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No cognisable offence made out against Kejriwal: Cops to court

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Police today told a city court that no cognisable offence was made out against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal against whom a plea was filed for allegedly misleading people by saying that the municipal corporations were not under the state’s control. In a status report filed before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate SPS Laler, police said the criminal plea discloses that the matter was pending before the court and, in such circumstances, it has no authority to take any action. The report filed by officials of Karawal Nagar police station in Northeast Delhi also said that complainant Brijesh Shukla has been examined with regard to the matter. “Review of contents of the complaint do not reveal any cognisable offence,” it said. The court fixed May 25 for hearing arguments on the complaint. Shukla had in September last year allegedly thrown ink at Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia outside the LG’s office. He had earlier submitted in court documents relating to his claim that the Delhi Government had spent over Rs 42 lakh by giving advertisements in 20 newspapers which he alleged were misleading. Shukla’s counsel had also informed the court that in an RTI reply, Delhi government has admitted that a total expense of Rs 42,01,405 was incurred in putting out advertisements in the newspapers on October 30, 2015. The plea alleged that public money was wasted for “spreading lies” and people were “misled”. It sought direction to the police to lodge an FIR against Kejriwal for the alleged offence of criminal breach of trust. The complaint has claimed that Kejriwal had come out with full-page advertisements in October 2015, saying there were misunderstandings regarding a strike by MCD employees and that it was wrong to say that the corporations fell under the Delhi government. “In November 2015, I filed an RTI with Delhi government which in its reply has said that the corporations are under its control. Action should be initiated against him (Kejriwal) for misleading people and spending public money for spreading lies,” the complainant has said. Shukla said he had also filed complaints with the police and the Lieutenant Governor for lodging of FIR against Kejriwal but no action was taken.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Hazare opposes proposed changes in RTI Act, writes to PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid reports that the Centre is planning to amend the RTI Act, social activist Anna Hazare has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him not to do so as it would dilute its provisions and would be an “injustice” to common people. “The central government is mulling to bring changes in the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has given information about it on its website,” Hazare said in the letter made public today. “It is the fundamental right of the people to know how their money is being spent and what kind of work the government is doing. Bringing changes in the RTI Act, which people have got after years of agitations, is like damaging their fundamental right. We feel that it is an attempt to weaken this historic law,” he said. The government has proposed a new set of rules for processing Right to Information applications, complaints and appeals and has sought suggestions from the public by April 15. The proposed rules, aimed at replacing RTI rules of 2012, have been placed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on its website for comments from public. Hazare said he was opposed to the proposed change in allowing withdrawal of appeal to the CIC. If this is allowed, there can a situation where the applicant would be pressurised to withdraw his appeal, he said. The anti-corruption crusader said he was also against the proposal to terminate the appeal proceedings upon the death of the applicant. Pointing out that there have been 56 cases of murder of RTI applicant in the last year, Hazare said the proposed change will make the things more dangerous. Hazare also opposed the proposed limit of 500 words for an RTI application saying that it would be unjust for common people. “People will never accept such unjust changes. Even in 2006, the central government had made an attempt to make changes in the Act. There was a bid to dilute the law by removing file notings from the purview of the Act. At that time, people had to protest. We had protested at Alandi in Maharashtra. Due to the stiff opposition, the Manmohan Singh-led government had to withdraw the proposed changes,” he said. “Now, once again the Centre is trying to bring changes in the Act…It is the only Act, which gives sole power to people. It has helped in curbing corruption and empowering democracy. Still, the government wants to bring changes in the Act, which is an injustice to people,” Hazare said. “Therefore, we request the government to withdraw the proposal to bring changes, failing which we will have to launch a public protest on the issue,” Hazare said in the letter.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

CIC seeks Naga accord files if MHA wants to decline disclosure

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The files related to the framework agreement with the NSCN-IM should be produced before it in case the Home Ministry wants to decline disclosure under the RTI Act, the CIC has held. The agreement with the Naga insurgent group was announced in a media briefing in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 3, 2015. The case relates to a RTI application filed by Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative but the Home Ministry denied to disclose it saying it would attract section (1)(a) of the RTI Act. Nayak said the Home Ministry did not adequately explain the harm that would be caused to any of the protected interest under section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act. The section allows withholding the information, the disclosure of which will be prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with a foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence. “That it is crucial for the citizenry, of which this complainant (Nayak) is a part, to have access to official information about the framework agreement on the basis of which negotiations are being conducted with non-State actors,” he had said in his submissions before the Commission. During the hearing before the Commission, the Home Ministry had claimed that it does not have any files related to the agreement as they were held by the Joint Intelligence Committee. In an interim order, the Commission had directed the Ministry to ascertain whether JIC comes under it or is an independent public authority under the RTI Act. The Home Ministry has now said that JIC comes under it and it will take a call on future course of action. The Commission said the CPIO is required to apply her mind independently to advice received from Office of the interlocutor and government representative for Naga peace talks to the contents of the RTI application for making a decision on whether to provide information. “It is to be further noted that in case, the respondent decides that the information is not to be disclosed, then the concerned file(s) should be made available before the Commission for perusal on the next date of hearing,” Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur said in a recent order. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju had said in Parliament that details of the final settlement are being worked out within the parameters of the Framework Agreement. “Hence it would be premature to make public the Framework Agreement,” Rijiju has said on March 15.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

RTI rules do not seem to be attempt to dilute the Act: Gandhi

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The proposed RTI rules do not appear to be a move to consciously dilute the law and its efficacy, former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi today said. Terming the rule on the abatement of proceedings in case of death of the applicant as “controversial”, Gandhi said it should be changed and disclosure of information on the website should be made mandatory in such cases. “It has not been appreciated that the information sought in RTI belongs to all citizens since they own the government and every piece of information held by it. Thus everyone has the right to get the information which is sought by an applicant,” he said. Gandhi said allowing withdrawal of RTI appeals would be a direct encouragement to undesirable pressure on applicants, and deal making. “The law expects all information to be available suo moto. This proposed rule should be modified to state that when an appeal is sought to be withdrawn or an appellant dies, the information sought shall be placed on the website,” he said. He said the proposed rules mention that payment of fees can be done electronically where “it is available” but added that the rule should be modified so that in all cases public authorities must accept fees by electronic mode. “On the balance, this does not appear to be a move to consciously dilute the law and its efficacy… If rule 12 is changed to mandate placing on the website information sought by any appellant who has died, it would be a balanced set of rules for RTI,” he said.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Congress targets govt on Lokpal, ‘dilution’ of RTI

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Congress on Wednesday took strong notice of government misleading the Parliament on the issue of appointment of Lokpal and also framing rules to dilute Right to Information Act (RTI).Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and party member KC Venugopal in Lok Sabha targeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and pressed for a privilege motion against him for saying that Lokpal Bill is with a Standing Committee.Congress leaders said the fact is that Parliament has passed the Lokpal legislation and the President has given his nod as well.

Pol parties under RTI: CIC puts matter in ‘abeyance’

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur has directed to keep “in abeyance” the matter pertaining to political parties not adhering to the Right To Information Act, thus putting the controversial issue in cold storage. The note, in this regard, was issued after Bimal Julka, one of the members of the bench hearing the case, recused himself on December 23, 2016. “Till the bench is reconstituted or a decision taken on IC (BJ) note, the proceedings may temporarily remain in abeyance,” Mathur had stated on December 29, 2016. Nearly three months later, there is no word on replacement of Julka in the bench and the matter hangs in a limbo. The file notings have now been disclosed by the Central Information Commission under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to activist R K Jain, who had filed a complaint against political parties. Mathur’s direction to keep the hearing in abeyance comes in spite of a 2014 order of the Delhi High Court to the Commission to decide within six months the complaint filed by Jain. The activist has alleged that the parties were not replying to RTI applications and have not put in place any infrastructure mandated under the RTI Act. Six national parties including BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP were brought under the ambit of the RTI Act by a Full Bench of the Commission on June 3, 2013. This order was neither challenged in a High Court nor changed but the political parties have refused to entertain the RTI applications directed at them. Jain used section 18 of the RTI Act which allows a petitioner to file a case against a public authority if his application is not responded to within 30 days or if the public authority has not put in place mandatory infrastructure to handle the applications. The Commission under this mechanism can slap a penalty, maximum of Rs 25,000, on the public authority if it is reasonably satisfied about the guilt of the authority. The complaint of Jain against political parties was being heard by a Full Bench comprising of Information Commissioners Sridhar Acharyulu, Sudhir Bhargava and Bimal Julka. The bench started hearing the case on July 22, 2016 and within six months, Julka abruptly recused himself from the bench citing work in his own registry.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Pakistanis top list of people acquiring Indian citizenship

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pakistanis have topped the list of foreign nationals acquiring Indian citizenship in the last six years. The Ministry of Home Affairs has revealed in an RTI reply that of the 5,477 foreign nationals who were granted Indian citizenship since 2011, 2,157 were Pakistanis, followed by Afghans at 918.Around 1,676 foreign nationals acquired Indian citizenship from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013. Similarly, around 3,801 foreigners have acquired Indian citizenship from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2016.After Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh (218), the UK (145), Sri Lanka (108), Iran (66) and the US (51) follow on the list of countries. There are also 35 people from the UAE, 33 from Nepal, 26 from Kenya, and 15 each from Singapore and China. In the same period, 13 people each from Canada and France also acquired Indian citizenship. “I will be filing a separate RTI application seeking religious data of foreigners who sought Indian citizenship. I had also sought gender-wise data. They said data is not maintained gender-wise and thus can’t be provided,” said Raman Sharma, an RTI activist from Jammu.The year 2016 saw the highest number of Pakistanis being granted Indian citizenship. “In 2016, a maximum number of 660 Pakistanis were granted citizenship rights, whereas in 2015 and 2014, 263 and 267 Pakistanis were granted citizenship rights. Similarly, out of 918 Afghan nationals who were granted Indian citizenship, at least 700 got Indian nationality in the period between 2014 and 2016,” Sharma said.He added that during the last three years, the number of immigrants from developed nations has also increased. “Of the total 61 immigrants from the US, 46 applied for and were granted citizenship rights. Seven French nationals, and eight people each from Germany and Italy also got citizenship rights,” he said.

PM Modi administration doesn’t listen to him DMK on RTI over demonetisation

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> After the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) refused to answer as to why the conversion of old currency was not allowed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) on Monday taunted the Central Government saying it didn?t listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s orders and work differently. “This is what is happening in this government since quite a long time. The Prime Minister speaks one thing and the rest of the administration acts in a different way. The Prime Minister goes to the people and says some marvelous thing, but even his own government doesn?t listen to it or he knows that they are not going to listen to them or he might have given different directions to them,? DMK leader T.K.S. Elangovan told ANI. Elangovan said that since the launch of demonetisation, the government had been making such changes. Earlier on Sunday, the RBI refused to answer the question under the RTI Act claiming the query does not come under the definition of information as per the transparency law. The RTI was filed in the wake of the Prime Minister November 8, 2016 announcement in which he had assured that the old notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 could be converted till March 31. Later, it was decided that the window till March 31 will be kept only for Non-Resident Indians.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

HRD ministry starts process to appoint next IGNOU VC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The HRD ministry has set in motion the process to appoint the next Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) even as the incumbent continues to remain on forced leave. The ministry had initiated an inquiry against Professor M Aslam on allegations of shortfalls, irregularities and excessive action committed by IGNOU between October 2011 and November 2014. While he was sent on forced leave, the committee probing the issue had submitted its report to the Human Resource Development Ministry which was forwarded to President Pranab Mukherjee, who is its Visitor. The President has not given his opinion yet on the inquiry report even as Aslam’s tenure draws to an end in few months. “The university has forwarded names of two candidates as its recommendation for the top post. HRD minister Prakash Javadekar is yet to add his recommendation to the list and forward the panel to the President,” a source said. Aslam had filed an RTI application in 2014 seeking a copy of allegations on the functioning of IGNOU, and a second RTI application in November 2015 seeking a copy of the inquiry report sent to the President in his capacity as the university’s visitor. He had come under attack for his decisions, especially the to discontinue the community college scheme that left thousands of students including soldiers, airmen and sailors without certificates and diplomas. He is also accused of administrative irregularities and wrongdoing in appointment of faculties. After Aslam went on leave pending an inquiry, Nageshwar Rao was appointed as the acting Vice Chancellor. He later demitted office after he was appointed as VC of the Uttarakhand Open University. Ravindra Kumar, the senior-most Professor among the Directors of the School of Studies is currently the acting VC of the University.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Bengal’s orphanages not monitored, finds RTI reply

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As CID sleuths unearth the wide network of child trafficking through state and private homes for the destitute and orphans, one important factor that could have acted as a deterrent and has been found lacking at these homes was state monitoring.According to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) norms, members of the District Level Home Inspection Committee (DLHIC) and State Level Home Inspection Committee (SLHIC) need to visit each home in a district at least once every quarter. Unless it is for a specific enquiry, the visit should be a surprise one.In a shocking revelation through an RTI filed by child activist Dipak Bandpopadhyay, it was found out that in over a dozen homes in four districts in south Bengal — Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan, and West Midnapore, there had hardly been any visit of the officers concerned.In a reply to the RTI enquiry from the Burdwan district social welfare (DSW) department, it has been stated that out of four such homes — District Shelter Home, Ananda Niketan, Shelter Home for Girls and Boys, Burdwan Blind Academy, and Japatpara Sri Sri Nigamananda Saraswat Sevashram Society, there have been only two visits of the DLHIC members at the District Shelter Home, from 2015 till date. “We have to admit that no other DLHIC or SLHIC officers visited any of the other homes,” said a senior DSW officer.Similarly, in Birbhum district, the RTI replies showed that at six homes — Asha Short Stay Home, Sattyananda Boys Home, Kshanika Short Stay Home, Pusparag Niketan, Suri Centre for Child Welfare and Anandadhara Home — the picture was worse. Since 2013, SLHIC members have only visited Pusparag Niketan twice, and Anandadhara Home once. The other homes have not been visited by SLHIC officials. DLHIC members had visited once in five of the six Homes since 2013.Chakkumar Association in West Midnapore received two visits from SLHIC members since 2013 and not a single visit from the DLHIC since 2013.Pratik Home in Bankura district received no SLHIC or DLHIC visits in the last two years, whereas Sumangalam Home in the same district received three visits by the SLHIC and two by the DLHIC members in the same period.Speaking to DNA, which has access to all the replies of the RTI, Bandopadhyay said, “Authorities of the DSW department at Nadia, Purulia, Hooghly, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, and Howrah districts have not replied in spite of repeated letters written to them. Had the monitoring system to these homes been strong enough, officials allegedly involved in child trafficking would have been deterred.”State Woman and Child Development and Social Welfare Minister Dr Shashi Panja told DNA that they were looking into the matter for a more stringent application of the rules. “We do make surprise visits, especially to the state-run homes. We may not be very regular, but after the alleged involvement of home officials with the child trafficking racket, we will apply the rules more stringently. We are in the process of taking in new members for the purpose,” she said.

Money spent on Tilak movie that was never made, file missing:

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Files related to the grant of Rs 2.5 crore for a film on Bal Gangadhar Tilak that was never made, have gone missing from the government’s records. The revelation surfaced during a hearing before the Central Information Commission which was adjudicating a matter related to the Union Culture Ministry. “The Commission finds that key records of sanction and payment of Rs 2.5 crores to Vinay Dhumale for production of a movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak is missing and except for some oral statements by the CPIO and Deputy Secretary, there is no record present of who held the files,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu noted. He has directed the Culture Ministry to initiate an inquiry into the missing files, and submit a report about action taken within 60 days of receiving this order. The case related to V R Kamalapurkar who had filed an RTI application with the Culture Ministry seeking to know the records related the film on Tilak which was sanctioned in 2005. The ministry officials told the Commission that Rs 2.5 crore was given to Dhumale, a producer, to make the film but it was never made. Nirmala Goyal, a Deputy Secretary, said the ministry was able to find out about this embezzlement only after the RTI application was filed by Kamalapurkar in 2011. “The money was transferred to Vinay in two instalments. She (Goyal) said, however, the movie was never made and there was no inquiry into the utility of the funds,” Acharyulu said. Central Public Information Officer of the ministry, Arnab Aich, an Under Secretary who was also present during the hearing, said the matter was referred to the CBI for inquiry but the final report is awaited. “The file containing the details of the film project, sanctioning of the project and the officers involved in the monetary transactions was not traceable in the record room of the erstwhile Commemoration bureau (of the ministry),” he told the Commission. He said searches were carried out in the record rooms between the years 2013 and 2017, but to no avail, and the file was categorised as missing. “The officers could not show any document reflecting their efforts, if any. The representation of the officers led the Commission to understand that the public authority has not made up any case against any officer or found anybody responsible for last custody or the loss nor they filed any FIR regarding the missing file,” Acharyulu pointed out. Pulling up the ministry, he said it was surprising that it sanctioned Rs 100 crores for celebration of Golden Jubilee of Indian Republic and released Rs 2.5 crores to a person for making a movie on Bal Gangadhar Tilak but “simply ignores its responsibility of following up”. “It is to the credit of RTI Act that this major lapse has been exposed, still it remains a tragedy that the ministry has lost the entire record regarding this huge grant, that too without any consequence. Besides being a criminal case of corruption, this reflects a sad state of file keeping and inaction within the Ministry of Culture,” Acharyulu said.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

RTI applications increase, but so do rejections without reasons

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While there has been a jump of 22.67 per cent over the previous year in the filing of RTI applications in 2015-16, there has also been a steep increase in the number of applications rejected by various ministries, which have used the mysterious pretext of citing ‘others’ as the reason.Under the provisions of the RTI Act, a public authority can reject an application and refuse to provide information citing security and privacy reasons governed by the sections 8, 9, 11 and 24 of the Act. But most of the ministries who rejected the application cited none of these permissible clauses. Against 28,444 applications rejected under the ‘others’ category the previous year, in 2015-16, the number has increased to 36,913.A whooping 43 per cent of the rejections were recorded under the ‘others’ category, while 47 per cent were rejected under the permissible clauses. Out of 11,138 received by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in 2015-16, it rejected 2,227 applications citing ‘others’ as the reason. The CIC has reported that there has been a decrease in the number of first appeals received, but an increase in the number disposed by the first appellate authorities.Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), described the increase in applications to be a positive trend, but also raised concern at the increasing number of rejections without valid reasons mentioned under the RTI Act being cited. The CIC disposed of 28,188 appeal and complaint cases in 2015-16, while 25,960 cases were registered during the same period.While the President’s Secretariat received only 123 more RTIs in 2015-16 as compared to the previous year, the proportion of rejection plummeted from 9.30 per cent to 1.2 per cent in 2015-16. In 2015-16, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) reported a rejection rate of 20.1 per cent of the RTIs received. While this a significant drop from 22.10 per cent in 2014-15, only seven RTI applications were rejected by the PMO invoking section 8. A whopping 2,227 RTIs were rejected under the ‘others’ category.The proportion of rejection of RTIs by the Supreme Court fell to 21.1 per cent in 2015-16, while it received only six more RTIs as compared to the previous year. The proportion of rejections by the Delhi High Court also registered a fall of more than 1 per cent in 2015-16, even tough the number of RTIs received went up by 127.While the number of RTIs received by the Comptroller and Auditor General fell to 716 in 2015-16 from 796 the previous year, the proportion of rejections zoomed to 17.2 per cent from 6.3 per cent reported the previous year. This alarming increase requires an in-depth study.The Cabinet Secretariat also witnessed a jump in the proportion of rejections from 4.3 per cent to 6.65 per cent in 2015-16, although it received only 73 more RTIs. The Ministry of Personnel and Training reported a significant decline in the proportion of rejections at 3.4 per cent in 2015-16 as compared to 9.4 per cent during the previous year, even though it reported receiving 9,000 more RTIs in 2015-16. This appears to be a positive trend.Among key ministries, the proportion of rejections in the Ministry of Defence fell significantly to 11.5 per cent in 2015-16 as compared to 15.90 per cent the previous year. In the Ministry of Finance, the proportion of rejections fell to 18.3 per cent in 2015-16 as compared to the 20.2-per cent rejection rate the previous year.

Over 400 JK Roads dept officials at same posting beyond tenure

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 400 officials of the Jammu and Kashmir Roads and Buildings Department have been enjoying posting at the same place beyond the government-stipulated tenure of three years. Official sources said that in majority of such cases, overstaying of engineers and other officials was due to political pressure or corruption. The practice was affecting the overall working of the department and the pace of work on various projects, they said. As many as 406 officials of the department, including Assistant Executive Engineers, Assistant Engineers, Junior Engineers and Draftsmen, have been posted at the same place for more than three years and in some case even more than 10 years, the department said in response to a series of RTI queries. Roads and Buildings Minister Naeem Akhtar, who was given the portfolio in the recent reshuffle in the state cabinet, said there were many issues facing the department, including promotions and transfers. “These are priority areas for me and I have sought necessary information. We will be addressing these issues very soon,” he told(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Modi’s passport application cannot be disclosed: CIC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Documents submitted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the application for getting a passport and its renewal, cannot be disclosed as these are “personal information”, the CIC has held. The case relates to an RTI application filed by G M Chauhan, a member of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, seeking copies of the material submitted by Modi for obtaining his first passport and subsequent renewal or fresh application for obtaining a diplomatic passport. The passport office had earlier refused to share the documents, saying it is “personal information” which cannot be provided under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) R K Mathur has said in his order that Chauhan could not substantiate the larger public interest for the disclosure of “personal information”. Chauhan had argued that since the information sought by him relates to the public life of the erstwhile chief minister of Gujarat and the prime minister of India, its disclosure is in public interest and outweighs any “possible harm or injury” caused to the interest of a third party (Modi). The information was very much in public domain as part of the forms for candidature for assembly and parliamentary elections, he said. Chauhan also said that the procedure of Section 11 of the RTI Act, which calls for consulting the person about whom the information has been sought, has not been followed by the Central Public Information Officer of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the passport office. The MEA said that the section can only be invoked if the CPIO “intends” to disclose personal information. Once the CPIO is satisfied that the information sought is to be denied, third party consultation is not required, it said. “The appellant has stated that the information is in public interest. Section 8(1)(j) permits release of personal information if larger public interest justifies it. “In this regard the appellant has stated that ‘Modi is a public figure, hence the information should be released’. However, this argument in no way establishes a larger public interest,” CIC Mathur has said. Earlier, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu had directed the inspection of Delhi University records for the year in which Modi is said to have passed out. After the order, the Chief Information Commissioner had divested Acharyulu from hearing matters related to Delhi University and the Ministry of Human Resources Development.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Man arrested for sending threatening messages to political

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>City police today arrested an `RTI activist’ for sending abusive and threatening text messages to several political leaders in Maharashtra. Deepakkumar Pyarelal Gupta (42), the accused, was arrested at Jalgaon in north Maharashtra this morning, said inspector Mahadeo Nimbalkar of Vile Parle police station here. NCP leader and MLC Vidya Chavan had filed a complaint at the Vile Parle police station after getting an abusive text message on February 21. The unidentified sender also threatened to shoot her dead. Shiv Sena spokesperson and MLC Neelam Gorhe too filed a complaint with Pune police that she had received a threatening text message. Police zeroed in on the accused by tracing the location of the mobile phone from which the messages were sent. Gupta, who works at a saree shop in Jalgaon, was also an RTI activist, police said, adding that he confessed to have sent the same text message to over a dozen political leaders, including a minister.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

No AC, mattress for Sasikala in prison, confirms DIG

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>AIADMK General Secretary VK Sasikala Natarajan does not enjoy a separate bathroom or facilities like water heater, air-conditioner, cot and mattress in her cell at the central jail in Bengaluru, prison authorities have said.Replying to an RTI query by a Chennai-based lawyer, the DIG (Prisons), Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara, said except for a television set, other facilities were not allowed to her.Sasikala is serving a jail term in the Bengaluru prison in the disproportionate assets case in which she and two of her relatives were convicted by the Supreme Court.Replying to the February 20 RTI application from MP Rajavelayutham, the DIG confirmed that she was allowed to meet her nephew and AIADMK Deputy General Secretary TTV Dinakaran for 35 to 40 minutes.Dinakaran had met Sasikala in the prison on February 20 for the first time after her loyalist EK Palaniswami won the vote of confidence in the Tamil Nadu Assembly two days earlier.To another query on whether any recommendation was made to the Karnataka government to transfer Sasikala and her relative Elavarasi, also convicted in the case, to the Central Prison in Chennai, the authority replied “No such application received from the said convict prisoners.” The prison authority’s reply come amid reports in a section of media that Sasikala had been provided facilities such as a mattress and a separate bathroom.Sasikala, Elavarasi and VN Sudhakaran, another convict in the case, were lodged in the prison on February 15 after they surrendered before the trial court following the Supreme Court order upholding their conviction and four-year imprisonment.

The apex court also asked the government to place before

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>it the guidelines or scheme for its consideration and posted the matter for hearing after eight weeks. The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate G K Bansal who has raised the issue of release of about 300 persons from various mental hospitals in Uttar Pradesh, alleging they were still languishing there despite being cured of their ailments and most of them belonged to poorer sections. The apex court had earlier favoured framing of a uniform national policy to deal with those suffering from mental illness and their release from hospitals after being cured. It had issued notice to the Union Health Ministry, saying the issue figured in the concurrent list of the Constitution and hence the Centre also has the authority to frame norms. The PIL has alleged that many underprivileged persons were still languishing in mental hospitals despite being cured and there was no policy in place to ensure their well-being after release. The plea has also referred to responses received under the RTI with regard to the release of persons living in mental hospitals at Bareilly, Varanasi and Agra in Uttar Pradesh even after being cured. The queries, which were posed under transparency law to Mental Health Hospital, Bareilly, Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Agra and Mental Hospital, Varanasi, pertained to names, residential address and age of the patients who were now normal and waiting for discharge from these hospitals. Bansal had also sought information about the year in which the patients were declared fit for discharge. The plea has sought issuance of directions to states and others to “forthwith make arrangements to shift the patients, who are absolutely normal and are fit for discharge, from the mental hospitals to any other secure place like Old Age Homes etc.”(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Delhi HC stays orders imposing fines on DU’s officer for rejecting RTI on Modi, Irani’s degress

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi High Court stayed three separate CIC orders on Tuesday imposing Rs 25,000 penalty on Delhi University’s public information officer for rejecting RTI applications seeking facts about the graduation degrees of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Smriti Irani.Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva observed that the RTI applicants “wasted judicial time” by filing “frivolous” pleas before the Central Information Commission (CIC) for rejection of their applications on technical grounds, instead of addressing the deficiencies pointed out by the central public information officer (CPIO) of Delhi University (DU).CPIO had rejected the three RTI queries on the ground that the Rs 10 Postal Order (PO) meant for fees for providing the information, was blank in one and in the other two cases, they were made out in favour of the CPIO. The official had informed the applicants that they had to make the POs in favour of the Registrar of DU and against the rejection on this ground, the applicants had moved CIC. “Only for a matter of Rs 10, see how much judicial time has been wasted. Especially when the IPO was blank, CPIO could not have filled it up as it would amount to tampering with the record,” the court said while staying the three orders of CIC.It also issued notice to the RTI applicants in all three matters and listed them for hearing on April 27. According to DU’s pleas, in the matter pertaining to Irani, applicant RK Jain had left the PO blank, leaving it to the CPIO to fill it up in whose favour it had to be made.In the other two matters, the POs were made out in favour of the CPIO, who had returned the applications within a few days asking the applicants — Mohd Irsad and Sanjay Singh — to make the POs favouring DU Registrar, the varsity said in its pleas. The court noted that in these two matters, the CPIO had “acted with promptitude” by pointing out the problem in the applications and it was the applicants who had “acted in haste” by moving CIC.CIC had imposed Rs 25,000 penalty against the CPIO in each of the three cases for denial of information to the applicants. The court stayed the orders of December 22, 23 and 27 last year.

HC stays CIC order allowing inspection of Irani’s edu record

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi High Court today stayed a Central Information Commission (CIC) order to CBSE to allow inspection of class 10th and 12th school records of Union Minister Smriti Irani. Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva put on hold CIC’s January 17 direction on a plea by Central Board of Secondary Examination (CBSE) which said the school records of Irani cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it was third party information which was held in fiduciary capacity. The court also issued notice to the RTI applicant, on whose application CIC had passed the order, and sought his reply by the next date of hearing on April 27. CIC in its order had rejected CBSE’s contention that the information sought by RTI applicant Mohd Naushaduddin was “personal”. The office of the Minister of Textiles and the Holy Child Auxilium School, Delhi, from where Irani has claimed to have passed out, were also directed by the Commission to give her roll number to CBSE, Ajmer, which possesses the records for the years 1991 and 1993 “to facilitate search from huge records which is yet to be digitised.” “The Commission directs the respondent authority, the CBSE, to facilitate inspection of relevant records and provide certified copies of documents selected by the appellant free of cost, except personal details in admit card and mark sheet, within 60 days from the date of receipt of this order,” CIC had said in its order. “Disclosure of the details of a particular candidate contained in the degree or certificate register cannot cause any unwarranted invasion of privacy of the certificate holder,” the Commission had said. It had also said if the admit card contains personal information like address, contact number and email id, then it is personal information of the candidate and need not be given. CIC had also said when a public representative declares his educational qualifications, the voter has a right to check up that declaration.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Disclose Godse’s statement in Gandhi assassination trial: CIC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The statement of Nathuram Godse, along with other relevant records related to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, should be “proactively disclosed” on the website of the National Archives, the CIC has ruled. Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said, “One may disagree with Nathuram Godse and his co-accused but we cannot refuse disclosure or circulation of his opinion. “At the same time, neither Nathuram Godse nor the holder of his theme or opinion can go to the extent of killing a person whose philosophy he cannot agree with,” he said in his order. Godse, a right-wing activist, had assassinated the Mahatma on January 30, 1948. Petitioner Ashutosh Bansal had demanded the charge sheet and Godse’s statement, among other details, from Delhi Police which forwarded the application to the National Archives of India (NAI), saying the records have been handed over to it. The National Archives asked Bansal to inspect the records and cull out the information. After failure to get the information, Bansal approached the Central Information Commissioner (CIC). Acharyulu directed the Central Public Information Commissioner (CPIO-NAI) not to charge Rs three per page for photocopying because the Right to Information Act overrides any such provision of the Public Records Act by virtue of Section 22 of the RTI Act. Although neither Delhi Police nor the National Archives cited any objection on the disclosure of the information, Acharyulu said that the information sought does not attract any of the exemption clauses. He said since the information is more than 20-years-old, it cannot be withheld unless it attracts section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act which prohibits disclosure of information that prejudicially affects security of the State or relations with foreign countries. Acharyulu said in the present case, even section 8(1)(a) does not apply as the argument that disclosure of Godse’s statement could lead to enmity between Hindu and Muslim communities would not apply. He said Gandhi’s life, character and image as a champion of peace, Indian Independence and Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be tarnished either by his physical elimination or writing hundreds of pages of adverse analysis of his policies. “The Commission also directs the NAI to place the index of records available now with it about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on its official website along with the procedure to gain access, and recommends development of an archive to include present digitised records and collect as many as possible from various sources to be part of their disclosures under Section 4(1)(b),” Acharyulu said. He directed the NAI to provide certified copies of the charge sheet and the statement of Godse from the CDs of the archives as sought by the appellant upon payment of copying charges at Rs two per page, within 20 days from the date of receipt of this order.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Air quality in Delhi remains poor @ 2/13/2017 3:04:52 PM

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The air quality remained poor in the city with prominent pollutants PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels above normal at most of the locations in Delhi, according to Delhi Traffic Police. A report published by Greenpeace India in January stated that Delhi led the list of most polluted cities in the country followed by Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, and Bihar. The report, based on information obtained through online reports and Right to Information (RTI) applications from state pollution control boards across India, and assessments of quality performed in 168 cities across 24 states and union territories, claimed that none of the 168 cities assessed complied with air quality standards prescribed by the World Health Organisations (WHO).(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Office of Attorney General does not come under RTI ambit: HC

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The office of the Attorney General of India (AGI) does not come under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is not a “public authority”, the Delhi High Court ruled today. The verdict by a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath came on the appeals by the Centre challenging the decision of a single judge who had held that the office of the AGI is a public authority falling under the ambit of the RTI Act. “It cannot be ignored that the predominant function of the AGI is to give advice upon legal matters, to appear in court as stated, i.e perform duties akin to an advocate/senior advocate… “Essentially, the function being that akin to an advocate of the Government of India (GoI), he is in a fiduciary relationship with the GoI and cannot put in the public domain his opinions or the materials forwarded to him. “We are unable to agree with the conclusion of the single judge that the office of the AGI falls within description of public authority,” the bench said and set aside the single judge’s order. The Law Ministry had filed the appeals against the March 10, 2015 order of the single judge bench bringing the AGI’s office under the ambit of the RTI Act on the grounds the top law officer performed public functions and his appointment was governed by the Constitution. In its order, the single judge bench had declared the AGI’s office as a public authority, saying he performs the functions as are required by virtue of Article 76(2) of the Constitution and had set aside the December 2012 CIC order that the AGI is not a public authority. During the arguments in the appeals, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain had argued that the office of the AGI does not come under the RTI as the top law officer is in a fiduciary relationship with the government. Agreeing with the ASG’s argument, the bench said, “The AGI is not a functionary reposed with any administrative or other authority which effects the rights or liabilities of persons”, and disposed of the appeals. (More)(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Supreme Court rejects Asaram’s third appeal for bail

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court denied interim or regular bail to self-styled godman Asaram Bapu on medical grounds. Taking strong exception to his conduct in court, the SC also slapped a fine amounting to Rs 1 lakh for filing a forged document in court that backed his claim for medical leave.“The instant plea is devoid of merit and hence dismissed,” the Chief Justice said while dismissing the appeal. Since his incarceration, Asaram Bapu, who has been accused of sexual assault has applied for bail at least three times. Asaram Bapu had appealed for immediate bail submitting that he wished to travel to Kerala for an ayurvedic treatment since he was not getting adequate medical attention in Jodhpur jail where he has been incarcerated since August 2013. Asaram’s lawyer had even submitted a letter allegedly issued by the Superintendent of Jodhpur Jail, claiming that Asaram was medically unfit. This letter, was apparently acquired from the jail authorities through an RTI application. These claims, though, could not be confirmed since the Godman refused to undergo tests at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Jodhpur. The jail superintendent denied writing the letter, let alone receiving the RTI application. Once this was revealed, Asaram’s lawyer admitted that he had submitted the forged document and apologised for the same. Dismissing the apology, the top court pulled up the defence counsel and directed the police to slap fresh charges on those involved in this offence. Taking a tough stand, the bench took note of the dilatory tactics observed by the defence and the alleged threat to prosecution witnesses in this trial. In order to demonstrate deliberate delay, it was pointed out, that the investigating officer was summoned on 104 dates of hearing, for cross-examination. The court also noted that even the lady Investigating Officer was threatened by a hired assassin. The said assassin, the court was informed, has since been arrested, and is being proceeded against.Health issues Asaram Bapu had appealed for immediate bail submitting that he wished to travel to Kerala for an ayurvedic treatment since he was not getting adequate medical attention in Jodhpur jail where he has been incarcerated since August 2013. Asaram’s lawyer had even submitted a letter allegedly issued by the Superintendent of Jodhpur Jail, claiming that Asaram was medically unfit. The Chief Justice of Supreme Court rejected the bail plea saying,“The instant plea is devoid of merit and hence dismissed.”

HC asks for rules allowing commercial outlets at petrol pumps

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi High Court today asked the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to inform it about its statutory rules under which commercial outlets are being allowed to operate at petrol pumps here. “How these outlets (commercial) are being operated at the petrol pumps. How the statutory rules are being enforced?” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal asked the ministry. While issuing notice to the ministry, the bench also directed it to file its reply in four weeks on a plea seeking action against commercial outlets that are allegedly illegally operating at various petrol pumps across Delhi. The plea by an RTI activist Atul Gulati has also sought a direction to the authorities concerned to close such petrol pumps which are found acting against the law. It said that the illegal operation of retail outlets, convenience stores, shops, kiosks, ATMs and car service centre at various petrol pumps across Delhi are a “grave safety hazard” to the people. “They are operating in complete violation of the petroleum rules and lease agreement with Land and Development Office,” the plea said. A “criminal waste of space for commercial gains” can be seen at atmost every petrol pump, which is utilising the space meant exclusively for essential commodities, such as petrol and CNG, the plea added.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Over 9000 autos challaned for overloading, but not school vans

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 9,000 auto-rickshaws were ‘challaned’ by the Delhi Traffic Police for overloading in the last five years but no such action was taken against any school van for the same offence in the national capital. According to an RTI reply by the traffic police, 365 ‘gramin seva’ vehicles, which usually ply in rural areas, were challaned from 2012 to 2016, and 13 challans were issued to RTVs (mini buses) during the same period. The RTI was filed by one Ram Chand, a resident of Tughlakabad Extension area, seeking the number of challans for overloading issued to various public vehicles including DTC buses, autos, gramin seva services and RTVs from 2012 to 2016. 9,387 auto-rickshaws were challaned for overloading from 2012 to 2016. Police said no DTC bus was challaned for the same offence. As per the laid down rules, an auto-rickshaw only can ferry three persons at a time, but auto drivers could be seen ferrying four to six passengers in some parts of the city. However, the Delhi Autorickshaw Sangh has alleged that drivers of the vehicles are “targeted” by the police. Rajendra Soni, the general secretary of the body, said school vans overloaded with children could be seen plying in in several areas in the national capital, but no challan had been issued against them during the last five years. “In comparison to other vehicles, most challans were issued to auto-rickshaws during 2012-2016. We are targeted and our union has planned to take up the matter with the Centre,” Soni said.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Shehla case: Interior designer Zahida, 3 others get life term

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over five years after RTI activist Shehla Masood was shot dead in Bhopal, a CBI Court here today convicted interior designer Zahida Pervez and three other accused for the murder, and sentenced them to life imprisonment. Judge B K Paloda, presiding over the Special CBI Court, pronounced Zahida, the prime accused, and three others –her friend Saba Farooqui, Saqib Ali alias `Danger’ and Tabish–guilty in the high-profile case probed by the CBI. However, the Court pardoned another accused Irfan, a Kanpur resident who later turned approver. According to the agency, Zahida, who is married, approached Saqib Ali, who had criminal record, to eliminate Shehla as she was jealous of the latter’s growing ties with former BJP MLA Dhruvnarayan Singh with whom the interior designer shared a close camaraderie. Saqib Ali, in turn, hired professional shooters Tabish and Irfan, to kill the 38-year-old RTI activist, it said. Zahida, her friend Saba, Tabish and Saqib were convicted under IPC Sections 302 (murder) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy), among others, and awarded life term. “The prosecution convinced the Court that Zahida, out of jealousy, hired the killers to get rid of Shehla due to the latter’s growing intimacy with the then BJP MLA from Bhopal Dhruvnarayan Singh,” CBI Special Public Prosecutor Atul Kumar told reporters here. The Central agency had produced 80 witnesses in the Court during the trial that lasted for five years. Shehla was shot dead in broad daylight on August 16, 2011 close to her house in Koh-e-Fiza area of Bhopal. Unhappy with the Court’s judgement, Zahida told reporters, “I am surprised at the verdict.” A large number of people were present outside the Special Court where tight security was made. Meanwhile, defence lawyers Sanjay Sharma and Sunil Shrivastava said they are going to challenge the verdict against their clients in the High Court.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Report on Vemula’s death tabled in both Houses, can be accessed through RTI: HRD Ministry

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The HRD ministry made it clear that the Justice (retd.) A K Roopanwal Commission report on the death of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University has been tabled in both Houses of Parliament and hence it is a public document that can be accessed through RTI.The ministry was responding to reports that it had rejected an RTI appeal for making public the commission’s report on the death of Vemula.Replying to an RTI query, the ministry had said that the file concerned was “under submission” and a copy of the report cannot be provided. In a statement today, the ministry said, “The fact of the matter is the said response to an RTI query was given at a time when the report of the Commission of Inquiry constituted by the government had not been laid in Parliament.” It is a statutory requirement under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 to lay the report of the Commission on the Inquiry together with a memorandum of the action taken thereon, before each House of Parliament within six months of submission of the report by the Commission to the government, it said.”The said report has since been laid in both the Houses of Parliament on December 15, 2016. Therefore, it is a public document and anyone applying now under RTI Act can be provided with a copy of the same,” the HRD ministry said.

Fake degree row: Smriti Irani asked DU to not disclose her educational qualification

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid the row over her educational qualification, Union Minister Smriti Irani had asked the Delhi University not to disclose it to an RTI applicant, the School of Open Learning has told the Central Information Commission. The Commission has now directed the School of Open Learning (SoL) to produce before it all the records related to educational details of Irani, Union Textile Minister.A fresh show cause notice has been issued to the Central Public Information Officer of DU for having failed to produce the records before the Commission as directed. Irani’s degrees have been caught in a row after a petitioner alleged she had given contradictory information in her affidavits filed before contesting elections in 2004, 2011 and 2014.In her affidavit for April, 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Irani had said she completed her BA in 1996 from DU (School of Correspondence as SoL was then called), whereas in another affidavit of July 11, 2011 to contest Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, she said her highest educational qualification was B.Com Part I, a petitioner had alleged in a city court.
ALSO READ Trip down memory lane: CIC directs CBSE to allow inspection of Smriti Irani’s school records The matter was dismissed by the court on the ground that considerable time had lapsed in filing the complaint. The issue is, however, still alive before the Central Information Commission where an applicant had filed an appeal, saying he was not given information about Irani’s educational qualification by the SoL.During a hearing, SoL’s Central Public Information Officer OP Tanwar said considering that it was a third party information he had consulted Irani about the disclosure. “In her response (she) raised objection against (sic) disclosure and requested the public authority not to reveal her educational qualification. The CPIO pleaded that information sought was given by the former HRD Minister in fiduciary capacity and hence could not be divulged as per Section 8(1)(e),” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order. Although Chief Information Commissioner RK Mathur has divested Acharyulu of the Human Resource Development Ministry portfolio, two days after he ordered disclosure of records of the degree course of BA, 1978, the year in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have passed from Delhi University, he will continue to adjudicate matters in which he has already issued notices and is finalising orders.The petitioner had sought to know from the School of Open Learning whether the Minister had obtained BA degree in 1996 and passed B Com Part I in 1994 from Delhi University. He had also asked for photocopies of her hall ticket and mark sheets, besides admission form with enrolment number, in case she enrolled herself for the course but did not obtain the degree.The petitioner sought to know if the Union Minister was enrolled with the University in 2013 why did she not take any examination. The SoL cited two exemption clauses–personal information and fiduciary information– under the RTI Act to deny the information.The petitioner filed a complaint and asked the CIC to institute an inquiry into “unjustifiable and illegal” denial of information sought by him. “The question before the Commission is whether the appellant is asking (for) information which is given by the student (Ms Smriti Irani) to the School of Open Learning or whether School of Open Learning has given the degree to its student…,” Acharyulu said.He said to find answers it was necessary to verify the records. “The Commission summons the concerned records and directs OP Tanwar to produce registers and records containing details of educational qualifications accorded to the student which were sought by the applicant,” the Information Commissioner had said in his order.He also asked SoL as to in how many cases it has refused to give degree related information under the RTI Act in the year 2016. The the transparency panel had directed the Central Board of Secondary Examination on Tuesday to allow inspection of class 10th and 12th schooling of Irani, rejecting CBSE’s contention that it constituted “personal information”.

Was CEA and Jaitley aware of demonetization? PMO refuses to answer

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There is no information available about officials whose views were taken before the decision to demonetize high-value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, the Prime Minister’s Office has said.The PMO also refused to answer a query on whether views of the Chief Economic Advisor and the Finance Minister were taken before the sudden announcement on scrapping of notes was made, saying the query does not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act. Responding to an RTI query seeking to know the names of officials who were consulted before the decision, it said, “Information sought is not available in the record of this office.”The applicant had also sought to know from the top office if any meetings were held on the issue of demonetization before the announcement was made and on the preparedness of the government to smoothly exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with newly announced legal tender. He also wanted to know if the government had considered that introduction of new 2,000 rupee notes will need recalibration of ATMs in the country, besides asking if any officer or minister opposed the decision.It had also asked about any estimate on record to show what period of time will be required to convert scrapped notes into new ones. To all these queries, the PMO said these don’t come under the definition of information under the RTI Act. Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India had also refused to divulge such information citing exemption clauses and saying that these queries do not come under the definition of the “information” under the RTI Act.The definition of information in the RTI Act covers “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public” authority under any other law for the time being in force”. Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record and comes under the ambit of RTI Act.” The PMO transferred to Economic Affairs wing of the Finance Ministry the queries related to steps taken by the government to ensure that people do not face problems after demonetization. It also transferred the queries to the Economic Affairs wing in connection with the number of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 which were printed before the announcement to scrap the old notes and all the recorded reasons for the demonetization.

Demonetisation: No information on officials who were consulted, says PMO

New Delhi: There is no information available about officials whose views were taken before the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November, the Prime Minister’s Office has said.

The PMO also refused to answer a query on whether views of the Chief Economic Advisor and the Finance Minister were taken before the sudden announcement on scrapping of notes was made, saying the query does not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Responding to an RTI query seeking to know the names of officials who were consulted before the decision, it said, “Information sought is not available in the record of this office.”

The applicant had also sought to know from the top office if any meetings were held on the issue of demonetisation before the announcement was made and on the preparedness of the government to smoothly exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with newly announced legal tender.

He also wanted to know if the government had considered that introduction of new 2,000 rupee notes will need recalibration of ATMs in the country, besides asking if any officer or minister opposed the decision.

It had also asked about any estimate on record to show what period of time will be required to convert scrapped notes into new ones.

To all these queries, the PMO said these don’t come under the definition of information under the RTI Act.

Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India had also refused to divulge such information citing exemption clauses and saying that these queries do not come under the definition of the “information” under the RTI Act.

The definition of information in the RTI Act covers “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”.

Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record and comes under the ambit of RTI Act.”

The PMO transferred to Economic Affairs wing of the Finance Ministry the queries related to steps taken by the government to ensure that people do not face problems after demonetisation.

It also transferred the queries to the Economic Affairs wing in connection with the number of new currency notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 which were printed before the announcement to scrap the old notes and all the recorded reasons for the demonetisation.

First Published On : Jan 9, 2017 17:38 IST

CRPF turns down query on use of pellet guns in Kashmir

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The CRPF has refused to disclose the SOP for use of pellet guns and quantum of ammunition fired by the force to quell protests in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the RTI applicant who had made the query had levelled no allegations of human rights violation or corruption.Human rights activist Venkatesh Nayak had sought to know the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for using pellet guns which led to large-scale injuries and blindings during the recent prolonged unrest in the Kashmir valley, and quantum of ammunition used since July 1, 2016 till date. He also wanted the rank-wise number of CRPF personnel injured while conducting operations since July 1, 2016.”In the instant case, there appears no violation of human rights as well as the facts do not attract allegations of corruption. Moreover, your application does not make any reference to such allegations. Hence, this department is not liable to provide any information under the RTI Act, 2005,” the Central Public Information Officer said.Reacting to the response of the force to his query, Nayak said,”When SOP is kept a secret, how can victim bystanders assess whether the actions taken by the CRPF personnel were excessive or not. How can they make a case for compensation and demand accountability of security personnel who caused them injury for no fault of theirs.”

Maharashtra: Bishnoi, Sarkunde, Dharurkar appointed information commissioners

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The state government selected three information commissioners who were appointed by the Governor on Friday. The three are retired IPS officer​ KL Bishnoi, retired IAS officer​ Sambhaji Sarkunde and former tribal commissioner and journalist​ Dilip Dharurkar. With the appointments, the government filled up posts of three benches, some of which were vacant for almost two years, killing the very essence of the RTI Act for getting timely information. Retired bureaucrats continued to weigh on the higher side, which has often been a grouse of activists, who state that babus have made it a parking lot for themselves. Which of the commissioners will be holding which bench will be decided after they are sworn in. “Assigning of the benches will be done on Monday after they are sworn in,” said Ratnakar Gaikwad, state chief information commissioner. He added, “I would request them to clear pending appeals fast so as to reach one month pendency as early as possible. Nagpur can do it soon, but Amravati and Nashik will take at least two years or so.” The appointment of the commissioners was both welcomed and slammed by RTI activists. “It is a good thing that the government has appointed three commissioners. Wish it had appointed two more to clear the huge backlogs. Two out of three are retired government officers. Wish it appoints atleast two RTI activists soon,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner welcoming the verdict. The state information commission has already resolved that all ten posts provided in the Act should be created, said Gaikwad. While Gandhi hoped that RTI activists also make it, some RTI activists slammed the government for not having as much transparency in selecting and appointing of information commissioners. “Since the beginning there was no transparency in appointment of information commissioners. With this chief minister we thought we will get transparency. They should have had a search committee and put up advertisements before appointing the commissioners. How is it that only these managed to make it to the post? These appointments have been done by deciding among them. Any government comes, this business of appointing (people known) does not stop. In the present case while there are allegations against some, the other is not even heard of,” said Vijay Kumbhar a noted RTI activist from Pune. “Everything is done strictly in accordance with the rules and procedure. Few people have a habit of finding faults with everything so can’t help them. Govt can’t decide on the basis of likes or dislikes of someone. Moreover, some people think that people of eminence live only in metro cities or on page three which is not true. But we take this as constructive criticism and will see whether the process really needs any change,” Devendra Fadnavis told DNA.

Demonetisation: Has Rs 15 lakh cr returned to banks? Will RBI please release numbers now?

Between Rs 14.5 lakh crore to Rs 15 lakh crore has already come back to the banking system since 8 November when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of 86.4 percent of the currency in circulation overnight, according to a Press Trust of India report (read here). If this is indeed true, nearly 97 percent of the money demonetised has returned to bank counters already.

What does it mean? There are two possibilities. One, there was very little or no black money (money that isn’t earned through legitimate means or money earned well but not taxed) in cash in the system and most of it is already converted into assets such as real estate, gold or overseas financial investments. The second, tax cheats have found a way to inject nearly all the black money in cash to bank accounts through several own accounts or through benami channels including those Jan Dhan accounts owned by the vulnerable low-income people.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI). ReutersReserve Bank of India (RBI). Reuters

Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Reuters

With all the money returning, even the last round of discussion on a speculated ‘windfall’ for the government from the note ban is dead and gone. The government had initially estimated (going by the submission of Attorney General Mukhul Rohtagi in the Supreme Court ) that only around Rs 10-11 lakh crore of money will return.

Hence, it was speculated that the remaining, ie Rs 4-5 lakh crore would be illegal money that’ll get perished outside the formal system, which will then be available to the government in the form of a surplus from the RBI. But, a clarification from RBI governor Urjit Patel later, who ruled out any such plan, weakened this theory.

Now the hard numbers conclusively tell us there is not even room for any such discussion. The public has validated all that was invalidated by PM Modi on the evening of 8 November.

Also, the process isn’t over yet. The window for majority public to deposit their old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes got over by the 30 December but those Indians who were abroad during 9 November to 30 December have been given a three-month period till 31 March to deposit the banned notes, while for non-resident Indians (NRIs), the window is actually open for the six months until 30 June.

This means, there is a good possibility that even the last paise of the demonetised currency would safely return to the bank accounts and will throw a challenge to the taxman. The next task — separating the bad money from the good — is duly his responsibility. Assuming the public validates the entire lot of demonetised currency, whether the tax department has the infrastructure and resources to scrutinise the entire transactions and how much time will be needed for this exercise to show results are all questions that need answers.

As this writer has pointed out repeatedly, the tangible gains of demonetisation will come only if the taxmen manage to lay their hands on a substantiated chunk of illegal cash in the demonetisation exercise. The other gains of note ban — widening tax net, change to a cashless economy — will be visible only in the long term. If this doesn’t happen, the Modi government will find it hard to explain the gains seen against the losses to the economy and pain to common man.

But, this is one side of the picture. The other big question is that why such lack of transparency on the part of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to update the figure of old currency deposits. The enthusiasm with which the central bank issued back to back circulars directing public on cash deposits and withdrawals is missing when it comes to being transparent on the figures pertaining to the same subject.

The last time the central bank issued a public notification updating the amount of deposits that reached banks was in early December when it said Rs 12.44 lakh crore deposits in old currencies has reached banks as on 10 December. Almost a month has passed since then and there are no updates on the central banks website about the latest numbers, neither it has divulged the break up of the Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes issued to public in new currency denominations. Such lack of transparency is unprecedented in the operations of central bank on such a major economic exercise impacting most of the 125 crore people of the country.

One of the sad outcomes of the demonetisation episode is the image-crisis the RBI is fighting for giving up its autonomy and credibility. Since beginning, the RBI appeared clueless how to take the demonetisation process ahead from the beginning and faced criticism from former central bankers including Usha Thorat and K C Chakrabarty.

According to a Bloomberg report, the RBI board approved demonetisation less than three hours before Modi announced the decision in a televised address to the nation. Information on how many members favored or opposed the move isn’t “on record,” the RBI said in response to queries from Bloomberg News under the Right to Information Act, the report said. It is not clear why the details of one of the biggest ever disruptive reform steps India has seen isn’t on record. Was the RBI forced to approve the idea of demonetisation is something only time will tell.

The RBI must make public the deposit figures at the earliest. (Firstpost has filed an RTI seeking the details of the deposits in invalidated currencies, the breakup of the new currencies issued and details of consultations that led to the demonetisation announcement. We’ll update our readers on the outcome as soon as RBI responds to the RTI).

There is no reason for the central bank to act in an opaque manner in sharing the details of demonetisation process. This will only add to the confusions and strengthen the criticism that the apex bank has reduced itself to being a mere puppet of the Modi government surrendering its professional integrity and autonomy. It shouldn’t happen. The RBI should once again regain its lost virtues of transparency and independence.

First Published On : Jan 5, 2017 12:44 IST

Demonetisation: RBI shifts focus to lower value currency notes to deal with cash crunch

The government and RBI owned currency printing presses have now started printing more lower denomination notes in a bid to correct the earlier blunder of printing more Rs 2,000 notes, which worsened the cash crunch after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on 8th November.

According to a reply from the the Reserve Bank of India to an RTI query, the central bank said the printing of Rs 500 notes is now in progress.

Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd (SPMCIL), which operates two presses, is at present printing only Rs 500 and lower denominations notes, the RBI said in a reply to the query by activist Anil Galgali. It also said the average production cost of Rs 500 note has not been calculated yet.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI). ReutersReserve Bank of India (RBI). Reuters

Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Reuters

Galgali had asked for information on available old and new currency notes from the central bank. The queries were forwarded to SPMCIL and Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Pvt Ltd under Section 6 (3) of RTI Act 2005. While SPMCIL comes under the finance ministry, the latter is under the RBI.

The query to SMPCIL was then forwarded by the company’s public information officer K P Shrivastav to Bank Notes Press (BNP), Dewas, and Currency Note Press (CNP), Nashik.

The replies assume significance as the RBI has increased the withdrawal limit from ATMs to Rs 4,500 per card from 1 January from Rs 2,500 earlier. Despite the increase in withdrawal limit, customers had been able to withdraw Rs only 4,000 or Rs 2,000 at many ATMs due to no sufficient supply of Rs. 500 notes. However, the situation seems to be gradually changing now.

Reacting to the replies he got, Galgali said he is happy that finally the RBI has started focussing on printing lower denomination notes such as Rs 500, Rs 100, Rs 50, Rs 20 and Rs 10. However, he says he has not got all the details he sought. “The RBI keeps forwarding the RTI queries. Is that a tactics to deny the correct information? It is curious that the central bank has no details of the notes printing with itself and has to redirect the queries to printing presses,” he said.

He expects to get more information on the details he sought in the coming days though he says he is unhappy with the delay in getting them. “It took 25 days for the central bank to give this little details,” he said.

The RBI has already come under criticism for refusing to divulge crucial details related to demonetisation under RTI Act. Responding to a query filed by another activist Venkatesh Nayak, the RBI said it cannot disclose to the minutes of the crucial meetings of central board of directors on the issue of demonetisation citing section 8(1)(a) of the transparency law.

The section states that “Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence.”

In reply to another query, the RBI also refused to give any details about the time it will take to replenish the currency notes.

Former chief information commissioner and RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi had termed RBI’s attitude “sheer arrogance”. “What the RBI is doing by refusing to answer queries under RTI is denying citizens their fundamental rights,” Gandhi had told Firstpost in an interview.

The details Galgali has sought through the RTI is important as the central bank is not giving periodical updates on the currency printing status. The last press release on the subject from the central bank was on 21 December, which said until 19 December it has issued a total of 22.6 billion pieces of notes of various denominations to banks. Of 22.6 billion pieces, 20.4 billion belonged to small denominations of Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50 and Rs 100 and 2.2 billion belonged to higher denominations of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500.

First Published On : Jan 4, 2017 17:21 IST

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