Can’t give details of illegal assets cases: CBI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Sunday refused to make public information about disproportionate assets cases against bureaucrats, ministers and government officials, saying the Right to Information (RTI) Act did not apply to it.

‘The government of India…has placed the Central Bureau of Investigation at Serial Number 23 of the second schedule of the RTI Act. This act is not applicable to the CBI,’ a CBI official said.

The CBI, through a government notice June 9, was put in the category of organisations listed in the second schedule of the Section 24 of the RTI Act, which also includes intelligence and security agencies.

The CBI said this in response to four RTI applications filed by activist Subhas Agrawal, who sought details of corruption cases involving officials and ministers.

Police told to give probe details on cash-for-vote case

The Supreme Court Monday asked Delhi Police to explain what it had done thus far to probe bribery charges during a trust vote in parliament in 2008.

Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta was asked by judges Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha to file a status report on the investigation into charges that MPs were bribed to back Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government during the volatile voting in the Lok Sabha over the India-US nuclear deal.

The apex court also issued notice to the central government.

This follows former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh’s submission that no investigation had been done into the bribery allegation by the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.

The investigation was handed over to Delhi Police after a parliamentary committee found the evidence of bribery charges unconvincing.

Senior Council Rajiv Dhawan, appealing for Lyngdoh, told the court that though three years had passed, no progress has been made in the case.

Gujarat High Court seeks details of EVM, e-voters

The Gujarat High Court, hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) against introduction of online voting in local self-government bodies polls, has sought details of voters who cast ballot through the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and e-voting.

In details available Wednesday, a bench of Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice Anant Dave, allowing the state government and others to file affidavit in this regard, sought to know the method the state election commission or the presiding officer adopted for supervising the voting.

Two Congress leaders of Ahmedabad had filed the PIL against the state government’s decision to amend the provisions of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation (BPMC) Act and introduce online voting. Former city mayor Himmatsinh Patel and another Congress leader in their petition claimed that such amendment was against constitutional provisions.

According to the PIL, the election process has to be free and fair and the ballot has to be secret in any election. They alleged that recent amendments made to the BPMC Act were in violation of the constitutional mandate.

They also feared that the privacy of e-vote would be compromised in absence of any safeguard to it. ‘There is no safeguard to make sure that the person has voted in isolation and as per his own wish,’ the petitioners contended.

The petitioners pointed out the possibilities of virus attacks that could vitiate the entire database of e-votes and result in a major election fraud.

Following the petition, the court issued notices to the respondents – the state of Gujarat, the chief secretary of the state urban development department and the chief election officer of the state election commission.

The matter is slated to come up Dec 15.

Gujarat became the first state in India to introduce online voting when the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation polls were held this month.

Court seeks details on boat hijacked by 26/11 terrorists

The Bombay High Court Monday sought details about the probe relating to the fishing vessel ‘Kuber’ which was used by the 10 Pakistani terrorists to sail to Mumbai and carry out the Nov 26, 2008 terror attacks.

A division bench comprising Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice R.V. More sought the details from government counsel Ujjwal Nikam while continuing the hearings in the confirmation of the death sentence awarded to the sole surviving terrorist, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab.

‘We want to be very sure and clear because there is some confusion in our mind. This is a crucial aspect, even the trial judge has discarded the evidence of this panch witness,’ Justice Desai observed, calling upon the prosecution to provide all the details by Tuesday.

Nikam stressed in his arguments that Kasab had confessed to slitting the throat of Amar Sinh Solanki, the navigator of ‘Kuber’ and keeping his body in the cabin.

He informed the court that the Indian Coast Guard had sighted ‘Kuber’ in the Arabian Sea the following day (Nov 27, 2008, a day after the terrorists arrived), at 1640 hours.

Later it was brought to Sasoon Dock in south Mumbai and a ‘panchnama’ of the vessel corroborated with Kasab’s subsequent statement.

Nikam said the trial court judge had discarded the panch evidence after observing that the prosecution had failed to prove that ‘Kuber’ was not tampered with after it was anchored at Sasoon Dock.

The high court then wanted to know that since the trial court judge had disbelieved the ‘panch’ evidence, then what did he say about the recovery of cellphones, satellite phones from ‘Kuber’ as the prosecution had connected all this to the main attacks conspiracy.

The matter will continue further in the Bombay High Court Tuesday.

On May 6, Kasab was awarded the death penalty for murdering 166 people during the 26/11 attack, and is presently lodged in the high-security Arthur Road prison.

Citizens seek details of elected representatives’ spending

‘A hue and cry is being made because of the dirty rooms in the Commonwealth Games Village, but no one is concerned about the filthy conditions that we live in,’ said Rajesh Kumar, a slum dweller, at a meeting here Sunday to question the spendings of elected leaders.

The slum dweller from Sangam Vihar in south Delhi was one of the 500 people from over 30 constituencies of Delhi who were present at a public hearing organized by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, (SNS) an NGO, in Malviya Nagar Sunday to promote accountability among elected representatives.

The participants demanded that details of local area development funds provided to elected representatives – MPs, legislators and municipal councillors – be displayed by the government on boards placed in their constituencies.

At the hearing, citizens testified about the importance and relevance of the local area development funds for them. The people discussed the several problems that they were facing in their localities, right from the lack of drinking water to open manholes and power cuts.

Another troubled participant from Malviya Nagar, Rekha, said that despite repeated requests to the member of legislative assembly and councillor highlighting the filthy state of the only public toilet in the slum, the elected representatives always turned them away.

‘They only come to ask for votes and then never meet with us to consult about our needs. We did not even know that they get funds for the development of their constituency,’ she said.

Similar were the views expressed by residents of Sangam Vihar, Dwarka, Munirka and Shahdara.

There is some information about the utilization of development funds on government websites, but this is not easily accessible to the poor as they neither have easy access to the Internet nor can they read English, said Anjali Bhardwaj, founder of SNS.

‘Under Section 4 of the RTI Act, this kind of information has to be provided to people by the government in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public and in the local language,’ she added.

Shailesh Gandhi, central information commissioner, assured he would take up the matter in the Central Information Commission and ensure that details of development funds provided to elected representatives is put up on boards in Hindi in each constituency.

A complaint, signed by over a 1,000 people, was submitted to Gandhi demanding that boards should be put up in each constituency.

Himachal asked to give details on its tainted officials

The Himachal Pradesh High Court has asked the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state government to place on record the list of its officials facing corruption and other charges.

Taking note of the government reinstating officials against whom investigations under the Prevention of Corruption Act are on, a division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Kuldip Singh has asked the government to furnish a list of the tainted officials Wednesday.

‘A complete list of the tainted officials shall be furnished against whom investigations are in progress and also the reinstated officers against whom cases were under investigations under the Prevention of Corruption Act,’ the judges said in a ruling given Thursday.

They also directed the government to inform the court ‘what steps it has taken to expedite the trial or investigation against such officers and explain if the government has applied its mind before passing the order of reinstatement of such officers’.

The court observed that the government in its affidavit had said that it was committed to eradicating corruption.

‘On the other hand, the government is reinstating such officers who were caught red-handed by the vigilance department or any other state or central agency,’ the judges said.

A senior official of the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau told IANS that the it registered 271 cases against government officials and functionaries from January 2008 to Jan 31, 2010.

He said that charge sheets have been filed in various courts against 65 people and seven have been convicted during this period.

The prominent officials who were facing charges but have been reinstated are Sher Singh – former drugs controller, Subhash Ahluwalia – principal private secretary to former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, and Sanjay Gupta – former General Industries Corporation (GIC) managing director.

Ahluwalia, a 1989 batch IAS officer, was arrested by the vigilance bureau in October 2008 on charges of illegally amassing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income by misusing his position.

IAS officer Gupta was arrested by vigilance sleuths in July 2009 on charges of corruption and possessing an unaccounted Rs.2 lakh in cash. He was booked for irregularities earlier as well in Kinnaur district.

Similarly, Drugs Controller Sher Singh was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs.5 lakh in the Baddi-Barotiwala industrial belt.

Interestingly, the high court order seeking details on tainted officers came on the plea of Sher Singh, who is demanding a stay on the departmental proceedings against him.

He pleaded that the departmental inquiry and the criminal trial could not run simultaneously.