It took years of struggle, harassment, sweat and courage to get the Right to Information Act (2005) in place. Now, it looks like the government is hell bent on frustrating the purpose of this legislation.
Yesterday, the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly secretariat notified new rules that bar the transfer of applications to multiple authorities, limit the subjects and seeks additional fees for first appeals under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Also, the public information officer will now be authorised to reject an application and make it mandatory for an applicant to disclose public interest, before seeking information about old matters and detailed records.
As expected, the new set of rules has sparked outrage among activists nationwide. "This is exactly what we were apprehending," said GR Vora, a noted RTI activist from Mumbai. "The government will try to put more hurdles on the way, and everyone must protest against such arbitrary regulations." Allegations have also been made by several activists that some bureaucrats are abusing their power of subordinate legislation to protect themselves.
The new rules are in conflict with Section 6 of Part-II of the RTI Act, which says that (a) the applicant is not required to explain the reason for seeking information and (b) when required, the application should be transferred to multiple authorities. According to the Act, no application can be rejected, and any public information officer doing so would be penalised.
The proposal for amendment of the Act has already thrown RTI activists and users in a tizzy. The amendment draft contains some bizarre conditions. Section 4 says that the information sought should be restricted to one subject and should be limited to 250 words (!) which should include all details that have been specified in the given format. The applicant will be charged for the equipment that will be hired to access/tabulate/publish the information sought, but the definition of 'actual cost' has not been provided. The new amendment is also silent about the penalty for providing misleading information.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as a nodal agency for the implementation of the RTI Act, has also proposed restricting the word limit to 250 in an application, by making certain changes in the Act and it has sought people's comments. Not surprisingly, the proposal has received negative reactions from activists, users and citizens. Mr Vora said, "We must protest against this. No amendment is required. The government has always been uncomfortable with the power the Act has given the people, and will do everything to reverse the process. If these amendments are made, the Act will be reduced to a paper tiger with no applicability."
An informed citizenry is essential for the functioning of democracy. At a time when corruption rules the roost, dilution of the Right to Information will only mark another abysmal low.
With Chinese Premier Wen Jiabaopromising to remove trade barriers to Indian goods, the Tata Group today said it is looking to expand its businesses in Asia's largest economy, which accounted for about 6 per cent of its overall turnover in the previous fiscal.
"Last year, the Tata Group's turnover in China touched USD 4 billion, amounting to about 6 per cent of its overall business," said B Muthuraman, the Chairman of Tata International and vice-chairman of Tata Steel, two major subsidiaries of the Tata Group, according to the official state English language newspaper, China Daily.
Fifty per cent of Tata's turnover in China was derivedfrom its auto businesses, led by sales of luxury cars likeJaguar and Land Rover after the acquisition of the brands fromBritish car-maker Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008, he said.
The group is now poised to expand its other businesses in China, he said, adding that it has already ventured into areas like steel, consulting, IT outsourcing and hotels.
What is more, TCS has emerged as the largest Indian software business company servicing Chinese state-run groups.Besides the Tatas, a number of other Indian companies based in China are looking to ramp up their business, as the countries have set a USD 100 billion target for bilateral trade by 2015, compared to record trade worth USD 60 billion registered this year.
Wen, who concluded a three-day visit to India today, has promised to address the trade imbalance by providing more market access to Indian companies, especially those in the IT,pharma and agro-products space.
Muthuraman hoped that China would be more receptive to companies like Tata becoming involved in China's economy in the context of Jiabao's visit. He noted that Tata set up a joint venture with Zhejiang Tea Import & Export Co Ltd in 2007 to manufacture and market green tea in the country.
He said he believes his company needs to accelerate the pace of development to keep pace with China, as global economic power shifts from the West to the East.
"India and China represent the future. We will become two of world's three top economies over the next 20 years. So there is a need for India and China to understand each other on the business front," he said. Tata is one of the first Indian companies to have established business links with China, with Founder Jamsetji Tata opening a branch of his uncle's company in Hong Kong in 1859. Several months later, he moved to Shanghai, where he remained until 1863.
However, Tata's relationship with China was terminated by the start of the 20th century and only resumed in 1996 when Tata International set up an office in Shanghai to trade in steel and other products, signalling the start of Tata's business in modern China, the newspaper said.
New Delhi: CBI court here has framed corruption charges against a suspended Superintendent of the Service Tax department for allegedly accepting Rs 10,000 as bribe for not issuing a notice seeking clarifications from a Delhi-based company.
Special CBI Judge A S Yadav said there was sufficient "prima facie" evidence against Diwan Chand Kanwal, the then Superintendent of the Service Tax department, for demanding and accepting the illegal gratification.
"I hereby direct that you be tried ... you being employed as public servant obtained bribe of Rs 10,000 from the complainant as a pecuniary advantage for yourself by corrupt means by abusing your position as a public servant and thereby committing an offence of criminal misconduct as specified under the Prevention of Corruption Act," the court said.
The accused, however, did not confess to the charges and told the court that he would like to face the trial.
Kapil Mohan had lodged a complaint with CBI alleging that on May 28 last year, the Sales Tax officer had demanded Rs 50,000 from him for not issuing a notice to M/s Growth Orbit Advisory Services Pvt Ltd for having wrong entries in its service tax return.
On June 2, the accused had agreed to reduce the bribe amount from Rs 50,000 to Rs 20,000 and accepted a bribe of Rs 10,000 from the complainant as a motive or reward for the purpose, the court said in its order.