right to information (r2i)

For BCAJ April 2017

PART A I DECISION OF HIGH COURT

u   Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High court ruled that Co-operative Bodies come under the ambit of Right to Information Act 2005, Co-operative society are not a Public Authority but yet would be liable to disclose all information that is not exempted u/s. 8 of RTI Act to the registrar of co-operative society

 

Cooperative institutions can no longer refuse to divulge information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act with the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court ruling that these establishments come under the purview of the transparency legislation. The two-member bench of the High Court held that everything which is mentioned in the definition of information as per RTI Act needs to be provided by the cooperative institutions. The court also said that previous interpretation made by it while deciding the case was not correct in view of an apex court verdict. While disposing of the petition filed by the association of Jalgaon Zilla Urban Cooperative Banks, Credit Societies and other financial institutions seeking exemption from the RTI Act, the court ruled that the contention of the cooperative institution that it is a private body was dealt with by the Supreme Court.

 

The petitioner had argued before the court that cooperative institutions registered under Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 cannot be treated as public authority as per the section 2(h) and section 8 of the RTI Act. Also, another major contention was that in view of the provision of section 34A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, cooperative institutions are not bound to disclose certain information which, according to them, is confidential in nature.

 

The court, besides invoking the Supreme Court verdict, also brought to the notice the possibility of state aid and even giving subsidies to cooperative institution to protect the cooperative movement. Even Articles 38, 39, 43 and 48 of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of India show that to some extent such institutions are discharging duty of the state, the court said. Highlighting that cooperative institutions cannot act independently and the apex bodies are created for such institutions, the court ruled that the observations made by the apex court can be used safely when the information is sought from the authority like Registrar or his subordinates of a cooperative institution. Advocate Suresh Kulkarni, who represented Virendra Karanjikar in a crucial intervention application before the court, said the ruling would ensure transparency and accountability in the cooperative sector.  There are a total of 510 urban cooperative banks and 15,000 credit cooperative societies in the state. State cooperation commissioner Chandrakant Dalvi said the verdict in the matter of cooperative institutions would be followed in letter and spirit.

 

(Source: Times of India)

 

 

PART C IINFORMATION ON & AROUND

 

u   Lahore High Court to make public the records of Salaries, allowances and other perks of its Judges and Staff

 

In a rare move, the Punjab Information Commission has asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) to make public the records of salaries, allowances and other perks of its judges and staff on its website.

 

The commission issued this directive to the LHC registrar to provide information about monthly salary and allowances of the chief justice. The commission asked the registrar to provide this information to the citizen as soon as possible. The commission told the registrar to take immediate steps to fulfill legal obligations as per sections 4, 7, 8 and 10 of the Punjab Information and Transparency Act, especially in terms of proactive disclosure of salaries, allowances and other perks and privileges of all the judges and staff on the website of the LHC and designation of its public information officers. There is no public information officer at the LHC that is necessary under the provisions of the information act.

 

The commission further required the LHC to establish an efficient mechanism to decide all pending or future information requests within the timeframe prescribed in section 10(7) of the act. The panel also directed its staff to send a copy of the order to the LHC chief justice for information.

 

In its order, the commission observed the LHC was a public body in terms of section 2(h)(iv) of the act and, therefore, it was required to take steps to implement various provisions of the Act regarding proactive disclosure, designation of PIOs, transfer of applications where required, and timely disposal of information requests in accordance with sections 4, 7, 11 & 10 of the Act.

 

(Source: The Express Tribune, March 22, 2017)

 

u   Section 91 Of CrPC Is Not A Substitute For Right Under RTI Act: MP HC

 

A single judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court has held the provisions u/s. 91 of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C) “are not a substitute” or “an alternate remedy” for the right under provisions of Right to Information Act. The court directed the trial court to exercise its jurisdiction u/s. 91 of Cr.P.C. and “call the documents from the police so requested by the petitioners”.

 

The petitioners moved an application u/s. 91 of Cr.P.C. praying the trial court to exercise its powers and summon certain documents from the police concerned to a criminal case registered against them. The petitioners approached the High Court after the trial court and the revisional court rejected their application seeking relief u/s. 91 of Cr.P.C. The reason for the petitioners calling for certain documents was to prove the complainant was in exercise of their (the petitioners) right of private defence. While dismissing the application the trial court asked the petitioners to procure the documents under Right to Information Act while the revisional court held the petitioners by doing so were trying to delay the proceedings before the trial court. Allowing the petition, Justice Atul Sreedharan said “the reasoning given by the trial court for having dismissed the application u/s. 91 is unsustainable in the eye of law.

 

(Source: www.livelaw.in, March 20, 2017)

 

u   9.76 lakh applications filed under RTI in 2015-16

 

In year 2015-16, 9.76 lakh applications under the Right to Information Act were filed. The applications see an increase of 20% as against the figure in previous year.

 However, as per the data published in the Central Information Commission’s annual report, which was made available to the public on March 17, four RTI pleas out of every ten, faced rejection.With the increase in number of applications filed under the Right to Information Act, the number of rejected applications is also increasing. Out of total rejected applications, 43% were under the category of ‘others’. Right to Information (RTI) is an act formulated by the Parliament of India to provide for setting out a  practical regime of right to information for citizens, and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act, 2002. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of government or "instrumentality of state") which is required to be replied to expeditiously or within thirty days. The act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination, and to proactively define certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.

 

(Source: www.indiainfoline.com, March 19, 2017)

 

u   RTI Act: 50% rise in penalties imposed on central public information officers

 

CHENNAI: Penalties imposed on central public information officers (CPIOs) under the provisions of the RTI Act went up by nearly 50% in 2015-16, as compared to 2014-15.

 

Data released by the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions shows that a penalty of Rs. 10.52 lakh was collected from CPIOs in 2015-16. The corresponding figures for 2014-15 and 2013-14 are Rs. 7.39 lakh and Rs. 19.25 lakh, respectively.

 

The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides for imposition of penalty by CIC against central public information officers (CPIO), in pursuance of section 20 of the RTI Act.

The ministry informed the Parliament that the government had conducted training and capacity building programmes for public information officers and first appellate authorities through state government training institutes for effective implementation of the RTI Act.

 

Ministries and departments and other public authorities are proactively working towards suo motu disclosure and more information is put on their websites so as to reduce the need for filing RTI applications.

 

(Source: Times of India, March 23, 2017)

 

u   Centre declines funds to UP institute for RTI promotion

 

The Centre refused funds to the Uttar Pradesh Academy of Administration and Management, a premier training institute for bureaucrats, for the promotion of the Right to Information Act (RTI).The institute that provides training to officers selected through the state public service commission had sought Rs 1.5 lakh for awareness generation for RTI and Rs 75,000 to meet the administrative contingencies.The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal authority for implementation of the transparency law, declined the request saying "funds are not available under component concerned." The DoPT, however, approved Rs 8.5 lakh to the academy to train 850 officers at state, division and district levels for handling RTI matters. A sum of Rs 10 lakh was also sought by the academy to provide training to 1,000 officers. "As per the budget availability, the number of participants has been reduced from 1,000 to 850. Accordingly, Rs 8.5 lakh is being released for this purpose," a DoPT order said.

 

The grant is under the centrally-sponsored scheme 'Improving Transparency and Accountability in Government through Effective Implementation of the Right to Information Act.' The scheme, launched in August 2010, is aimed at contributing towards a more accountable and transparent government, as well ensure "effective implementation of the RTI Act."

 

The transparency law empowers citizens to seek time-bound response to their queries related to governance.

 

(Source: The Press Trust of India, March 20, 2017)

 

u   Cannot apply RTI Act to unaided institutions: Maharashtra information panel

 

Private unaided trusts or academic institutions which are not receiving any "substantial financial aid" from the government do not fall within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the state information commission's Pune bench has ruled. The bench, presided over by information commissioner Ravindra Jadhav, has set aside an order by the first appeal officer and block education officer of Panchgani panchayat samiti. The impugned order had directed the New Era High School at Panchgani, near Mahabaleshwar, to supply information regarding its teaching, non-teaching staff and other aspects under the RTI Act. The high school, which offers CBSE and Cambridge IGCSE curricula from Std I to XII, is run by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India. In June 2015, the institution had moved a second appeal before the SIC Pune bench, arguing that it is a permanently unaided school. That, it was neither a public authority as defined u/s. 2 of the RTI Act nor was it directly or indirectly receiving any "substantial financial assistance" from the government.

 

The SIC bench referred to a judgment by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on August 20, 2009 and held in an order on March 10 that it was amply clear from this ruling that RTI Act provisions cannot be applied to those unaided institutions which are not getting any substantial financial aid from the government. The high court had ruled that private unaided schools and colleges cannot fall within the definition of 'Public Authority' u/s. 2 (J) of the RTI Act.

 

Further referring to direct or indirect financing by the government, the high court had said, "The term 'substantially financed' has been repeatedly used by the Parliament with a view to exclude such institutions which are financed directly or indirectly with a small or little contribution of funds by the appropriate government. The Parliament has deliberately used the word 'substantially' and this court finds that there is wisdom in doing so."

 

(Source: Times of India, March 22, 2017)

 

RTI Clinic in April 2017: 2nd, 3rd, 4th Saturday, i.e. 8th, 15th and 22nd 11.00 to 13.00 at BCAS premises