RIGHT TO INFORMATION (r2i)

 

For BCAJ, July, 2016

In loving Memory of Narayan Varma

 

 

 

PART   A:

DECISION of CIC

·        CIC judgment: Delhi Lt. Governor reports to Centre can be made available under RTI

The decision by Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharayulu stated that the office of the Delhi Lieutenant Governor (LG) was a “public office” under the RTI Act.

“The Commission agrees with the contention of appellant that Article163(3) of the Constitution does not apply to the Union Territory of Delhi, which could be invoked only in case of a full-fledged state and not to a UT with an assembly like Delhi. Delhi is a union territory and there are specific provisions under the Constitution of India in Article 239AA. There is no mention of any provision like protecting the advice given to LG as available under Article 74 (2) (regarding President) and Article 163 (3) (regarding governors). More over Article 163(3) applies specifically to the ‘advice of a Council of Ministers to the Governor’. The information sought here is a report sent by the UT Administrator to Union Government or President. Article 163 has nothing to do with this communication,” says the order.

Going a step further, the CIC has held that even in case of information given to the President or Governor of a state, the material on the basis of which decisions are taken is not privileged information and is open to scrutiny.

“Even in those cases where Article 163(3) applies, there is no immunity from disclosure,” said the order.

“If the documents pertain to affairs of state, they cannot be withheld by state as privileged documents under Evidence Act, but has to disclose under RTI Act, subject only to Section 8 and 9. Privilege for non-disclosure of documents in the name of ‘affairs of state’ under Section 123 of Evidence Act is no more available to any public authority with the advent of transparency regime, which overrides the archaic law of privilege as specified in section 22, Right to Information Act 2005. Privilege as an excuse for secrecy of information about affairs of state is antithesis to democracy, and not available,” held the CIC.

“There is no bar against citizen from having a copy of the advice/report of LG to Union government. The Supreme Court has clarified in a landmark case S R Bommai case that the material forming basis of advice given to Governor could be subject matter of judicial review, which clearly means information could be disclosed,” said the order.

 

 

PART B:     

RTI ACT, 2005

Delhi High Court criticised the Legislative Department for filing un unnecessary Writ Petition against the Order of Central Information Commission (of M Sridhar Acharyulu, CIC) directing the Government to update and upload all the latest amended bare Acts, to examine the functionality of its e-mail ID and develop an appropriate RTI filing mechanism. Justice Manmohan of Delhi High Court directed Legislative Department to recover Rs.10,000/- which was awarded as compensation by CIC, from the salary of the Government officials who authorized the filing of this unwarranted writ petition and pay to Library. Vansh Sharad Gupta, a student of NLSUI, had filed this RTI application through e-mail, to know the e-mail ID of CPIO, Legislative department. He could not access the text of Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1972 from the website, though he could find the Bare Act. It was impossible to read as that PDF of Bare Act was not formatted and each sentence is intercepted by trash. He appealed to provide the bare Acts (enactments without commentary) in a readable PDF format. The Commission directed the Department to inform the complainant as to what action has been taken including details of the programme of updation, the possible date of its completion, expenditure involved, personnel employed etc. CIC had also directed the petitioner to pay Rs.10,000/- to the library of University, for causing loss of time of several law students, more specifically of the appellant, not providing easy access to email, or not making email ids easily available, delaying the information etc, within one month. The Department chose to challenge this order in Delhi High Court. In the writ petition, Legislation department contended that student never filed an RTI application in the prescribed form with the requisite fee and did not even file first appeal. Rejecting this petition Justice Manmohan held; “This Court is not an appellate Court of the CIC. Technical and procedural arguments cannot be allowed to come in the way of substantial justice. The directions given by the CIC in the impugned order are not only fair and reasonable but also promote the concept of rule of law. It is unfortunate that the petitioner did not take the initiative on its own to upload the latest amended bare Acts. Public can be expected to follow the law only if law is easily accessible ‘at the click of a button’. HC said: “In fact, as rightly pointed out by the CIC, the RTI Act itself mandates the Government to place the texts of enactments in public domain. This Court also took judicial notice of the fact that in challenging the imposition of costs of Rs.10,000/-, the Government of India would have spent more money in filing the present writ petition. Consequently, this Court is of the view that the costs of Rs.10,000/- which was directed to be paid by the CIC, should be recovered from the salary of the Government officials who authorized the filing of the present writ petition”.

 

Some learning from the case:

1.      It is the duty of law ministry to upload updated enactments for people.

2.      Department has to change their systems in response to the issues raised in RTI requests.

3.      People have right to know law in their own language

4.      It is the duty of Law Ministry to disclose the law, which they want people to follow.

5.      Public Authority has to pay compensation for violation of Sections 4 and 3

6.      State should not be a cantankerous litigant

7.      There is no routine appeal available from decision of Information Commission

 

 

 

PART   :  C

INFORMATION ON & AROUND

·        Committee to look into feasibility of special stamps for RTI

The Department of Posts said it has to constitute a fresh committee, with the approval of competent authority, to examine the feasibility of usage of RTI stamps as RTI fee and furnish a report on their recommendations.

A previous committee comprising representatives from postal department, DoPT and Central Information Commission had concluded that the amount charged under RTI is a fee not related to a postal article thus according to the present Indian Postal Act, 1898, postage stamps cannot be used for payment of RTI fee or costs.

 

·        RTI gets a memorial in Rajasthan

Ironic though it may sound, a unique memorial celebrating the Right to Information has come up in the Beawar town of Rajasthan — where the RTI movement had started 20 years ago — at a time when the Bhartiya Janata Party government in the State has opted to delete chapters on the evolution of RTI campaign and law from its school textbooks.

Hundreds of people from all walks of life, who gathered at Chang Gate in Beawar on Thursday night to commemorate the historic 40-day dharna of 1996 for RTI, witnessed unveiling of the aesthetically-built memorial and demanded restoration of chapters dealing with common people’s contribution to RTI in the textbooks.

 

·        RTI plea: It took Govt of India 16 months to disclose report recommending new coastal regulation norms

Sixteen months after a Right to Information (RTI) application was filed, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has disclosed a copy of the “Report of the Committee to Review the Issues relating to the Coastal Regulation Zone, 2011” to Kanchi Kohli, a well-known environmental expert. This disclosure came after an order of Information Commissioner Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu on May 13, 2016 which stated that the ministry "cannot invent a new defense or exemption such as ‘the report is under submission’, ‘file is pending consideration’ and ‘unless approved it cannot be given’, etc, which are not available under RTI Act, 2005, such an illegal refusal will amount to denial of information which would invite penal proceedings under Section 20 of RTI Act, 2005.

 

·        IGNOU to offer diploma course on Right to Information

In order to encourage people to understand societal relevance of the Right to Information Act and its nuances, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has decided to introduce certificate and diploma courses in the subject. The Central Information Commission (CIC) has extended its support to the university to work out the courses, which will form compulsory part of the training module for all Central Government employees

 

PART   :  D

ETHICS, GOVERNANCE & ACCOUNTABILITY

"Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is right or wrong."
"Ethics has to do with my religious beliefs."
"Being ethical is doing what the law requires."
"Ethics consists of the standards of behavior our society accepts."
"I don't know what the word means."

 

Dint you think on similar lines? The meaning of "ethics" is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky.

 

What, then, is ethics? At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.

Ethics covers the following dilemmas:

·         how to live a good life

·         our rights and responsibilities

·         the language of right and wrong

·         Moral decisions - what is good and bad?

 

Our concepts of ethics have been derived from religions, philosophies and cultures. They infuse debates on topics like abortion, human rights and professional conduct.