According to Shailesh Gandhi, who is retiring tomorrow, rising pendency of cases with Information Commissions would leave the citizens disenchanted with the transparency law
New Delhi: As he prepares to demit office tomorrow after a nearly four-year stint at the Central Information Commission, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi feels that biggest threat to the Right to Information (RTI) regime in the country is from Information Commissions themselves, reports PTI.
Gandhi also says rising pendency of cases with Information Commissions would leave the citizens disenchanted with the transparency law.
The 65-year old Information Commissioner, who paid interns from his own pocket for ensuring quick and efficient processing of case files, said in an interview to PTI that RTI faces three major threats - lowest from the government, then judicial processes and highest threat is from Information Commissions themselves.
"The highest threat is from the Commissions where already there are cases that are pending for two and three years for a law that is seven years old. If it continues like this, in the next five years the pendency is likely to be three to five years at which point the common man will run away from this just as he has run away from most of judicial and quasi judicial processes. And if that happens, RTI is dead. RTI will continue to remain just for commissions and commissioners which would be very sad," Gandhi said.
An entrepreneur-turned-activist and IIT alumnus Gandhi, would be demitting his office tomorrow after nearly four year stint with the Central Information Commission during which he decided 16,000 petitions, maximum among all Information Commissioners.
During his tenure, Gandhi pushed for some progressive ideas in the CIC like Citizens' charter, digitisation of records, paperless offices, rationalisation of administrative man-power to ensure pendency of cases is reduced but did not get much support from within the Commission.
Gandhi had underlined the problem of increasing pendency of appeals and complaints at the Commission and had suggested that panel should make a commitment to dispose 90% of cases within three-five months.
He has also warned if pendency kept increasing like this, the waiting period would increase to five years.
Gandhi said he has been writing within the Commission on the pendency of issues but did not get "adequate response".
"Negligible ideas have been accepted. I don't think people are willing to accept this issue at all. There has been unwillingness to face up this," he said.
Gandhi said he hoped that the Commission would make a commitment that the pendency would be between three to four months, if not now, in the next three years, five years.
"I have proposed this in the Citizen's Charter which initially had found favour but ultimately the Commission refused to accept the Citizen's charter. It has not been willing to make commitments to citizens," Gandhi said.
He said everybody recognises pendency issue but the general attitude is someone else's problem and government would do something.
The maverick Commissioner who did not hesitate to issue show cause notice to the CIC officials with regards to an RTI plea said, "We need to bring accountability to all these Commissions, if we have to have a better government, a better nation. Nation is spending lots on these."
"Most of these Commissions, again if I broaden it to slightly beyond Commissions, I would say Judicial and quasi judicial processes in India are operating as if time is of no consequence. We blame political class and bureaucrats but if we do not correct this we cannot get any justice.
"Nobody who does anything wrong needs to fear anything and he can live life without any worry or fear," Gandhi said.
When asked about future plans, Gandhi said he would start working as RTI activist from Mumbai after a two month vacation with family.
When asked about the best and worst public authorities he dealt with during his tenure as Information Commissioner, Gandhi said Municipal Corporation of Delhi and CIC remained most difficult to deal with, while External Affairs Ministry, Delhi University and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital were more receptive to his decisions.
Gandhi, who was about to start an inquiry against a Commission's officer but has been slapped with a litigation from him in personal capacity, said the implication of this case would be that Commission could be brought to standstill by any public information officer (PIO) or applicant making charges against a Commissioner personally.
"I am just wondering whether the rule of law can really do well if we do not respect various statutory authorities. If any kind of charges can be made against anyone, can we get a better government, can we get a better Nation? It's a worry that I am having," he said.
Gandhi also expressed concerns over the good orders issued by the transparency panels, which are getting stayed by the courts.
"Lot of progressive orders are getting stayed by the courts and the way our judicial system operates, you can easily spend eight to 10 years in courts," he said.
Gandhi said most government officers and those in power are not serious about RTI.
"They have a very non-serious attitude...Unfortunately, my finding is even the Commissions, I don't think are very serious about RTI. This is sad. But I think citizens are very serious and they need to act and put pressure on all these bodies," he said.
While seven relatively small private banks have introduced customer-friendly interest rate policies, the big banks have yet to respond to it, says the RBI governor
Chennai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wants larger banks to come out with customer-friendly interest rate policies following the deregulation of savings bank rate like their smaller counterparts in the private sector, reports PTI.
RBI Governor D Subbarao said, since the deregulation of the rate last year seven relatively small private banks have raised it (deposit rates) and expectedly improved their share of this market segment.
"The big banks have yet to respond to this...Reserve Bank looks forward to more active play in the saving bank segment with banks coming out with some customer friendly innovations especially aimed at attracting low income households, presently outside the banking sector," he said.
Subbarao stated this at IOB Platinum Jubilee Oration Series in Chennai.
While the banks were allowed to decide interest rate on deposits and lendings in early 1990s, the saving bank segment continued to be regulated as there were apprehensions that deregulation would hurt the asset-liability management of banks and also militate against financial inclusion.
However, Subbarao said belying earlier apprehensions, the adjustment to the deregulation has been fairly smooth.
He said it is expected that whenever big banks respond to the deregulated regime, "...the adjustment will be smooth".
While deregulating the rate in the segment, RBI mandated the banks to provide a uniform rate for accounts upto Rs1 lakh while enjoying flexibility in the rates and charges for accounts over Rs1 lakh.
This was done to protect small customers whose knowledge levels and bargaining power are low, Subbarao said.
British MPs voted unanimously last night to ban IM, placing it on the list of 47 organisations that have been banned from functioning in the UK
London: The UK has banned Indian Mujahideen (IM), citing the 'indiscriminate mass casualty attacks' carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba-linked terror group in India and the threat it posed to British nationals there, reports PTI.
British members of parliament (MPs) voted unanimously last night to ban IM, placing it on the list of 47 organisations that have been banned from functioning in the UK.
Setting out the reasons for proscribing IM under the Terrorism Act 2000, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire told the House of Commons that the decision was "not taken lightly" but after thoroughly reviewing all the available information and evidence about the India-based terror group.
"IM has been engaged in indiscriminate mass casualty attacks in India... They use violence to achieve their stated objectives of creating an Islamic state in India and implementing Sharia law," Brokenshire said.
He added: "The organisation has frequently perpetrated attacks against civilian targets such as markets with the intention of maximising casualties..."
"The organisation has also publicly threatened to attack British tourists, so they clearly pose a threat to British nationals in India."
The minister noted that IM was also banned in other countries, including the United States and New Zealand.
India had banned IM, which is linked to the Pakistan-based LeT, in June 2010 after it was suspected of involvement in the attack on a Pune bakery.
Brokenshire recalled some incidents in which IM was involved, such as the serial blasts in Jaipur in May 2008 in which 63 people were killed, and the September 2011 explosion outside the High Court in New Delhi that claimed 15 lives.
"IM has sought to incite sectarian hatred in India by deliberately targeting Hindu places of worship such as an attack during a prayer ceremony in Varanasi which killed a child in December 2010," he said.
Supporting the motion to proscribe IM, shadow home office minister Diana Johnson noted that IM had "strong links" with the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and asked why the government had not banned SIMI as well?
To questions about evidence of IM operating in the UK, Brokenshire said he could not respond due to security issues, but added that the Home Secretary decides to proscribe an organisation only after thoroughly reviewing all available information and evidence.
Senior Labour leader Keith Vaz said his constituency (Leicester East) had the highest number of Indian origin people in the country, and added that he was not aware of IM functioning in the United Kingdom.