Posts Tagged ‘CIC’

Dear Concerned Citizen,

This is your chance to tell the administration of NITW to implement RTI act in its true spirit. Help improve the administration of institutes like NIT.Click to sign the petition.Sign the petition

Asthra was formed by a few like minded students and alumni of National Institute of   Technology(NIT), Warangal,Andhra Pradesh. With an aim to bring in more  transparency and accountability in the education system. Since then, we have been trying our best to make sure that the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act is implemented in letter and spirit in NITW. While we have been partly successful in making them disclose certain details, a lot needs to be done.

This campaign is an effort to pressurize and awaken the administration of NITW. Your invaluable support in this endeavour will go a long way in changing things at NITW and thereby triggering a change in the education system at large.

We request you to sign this petition and show your support.

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The central information commission (CIC) has directed the Supreme Court (SC) to make public the list of all such cases where the arguments were over, but judgments were reserved. Currently, the apex court does not maintain case details in this form either on its website or on any other platform where public can access it.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court’s public information officer argued that the court ordinarily passed orders within 2 – 4 weeks of reserving the orders. “About those few rare cases in which orders were not passed for a longer period, no specific data was being maintained,” said Smita Vats Sharma, CPIO.

The CIC ruled that the total number of such cases in which orders were reserved should be duly intimated to the general public. “Now that the benefit of computerization is available, placing such data in the public domain should not be particularly difficult. Therefore, if the Supreme Court is not maintaining such data, it should do so now in order to facilitate the citizens to learn about the status of pendency before the Supreme Court,” said the order.

The CIC was hearing the case of commodore Lokesh K Batra. In December, the applicant filed RTI application with the high court and Supreme Court asking the total number of cases pending for judgements where arguments had been heard and Judgements are reserved in the year 2007, 2008 and 2009.

While the high court provided him with the data, the apex court told him that it did not maintain data in that manner making the applicant move the CIC.

“The supreme court said that  it does not have the data on cases where judgments were not passed beyond 2- 3 months of the closure of arguments. Does that mean that such cases would never come beofe the benches? This is absurd,” said the applicant.

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New Delhi, Jul 1, DHNS

In a decision that may embarrass an embattled UPA government, the Central Information Commission on Friday held that the Centre’s action in placing the CBI on the list of organisations exempted to provide information under the RTI Act was against the spirit of the Constitution.

The CIC order comes within weeks of the Union Government’s controversial notification issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on June 9 which put the CBI in the second schedule of the Right to Information Act 2005. This enabled the CBI exemption available to “security and intelligence” organisations like IB and RAW from the scope of the transparency law.

The June order of the government was criticised by various quarters as CBI is already investigating cases relating to Common Wealth Games 2010 and 2G spectrum scam. “This commission rules that the said notification of 9/6/2011 is not in consonance with the letter or spirit of section 24 of the RTI Act, since it constricts the citizen’s fundamental right in a manner not sanctioned by the law,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

The Commission quashed the notification by allowing a complaint filed by Justice (Retired) R N Mishra seeking copy of the FIR and other details relating to Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam case which had put several members of judiciary including the higher judiciary under the scanner for allegedly swindling employees’ money for personal gains. After going through the functioning and mandate of the CBI, the apex panel under the transparency law ruled that CBI is not an “intelligence or security organisation”.

“Since no reasons have been advanced, citizens are likely to deduce that the purpose of including CBI in the second schedule was to curb transparency and accountability from the investigations of several corruption cases against high-ranking government officers,” Gandhi said, noting that the CBI was a multi-disciplinary investigating agency. Rejecting the CBI plea, the commission directed the probe agency to provide the details sought by Mishra by July 25.

Also the notification issued by DoPT on June 9 would be construed as prospective in nature only without there being any “express stipulation” in it.

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The Government says it is working for a tough anti-corruption body through the Lokpal Bill. But it is now defending its action of shielding the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the Right to Information (RTI) Act.  “The CBI is investigating various matters which involve national security. Therefore based on the opinion given to us by the Attorney General, we have done it (exempted the CBI),” V Narayanaswamy, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, told NDTV on Monday.

The CBI has refused to make public, the information about disproportionate asset cases against government servants, including bureaucrats and ministers. The Centre, through a notification issued on June 9, had placed the agency in the organisations listed in the second schedule of Section 24 of the RTI Act, which also comprises intelligence and security agencies. “The Government of India…has placed the Central Bureau of Investigation at Serial Number 23 of the second schedule of the Right to Information Act, this act is not applicable to the Central Bureau of Investigation,” CBI joint director Prabodh Kumar said in reply to an RTI application filed by activist SC Agarwal.

Mr Agrawal had filed four RTI applications, three months before CBI got exemption, seeking details of corruption cases accusing officials and ministers of amassing disproportionate assets. The questions asked by him pertained to recoveries done by the agency from the accused and fine slapped on corrupt officials on the orders of courts.

The Central Public Information Officer of the agency refused to provide information, saying it was “voluminous”.

In his appeal before the Central Information Commission, Mr Agrawal pleaded that since his petition and first appeal were filed prior to date of notification exempting CBI, provisions of the said notification should not be applicable to his case. “Even otherwise, section 24 of RTI Act clearly stipulates that information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violation shall be provided even if some organisations are placed in second schedule of RTI Act,” Mr Agarwal said.

Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah has criticised the CBI’s stand.  “Exempting CBI would amount to misapplication of Section 24 of the RTI Act much against the intention of Parliament, and militating against a primary objective of the Act, which as stated in the Objects and Reasons is ‘to contain corruption’,” Mr Habibullah said. The former Chief Information Commissioner who demitted office on September 30 last year said apprehensions cited in some quarters that through RTI Act CBI could be “compelled” to give sensitive information about probe cases, and reveal identity of crucial witness, are “mistaken” as section 8 of the RTI Act provides safeguards against such information.

CBI sources told PTI that the provisions of section 8 of the RTI Act, 2005 gives case-to-case basis of application of exemption. However, they said it is not possible to decide in such a fashion on secrecy of individual documents or pieces of information. “Seemingly innocuous or unobjectionable” pieces of information might seem harmless but when placed in conjunction with each other, the “mosaic of a dangerous picture” affecting the security of the nation can emerge, they said.

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has said a government order allowing transfer of RTI applications from a public authority to another was “not consistent with law”. It also allowed disclosure of information related to fuel expenses of Cabinet ministers, state ministers and Opposition party leader.

In its June 2008 circular on transferring RTI applications, cases in which information is scattered across number of public authorities, the department of training and personnel (DoPT) had said such transfers can be allowed only once.

The point was raised by the cabinet secretariat during a hearing of a plea filed by Mumbai based RTI activist Chetan Kothari. The cabinet secretariat had said information is not maintained centrally, and is scattered across different public authorities.

Citing the DoPT order on transfer of application, it had asked Kothari to file separate RTI applications with different departments to get the information.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, however, said, “There are numerous instances where RTI applications have been transferred by one public authority to another and none of them appears to know where the information is.”

Gandhi said in this scenario for public authorities to take a position that they would only transfer to one public authority is “unreasonable”, and the law does not state this. “There is nothing in the (RTI) Act which would shows that Parliament intended that the transfer should only be to one public authority.”

He added, “It also appears that DoPT’s office memorandum is in contravention of the General Clauses Act 1987 and interpreted Section 6(3) of the RTI Act wrongly… The Commission rules that DoPT’s office memorandum is not consistent with the law.”

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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed Rajya Sabha to disclose the register of members’ interest submitted by MPs to the Ethics Committee [Please find the order:CIC ORDER]. The information relates to MP’s declarations of Remunerative Directorship, Regular Remunerated Activity, Shareholding of Controlling Nature, Paid Consultancy, Professional Engagement.

The decision was based on an appeal filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) after being denied the information by Rajya Sabha Secretariat claiming that the information was personal in natured and held in fiduciary capacity.

However, the grounds on which the RTI and the 1st Appeal was rejected by the PIO and the Appellate Authority were not found relevant by the Chief Information Commissioner, Mr. Satyananda Mishra.

The information sought included copies of the statements of current members of the Rajya Sabha submitted under ‘register of members’ (business and commercial) interest’. The application also requested information as to how many Rajya Sabha members had given this information and how many hadn’t.

ADR had filed the RTI application with Rajya Sabha Secretariat on July 20, 2009. The RTI when rejected was followed by the 1st appeal which was also rejected by the Appellate Authority. The appellate authority this time added sub section (1) (c) (breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature) of section 8 of the RTI Act.

The CIC ruled that, “The knowledge among the citizens about the pecuniary interest of MPs in various companies and other business establishments would help them to keep a better watch on their representatives when they would be with policy and other legislative matters affecting the interests of such companies and business interests”.

This information pertains only to Rajya Sabha MPs as such a rule is not there in Lok Sabha. ADR has sent letters to the Lok Sabha speaker and to the members and  chairman of the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha requesting them to introduce the register of members’ interest in the Lok Sabha too. We are however yet to hear from them.

As soon as we get this information, we will analyse and share with everyone.

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In a landmark decision that may make India’s parliamentarians more accountable and help expose unsavoury links between high-stakes business and power politics, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that pecuniary interests of MPs in various companies must be made public.

The obvious rationale behind the CIC’s decision of June 3 is to help people keep “a better watch” on parliamentarians with stakes in big business and industrial establishments. The other reason, though not explicitly reasoned out in the CIC’s order, could also prevent lobbying by big business who, as in the Nira Radia case, often times influence MPs’ positions and other policy decisions. 

The CIC decision came in the wake of RTI application filed by New Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms National Coordinator Anil Bairwal whose plea that he be furnished with copies of statements of all current Rajya Sabha members having pecuniary interests in business houses was initially rejected by the Rajya Sabha information officer and the Upper House’s appellate authority. 

The plea taken by the Rajya Sabha was that information related to House members with “remunerative directorship, regular remunerative activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement” in any company “might not be provided to the public since the information was available to the secretariat in a fiduciary relationship”.

The Upper House also held that Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee (members) were not obligated to “provide such information as it was covered under the exempt category under Section 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information Act, 2005”. Yet another inexplicable reason given by the Rajya Sabha to deny information to Bairwal was that “it was personal in nature, the disclosure of which had no relationship to any public activity or interest”.

Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra’s order overturned the Rajya Sabha’s stand, saying that the CIC was “firmly of the view that the disclosure of desired information would serve a larger public interest”. According to the commission, “It is the standard practice that people in positions where they can make decisions or influence policies affecting the financial and other interests of companies should ordinarily recuse themselves from such a process, if they themselves have an interest in those specific companies or the class of enterprises, to avoid conflict of interest”.

Speaking to Deccan Herald over phone from Delhi, Bairwal said the position taken by the Rajya Sabha, which had rejected his application (first submitted two years ago) twice earlier was “against the spirit” of the RTI Act. 

“What is ominous is that the Upper House’s Ethic Committee did not want to disclose information that members submit for registration in the Register of Members’ Interest under Rule 293 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States”.

Bairwal said that Mishra’s order could go a long way in preventing lobbying by firms in which some MPs might hold stakes or have other pecuniary interests. 
The CIC’s order would then be in line with the ethics rules of the United States Congress which clearly states that “House Members…should never accept “benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance” of (their) official duties. 

Besides, the House of Representatives’ Ethic Committee “found that this standard was violated, for example, when a Member persuaded the organisers of a privately held bank to sell him stock while he was using his congressional position to promote authorisation for the establishment of the bank.”

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The Central Information Commission(CIC) will on Friday decide whether business and commercial interests of Rajya Sabha members can be made public. The information if made public will ensure greater transparency, probity and accountability of public representatives.

According to the rules of the RS Ethics Committee, all members are expected to declare five pecuniary interests — remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement.

The RS secretariat had rejected making public the information on the argument that it was held in a fiduciary capacity. It also held that this was personal information disclosing which would not serve any larger public interest. Making it public would also amount to breach of privilege of Parliament, it had said.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had in 2009 filed the Right to Information application, asking for the `register of interests’ to be made public. In its second appeal, the organization has held that the information related to the `register’ must be disclosed. ADR has argued that since parliamentarians are expected to and usually claim to work in public interest, disclosure of financial interests will promote transparency.

ADR’s national coordinator Anil Bairwal said that parliamentarians were engaged in policy making covering a wide spectrum of issues and dealing with a large amount of public funds that makes it essential for pecuniary interests of MPs be made public. “The information in the register of interest is not information that will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of MPs and is already available through a variety of sources,” Bairwal said arguing that the information should be made public.

Incidentally, ADR wrote to MPs asking them to voluntarily declare their information under the `register of interest’ information. Six MPs have agreed to do so. Congress leader and chairman of the RS Ethics Committee Karan Singh, Independent MP from Karnataka Rajeev Chandrasekhar, SAD member from Punjab Naresh Gujral, and nominated members Shyam Benegal, M S Swaminathan and H K Dua have expressed their intention to make their business and commercial interests public.

Reacting to this, Bairwal said, “We believe that many more MPs are ready to disclose their information submitted for register of members interest.”

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The Central Information Commission has asked Rajya Sabha Chairman to take a decision on whether disclosure of file notes, under the RTI Act, on notices and questions received from members will be a breach of Parliamentary privilege.

The transparency panel, while deciding the case of an RTI applicant who had sought to know questions and discussions that took place in the Rajya Sabha against the Central Information Commission, has referred the issue of privilege to the Chairman of the House.

Applicant Anita Chabra had also demanded note sheets prepared by the Secretariat on these questions and notices for discussions received from members. The information was denied by the Secretariat citing section 8(1)(c) of the RTI Act which exempts from disclosure information which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

“This Commission realises that there is no exact codification of Parliamentary Privilege. In view of this the Commission requests the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to consider whether giving this information would be a breach of privilege of the Parliament,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

He directed that disclosure of information would depend on the decision of Chairman Rajya Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat , while declining to disclose the information, had said it works on the behalf of the Chairman and decisions like notices received from the MPs are taken in terms of the Rules of Procedure of the House.

“…and in this process the Secretariat is exercising the powers and functions of Chairman Rajya Sabha. The decisions arrived at in terms of the said rules are privileged and protected from disclosure into the public domain,” the Secretariat said.

It said the control on the business of the house falls with the jurisdiction of the house itself and this is the Parliament Privilege.

“This being so, it is not felt appropriate to divulge the decision taking process in relation to the business of the house,” it said.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “This is an interesting proposition but if this is to be accepted, various protection given to certain bodies would be extended far beyond its intended purpose.”

He pointed out when any institution or person denies a citizen’s fundamental right, great care needs to be taken.

“However, the majesty and privilege of the Parliament also have to be respected with equal care for democracy to function properly…If the Honourable Chairman comes to the conclusion that giving this information will not be a breach of privilege of Parliament the PIO is directed to provide the information,” Gandhi held.

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The Central Information Commission has ruled that annual confidential reports of government servants cannot be treated as secret, saying “citizens’ right to information has greater primacy with regard to privacy.” The government has, so far, refused to provide the annual confidential reports (ACRs) by citing the exemption provision of personal information under the Right To Information Act (RTI).

The ACR evaluates the work and performance of a public servant on an annual basis. The labour ministry invoked the clause saying the information had no relation to public interest, while refusing to provide details of ACRs of 17 officials.

VK Sharma of Kolkata had sought information regarding the promotion of these officers in October 2010.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, however, said that privacy is a cultural notion related to social norms and cannot be considered a valid exercise to constrain the citizen’s fundamental right to information.

“Parliament has not codified the right to privacy, so far. Hence, in balancing the right to information of citizens and the individual’s right to privacy, the citizen’s right to information would be given greater weightage,” said Gandhi, in his order.

Gandhi also said information such as property details, conviction or acquittal of a public servant of criminal charges, which is routinely collected by a public authority and provided by public servants, cannot be construed as an invasion of privacy.

“Similarly, citizens have a right to know about the strengths and weaknesses as well as performance evaluation of all public servants,” he said, while asking Prakash Tamrakar, public information officer of the ministry, to provide the information sought.

In addition, the order also said that ACRs were first treated as secret by the British, under the Officials Secrets Act of 1923.

But over the years, the trend has drastically changed, with even the judiciary recognising rights of the citizens to access information to bring transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government.

As per the RTI, the Officials Secrets Act (OSA) is not applicable anymore wherever citizens seek access to information, except the exemption provisions under the information law.

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