Monday, December 12, 2011

Updated Article on Right To Information.

                  Right To Information Act, 2005.              M.V.Ruparelia.

This is an Act of Parliament, giving to all Citizens an access to information in order to promote transparency & accountability in the working of all the Public Authorities. Obligations of all Public Authorities as laid down in the Act include among many aspects, the publication of procedure followed in the decision making process, norms set by it for discharge of its functions, the procedure of consultation with Public, giving all relevant facts while formulating important policies/decisions affecting Public, provide reasons for its administrative or quasi judicial decisions to affected persons.

For the purpose of giving information under the Act, each Public Authority shall nominate Public Information Officer and Appellate Public Information Officer in all administrative unit/office. Public Information Officer shall give the required information to the Applicant without asking the reasons for soliciting any information within 30 days of receipt of the Application. No specific Form is prescribed for asking information. Application shall be addressed to P.I.O. concerned and generally be in the following proforma:-

1. Name of the Applicant.       2. Address of the applicant.     
3. Detailed particulars of information required.
4. Whether information is required by Post/ Internet/ in person.
5.  Fee paid (in case the applicant is below poverty line, no fee but photo copy of proof to be attached).
 Place, Date & Signature of the Applicant.

Fees prescribed for Application is Rs. 10. No fee is prescribed for Ist & IInd Appeal for Central Government Departments and others under jurisdiction of CIC, Delhi. Some States have prescribed Rs.20 for 1st & 2nd Appeals.  For supplying information, only reasonable fee is to be charged not exceeding Rs. 2 per page of information/Rs. 50 for floppy/CD. No fee is to be paid for inspection for first 1 hour, Rs. 5 per every next hour for Central Government Units and for every 15 minutes for Maharashtra State. Fees can be paid in cash, D.D., Bank’s Pay Order, Post Office, and Court Fee in Maharashtra State. No fee is to be paid, if reply is not given within 30 days/ 45 days for Application/Ist Appeal. No time limit is prescribed for IInd Appeal to Commission.

Reply to each Application shall contain the details of Appellate Authority and time limit (30 days of receipt of reply) within which appeal has to be filed in case the applicant is not satisfied with reply. If Application is rejected, specific reasons are required to be given with details of Appellate Authority. If no reply is received, Appeal can be filed to the Head of the Unit/Office. Exemptions from disclosure of information are specified in the Act and generally pertain to security, strategic interests etc of the Country.

Ist Appeal (under Section 19(1) of the Act) can be in the following proforma:-

1. Name of the Appellant.           2.  Full Address of the Appellant.
3.  Particulars of Public Information Officer.
4.  Date of receipt of the order appealed against.
5.  Last date of filing Appeal (30 days from date of receipt).
6.  The grounds of Appeal.
7.  Particulars of information required & name of office/ department to which information pertains.
 Place, Date & Signature of Appellant.

Ist Appellate Authority is generally belonging to the same department but senior to the PIO and shall conduct quasi-judicial proceedings and shall give fair & unbiased orders on your appeal. He can call the Applicant but it is not mandatory for Applicant to attend. He shall give reasons for arriving at his decision. Decision shall be conveyed within 30/45 days.

If the reply is not satisfactory or not received within 45 days, IInd Appeal can be filed with State/Central Information Commission, as the case may be within 90 days (can be extended by Commission).Central Information Commission has laid down the following proforma to be submitted in duplicate with certificate that copies of This Appeal with all enclosures are sent to the concerned Public Information Officer & Appellate Authority. Each page of Appeal & enclosures are required to be self attested.
1) Name of the Applicant:           
 2) Address:                                                     
3) Telephone No.& E/Mail: 
4) R T I Request/ Information sought:
5) Name of CPIO with Address & T.No.:
    A) Date of request:             .  B) Date of reply:
6) Name of First Appellate Authority & address with T.No.: 
    A)  Date of 1st Appeal:     B) Date of Orders of A.A.: 
7) Prayers or Relief sought:  .
8) Grounds of Prayer or Relief: 
9) Verification by Appellant: 
10) Any other information:
11)  Whether 2 sets sent:
12) Page numbering:
13) Whether self attested all documents: 
14) An Index:  Attached.
15) 1 full set to CPIO:   
16) 1 full set to A.A.: 
17) Certificate that matters under this Appeal have not been filed or are pending with any court or tribunal or with any other authority:     
Index of enclosures to be prepared & sent with IInd Appeal.

Central Information Commission consists of Chief Information Commissioner and such number of Central Information Commissioners (not exceeding 10). All these Commissioners shall be appointed by President of India on recommendations of Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and one Cabinet Minister nominated by Prime Minister. These Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science, technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration & governance and shall be appointed for 5 years or till 65 years age. Each State shall also follow the same guidelines and appoint Commissioners with recommendations of Chief Minister etc with the approval of the Governor. These Commissioners are vested with powers of Civil Courts. No Court can interfere or entertain any matter arising out of this Act. No time limit is fixed for disposal of IInd Appeal and this is causing lot of unrest amongst the Applicants. Large number of IInd Appeals is pending in each State & Centre. Commissions are authorized to penalize Public Information Officers, who refuse to receive the Application or do not give information or give incorrect information knowingly, to the extent of Rs. 250 per day till Application is received by him or information is given, as the case may be subject to the maximum of Rs.25000. Even disciplinary action can also be ordered against Public Information Officer. This Act does not apply to certain organizations like Intelligence, Security etc. However, cases of corruptions & human rights violations are not excluded. Commission shall give a report on implementation of the provisions of the Act every year to the appropriate Government and such report shall be placed before both Houses of Parliament/State Legislature. It would be observed from this that Legislative Authority has given so much importance to this Act and given right to Public to ensure the transparent & efficient working of the Executive Authorities. People should take advantage of this Act and exercise their democratic power to ensure proper functioning of all Public Authorities.

However, it is observed that Act is taken as not a Grievance Solving Machinery by many of the Departments and detailed logical arguments brought out, while asking the basis of a particular wrong decision are not replied and thrown out as not covered under Right To Information Act, 2005. After getting information as available from Public Authorities, the Public is expected to take up separately for rectifying the wrong decision. The same old music of ``Apply, Apply-No Reply`` continues on representations and hardly any one (except Activists) prefers to go to Courts or is able to get Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed! As reply to individual representation is not statutorily laid down, except under Right To Information Act, 2005, the position of the Citizen remains almost the same! If you inquire about your case/matter on phone, most of the times, it will be ringing or give engage tone, as if the person has a devise to keep so or is not available. All phones in Utility Offices, including those at top of the administration, should have an answering machine, so that complaints are recorded and the higher ups know as to how long the person on duty remains not available!! An appropriate clear provision for replying the arguments/grievances also could have helped the suffering Public! The intention of the Act in Preamble for Accountability and Obligations of Public Authorities in Section 4 of the Act do not make the Public Authorities to review their wrong decisions (without going to the Judiciary)! The desire of Indian Public for better governance & better policies can not be achieved due to such attitude of Public Authorities! General Public continues to suffer.

However, the Act enables the Citizen to get information on rules, government expenditure (even from P.M.`s Fund), reasons for taking decisions and copies of Government Orders etc.This Act is very useful and all Citizens should use it properly and ensure proper functioning of the Government Machinery.

Central Information Commissioner, Delhi has clarified that Associations, Firms, Private  & Public Companies can also ask information under Right to Information Act, 2005 but in their personal name. He has also clarified that Applications/Appeals from Senior Citizens shall be given preference and finalized within 4 months of receipt.

Some of the Guidelines given by Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pension (Department of Personnel & Traing-DOPT), New Delhi under their Memorandum no. 1/4/2009-IR dt 5-10-09 are important and should be kept in constant view.

The basic object of the Right to lnformation Act is to empower the citizens, promote
transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make
our democracy work for the people in real sense. It goes without saying that an informed citizen
is better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the
government more accountable to the governed. The Act is a big step towards making the
citizens informed about the activities of the Government.

The Public lnformation Officer is not supposed to create information: or to interpret
information; or to solve the problems raised by the applicants; or to furnish replies to
hypothetical questions.

 The Act gives the citizens a right to information at par with the Members of Parliament and the Members of State Legislatures. According to the Act, the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
There is no prescribed format of application for seeking information. The application can
be made on plain paper. The application should, however, have the name and complete postal address of the applicant. Even in cases where the information is sought electronically, the application should contain name and postal address of the applicant. Information is any material in any form. It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form. It also includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being in force. The Act gives the right to information only to the citizens of lndia. It does not make provision for giving information to Corporations, Associations, Companies etc. which are legal entitieslpersons, but not citizens. However, if an application is made by an employee or office bearer
of any Corporation, Association, Company, NGO etc. indicating his name and such employeeloffice bearer is a citizen of India, information may be supplied to himlher. In such cases, it would be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the Corporation etc.

The information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information.

The public authorities take various administrative and quasi-judicial decisions which
affect the interests of certain persons. It is mandatory for the concerned public authority to
provide reasons for such decisions to the affected persons. It may be done by using appropriate mode of communication.

All public authorities with more than one PI0 should create a central point
within the organisation where all the RTI applications and the appeals addressed to the First
Appellate Authorities may be received. An officer should be made responsible to ensure that all
the RTI application  & appeals received at the central point are sent to the concerned Public
lnformation OfficersIAppellate Authorities, on the same day.

A public authority may designate as many Public information Officers for it, as it may
deem necessary. It is possible that in a public authority with more than one Public lnformation Officer, an application is received by the Public lnformation Officer other than the concerned Public lnformation Officer. In such a case, the Public lnformation Officer receiving the application should transfer it to the concerned Public lnformation Officer immediately, preferably the same day. Time period of five days for transfer of the application applies only when the application is transferred from one public authority to another public authority and not for transfer from one Public lnformation Officer to another in the same public authority.

. Where a request for information is rejected, the Public Informalion Officer should
communicate to the person making the request-
(i) the reasons for such rejection;
(ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
(iii) the particulars of the authority to whom an appeal can be made.

Public authorities formulate policies and take various decisions from time to time. As
provided in the Act, while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions affecting
the public, the public authority should publish all relevant facts about such policies and
decisions for the information of public at large.
The public authorities take various administrative and quasi-judicial decisions which
affect the interests of certain persons. It is mandatory for the concerned public authority to
provide reasons for such decisions to the affected persons. It may be done by using
appropriate mode of communication.

The Act makes it obligatory for every public authority to make su-motu disclosure in
respect of the particulars of its organization, functions, duties and other matters, as provided in
section 4 of the Act. The information so published, according to sub-section (4) of section 4,
should be easily accessible with the Public lnformation Officer in electronic form. The Public
lnformation Officer should, therefore, make concerted efforts to ensure that the requirements of
the Section 4 of the RTI Act 2005 are met and maximum information in respect of the public
authority is made available on the internet. It would help him in two ways. First. the number of
applications under the Act would be reduced and secondly, it would facilitate his work of
providing information inasmuch as most of the information would be available to him at one

An applicant under the Act has a right to appeal to the lnformation Commission and
also to make complaint to the Commission. Where the lnformation Commission at the time of
deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the 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 malafiedly denied the request for information 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 two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or
information is furnished subject to the condition that the total amount of such penalty shall not
exceed twenty-five thousand rupees. The Public lnformation Offcer shall, however, be given a
reasonable opportunity of being heard before any penalty is imposed on him. The burden of
proving that he acted reasonably and diligently and in case of denial of a request that
such denial was justified shall be on the Public lnformation Officer.

Deciding appeals under the RTI Act is a quasi-judicial function. It is, therefore,
necessary that the appellate authority should see to it that the justice is not only done but it
should also appear to have been done. In order to do so, the order passed by the appellate
authority should be a speaking order giving justification for the decision arrived at.
 If an appellate authority while deciding an appeal comes to a conclusion that the
appellant should be supplied information in addition to what has been supplied by the Public
Information Officer, he may either (i) pass an order directing the Public lnformation Officer to
give such information to the appellant; or (ii) he himself may give information to the appellant. In
the first case the appellate authority should ensure that the information ordered by him to be
supplied is supplied to the appellant immediately. It would, however, be better if the appellate
authority chooses the second course of action and he himself furnishes the information
along with the order passed by him in the matter.

Ministry of Personnel is trying its best to persuade citizens to use RTI Act, 2005 through advertisements and announcements in TV Channels etc. It issues various instructions for streamlining the working of the Act. With a view to strengthen the implementation of the Act, it has advised all Ministries in their Memorandum no. 4/10/2011IR dt 18-5-11 to i) include one separate chapter regarding implementation of the Act in their Ministry, including all attached/subordinate offices and PSUs under their control in their Annual Reports for 2011-12 onwards. Ii) Each Ministry should organize at least ½ day Traing Programme for all their Public Information Officers & Appellate Authorities to sensitize them about their role in implementation of the Act. iii) Each Public Authority having Web Site must publish the details of monthly receipts & disposal of RTI Applications in their Web Site within 10 days of the close of the month.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Right Every Wrong.

                       Let Us Right Every Wrong.                             M.V.Ruparelia.

To-day, Citizens form a People Power with an Informed & Proactive Citizenry and can change the present deplorable position of working of Democracy. “The purpose of life is not to just create wealth for oneself and one`s family, but that life is to be lived for a greater purpose. This purpose is to create and leave behind a legacy of a better world for future generations, a humane world where there is social equity and a nurturing environment for one and all ``

We observe that even an illiterate labour engaged for laying down cable, lines for water or electricity does not do his allotted work properly, though paid adequately. He does not restore road properly after just haphazardly finishing his work, causing lot of inconvenience to citizens. Majority of Citizens working in Government & Public Sector do not perform their duties promptly and properly for which they are paid sufficient emoluments. Many work only after getting extra money from those, whose work, they do! Grievance Solving Machinery is defective and completely ineffective!! Citizens working in Private Sector are kept for benefit of the employers. Labours at the lowest level also do not work with heart but work haphazardly and half heartedly, resulting in defective workmanship, endangering life of others and causing inconvenience to others. General standard of honesty is very low in most sectors of the society. There is general tendency to avoid paying taxes and taking personal advantage of situations, laws, loose & irresponsible Government Machinery.  Many citizens have no consideration for national spirit. It has become a custom, way of life to get Work done by paying illegal gratification and follow their leaders!! Even educated and informed citizens follow this path!! Recent mass uproar for corruption and Lok Pal Bill indicates the sad position of the country. Passing of Lok Pal bill or other legislation may not bring the desired results, unless the most important principle of performing fundamental duties by each citizen is followed voluntarily or forced by providing quick & heavy punitive action against defaulters. Human Rights principles are for Human beings but when citizens forget human instincts and adopt animal instincts of complete selfishness, no rights accrue to them!!

Many of the Representatives and leaders of people like Ministers, MPs, MLAs, Nagar Sevaks, Panchayati entities, Bureaucrats, Judges  etc have become expert in exploiting the citizens by dividing them  by caste, creed, religion, political followings, reservations etc. They even pay money for votes!! Their main aim is to get votes and some how get & remain in power and not the interest of citizens` welfare. They are not Sevaks but Masters of citizens! They are after their rights & do not perform their duties!! We are seeing day in & day out their misbehaviour & misdeeds. Parliament is not allowed to function for days together wasting 2 cror rupees of Citizens per day! Similar pathetic position prevails at State & Municipal levels.

Education & Media can do a lot to improve this situation. Fundamental Duties must be imbibed in each student. Media must continuously and consciously propagate the necessity of each citizen performing his/her Duty sincerely and automatically.

Citizens must awake to this serious situation of the country and start acting with zeal and create proper situation before it is too late! The need of hour is to speak out & stroke out. The entire situation has arisen due to tolerating every thing and not speaking out and bringing the unacceptable faults to the notice of concerned Public Authorities and defaulters. At every stage & every place, wherever we are, we must not silently tolerate every injustice to citizens and bring to the notice of concerned Public Authority. By constant & many persons bringing injustice/inconvenience to the notice of concerned Public Authorities, position will surely improve. We must also bring to the notice of individual citizens their misdeeds affecting public & uncivic behaviour from time to time. Speaking out & Stroking from time to time will improve the situation. It is very necessary that citizens are made to realize through special and repeated propaganda by media/government/NGOs; strict effective and quick legislations; quick heavy punishments; social stigma etc that they must perform their basic duties first towards Society and then only desire and take advantage of their rights.

We must strive for some changes in our Constitution, which may give us full time MPs, MLAs, Nagar Sevaks etc, who should devote their full time in their constituency and not once in 5 years for asking for votes! Only those, who are sincere & honest, should be allowed to contest and voting should be compulsory for each citizen. No political party should be allowed to be formed and each individual will be responsible to his/her constituency. Proper Policy, Guidelines & Action Plan for the progress of the Country should be laid down every 5 years & annually. Elections can be every 5 years but any elected representative can be called back before this tenure by following the laid down procedure. Abolition of Political Parties appear necessary, as they fight for their existence and showing One-Up ship & not for serving Citizens.

There should be Fundamental Duty Commission on par with Human Rights Commission. Human Rights should be for humans only and any inhuman behaviour must withdraw human rights of that individual. There should be Common Law- Code of Conduct for all citizens irrespective of religion, cast, creed etc. Just like Citizen Charter with targets to give various facilities by all Public Authorities, Citizens Duty Chart should be prepared for duties/functions of citizens individually, in Family, in Society & in Country and notified for information & following strictly by all Citizens. Strict punishments for defaults must be laid down and followed in all cases without fear or favour.

All citizens in Democracy are required to be well aware and well informed of the fact that Rights can be enjoyed only after doing one`s Duties and Individual Social Responsibility. To-day, unfortunately in our Country, majority of Citizens want to have their rights without performing any duties. There is a mad rush to take advantage for self without thinking of others! We have seen large number doing frauds, preparing duplicate inferior goods, mixing anything & every thing in grocery, water in milk, fake medicines and what not!

Senior Citizens and their Associations must awake to the present deplorable situation of the Country and take up this challenge of improving this situation to the extant possible by speaking out and stroking out for each wrong that comes to their notice and get that done right  with their experience and utilization of time.