So, I filed an application in the DoPT. Its officials always seek more time to answer.

In one of the petitions, Rashtrapati Bhavan for the first time informed me that file notings are not under the purview of the Act. But I had got so many file notings before. Then I e-mailed Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner, that the DoPT had been using the time constraint clause to scuttle the RTI Act.

He took a strict decision on my petition, asking why penalty and disciplinary punishment should not be imposed on violators of the Act. The CIC took the DoPT to task and tried to argue a case of criminal negligence on its part. The DoPT did not bother even then. So, I filed another petition to the DoPT asking why it did not challenge the CIC orders in court. This is when the DoPT fell in a trap. It had to either make public its file notings or reveal information about the punishment given to the officers who deliberately delayed the information. It had to ultimately surrender and accept file notings as under the RTI Act's purview. The Act has made the political system more accountable with all its strengths and weaknesses.

Recently the Prime Minister's Office intervened to direct the DoPT to take file-notings as 'information' only on my petition pending disposal at the CIC.

Eight activists were murdered in the last seven months across India for having exposed various scams through the Act. You are an RTI activist. Do you think that the government can provide some kind of immunity or security to RTI activists?

These attacks will always be there because of a nexus between criminals and politicians. Nobody can prevent them because there is no strict definition of an RTI activist. Providing security to them is not practically possible. I have a very extreme view though. Only when the security covers of high officials and VVIPs are snatched the authorities will be sensitive to the lives of commoners. They will also be sensitive to the lives of RTI activists and petitioners. The security the VIPs get is funded from the public exchequer. Criminals are operating in the disguise of politicians. RTI activists are a real danger to them. Lawmakers also hate accountability; they are made accountable because of the RTI Act. So, I fear more such attacks and murders.

The Whistleblowers Protection Bill, pending with the government, proposes some kind of immunity to the whistle-blower. Since an RTI activist cannot be defined, is there any way in which some immunity can be guaranteed?

We cannot have a strict definition of an RTI activist. Anyone can file an RTI application for any information he requires. If a person files 100 applications, can he be termed an RTI activist? Not necessarily.

The only solution is to snatch the security provided to all those who do not deserve it. Only then they will understand the value of common people's lives.

In your experience, which department was the most uncooperative?

The worst department according to me is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi [MCD]. I get abusive calls from it asking me stop sending petitions under the RTI Act. I exposed the Nigambodh Ghat [Delhi's biggest crematorium] scam where the MCD was charging Rs.4,000 unofficially for burning the body in a raised platform surrounded by grills. They called it VIP charge. I asked for file notings about this VIP place. They tried to pass the buck to the Delhi Development Authority but the DDA claimed ignorance. Then the MCD said it had a public-private partnership with the Arya Samaj, Lodhi Road, so the Samaj could have ordered the charge. The Arya Samaj refuted this.

The MCD even sent some goons to threaten me. Its officials have been so rude and unfriendly.

Courtesy_

CIC awards Rs.50,000 compensation to poor patient

CIC awards Rs.50,000 compensation to poor patient

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

NEW DELHI, August 23, 2010

"Case represents failure of delivery systems to the poor"

In a landmark decision, the Central Information Commission, on August 20, directed the Directorate of Health Services, Delhi, to pay a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to a poor patient who could not get a bed under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category. All private hospitals availing themselves of concessional land allotments have mandatorily to keep aside 10 per cent of their beds for poor patients.

The decision to award such a large sum as compensation was given by Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi on a complaint from Pooran Chand, a BPL card holder with a life-threatening spinal disease. Mr. Chand, who required immediate spinal surgery, went to the India Spinal Injury Centre (ISIC), which is covered under the EWS scheme. The ISIC presented him with an estimate of Rs. 1.75 lakh which was way above his means.

Mr. Chand filed an application with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the DHS, Delhi, under section 7(1) of the Right to Information Act seeking to know the details of the EWS freeship scheme. In particular he wanted to know if the ISIC had been informed about the scheme, if so, the bed numbers of patients receiving free treatment at the Centre, and whether given his precarious condition, he could quickly avail himself of the scheme. Section 7(1) of the RTI Act mandates that the PIO concerned must provide information within 48 hours in all cases where questions of life and liberty are involved.

Delayed treatment

Over the next four days, he did not get any information. In desperation, and fearing for his life – there was a danger of his going into a coma if the surgery was delayed — Mr. Chand approached the privately-run Sir Ganga Ram Hospital which told him the surgery would cost just under Rs. 1 lakh. Though Mr. Chand borrowed money from his relatives and underwent surgery, he told the Commission during the hearing that the delayed treatment had left him paralysed from waist below.

In his ruling Mr. Gandhi noted that the case had underscored "the complete failure of the government to deliver social welfare schemes, particularly those involving free medical treatment to persons who cannot afford them. The government has allotted land to certain private hospitals at nominal rates on the condition that they will provide 10 per cent of the beds to EWS patients…However, in reality, most persons for whom such scheme is intended do not enjoy its benefits … The case represents how the delivery systems to the poor fail."

Courtesy_

Read FULL Judgment of Mr.Pooran Chandra Vs. Directorate of Health Services at:

Monday, August 23, 2010

RTI activists ask Jaya to stop CS taking over as SIC

RTI activists ask Jaya to stop chief secy taking over as SIC

Jeeva, TNN, Aug 23, 2010, 05.20am IST

CHENNAI: Appointment of a new chief information commissioner for Tamil Nadu is likely to be a complex task for the State government as right to information (RTI) activists have stepped up their campaign to prevent the appointment of KS Sripathi to the post.

With the meeting of the selection committee for the appointment of the new SIC scheduled on Monday, a group of activists on Sunday met AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa who, as a opposition leader, is part of the three-member selection committee headed by chief minister M Karunanidhi. The other member of the committee is a minister deputed by the chief minister.

The activists - V Madhav of Association for India's Development, Nityanand Jayaraman of Tamil Nadu Right To Information Campaign and K Saravanan of Corporate Accountability Desk told Jayalalithaa that the name of chief secretary KS Sripathi was doing the rounds as the next CIC even before the meeting of the selection committee.

"We told the opposition leader that it was when Sripathi was the vigilance commissioner that Tamil Nadu Vigilance Commission (TNVC) pushed for the exemption of directorate of vigilance and anti-corruption (DVAC) and TNVC from the purview of RTI Act. Moreover, as the chief secretary, Sripathi had challenged the order of the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission which directed the government to disclose details as to whether IAS and IPS officers have disclosed their assets,'' Madhav said.

Jayalalithaa assured the activists that she would do her best. However, it is not known whether she would participate in the selection committee's meeting on Monday.

While the present Tamil Nadu chief information commissioner S Ramakrishnan's term is to end this month, RTI campaigners started their campaign last year itself. Some of the activists inspected, under the RTI Act, records of appointment of the present chief and other information commissioners and found the procedure followed was arbitrary.

The campaign gathered momentum last month when activists from several parts of the state applied for the CIC post to have a locus-standi to legally challenge the selection if it was not done in a transparent manner.

"We want the state government to prescribe rules for the appointment. It should call for applications by giving advertisement through media, prescribing minimum educational qualification and experience for the candidates. It should also test the capability and integrity of the applicants and shortlist the candidates and invite public objections, if any, before sending the panel of names to the selection committee,'' said H Krishnaraj Rao, an activist.

On August 4, about 50 RTI activists from across the country including Arvind Kejriwal and Aruna Roy met in New Delhi and discussed how governments at the Centre and the states could be pressured to evolve a clear eligibility criteria and transparent selection process for the appointment of information commissioners to the state and the central information commissions.

As per Section 15 of RTI Act, "the state chief information commissioner shall be a person of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.'' SIC can hold office for five years but not beyond the age of 65.

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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