Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi warns of the possibility of a backlog of RTI queries choking the system, as in the case of the courts
The citizens' response to the Right to Information Act is encouraging; but there is serious concern about a massive backlog choking the system. In this context, allowing inspection of files in the case of lengthy and voluminous queries could make things easier for both public information officers (PIOs) and citizens, central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has said.
"I have come across RTI queries that go up to 100 pages, with hundreds of questions," Mr Gandhi said. "I tell the PIOs to grant inspection of files in such cases. The applicant can check everything he wants to, there will be no backlog, and fewer chances of appeal." Mr Gandhi was addressing a seminar hosted by Moneylife Foundation in Mumbai on Saturday.
With more people taking up RTI, PIOs have to discharge more replies daily. In many cases, PIOs are lethargic in their replies, which are either delayed or dissatisfactory. Subsequently, appeals and counter-appeals pile up, and often matters are dragged to the courts. A huge backlog has built up and this may end up choking the RTI, just as it has happened with the country's judicial system, the central information commissioner warned.
His concern was echoed by VS Das, executive director, Reserve Bank of India, who also serves as the appellate authority for the institution. "We receive unreasonably long queries that tax the resources and time of a busy organisation. Still, we can say that out of the 18,000 applications we have received till date, only 16% have gone for appeals," Mr Das said.
Mr Gandhi said that in many instances where there are lengthy queries, the applicant usually has no objective as to how he will use the information. "During a hearing, I once met this man who wanted a massive amount of information about a government project, including details of the tender. I asked him what he will do with the information. He said that he wanted it, but was clueless about what he exactly wanted," Mr Gandhi narrated. "In such cases, I would say that if you don't have any objective in mind, drop the idea."
The central information commissioner cautioned against such use of the RTI, saying it should not become a tool for harassment. Inspection of files not only saves time, but will also save the applicant's money, because he can just copy the relevant information he needs.
"Also, authorities should voluntarily disclose information and put up files, documents, etc in the public domain. Everything has to be stored in digital format anyway, so why not upload them on the website while storing them on the computer," Mr Gandhi said.
Police release sketches of two persons suspected to have placed the briefcase containing the bomb at the High Court
A powerful bomb placed in a briefcase exploded outside the Delhi High Court this morning killing at least 12 people and injuring more than 60, many of them suffering serious burns. It's the second bomb attack in the national capital in four months after the explosion that happened only a few yards away on 25th May.
Most of the victims were people who had gathered outside gates number 4 and 5, waiting to get passes to enter the court premises, when the bomb went off at about 10.15am. Leaders, cutting across party lines, have condemned the incident, describing it as tragic and unfortunate.
The High Court, along with several benches of the Supreme Court, suspended proceedings for some hours, but resumed its functioning later in the day so as to send a strong message that it "will not be cowed down by such terror acts". If a litigant or lawyer failed to appear in any of the cases that came up today, the courts passed over these matters without giving any orders.
Denouncing the blast as a "cowardly act of terrorist nature", prime minister Manmohan Singh asked all political parties to unite and crush the scourge. Dr Singh who is in Dhaka on a two-day visit to Bangladesh, said, "I just heard the sad news from Delhi about the bomb blast. I am told that 10 people have been killed. This is a cowardly act of terrorist nature. We will deal with it. We will never succumb to the pressure of terrorism."
In a statement in the Lok Sabha on the blast, home minister P Chidambaram regretted that the "tragic incident" had taken place despite Delhi police being on a high alert and capacity being built up to strengthen the force in the past few years.
Informing members that the case will be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Mr Chidambaram said the government would not be intimidated by terrorist groups and that it was "determined to track down the perpetrators of this horrific crime and bring them to justice."
An email received by a TV channel this afternoon stated that the blast was carried out by Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI), said to be an affiliate of Al Qaeda, to demand the revocation of the death sentence of Afzal Guru, who has been condemned for the attack on the Indian Parliament. It threatened to carry out such attacks at the Supreme Court if the demand was not met.
Meanwhile, the Delhi police this evening released sketches of two persons suspected to have planted the bomb outside the Delhi High Court.
The sketches of the two-one believed to be in his 50s and the other in his mid-20s-were prepared following descriptions provided by eyewitnesses who claimed they saw someone with a briefcase standing in the queue.
Nifty to move in the range of 5,065 to 5,200
The market closed higher for a second consecutive day today, with early support from Asian indices and across-the-board buying by institutional investors. We had mentioned yesterday that if the Nifty holds on to 5,020 we could expect the index to reach 5,100 and climb further up to 5,200. Today, the Nifty traded above yesterday’s close for the entire session. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) today witnessed about the same volume as on Tuesday with 74.47 crore shares traded. Looking ahead, we could see the benchmark move in the range of 5,065 to 5,200.
Gains in the Asian markets supported the domestic market. The Nifty resumed trade at 5,080, up 16 points from its previous close, and the Sensex began the day at 16,922, up by 59 points. The Nifty touched its intra-day low in initial trade at 5,076, while for the Sensex its opening level was the low.
Broad-based buying kept all sectoral gauges in the green and helped the market continue its northward journey.
Overcoming minor bouts of volatility, the market went on to touch its intra-day high at around 2pm. At the highs, the Nifty was at 5,155 and the Sensex climbed to 17,157.
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D Subbarao said today that he would not like to comment on the subject of another rate hike, before looking at headline inflation data for August which will be released on 14th September. The RBI will hold a mid-quarter monetary policy review on 16th September.
Later in the day, investors took profits off the table at higher levels, pulling down the benchmarks from their intra-day highs. The market closed in the green, the Nifty gaining 60 points at 5,125 and the Sensex well above the 17,000 mark at 17,065, a gain of 202 points.
The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 1308:420.
Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index advanced 1.24% and the BSE Small-cap gained 1.53%.
Twelve of the 13 sectoral gauges settled higher. BSE Realty (up 3.42%), BSE Power (up 2.43%), BSE Capital Goods, BSE Bankex (up 2.12% each) and BSE Metal (up 2.02%) were the top gainers, while BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 0.13%) ended in the negative.
The top gainers in the Sensex list were Jaiprakash Associates (up 7.70%), HDFC Bank (up 3.42%), Coal India (up 3.38%), Tata Power (up 3.38%) and NTPC (up 2.95%). The major losers were ITC, Mahindra & Mahindra (down 0.99%), Infosys (down 0.53%), Bajaj Auto (down 0.20%) and Hindustan Unilever (down 0.13%).
JP Associates (up 7.24%), Ambuja Cement (up 6.32%), ACC (up 5.09%), SAIL (up 4.97%) and Tata Power (up 3.60%) led the gainers on the Nifty, whereas M&M (down 1.30%), ITC (down 1.13%), TCS (down 0.76%), Infosys (down 0.72%) and Dr Reddy’s (down 0.65%) were the key losers.
Markets in Asia also closed in the green today as investors went bargain-hunting. Also, a weaker yen boosted Japanese exporters. However, investors were cautious due to the continuing debt issues in Europe. German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Tuesday that Greece would not get its next bailout instalment unless it meets goals under the aid package.
The Shanghai Composite gained 1.84%, the Hang Seng advanced by 1.71%, the Jakarta Composite jumped by 2.87%, the KLSE Composite rose by 0.70%, the Nikkei 225 surged 2.01%, the Straits Times was higher by 2.08%, the Seoul Composite jumped by 3.78% and the Taiwan Weighted advanced by 2.20%.
Back home, inflows from foreign institutional investors on Tuesday were negated by withdrawals by domestic institutional investors. While FIIs pumped in Rs431.48 crore, domestic institutional investors pulled out Rs415.17 crore from equities.
Education solutions provider Educomp Solutions today said it has received a Rs60.72 crore order from the Chhattisgarh government for implementation of ICT solutions across 582 government high schools and higher secondary institutes. The order covers six districts, namely Sarguja, Jashpur, Korba, Korea, Raigarh and Janjgir Champa, the company said. The stock gained 3.24% to settle at Rs223.20 on the NSE.
Aurobindo Pharma announced it has formed an equal joint venture with Russian healthcare equipment company Ojsc Diod to manufacture and sell drugs in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Aurospharma Company, the new JV will set up a plant to make non-penicillin and non-cephalosporin Rx generics and other drugs that are categorised as over-the-counter products in Russia, the company said. The stock settled at Rs137.75, up 3.69% on the NSE.
Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers) has bagged a contract worth around Bangladesh Taka 106 crore (equivalent to $15 million) from Bangladesh Railway for projects scheduled for completion in 18 months. The stock gained 4.07% to Rs121.50 on the NSE.