Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Archive for October, 2006

Mid-day meal scheme under RTI scanner

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 24, 2006

Mid-day meal scheme under RTI scanner
Tuesday October 24 2006 00:07 ISTUNI

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEH20061023134549&Title=Top+Stories&rLink=0

NEW DELHI: In deference to the Right to Information Act, schools will now have to display information regarding the quantity, quality and utilisation of food served under the mid-day meal scheme.

They will also have to furnish the number of children given mid day meals, daily menu, and the roster of community members involved in the programme.

This is one of the steps the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has asked states to take for monitoring the implementation of the mid-day meal (MDM) scheme and its impact.

State governments have been advised to fix monthly targets for inspection of mid-day meals. As per the directives, on an average, 25 per cent of primary schools should be visited every quarter and the remaining at least once every year.

According to the HRD Ministry directive, the inspections should be simple and able to capture all vital parameters required for the effective implementation of programmes at the field level.

As far as possible, field visits should be made unannounced. They should be used for critical observation and interviewing broad range of individuals involved in the programme.

Inspection reports are a very important part of monitoring documentation and they should be analysed in depth and linked with previous reports on the same centres.

The findings of the reports should be documented and reported in steering-cum-monitoring committee meetings at all levels and suitable remedial/corrective measures should be initiated without any delay.

Social science institutions have also been entrusted the task of monitoring the mid-day meal scheme.

In addition to the above, states are required to develop a mechanism for public grievance redressal, which should be widely publicised and made easily accessible.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

RTI shock for university registrar

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 23, 2006

RTI shock for university registrarAdd to Clippings

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2229906.cms

BANGALORE: A registrar has the dubious distinction of attracting the highest possible penalty for denying the right to information (RTI).

Under the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission has slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on Banaras Hindu University registrar N Sundaram.

His offence: he did not make available to applicant Dhananjay Tripathi an inquiry report on incidents leading to the death of Yogesh Roy, a student, in January. This is the first instance where the CIC has levied the maximum penalty.

The full penalty has to be paid by the registrar in the form of a DD within 15 days. If he fails, the V-C will recover the penalty amount from Sundaram’s salary as per CIC’s directive.

The commission noted: “The only contribution of the registrar in meeting the requirement of the applicant was delay and denial of information. He has never spelt out the valid grounds of rejection of the applicant’s request.”

The CIC held the submissions made by the registrar in response to the show-cause notice as “quite superfluous and explains nothing.”

Sundaram had given a 9-point reply. Tripathi filed an application under RTI seeking the inquiry report of professor Harikesh Singh.

This probed into incidents on January 11 and 12, 2005, including the death of Roy, a student at Sir Sunder Lal Hospital attached to the university.

But Sundaram, who is in charge of administration and the appellate authority under RTI, rejected the application and the subsequent first appeal.

He also communicated his reply 86 days after the date of the application, which is almost two months after the statutory 30 days.

Tripathi appealed before the CIC and the registrar was directed to provide the inquiry report within 15 days.

But BHU V-C Panjab Singh told the commission that the university’s executive council had resolved not to accept the findings of the report.

Still, the commission directed the V-C to make public the report with the proviso that the university had rejected it. But the report was never made available.

What section 20 (1) of the RTI Act states:

Where the CIC or the SIC at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the central public information officer or the state public information officer has without any reasonable cause refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified or denied the request with mala fide intention or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of Rs 250 each day till application is received or information is furnished. However, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed Rs 25,000.

Posted in RTI Penalties | 1 Comment »

Government’s resolve on RTI Act questioned

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 21, 2006

Government’s resolve on RTI Act questioned

Special Correspondent

http://www.hindu.com/2006/10/21/stories/2006102105391300.htm

 

Few are implementing it, say stakeholders

 

 

 

NEW DELHI: Stakeholders have expressed serious doubts over the Government’s resolve to fulfil its responsibilities in implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The opinion emerged at the first national convention held here last week to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the Act.

Judging from the attendance, the Act has interested primarily residents of big cities, among them mostly men. Most of those utilising it are in government, according to a survey conducted by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

Responding to a survey conducted by the Transparency Studies Unit of the CMS during the convention, more than half of those who attended the three-day meet felt that few government departments were implementing the Act.

Not satisfied

In fact, two-thirds were not satisfied with the responsiveness of the front-end implementers — the Public Information Officers (PIOs). Half of them could not recall any specific initiative taken by their respective Information Officers to promote the Act. As many as 160 of the participants from all parts of the country responded to the questionnaire.

Nevertheless, 45 per cent of those from civil society and 70 per cent from the government sector thought that people in their respective areas were “generally satisfied” with the provisions of the Act. Two-thirds believed that the Act would promote good governance and bring down corruption if implemented seriously. Seventy per cent of all who responded and 90 per cent of those from civil society were convinced that access to `file notings’ should be available under the Act.

On the role of the news media, 60 per cent were of the opinion that they had not done a good job of promoting the Act.

According to the survey, newspapers were the primary source of information about the RTI for most of the people. Television was mentioned by 40 per cent of delegates as their source. More than two-thirds wanted news media also to be brought under the Act.

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Most states lag in implementing RTI

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 19, 2006

Most states lag in implementing RTI
Himanshi Dhawan
[ 19 Oct, 2006 0149hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2201328.cms

NEW DELHI: This is one report card that could make it to the hall of shame. A year after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was made operational, barely a handful of states have passed the halfway mark in implementing RTI.

Only eight of the 29 states and five Union territories have ranked above 50% in RTI compliance.

The study conducted by a Non Governmental Organisation, Centre for Civil Society, examined all states except Jammu & Kashmir to judge how many were complying with Section 4 of the Right To Information (termed as duty to publish or DTP) Act that makes it compulsory for states to give suo moto certain information relating to the functioning of the administration, to the public.

Incidentally, literacy levels have not impacted awareness levels in states. States that have high literacy levels, including Kerala (90.92%) or Mizoram (88.49%), have lagged behind in implementing Duty To Publish.

Even states where civil society movements are strong have suffered. West Bengal ranks 14 in the charts with barely 24% compliance while Rajasthan – long considered the fountainhead of the Right To Information movement – is almost at the bottom of the ladder with 11%.

And surprisingly, states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Chandigarh were on top of the heap with over 70% compliance.

Predictably, Punjab and Delhi came in fourth and fifth with 64% and 59% compliance of RTI.

Manipur and Tamil Nadu ended up with 5% and states like Assam, Jharkhand and Sikkim joined Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu at the end of the list.

The CCS studied compliance of DTP in the education sector. Under DTP, government and public authorities are bound to give certain information related to their functions, the public information officers appointed to address appeals and details about their budget and subsidies.

Commenting on the study, Gautam Bastian from CCS said that better implementation of DTP would remove some of the obstacles that the bureaucracy complains about.

With most of the information on their websites, offices would then be inundated with much fewer appeals and ensure better implementation of the law.

Posted in RTI ACT 2005 | Leave a Comment »

RTI Act: New tool for politicians?

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 19, 2006

RTI Act: New tool for politicians?
Ayesha Khan

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=205896

Vadodara, October 18: IS the Right To Information Act becoming a handy tool used by people to settle personal as well as political scores? Two Congress councillors in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation recently sought information related to health and development work under this Act. Another councillor from Padra has also been seeking information routinely in this manner. Though there is no legal provision preventing elected representatives from seeking information under RTI Act, many believe this is another way of misusing an Act meant to empower the common man.

In their party workers’ training meets, both the Congress and the BJP have been conducting refresher courses on the use of RTI Act and how to exercise the power to play the role of an effective opposition. In the Congress’ Janmitra sessions held across the State, one of the sessions was on RTI.

Perhaps, taking this to heart, two VMC councillors Chandrakant Srivastava and Imtiaz Patel have now sought information under RTI. While Patel has sought health data on the number of Barodians who have reported ill from specific areas, Bhattu has sought information on specific development work like laying of roads and drainage lines in his constituency.

Padra councillor Bipin Patel, who belongs to the Congress, has also been demanding information routinely under RTI, thereatfer legally challenging the BJP-led nagarpalika’s decision in certain cases. However, senior political leaders make a distinction between party worker and elected representative. A senior Congress leader, on grounds of anonymity, said: ”It’s slightly stupid for a councillor to seek information under RTI, as we routinely ask questions during the general board meeting. As councillors, irrespective of the party we belong, we are the ones to frame civic rules.”

But Srivastava and Patel defend their act. ”The information which we receive under RTI Act is the official data that can be used to counter the authorities’ claims. It has more credibility,” said Srivastava. City Congress president Bhikha Rabari, however, said, ”The councillors usually need not seek information under the RTI Act as they are privy to official information.”

Countering this, Patel said, ”Since we are in minority, the BJP-dominated board does not want to part with all information. Under the RTI Act, they have to clearly state the details, which exposes them.” Interestingly, there is no such precedent in Rajkot or Surat wherein elected councillors have sought information under the RTI Act to turn the heat on their political opponents or expose the alleged administrative inefficiencies.

Posted in RTI ACT 2005 | 3 Comments »

Resolutions passed at the National Convention

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 19, 2006

Resolutions passed at the National Convention

organised by

 Central Information Commission at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi

13th  to  15th  October  2006

  1. The Governments must provide required resources, facilities, funding and personnel to the Information Commissions to be able to implement the  Right To Information Act.

  2. All Public Authorities must fulfil the requirements of Section 4, and a compliance report should be submitted to the appropriate Information Commissions before 1 January, 2007.

  3. The Government must give an undertaking publicly that no changes will be made in the RTI Act until October, 2008.

  4. Commissions must give an opportunity for a personal hearing to appellants and complainants.

  5. Commissions should go by the letter and spirit of the law, ensuring that all denials of information are only as per the exemptions listed in the Act.

  6. The Governments must ensure a common name in whose favour the application fees can be made by demand drafts or postal orders, and increase the modes of payment of these fees.

http://cic.gov.in/Conference/resolutions.htm

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Trappings vs substance

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 18, 2006

Trappings vs substance
 
Business Standard / New Delhi October 17, 2006
 
http://www.business-standard.com/common/storypage.php?autono=261980&leftnm=4&subLeft=0&chkFlg
 
The fact that the convention to mark one year of the Right to Information Act was inaugurated by the President and the Prime Minister delivered the valedictory address indicates that at least in form the Act and its working are part of the official agenda. However, the fact that the website of the ministry of personnel continues to declare that “file notings” do not come under the Act highlights the long road ahead before it can be effectively used to improve governance. The ministry has responded to the chief information commissioner on notings by stating, along with legal advice, that the order has to be passed by all the commissioners sitting together. If this is the only way in which the commission could issue orders then hundreds of them already issued by one or two commissioners together would lose their standing. The Prime Minister has backed the Act with strong words but he is yet to take action to stop bureaucratic manoeuvres ingeniously contrived to prevent it from becoming effective.
Civil society groups which have played a key role in bringing the Act into being are in particular worried about the implication of two remarks by Dr Manmohan Singh. They are uncertain if his warning against “professional middlemen” getting involved in trying to work the Act can also come to include NGOs helping the poor and the uninitiated in seeking redress under the law. They are also intrigued by his comment that the Act should not end up creating “adversarial relationships” between different stakeholders. If the Act is to be used as a weapon against power brokers and the corrupt, then the latter can hardly be expected to give up without a fight. The Act can hardly be worked in the spirit of a tea party.
Serious conflicts are bound to emerge when the Act begins to make a serious difference. Those actively monitoring its working are enthused by the fact that there is such a groundswell of support for it. People are aggressively coming forward to use the Act and a significant constituency for it has grown up in a single year. But its proponents are perturbed by the huge backlog that is emerging and fear that before long a three- to four- year wait for a final decision on an application may become routine. There are two ways of preventing this. One is to ensure that information which can be easily accessed should be delivered promptly and the one-month limit should apply only to information not readily available. The other requirement is for the information commissions to give up their present hesitation to impose penalty on public information officers who do not deliver. If there is no credible sanction against default then things will not get done. Studies also indicate that progress has been slow in putting more information in the public domain, which is directed by the Act. Doing this with the help of technology will allow people to get information without having to apply under the Act. These are clearly early days for the Act as not more than a handful of applications have gone up to the high courts. It is there the final battles have to be fought and the attitude of the courts will be critical in determining if the Act means something or not.

Posted in RTI ACT 2005 | 2 Comments »

Who is responsible for ignoring implementation of RTI Act?

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 17, 2006

Who is responsible for ignoring implementation of RTI Act?

OPEN LETTER TO SHRI WAJAHAT HABIBULLAH

Dear Shri Habibullah,

1.Your patience and tact in dealing with the campaign by RTI
Activists aimed at "sacking" you was quite admirable.  Same group of
activists had initiated an on-line campaign to the President of
India against you. They believe that you are personally responsible
for non-implementation of RTI. Campaign was aimed at getting maximum
media exposure. In my opinion, a clearer understanding of the
complexities in implementation of RTI Act in the public
administration system in India is required, to fix responsibility
for its non-implementation.

2. Implementation is the primary responsibility of public
authorities under the Central and State Governments. CIC /SICs are
the Appellate Authorities and oversee the implementation of RTI Act
by the executive authorities, to submit their report to Parliament /
State Legislatures. Monitoring and reporting duties of CIC / SICs
are identical to the Audit Report of C&AG. Traditionally, C&AG does
not undertake executive responsibilities, as it would interfere with
his independence as an auditor.

3. Your critics are putting the entire blame for non-implementation
on you, ignoring the provisions of RTI Act, which define your role.
This aspect was also overlooked in the national convention. It may
be your personal decency that you did not emphasize upon the failure
of executive, to ward off the personal criticism levied on you.

4. Main issues relating implementation pertain to Appropriate
Government and Public Authority. CIC and SICs have peripheral role
of monitoring and reporting to Parliament / State Legislature. If
RTI Act is implemented in letter and spirit, it constitutes a major
administrative reform, leading to higher degree of public
accountability, transparency and quicker response to the aspiration
of the people. Only the public authorities can carry out such
administrative changes. In our administrative set-up, CIC / SICs
will not be able to make any significant contribution in following
aspects of implementation, except making recommendations to
Government and highlighting the non-implementation in their
reports:

q Changes in record keeping by public authorities u/s 4(1)(a),
to make information readily accessible to the citizens.

q Suo moto disclosure of information needed by citizens, to
avoid resort to applications under RTI Act.

q Appointment of CPIO/SPIO and publicity regarding their
appointment.

q Departmental instructions by each public authority to
facilitate the work of CPIO/SPIO, so that each official understands
his responsibilities under the RTI Act.

q Educational programs under section 25 are the responsibility
of the Central and State Government. This is a huge task, which
cannot be performed without using entire administrative machinery
available with the Government, including the educational
institutions. This also requires well-planned schemes and funding by
the Government.

q Major stumbling block is the negative attitude of the
officials towards the RTI Act, who are likely to resist enhanced
pubic accountability and transparency.

4. During the first year of implementation, Central and State
Governments have not been able to fulfill all these legal
obligations.  Proposed amendments to Section 18 of RTI Act seems to
be an attempt to pass on the entire responsibility of implementation
to Central Information Commission / State Information Commissions.
They do not have the requisite administrative and financial
resources, at there command. If this amendment to TI Act were
approved by the Parliament, public authorities would continue to
ignore their duties regarding implementation.

5. Whereas the RTI Activists are very vociferous about "file
notings" aspect of the amendments, they have not made adequate noise
about the far-reaching consequences of amending section 18.  These
are complex administrative issues, which were not considered in
the  "National Convention on One Year of RTI".

6. In my opinion CIC and SICs should bring their administrative
limitations to the notice of Central and State Governments. It is
essential to emphasize that implementation responsibility of the
Appropriate Government/ Public Authorities, cannot be imposed on
them.  On the other hand, there is a need for an effective audit
mechanism to enable CIC / SICs to conduct an independent review and
evaluate the implementation of RTI Act by the Public Authorities.
Report by CIC / SICs to Parliament / State Legislature should not
totally rely upon the information given by the Government, without
independent audit scrutiny.

7. RTI Activists have raised the issue of the "soft approach" of
CIC / SICs.  Every administrator knows that there are stages where
soft approach is much better than the "hard approach."  At he
initial stages of the learning curve, it is desirable to be soft,
one can get harder after a certain stage of learning. Although CIC/
SICs do not have the executive responsibility for implementing the
RTI Act, their reports to Parliament / State Legislature would
reflect that every one is at the initial stages of learning curve.
In view of the Citizen's demand for punishment to CPIO / SPIO in
every case of default, there can be a cut-off date for such
mechanical imposition of penalty.

8. In the national convention most of the speakers talked about the
negative attitude of bureaucracy towards RTI Act, but no worthwhile
practical suggestions have emerged. I would suggest that from the
year 2007-08 onwards, the Annual Confidential Report of every
officer should reflect how he / she has contributed towards
implementation of RTI Act, to motivate them to be more responsive
towards the citizens.

9. Attitude of an officer towards the public is a realistic
indicator of his /her capabilities. Good Officers would  (a) Make
every possible effort to improve record keeping, (b) Make suo-moto
disclose information of public interest to avoid public resort to
RTI Act, (c) Use increased public accountability as a tool for
administrative reforms, (d) Use disclosure of information under RTI
Act as an effective tool of preventive vigilance, (e) Use RTI Act to
ward off undue political pressures, (g) Use the implementation of
RTI Act as an opportunity for administrative reforms to make their
organisations more attuned to the requirements of the citizens.

10. On the other hand Officers of poor administrative ability would
deny information to hide their inefficiencies. Corrupt officers
would be very reluctant to disclose information, which would expose
them.  Attitude of an officer towards RTI Act, which imposes greater
transparency and public accountability, shows his competence as a
public servant. Suitable instructions for adding these aspects in
the Annual Confidential Report of Officers may be considered by the
Central and State Governments.

11. This open letter to you is a public document. It is being placed
on various Internet groups, including the yahoo group "rti4ngo"
initiated by me, where several administrative aspects of
implementing RTI Act have also been posted.  Many RTI Activists may
disagree with me, as hey have publicly held you personally
responsible for non–implementation of RTI Act. I hope to initiate a
public debate regarding these practical administrative issues.

          Best wishes for the Second Year of RTI,

                   Yours sincerely,

Dhirendra Krishna IA&AS (Retired)
17.10.2006
Email: dhirendrakrishna@yahoo.co.uk

Posted in RTI Activists | Leave a Comment »

GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF RTI ACT’: PM

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 17, 2006

GOVERNMENT COMMITTED TO EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION OF RTI ACT': PM
http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=!330

Sunday, October 15, 2006
ADDRESS AT THE VALEDICTORY SESSION OF NATIONAL CONVENTION ON FIRST YEAR
OF RTI

Expressing the Government's firm commitment to the effective
implementation of the Right to Information Act in letter and spirit, the Prime
Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has assured all stakeholders that the
Government would make a sincere endeavour to strengthen the implementation
of the Act in favour of genuine information seekers and people.

Delivering the valedictory address at the National Convention on First
Year of Right to Information, here today, the Prime Minister said that
the right to information was not a substitute for good governance and
that it could only support and aid the process.

Striking a note of caution, Dr. Singh called for a need to guard
against the growth of professional middlemen in the use of the Act. The Prime
Minister hoped that a time would come when a citizen would not have to
make an application for seeking information under the Act. 

Emphasizing the word "public interest", the Prime Minister underlined
the need for a computerized network throughout the country, down to the
village level, to ensure public participation in the process of
development. 

Shri Suresh Pachouri, Minister of State for Personnel, Central
Information Commissioners – Smt. Padma Balasubramanian, Prof. M.M Ansari, Dr.
O.PKejriwal and Shri A.N. Tiwari were among those present on the
occasion.

The following is the text of the Prime Minister's valedictory address:

"I am very happy that we have gathered here today to celebrate the
first anniversary of the Right to Information Act. This is indeed a
milestone of great importance in the evolution of Indianr democracy and I am
delighted that we are meeting today to mark one year of implementation
of this historic Act.

Presenting the case in support of the Bill in Parliament, I had
expressed the hope that the passage of the Bill will see the dawn of a new era
in our processes of governance, an era of performance and greater
efficiency, an era which will ensure that the benefits of growth flow to all
sections of our people, an era which will help to eliminate the scourge
of corruption, an era which will bring the common man's concerns to the
heart of all processes of governance, an era which will truly fulfill
the hopes of the founding fathers of our Republic.

Indeed, it is with such high hopes that we enacted this law. In this
process, we received tremendous support and guidance from the
Chairperson of UPA; Shrimati Sonia Gandhi and her colleagues in the National
Advisory Council. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude.

Mahatma Gandhi had once observed, "real Swaraj will come not by the
acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by
all to resist authority when abused." In many ways, I would like to
think that the Right to Information Act, taken together with the 73rd and
74th Amendments to the Constitution and the National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act, enable us to fulfill to a considerable degree, Bapu's
dream. Today we are all gathered to assess what use have we made of that
instrument and what more needs to be done to make it a more effective
instrument of public purpose.

I have heard with interest what has been said about your conclusions at
the end of this 1st Annual Convention. What is of particular
satisfaction is that it has become clear that the citizens of our country have
owned this Act with their arms wide open. This has become, if anything, a
"Peoples' Law."

Whatever may be the differences on the finer points of the Act, we
must all be aware of the course that we are setting for the future of
democratic governance. It can be said that the right to know is the most
fundamental of all those rights, which are critical for upholding human
dignity. We live in an age of information, in which the free flow of
information and ideas determines the pace of development and well being of
the people. The implementation of RTI Act is, therefore, an important
milestone in our quest for building an enlightened and at the same time,
a prosperous society.

Therefore, the exercise of the Right to Information cannot be the
privilege of only a few.

This Act is the consummation of a process initiated with the adoption
of our Constitution. We gave ourselves a Sovereign Socialist, Secular
Democratic Republic accountable to all our citizens. Accountability is
based on the premise that citizens have access to information on the
basis of which they can determine the justness, or otherwise, of actions of
the State. Hence, the criticality of the right to information and this
Act is but the means
for accessing it.

We have kept these means simple, with overriding importance given to
"public interest", sweeping aside much of the legacy of colonialism. In
many ways, this Act is the logical culmination of the dreams of our
founding fathers. I would, however, emphasise the word "public interest".
The true determinant of success must be how many people have actually
used this Act, and their level of satisfaction with the information so
obtained. 

We must guard against the growth of professional middlemen in the use
of this Act as seen in some other countries. And since it is an Act for
our common benefit in relation to Public Authority, we are all
stakeholders in the Act and must guard against allowing it to become a tool for
promotion of an adversarial relationship between different
stakeholders. This can only serve to weaken the Act.

Given the diverse and complex nature of our society, the information
revolution underway has the potential to make the Act an effective tool
of social change. Public authorities are shouldering the responsibility
of implementing this Act without any additional staff and are creating
electronic databases to meet the demands placed on them by our citizens
and the Civil Society too has played no mean role in spreading
awareness among citizens regarding their rights and preventing arbitrariness in
processes of decision-making. 

However, a great deal more needs to be done. All public
authorities must ensure that all records that can be computerized are,
within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources,
computerized and connected through a network all over the country.

Networking through the country through the institutionalized framework
of panchayats, community service centres and knowledge centres down to
the village level will ensure public participation in the development
process.

The Central Information Commission has been playing the role of
information provider of the last resort to civil society. This convention has
given an opportunity to interested citizens, eminent personalities from
civil society, Government and Information Commissions at all levels, to
deliberate on substantive issues of common concern and enrich us with
their suggestions. I am sure the recommendations of the Convention will
help Government in addressing measures required to improve the
effectiveness of this revolutionary Act.

I am sure that there will always be various opinions about the
interpretation and implementation of some provisions of the Act. This
is true of any legislation – particularly those that usher in far
reaching changes. In a democratic society, sometimes, it takes time for new
ideas to take firm root. This is part of the learning curve any
legislation has to undergo.

e need to evolve a consensus to facilitate the effective exercise of
the right to information by the needy, by those who are directly affected
by the information. We need to balance the need for information with
the limited time, material and human resources available with public
authorities. Vexatious demands should not be allowed to deprive genuine
information seekers of their legitimate claims on limited public
resources.

We must also realize that laws, over a period of time, adapt themselves
to changing realities as societal perceptions change and most
importantly, right to information is not a substitute for good governance. It
has to support and aid the process of good governance.

The positive manner, in which all stakeholders have responded to the
challenges posed by this Act, encourages me to imagine that a time may
come when a citizen may not have to make an application for seeking
information under this Act. Public authorities could place on their own,
more and more information in the public domain, with easy access as
mandated by the Act. 

On behalf of the Government, I assure all stakeholders that it shall be
our endeavour to strengthen the implementation of the Act in favour of
genuine information seekers and the people. The Act has been a matter
of pride for the UPA Government. It was a commitment we made to our
people. Therefore, we are - as, if not more, interested in its abiding
success. 

We will continue to pursue the goal of ensuring the fullest and freest
flow of information under this Act. We shall work with all stakeholders
for promoting effective usage of the rights granted under this Act. I
assure you the complete support of our government in achieving fully the
aims and objectives of this Act. We remain firmly committed to its
effective implementation in letter and spirit".

***

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RTI Convention :: NCPRI :: Shailesh Gandhi

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 17, 2006

——— Forwarded message ———-
From: shailesh Gandhi <shailesh2@vsnl.com>
Date: 16-Oct-2006

Subject: RTI Convention

There were some fairly significant developments at the National Convention, -which are at the end of this report,-and I wanted to share them.

Report on the National RTI Convention

The Central Information Commission, to commemorate one year of the
RTI Act, organized a National Convention. The Convention was held from 13 to 15 October, 2006 at the Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi. It generated a lot of controversies, even before it began. The Commission first formed a steering committee which included a fair number of civil society activists.

Originally they had planned it as a function primarily for officials. They proposed a function for about 350 people in which there would be about 60 to 70 activists. We protested against this and they accepted the view that without the presence of adequate Citizens, a RTI convention was meaningless.

After this first meeting they completely forgot about the steering
committee and designed a really bad program of RTI discussions interspersed with comedy and puppet shows. This resulted in some RTI activists deciding to skip the Convention.

On the first day, Anna Hazare who spoke before the CIC and the President made a fairly strong statement castigating the Government and the Information Commissions for not coming upto the Citizen’s
expectations in the implementation of the act.

Towards the end of the President’s speech, a group of activists stood up with banners giving a call for sacking the CIC. They were later picked by the police and released after a few hours of questioning.

The Commission said they had invited about 900 people out of whom, about 50% were civil society members and the rest were government officials- PIOs, Appellate authorities, Commissioners and others.
I think there were about 700 people who attended in which there were perhaps about 400 government officials including around 30 Information Commissioners from across India.

The next day had a very good beginning with P.C.Alexander’s erudite and thought provoking speech. I had been dismayed initially when I
had heard his name as the keynote, speaker, but was pleasantly surprised at his depth of understanding of the subject and the current stage of RTI. He was unsparing in his criticism of the Government and the Information Commissions for their faults, and very categorically stated that the Government’s move to amend the law was regressive. With his long experience he stated that giving file notings posed no problem to the honest officers.

After this there were four panel discussions and an opportunity was also given to other participants for about 100 minutes to express their views.

This ended at 2.00pm on the final day.

These sessions were really very interesting with most participants,-
Information Commissioners, other officials and Citizens,- expressing
dissatisfaction with the current status of RTI. By and large everyone voiced the view that RTI had not delivered its promise and potential. Some Citizens were very vociferous and eloquent in attacking the Commissions, PIOs and Appellate Authorities. At times the integrity of officials and Commissioners was also challenged. Bad and illegal orders from all these functionaries were attacked repeatedly, with just a few showing any appreciation of anything done by them.

The three persistent demands by the activists were about penalty imposition, personal hearings and Section 4 disclosure. To me
as an involved observer and activist, this showed a very interesting side of the potential of the Right To Information campaign. Everyone, including Public Servants accepted the importance of the Right, and also in acknowledging the failure to deliver. Though there were more Public Servants than Citizenry, there were very few who blamed the Citizens for any faults, or misuse.

On the first day, Wajahat Habibullah speaking before the President, stated that he was against any move to ban applications on the
alleged grounds of being ‘vexatious and frivolous’ or any amendment of the RTI Act.

After discussions with some activists, I proposed seven resolutions
before the Convention on the final day and six were passed. The first three were passed unanimously, while the balance were passed with an overwhelming majority. It is worthwhile to note that the first three resolutions, including the demand for no change in the RTI Act, had Information Commissioners also raising their hands in support. It will also be useful to keep in mind that the audience had around 50% Public servants.

When the Chief Information Commissioner presented his report to the Prime Minister, he mentioned the first three resolutions in his speech. Minister Suresh Pachouri and the Prime Minister did not respond to these, and primarily read their written speeches paying homage to RTI and their own and Sonia Gandhi’s contributions to RTI.

October 15, 2006

We the People of India, having gathered at the National Convention held by the Central Information Commission at Vigyan Bhawan, have deliberated from 13 to 15th October 2006 on our Right To Information Act, 22 of 2005. As we complete one year of this Historic Act,- which heralds our Swaraj,- we resolve as follows to ensure and safeguard our freedom:

1. The Governments must provide required resources, facilities, funding and personnel to the Information Commissions to be able to implement the Right To Information Act.

2. All Public Authorities must fulfil the requirements of Section 4, and a compliance report should be submitted to the appropriate Information Commissions before 1 January, 2007.

3. The Government must give an undertaking publicly that no changes will be made in the RTI Act until October, 2008.

4. Commissions must give an opportunity for a personal hearing to appellants and complainants.

5. Commissions should go by the letter and spirit of the law, ensuring that all denials of information are only as per the exemptions listed in the Act.

6. The Governments must ensure a common name in whose favour the
application fees can be made by demand drafts or postal orders, and increase the modes of payment of these fees.

Passed by the Convention on 15 October, 2006.

To be presented to the Prime Minister of India.

Being given to the Central and State Information Commissions, for response and action. We also request them to also forward these to the Central and State Governments.

Note: The first three resolution were passed unanimously, and the balance three by an overwhelming majority. The resolution which could not garner a clear majority, inspite of a loud and vigorous thumping from many activists was:

7. Commissions must impose penalties as a matter of rule of law, rather than as exceptions in order to effectively implement the Act and reduce the number of second appeals reaching them.

Personal note: Among other points, I did strongly put across the following:

1. The need for ensuring that the pendency before the Commissions
should not be more than 60 days. I believe this is the greatest danger to the Act.

2. The desirability of a RTI stamp of Rs. 10 available at all post
offices which should be accepted for all applications. The amount obtained from this could be used for RTI propagation. Even if there are one crore applications in the Country, the amount involved will be just 10 crore rupees.

However, these did not find great enthusiasm.

Love

shailesh gandhi
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