All it took to shake a political party that forms a part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra was a footnote in the bill of small time restaurant in Mumbai. It read: “As per UPA govt eating money (2G, Coal, CWG scams) is a necessity but eating in an AC restaurant is a luxury”
It all started when Sriniwas Shetty, who runs a hotel named Aditi Veg Restaurant in Parel area of Mumbai, decided not to be yet another mute spectator of excesses unleashed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. On one hand, the UPA broke hell on citizens by executing one scam after another; and on the other, in utter clumsiness, has started squeezing the working class by levying various taxes.
This quiet, novel way of voicing the protest, without any breast-beating went unnoticed for over a fortnight, until someone posted it on Twitter. The image of that defiant unique message went viral on the social media and was greeted with rousing applause.
But our intolerant political environment would not take this ‘nonsense’. Congress workers decided to intimidate the restaurateur, whose protest had charged thousands of angry but otherwise mute (or sometimes raucous only in social media) Indians. On 22nd July 2013 Congress workers swooped down on the restaurant.
Ganesh Yadav, the president of the Indian Youth Congress forced Aditi Restaurant to shut down. He has since been quoted saying that he didn’t ask the restaurant to shut down and the protest was against the ‘defamation’ of his party by the restaurant. As reported by the Mumbai tabloid, The Mid-Day, a non-congizable offence was registered at the Bhoiwada Police station under Sec 501 for defamation.
Unfortunately, for the Congress, the act of intimidation probably did far worse damage than the bold footnote. The reports about Congress workers shutting down #Aditihotel (a popular hashtag that day) spread fast on social media. Thousands of voices supported Aditi and lambasted the action. Typically, the electronic media launched discussions and fresh reports (subsequently denied) that instructions to attack Aditi had come from Delhi flowed in.
The upshot was that the restaurant opposite KEM Hospital, one of the busiest places in Mumbai, reopened for business in a few hours. But it is probably never going to go back to its humdrum existence. The firm voice of protest against corruption continues to inspire people and many of people have been making a little trip to Parel, only to say ‘Bravo’ or ‘Congratulations - You are not alone’. On Sunday, 28th July, Sampat Shetty, a journalist, persuaded the restaurant to create a book to record voices of support!
But this is not enough. Why should the mere recording of an opinion about the mega financial scandals under the UPA government amount to defamation? Each scam mentioned in the footnote has been a subject of endless media debate and innumerable screaming headlines. How then, can a footnote attract action? Sec 501 of the IPC is titled: Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory. It says, “Whoever prints or engraves any matter, knowing or having good reason to believe that such matter is defamatory of any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
Does it apply in Aditi Restaurant’s case? Well, this is for legal experts to debate-there are strong views on both sides. The police, as usual, took the easy root of pleasing the protestors by filing a complaint. This incident, like others, will probably be buried and forgotten after a while. But it is yet another instance of growing intolerance against dissent and using intimidation to suppress disagreement.
While the token show of solidarity with Aditi Restaurant in terms of physical visits and on social media are welcome gestures, ultimately they are no more than gestures. We, the people have to find ways to signal to the political establishment that we are tired of corruption, intimidation and the attempt to mute our voices. What is the way forward?
The PIO of Bank of Maharashtra did not comply with the CIC orders and instead requested the Commission to review its order. This is the 143rd in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) and assistant general manager (AGM) for vigilance at Bank of Maharashtra (BoM) to pay a penalty of Rs17,000 for the delay of 68-days in providing the information after the order from the CIC.
While giving this judgement on 4 April 2012, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission does not consider defiance of its orders as a legitimate exercise by a PIO. By sending a letter to the Commission asking for review the PIO cannot escape the consequences of not following its order.”
Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh) resident Vivek Sheel, on 18 April 2011, sought information about vigilance case no. F-833, which appeared in Annual Report of CVO of Bank of Maharashtra for year 2009. Here is the information he sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act...
(i) Whether this case was registered for any one series of incidence or more than one incidence of different nature occurred in different time period. Please provide the details, such as name of the branch in which incidence/s occurred, date/period of occurrence of incidence/s, details of reporting of incidence/s to vigilance department, and amount of Loss incurred by the bank In each of the incidences.
(ii) Incidence/s of information (i), which incidence/s classified as fraud?
(iii) Whether the incidence/s of this case reported to RBI, if yes, please provide the date of reporting along with copy of all such report/s submitted to RBI.
(iv) Whether FIR Lodged for incidence/s of this case, if yes please provide incidence-wise details, such as, date of FIR, FIR No., name of police station, person/s named in the FIR.
(v) Please inform name of all the employees suspended In this case and provide Incidence-wise name of employees and nature of charges against them.
(vi) Please inform name of all the employees issued show-cause notice In this case with specific reference of each incidence of this case.
(vii) Please inform name of all the employees issued charge sheet in this case and provide the details, such as, name of employees, nature of charges (such as procedure lapses, negligence in duty and/or direct involvement in the incidence) against them and each charge relates to which incidence/s.
(The Point no. viii and ix were not readable.-CIC)
(x) What is the present position of this case; whether it is closed or not? If not closed, please give incidence-wise details of present status.
(xl) If the status of this case is closed, please provide the copy of investigation reports for alt the investigation done in this case.
(xli) Whether any amount is recovered in this case, if yes, please provide the details of amount a source of recovery.
(xiii) Whether any employee suspended in this case had furnished any Fixed Deposit before revocation of suspension? If yes, what is the name of that employee and whether any recovery has been made from that fixed deposit to make good the loss incurred by the bank in this case? If no recovery has been made, then what Is status of that fixed deposit as on date?
In her reply, the PIO stated, "...information sought by you in respect of vigilance Case NoF-833 relates to the personal information and bank account of another person, disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. Moreover, the information sought by you is of confidential in nature. Hence, we cannot provide the information sought by you."
Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Sheel, the applicant, filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) stated, "In this regard, we would like to inform you that information sought by you in respect of vigilance Case No: F-833 relates to the personal information and bank account of another person, disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. Moreover the information sought by you is of confidential in nature. Hence we cannot provide the information sought by you".
Sheel then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC noted that the appellant was seeking information about a vigilance case which was reported in the Annual Report of the Bank and the PIO has claimed exemption under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act.
The PIO stated that that disclosing the information would disclose the Bank accounts of some other customers of the Bank which is held in the fiduciary relationship by the Bank. The PIO also stated that a police investigation is ongoing and hence disclosing the information may affect the investigation. The information which is being sought by the appellant is of many incidents which occurred during the period 2003 and 2005, Mr Gandhi noted.
Under Section 8 (1) (j) information which has been exempted is defined as:
"information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information:"
Mr Gandhi said that to qualify for this exemption the information must be personal information, which applies to an individual and not to an institution or a corporate. Hence Section 8 (1) (j) cannot be applied when the information concerns institutions, organisations or corporates, the CIC said.
The phrase 'disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest' means that the information must have been given in the course of a public activity. There will only be a few exceptions to this rule, which might relate to information, which is obtained by a Public authority while using extraordinary powers such as in the case of a raid or phone tapping.
Mr Gandhi said, "The Commission does not accept the plea that the information sought by the Appellant can be considered as an intrusion of the privacy of an individual. Hence the Commission does not accept the plea of exemption under Section 8(1)(j)."
He said that the PIO also was not been able to show or justify how revealing the information could impede the process of investigation. "From her admission, the incidents occurred in 2003 and 2005 and if an investigation is carried on for decades, this cannot be a ground to refuse the information. The Commission therefore does not accept the claim for exemption under Section 8(1)(h)," the CIC said.
"As regards the claim of the PIO that information also refers to certain bank accounts of customers," Mr Gandhi said, "the Commission accepts the argument that this information is held in fiduciary capacity and hence is exempt under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act. The Commission therefore directs that information relating to the Bank Customer's accounts names and amounts may be severed as per the provisions of Section-10 of the RTI Act."
While allowing the appeal, the Bench on 23 December 2011 directed the PIO to provide the information sought by Sheel, the appellant, after severing account numbers and names of bank customers before 10 January 2012.
The Commission received a representation from BK Piparaiya, GM for credit, IB, Alternate of GM Planning and CPIO of BoM again claiming exemption under Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act requesting for reconsideration of the Commission's order. Subsequently the Commission also received a letter dated 25 January 2012 from the appellant alleging non-compliance of the Commission's order.
Mr Gandhi then issued a show cause notice to the PIO, the CPIO and directed them to present themselves with a written explanation to show cause why penalty should not be imposed and disciplinary action not be recommended against them for defying the orders of the commission and failing to comply with the provisions of RTI Act, 2005.
During the hearing on 4 April 2012, Mr Gandhi, noted that the Bench had given its order on 23 December 2012 to the PIO Mugdha Satarkar, who was present through video conferencing. The PIO stated that she had to collect the information from various departments to provide it, which was time consuming and hence she could not comply with the CIC orders.
Mr Gandhi, said, when the Bench gave its order, the PIO made no representation that the time given was inadequate. "It is clear that it was assumed that the order need not be implemented and hence a letter was sent on 10 January 2012 by General Manager (Credit & IB) BK Piparaiya asking the Commission to review its earlier decision and giving reasons why the Commission's order should not be obeyed," he said.
It added, "Once a statutory order is given all citizens have to obey or obtain a stay on such order by the manner prescribed in law. The order of the Commission is a statutory order and the only relief available is a writ before the appropriate forum."
"(the) PIO states that the information was sent to the Appellant now on 20 March 2012. She has sent written submissions to the Commission on 26 March 2012 explaining that the information had been sent to the appellant and requesting the Commission to condone the delay," the Bench noted.
Mr Gandhi said, "The Commission does not consider defiance of its orders as a legitimate exercise by a PIO. By sending a letter to the Commission, asking for review the PIO cannot escape the consequences of not following its order. It is evident that the information was sent only after receiving the show cause notice of the Commission which was sent on 23 February 2012."
"The information should have been provided to the Appellant as per the order of the Commission before 10 January 2012. Instead, it was provided to the Appellant only on 20 March 2012, after a delay of 68 days. Since no reasonable cause has been offered for the delay of 68 days in providing the information to the Appellant as per the order of the CIC, the Bench is imposing the penalty on Mrs Mugdha Satarkar, PIO & AGM (Vig) under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act at the rate of Rs250 per day of delay of 68 days that comes to Rs17,000," Mr Gandhi said in his order.
The CIC directed the chairman and managing director of Bank of Maharashtra, to recover the amount Rs17,000 from the salary of Mrs Mugdha Satarkar at the rate of Rs4,250 every month and remit the whole amount to the Commission before 10 August 2012.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002890/16554Penalty
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002890
Appellant : Vivek Sheel.
Shahibabad, Ghaziabad - 201005, UP
Respondent : Mugdha Satarkar
Public Information Officer & AGM
Bank of Maharashtra
1501, Shivajinagar, Pune - 411005
The Aditya Birla group company has reported disappointing results due to higher logistics and raw material cost. The cement producer expect demand to pick up in housing and infrastructure to drive growth rate to 6% in FY14, and 8% over the longer term
UltraTech Cement, an Aditya Birla group company, reported a 13.5% lower first quarter net profit at Rs673 crore from Rs778 crore a year ago, due to increasing trend in logistics and raw material costs on increase in railway freight and diesel prices.
The company said, benefits of lower commodity price were partly offset by the depreciation in the rupee. During the quarter to end-June, UltraTech’s net sales also declined to Rs4,958 crore from Rs5,072 crore same period last year.
In a release, UltraTech, said, “The outlook continues to remain challenging. Demand growth in FY14 is likely to be around 6%, though over the long run, it is likely to be over 8%. The key value drivers will be housing demand and infrastructure spending.”
During the first quarter, the cement maker’s combined domestic cement and clinker sales was 9.88 million tonnes compared to 9.94 million tonnes last year, while it was 2.50 LmT for white cement and wall care putty.
The clinkerisation plant of 3.30 million metric tonne in Karnataka was commission and the UltraTech’s board have sanctioned a capital expenditure to the tune of Rs2,100 crore towards setting up of grinding unites and ready-mix concrete plants across the country, as well as modernisation. The total capex of the company is around Rs13,700 crore. The company is in the process of ramping up capacity by another 10 million tonnes by 2015 and is expected to boost capacity to 64.45 million tonnes.
Moneylife had recommended this stock, to Stockletter subscribers, at Rs1,466.
On Monday, UltraTech Cement ended marginally higher at Rs1880 on the BSE, while the 30-share Sensex closed the day marginally down at 19,593.