About 118 prominent citizens, activists, and journalists have signed a statement of concern about what they call Strategic Litigation Against Public Persons- SLAPP, to silence authors, journalists and publishers for good. This follows notices served by RIL upon Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, for writing a book called “Gas Wars...” and another notice upon Moneylife for publishing articles based on information available in public domain
Statement of Concern on SLAPP Cases filed against authors, journalists and publishers
We, the undersigned condemn the threats of defamation cases served on authors, journalists and now as publishers in writing.
We have read the book "Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis" co-authored and published by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and the review article ‘“Ambani ki dukaan?” ’by Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor of moneylife magazine website and her messages on twitter and we found nothing defamatory either in the book or in the articles and tweets. The impeccable credentials of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Sucheta Dalal have been exemplary for Indian journalism in the era of paid news, embedded journalism and draconian corporate control over media.
We note that both the book and the article are based on information that is readily available to everybody in the public domain.
We are outraged by the assault on freedom of press and public interest through threatening letters. The attempt to intimidate journalists who report truth which commercial czars is quite reprehensible.
We express our support to the authors and publishers in question who have exercised their right to free expression enshrined in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. The day such voices are silenced that would be a black day for Indian journalism and democracy.
We have observed that the authors have been fair to Late Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani and their companies, by providing their version of events and circumstances.
Among other issues, the core issue that this scholarly and rigorously referenced book and the articles in question raise is: who all are colluding with to deprive present and future generations of Indians of their claims of the natural resources of the country?
We have pondered over the questions like: “If gas price is low as per correct production rate then, why should Indians pay higher price of gas? Who wants Indians to pay price of Indian natural resource as per US price rate?” We observe that the legal notices from Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani and their companies through their lawyers will have us accept that raising such questions is defamatory.
While delivering the speech at the award of Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, Harold Pinter said, “I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory. If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man.” Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, his co-authors and Sucheta Dalal and her colleagues have done their duty as citizens, writers and as purveyors of truth.
This undemocratic act by these richest persons of our country and the artificial persons-the companies- they run is totally unacceptable, deplorable and constitutes an illegitimate advance against citizens’ rights.
1. Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
2. Prof Ramsharan Joshi, former VC, M.C.N.University of Journalism, Bhopal and
3. Githa Hariharan, Writer
4. Garga Chatterjee, Indian Statistical Institute
5. Seema Mustafa, Editor, The Citizen, www.thecitizen.in
6. Prof. Ayesha Kidwai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
7. Arun Kumar, Former Member, Press Council of India (XIth Term), General
Secretary, Bihar Working Journalists Union, Member, National Executive
Committee and Indian Journalists Union
8. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
9. Siddharth Varadarajan, Journalist & Former Editor, The Hindu
10. Prof. (Dr) Dr.Mohan Rao, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
11. Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)
12. Mitali Saran, Writer & Columnist
13. Subhash Gatade, author and human rights activist
14. Dr. Malem Ningthouja, Campaign for Peace & Democracy, Manipur
15. Irfan Engineer, Director, Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Mumbai
16. Mukul, Dube, Writer, Photographer and social activist
17. Gautam Navlakha, human rights activist & journalist, Delhi
18. Omair Ahmad, Author
19. Trupti Shah, Activist, Gujarat
20. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)
21. Chittaroopa Palit, Narmada Bachao Andolan
22. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human rights activist, Mumbai
23. Faisal khan, National Alliance of People's Movements
24. Yashwant, Editor, http://bhadas4media.com/, NCR
25. Pushpraj, Journalist and Author of Nandigram Diary, Patna
26. Rohit Prajapati, Activist, Gujarat
27. Xavier Dias, Editor, Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR (Mines, minerals & RIGHTS),
28. Prithvi Raj Sharma, founder member of Indian Community Activists network
29. Dilip Simeon, Historian and author of Revolution Highway, Delhi
30. Gopal Krishna, researcher, journalist and social activist, ToxicsWatch Alliance
31. Dr Babu Rao Kalapala, Scientist
32. Dipak Dholakia, Citizens’ Solidarity—Forum for Water and Sanitation (CS-FWS)
33. Kiran Shaheen, Memoirist and activist
34. Sudhir Pattnaik, Writer and Media Person, Bhubaneswar
35. Sankara Narayanan, social activist
36. Noor Zaheer Zaheer, Writer and Researcher
37. Preeti Sampat, Anthropologist, City University of New York
38. Persis Ginwalla, Social activist, Ahmedabad
39. B.R. Bapuji, Professor (Retired), University of Hyderabad
40. M. Thimma Reddy, People's Monitoring Group on Electricity Regulation, Hyderabad
41. Shweta Tripathi, Social Activist
42. R.Subbarao, former Senior DGM, BHEL, Secunderabad
43. Sagar Rabari, Jamin Adhikar Andolan, Gujarat (JAAG)
44. Krishnakant, Social activist, Gujarat
45. Ashok Tankashala, Journalist and Writer, Hyderabad
46. Dr Paresh R. Vaidya, Scientist
47. Roger Moody, Writer & Researcher
48. E. Theophilus. citizen, Uttarakhand
49. Leo Saldanha, Environmental Activist and author
50. Soumya Dutta, Environmental activist, Author & educator, Convenor - Climate &
Energy, Beyond Copenhagen
51. Nityanand Jayaraman, Writer and Social Activist, Chennai
52. Jai Sen, CACIM, New Delhi
53. Souparna Lahiri, Independent Researcher
54. Ravindranath, River Basin Friends, Dhemaji, Assam
55. Gautam Mody, General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative
56. Lalit Surjan, Chief Editor, DeshBandhu, Raipur, Chattisgarh
57. Narayan Jee Choudhary, Social Activist, Bihar
58. Sukla Sen, Writer & Social Activist
59. Ranjan Panda, Social Activist, Odisha
60. Shriprakash, Film maker, Jharkhand
61. Stan Swamy, Jharkhand Bachao Andolan
62. Ramaswamy R Iyer, former Secretary, Government of India
63. Rabin Chakraborty, Retired Teacher, Calcutta University
64. Vidyadhar Atkore, Member, Western Ghats Forum, Bangalore
65. R.Selvam, Co-ordinator, Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation, Erode District,
66. Rajendra K Sail, Social Activist, Chhattisgarh
67. Dr.Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM
68. Suresh Bhat B, Citizen, Mangalore
69. YP Chawla, Researcher, Writer, Advisor, Electricity Regulation
70. Charles Chasie, citizen
71. Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy, citizen
72. Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, Director, Ecological Foundation
73. Prakash Louis, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore
74. Murli Manohar Prasad Singh, editor, Naya Path, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh
75. Rekha Awasthi, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh
76. Ramesh Sharma, Social Activist
77. M K Tayal, Social Activist
78. Gourinath, Social Activist
79. Krishna Soni, General Secretary, AVARTAN Theatre Group, Hyderabad
80. Rajendra Ravi, Social Activist
81. Sujit Patwardhan, Parisar, Pune
82. Pallav Kumar, researcher
83. Shree Prakash, SUM Net India
84. Bharati Sinha, Communications Director, Greenpeace India
85. Afroz Alam 'Sahil', Editor (Investigation), www.beyondheadlines.in
86. Anil Sinha, Deccan Herald, New Delhi
87. KM Bhai, Social Journalist, Kanpur
88. Pankaj Chaudhary, Poet, Assistant Editor, Forward Press
89. Surendra Grover, Media Durbar
90. Mangalesh Dabral, Poet
91. Sanjeev Kumar, writer
92. Ranjana Bisht, journalist
93. Ramesh Sharma, INSAF
94. Varun Shialesh, Writer
95. Subhash Gautam, journalist & research scholar
96. Sudha Bharadwaj, trade unionist and human rights lawyer, Bilaspur Chhattisgarh
97. Ulka Mahajan, Sarvhara Jan Andolan
98. Mukta srivastava, Shoshit Jan Aandolan
99. Dr Dinesh Kumar Mishra, noted river biographer and environmentalist
100. Soumik Banerjee, Researcher & Practitioner, Sundarpahari, Godda, Jharkhand
101. Pankaj Bisht, Writer and editor, Samayantar
102. Qaneez Sukhrani, Social Activist, Pune
103. Fulan Bhattacharji, Citizen, Tripura
104. Nandita Dutta, Citizen, Tripura
105. Suchitra Sarkar, Citizen, Tripura
106. Balaji Pandey, Director, Institute for Socio-Economic Development, Bhubaneswar
107. Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, Delhi
108. Udayashankar Chaturvedi, scientist
109. Asit, Writer & Activist
110. Dr. Anant Phadke, Pune, Shramik Mukti Dal, (Democratic)
111. Ashok Jain, former Chief Engineer, DVC
112. Ritu Khanna, Translator
113. Gurmeet Singh, Satnam, Author Jangalnama
114. Nand Kumar Kashyap, citizen, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
115. K. Ashok Rao, President, National Confederation of Officers' Associations (NCOA) &
Patron, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF)
116. Prathmesh Mishra, Architect, Bilaspur
117. Ravi Singh, citizen and environmentalist, Agra
118. Walter Mendoza, Indian Network on Ethics in Climate Change
The CVC would take up the matter with home ministry to undertake the responsibility of providing security cover to the genuine whistleblowers
Whistleblowers or people exposing corruption can get security from the government, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.
The Indian government has authorised chief vigilance officers (CVOs) of ministries or departments of the central government as designated authority to receive any written complaint or disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office in respect of any employee working under them.
If the designated authority in the ministries or departments, either on the application of the complainant, or on the basis of the information gathered, is of the opinion that the complainant needs protection, the designated authority shall take up the matter with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for issuing appropriate directions to the authorities concerned, the government said.
In a written reply, Jitendra Singh, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, said, "The Commission, after receipt of such reference from the designated authority, takes up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the nodal agency, to undertake the responsibility of providing security cover to the genuine whistleblowers".
The Home Ministry, in turn, asks individual state governments to examine the threat and provide security cover, if needed, he said.
"On the advice of Ministry of Home Affairs, state governments have appointed nodal officers in respective states and details about these officers have been communicated to the Commission for referring the matters to them," the Minister said.
Its now mandatory for government servants to declare their assets annually. Section 4 of the RTI Act mandated transparency only in terms of their salary and compensation. Strangely, the new rules have not been pubicised
Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act mandates that salaries and compensation packages of government servants including officers from Indian Administrative Service/ Indian Police Service (IAS/IPS) cadre, be put up on the website of the relevant public authority. The notification issued last week by the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) should come as a shock for government employees who have been amassing wealth, beyond their means. They will need to declare their assets by September this year and then by March or July, every year.
Every government employee is now required to file his annual returns pertaining to assets and liabilities, along with that of his wife and children, on a newly drafted declaration form. The notification is a sequel to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013. The rules are termed as Public Servants (Furnishing of Information and Annual Return of Assets and Liabilities and the Limits for Exemption of Assets in Filing Returns) Rules, 2014.
As per the notification by the DoPT, this declaration has to be made by every government servant over and above other declarations as per his/ her services rules.
Section 3 (2) states...
(1) Every public servant shall make a declaration of his assets and liabilities under sub-section (1) of section 44 in the format specified in Appendix-1, along with information required under sub-section (2) or as the case may be, sub-section (3) and the annual return under sub-section (4) of section 44 in Forms I to IV specified in Appendix-II.
Every public servant shall file declaration, information or return, as the case may be, regarding his assets and liabilities as on the 31st of March every year, to the competent authority as referred to in clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 2 on or before the 31st of July of that year.
Provided that the public servants who have filed declarations, information and annual returns of property under the provisions of the rules applicable to such public servants shall file the revised declarations, information or as the case may be, annual returns as on the 1st day of August 2014, to the competent authority on or before the 15th day of September, 2014.
The exemption clause is: “(4) minimum value of assets which competent authority may exempt from furnishing of information - …..if the value of such asset does not exceed four months basic pay of the public servant or Rs2 lakh, whichever is higher.’’
While this notification is the ultimate step towards transparency, Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and activist, who has been working on matters about laws relating to transparency states that, this notification is deliberately not being made public and publicized. He says “According to the text of the gazette notification of the Rules, it was to be published in the Official Gazette on 14 July 2014. However this set of Rules has not been uploaded either in the Ordinary Gazette Section or the Extraordinary Gazette Section of the E-gazette website of govt of India (GoI). These Rules do not come up under the 'What's New' Segment of DoPT's website either. Instead, it is tucked away in the Circular Portal of GoI, which is password protected. However, readers may access it through Google by keying in the complete title of the Rules.”
The notification is of prime importance, considering that RTI applicants used to be stonewalled when they filed applications to procure information on disproportionate assets of government servants. Some of them used to file second appeals, while some Information Commissions ordered disclosure of information contained in the immovable property returns submitted by civil servants every year, others rejected the request upholding the official's right to privacy.
“In at least one case, an RTI activist in southern India who sought such information about a senior level officer, had to be provided armed security as the request snowballed into a public altercation between the two,” Nayak said.
Who else does the notification cover?
As per Nayak’s study these Rules cover every public servant. He says, “The Lokpal Act covers all categories of public servants in Section 14. These include the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Members of Parliament, civil servants, employees and managers of public sector undertakings, universities, boards, trusts and societies or autonomous bodies wholly or partly financed by the Central Government and any organisation which receives foreign contribution of more than Rs10 lakh per year ($16,950 where 1$= Rs59) under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA).
Does PM come under this notification?
According to Nayak, the Prime Minister is the competent authority for receiving declarations of assets and liabilities of the Union Ministers as per the Code of Conduct adopted first in 1964 and revised later in 1992 (4th attachment). “This Code does not require the Prime Minister to disclose his/ her assets to anybody. However, Section 44 read with Section 14 of the Lokpal Act, requires the Prime Minister also to publicly declare his/ her assets. So the Government will have to notify who the competent authority shall be to receive the PM's first declaration and subsequent annual returns under this Act and make them accessible to the public. Perhaps it should be the President as he alone is higher in the executive hierarchy to the PM. GoI must issue a clarification on this issue. It is not clear if the templates notified by the DoPT are intended for the use of 'public servants' other than 'civil servants',” he added.
Certainly, citizens would be looking forward to details of assets of government servants coming out in the public domain. Moneylife had recently carried a story on the disproportionate assets of Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh. No action has been taken on this yet. He continues in his position and there are thousands of such cases all over India. Will the scenario change?