Why transgender not an option in civil service exam form: HC

Why transgender not an option in civil service exam form: HC
Why transgender not an option in civil service exam form: HC

High Court today asked the Centre and UPSC why transgenders have not been included as a third gender option in application forms for Civil Services Preliminary (CSP) examination.

A bench of justices Mukta Gupta and P S Teji asked the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) and Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) why transgender category has not been included as an eligibility criteria for the exam, when the Supreme Court had declared such individuals as a third gender.

DoPT seeks advice on court’s verdict on info panel

The Department of Personnel and Traininghas sought the Law Ministry’s advice on the Supreme Courtverdict making it mandatory for the hearings in Central and State Information Commissions to be carried out by people with judicial backgrounds.

“We have held inter-departmental discussions with officials concerned on the Apex court decision. The department has decided to seek advice from Law Ministry on the matter,” a Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) official said.

Based on the legal advice, the official said, the future course on whether or not to go for appeal against the order will be decided.

“The legal advice is expected in few days,” the official said.

On September 13, the Supreme Court had passed the order making it mandatory for the transparency panels at the respective levels to have at least one judicial member while hearing appeals or complaints of information seekers under RTI Act.

At present, the eight-member CIC does not have any such member who possess qualifications listed out by the apex court.

The CIC, meanwhile, has sent a representation to the DoPT, the nodal department for implementation of RTI Act, seeking further directives on the matter.

The apex court had ruled that Information Commissions at the respective levels shall henceforth work in benches of two members each. One of them being a judicial member, while the other an expert member. The judicial member should be a person possessing a degree in law, having a judicially trained mind and experience in performing judicial functions.

It had also said the Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre or in the states shall only be a person who is or has been a Chief Justice of the high court or a judge of the Supreme Court.

CBI to be more powerful, govt enacting law

Taking a step forward in its fight against corruption, the Centre is considering a recommendation to give more powers to CBI by enacting a law which will empower it to probe graft cases nationwide without the consent of the state governments.

 If it comes into being, the proposed law will give statutory powers to the investigation agency specifically to look into corruption cases and prosecute offenders all over the country, highly placed official sources said.

 As per the proposal, which is at a nascent stage, the law will be enacted close on the lines of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008.

Sources said the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions will soon hold a meeting with Ministry of Law and Justice and certain officials of the CBI to devise a road map for the legislation.

 “The government is considering a proposal for giving statutory powers to CBI. Its main thrust is to minimize overlapping powers of state and central government investigating agencies,” a senior Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) official said.

 However, the official said “no decision” has been taken by the Ministry on it as yet.

 At present, the Central Bureau of Investigation functions under the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act. As per the Act, CBI requires consent from the state governments to probe and prosecute an official working under their control.

 The proposal was also discussed by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which had in May this year recommended a legislation giving statutory powers to CBI for the purpose terming it as a “dire need”.

Court notice to government on CBI exemption from RTI

The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued notice to the central government on a public suit filed against the decision to exempt the CBI and the NIA from the purview of the RTI Act, the country’s transparency law.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice Sanjeev Khanna issued notice to the central government, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the home and law ministries and the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT).

‘We are putting the matter for final disposal. The next date of hearing will be August 10, therefore the reply should be filed within two weeks from today (Wednesday),’ the bench said.

The petitioners, Ajay Kumar Agarwal and Sitab Ali Chaudhary, had challenged the June 9 government notification exempting the CBI, the NIA and the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), a proposed centralised data system for quick access to information on terror suspects, from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

‘Hiding information sought under the RTI Act is unconstitutional,’ the petition said.

‘The petition has been filed for the benefit of citizens incapable of accessing the court themselves,’ Chaudhary said.

Earlier this month, the cabinet approved the CBI’s request to be exempted from the RTI Act. The move was condemned by various RTI activists.

On a similar suit, the Madras High Court has asked both the central government and the CBI to explain the exemption from the RTI.

PMO sees 8,400 percent rise in RTI pleas

People are seeking answers, even if it means asking the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) some tough questions. The number of Right to Information (RTI) applications filed with the office have increased a whopping 8,402 percent in five years, say officials.

 

The number of RTI queries with the PMO rose from 48 in 2005 – when the act came into force – to over 4,000 applications in 2010, say information officials in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office.

 

PMO has received a total of 13,216 applications since October 2005, with the proposed anti-corruption Lokpal Bill attracting the maximum queries lately. The act empowers every citizen to seek any information from the government, inspect any government document and seek certified photocopies of those that have come into force.

 

“Since the RTI Act was mplemented, the number of RTI queries to the PMO has risen tremendously. The PMO had received 4,081 queries last year till December alone, compared to 48 applications filed in 2005,” the PMO’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) Sanjukta Ray told .

 

Despite being a three-member team, most of the RTI pleas have been dealt with.

 

“We are a small team with just three people but we managed to tackle thousands of RTI applications every year. As of now, we are piled with queries on the Lokpal Bill and applications based on news reports and current affairs,” she said.

 

According to the act, the public information officer (PIO) should respond within 30 days of the receipt of an application, failing which the applicant should make the first appeal to the appellate authority of the same department.

 

Ray said they do not have a large number of first appeals.

 

In 2006, the PMO received and cleared 743 RTI applications out of which 70 went for first appeal. In 2007, there were 1,621 RTI applications out of which 127 went for the first appeal, in 2008, 2,286 applications and 276 first appeals, in 2009, 2,766 applications and 435 first appeals, and in 2010, 4,081 applications and 510 first appeals.

 

Ray also noted that they get a good number of “non-valid” applications, which should be addressed to other officials.

 

“For example, a person from Chhattisgarh sent an RTI application on an issue related to the collector of a particular district and asked us to help him out to get the information,” she said.

 

About the method of working of her team which comprises her and two subordinates, Ray said they process the applications and try to seek information from the departments concerned.

 

“We take a list of applications which are to be answered in eight days and check out how much information has been received and if it’s not received, we try to get the information from the department sought by the applicant.”

 

Apart from the PMO, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has processed 14,292 applications in the last five years, a finding of RTI applicant Lokesh Batra revealed.

 

“Compared to other public authorities, the DoPT takes a lot of time to respond. DoPT has 47 central public information officers (CPIO), while other ministries and departments have only one to look into the RTI applications,” Batra told.

 

Each CPIO has handled just 276 queries over a span of five years, Batra noted.

 

Whencontacted one of the CPIOs and asked the reason for delays in the processing of RTI applications, he declined to comment.

 

The external affairs ministry received 3,765 applications in the last five years. Out of these, the maximum number, 946, were filed in 2007.

 

The findings also showed that even though the external affairs ministry received a lesser number of applications compared to many other public authorities, there were 652 cases in which the applicants did not receive information or were not satisfied with the quality of information received and filed first appeals with the ministry.

 

“Although the MEA has a full time CPIO of joint secretary rank, it is still not efficient in giving out details,” Batra claimed.

 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has received 6,175 RTI applications from April 2006 to November 2010. The maximum number of applications (2,019) were filed

in 2009-10.

 

Notice to government on plea for appointments in RTI ambit

The Delhi High Court Monday sought the central government’s response on a petition challenging a single judge’s ruling that information pertaining to the appointment of top bureaucrats cannot be revealed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to the department of personnel and training (DOPT) and sought its reply by July 14 on an appeal filed by RTI activist and Magsaysay Award winner Arvind Kejriwal against the single judge’s order, given in July 2010.

Kejriwal had requested the government to provide him the information on the ground that people had the right to know the grade assigned to an officer who was empanelled.

In his petition, he said that he was allowed to inspect files pertaining to appointment of secretaries, deputy secretaries in different ministries but he was not supplied with photocopies of the documents.

Kejriwal had approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had rejected the the government’s argument that the disclosure would amount to invasion in the privacy of an officer, and June 12, 2008 asked the DOPT and the cabinet secretariat to disclose details pertaining to selection of officers for the posts of secretaries and additional secretaries.

However, the central government approached the Delhi High Court against the CIC’s order.

The single judge had set aside the order and rejected Kejriwal’s plea that information relating to appointment of secretaries in different ministries falls within the ambit of the transparency law and justice.

‘This court holds that the CIC was not justified in overruling the objection of the centre and directing the government and the DoPT to provide copies of the documents as sought by Kejriwal,’ the single judge had said.