Wednesday, November 25, 2009

CIC asks SC for information on judges’ elevation

CIC asks apex court for information on judges’ elevation

New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS): The Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Supreme Court to reveal information about the elevation of three high court chief justices to the apex court superseding the seniority of three others.

The action came on a Right to Information (RTI) application of activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, who sought to know how were Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha elevated and appointed to the Supreme Court, superseding Justice A.P. Shah, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.K. Gupta.

Supreme Court judges are selected by a collegium of the five senior most judges of the apex court headed by the Chief Justice of India.

However, the court refused to entertain Agrawal’s plea, saying that the information sought is “neither maintained nor available” with it.

The applicant approached the first appellate authority, which also denied him the information. Agrawal then approached the CIC.

Stating that the “appointment of justices is decidedly a public activity conducted in the overriding public interest”, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah in his Nov 24 order said: “The information sought by appellant will now be provided to him within 15 working days”.


Also read the related stories

"Judges to decide" on CIC direction, says CJI

PTI Thursday, November 26, 2009 20:45 IST

New Delhi: Chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan today said the "judges will decide" on the response to the Central Information Commission's (CIC) direction to the apex court to ensure transparency in the appointment of judges; while law minister Veerapan Moily skirted his reply.

"Our judges will decide," was all that the chief justice would say when asked by reporters on the CIC's recent direction to the supreme court registry on the issue.

He was speaking on the sidelines of National Law Day celebrations held at the supreme court premises.

Declining to comment Moily remarked, "They have passed an order, what interpretation can I give?

The chief justice also refused to be drawn into a discussion on another direction of the CIC to the apex court registry to disclose within 15 days the name of the Union minister who allegedly tried to influence a Madras high court judge in a pending matter.

"I do not communicate with any of the judges of the high courts," he said, while declining to entertain any further questions on the issue.

The CIC had in one direction held that the appointment of judges is a "public activity" which cannot be withheld from disclosure, and asked the supreme court to make public the records of appointing three justices of the apex court who superseded their seniors.

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had sought complete correspondence between authorities concerned relating to appointment of justices HL Dattu, AK Ganguly and RM Lodha superseding seniority of justices AP Shah, AK Patnaik and VK Gupta.

The plea was rejected by the Registry of Supreme Court saying it did not have the information and later pleaded before the Commission that it was held in fiduciary relationship with the Chief Justice of India, hence cannot be given under the RTI Act.

In another direction the CIC had asked the supreme court to disclose the name of the Union minister, who allegedly tried to influence Madras high court judge R Raghupathi in a pending case.

The CIC had also asked the registry to furnish the purported correspondence between the chief justice and the judge.


Name minister who approached Madras HC judge, CIC to SC

Name minister who approached Madras HC judge, CIC to SC

Updated on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 18:42 IST

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has sought from the Supreme Court the name of the Union Minister, who had allegedly approached a judge of the Madras High Court to influence his decision, and the complete correspondence with Chief Justice of India in the matter.

Justice R Raghupathi of the Madras High Court in the open court had a few months ago alleged that a Union Minister, through his lawyer, spoke to him on telephone seeking favours in a case being probed by CBI.

RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal had sought the complete correspondence in the matter from the apex court along with name of Union minister who allegedly approached Justice R Raghupathy, an information which was denied to him by the apex court.

Agrawal quoted media reports claiming that Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had said that Justice Raghupathy had written to Chief Justice of the Madras High Court that the minister had not spoken to him directly.

"The information sought in respect of all questions...will now be provided to appellant within 15 days," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said.

He, however, exempted from disclosing answers to two questions dealing with in-house procedure of the court and questioning "the conduct of Justices of the High Court" saying response could impinge upon the exalted status granted to such Justices.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Owing to RTI activists: MC website being upgraded

MC website being upgraded

LUDHIANA: Owing to pressure exerted by state information commission (SIC) and Right to Information (RTI) activists, municipal corporation (MC) is on its toes to upgrade its website. Following the upgradation, exhaustive information pertaining to the civic body would be a click away.

The decision relating to the website upgradation had been on the cards ever since state information commissioner Lt Gen (retd) PK Grover had asked MC officers to comply with norms regarding proper dissemination of information under section 4(1)-B of RTI Act and include information in preview of the act on the website. For that, MC had even constituted a sub-committee comprising joint commissioner Mahinder Pal Gupta, senior deputy mayor Praveen Bansal and superintendent engineer (SE) designs DPS Wadhwa to look into the matter.

At a meeting of the committee held on Friday, it was decided that the website would be upgraded, with the main focus being on proper dissemination of information under clause 4(1)-B of the Act. At the meeting that continued for more than four hours, it was stated that the website would be divided into three parts- services, download and general information sections, which would be further divided into more than 20 sub-sections at the initial stage.

By accessing these sections, residents would be able to get information regarding services being given by the civic body, its income and expenditure, details of officers of each area and MC voter list. It was maintained that vital information regarding the budget and details of developmental work on in the city would be provided on the website.

Highly-placed sources revealed that it would take more than three months for the civic body authorities to complete the work on the website.

When contacted, Bansal said upgradation of the website would usher in a new era of information for city residents, adding that they were trying their best to complete the work soon as it would ensure transparency and accountability in working of the civic body.


Amendments to RTI Act on the anvil

Amendments to Right to Information Act on the anvil

Vidya Subrahmaniam

They will be abandoned if civil society groups show the government they are unnecessary

Activists led by Aruna Roy submit letter containing their misgivings

"RTI constrained by inadequate implementation, lack of trained staff, poor management"

New Delhi: The Department of Personnel and Training (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievance and Pensions) has admitted that the government is considering amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The admission, which came at a meeting between RTI activists and DoPT Secretary Shantanu Consul on Saturday, ended the suspense over whether or not the government was contemplating amendments to the RTI.

Speculation in this regard started following a meeting that the DoPT had with Information Officers on October 14 where a proposal for the amendments was formally put on the table. However, the government refused to confirm or deny the move, leading to a growing anxiety in RTI circles.

Significantly, Mr. Consul assured the delegation led by Aruna Roy of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), that the amendments will only be introduced after hearing the views and objections of civil society groups. He said the department would initiate a "transparent and consultative process," including putting up the draft amendments on the DoPT website, to enable public and civil society participation in their implementation.

Mr. Consul also said the amendments would not go through if civil society groups were able to convince the government that they were not necessary, and the purpose for which they were being considered could be met in other ways.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of activists from the NCPRI and other organisations gathered at Jantar Mantar to warn the government against tinkering with the RTI Act, 2005.

The delegation that met Mr. Consul presented him a letter containing their misgivings over the proposed amendments. The letter was signed. among others by Ms. Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shekhar Singh of the NCPRI and Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women.


The signatories said they had apprehensions that the government was moving towards amending the RTI and cited as evidence the October 14 meeting between the DoPT and Information Officers.

The RTI activists also wrote to the Prime Minister on October 20, which was signed by dozens of public-spirited citizens. The letter argued that the proposed amendments — envisaging exemption from disclosure for official discussions and consultations (previously known as file notings) and prohibition of frivolous and vexatious complaints — far from strengthening the Act, as promised by the President in her June 4 address to Parliament, would in fact emasculate the Act.

The letter quoted two nation-wide studies, "one done under the aegis of the government," to make the point that RTI was constrained, not by issues being considered for amendment such as frivolous complaints and file notings, but by inadequate implementation, lack of trained staff, and poor management. There was no suggestion in either of the studies that RTI work was hampered by "frivolous or vexatious" applications or by disclosure of "file notings," it said.

The letter said: "This government gave its citizens the RTI Act, and there has been no crisis in government as a result of its enactment. In fact… its use by ordinary people is helping change its (the country's) image to that of an open and receptive democracy. An amendment in the Act would be an obviously retrograde step, at a time when there is a popular consensus to strengthen it through rules and better implementation..."

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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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