Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hindu article on the IAS/IPS Officers IPRs - RTI

IAS/IPS officers’ assets: RTI plea rejected

K. Venkateshwarlu
Senior secretaries to discuss issue in New Delhi on Nov. 3

Unwarranted invasion of privacy, says State GAD

‘Rejection of RTI application is surprising’


HYDERABAD: Are IAS, IPS and IFS officers duty-bound to disclose their assets that could be kept in public domain much like the MP/MLAs earlier, and now the Supreme Court judges?

Even as a crucial meeting of senior secretaries scheduled on November 3 in New Delhi mulls over the subject, the State bureaucrats wait with bated breath for the outcome as not long ago, an RTI applicant’s plea on their asset reports was rejected by the State General Administration Department calling it among other things “unwarranted invasion of privacy”.

In the application filed under RTI Act, O.B. Debara of the United Forum of the RTI campaign, sought to know whether all India service officers of the State cadre who are members of Adarshnagar and Kohinoor Mutually Aided Co-operative Housing Societies filed their Immovable Property Reports (IPRs) during 2006-08, as per Rule 16 of All India Services (Conduct) Rules 1968.

He sought copies of their IPRs.

He also wanted to know action taken against those who had not complied with and whether they sought permission to buy land for housing on their names. But the Public Information Officer of the GAD rejected the application invoking Section 8 (1)(j) of RTI Act. The PIO stated that the applicant has not indicated any public interest to justify such disclosure and that the officers have objected to sharing of the information.

‘Violation’

“This is in complete violation of spirit of the RTI Act and amounts to shielding of defaulters by their brethren,” said D. Rakesh Kumar of the Forum. They have now gone in appeal to State Information Commission (No. 2485/2009). “The rejection is surprising, as members of the two pillars of democracy -- judiciary and legislature -- could disclose their assets, why the third pillar -- the executive -- should resist it?” he asks.

After all, as public servants they were not above public scrutiny and cannot invoke right to privacy on issues of public concern. The objective behind making them file IPRs every year was to make them accountable and track their assets.

Similar cases

The Central Information Commission (CIC) and the Gujarat Information Commission in similar cases have categorically stated that IPRs of the All India Service officers have to be in the public domain and cannot be exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act.

The Supreme Court too had held that “when there is a competition between the Right to Privacy and the Right to Information of the citizens, the former right has to subordinate the latter as it serves larger public interest”.


Use RTI !!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Details of "United Forum for RTI Campaign - AP's" Press Meet Held on 20th October 2009

We held a press meet yesterday to let the people know as to how the IAS officers were refusing to provide information on the Immovable Property Reports that they submit to the Govt every year.

Check the following,

1. Press Note
2. CIC Decision in a similar issue

3. Supreme Court Judgement clarifying
"Right to Privacy Vs Right to Information"
4. Gujarat Information Commission Decision in a similar case.


Below are the news stories in the Local Press today,


Surya Daily


Sakshi



Vaartha



Andhra Bhoomi



Andhra Jyothy



Use RTI !!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

IIMs and their best kept SECRET !!!

Note: Open the link and then download the document from Sky Drive for all documents.
The supreme court and the CJI have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. They have been vehemently arguing that they are not covered under RTI. The IIMs are following suit. IIMA replied to my RTI application.







In their reply, they said the following;
1. The contract and other documents cannot be given since they are barred under Sec 8(1)(d) of the RTI act.
2. The HRD ministry is not funding this.
3. 14 companies applied for the contract.

Sec 8(1)(d) of the RTI act says,
"(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information"

The reply cannot be more absurd. I immediately filed a complaint with the Central Information Commission and also filed a 1st Appeal. Important portions of the complaint are as follows,

"This complaint is as per Sec 18(b), 18(e) and 18(f) of the RTI act.

I filed an RTI application with CPIO of IIMA on 5th September 2009 which was received by the CPIO of IIMA on 9th September 2009. The information requested was regarding the awarding of contract of Ms Prometric for Conducting Online CAT and relevant tender copies submitted by all bidders. The CPIO of IIMA refused to provide information to points 3,4,5 and 6 of my application citing Sec 8(1)(d) of the RTI act. I would like to bring to your notice that this is a blatant violation of the RTI act and is completely contrary to the norms set by the Honourable CIC and the Jharkhand High court in these cases. Tender documents are public documents once the tender is awarded. They do not hamper the competitiveness since the process is over. They actually provide citizens information to evaluate the systems of governance and how they decide on such contracts. The Jharkhand High court Bench in its judgement on 8th August 2007 (a copy of the judgement is attached to this complaint) has categorically stated that tender documents are no more a secret once the tender is finalised. They have to be in the public domain and Sec 8(1)(d) does not apply.

Even in an earlier order of the CIC - Appeal No CIC/WB/C/2006/00176 (a copy is attched) the commission has stated the following,

“A contract with a public authority cannot be categorised as “confidential” after completion. Even if some confidentiality is involved, public interest in a matter of the nature of the present case will warrant disclosure. Had it been a case of quotations, bid or tender or any other information prior to conclusion of a contract, it could be categorized as trade secret, but once concluded the confidentiality of such transactions cannot be claimed. Any public authority claiming exemption must be put to strictest proof that the exemption is justifiably claimed.”

Even the Jharkhand High court bench Judgement says the same thing,
“Section 8(1)(d) is relevant so far instant case is concerned which, inter alia, provides that the authority may refuse to give information relating to commercial confidence, trade secret or intellectual property, disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information. The question, therefore, that falls for consideration is as to whether disclosure of various documents submitted by the bidders is a trade secret or commercial confidence or intellectual property. Prima facie, we are of
the view that once a decision is taken in the matter of grant of tender, there is no justification to keep it secret. People have a right to know the basis on which the decision has been taken. If tenders are invited by the public authority and on the basis of tender documents, the eligibility of a tender or a bidder is decided, then those tender documents cannot be kept secret, that too, after the tender is decided and work order is issued on the ground that it will amount to disclosure of trade secret or commercial confidence. If the
authorities of Government refuse to disclose the document, the very purpose of the Act will be frustrated. Moreover, disclosure of information, sought for by the petitioner, cannot and shall not be a trade secret or commercial confidence; rather disclosure of such information shall be in public interest, inasmuch as it will show the transparency in the activities of the Government.”


This is a contract involving huge amount of Public Money (to the tune of 40 Million USD as per news reports). The IIMs being the best management institutes of the country cannot hide in the veil of secrecy. This does not augur well for the country or its elite institutions and will definitely have an effect on the kind of students it trains that will take this country into the next generation."



There are two interesting things to note here,
1. Its common sense that tender and bid documents are public documents once the tender is finalised. Then why did the IIM make this basic mistake? Is there pressure from somewhere?
2. If the HRD ministry is not funding this, then where are IIMs getting money from? Specially when the number of CAT Takers has come down to nearly 2 Lakhs. The application fees for CAT gives the IIMs only 28-30 crores. Then where is the rest of the money coming from?


These are questions the IIMs need to answer. Its upto them if they want to hide in the veil of secrecy specially when they say they are the best.


They may be the best in the business, but their "Best kept Secret" will not hide for long. There is a constitution in this country and they will have to fall in line sooner than later.


Use RTI !!!