Sunday, September 28, 2008

RTI Act: committee mulls scrapping of fee

RTI Act: committee mulls scrapping of fee

All departments to host details on websites

— Photo: K. Ganesan

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, left, releasing a handbook on Right to Information Act. Joint Registrar Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar receives the first copy, in the city on Saturday

MADURAI: Government departments have been asked to host on the websites all the information relating to schemes and procedures for the people to get benefits under them and to ensure transparent governance, E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, said on Saturday.

Addressing a one-day seminar on the Right to Information Act and its implementation, he said the committee was visualising a situation in which no application under the Act was received for want of information.

All government departments and public sector undertakings, including the judiciary and legislature, were accountable for using the taxpayers’ money. “Except for the reasoning behind the judgments, all aspects of the judiciary administration should be made transparent,” he said.

Petitions for information from various departments had been flooding in the past two years, and the Central Information Commission had disposed of 16,000 applications and another 8,000 were to be cleared, Dr. Natchiappan said. “It is a teething problem that so much of information is being sought by the public. The officials should complain of short of manpower in giving replies to the people,” he said. As the system became more transparent, the number of applications would come down. “The Act is complimentary to our administration,” he said. United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi had described the Act as a tool to empower the poor.

On fee and rejection

Pointing to the complaints that many applications had been rejected just because the initial fee had not been paid, Dr. Natchiappan said it was unfortunate that in some cases “government departments had spent up to Rs. 10,000 on lawyer fees to contest cases relating to the petitioners’ failure to pay Rs. 10 in fee. We have advised the heads of Union Government departments and the public sector undertakings not to insist on the fee while receiving the applications, but only while giving the replies, depending on the number of photocopies to be taken.” The committee was considering scrapping of the initial fee, he said.

Joint Registrar Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar recalled how the Act had helped the people have access to food, health and other facilities in rural Karnataka.

The government should allocate more funds to popularise the Act, said P. Duraisingam, chairman of the Federation of Consumer Organisations–Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Consumer Research, Education, Action, Training and Empowerment and Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, along with FEDCOT organised the seminar.

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Lawyer seeks ‘free’ information from varsity for violating RTI deadline

Lawyer seeks ‘free’ information from varsity for violating RTI deadline

Express News Service Posted: Sep 28, 2008 at 0319 hrs IST

Chandigarh, September 27: A Chandigarh-based lawyer has moved the Punjab State Information Commission demanding that he be provided ‘free of cost’ information by the Punjabi University, Patiala, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Advocate H C Arora’s demand for ‘free of cost information’ was made after the University allegedly failed to provide him information within the stipulated period of 30 days. “I was supplied the information after 45 days, which is not within the stipulated period laid down under the RTI Act,” said Arora.

As per rules laid down under the RTI Act, the person who has sought information is entitled to information free of cost, if the agency or institution fails to furnish the same within 30 days. Challenging the amount of Rs 25,000 charged by the University, Arora first filed an appeal with the First Appellate Authority of the University, seeking the entire information and 12,500-page document free of cost, as per provisions of Section 7 of the RTI Act, 2005.

Receiving little response, he has filed a second appeal in the State Information Commission seeking not only the information free of cost, but also demanding an imposition of penalty on the Station Public Information Officer (SPIO) for deliberately holding back information.

Arora had sought information in relation to hundreds of appointments made by the University during the tenure of the previous V-C.


Delhi government biggest violater of RTI Act: CIC

Delhi government biggest violater of RTI Act: CIC

Saturday, September 27, 2008 21:33 [IST]

New Delhi: The government of the national capital has earned the "dubious distinction" of being the biggest violator of the Right to Information Act, with the maximum number of employees fined for the offence in the country coming from its ranks.

The highest number of complaints and appeals received by the Central Information Commission are against the Registrar of Cooperative Societies (RCS) under the Delhi Government, Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said today.

"Maximum number of showcause notices have been served to the Principal Information Officers (PIOs) of the RCS office," Habibullah said at the annual convention of the United Residents Joint Action (URJA), the apex body of Resident Welfare Associations here.

The RTI Act has provisions to impose fines on information officers of different government departments in case they fail to provide the sought information on time.

Following the increase in the number of RTI applications, the Information Commission plans to set up a special bench to clear backlog of complaints against the RCS office, Habibullah said.

He also informed that three additional information commissioners have been appointed at the CIC by the Centre to help clear the backlog created by over 1,500 appeals received every month from across the country.

In order to reduce the number of RTI queries, the CIC suggested that government information, especially data, should be put on the public domain except in the case of strategic areas like defence.

This, he said, will make a large number of RTI queries redundant.

Source : PTI


A few clauses of RTI Act need change

'A few clauses of Right to Information Act need change'

Sunday, September 28, 2008 01:43 PM GMT+06:00

Our Correspondent, Barisal

Speakers at a discussion in Barisal yesterday said a few flawed clauses are to be changed if Right to Information (RTI) Act is to ensure people's right to know and good governance.

Welcoming the council of advisers' approval to the much-awaited ordinance, they said there are several loopholes in the proposed ordinance, which need to be closed in order to ensure maximum disclosure of information.

Conscious Citizens Committee (CCC) of Barisal and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) jointly organised the programme titled 'Know Information, Get Right' (Tattho Janbo, Odhikar Anbo) at Barisal BDS auditorium.

Economic development, establishment of rule of law, fighting corruption, institutionalising democracy and establishing good governance in the country cannot be achieved unless transparency and accountability is ensured in all spheres by ensuring free flow of information, speakers said.

There are many loopholes in the proposed ordinance, they said, adding that the ordinance covers up to upazila level, not up to union parishad level.

“Although the laws do not bar disclosure of information, most of the officials are using the Official Secrets Act as an excuse for not providing anyone, journalists in particular, with information,” they said.

Barisal City Corporation Mayor Shawkat Hossain Hiron, citizens and human rights activists Saifur Rahman Miron, Dr Mizanur Rahman, Dr Habibur Rahman, and Prof Syed Aminul Huq, freedom fighter Enayet Hossain Chowdhury, district Jatiya Party President Mohsinul Islam, NGO activist Anwar Zahid, trade union leader AK Azad, cultural activist Nazrul Islam Chunnu, women leader and educationist Rabeya Khatun, writer Asma Chowdhury, TIB member Kazi Selina participated in the discussion.

Barisal CCC convener Manabendra Batabayal presided over the programme.


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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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