Saturday, February 27, 2010

Right to Information activist shot at in Thane

Right to Information activist shot at in Thane

February 27th, 2010 - 2:44 pm ICT by ANI

Thane, Feb 27 (ANI): Right to Information (RTI) activist Arun Sawant was critically injured after being shot by two unidentified men in Thane.

Sawant was shot on his way back from the Badlapur Municipal Council (BMC), where he had gone to file an RTI application. The incident took place around 1:30 p.m. on Friday on Katrap Road around 100 meters from the Council office, according to Commodore (Retd) Lokesh Batra, an RTI activist based in Delhi.

Police Inspector A P Mokashi said Sawant was shot by two unidentified men who had been following him, adding that he collapsed after the bullet hit the lower part of his back.

"We will have a direction to go in only after Sawant gives us a statement, but the doctors have told us he is not in a position to do that right now," said Mokashi.

He was rushed to AIIMS Hospital, Dombivli, in critical condition, with doctors first trying to stabilise him before attempting a surgery.

Hospital sources claimed the next 48-hours would be critical for Sawant.

Sawant now worked with labour unions after quitting his earlier job with the State Transport Corporation. He left the job almost 10 years ago and came to Badlapur, where he contested the council election that he lost.

He then began using the Right to Information Act to get information on both civic projects of the Badlapur Municipal Council, as well as the local politicians.

He had filed a writ petition against MLA Kishan Kathore challenging his election to the Council and won it in the High Court.

The case is now pending in the Supreme Court, the apex court of the country. (ANI)


Monday, February 22, 2010

Cabinet's advice to the president covered by RTI: CIC

Cabinet's advice to the president covered by RTI: CIC

DNA Monday, February 22, 2010 17:51 IST

New Delhi: The advice tendered by the Union Cabinet to the president in any matter can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Central Information Commission (CIC) held today.

CIC Wajahat Habibullah quoting a Supreme Court ruling said Article 74(2) of the Indian Constitution implies that such advice "cannot be inquired" into by any court.

"It does not mean that the nature of this advice cannot be disclosed," he said while directing the president's secretariat to allow inspection of files pertaining to communication between former president Shanker Dayal Sharma and former prime minister Narasimha Rao on the issue of extending SC status of convert Christians of dalit origin.

An RTI applicant Franklin Ceasar Thomas had sought details of action taken by the then president Shankar Dayal Sharma on the ordinance for granting scheduled caste status to convert Christians of enumerated castes.

The president's Secretariat refused to grant access to the files saying the then President had not given assent to the ordinance and that as the issue involves previledged correspondence with the president and the prime minister the same has been denied as per provisions of the RTI Act.

Article 74 (2) says the question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by ministers to the president shall not be inquired into any court. Habibullah quoted a decision of the Supreme Court on the Article saying "Its (Article 74 (2) of the Constitution) object was only to make the question whether the President had followed the advice of the ministers or acted contrary thereto, non-justiciable".

"Put simply, this will imply that such advice cannot be inquired by any court. It does not mean that the nature of this advice cannot be disclosed. For this reason and in the light of the Right to Information Act, 2005 CPIO is directed to allow inspection of relevant files," he said.

Thomas had also sought inspection of the files from the prime minister's Office which had allowed the request when the matter reached the CIC.


RTI activist killed in Pune

RTI activist killed

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times

Pune, January 14, 2010: Four days after unidentified persons fired outside the south Mumbai house of civic activist Nayana Kathpalia, Right To Information (RTI) activist Satish Shetty was murdered on Wednesday morning in Pune.

Shetty, who led a crusade against illegal land transactions in Pune district’s Lonavla region, lived in Talegaon Dabhade on the old Mumbai-Pune highway, 40 kms from Pune. The 39-year-old was returning from his morning walk on Wednesday when a group of unidentified persons attacked him with sharp weapons.

He sustained serious injuries all over the body. His brother, Sandeep, rushed him to Pawna Hospital at Somatane Phata, where doctors declared him dead on arrival. No arrests had been made until late on Wednesday night.

Sandeep lodged a complaint with Talegaon Dabhade police station saying that his brother had been receiving threatening phone calls for the past few days over a land transaction in Maval taluka (sub-district), on which he had sought information under RTI.

Sandeep, in his complaint, had named a city businessman closely associated with politicians.

Shetty, an activist of Bhrashtacharvirodhi Dakshata Samiti (anti-corruption vigilance committee), had used the RTI to force the government to take action against several illegal transactions. He was associated with anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.

Shocked by the murder, RTI activists in Pune decided to meet on Friday to chalk out their next course of action. Vijay Kumbhar of the Surajya Sangharsha Samiti said that RTI activists across the country have been facing threats and the government should take steps to protect them.

Kumbhar said Shetty had exposed private parties that had encroached on government land in Maval and also irregular constructions in and around Lonavla. He said it was because of Shetty’s follow-up that action was taken against the illegal registration of land transactions.

An NGO MITRA [Movement against Intimidation, Threat and Revenge against Activists] has written to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into Shetty’s murder.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Info panel orders probe into threat to RTI applicant

Info panel orders probe into threat to RTI applicant

Jeeva, TNN, Feb 20, 2010, 04.51am IST

CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has directed the Vellore collector to inquire into the complaint of a right to information activist that he was threatened by unidentified persons and asked to withdraw his application seeking information on old-age pension.

V Gopalakrishnan of KK Nagar had sent his RTI application to the public information officer (PIO) of the Vellore district collectorate in February last year, seeking copies of certain records pertaining to old-age pension, widow pension and pension for physically handicapped from October 2008 to January 2009.

In March 2009, Gopalakrishnan received a reply from the collectorate, asking him to pay Rs 21,600 as photocopy charges since the copies of the records he had asked for ran into 10,800 pages. The reply was not given by a PIO designated under the RTI Act, but by an another official in the collectorate. According to Gopalakrishnan, on March 12, two unidentified persons came to his residence, claiming that they were sent by a senior woman official of the collectorate. The duo then asked Gopalakrishnan to withdraw his RTI application or face dire consequences.

"I wanted the copies of the records since I suspected certain irregularities. But I never expected that I would face this sort of threat. I can identify the culprits if I see them again," Gopalakrishnan said in his complaint to the state information commission.

The commission summoned the tahsildar concerned and also the PIO, conducted a hearing on October 22, 2009 and passed its order on February 15, 2010.

During the inquiry, the tashildar told the commission that the PIO was busy with other works and hence another official had sent the reply to the RTI applicant. He claimed that they had furnished about 650 pages of records free of cost since the information was not given within 30 days of the receipt of the application as stipulated by the RTI Act. The remaining copies would be provided soon, the official said.

The commission, in its order, directed the Vellore district collector to personally inquire into the complaint, or authorise a senior officer for the purpose and file a detailed report within six weeks.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Citizens urged to use RTI effectively

Citizens urged to use RTI effectively

Express News Service

First Published : 18 Feb 2010 11:23:12 AM IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Social activist Aruna Roy has reminded the citizens to use their right to inspect government bodies.

"The people must check whether Section 4 of the Right to Information Act functions well. This Section says the government offices must disclose its information on a painted board in front of the offices,'' she said here on Wednesday.

Roy said that periodic review of government schemes must be done to resolve structural bottlenecks. She lauded the social audit on the fallow land cultivation scheme prepared by the NGO People's Action. "It is extremely important to do such social audits, not to blame anyone, but to resolve the problems involved in the implementation of such schemes,'' she said.

Roy refuted the charges against NREGS by saying that the scheme would not result in non-availability of farm labourers. ``The NREGS is offering only a 100-day job. No labourer will require more than 200 days for farming,'' she added.

Finance Minister Thomas Issac, after listening to the findings and recommendations of the social audit report, said there must be a synergy of various governing bodies and the beneficiaries for the success of a new scheme.

He said that such social audits were needed to point out the defects in a scheme. However, he added that the fallow land cultivation scheme was a success as there had been a rise in paddy cultivation in the state.

Issac released the social audit report by giving a copy to Aruna Roy.

The social audit unveiled the flaws in the State Government's prestigious fallow land scheme. The study found that most of the beneficiaries were unaware of the scheme.

Though the majority of the beneficiaries were landless farmers, they were not taken into consideration.

The farmers were paid equal amounts irrespective of the area of land they owned. There was no proper financial audit and the NGO team was not given proper documents from Krishi Bhavans. There has been a delay in supply of seeds and fertilizers, said the audit report.

The report demanded inclusion of beneficiaries in the discussions for implementing the scheme.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Use RTI responsibly: CIC tells appellants

Use RTI responsibly: CIC tells appellants

Tuesday, February 2, 2010,12:13 [IST]

New Delhi, Feb 2: Advising on the responsible use of RTI (Right to Information) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has urged appellants to exercise restraint in the number of queries filed under the Act.

The decision of the CIC came in response to an application filed by Kanhiya Lal, in which the applicant has asked 100 queries to seek information on the admission process of a Delhi government school, after he was dissatisfied with the city government's education department reply.

"The appellant has used the RTI without a sense of responsibility and has asked 100 queries stretching it to 16 pages. The citizen has been given a right but he must use this with some sense of responsibility and sending 100 queries over 16 pages or more does not display any sense of responsibility," information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted in his order.

He said that the Act which was made to assist the citizen in gathering information must not be used to overburden the government.

"A citizen must understand that it is in his interest that the government functions efficiently and it is not correct to try and overburden or pulverize the government's functions. In spite of this, the PIO (Principal Information Officer) has tried to give the information," he added.

Noting the irresponsible use of RTI, Gandhi said that the appellant failed to point at any instance where the information sought under the Act was not provided to him earlier.

"The appellant was asked to identify what information had not been provided to him. He is not able to give any instance of information which he has sought which has not been provided," Gandhi observed.

Gandhi advised people to use the RTI Act responsibly and to exercise some restraint in number of queries asked.

"A citizen must understand that it is in his interest that the government functions efficiently and it is not correct to try and overburden or pulverize the government's functions. In spite of this, the PIO (Principal Information Officer) has tried to give the information," he added.

As part of the decision, the government officials have been asked by the information commissioner to offer the appellant with 'an inspection of the relevant files' in such cases, instead of spending time and resources on such long RTI queries.

However, the information commissioner's order has brought opposition from an activist who feels that such decision would give the government officials an excuse to deny information to citizens.

"Such orders will encourage government departments and give them an excuse that giving information would require diverting of resources that would ultimately deny information to the applicant," activist Bibhav Kumar of Delhi-based NGO Kabir said.

Kumar criticized the information commissioner, saying that instead of helping the appellant to gather information, he was acting as a counselor to the government officials.

"By this decision, it seems the information commission is acting as a consultant to government officials whereas it should try to get the applicant the required information," he said.

Citing that the RTI Act 2005 does not impose restriction on the number of queries an appellant can asked, Kumar said that the decision of the information commissioner was against the spirit of RTI Act.

"I agree a citizen should not ask a lot of questions in one query. However, there is no provision in the RTI Act on the number of queries that a person can ask in one application. Such kind of orders by the information commission are against the spirit of the RTI Act," he added


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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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