Judges’ Medical bill not to be disclosed under RTI:SC

Judges' Medical bill not to be disclosed under RTI:SC
Judges’ Medical bill not to be disclosed under RTI:SC

The Supreme Court today held that the medical expenses incurred on judges and their family members cannot be disclosed or made public under the Right to Information Act.

A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court verdict which had dismissed a plea seeking details of medical reimbursements of Supreme Court judges, saying it had personal information and providing it would amount to invasion of their privacy.

“We understand that we are getting the reimbursement from public money for our treatment and we are entitled for it as per the service conditions of judges,” the bench, which comprised justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, observed.

The bench said, “there should be some respect for privacy and if such informations are being disclosed, there will be no stopping.”

“Today he is asking informations for medical expenses. Tomorrow he will ask what are the medicines purchased by the judges. When there will be a list of medicines he can make out what type of ailment the judge is suffering from. It starts like this. Where does this stop,” the bench further observed.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal against the April 17 judgement of a division bench of the High Court which had upheld decision of its single judge that the information about reimbursement of medical bills of judges and their families cannot be disclosed under RTI law.

The single judge had set aside the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) direction holding that judges have to disclose such informations.

The apex court did not agree with advocate Prashant Bhushan that since citizens are entitled to know how public money is spent by other public servants, they also have a right to know how these funds were being utilised for medical treatment of judges.

Rationale behind passing judgement can’t be revealed under RTI: SC

supreme courtThe rationale behind passing judgements or orders by courts cannot be disclosed to litigants under the Right to Information Act, Supreme Court has said.

An appellate authority of the Supreme Court, constituted under the RTI Act, dismissed the plea of an RTI activist who had sought information on the rationale for passing orders on review petitions without holding a hearing and without giving any reasons.

“It will be of essence to state that the CPIO is not the authority or the person from whom information can be sought on the rationale behind the delivery of judgements by the court as has been attempted to be done by the appellant in this case,” the authority said in its order.

It dismissed an appeal filed by Ravinder Raj, an advocate, who approached the appellate authority after the information officer of the apex court refused to furnish information on the issue.

“The Supreme Court in the case of Khanapuram (judgement) has held that the judge speaks through its judgements or orders passed by him and no litigants can be allowed to seek information as to why and for what reasons the judge came to a particular decision or conclusion,” it said.

“Taking a cue from the law laid down above, it is evident that the information sought on these counts has no basis in it,” it added.

(Source: PTI)

Bill to amend RTI Act likely in parliament Monday

The government is Monday likely to introduce in the Lok Sabha a bill to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep political parties out of its ambit, informed sources said.
The issue has been in the limelight after a June 3 Central Information Commission (CIC) order stated that six national political parties would be brought under the RTI Act as they were public authorities, receiving significant funding from the government.

The government will have no difficulty in getting the bill passed as most parties are against the CIC order, the sources said.

The union cabinet approved the amendments Aug 2.

Defending the amendments, Law Minister Kapil Sibal had then said no political party could function if the CIC order was implemented.

“This (order) will strike at the root of the political system. People will seek all sorts of details from political parties including their process of consultation and decision-making. Nowhere in the world does this happen,” he said.

 “The political parties are unanimous against the CIC order. Parties will not be able to function if this is allowed,” he added.

The law minister gave a long list of points to indicate that political parties “did not function under a veil of secrecy” and were accountable.

“We get elected by the people. We have to reveal whatever donations we receive to the Election Commission. It is not as if donations to parties are unaccounted for,” said Sibal.

Donations received by political parties beyond Rs.20,000 have to be declared to the income tax department, the minister pointed out.

“This can also be made public. It is not as if the political parties operate under a veil of secrecy,” he said.
“We give an account of assets and liabilities to the Election Commission and also give an account of our expenses, there is transparency. Political parties are not companies or trusts. It’s a voluntary association of persons,” he said.
(Source: IANS )

Sibal explains why RTI amendment is needed

kapilThe government on Friday strongly defended the cabinet decision to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act in order to keep political parties out of its ambit, saying no political party could function if the CIC order was implemented.

The issue has been in the news after a June 3 Central Information Commission (CIC) order stated that six national political parties would be brought under the RTI Act as they were public authorities, receiving significant funding from the government.

Had the CIC order been implemented, the political parties would be liable to declare their accounts and other details.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the government respected the CIC, but was concerned by its order. He further said: “This (order) will strike at the root of the political system. People will seek all sorts of details from political parties including their process of consultation and decision-making. Nowhere in the world does this happen.”

“The political parties are unanimous against the CIC order. Parties will not be able to function if this is allowed,” he added.

The government’s reaction came after the union cabinet Thursday approved two amendments to the RTI Act, one aiming at keeping political parties out of its ambit and the second stating that the CIC order was not binding on any political party.

According to the law minister, two options were available to the government — filing a writ petition in the high court against the CIC order, a time-consuming process; and second, amending the RTI Act, which could be done quickly.

Government sources said the change in the RTI Act would be made in the monsoon session starting Aug 5.

“The hurry is because the CIC order is operational. We want a quick resolution of this issue,” said Sibal.

The law minister gave a long list of points to indicate that political parties “did not function under a veil of secrecy” and were accountable.

“There seems to be an impression that political parties are not accountable. We get elected by the people. We have to reveal whatever donations we receive to the Election Commission. It is not as if donations to parties are unaccounted for,” said Sibal.

Donations received by political parties beyond Rs.20,000 have to be declared to the income tax department, the minister pointed out.

“This can also be made public. It is not as if the political parties operate under a veil of secrecy,” he said.

“We give an account of assets and liabilities to the Election Commission and also give an account of our expenses, there is transparency. Political parties are not companies or trusts. It’s a voluntary association of persons,” he said.

Sibal said parties already make declarations to the Election Commission. “We make declarations to the income tax department, and the IT department can make it public if it so thinks,” he said.

The minister went on to say that political parties are not appointed.

“We go to the people through an election process. We get elected, unlike government servants and people in a trust. There is a basic difference,” he said.

In a lighter vein, the law minister said it was the UPA government which had given the weapon of RTI Act in the hands of people.

Stressing that the government wanted greater transparency in the political system, the law minister said he has asked the law commission to start a poll reform process and consultations have already begun with parties.The EC, too, was holding similar consultations, he said.

(Source: IANS)

PM urged not to amend RTI Act

rtiActivists and citizens Wednesday urged the prime minister not to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The petition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, signed by around 300 people, came after a Central Information Commission order that declared six political parties to be public authorities.

“It is reported that the government is considering the introduction of a bill in parliament to amend the RTI law. Such a move to amend the act will reinforce and confirm the suspicions of many that the political establishment intends to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power. We, as citizens of India, empowered by the RTI Act, demand that it not be amended,” the petition said.

The signatories include former NAC members Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander and Jean Dreze, former information commissioner Sahilesh Gandhi and many retired personnel from the armed forces.

The monsoon session of parliament starts Aug 5.

Stating that any amendment to the RTI Act would undermine and weaken the process of realising various constitutional promises, the petition said that in 2009, when amendments were being proposed to the RTI Act, the concerned minister of the government had assured parliament that “non-governmental organisations and social activists would be consulted on the proposed amendments”.

The petition added: “India’s governance is going through a credibility crisis as never before, in which all sectors of governance and social formations have been suspect. The political establishment has come in for most severe criticism, just and unjust.”

“The series of attempts to amend the Act, which have arisen periodically, have since 2006 been nullified to a large extent by public pressure as well as the political will of a part of the establishment and government,” said the activists.

(Source: IANS)

PM petitioned against amendments to RTI Act

Activists have launched an online petition addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against the amendment likely to be made to the Right to Information (RTI) Act in the upcoming parliament session.

“We are informed that the government is thinking of amending the RTI Act to negate the Central Information Commission order that the political parties are public authorities under the act,” said Bharat Dorgra, coordinator of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), in a statement Sunday.

“It is likely that these amendments would seek to curtail various other entitlements that have now established the ability of the RTI to fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power by the establishment. Therefore, this petition has been initiated,” Dogra added.

Since the implementation of the RTI Act in 2005, activists have resisted several attempts by the establishment to curtail transparency and accountability, he said.

“When amendments were proposed to the RTI Act in 2009, the government had assured parliament that non-governmental organisations (NGO) and social activists will be consulted on the amendments. We, therefore, expect the government to hold wide ranging public discussions before they even think of amending the law,” said Sailesh Gandhi, an RTIactivist.

The petition, which has 250 signatures so far, has been initiated by NCPRI on the website change.org.

(Source: IANS)

RTI Rules Row: SC seeks Alld HC registry response

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the Allahabad High Court Registry’s response on a PIL challenging the provisions of RTI rules framed by it for divulging information to the public as being unconstitutional and ultra-vires of the 2005 transparency law.

 A bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar issued a notice to the registry on the plea of NGO, Common Cause, which has sought the quashing of Rules 3, 4, 5, 20, 25, 26, 27 of the Allahabad High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006.

 The petitioner NGO has also sought directions to the high court of Allahabad and the subordinate courts within its jurisdiction to follow the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules 2006 framed by the central government.

 Appearing for Common Cause, advocate Prashant Bhushan said the rules framed by the high court on its administrative side not only “have the effect of abridging and infringing the right to information” but also “violate Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution”.

 Initially, the court had asked the petitioner to approach the high court on the judicial side but after the counsel pointed out that similar rules of the Delhi High Court was also under challenge, the bench agreed to issue the notice.

 In its petition, the NGO has said the Allahabad High Court’s RTI Rules, 2006, framed for processing RTI applications, deviate from the letter and spirit of the transparency law.

 It said the high court has “unduly restricted” the information that can be sought per application, fixed Rs500 as the fee to be deposited with every RTI application and Rs15 as the amount to be paid for every page of information, etc.

No disclosure under RTI at pre-detention stage: SC

The state is not under an obligation to disclose under the Right to Information Act(RTI)  the grounds of detention of a person under a preventive detention law before his arrest, the Supreme Court has ruled.

  A three-judge bench of justices Altamas Kabir, Gyan Sudha Misra and J Chelameshwar said a detune under the preventive detention laws like NSA, COFEPOSA etc is not required to be treated in the same manner as a person arrested in connection with the commission of an alleged offence.

  “Since clause (5) of Article 22 provides that the grounds for detention are to be served on a detune after his detention, the provisions of Section 3 of the RTI Act, 2005, cannot be applied to cases relating to preventive detention at the pre-execution stage”.

  “In other words, Section 3 of the RTI Act has to give way to the provisions of Clause (5) of Article 22 of the Constitution,” said Justice Kabir, writing the judgement for the bench.

  Under Article 22 of the Constitution, the authorities are under an obligation to disclose to a person the reasons for his or her arrest.

  “Notwithstanding the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, the State is not under any obligation to provide the grounds of detention to a detune prior to his arrest and detention, notwithstanding the fact that in the cases of Choith Nanikram Harchandai and Suresh Hotwani & Anr, the grounds of detention had been provided to the detune under the RTI Act, 2005, at the pre-execution stage”.

  “The procedure followed under the RTI Act, in respect of the said writ petitions cannot and should not be treated as a precedent, ” the bench said.

  The apex court gave the ruling while dismissing a bunch of applications seeking disclosure of information under the RTI Act for detunes at the pre-detention stage.

  The apex court said its earlier judgement in the Choith Nanikram Harchandai and Suresh Hotwani case wherein it was ruled that such disclosure was mandatory should not be treated as a precedent.

  It said the provisions relating to production of an arrested or detained person, contained in clauses (1) and (2) of Article 22 of the Constitution, have excluded their benefit in respect of a person detained under any preventive detention law.

  The bench said sub section (1) of Section 8 of the RTI Act, made an exception to the disclosure of information which could be contrary to the interests of the nation or which over-weighed the personal interests of the citizen.

  The apex court also ruled that powers of the Supreme Court and high courts for protecting the fundamental rights of the citizens cannot be curtailed by any judicial order.

  “The exercise of powers vested in the superior courts in judicially reviewing executive decisions and orders cannot be subjected to any restrictions by an order of the court of law.

  “The most precious right of a citizen is his right to freedom and if the same is to be interfered with, albeit in the public interest, such powers have to be exercised with extra caution and not as an alternative to the ordinary laws of the land,’ the bench said.

Centre to bring RTI in school curriculum

With an aim to generate awareness on the Right to Information Act(RTI), the Centre is considering introduction of lessons on various facets of the transparency law in the school curriculum.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT), which acts as a nodal agency for matters related to RTI Act, is in talks with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for the purpose, officials said.

The government is coordinating with NCERT about possible inclusion of lessons on RTI in school curriculum. A roadmap is likely to be devised soon,” a DoPT official said.

The NCERT conducts and supports educational research and offers training in educational research methodology, besides developmental activities in school education.

Officials said the proposal is at a nascent stage and a final decision will only be taken after consultation with the NCERT.

The decision was taken after seeing the growing number of RTI applications filed in central and state government run departments.

“The RTI Act has helped in improving the level of governance. Applicants have brought both the success stories and anomalies in the functioning of some departments. We want that the Act be widely publicised and especially school goers be targeted,” the official said.

The RTI Act may be taught, as curriculum or in the form of non-mandatory supplementary books, for the students between upper primary and higher secondary level (class VII and XII).

Plea to make officials’ appraisal reports public

The performance appraisal reports of government staffers, officially known as the Annual Confidential Report (ACR), may not be confidential anymore, with a petition before the Delhi High Court seeking to make them available under the RTI Act in “public interest”.

 

The petitioner — RTI activist R.K. Jain — has raised the question whether performance appraisal reports of a government employee relating to his public duty can be termed as his “personal information” and whether their disclosure will infringe on his privacy.

 

According to a circular issued by the ministry of personnel and public grievances in 2007, “an ACR contains information about the character, capability and other attributes of the officials, disclosures of which to any other person would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy”.

 

ACRs are the basis on which the officials’ increments are based. Officials are rated as “extraordinary/very good/good/poor”. In order to be promoted, the assessee would have to earn an “extraordinary” or “very good” thrice.

 

Stating that under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, only personal information is exempted from public disclosure, the petitioner argued that ACRs do not come under this category.

 

A single bench judge of the Delhi High Court had in December 2011 dismissed the petition and held that ACRs are the personal information of the public servant concerned and thus cannot be made public under RTI.

 

The petitioner, who is also the editor of the Excise Law Times, challenged the earlier order, adding that “larger public interest warrants disclosure of all ACRs, when required under RTI Act”.

 

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, argued: “The ACRs contain no personal information of the officer concerned, except date of birth, date of joining government, employment code, job qualifications and courses attended during the period which is merely routine data about the officer and available otherwise as well.”

 

The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Shah Endlaw will decide on the plea Feb 7, 2012.