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Notice to CPIO and FAA

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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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If you buy electricity from Reliance Energy, you can now get any information from the parent company — Reliance Infrastructure — using the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.

The state information commission has stated that suburban power supplier Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) comes under the ambit of the RTI Act.

Justifying the order, the commission said though RInfra is a private company, Reliance Energy provides essential public service, and hence should come under the Act.

On Tuesday, state chief information commissioner Vilas Patil, state information commissioner (Amravati bench) Bhaskar Patil and state information commissioner (Nashik bench) M Shah directed RInfra to appoint a public information officer and a first appellate authority.

The order comes in the wake of a complaint filed by RTI activist Anil Galgali.

In his RTI application to Reliance Energy, Galgali had sought details of his electricity meter connection.

Reliance Energy declined to provide the information saying it is a private firm and the RTI Act does not apply to it.

The firm’s vice-president argued that since the government does not provide monetary or any other kind of assistance nor is the firm formed by the constitution or any act of the state or assembly, it is not a public company and hence out of the ambit of the Act.
Galgali counter-argued that as RInfra was formed under the Company Act and functioned as a public utility, it should come under the Act.

After hearing both sides, the commission stated that since the company was formed and given work under the Electricity Act, 2003, and supplying power is a public service under this Act.

“I am happy with the state information commission’s order as it is in favour of the public. It is a win situation for Mumbaikars,” said Galgali.

The order stated that other power suppliers in the state come under the RTI Act as they “supply essential service” and so consumers buying electricity from them were at an advantage as they could seek information.

The commission also referred to the definition of the word licence, which is given to REL for supplying electricity. “If a license is coupled with a grant or interest than the grantor cannot in general revoke it so as to defeat the grant to which it is incident. In order to grant license a man need not be its owner,” the order stated.

ash“We have received the said order. It is being examined and will take steps as available under the law,” said the spokesperson of RInfra.

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report_reliance-infra-comes-under-rti-info-panel_1567799

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The Madras high court has held that assets details of IAS officers furnished to the government in a sealed cover can be made available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Inspection of asset details of the officer concerned can be allowed as well, it further held.

An appeal by V Madhav said that on February 12, 2009, he applied to the public information officer (PIO) of the public department seeking permission to inspect the five latest statements of assets’ disclosure submitted by 10 IAS officers, including the chief secretary. It was rejected by the PIO and the appellate authority on the grounds that the information was exempt under Section 8(1) (j) of the RTI Act.

The information commission contended that the assets declaration related details were personal information, the disclosure of which would have no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual. The commission also said the information furnished in a sealed cover is “held” by the government to ensure confidentiality.

While the government pleader said the information about the IAS officers in question was made available on the website as per a circular of the Union ministry of personnel , public grievances and pension dated April 4, 2011, V Krishna Ananth, counsel for the petitioner, said the information on a website may not be authentic as it was liable for hacking. The information also had no evidentiary value , he said.

In light of the direction from the central government on disclosure of assets by IAS officers, counsel contended there could not be any impediment for the Commission to allow the appellant to access information sought for in his application. In its order, the bench of justices D Murugesan and K K Sasidharan said, “We find force in the above submission.”

Passing orders, the bench held that the disclosure of such information under the provisions of the act would ensure a culture of openness. A sound administrative system leading to efficiency and effectiveness could be achieved. It would further result in involving a better form of government, the bench said, adding that the relief sought for in the writ appeal be considered.

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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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