Citizens' Issues
CIC proposes to make public the travel details of Union ministers

Central Information Commission gives directive on an RTI query by an applicant who was directed to individual ministries

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that information relating to air travel by union ministers-both domestic and international-should be maintained centrally by the cabinet secretariat.

The CIC made this observation on a Right to Information query by Delhi-based resident Subhash Chandra Agrawal, seeking information concerning air travel by Union ministers in the last three years.

The CIC said, "While we tend to agree with the submissions made by the respondents, we think that it would be in the interest of transparency if some key information about domestic and international travel by Union ministers could be maintained centrally in the cabinet secretariat itself, especially since the pay and accounts office under it is responsible for all accounting details for payment of the salary and reimbursement of their travel expenditure."

"We direct the central public information officer (CPIO) to bring this to the notice of the competent authority in the cabinet secretariat for appropriate action," the CIC said.

While hearing the matter, the respondents had clarified that "the desired information was not maintained in the form in which it had been sought and that a very large volume of records and documents would have to be scrutinised in order to collate the information and that would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority."

Instead, it was argued that "the appellant could approach individual ministries and departments for the desired information, since travel details including the expenditure incurred on both domestic and international travel of ministers of the union government were available only with the respective ministry or department and not with the cabinet secretariat."

The CPIO had earlier informed Mr Agrawal that the information which he was seeking was spread across a number of ministries and departments of the central government and further, that he could seek the desired information from the respective CIPO. This decision was also endorsed by the appellate authority.

Speaking to Moneylife, Mr Agrawal said, "It is a well thought decision. Otherwise, such voluminous information couldn't be available. If they develop a software and put all these details on their website, anyone will be in a position to access it and thus there will be more transparency."

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TDSAT directs DoT to file reply on failure to roll-out services

TDSAT's direction came over a batch of petitions filed by various telcos challenging the demand for crores of rupees as Liquidated Damages (LD) for their failure to roll-out their obligation within the stipulated period

New Delhi: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) today directed the Department of Telecom (DoT) to file a reply within ten days to the challenge raised by telcos over penalties imposed by the DoT for their failure to roll-out their services within the stipulated period of one year.

A Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) bench, headed by its chairman Justice SB Sinha, while directing the DoT to file its reply within ten days, also directed various telcos to file their rejoinder within ten days thereafter.

TDSAT's direction came over a batch of petitions filed by various telcos challenging the demand for crores of rupees as Liquidated Damages (LD) for their failure to roll-out their obligation within the stipulated period.

The TDSAT listed the matter for further hearing on 2nd May 2011.

The DoT has requested to keep the matter sine die as the cases relating to the second generation (2G) scam is pending before the Supreme Court.

Earlier, in its interim order, TDSAT had directed the telcos to pay 60% of the LD demanded by the DoT.

Various telcos had already paid LD charges for some circles before coming to the tribunal challenging the penalty imposed by the DoT.

The demand of penalty by DoT was opposed by various telcos, including Uninor, Videocon Telecommunications, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, S Tel, Aircel, Dishnet Wireless and Idea Cellular.

The DoT had sent notices to several firms, which got new 2G licences bundled with start-up spectrum, but have not started offering services in various circles.

As per the conditions of the Unified Access Service Licences (UASL), the telcos are required to roll out their networks within a year from the date of allocation of spectrum.

According to the agreement, in case new licencees fail to roll out services within the stipulated period, the DoT shall be entitled to recover liquidated damages.

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Trade gap declines to $97 billion in Apr-Feb 2010-11

Decline in the trade gap augurs well for the country's current account deficit (CAD), which has come down to 20.49% to $9.7 billion in the October-December quarter over the same period last year

New Delhi: With exports growing at a much faster rate than imports, India's trade deficit for April-February 2010-11 declined to $97.06 billion from $100.24 billion in the same period of the previous year, reports PTI.

Decline in the trade gap augurs well for the country's current account deficit (CAD), which has come down to 20.49% to $9.7 billion in the October-December quarter over the same period last year.

CAD, which includes deficit in external trade of goods, and services, besides net investment income, stood at 2.9% of GDP in the last fiscal.

Merchandise exports for the 11-month period of 2010-11 went up by 31% to $208 billion, while expansion in imports was much slower at 18% to $305.3 billion over the same period last year.

In February, the trade deficit reduced to $8.1 billion from $10.4 billion a year ago, according to the commerce ministry data released today.

For the entire fiscal 2010-11, the trade gap is expected at $110 billion as compared to $102 billion in 2009-10, trade experts said.

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