Central Information Commission brings BCCI under RTI Act

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission has pronounced the judgment stating that BCCI  is covered under the RTI Act and answerable to the people of the country under its mechanism. As a result of the ruling, the board is now “answerable to the people of the country”.

“The SC has also reaffirmed that the BCCI is the ‘approved’ national-level body holding virtually monopoly rights to organize cricketing events in the country,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in a 37-page long order.  Information Commissioner Madabhushi Sridhar noted in the order, “The SC has also reaffirmed that the BCCI is the ‘approved’ national-level body holding virtually monopoly rights to organize cricketing events in the country”.

Acharyulu also directed the BCCI to put in place, within 15 days, online and offline mechanisms to receive applications for information under the RTI Act.

Centre in High Court against CIC order on Khemka’s deputation

The Centre has moved the Delhi High Court against a CIC order asking it to inform whether IAS officer Ashok Khemka, known for cancelling Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s alleged illegal land deal in Gurgaon, was considered for the post of joint secretary in the Centre.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) in its plea has also challenged a single judge’s order upholding the January 2017 decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The CIC in its order had directed DoPT to disclose whether the name of Khemka, an IAS officer of 1991 batch of the Haryana state cadre, was placed before the Civil Services Board (CSB) for deputation as joint secretary to Government of India under the Central Staffing Scheme of 2014.

The matter is expected to be heard by a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla in July.

The appeal by the DoPT, moved through advocates Rahul Sharma and C K Bhatt, has claimed that the information sought by Khemka, also known for the numerous times he has been transferred, was exempted from the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The plea also claimed that the information sought is held in fiduciary capacity by the DoPT and therefore, cannot be provided under the RTI Act.

However, this line of argument had not been accepted by the single judge, Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who last year had said that if the DoPT’s stand was accepted then any information held by any public authority would be exempted.

Seeking bank employees’ personal info exempted under RTI: SC

The Supreme Court has held that seeking information about individual bank employees which were personal in nature and devoid of any public interest, was exempted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The court made the observation while allowing an appeal filed by Canara Bank challenging an order of the Kerala High Court directing it to provide information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act about transfers and postings of its entire clerical staff from January 2002 to July 2006.

Relying on an 2013 apex court verdict, a bench comprising Justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said the information sought by a man, who was working as a clerical staff in the bank, was “personal in nature” and exempted from being disclosed under section 8(j) of the RTI Act.

It said neither the man had “disclosed any public interest much less larger public interest involved in seeking such information of the individual employee” nor any finding was recorded by Central Information Commission (CIC) and the high court regarding any public interest in supplying such information to him.

He had in August 2006 made an application to the public information officer (PIO) of the bank under the RTI Act and sought information regarding transfers and postings of the entire clerical staff from January 2002 to July 2006 in all the branches.

He had also asked for information regarding personal details of individual employees like date of joining, designation and promotion earned.

The bank’s PIO had expressed his inability to furnish details sought by him on the ground that it was protected from being disclosed under the provisions of the Act and had no nexus with any public interest.

The man had thereafter filed an appeal before the chief public information officer who also dismissed it.

Later, he moved the CIC which in February 2007 asked the bank to furnish the information sought by him.

Aggrieved by the order, the bank approached the high court which dismissed its plea while affirming the order of the CIC.

The top court allowed the appeal filed by the bank while setting aside the orders of the high court and the CIC.

Plea in SC for amendment in RTI Act

Allahabad High Court
Allahabad High Court

New Delhi, A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to amend the RTI Act for fixing time limit for disposal of appeals by the Central Information Commission and state information panels.

The plea has been filed by an RTI activist against an order of the Allahabad High Court, passed on October 5, 2015, dismissing his appeal on the issue.

RTI activist Rakesh Kumar Tewari, in his appeal filed through lawyer Shiv Kumar Tripathi, also sought a direction to various authorities in Uttar Pradesh “to supply the information as sought by the petitioner without putting conditions…”

He sought information related to the departments of Sarju Nahar Khand at Gonda in Uttar Pradesh.

The plea alleged that there was rampant corruption in the departments of Sarju Nahar Kendra, Gonda.

It said that the petitioner needed information under the RTI “for exposing acts of omissions and commissions of the officials of concerned departments”.

It also claimed that “information is being deliberately not supplied with oblique motives to protect the corrupt activities being carried on in department against the public interest and for the illegal and corrupt practice being adopted for the personal gain against the interest of the department.”

“All these has precipitated due to the inherent lacuna in the Right to Information Act, 2005 which does not prescribed any time limit within a fixed time without which the object and purpose for which the Act was enacted has become futile,” the petition said, seeking a direction for the amendment in the transparency law.

Activists oppose amendments to RTI Act

rtiaCivil society activists are gearing up for an offensive against the government’s proposed legislation to exclude political parties from the ambit of the RTI Act. Besides petitions to parliamentarians, the PM and the President urging them not to support the amendments, activists plan to hold protest demonstrations and even challenge the legislation in court as a last resort.

The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared two amendments to the transparency Act to counter the Central Information Commission (CIC) June 3 order that the six national political parties ” Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPM ” were public authorities. The bill is likely to be brought in the monsoon session of Parliament starting on Monday.

Despite a series of petitions to MPs and PM Manmohan Singh signed by eminent citizens including Aruna Roy, Shailesh Gandhi, Shekhar Singh and others, the government is fairly confident of smooth passage of the RTI bill.

Activists plan to challenge the proposed legislation on the grounds that it is against the constitutional right to freedom of speech. There has been a precedent earlier when the Supreme Court struck down an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act in 2002 and directed candidates to submit their financial details and criminal antecedents before the Election Commission of India. SC said the amendment was in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.

Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) co-founder Prof Jagdeep Chhokar said, “We hope RTI Act is not passed and wise counsel prevails on the lawmakers. In the unfortunate event that it is passed by Parliament, it will be challenged in court of law. The exact nature of which will depend on the specific wording of the amendments.”

Activists said there was a clear case of conflict of interest with MPs seeking to exclude themselves from the transparency Act.

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) plans a protest demonstration on August 6 at Jantar Mantar to voice their concern against the government’s decision.

RTI activist S C Agrawal said if political parties were trying to escape scrutiny of the RTI Act, they should also return land and accommodation allotted by the central and state governments at subsidized costs and tax concessions to political parties must be abolished.

(Source: IANS)

Bring BJD under RTI Act: Transparency International

Transparency International India (TI) has filed a petition before the Odisha Information Commission, praying that Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information Act, an official said on Saturday.

Biswajit Mohanty, the board member of Transparency International (TI)-India, who filed the petition on Friday, said the Central Information Commission has recently brought political parties within the ambit of the RTI Act, but that does not cover regional parties.

“A case has been filed by me. I have prayed that Biju Janata Dal (BJD) be declared as a public authority and party president Naveen Pattnaik may be directed to appoint a public information officer in order to comply with the RTI Act,” Mohanty told a news agency.

“I have pointed out that there are certain unique features in BJD which call for declaring it a public authority. As many as five office bearers of the party who hold the post of president, vice president and general secretary are also ministers of the state government,” he pointed out.

“Therefore, there is direct and total government control over the operation of this party which immediately attracts the RTI Act and hence it should be covered under RTI,” he added.

The Central Information Commission decided to bring national political parties within the ambit of the RTI Act, primarily because of the public function served by them as well as the fact that most parties have availed indirect government funding by way of concessionally priced land or rented quarters for running their offices, he said.



CIC order on parties: RTI applicants file caveat in HC

A caveat was on Wednesday filed in the Delhi High Court to pre-empt any ex-parte stay on the Central Information Commission order bringing political parties under the purview of Right to Information Act.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a civil society claiming to bring transparency in Indian politics, on whose plea the CIC had passed the order, asked the High Court that it should be given the opportunity to respond if any appeal is filed by any political party.

ADR said that they apprehend that the political parties like Congress, BJP, Samajwadi Party, BSP and CPI, CPI(M) and NCP would challenge the CIC’s June 3 order.

“The caveator/ prospective respondents (ADR) apprehend that the revision/appellant may claim inter-alia ex parte interim relief from this court against CIC’s June 3 order.

“No ex parte/ad-interim relief or otherwise be granted to the prospective revisioner/appellant without a prior notice thereof of the caveators/prospective respondents is duly served,” the caveat filed through advocate Kamini Jaiswal said.

“The caveators have a strong case on merits and if an opportunity is granted to them, the caveators will convince this court not to grant ex-parte relief in the present case and to further dismiss any such revision petition/ first appeal against the order/interim application of the prospective revisioner/appellant on the merits,” as per the caveat.

On June 3, the CIC has brought six political parties – Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, BSP and NCP – under the ambit of the RTI Act, saying the parties are substantially financed by the central government among other things.


SC stays part of its verdict on appointments in info panels

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed its direction that only sitting or retired chief justices of High Courts or an apex court judge can head the Central and State Information Commissions.

A bench of justices A. K. Patnaik and A.K. Sikri also directed “that wherever a Chief Information Commissioner is of the opinion that intricate questions of law have to be decided in a matter…, he will ensure the matter is heard by a Bench of which at least one member has knowledge and experience in the field of law.”

The Bench however, made it clear that during pendency of the pleas challenging its judgment, authorities could continue to fill up the vacant positions in the Information Commissions in accordance with the Right to Information (RTI) Act and its verdict, except the portion which had been stayed.

The apex court passed the interim order, saying it would be subject to the outcome of the petitions filed by the Centre and others seeking review of its verdict on appointment of information commissioners.

“We make it clear that subject to orders that may be finally passed after hearing the review petitions, the competent authority will continue to fill up the vacant posts of information commissioners in accordance with the Act and in accordance with the judgement … except sub-paras which we have stayed.”

“This is to ensure that functioning of the Information Commissioners in accordance with the Act and the judgment is not affected during the pendency of the review petitions,” according to it.

The stayed sub-paras of the apex court’s September 13, 2012 ruling stipulated that the Information Commissions should work in Benches of two members and each Bench should comprise a legally trained member, who is to be appointed in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justices of the High Courts of States concerned.

The Bench also clarified in its order that “the Chief Commissioners already functioning will continue to function until the disposal of the review petitions.”



Govt officials’ ACRs can’t be made public: SC

A plea for disclosure of the annual confidential reports (ACRs) of public servants under the RTI Act has been rejected by the Supreme court of India.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya upheld the Delhi High Court’s order that the annual performance appraisal reports (APARs), previously known as ACRs, of a public servant were personal information and exempted from disclosure under the transparency law.

“We find no reason to interfere with the impugned judgement passed by the division bench whereby the order passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court was affirmed,” according to the bench.

The court passed the order on an appeal filed by transparency activist R K Jain’s plea challenging High Court’s order.

Jain had sought setting aside of HC order and issuance of a direction to the Centre to disclose alleged “adverse” remarks in ACR of Jyoti Balasundaram, a member of Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) in 2000-01.

Jain had earlier approached the CESTAT’s Central Principal Information Officer, who had refused to “divulge any information on the ground that it was exempted under Section 8(1)(i) of the RTI Act”. The CIC had also declined the plea on the same ground.

Government withdraws RTI Act amendments

Under pressure from UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Manmohan Singh government Thursday withdrew the controversial amendments aimed at diluting the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“The cabinet decided to withdraw the amendments to the RTI Act”

The campaign against the amendments was led by activist Aruna Roy, a member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council.

The withdrawal of amendments would mean it would be possible for the citizens to ask for information related to file notings, except on issues about national security, privacy and protection of commercial interest. The amendments had sought to restrict disclosure of file notings only to social and developmental issues.

Nikhil Dey, who works closely with Aruna Roy on the RTI Act told “It is an important decision. The amendments would have killed the RTI Act and there would have been no transparency in governance”

Roy even met Gandhi on the government’s plans to dilute the act. Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra was also not in favour of the amendments, said sources.

The RTI Act was introduced during the previous UPA government to bring more transparency in governance and fight corruption.