RIGHT TO INFORMATION (r2i)
For BCAJ, April, 2016
DECISION of SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court held that candidates in recruitment examinations can seek scanned copies of answer sheets and tabulation of interview marks under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, but the right to information does not extend to disclosure of names of examiners.
A Bench of Justices M.Y. Eqbal and Arun Mishra in the case ‘Kerela Pub. Service Commn. & Ors. Vs State Information Commn. & Anr’ said disclosure of those who evaluated their mark sheets would not be in public interest.
The Apex Court held:
“The request of the information seeker about the information of his answer sheets and details of the interview marks can be and should be provided to him. It is not something which a public authority keeps it under a fiduciary capacity. Even disclosing the marks and the answer sheets to the candidates will ensure that the candidates have been given marks according to their performance in the exam. This practice will ensure a fair play in this competitive environment, where candidate puts his time in preparing for the competitive exams, but, the request of the information seeker about the details of the person who had examined/checked the paper cannot and shall not be provided to the information seeker as the relationship between the public authority i.e. Service Commission and the Examiners is totally within fiduciary relationship. The Commission has reposed trust on the examiners that they will check the exam papers with utmost care, honesty and impartially and, similarly, the Examiners have faith that they will not be facing any unfortunate consequences for doing their job properly. If we allow disclosing name of the examiners in every exam, the unsuccessful candidates may try to take revenge from the examiners for doing their job properly. This may, further, create a situation where the potential candidates in the next similar exam, especially in the same state or in the same level will try to contact the disclosed examiners for any potential gain by illegal means in the potential exam.”
RTI ACT, 2005
As a part of its e-governance initiatives, the Delhi government will begin accepting online filing of RTI applications within the next 3 months. According to government sources, the online RTI project is in the pipeline along with the project to set up e-Mandis, which will also make the sale of agricultural produce more transparent.
The project will help citizens file applications seeking information pertaining to any government department, make payments online and receive replies through e-mail.
Currently, RTI applications are filed in person or by post.
The online applications, sources said, will have a payment gateway similar to an e-commerce platform and payments will be enabled by credit or debit cards, or netbanking. The government is currently working on setting up the infrastructure to ensure appropriate channeling of applications to the concerned departments. A back-end set up will also have to be created to channel the RTI fees to the concerned department, said sources. In addition, the government is also training its officials to gradually shift the RTI setup to a paperless office. Sources said training of government employees will also take some time before all RTI operations become paperless. The government, however, will rope in various departments to be able to complete the process within the next three months. About the e-Mandi project, sources said it was conceptualised to regulate the prices of agricultural produce and eliminate the monopoly of some vendors. This will ensure that details of all products are online. If the sale of some product is stuck, their availability or otherwise can be seen online, said a source. The project is still nascent and will take time to be planned and executed. While both the projects have received the government’s nod, the cost involved in setting them up is still being worked out, said officials. The majority of the expenses, they said, would be on setting up the online platforms and back-end operations.
PART : C
INFORMATION ON & AROUND
An RTI query filed by activist Anil Galgali has revealed that the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) incurs a monthly expenditure of Rs 7.7 lakh to pay the officers on special duty (OSD). Galgali feels that the performance of these officers ought to be evaluated and appraised to justify the remuneration.
The CMO, however, feels these OSDs are discharging important duties. "All these officers have contributed immensely in various projects and flagship programmes of the government and the chief minister monitors their performance personally", the CMO reacted in a written note. It mentioned that governance programmes, such as Aaple Sarkar, Right to Services Act and War Room that led to "good and speedy governance" were handled by OSDs.
The state is also using modern communication platforms such Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. These candidates are handling it for the government to make the state schemes and decisions reach out to people. The OSDs have played an important role in the recent Make in India Week. The CMO still has vacancy for two OSDs.
Logo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's much-hyped Make in India initiative, which aims to brand India as a manufacturing hub is designed by a foreign company's Indian arm, reveals an RTI query. Replying to query by a Madhya Pradesh-based activist, Chandra Shekhar Gaur, Union Commerce and Industry ministry replied, "No tenders were invited for designing Make in India logo. In 2014-15, tenders were invited by the ministry for appointing a creative agency. And on the basis on this tender, Weiden+Kennedy India Limited, was chosen".
While replying to another query, the ministry informed that Weiden+Kennedy India Limited was hired for Rs 11 crore for advertising and promotion of Make In India, campaign, for 3 years — Rs 4.32 crore for financial year 2014-15, Rs 3.6 crore each for 2015-16 & 2016-17, said the reply in last week of December.
Speaking to TOI, Gaur said, "It feels good to hear about 'Make in India' and the campaign also talks good about our country. It's a good initiative, but it would have been better and sent a stronger message if this was done by an Indian firm. There is no dearth of creative talent in India."
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Madras High Court Bench has refused to furnish information sought for by an advocate under the RTI Act, since “it is not readily available and collection of the same involves verification of voluminous records and huge manpower which is not possible.”
K.H. Elavazhagan, Registrar (Administration)-cum-PIO of the Bench, had said so in a written reply sent to the RTI applicant, A. Kannan, who had sought details of private cases filed by law officers representing the State government before their appointment to the posts of Special Government Pleader, Additional Public Prosecutor and Government Advocate in June 2011.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has one of the largest residences among politicians in the country, bigger than even the Prime Minister's official abode at 7 Race Course Road in size. President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari are the only others who can boast of set-ups more palatial than the politically potent 10 Janpath. But while Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Vice-President's residence and 7 RCR are official residences, Gandhi's home at 10 Janpath is specifically allotted to her, irrespective of her status as Member of Parliament. The Gandhi residence is spread over 15,181 sq m while the Prime Minister's, is smaller at 14,101 sq m, according to the Central Public Works Department.
Fifteen years after its verdict that the confidence of litigants would be shaken if judgments were kept pending for years, the Supreme Court recently refused to share information under the RTI Act on the cases reserved for judgment. It also dismissed a plea to maintain the data on its pending judgments and make the information public under the RTI Act.
Closing the option for litigants and public-spirited persons to know details of cases which have been waiting endlessly for final decision, even though arguments are long over, the apex court refused to interfere with a Delhi High Court decision which said the court registry could not be directed to collect information on how long judgments on cases remained pending under the Right to information Act.
After a case is heard by a court, it reserves its verdict in the case. There is a certain time gap between this and declaration of the court’s decision or judgment. The case remains pending till the judgment is delivered. However, the Supreme Court’s refusal to be made accountable under the RTI Act is despite the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling to disclose the number of pending or “reserved” judgments.
Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar had released Rs. 14.30 crore for the state in 2014-15 under the discretionary fund. However, an RTI reply from the government has revealed that it has not spent a penny of this fund in Gurgaon.
The government in its reply said Rs. 8.76 crore, a whopping 60% of the entire amount was spent in Karnal, the CM’s constituency.
Chief Ministers’ discretionary fund is meant to provide immediate relief during calamities, disasters and other similar incidents when the other government machinery is slow and bound by rules and regulations. The apex court in 2011 had upheld this quota stating that the power of the chief minister to give monetary relief was power accompanied with duty.
While the funds in the CM’s discretionary quota are meant exclusively for an emergency, what is surprising is that Khattar has bestowed a major part of his largesse to only six villages in Karnal for development work.
PART : D
ETHICS, GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY
Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency. In a free society, transparency is government's obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood. This transparency allows good and just governance.