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Archive for the ‘Administrative Reforms Commission ARC’ Category

Veerappa MOILY,
ARC on RTI,
ARC,

Not enough, Mr Moily – RTI needs more vigorous defence

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 20, 2006

Not enough, Mr Moily

http://www.financialexpress.com/fe_full_story.php?content_id=137692*%3C

The cautious balancing attempted by the Moily committee on administrative reforms is far behind public sentiment. The reference is to the Union Cabinet’s decision to exempt official file notings from the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A sequel to the unease in governments at the rising use by citizens of the access given by RTI to this vital aspect of decision-making, the move appears blocked for the time being. Entirely due to the political class hurrying to come to terms with the mobilisation of public opinion against the retrograde decision. Till campaigners in this regard such as Anna Hazare and Aruna Roy knit the public feeling into a visible sentiment that shamed some of the less cynical of our political figures—none of whom had spoken up till this development—the change seemed a given. Now, with first the Left parties and then the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, advising a retreat, there is hope.

The Moily panel has now asked the government to replace the disclose-nothing provision of the Union government’s manual on office procedure, as it flatly contradicts the RTI. Good, if obvious; rules have to conform to law, not the reverse. It has also said that files and file notings should be barred from access only if so covered under Section 8(1) of the RTI. This is no reform: the section is already a page long, listing all the provisions on which to deny information. Their catch-all nature gives legal cover to deny almost anything controversial; it is partly due to more liberal appellate authorities, as with the Central Information Commission, that this has happened only partly. The Cabinet decision was to explicitly add file notings, with some exceptions, to this section, so the Moily suggestion doesn’t take us much ahead. We have a long way to go before the notion that citizens have a right to access the record for themselves isn’t regarded as quaint: compelling one variety of school textbooks is a variant of this attitude. The UPA government took a big step in enacting RTI; that process needs movement forward, not backwards or sideways. Momentum is important in reform.

–>

 

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‘Cabinet meetings must stay secret’:: ARC

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 19, 2006

‘Cabinet meetings must stay secret’

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1902596.cms

BANGALORE: Dealing with the confidentiality of the information, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by M Veerappa Moily has asked each ministry/department to identify information which deserves to be given a security classification.

The Reforms Commission has recommended an amendment to the RTI Act to classify 11 items exempted under Section 8 (1) and 9 as top secret, secret, confidential and restricted.

For instance, under this, information pertaining to cabinet papers – including deliberations of council of ministers, secretaries and other officers – are to be classified as confidential.

Similarly, any information which affected the sovereignty and integrity of the country would be classified as top secret.

Top secret and secret documents will be classified for not less than 30 years, while confidential and restricted information will remain so for a period not exceeding 30 years.

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Public can access file notings, recommends ARC

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 19, 2006

Public can access file notings, recommends ARC

 
 

BANGALORE: In a major setback to the Centre, the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by M Veerappa Moily has said files and notings per se are not confidential and should be accessible to public unless exempted under Section 8 of the Right to Information Act.

 

In its first report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the commission has recommended that Para 118 (1) of the Manual of Office Procedure should be deleted as it is totally violative of the RTI Act. The rulebook currently deems file notings to be confidential only for those within the secretariat.

ARC’s recommendation would be an embarrassment to the Centre at a time when the government is planning to amend the RTI Act to make file notings inaccessible.

“The Manual of Office Procedure was prepared when the RTI Act was not in existence. These provisions are totally violative of the Act and hence need to be brought in conformity with the Act.

Notings and files per se will not become confidential and inaccessible unless they are classified as such and are declared to be covered under exemption provisions of Section 8 (1) of the Act,” the ARC said.

“To bring it in conformity with the Act, the provisions regarding unauthorised communication of official information and confidential character of notes/files will have to be amended,” it recommended.

In another recommendation that goes against the proposed RTI amendment, the ARC has said that every government servant should make available full and accurate information to the public or any organisation which can be disclosed under the RTI Act.

Dealing with the confidentiality of the information, the ARC has asked each ministry/department to identify information which deserves to be given a security classification.

The commission has recommended an amendment to the RTI Act to classify 11 items exempted under Sec 8 (1) and 9 as top secret, secret, confidential and restricted.

For instance, under this, information pertaining to cabinet papers, including deliberations of Council of Ministers, secretaries and other officers, are to be classified as confidential.

Similarly, any information which affected the sovereignty and integrity of the country would be classified as top secret.

Top secret and secret documents will be classified for not less than 30 years while confidential and restricted information will remain so for a period not exceeding 30 years.

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Right to information – Some of the ARC recommendations to Govt. threaten to fundamentally undermine the RTI Act.

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 10, 2006

Right to information 


Shekhar Singh 
on ARC recommendations.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1715214,curpg-1.cms

One would think that a report on the right to information by the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), coming out about a year after the Right to Information (RTI) Act was passed, would make recommendations to streng-then the Act.

However, a close look at the report recently submitted to the government reveals that at least three of the recommendations threaten to fundamentally undermine the RTI Act.

The first of these is the recommendation that a public information officer (PIO) should be allowed to refuse a request for information if that is manifestly frivolous or vexatious.

The ARC states that certain instances have been brought to their notice of requests that are mala fide and intimidate, harass and even humiliate officials.

However, the ARC neither gives any specific examples, nor does it go on to explain how the truth can be used for mala fide purposes (what-ever that might mean), or for intimidating, harassing or humiliating an officer.

The ARC lays down no criteria for determining what is manifestly frivolous and/or vexatious, perhaps because these terms are essentially subjective.

For instance, an officer who deals with millions of rupees, might find a dispute over Rs 10 of wages to be frivolous, but to a poor, daily-wage labourer these Rs 10 could represent two kilograms of wheat and the difference between her child living or dying.

The same is true of the term ‘vexatious’. Any request questioning the judgment, the efficiency, the impartiality, the commitment or the integrity of a bureaucrat could be considered vexa-tious.

The right to ask vexatious questions is the essence of the RTI Act, and flows from the fundamental right of the public to question the public servant. If accepted, this recommended clause would lead to most applications being rejected as frivolous or vexatious.

The recommended automatic appeal to the information commission is no solution, for it would just add to the growing backlog of appeals pending before these commissions.

In the absence of penalties, there would be little incentive for PIOs to act responsibly. Besides, even if information commissions decentralise, as recommended by the ARC, the poor and the illiterate would find it difficult to attend hearings or send written submissions to support their applications.

The ARC also recommends that information can be denied if the work involved in processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the public body.

As justification, ARC states that there may be cases where the efforts in compiling information may not be commensurate with the results achieved. Nowhere in the RTI Act is there any obligation on a public authority to compile information, or collect primary information.

The obligation is simply to provide information that is collected, or should have been collected. In fact, Section 7(9) of the RTI Act further clarifies that “An information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority”.

ARC surprisingly recommends that armed forces should be excluded from the purview of the RTI Act, because most of their functioning is already exempt on security grounds.

However, this is no reason why the rest of their functioning should not be brought under public scrutiny. Security agencies have many employees; they make decisions which impact the lives of people, affect the environment, spend public money, award contracts and make purchases.

Why should citizens be denied access to information about these matters? In fact, the blanket exemptions for all agencies currently listed under Schedule II should be withdrawn.

The exemptions provided in the RTI Act are adequate to safeguard national interest. Perhaps these faulty recommendations might never have been made if the ARC had functioned in a participatory and consultative manner.

Interestingly, the recommendations of the one consultation that the ARC reportedly orga-nised at Bhopal in December 2005 have been totally ignored.

The Bhopal meet recommended that the RTI Act should not be amended, and exemptions do not need rationalisation. Nevertheless, the ARC went ahead and did the contrary.

The writer is convenor, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information.

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC | 1 Comment »

If the RTI Act is to fulfil its professed aims of creating transparency in the functioning of government agencies, containing corruption and enhancing accountability, both the military and paramilitary forces must be brought within its ambit.

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 22, 2006

In recent years, there have been a number of charges of corruption and human rights violation in both these institutions, as well as a corresponding decline in the credibility of their self-audit and internal justice systems.

However, Mr Moily’s latest recommendation, that the armed forces be taken out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act, contradicts the very reasoning that underpins the earlier suggestion.

Mr Moily has applied bizarre reverse logic, which will only set off a race to the bottom with regard to transparency and accountability.

Pull wool over our eyes – ” Information on corruption inquiries need not be secret, nor on procurement contracts.”https://right2information.wordpress.com/2006/06/21/pull-wool-over-our-eyes-information-on-corruption-inquiries-need-not-be-secret-nor-on-procurement-contracts/

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Information on corruption inquiries need not be secret, nor on procurement contracts. If the RTI Act is to fulfil its professed aims of creating transparency in the functioning of government agencies, containing corruption and enhancing accountability, both the military and paramilitary forces must be brought within its ambit.

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 21, 2006

Pull wool over our eyes

Hindustan Times

June 20, 2006

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1723789,0012.htm#

Administrative Reforms Commission Chairperson Veerappa Moily had our approval last week for suggesting that subjects concerning the country’s security be put under the purview of the National Security Act, and that the colonial-era Official Secrets Act be scrapped. However, Mr Moily’s latest recommendation, that the armed forces be taken out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act, contradicts the very reasoning that underpins the earlier suggestion. Arguing that the army deserves the same treatment as the paramilitary forces that lie outside the Act’s ambit, Mr Moily has applied bizarre reverse logic, which will only set off a race to the bottom with regard to transparency and accountability.Ostensibly, the paramilitary forces are out of the purview of the RTI Act in order to safeguard information critical to the country’s security. But, there is no such thing as an absolute secret. Operational plans, activities and equipment specifications of the armed forces of today may be secret, but surely not those of 30 years ago? Information on corruption inquiries need not be secret, nor on procurement contracts.

As it is,  Section 1.8 of the Act provides for the withholding of information whose disclosure might ‘affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence’. What excuse is there, then, to exempt the military and paramilitary forces from the purview of the Act?

The armed forces and the paramilitary are key instruments of the State, as well as society. So, while everything must be done to ensure that they are able to function in an unfettered way, they cannot be allowed to cut themselves off from the requirements of accountability and transparency of all government institutions.

In recent years, there have been a number of charges of corruption and human rights violation in both these institutions, as well as a corresponding decline in the credibility of their self-audit and internal justice systems.

It is our contention that more transparency will actually boost their credibility among the people and enhance their functional abilities.

If the RTI Act is to fulfil its professed aims of creating transparency in the functioning of government agencies, containing corruption and enhancing accountability, both the military and paramilitary forces must be brought within its ambit.

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC | 1 Comment »

ARC recomendations are by and large SUBVERTING RTI Act 2005 ? [by Shailesh Gandhi]

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 21, 2006

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: shailesh Gandhi <shailesh2@vsnl.com>
Date: 21-Jun-2006 09:07

I have attempted to give comments against most of the suggestions and am
wondering what is in it, which is really useful. It is about 3900 words. I
again get the overall impression that these recommendations are by and large
subverting RTI, and hence would commend that NCPRI oppose them. I would
request all of you to please read this, and Shekhar's views,-which differ
from mine,-  and please respond. Would be obliged if you could read it and
comment:

ARC: The Official Secrets Act (Para 2.2.12) :

a.     The Official Secrets Act, 1923 should be repealed, and substituted by
a chapter in  the National Security Act, containing provisions relating to official secrets.

shailesh comments: 1 a talks about achieving something that the RTI Act
has already done as far as making OSA redundant is concerned.*

ARC: b.   The equivalent of the existing Section 5, in the new law may be on
the lines recommended by the Shourie Committee as quoted below:

" 5(1) If any person, having in his possession or control any official secret
which has  come into his possession or control byvirtue of:-

b I.    his holding or having held an office with or under government, or
b2.  a contract with the government, or b3.   it being entrusted to him in
confidence by another person holding or having held an office under or with
the government, or in any other manner,

i.         communicates, without due authority such official secret to
another person or  uses it for a purpose other than a purpose for which he
is permitted to use it under any law for the time being in force; or

ii.       fails to take reasonable care of, or so conducts himself as to
endanger the safety  of the official secret; or

iii.     wilfully fails to return the official secret when it is his duty to
return it, shall be guilty of an offence under this section.

5(2) Any person voluntarily receiving any official secret knowing or having
reasonable ground to believe, at the time he receives it, that the official
secret is communicated in contravention of this Act, he shall be guilty of
an offence under this section.

5(3)  A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be punishable
with  mprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or
with both.

Explanation:For the purpose of this section, 'Official Secret' means any
information the disclosure of which is likely to prejudicially affect the
sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State) friendly
relations with foreign states) economic, commercial, scientific and
technological matters relating to national security and includes: any secret
code) password) sketch plan, model, article, note or document in relation to
a prohibited place."

1.b; 5 (2) & (3). shailesh:  Whistleblowers and those who receive
information from them can be punished with imprisonment upto three years.

ARC: 2. Governmental Privilege in Evidence (Para 2.3.S) :

a,      Section 123of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 should be amended to
read as  follows:

" 12 3. 1)Subject to the provisions of this section, no one shall be
permitted to give any evidence derived from official records which are
exempt from public disclosure under the RTI Act, 2005.

(2)   Where he withholds such permission, he shall make an affidavit
containing a statement to that effect and se ting forth his reasons
therefor.

(3)  Where such officer has withheld permission for the giving of such
evidence,

the Court, after considering the affidavit or further affidavit, and if it
so thinks fit, after examining such officer or, in appropriate cases, the
Minister, orally;

a)   shall issue a summons for the production of the unpublished official
records concerned, if such summons has not already been issued;

b)    shall inspect the records in chambers; and

c)     shall determine the question whether the giving of such evidence-
would or would not be injurious to public interest, recording its
reasonstherefor.

(4)   Where, under sub-section (3), the Court decides that the giving of
such evidence  would not be injurious to public interest, the provisions of
sub-section (1) shall not apply to such evidence,

Provided that in respect of information classified as Top Secret for reasons
of national security, only the High Court shall have the power to
order  production
of the records,"

Shailesh: Section 2 above: Certainly does not appear to lead to better RTI
implementation or transparency. From my limited knowledge of law,- confined
only to RTI,-I see a circular trap. 1 (b) above, introduces a new concept,
which having come after RTI, will supersede it. Now, evidence can be
refused, which will be exempted under RTI.*

ARC: Section 124 of the Indian Evidence Act will become redundant on account
of the above and will have to be repealed.

Accordingly, the following will have to be inserted at the appropriate place
in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973;

“Any person aggrieved by the decision of any Court subordinate to the High
Court rejecting a claim for privilege made under Section. 123 of the Indian
Evidence Act, 1872 shall haw a right to appeal to the High Court against
such decision, and such appeal may be filed notwithstanding the fact that
the proceeding in which the decision was pronounced by the Court is still
pending."

3. The Oath of Secrecy (Para 2.4.4):

a.    As an affirmation of the importance of transparency in public
affairs) Ministers on assumption of office may take an oath of transparency
along with the oath of office and the requirement of administering the oath
of secrecy should be dispensed with. Articles 75(4) and 164 (3), and the Third
Schedule should be suitably amended.

b.    Safeguard against disclosure of information against the national
interest may be provided through written undertaking by incorporation of a
clause in the national security law dealing with official secrets.

Shailesh: If oaths of transparency mean anything, we could treat this as a
small gain. Unfortunately oaths have no meaning.*

ARC: 4. Exempted Organizations (Para *2.5.6) :

a.     The Armed Forces should be included in the Second Schedule of the
Act.

b.    The Second Schedule of the Act may be reviewed periodically.

c.     All organizations listed in the Second Schedule have to appoint P10s.

Appeals against orders of PIOs should lie with CIC/SICs.

(This provision can be made by way of removal of difficulties under Section
30)

Shailesh: Section 4. Includes Armed Forces in the exempted list  Exemptions
of  organizations are anathema to RTI, whereas, this talks of periodic
review and makes a cosmetic concession of having PIOs.*

ARC: 5. The Central Civil Sendees (Conduct) Rides (Para 3.1.4) :

a.      Civil Services Rules of all States may be reworded on the following
lines:

"Communication of Official information; Every Government servant shall, in
performance  of his duties in good faith, communicate to a member of public
or any organisation full and accurate informationwhich can be disclosed
under Right To Information Act 2005

Shailesh: Corrects the Civil Service rules- neutral on RTI.*

ARC: Explanation – Nothing in this rule shall be construed as permitting
communication of classified information in an unauthorised manner or for
improper gains to a Government servant or others."

6. The Manual of Office Procedure (Ptira 3.2.3.) :

a.      Para 116 of the Manual of Office Procedure needs to be reworded as
follows:.

"Communication of Official Information; Every Government Servant shall, in
performance  of his duties in good faith, communicate to a member of public
or any organization full and accurate information, which can be disclosed
under the Right to Information Act. (Nothing stated above shall be construed
as permitting communication of classified information in an unauthorized
manner or for improper gains to a Government Servant or others)."

b.     Para 118 (1) should be deleted.

c.      The State Governments may be advised to carry out similar amendments
in their Manuals) if such provisions exist therein.

Shailesh: Procedural; even if not done, RTI override remains. Infact the
argument at some future time can be that wherever conflicting statements
have not been removed, it is intentional.*

ARC: 7. Classification of Information (Para 4.1.8) :

a.      The GOI should amend the Manual of Departmental Security
Instructions in the following manner:

i.         Information Deserving Classification (Para 3):

It would be advisable for each Ministry/Department to identify the information
which deserves to be given a security classification.

Ordinarily, only such information should be given a security classification
which would qualify for exemption from disclosure under the Right to
Information Act, 2005, The classification of  documents should be done as
per following guidelines:

(clipped)

Explanation:* The above mentioned classification should be generally followed.
It is quite  possible that information may be covered by more than one
exemption; in that case the information should be given the classification
of the higher category. Also if it is felt by the competent authority that
circumstances of a case demand a higher classification than what is
indicated above, then the same may be done by an authority, which is
empowered to give such a classification,

Provision should be made to include annual confidential reports of officers and
examination question papers and related matters in the exemptions under the
RTI Act. This may be done by way of removal of difficulties under Section
30.

ii.       Upgrading and Downgrading (Para.2.3):

Documents once classified as "Top Secret" or "Secret", should remain so
classified *as* long as required but not exceeding 30 years. Documents
classified as confidential and restricted should remain so for a period not
exceeding 10 years.  However, the  ompetent  classifying officer may for
reasons to be recorded in writing authorise  continued classification beyond
the period prescribed above if information, the disclosure of which would
cause damage to national security or national interest. A recipient officer
of appropriate rank in a Ministry or Department may upgrade the security
classification of a document received from outside) but this raised
classification will be limited only to the Ministry or Department. (S)He
will, however) have no authority to downgrade the security classification of
a document received) without the concurrence of the originator. Within the
same Department) an officer superior to the originator would have the
authority to downgrade or upgrade the classification.

  (iii)Officer authorised to accord the grading:

Top Secret             Not below Joint Secretary

Secret                    Not below Deputy Secretary

Confidential           Not below Under Secretary

The State Governments may authorise officers of equivalent rank to
accord the grading.

Shailesh: Section 7 : One of the most damaging provisions. By this, we are
getting into a RTConfidentiality, and subverting the RTI Act completely. If
we wanted Secretaries to d**ecide Confidentiality and transparency, we have
been almost doing this for years. If we have to accept their good sense, we
are being na�ve. Most average Citizens have neither the capability or
willingness to go about challenging such provisions, and only the few who
can will use RTI. Even presently it is a struggle to get documents which the
Govt. wants to hide.

RTI was a codification of our Right To Know; now a codification of
Confidentiality is proposed.

8. Building Institutions (Para 5.2.5):

a.      Section  12 of the Act may be amended to constitute the
Selection Committee
of CIC with the Prime Minister) Leader of the Opposition and the Chief
Justice of India. Section 15 may be similarly amended to constitute the
Selection Committee at the State level with the Chief Minister) Leader of
the Opposition and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

b.    The GOI should ensure the constitution of SICs in all States within 3
months.

c.     The CIC should establish *4* regional offices of CIC with a
Commissioner heading each. Similarly regional offices of SICs should be
established in larger States.

d.    At least half of the members of the Information Commissions
should be drawn
from non civil services background. Such a provision may be
made in the Rules under the Act, by the Union Government) applicable to both
CIC and ICs.

Shailesh: 8 a) the exalted Chief justices are being included, after they
have so far demonstrated a reluctance to even acknowledge RTI.  b) Repeats
what the RTI Act had stipulated without even a condemnation of the fact that
the law has not been followed.
c) Good suggestion.
d) It is more important who is selected. Civil servants like Aruna, Harsh,
Amitabh Mukhopadhyay  and Arvind and many others would be welcome anyday.
There are many other Civil servants so called Civil Society Representatives
who will be glad to be picked and stay around.

ARC: 9. Designating Information Officers and Appellate Authorities (Para
5.3.4):

(i)     All Ministries/ Departments/Agencies/Offices with more than
one PIO have
to designate a nodal Assistant Public Information Officer with the authority
to receive requests for information on behalf of all PIOs. Such a provision
should be incorporated in the Rules by appropriate governments.

(ii)     PIOs in Central Secretariats should be of the level of at least
Deputy Secretary /Director. In State Secretariats) officers of similar rank
should be notified as PIOs. In all subordinate agencies and departments
officers sufficiently senior in rank and yet accessible to public may be
designated as PIOs.

(iii)   All public authorities may be advised by the Government of India
that along with the Public Information Officers they should also designate the
appellate authority and publish both, together.

(iv)   The designation and notification of Appellate Authorities for each
public authority may be made either under Rules or by invoking Section 30 of
the Act.

Shailesh: (i) & (ii)The present Act has fairly elegantly designed the
requirements of PIOs and APIOs. The thrust of these suggestions will reduce
the accessibility of PIOs which the present Act offers.

(iii) Already 4 (b) (xvi) asks PIOs names to be published.

ARC: 10. Organising Information and Record Keeping (Par a 5.4.11):

a.      Suo moto disclosures should also be available in the form of
printed, priced  publication in the official language, revised periodically
(at least once a year). Such a publication should be available for
reference, free of charge. In respect of electronic disclosures, NIC should
provide a single portal through which disclosures of all public authorities
under appropriate governments could be accessed, to facilitate easy
availability of information.

b.    Public Records Offices should be established as an independent
authority in GOI and all States within 6 months by integrating and
restructuring the multiple agencies currently involved in record keeping.
This Office will be a repository of technical and professional expertise In
management of public records. It will be responsible for supervision)
monitoring) control and inspection of record keeping in all public offices.

c.      Public Records Office would function under the overall supervision
and                   guidance of CIC/SIC

Shailesh: a) Repeats Section 4 requirements; b) and c) are statements of
good intent.**The RTI act is replete with them. Additions will not do
anything.*

ARC: d.    As a one time measure, GOI should earmark 1% of the funds
of all Flagship
Programmes for a period of five years for updating records, improving
infrastructure, creating manuals and establishing the Public Records
Offices. (An amount not exceeding *25%* of this should be utilized for
awareness generation).

e.     As a one time measure, GOI may create a Land Records Modernisation Fund
for survey and updation of all land records. The quantum of assistance for
each State would be based on an assessment of the field situation.

f.        All  organizations,  which  have  jurisdiction  over  an  area  equal
to  or exceeding a district, should be funded and required to complete
the process
of digitization by the end of 2009. All sub-district level organizations
should complete this task by the end of 2011. The controlling
Ministries/Departments at Union and State level should lay down a detailed
road map for this purpose with well-defined milestones within 6 months, so
that this could be implemented as a priority' item in the Eleventh Five Year
Plan.

Shailesh: Good suggestions.

ARC: 1l. Capacity Building and Awareness Generation (Para *5.5.5)'.*

a.      Training programmes should not be confined to merely PIOs and APIOs.
All government functionaries should be imparted at least one day training on
Right to Information within a year. These training programmes have to be
organized in a decentralized manner in every block. A cascading model could
be adopted with a batch of master trainers in each district.

b.    In all general or specialized training programmes, of more than 3 days
duration, a half-day module on Right to Information should be compulsory.

c.     Awareness campaigns should be entrusted to credible non profit
organizations
at the State level. They should design a multi-media campaign best suited to
the needs, in the local language. The funds earmarked (as mentioned in para
5.4.11. d) could be utilized for this purpose.

d.    Appropriate governments should bring out guides and
comprehensible
information material within the prescribed time.

Shailesh: Full of empty inanities; but nothing one would not accept.*

ARC: e.      The CIC and the SICs may issue guidelines for the benefit of
public authorities and public officials in particular and public in general
about key concepts in the Act and approach to be taken in response to
information
requests on the lines of the Awareness Guidance Series referred to above
(para. 5.5.1).

12. Monitoring Mechanism (Para 5.6.4):

a.      The CIC and the SICs may be entrusted with the task of
monitoring effective
implementation of Right to Information Act in all public authorities. (An
appropriate provision could be made under Section 30 by way of removal of
difficulties).

b.    As a large number of Public Authorities exist at regional, state)
district and sub district level, a nodal officer should be identified
wherever necessary by the appropriate monitoring authority (CIC/SIC) to
monitor implementation of the Act.

c.      Each public authority should be responsible for compliance of
provisions of the Act in its own office as well as that of the subordinate
public authorities.

d.    A National Coordination Committee (NCC) may be set up under the
chairpersonship
of the Chief Information Commissioner -with the nodal Union Ministry) the
SICs and representatives of States as members, A provision to this effect
may be made under Section 30 of the Act by way of removing difficulties. The
National Coordination  Committee would;

i.         serve  as  a national  platform  for  effective  implementation  of
the Act)

ii.       document and disseminate best practices in India and elsewhere,

iii.      monitor the creation and functioning of the national portal for
Right to Information)

iv.      review the Rules and Executive Orders issued by the
appropriate governments
under the Act,

v.       carry out impact evaluation of the implementation of the Act and

Shailesh: a) is a requirement of the Act. b),c) and d) could be useful.

Sections 14,15 & 16- Good suggestions.

ARC: 17. Application to Non Governmental Bodies (Para 6.6.6):

a.      Organisations which perform functions of a public nature that
are ordinarily
performed by government or its agencies, and those which enjoy natural
monopoly may be brought within the purview of the Act.

b.    Norms should be laid down that any institution or body that has
received 50% of its annual operating costs) or a sum equal to or greater
than Rs.l crore during any of the preceding 3 years should be understood to
have obtained 'substantial funding' from the government for the period
and purpose
of such funding.

c.      Any information which, if it were held by the government,
would be subject
to disclosure under the law, must remain subject to such disclosure even
when it is transferred to a non-government body or institution.

d.     This could be achieved by way of removal of difficulties under
Section 30 of the Act.

Shailesh: a. Section  and 2 (f) covers all information relating to any
private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law
for the time being in force;

                 b. Is effectively covered under Section under Section 2
(d).

                 c. If it could be implemented, would be good, but then the
same purpose is covered  by Section 2 (f) and the Public interest override
of Section 8 (2).

ARC: 18. Time Limit for Information Beyond* *20 Years ( Para 6.7.6 ):

a.     The stipulation of making available 20-year-old records on request
should be  applicable only to those public records which need to be
preserved for such a period. In respect of all other records, the period of
availability will be limited to the period for which they should be
preserved under the record keeping procedures.

b.    If any public authority intends to reduce the period up to which
any category
of  record is to be kept, it shall do so after taking concurrence of the
Public Records Office as suggested in para 5.4.11.

c.      These recommendations could be implemented by way of removal
of difficulties
under Section 30 of the Act.

Shailesh: Obvious even now that the present Act implies the same thing.

ARC: 19. Mechanism for Redressal of Public Grievances (Para 6.8.3):

a.     States may be advised to set up independent public grievances redress
al authorities to deal with complaints of delay, harassment or corruption.

These authorities should work in close coordination with the
SICs/District Single
Window Agencies, and help citizens use information as a tool to fight
against corruption and misgovernance, or for better services.

Shailesh: If they let Citizens use RTI they will achieve all of this.

ARC: 20. Frivolous and Vexatious Requests (Para 6.9.5):

a.      Section 7 may be amended  to insert sub section (10) as follows:

"The PIO may refuse a request for information if the request is manifestly
frivolous or vexatious. Provided that such a refusal shall be communicated
within 15 days of receipt of application, with the prior approval of the
appellate authority.Provided further that all such refusals shall stand
transferred to CIC/SIC, as the case may be and the ClC/SlC shall dispose of
the case as if it is an appeal under section 19(3) of the RTI Act".

Shailesh: To most authorities giving information is anathema, and giving
them such a superb tool of being able to label requisitions of information
from Citizens as �frivolous and vexatious� will be a sure way to kill the
Act, and thwart the average Citizen. This is indeed the unkindest cut of
all,- the dagger of Brutus is out. *

Without even looking at the fact that the Information Commissions arew
unable to cope, it proposes to overburden them with trying to resolve issues
of frivolous and vexatious requisitions.

ARC: b.    It may be provided that information can be denied if the work
involved in processing the request would substantially and unreasonably
divert the resources of the public body.

Provided that such a refusal shall be communicated within 15 days of receipt
of application, with the prior approval of the appellate authority.

Provided further that all such refusals shall stand transferred to CIC/SIC,
as the case may be and the CIC/SIC shall dispose of the case as if it is an
appeal under section 19(3) of the RTI Act.

Shailesh : Section 7 (9) indirectly covers the same ground.

022 32903776; 26001003
All my mails are in Public domain,
and do share them if you wish.
http://www.satyamevajayate.info

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC, RTI ACT 2005 | Leave a Comment »

National Advisory Council “NAC”, A forum of diminishing value – says Aruna Roy

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 21, 2006

A forum of diminishing value – National Advisory Council says Aruna Roy

A forum of diminishing value – NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
Two years after being appointed to the National Advisory Council, Aruna Roy has decided to decline a second term. While expressing happiness over some of the work the NAC has been able to do in the past, she now believes that the space for the advisory body to function as a forum for public consultation has diminished.

http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/jun/gov-nacbye.htm
The following is the full text of Ms.Roy's letter to the Prime Minister, declining a second term in the National Advisory Council.


21st June 06

Dear Shri. Manmohan Singhji,

I joined the NAC two years ago encouraged by many of the assurances contained in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of the UPA government. Its primary task, as I understood it, was to advice the government on implementation of the NCMP. At a time when there has been a comprehensive assault on the poor and their rights, the NCMP seemed to bring some of their concerns centre stage.

The passage of the Right to Information Act 2005 and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 demonstrated that the NCMP was not a collection of empty promises. Without firm resolve, and a display of political commitment these two legislations would not have been passed. In my opinion, despite some inevitable shortcomings, they are both laws that India has reason to be proud of.

Membership of the NAC did give me a chance to bring to the Government, the views, opinions and understanding of the peoples movements that I have had the privilege to have been associated with. It is to the credit of this government that this kind of grass root understanding helped shape these legislations. The clear stand of the NAC, backed by the firm resolve of the Chairperson, the acknowledgement of the NCMP as a benchmark for the passage of these legislations, as well as several other decisions related to the social sector, has been particularly encouraging. In fact my decision to accept membership of the NAC, was taken after wide consultation with many colleagues from these peoples movements.

There have been no regular meetings of the NAC held in the last four months.
 •  NAC: A tentative beginning
 •  A moral breach in the dam

I have now decided to decline the offer to renew and extend my term, after consulting them once again. There are several reasons for this decision. One reason is the greater role I see for myself in trying to work for the implementation of the RTI and the NREGA at a grass root level. It was of course always clear that the struggle would not cease when the legislations were passed, and that questions of implementation are crucial if these benefits are to reach the people.

However, there has also been a growing cause for anxiety that I must put on record. While there are many assurances in the NCMP that will take a while to implement, there must be a clear and unequivocal position of the GOI in support of NCMP positions. In my opinion, the NCMP is an acknowledgement of some of the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people in India. I have also been concerned by the attempts from some quarters , within government, to dilute both the RTI and the NREGA through a variety of means. In fact, in the current euphoria about the performance of the economy there is a great danger of not paying heed to the anguish of the poor and the marginalized.

The results of the Lok Sabha elections are ample testimony to demonstrate how the majority of voters did not see an 8% growth rate, as a case of India shining. There can be no doubt that in some cases, such development passes them by. But there are instances where it is at great personal cost to them. The Narmada dam and the situation of those it has displaced, is perhaps the most well known of these cases. Despite better rehabilitation for tribals being an explicit assurance in the NCMP, even existing policy and Supreme Court orders were violated as borne out by the report of the GOM constituted by you. Despite the report of the GOM, apparently for reasons of political expediency, construction on the dam continues at the cost of people yet to be rehabilitated even as per laid out norms. As this government considers adopting a new rehabilitation policy, it will have to come to terms with this crisis of credibility and confidence due to decisions taken that violated NCMP assurances.

I do think effective implementation of the common minimum programme needs the inputs, experience and expertise of many people outside government. I think the NAC has played its most important role in bringing the benefit of that rich body of opinion to this government. The regularity of the meetings and the presence of the chairperson at each one of them, also contributed to the NAC being seen by citizens groups as a forum of public consultation. I do think this space has been reduced, there have been no regular meetings of the NAC held in the last four months.

As my term in the NAC ends, I would like to thank you for providing me an opportunity for our views to be heard. As someone who sees a great value in the NCMP, I think the space for wide ranging public discussion needs to be preserved and strengthened. I hope that your government will ensure that there will be an increasing number of platforms, through which the opinions of people can become part of the policy formulation of the government.

With warm regards,

Aruna Roy

India Together
21 Jun 2006

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC, National Advisory Council NAC | 67 Comments »

Exempt armed forces from RTI Act: ARC

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 18, 2006

Exempt armed forces from RTI Act: ARC

Ajmer Singh

Sunday, June 18, 2006 (New Delhi):

The Right to Information Act came into force six months back.

And with it, many began expecting even the Indian Army to answer a few questions, such as how many court martials are currently on in the Indian Army?

Or how many of India's Bofors guns have been crippled by a lack of spares?

Or even how much money has the DRDO or Defence and Research and Development Organisation spent since 1984 on developing the main battle tank Arjun?

Now, if the second Administrative Reforms Commission gets to have its way, the armed forces will continue to remain behind a veil of secrecy.

Commission's recommendations

Last week, the commission, headed by Veerappa Moily, submitted its report to the government. And in it was the recommendation:

"The Commission feels that armed forces should be included in the list of exempted organisations (second schedule of the Act) because almost all activities of the Armed forces would be covered under the exemption 8(a)"

Under this exemption, there will be no obligation to provide any information to citizens, which could affect the sovereignty, integrity and interests of India.

So far, only top intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces have been left out of the RTI Act under the Second Schedule of the Act. Now, perhaps even the Army will be included in the list.

And in conversation with NDTV, Veerappa Moily said that if paramilitary forces could be exempted, there was no reason why the Army should not be exempted as well.

Need for transparency

RTI activists, however, are not impressed and insist on greater transparency in the armed forces.

"Their recommendation that armed forces should not be under the purview of the Act is to my mind a faulty recommendation," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

"My argument would be, if most of its work is exempt then why do you want to take the organisation out. There is no threat to it," he added.

Activists feel that areas related to the armed forces like finance, personnel policy and even information related to defence deals be covered under the RTI Act.

"Also, apart from security related matters, armed forces is one of the largest employers of the people. Now Supreme Court has held right to information is a fundamental right," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

"Why should over a million people be denied their fundamental right to ask question of their own employers?" he added.

Exempted list

RTI activists also feel strongly that only intelligence agencies should be exempted from the RTI Act.

"I think the only two organisations which should be excluded are the IB and RAW and every thing else should be included," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

Even six months after the Right to Information Act came into effect, its scope is still not clearly defined.

But if organisations that have so far been shrouded in red tape are kept out of its purview, the Act will soon lose significance.

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC | 1 Comment »

Moily panel for repealing Official Secrets Act

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 17, 2006

Moily panel for repealing Official Secrets Act
Our Political Bureau / New Delhi June 10, 2006
http://www.business-standard.com/general/storypage_test.php?&autono=94489
The second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily has recommended the repeal of the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923 and that at least half of the members of information commissions should be from ‘non-civil service’ background.
 
It also recommended that the NGOs getting government grants should be brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
 
In its report on ‘Right to information: Master key to good governance’, submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today, the ARC said the OSA should be repealed because in its current form, it was incongruous with the regime of transparency in a democratic society.
 
“The OSA should be repealed, and suitable safeguards to protect security of the state should be incorporated in the National Security Act,” it said.
 
As retired bureaucrats were being rehabilitated in information commissions in most of the states, the ARC said they should be drawn from non-civil service background.
 
Complete reorganization of public records was a precondition for effectively implementing the RTI, the ARC said.
 
A public records office should be established in each state as a repository of expertise, and to monitor and control all public records. One per cent of the funds of all flagship programmes of the Centre should be earmarked for five years for updating all records and building necessary infrastructure.
 
An ARC member told the Business Standard that the commission felt the need for indexing and classifying records, in the absence of which some officials tended to harass the public.
 
A reputed media organisation, seeking to do a report on the efficacy of the RTI, sought some information about some land deals.
 
“Officials decided to give bundles of useless records to the information seeker and demanded Rs 1.80 lakh as the fee. This made us think as to how to stop it,” said the ARC member.
 
Apart from Moily, the Second ARC, constituted in August, 2005, includes Jayaprakash Narayan, AP Mukherjee, AH Kalro, and V Ramachandran as members and Vineeta Rai as member secretary. ARC members were learnt to have requested the PM “not to appoint another committee” to implement their recommendations which they said were very exhaustive.
 
The commission recommended that the information commission should be entrusted with the authority and responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the RTI Act in all public authorities.
 
States may be advised to establish independent public grievance redressal authorities to deal with complaints of delay, harassment and corruption. These authorities should work in close coordination with the information commission.
 
Certain safeguards should be introduced to discourage frivolous requests so that the system is not overloaded, and discipline is not jeopardized. A roadmap should be charted out for effective implementation of the RTI Act in the legislature and judiciary at all levels.
 
The commission made specific recommendations and suggested a roadmap to implement a variety of issues including a civil service conduct rules and office procedures, record keeping, capacity building and awareness generation, and the exercise of power to remove difficulties.

Posted in Administrative Reforms Commission ARC | 1 Comment »