Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
Maharashtra govt’s amendments to RTI are against the Act’s objectives

The mischievous amendments to the RTI Act by the Maharashtra government have enraged RTI users and activists.  Here’s why the government needs to backtrack

By now, the amendments proposed by the Maharashtra government in the RTI (Right to Information) Act have turned into a massive public outcry. Rightly so. Not only because they have been brought in surreptitiously, but because contents of the amendments too are ridiculous.
 
Let’s understand why the state government must back track immediately:
 
I. It cannot make any decision without keeping the people informed/consulted
According to Section 4 (1) (C) of the RTI Act, every public authority (government department) shall “publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public.’’
My comments: It needs to therefore undertake public consultations and opinions before it makes these amendments. Like Anna Hazare says, ‘they’ have forgotten that ‘we’ are a democracy.
 
II. Why only a pencil
The amendment says that an applicant will be allowed to bring in only a pencil when he/she goes for inspection of files. We, the people should not even have to visit a government office, as it is supposed to deliver us information at the click of the mouse. As per the Section 4 of the RTI Act, every government office (called public authority in government parlance) should suo moto display information. Here’s what the rule under Section 4 (2) and (3) says:
1.    “Section (2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.  
     Section (3) For the purposes of sub-section (1), every information shall be disseminated widely and in such form and manner which is easily accessible to the public.”
 
Also, Section 2 (i) states that information to the people has to be provided through various means like Photostat copies, images, manuscripts, files and so on, so the amendment to bring in only a pencil during inspection of documents is further irrelevant. Here’s what Section 2 (f) and (i) says:
 
Section 2 (f) ‘information’ means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press  releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;  
 
Section 2 (i) ‘Record’ includes:
(a)  any document, manuscript and file;  
(b)  any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;  
(c)  any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and  
(d)  any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
(j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to—  
(i) inspection of work, documents, records;  
(ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;  
(iii) taking certified samples of material;  
(iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video
cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such
information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
 
My comments: Hence, it is more appropriate that the state government issues a new circular to all government departments to upload all the information as per Section 4 and update it from time to time which again is mandatory under the RTI Act instead of dabbling in petty nothings like getting a pencil or a pen during inspection of files.
 
III. The state government been complaining that too many RTI applications has increased workload of its Public Information Officers (PIOs) and the new amendment will make it worse
According Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, if the applicant asks a question which is not within the purview of the PIO, then he or she must transfer the application to the appropriate PIO within five days from the receipt of the application. Which means the onus lies with the PIO to ensure that the applicant is not unnecessarily harassed by making him or her run from pillar to post. Here’s what the rule says:
         (3) Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an
information—  
               (i) which is held by another public authority; or  
               (ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the
                   functions of another public authority, the public authority,to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.
 
My comments: Thus, presently, even if the citizen has filed the RTI application to the wrong government department, he or she need not worry as the PIO is required to forward it. With the new amendment, the state government is ridiculously asking the applicant to ask only one question “in not more than 150 words and that too pertaining to one subject matter” and has given liberty to the PIO to decline giving replies to every other query beyond the first one. Thus, the state government is not only suffocating dissemination of information but is increasing paper work for the citizen as well as the PIO through a series of RTI applications. The state government is clearly attempting to frustrate the citizen so that he or she will give up on the use of RTI, thus making this amendment malicious. It is simultaneously releasing the responsibility of the PIO as per Section 6 (3).
 
IV. It is reducing a RTI application to a near Twitter style by restricting it to 150 words. It is unpractical as often it is a string of questions that provide answer to one issue and gives a larger picture of the issue. Here’s an example:
A few years back, residents of Katraj were agitated due to very low water supply in their neighbourhood compared to other localities. They staged protests and even took out morchas to the municipal commissioner’s office and ward office. Both turned a deaf ear. So, they filed a RTI application to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) asking the following questions:
* How much water per person per day is provided to residents of Katraj
* How much water per person per day is provided to localities of (the application named five other localities of Pune)
* What is the reason for low supply of drinking water to Katraj?
 
It was only when they were informed that other localities were receiving 135 litres to 190 litres per day while they were receiving only 28 litres per day that they could seek legal intervention and the PMC was compelled to take appropriate action. In this case, any one of these questions would have been insufficient and asking each one of them through different RTI applications is obviously senseless.
 
Conclusion: Amendments should see the light of the day. For this, citizens and citizen pressure groups must be vocal.

User

COMMENTS

PathuriVenkataSubrahmanyam

5 years ago

the explanation is very good. i belive the should have to be chlallenged by way of a pil (Public Interest litigation) in high court of Maharashtra, as the proposed amendements are unconstitutional and against to the spirit of the RTI Act. in the mean while protests may please be sent to governor from all the activists and post cards are to sent. i am in ap i will send a mail to your governor.

suresh kumar gupta

5 years ago

pl help to add private bank and insurance companies also

Ashit Kothi

5 years ago

IS RTI a Central or State Subject ? Can State Government modify the RTI ACT.? What are the ways in which any act passed by Central or State Government be challanged ? We can not trust our Legislators or Parliamentarians do pass any ACT for the betterment of common man.

If we can a website which has information on each constituency and asking respective MPs and MLAs to represent their constituency on that website and give their views on such subject. This is required because they might be from XYZ parties but they are representing public and not any party. This will help general public getting information on what views their elected candidates are having on matters such as this and no party politics here.

Aban

5 years ago

Maharashtra govt. at least negatively accepts the existence of the Act. In West Bengal, the govt. does not even recognise this law!

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Aban 5 years ago

That's amazing to hear - maybe a simple RTI application filed on the office of the CPIO of the Governor of West Bengal asking for information on status of the RTI Act would set the ball rolling, followed by another RTI application a few weeks later to the CPIO of the office of the President of India.

This has been used in the past for other States and would start some movement.

Best regards/VM

Aban

In Reply to malq 5 years ago

No, Sir, not in a state with the continuous history of despotism!

malq

In Reply to Aban 5 years ago

Hmmm, valid point. But maybe you could try this route then, anonymous RTIs . . . http://getup4change.org/rti/

rgds/VM

malq

5 years ago

Good article, thanks - and best of luck. Maybe the fact that the main saboteur of the RTI in Maharashtra is now in jail (Ramanand Tiwari . . .) is some solace as well as time to reflect for others who follow in his foot-steps of trying to disrespect the common man.

Best/VM

ING Life Insurance, AISECT to offer premium collection services

AISECT has launched a portal to record the ING Life transactions being done across AISECT Centres

Bangalore-based ING Vysya Life Insurance Company Ltd has tied up with AISECT, India’s leading education, training, services & e-governance network to provide people living in remote areas in India access to life insurance. As per the alliance, AISECT will provide services of renewal premium collection to customers of ING Life Insurance. AISECT has also launched a portal to record the ING Life transactions being done across AISECT Centres.

In the initial phase, the collection services will be available in 6 cities that include Rewa (MP), Satna (MP), Morena (MP), Rajkot (Gujarat), Ballia (Uttar Pradesh) and Haldwani (Uttrakhand). Over the next few years, these services will be extended to all 8,500 centres of AISECT which are located across 27 states and 3 union territories.  

AISECT’s CMD Santosh Kumar Choubey said, “So far, large segments of rural India don’t have access to banking and financial services because of the long distances and poor distribution. Our aim is to make financial services easily available to people anywhere and anytime. With our immense rural and semi-urban network, we are well poised to launch offerings which provide people insurance cover for a secure future”.

The organization, through its multi-purpose centers, offers numerous services including corporate training, rural placements, BPO services and distribution services. Moreover, while working as a National Business Correspondent (BC) as well as a Business Facilitator (BF) for SBI under the Financial Inclusion Scheme, AISECT is already making banking services accessible at the grass root level. By next year, through strategic alliances with other insurance companies, AISECT plans to offer insurance services across all its centers.

Ashwin B, chief operating officer, ING Life Insurance said “The tie-up with AISECT will help existing policy holders of ING Life Insurance pay their renewal premiums at any of the AISECT network centres. AISECT’s well-established network in the smaller towns of India will make it convenient for our customers to pay premiums on time.”

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NBFCs seek different capital adequacy norms

The RBI panel headed by former deputy governor Usha Thorat had recommended that NBFCs should have tier-I capital adequacy ratio of 12% against 7.5% now

Non-banking financial companies (NBFC) have sought different capital adequacy norms for different categories of players against the present system of fixing a fixed ratio for all companies.

“We asked different regulations for different NBFCs. Those who are averse to risk, can have different CRAR (Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio) while AFC(asset finance company) and IFC (infra finance company) can be put in a different category,” director general of finance Industry Development Council, Mahesh Thakkar told reporters after the pre-policy consultation with RBI.

Earlier, the RBI panel headed by former deputy governor Usha Thorat had recommended that NBFCs should have tier-I capital adequacy ratio of 12% against 7.5% now.

It had also prescribed that only NBFCs with asset book of Rs50 crore and above should be registered with the regulator. “The Rs50 crore limit should go and CRAR should be retained at 7.5%,” Thakkar said.

Meanwhile, talking about performance of NBFCs, he said most of the companies grew 15%-20% during last fiscal on the back of good performance in the last six months. “Though first six months were bad, in the last six months business picked up across NBFCs and the growth rate was positive,” he said.

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