BCAS Foundation

Bombay Chartered Accountants’ Society

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RTI/NV 90

14.12.2015

Dear Friends of RTI

Greetings from BCAS Foundation!

Herewith my article of December 2015, 90th since I started mailing in April 2008.

Hereunder, interesting details obtained under RTI about what the Prime Minister retained out of gifts received in foreign visits as reported in Outlook dated 14.12.2015:

Guess what the PM has chosen to keep of the 169 gifts and counting he has received on his foreign visits? Well, among the receipts are a jewellery set worth Rs 35 lakh – dignitaries aren’t allowed to keep gifts valued over Rs 4,500 but many pay the difference and keep them – but what our ‘bachelor Pradhan Sevak’ chose to retain, an RTI application revealed, are a carpet, two photo frames, a painting, a chessboard, a set of bow and arrows and a ‘ceremonial dress’.

R2i Jai ho!

With regards

Narayan Varma

Trustee: BCAS Foundation                                                                                                                                          

Encl.: 2 Articles – RTI & Cancerous Corruption of December 2015

1005C/RTI/NV90


RIGHT TO INFORMATION (R2I)

For BCAJ, December, 2015

Narayan Varma

Chartered Accountant

PART   A:

DECISION of CIC

·     Whether PIO can file a Writ against order of the appellate authority – CIC:

The petitioner is the Public Information Officer, Syndicate Bank Regional Office at Mugulrajapuram, Vijayawada, under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short ‘the Act’).

The AP High Court held:

This court is of the opinion that the Writ Petition, filed by the Public Information Officer, is not maintainable because even though he is an employee, he is designated as Public Information Officer, who is charged with the duty of dealing with the requests of persons seeking information and render reasonable assistance to such persons. Under Section 7 of the Act, the Public Information Officer shall dispose of the requests received by him either by providing information on payment of the prescribed fee or by rejecting the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the Act. A persons, who does not receive a decision within the time specified under sub-section 1 of Section 7 of the Act or is aggrieved by the decision of the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, is entitled to file an appeal to such Officer, who is senior in rank of the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer. A second appeal against such decision shall lie to the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission as the case may be.

The scheme of the Act, discussed above would reveal that every Public Information Officer nominated as such under the Act has a dual role to play vis., as an officer of the Public Authority and also the Public Information Officer. While such Officer is loyal to his employer while acting in his role as the Officer, he acts as a quasi-judicial authority while disposing of the request made for furnishing information. His orders are subject to further appeals. Therefore, in the opinion of this Court, the Public Information Officer cannot dawn the role of the Officer of the Public Authority in relation to the orders passed by the appellate authorities against the orders passed by him. If his order is reversed by the appellate authority, he cannot be treated as aggrieved party giving rise to a cause of action for him to question such Orders. It is only either the public authority, against whom the directions are given, or any other party, who feels aggrieved by such directions, that can question the orders passed by the appellate authorities. As such, the Public Information Officer, who filed this Writ Petition, is wholly incompetent to questions the order of the appellate authority and the Writ Petition filed by him is not maintainable.

Even on merits, this Court has no hesitation to hold that the information sought for by respondent No. 2 does not fall within the exempted category under Section 8 (1) (h) of the Act because that information, which respondent No. 2 has sought, relates to pending proceedings before the Debt Recovery Tribunal. However, what is exempted under section 8 (1) (h) is information, which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of respondent of offenders. It is not the pleaded case of the Bank that any investigation or apprehension or prosecution of respondent No. 2 will be impeded by furnishing information sought for by him. Even if the information relates to a pending dispute before a Court or Tribunal, that would not fall under Section 8 (1) (h) of the Act.

For the above-mentioned reasons, the Writ Petition is dismissed.

 

PART B:

RTI ACT, 2005

·     Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner Mr. Ratnakar Gaikwad has said:

Ten years after the Act s enacted, Gaikwad said the public authorities still do not think it necessary to put out all information, though Section 4 of the RTI Act requires it.

On the performance of information commissioners in Maharashtra, Gaikwad said there were two aspects: Quantitative and qualitative. “In the last decade, around 44 lakh RTI queries were received across the state and 99% disposed of. Of the 1.54 lakh queries that have gone into appeal, 1.2 lakh have been disposed of. As on September 30, around 30,000 are pending,” he said.

The state information commissioner also wants a provision to be introduced in the Act to punish those who use it for blackmail. “Such persons must be blacklisted,” he said, adding that there must be a limit on the number of RTIs a person can file before the same PIO in a month.

 

PART   :  C

INFORMATION ON & AROUND

·     Attack on RTI activist in Latur:

The entire episode of this attack was recorded on cell and the video was circulated widely. When on my cell, I went through it for nearly 40 minutes tears flew from eyes. What inhuman activities by Shiv-Sena workers. (If any one desires to view video, call me on 9821096052, I shall forward it).

A Right to Information (RTI) activist from Latur, Mallikarjun Bhaikkatti, was brutally beaten and his face blackened allegedly by Shiv Sena activists on the premises of a college in the district in from of over 2,000 students, teachers, staff and onlookers.  The activist had sought information through RTI queries, about unauthorised construction activity.

Sena youth wing president Aaditya Thackeray said that those responsible for thrashing Bhaikkatti had been dismissed by the party. “Heard of the unfortunate incident in Latur. The party strongly condemns the disgraceful act. Those involved have been moved from the party,” he tweeted.

Senior member of the institution which runs the college, Shivaji Bhosle, has been arrested and the police have launched a manhunt for around 25 Sena activists.

Bhaikkatti told TOI, “A group of people with saffron scarves waiting in an SUV with a Shiv Sena emblem assaulted me. They dragged me into their car where they beat me, snatched my phone, and brought me to Shahu junior college campus. They kicked and showered blows on me while some assaulted me with belts and iron rods. They poured wangan lubricant on me.”

District Police Chief Dnyaneshwar Chavan told TOI that they have photos of the incident and are trying to zero in on the culprits based on the pictures.

·     RTI activist receives 32kg of ‘replies’:

An RTI activist, who was denied information by panchayat officials for his queries under Right to Information Act, finally received 32 kilos of papers as replies after waiting for eight months.

Danial Jesudas had requested information on the expenditure and details of work sanctioned by the executive officer of Vellalore town panchayat for a period of six months from August 2014 to February 2015.

He finally received the reply, costing the government more than `11,000. As per the courier slip, courier charges alone were `1,130 and the weight of the bundle was 32 kilos. “The panchayat officials told me they spent over `9,000 just on photo copies,” he said.

·     3 RTI Activists sad story:

Three RTI activists were arrested in the last week of September on the charge of running an extortion racket targeting builders. The Mulund police said that Laxminarayan Shetty, Pankaj Chandanshive and Anil Mhaske had demanded `2 lakh from a developer for not filing complaints with various government departments.

The developer, sanjay Gharat, had planned to refurbish an old house with the help of his relative. In January, Shetty allegedly met him and sought `1 lakh for not blocking the repairs by filing a complaint with the local BMC ward office.

According to the first information report (FIR), Gharat paid `50,000. But a few months later, Chandanshive again approached Gharat and demanded `1 lakh. The developer paid `10,000.

Earlier this month, Mhaske allegedly tried to extract more money by saying that Shetty and Chandanshive were part of this group.

This time, Gharat alerted the Mulund police, who arrested the three men. Cops sought their remand for seven days, saying they wanted to find out if the trio was part of a bigger extortion ring that targeted builders. The court granted the request.

Shetty and Chandanshive have two previous criminal cases pending against them.

 

PART   :  D

ETHICS, GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY

A democracy can only be as strong as its institutions. A vibrant and effective democracy needs to be underpinned by strong institutional support. Unfortunately, there has been a serious and long-term undermining of institutions crucial for India’s governance. This include governors, C & AG, public service commissions, Lok Ayuktas, election commissioners at the state and central levels, higher civil services, police, and regulatory bodies. Each of these institutions has been deliberately undermined and weakened over the years.