Thursday, July 3, 2008

Information commission refutes NGO claims on RTI applications

Information commission refutes NGO claims on RTI applications


PANAJI — The State Information Commission on Wednesday strongly refuted the recent observation made by Kabir, a non-government organisation, in its survey that Goa should be placed last in the list of states which have been sought information under Right to Information Act as only 811 RTI applications have been made to various departments and autonomous bodies in Goa during last three years.

The survey had also observed that various departments in many states, including Goa, were reluctant to reply to the RTI applications. It further observed that the national capital leads the country in terms of applications moved under the RTI with an overwhelming 35,250 petitions being made in Delhi in the last three years.

The State Information Commission maintained that altogether 3,877 applications have been received by 53 government departments as well as autonomous bodies during the year 2006-2007, out of which 3,529 applications have been cleared and only 188 rejected. In all, 300 public authorities and 370 public information officers are taking care of the RTI Act in the state.

The Commission further informed that these 3,877 applications do not include the applications made to various courts and police departments as the rules for information sought from courts and police have not been published in the official gazette.

The applications received under the RTI Act during the year 2007-2008 are still under compilation.

The State Information Commissioner, Mr Gurudas Kambli told ‘The Navhind Times’, on Wednesday evening that the number of RTI applications received during the year 2007-2008 would be definitely more than those received during the year 2006-2007. He also observed, “Taking into consideration the size of Goa, one can safely say that the state is generating lot of interest in the RTI Act.” The statistics for the year 2006-2007 informs that the directorate of panchayats received maximum applications numbering 1,705 under the RTI Act, while 1,589 of them were cleared.

Altogether 204 applicants sought information from the public works department out of which 105 applications were cleared during the period.

The transport department received 216 application and cleared 193, while North Goa collectorate received 174 applications and cleared 158. The electricity department and the health department received 183 and 77 applications, and cleared 145 and 58, respectively.

The department of town and country planning, the vigilance department, the department of science, technology and environment, the agriculture department, and the department of archives and archaeology received 80, 57, 67, 33 and 38 applications seeking information under the RTI Act, respectively.

No information was sought from Raj Bhavan during the year, even though public authority and public information officer have been appointed for the residence of the Governor.

Speaking further, Mr Kambli said that in rare cases the complaints come to the State Information Commission, besides the appeals.

“During the year 2006-2007,” he stated, “70 complaints were filed before the Commission, out of which 54 were cleared, while 102 appeals were made before the Commission, out of which 82 were cleared.”

It was also informed that if the government departments or autonomous bodies do not provide information to the applicants under the Act and are found to have caused them inconvenience, then the Commission orders compensation to be paid to such applicants by the respective department or body.

During the year 2006-2007, there were 13 cases of compensation being paid to the applicants. They include Rs 5,000 paid by the principal chief engineer of the PWD, and Rs 2,000 each paid by the secretary of the village panchayat of Assolna, superintendent of police, South Goa, Margao as well as the Mapusa municipal council, besides other nine cases.

Though the RTI Act came into force in the country from October 12, 2005 its implementation in Goa started around April 2006.


File notings of confidential files are exempt from disclosure under RTI

In the judgment F.No.CIC/AT/A/2006/00296 Dated, the 20th November, 2006 in Shri.A.P.Sharma Vs Cdr-At-Arms S.K.Gupta, CPIO (Navy), Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (N) it was decided that the file notings of the confidential files are exempt under Right to Information Act.

The abstract of the decision is quoted here:

File notings in general and in a confidential file in particular are very different from the other sections / parts of the files. These are a form of dialectics between those writing the notes, the underpinning of which is a certain trust that their contents shall not be ordinarily disclosed. If it were to be known that the file notings would be subject to disclosure, those writing these notes would have chosen to write the notes differently or chosen other means of communicating their views to the next superior or to the authority competent to take decision. Trust and a certain confidence in itsconfidentiality is, thus, the very crux of the architecture of the file noting.

That said, it is also necessary to differentiate between files classified as confidential and those not so classified. Arguably in the case of an unclassified file, those recording the notes are aware that the entire file can one day be called into the public domain, or at-least, that people not otherwise authorized to have access to a file may, under certain circumstances, gain access to its contents. This is what distinguishes a classified file from an unclassified one and, supports a theoretical assumption that in respect of the notings in both these genres of files, the approach of those writing the notes can be significantly different.

In case of an unclassified file the employee of a public authority records his notes with full knowledge that these could be accessed at some stage by a larger number of entities, and may even find its way into the public domain under certain given circumstances. It should therefore be assumed that the nature and the character of the fiduciary relationship between the person writing the note and the persons in the chain of command to whom the note is submitted for a decision, is markedly different in case of an unclassified file from a classified one.

On the other hand, in the case of a file classified as confidential / secret or top secret, the fiduciary relationship between officers is underpinned by a certain trust as well as a certain confidence that its contents shall not be accessed by anyone not authorized to access them. Rules even provide punishment for possession of documents of classified files by unauthorized entities. The trust that characterizes file notings in confidential files is thus qualitatively different. The information contained in the notings of such classified files is given by the officer, who is also the third party, in a confidence as described under Section 11(1) of the RTI Act.

It is, therefore, my considered view that the file-notings in the case of files classified as confidential attract the exemption of Section 8(1)(j); and if in a given case it is decided to disclose notings of a confidential file, it has to be done only in terms of Section 11(1) of the RTI Act.


Non-disclosing file nothings: violation of RTI law: CIC

Not disclosing govt file notings violation of RTI law: CIC

Bureau Report

New Delhi, June 30: The Centre's decision of not disclosing file notings under the Right To Information act has drawn flak from the Central Information Commission which held that this amounted to violation of the transparency law.

Turning down a plea of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) that file notings were exempted under the RTI act, the commission said it meant, "substituting the law".

"The circular of DoPT is curious in that it seeks to substitute the law passed by the parliament with its own interpolation inserted in its website," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

The circular was brought to the notice of the transparency panel during a hearing on a complaint of a retired IAS officer Des Raj Dhingra, alleging that the DoPT had refused to provide him information relating to file noting on his RTI plea.

"What DoPT would appear to wish to do by means of this presumptuous circular is to substitute an opinion of an under secretary for the (earlier) decision of the commission," Habibullah said.

The commission also pointed out that the government's decision of not disclosing file notings under the RTI act has been taken not on the basis of any expert advice but on the recommendation of an under secretary.

The circular issued by the under secretary (RTI), also posted on DoPT website, read: "file noting does not form part of the information under the RTI act and that it is not to be disclosed."

In a recent decision, the CIC held that the website was misleading and asked the DoPT to amend it in order to bring it in spirit with the RTI act.

Holding that the decision of CIC as well as the state commission was "binding" on the government, Habibullah directed the Centre to provide all the information sought by Dhingra.

The commission also sought an explanation from an under secretary for denying information to Dhingra within the required time frame.

Dhingra has filed the RTI application with the DoPT seeking information pertaining to notings and correspondence on his service file.


CIC differs with union minister on file notings

CIC differs with union minister on disclosing file notings

New Delhi, Aug 12: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has differed with a Union Minister's assertion in Rajya Sabha that the denial of file notings under the Right to Information Act is in accordance with law.

Minister of State for Personnel, Public grievances and Pensions Suresh Pachouri had said in a written reply in parliament on May 10 that the decision to deny file notings under the RTI act was in accordance with "legislative intent".

Referring to its full-bench order of January, the commission said, "the response to the unstarred question submitted to parliament is not in accordance with the RTI act".

Pachouri's reply, made in response to an unstarred question in Rajya Sabha, was placed before the commission during a hearing by the department of personnel and training to justify its decision to deny certain file notings.

The commission was hearing an application by IAS officer Naresh Chauturvedi, who had sought from the department file notings of its correspondence with the central vigilance commission regarding departmental proceedings against him.

Rejecting the department's contention on non-disclosure of notings, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah directed it to provide the information to Chaturvedi within 10 days. It also directed that a copy of the order be placed before the vice president in his capacity as chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

The department of personnel and training's website has been maintaining that information disclosable under the RTI act does not include file notings.

While the government says it was the "legislative intent" to keep file notings beyond the ambit of the RTI Act, the commission has consistently held a different view.


West Bengal barely aware of RTI Act

`West Bengal barely aware of right to information'

Bombay News.Net

Tuesday 1st July, 2008 (IANS): West Bengal is barely aware of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and treats the state information commission as a mere grievance cell, state chief information commissioner Arun Kumar Bhattacharyya said here Tuesday.

'West Bengal is quantitatively lagging behind rest of the states in terms of exercising the RTI Act. Of the one million applications in 2007 received by the department across India, only 15,000 were from West Bengal, and that too most of them were complaints against various government departments,' Bhattacharyya told reporters here.

Stating the reasons for this lack of awareness, he said: 'While the act was implemented in June 2005, it was introduced in West Bengal in December 2005. This act is meant for people of the grassroots too and hence, two years is not enough to take it to the interiors of rural Bengal.'

As a remedy to this, he said his department is in talks with the Gram Panchayats, and rural development department.

'Besides we have joined hands with professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Pvt Ltd to chalk out methods to popularise this act and evaluate the results regularly,' he added.


Kerala Governor's Official fined under RTI Act

Dinakaran Tamil Daily

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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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