Right to Information
Critics of Shailesh Gandhi silenced
As an RTI activist turned Central Information Commissioner (CIC), Shailesh Gandhi was often criticised, for some of his orders as CIC. A set of 10 orders upheld by the Supreme Court recently, serve to prove that he did his work without fear or favour 
 
The latest Supreme Court judgment, exploding on the face of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and all other banks, which have been rejecting RTI queries regularly, also bears testimony to the judiciousness of Shailesh Gandhi. The apex court order mentions 11 orders passed by the Central Information Commission, out of which 10 were decided by Mr Gandhi, the Right to Information (RTI) activist turned Central Information Commissioner (CIC). 
 
He, being an activist seemed to have had an adverse effect sometimes, as fellow activists expected that he should always decide in their favour. A sterling example is the appeal in a case related to the Mumbai airport by an activist against a rejection of his query by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Mr Gandhi had turned down second appeal of the applicant who sought information from IDBI Bank, which had extended a loan of Rs4,000 crore to the Airports Authority. The RTI applicant had sought details on the loan, with copies of documents submitted, reason for the loan, copy of the MoU and whether 9% interest on the loan was justified. 
 
Mr Gandhi turned down the request, stating there was a ‘fiduciary’ relationship between the Bank and the borrower, and unless the public interest is clearly evident, this information falls under the exceptions provided under Section 8 of the RTI Act. He put the onus on the applicant to prove public interest; his order had been widely criticised by the RTI activist community. 
 
I am not going into the merits of the decision, but highlighting how activists were shocked that a member of their fraternity, now on the other side of the bench, could have given a pro-establishment decision. The expectations from Mr Gandhi as also journalist turned State Information Commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar were too high and often unreasonable. One has rarely seen bureaucrats turned information commissioners being similarly criticised for their decisions (people expect they are made that way and conditioned to be pro-establishment). Both Mr Gandhi and Mr Kuvalekar have given sterling orders but they came in for flak when their decisions were found unacceptable by activists.
 
To cite an example, there has always been a heated debate on whether co-operative banks come under the RTI or not. Mr Gandhi stood firm on his view that they did, despite lobbies trying ways and means to interpret it otherwise. In one of his decisions as CIC, a Baroda resident had sought information on procedure, rules and regulation of inspection being carried out in co-operative banks and, in particular, the inspection report copy of  the Makarpura Industrial Estate Co-Operative Bank Ltd.  Mr Gandhi, directed the CPIO, who refused to give information, to provide complete information on the inspection reports, thus laying to rest whether co-operative banks come under the RTI or not. It was a historic decision. The links of other bank related decisions have been mentioned in this Moneylife story
 
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, who has been closely observing the performance and public perception about the two information commissioners – Mr Gandhi and Mr Kuvalekar -who were not former bureaucrats but were highly regarded in public life and were selected as information commissioner. He believes that sometimes people scrutinized their work rather unfairly. He says, “We know how bureaucrats turned information commissioners have largely seen their role as an extension of their government jobs and rarely took strong decisions; the passion for RTI as a citizens’ movement has been missing. Society needs to understand the value of a person in public life becoming information commissioner and playing an invaluable role through decisions that empower citizens. Only such people can take the RTI forward in its true spirit.’’
 
Highlighting some decisions by Mr Gandhi and Mr Kuvalekar, Vijay Kumbhar says, “(Mr) Gandhi has given so many sterling decisions (quantity and quality) that they are fit to be included in the Guinness Book of Records. Mr Kuvalekar’s decision on ‘missing files’, ‘answer sheets’ and ‘private organisations with substantial government funds’ are historic.”
 
Mr Gandhi always felt strongly hurt about CIC decisions being stayed by the courts. In his blog, Mr Gandhi, who after serving as Central Information Commissioner, is back to being a simple RTI activist, had stated, “As Central Information Commissioners presiding over appeals on the Right to Information Act, my colleagues and I have the same conditions of service and salaries as Supreme Court judges. And yet, on several occasions, public authorities do not obey the orders we pass. When faced with action for non-compliance, they rush to the High Court and obtain a stay on our order. My question is simple. Long after the deadline for complying with our order has passed, should a person or organisation that has flouted our order get a stay from any Court? Shouldn’t there be some penalty for violating the orders we pass? If not, what value are our orders?” 
 
Today, none other than the Supreme Court has delivered justice to Mr Gandhi. In the order, the apex court stated, “…orders were based on elaborate consideration, gave valid reasons and did not ‘suffer from any error of law, irrationality or arbitrariness’ and therefore, ‘need no interference by this Court’.
 
Moneylife proudly felicitates him on Sunday.
 
 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book "To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte" with Vinita Kamte and is the author of "The Mighty Fall".)

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COMMENTS

Mahesh Khanna

12 months ago

It is slap to all those who did not agree with decisions of Shailesh Gandhi. It will disturb the officials of RBI who had a protective attitude towards who have perpetrated wrong. Otherwise also RBI is an Non Transparent organization which does not reveal information about the allowances, foreign tour details of their executives, details of the official cars being misused by family members of the executives, friends and their relatives, it does not information on how much they spend on their litigations before courts, they do not have information how much they spent on digitalization of their records etc etc along list.
It is definitely a landmark judgment which will go in the long run to strengthen RTI Act. Hats off to victory of Shaileshji and it is definitely defeat of all those who wanted to kill the spirit of RTI Act 2005.Also hats off to the judges of SC.

Subramani P K

12 months ago

Mr. Shailesh Gandhi deserves open felicitation especially for his orders without fear or favour while in service. Besides, the comment by SC judges stand testimony for his thorough knowledge of the statute & the purpose with which the RTI Act was enacted by legislature. Congrats Mr. Gandhi.

Prakash Patel

12 months ago

Thanks for the report.
Indian democracy is moving forward because of such personalities like Mr.Shailesh Gandhi who go on working upholding right values even without expecting any appreciation.

Pulse Beat

Doctor Sun

Fashionable people today avoid the sun like poison and dab themselves with sunscreen lotions, an invitation for skin cancer, and cover themselves with clothes while in the sun. The sun was considered a God in the West and they used to sunbathe regularly. 
“Many ancient peoples were sunbathers. The Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians had sun gardens and gave the sun the status of a god. Hippocrates, the Greek physician known as the ‘father of medicine’, recommended sunbathing and had his own large solarium, an enclosed area for sunning. This was also true of the ancient Romans, whose thermae (hot tubs and baths) were equipped with solaria. The Roman writer Pliny wrote that: the sun is the best remedy,” writes Mark Adams.
 
In 1903, Niels Finsen got the Nobel for showing how sunlight cured skin tuberculosis (lupus vulgaris). Before that, Madame Duhamel, in France, used to expose children with tuberculosis to sunlight for prolonged periods and showed how they recovered. Later, Dr Rollier, who was disgusted with his practice, went up the Alps to practise, but found people there needed no doctor as they were all healthy. People told him that there is the sun here: doctors are not needed. He got his fiancée, who was suffering from TB, completely cured with sunlight.
 
Sunlight helps stimulate our pineal glands when it enters the eye through the pupil. Dark glasses might interfere with this, especially for people who wear them even inside. Sun is the best source of vital Vitamin D which helps cure many ills.
 

CDC’s Racket 

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, popularly known as just CDC (in the United States) is not a government organisation for the safety of the public, but a for-profit private organisation that owes its allegiance to its stakeholders—the drug giants! Even I was not aware of this until now! “The first and most obvious clue that the CDC isn’t what it appears on the surface is the fact that this supposed government agency is listed in the official Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) directory as a for-profit corporation,” writes Ethan A Huff of Natural News.
 
An investigation by British Medical Journal (BMJ) and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) found that three key ‘scientists’ who helped develop the official swine flu policy for the World Health Organization (WHO), recommending that practically everyone be vaccinated, received cash payments from both pharmaceutical giants that manufacture swine flu vaccines reported by The Guardian in 2010. They paid off policy-makers in multiple countries, including in the US (at the CDC), to write the WHO’s guidelines for swine flu that pushed dangerous swine flu vaccines on millions of people globally. 
 
“The tentacles of drug company influence are in all levels in the decision-making process,” stated Paul Flynn, a British member of parliament who spoke out against this racket. 
 

Scary Vaccines

It has now been shown that as the incidence of measles and mumps declined, heart-attack and cancer rates went up. It is now shown that regular childhood diseases prevent adult killer diseases. The other news in this area is still more frightening.
 
“The deaths of more than 100 children have been officially linked to receiving a measles vaccine during the past decade, according to the US government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Yet, the childhood measles’ mortality count over the same period remains at zero, according to CDC data. In other words, in the last 10 years, an American child would have been highly more likely to die after receiving a measles shot than from contracting the disease itself. Thousands more have suffered from adverse reactions to the measles inoculation and other vaccines.” This is from a story by Alex Newman and Rebecca Terrell in the New American.com
 
Did you see any related news in the mainstream media?

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Major reform bills coming in last 3 days of session: Jaitley
The government intends to bring important legislation on structural reforms in the remaining three day left of parliament's winter Session, notwithstanding the setback on the GST Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday.
 
"The next three days are crucial with very important pieces of legislation coming up before parliament," Jaitley said here addressing the annual general meeting of industry chamber FICCI.
 
"India has almost ceased to be the centre of arbitration and adjudication and we need to bring it back because the arbitration costs abroad are enormous for our companies," he said.
 
"We are bringing in the bill for creating fast-track arbitration in the country, including single-member tribunals," he added.
 
The finance minister said another proposed legislation would be bringing in a new Bankruptcy Law for companies.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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