right to information (r2i)

For BCAJ May 2017

PART A I DECISION OF CIC

 

u   Maharashtra CIC Directs Maintenance Of E-Register With RTI Application And Disposal Details

 

In an effort to bring about transparency and accountability, the Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner recently directed the Chief Secretary of the Government of Maharashtra to maintain an e-register with details of all RTI applications and their disposal. The order has been directed to be implemented by 15th June, 2017.

 

Appreciating the suggestion put forth by the complainant, Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, the Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad observed, “During last over 11 years, Commission has noted almost total lack of review of the performance of PIOs and FAAs by their superiors with the result that Public Authorities are not only required to pay huge Compensation to the Information seekers  from public exchequer but Govt is also responsible for ineffective implementation of such a revolutionary Act which directly relates to Citizens exercising Fundamental Right of “Right to expression” enshrined in the Constitution.”

The Commission was hearing a complaint filed under Section 18 (1) (f) of the Right to Information Act by Mr. Gandhi via email. Mr. Gandhi had contended that such a register would facilitate reviewing of the overall performance of individual Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) by the Heads of Departments (HODs), and Information Commission. He had further suggested that this would facilitate preparation of the annual report on the status of RTI in the State, which needs to be presented to the State Assembly. Accepting the proposal, the Commission noted that a similar notification was issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, wherein it had encouraged all public authorities to “proactively disclose RTI applications and appeals received and their responses, on the websites maintained by Public Authorities with search facility based on key words.

 

(Source: www.livelaw.in April 17, 2017)

 

Note: The said order issued by Ratnakar Gaikwad, Chief Information Commissioner Maharashtra is available in soft copy with us. In case one needs to refer to it they can send in a request to km@bcasonline.org

 

 

PART B I RTI ACT, 2005

 

 

u   What are the possible changes to RTI?

 

According to PTI and the governance portal Bureaucracy Today, nine suggestions have so far been laid down by the DoPT, as it seeks to update on the draft rules for Right to Information to be notified under the provisions of section 27 of the RTI Act.

 

These include:

1. Raising the prescribed fee to Rs 50, with a provision of providing first 20 copied pages free of cost inclusive of postal charges.

2. Deleting the word limit of 500 words in a petition, since that it contradicts the first paragraph of the RTI rules.

3. Restriction on the number of free copied pages to be provided to a BPL person (below poverty line). The reason given in this regard is to avoid the “misuse of the provision by big contractors filing RTI petitions through casual labourers of the BPL category”.

4. Mode of payment of RTI fees to include RTI stamps, to be issued in denominations of Rs. 2, 10 and 50 as per repeated CIC verdicts. The reason furnished is “to abolish the enormous handling charge of postal orders costing Rs. 39.99 to the postal department alone apart from clearing operations”.

5. Draft Rule 16 should be completely changed followed by a last hearing date for better compliance of CIC verdicts. Adding that the post-lunch sessions on the last working day of every week can be reserved for hearings as well.

6. Making it “compulsory for a public authority to submit a written explanation at least 15 days in advance with a copy to a petitioner”. Also, recommendation to make it compulsory for the CIC to “dispatch a hearing notice at least 30 days before the hearing date”.

7. Compulsory to file identity proof with every RTI petition filed with a public authority to “avoid mischievous petitions filed in names of others or non-existing persons”. Anonymous RTI petitions can be filed through post box numbers.

8. RTI petitions addressed to Central public authorities should be accepted post-free at all the 1,60,000 post offices in the country rather than just about 4,500 as at present.

9. Pending cases of RTI petitions be closed in case of the death of the applicant.

 

While the government has proposed a new set of rules for the RTI applications, complaints and appeals, it has also, via the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), sought suggestions, comments and recommendations by as early as April 15, 2017.

 

Note: The said circular issued by Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel Training dated 31/03/2017 is available in soft copy with us. In case one need to refer to it they can send in a request to to km@bcasonline.org.

 

 

PART C IINFORMATION ON & AROUND

 

u  Soft drink to oil, state food monitors find 9 products of top firms ‘substandard’

 

According to information accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, these products include Pepsico’s Mirinda, Nestle’s Cerelac Wheat, Adani’s Fortune oil, Marico India’s Saffola oil, Parle Agro’s Frooti and a cheese spread used by the Subway chain.

The RTI replies show that Herbalife’s energy drink, Murugappa group’s Parry packaged drinking water and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia are among the products reported to have failed the quality tests during this period.

 

In a number of cases, the companies have either questioned the test procedure or have asked for re-analysis of the samples.

 

u   Mirinda, soft drink, Pepsico India Holdings Private Ltd.

u   Cerelac Wheat (Infant Food), Nestle India Ltd.

u   Fortune, refined rice brand oil, Adani Wilmar Ltd.

u   Saffola Gold, blended edible vegetable oil, Marico Ltd.

u   Processed cheese spread, Subway Systems Indian Private Ltd.

u   Frooti, mango drink, Parle Agro

u   Packaged drinking water, Parry Enterprises India

u   Aloo bhujia, Haldiram Foods International Private Ltd.

u   Fresh energy drink mix, Herbalife International India Private Ltd.

 

(Source: The Indian Express, April 17, 2017)

u   Unsafe journey: 30% BEST buses do not have fire extinguishers on-board

 

Thousands of Mumbai commuters consider BEST buses affordable, but a recent right to information (RTI) query reveals that they might be unsafe. As many as 1,150 of BEST’s 3,800-strong fleet do not have a fire extinguisher on-board. Though the BEST administration had decided to install fire extinguishers in all buses, starting with those running on compressed natural gas (CNG), it installed extinguishers in only 2,648 buses by January 2017, revealed the RTI.

 

Sharique Raza Shaikh, the activist who filed the RTI, said he asked the transport body how it planned to ensure the safety of women and senior citizens during emergencies. “BEST reserves seats for women and the elderly, but has not made arrangements for their safety. Several buses do not have first aid boxes and have not listed emergency helplines for senior citizens,” he said.

 

“It is mandatory to install a fire extinguisher in each bus under the Motor Vehicles Act. But, most of the buses do not have one,” said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member.

(Source: Hindustan Times, April 19, 2017)

 

u   Sub-standard medicines in govt. hospitals

 

Visakhapatnam: Sub-standard injections and tablets are being distributed in some of the government hospitals in the city and district, reveals the response of the district drugs control department to a Right to Information
Act (RTI).

RTI activist K. Venkata Ramana obtained the details from the department from April 1, 2016 till date. The data reveals that KGH, Mental Care Hospital, ENT hospital have been using 'not of standard quality' (NSQ) medicines.

(Source: Times of India, April 20, 2017)

 

u   Mumbai municipal blood bank wastes over 100 litres of blood every year: RTI

 

A Kandivli blood bank attached to the municipal corporation wasted 856 liters of blood between 2009 and 2017, reveals data from the Mumbai District AIDS Control Society (MDACS).

 

The organisation — that compared its data with the information given by the blood bank linked to Shatabdi Hospital in Kandivli — said that there was a difference in the figures, suggesting that the hospital tried to fudge figures on blood waste to avoid punitive action.

 

MDACS data till February 2017 shows that the blood bank — which serves Shatabdi and Bhagwati municipal hospitals — collected about 19,163 units (6,707.05l) of blood during the period out of which 12% (about 2,300 units) expired. Statistics maintained by the hospital, however, showed that 22,198 units (7,769l) of blood was collected out of which 1,336 units (467.6l) got spoilt because of non-usage.

 

A senior doctor from the hospital said that MDACS data is reliable because it is maintained by independent representatives who prepare monthly reports.

 

Right to Information (RTI) activist Chetan Kothari, who accessed the documents through a RTI query said that the wastage could be reduced if the blood had been sent for separation into components. While whole blood has a shelf life of 35 days, its by-products like freshly frozen plasma (FPP) can be stored for 36 months.

 

“After component separation, fractioning of plasma produces important drugs like albumin, which is essential in the treatment of cancer, liver ailments and burns,” said Kothari.

 

(Source: Hindustan Times, April 20, 2017)

u   1.6 lakh teaching posts lie vacant in UP’s state-run schools, reveals RTI reply

 

As many as 1.60 lakh teaching positions still lie vacant in government-run schools across 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, despite the recruitment of 15,000 assistant teachers to bridge the shortfall.

 

The state government admitted to this while seeking financial aid from the Centre under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan on April 22 last year. The report submitted to the human resource development (HRD) ministry also revealed that until April 2016, as many as 1,74,726 teaching positions were vacant in schools of up to Class 8 alone. The RTI response also revealed that while Uttar Pradesh has 759,958 teaching positions in primary and upper primary government schools, there are only 585,232 teachers serving at present. Alarmingly, as many as 10,187 government primary schools and 4,895 government upper primary schools are being run in the state with just a single teacher each.

 

(Source: Hindustan Times, April 20, 2017)

 

u   Congress opposes amendments in RTI, says it is a bid to scuttle rights

 

The controversial proposals to amend Right to Information (RTI) by the Centre have led to a massive backlash from the opposition parties. Leading the Opposition's charge against the BJP-led NDA government, Congress has termed the proposed amendments as a bid to scuttle RTI.

Talking to the media here today, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, "The UPA government never allowed any dilution to take place in the RTI paradigm. However, ever since this government has taken office, there has been an attitude of active neglect towards the RTI. There have been non-formal attempts over the last three years to scuttle RTI. Finally it seems NDA has formalised the process of subverting RTI."

 

He said the RTI Act was enacted in 2005 during the UPA regime.

 

 (Source: India Today, April 3, 2017)

 

RTI Clinic in May 2017: 2nd, 3rd, 4th Saturday, i.e. 13th, 20th and 27th 11.00 to 13.00 at BCAS premises