<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An RTI applicant was denied information about the occupation certificate and ground floor plan of a ward office by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) stating that it will be a threat to security.While denying such information, it cited an order from former chief information commissioner which was itself corrected after much hue and cry as it blocked giving away details of buildings under RTI.Girish Mittal, Borivli resident, had filed an RTI application with the R/Central (Borivli) ward office, seeking details of reason along with file notings on why only one entry gate was open to the public for entry, reason for not allowing public to park in the ward’s premises, the DC rules on the two subject, the occupation certificate and the ground floor lay out.While replying to the information, the public information officer cited an order of former chief information commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad’s order which stated that due to security reasons the building plan not be provided. Often alleged to be the most corrupt department, Gaikwad’s order attracted sharp criticism and a clarification as activists said that terrorists did not need to file an RTI application to access building details.Gaikwad then issued a clarification which categorically stated that parking, cross section of building, occupancy certificate, and other relevant details be provided under RTI except internal details of the building.”It is a classic case of officers being well aware of all the negative orders that block transparency and little that promote it. There was a clarification on this order,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner.”There is no question that such information cannot be provided. What they cannot provide is internal detailing. That is what was decided in the technical advisory committee of the BMC which decides what to give under RTI,” said Bhaskar Prabhu.
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It’s ironic that every few years, in a state that prides itself on implementing the transparency act before the central Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence, it faces imminent death due to neglect. Incidentally, a month before its 13th anniversary, the state information commission has its highest-ever pendency.At last count in August 2017, around 41,682 (39,184 second appeals and 2,498 complaints) were pending, almost double from over five years ago when 23,921 was considered to be the lowest in years as there were only four commissioners. In contrast, there are seven commissioners.However, except for the Brihanmumbai bench, all benches have pending second appeals that are more than 1,000 with the Nashik bench having a maximum pending appeals at over 10,000 as on August 2017. The Brihanmumbai bench, which has the lowest, had 626 second appeals pending in August 2017. Three benches that have new appointments since January have almost the same pending appeals as they were before they joined. These are Nashik, Nagpur and Amravati. There has been no drastic change in the number of pending second appeals, considering that it has been over six months. At the three places, the pending remains more or less the same. At Nashik, it continues to be over 10,000 while at Nagpur and Amravati it is over 1,000 and 6,500 respectively.At the headquarter bench, which fell vacant barely three months ago, the pending appeals have already reached over 1,800. Complaints, which are also filed because commission orders are not implemented, appointing of commissioners, and the quality of commissioners, has always been blamed as the prime reason for “killing of the RTI Act by government” by RTI activist.In May, the outgoing chief commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad and former central information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi had written to the government to appoint commissioners. Gandhi went on to state that some RTI activist be appointed and even suggested some names.”Government needs to appoint commissioners. When they are appointing, there should be an advertisement and minimum clearance of appeals and complaints need to be set that should be followed by all commissioners. The government should also consider appointing legal officers and increasing staff that is often on deputation and leaves. It should be accountable for delays that happen. The working pattern is not good in the commission,” said Bhaskaar Prabhu, an RTI activist.AWAITING ATTENTIONNashik with 1,000 has the maximum number of pending second appeals. The Brihanmumbai bench has the lowest number of pending second appeals at 626.PENDING APPEALSPending second appeals as of August 2017:Headquarter: 1,872Brihanmumbai: 626Konkan: 4,026Pune: 7,766Aurangabad: 6,507Nashik: 10,141Nagpur: 1,197
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner (CIC) on Sunday, speaking at a seminar, asked RTI propagators to seek information that is important, of public interest and get information commissions to pass order that such information should be part of section 4 (suo motu disclosure).Gandhi said, “I have filed a complaint for details of welfare funds to be put online by the government. An order was given by the commission but the details are still not up. I am now trying to follow that up with RTI applications. It may take time for them to upload but it’s important that information that could be of interest to citizens be given suo motu by public authorities. Such information citizens will be able to decide better as compared to details like salaries that are also to be given under suo motu disclosure. If authorities haven’t put up such information, then you should take up the issue and get the commission to pass orders for its implementation.”Gandhi also asked those gathered to use Act 21 of the state government that talks about disciplinary action on government servants. The Act is called Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005. “While under RTI, disciplinary action can only be recommended, in this Act, if a file is not cleared in 45 days, disciplinary action can be taken. Most officers fear taking one thinking that it will have long term repercussions on the career of a person but it is a very stringent Act,” said Gandhi.The seminar was organised by NGO Tarun Mitra Mandal to celebrate its 10 years of propagating RTI.
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Noted RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi has urged the Maharashtra government to immediately announce a successor to Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad who is set to retire by the month-end. Gandhi, a former Central Information Commissioner, has written a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, urging him to appoint the next State CIC by this month-end and also name three more Information Commissioners (in addition to existing 7) to help dispose of pending RTI applications. Gaikwad’s five-year term as CIC will end on May 31. “There is a huge backlog in some of the benches of the State Information Commission. This is partly due to not appointing information commissioners in a timely manner since 2005,” Gandhi said in the letter sent to the CM’s Office on Thursday. Currently, about 40,000 cases are pending before the Maharashtra State Information Commission. “Most commissioners in the country dispose of around 3,000 cases a year. The Maharashtra Information Commissioners are reported to be disposing of about 5,000 cases per year,” the letter claimed. He said the situation is “grave” in Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and Amravati divisions, which have more than 5,000 cases pending with each of them. Gandhi said the Right to Information Act permits appointment of up to 11 information commissioners in a state. Hence, steps should be taken to appoint three more commissioners in order to clear the huge backlog of cases in the state.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A city-based RTI activist has urged the Centre that police should be allowed to act “without interference” against Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who allegedly assaulted a senior Air India official last week. The activist, Shailesh Gandhi, in his petition addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also demanded that the Sena MP should be banned from taking the Air India flights for a period of one year. “India is disgusted by the actions of Member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad. He has arrogantly boasted on national television with great pride that he had hit an Air India staff member 25 times with his chappal and feels completely justified. This has also been recorded on video. This is one of the worst cases of VIP racism and hubris,” he said in the petition put up on the Change.org. Gandhi, who had served as the Central Information Commissioner from 2008 to 2012, said, “Citizens are very happy that Air India has decided not to take him as a passenger and other airlines have also followed suit. We applaud the government for supporting Air India’s principled stand. This should apply to any unruly passenger on flights to ensure safety.” He urged the Modi government to ensure that there was no interference in the matter. “Allow the police to proceed as per the law without any interference in this matter and ensure that Air India does not offer him a seat on its flights at least for a period of one year,” he said. “People of the country have noticed that some political parties are defending Gaikwad’s unforgivable actions, but we have faith that your government will not succumb to such pressures,” Gandhi said. 57-year-old Gaikwad, the Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra’s Osmanabad, had slapped and repeatedly hit 60-year-old duty manager with his sandal on March 23 when the official went to persuade him to disembark after he refused to alight, after the Pune-Delhi flight landed in the national capital. He was furious at having to fly on an all-economy flight despite having a business class ticket.(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)
<!– /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.