Right to Information
New RTI Draft Rules an Invitation to Murder of Activists?
Another Right to Information (RTI) activist was brutally murdered on Sunday, making it the 16th such murder in Maharashtra and 65th in the country since 2010, besides assaults on nearly 400 activists.
 
In the latest fatal assault, Pune-based Suhas Haldankar, who exposed irregularities in civic works and inefficiencies of corporators in Pimpri Chinchwad, was savagely attacked with cement blocks by 11 men, including a former corporator from the Congress party. The attack took place when Haldankar was returning home late Sunday night on his bike. He was stopped on the way and bludgeoned to death. Eleven persons were nabbed by the police in connection with the murder. 
 
 
The new RTI Draft Rule 12, issued by the DOPT, is in complete contravention of the 2011 recommendation of the Central Information Commission (CIC). The Draft Rule permits the CIC to allow appeals to terminate on the death of an appellant. The DoPT has sought suggestions and objections on the entire Draft Rules. What is worrisome is that Rule 12, which pertains to the RTI application in case of the applicant’s death, is not what the CIC recommended, which is that the information sought by late applicant must be immediately put on the public domain.
 
As per Rule 12 in the New Draft Rules of RTI issued by the DoPT, which is now in the public domain for suggestions and objections from the public, “Withdrawal/Abatement of Appeal :-. (2) The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant”
 
In stark contrast, the CIC, in a full court meeting held on 13 September 2011, had passed the following Resolution:
1. The Central Information Commission expresses regret and takes note of the reported killings of and assault on RTI users across the country. The Commission underlines the need to take urgent steps by the respective Governments for the safety and protection of the RTI users. The Commission strongly believes that it is the duty and responsibility of the respective Governments to safeguard the life and liberty of the RTI users, for which purpose they should invoke the relevant penal provisions for the prevention and detection of such heinous crimes. 
 
2. This Commission, therefore, resolves that if it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of an information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned Department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provisions of law.
 
3. This Commission also resolves that it will take proactive steps in ascertaining the status of investigations/prosecutions of the cases involving information seekers and endeavor to have these processes expedited.”
 
Condemning the murder of Haldankar, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has demanded that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) monitor the ongoing police investigation. It has also sent a requisition to the Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner to call for all pending RTI applications filed by Haldankar before public authorities in Pimpri Chinchwad and direct them to proactively disclose all information in accordance with the RTI Act. CHRI has documented these attacks on a Google Map. Readers may visit the Hall of Shame.
 
Several activist and legal experts have asked for modification of Rule 12. RK Jain, President, Excise and Customs Bar Association, writes, “…the proposed Rule 12(2) thus needs to be suitably modified to provide that in the case of death of information seeker, who has sought information in larger public interest or against the corrupt practices, such information may be directed to be placed on the website of the concerned Department despite the death of the appellant, so that the purpose of silencing the information seeker is defeated.”
 
Writing in Swarajya, another legal expert, Madhumita D. Mitra, says, “For a government aiming to root out corruption, it should be obvious that allowing withdrawal/abatement will only strengthen the might of this venal public-private nexus. Every RTI application points to a lapse in governance, either by omission or commission, which subsists even after the death of an applicant. The final outcome of an information request instigates a service delivery or course correction, whether it is an individual’s personal grievance or a case of corruption and maladministration. Closing pending appeals/complaints in this manner not only undermines the purpose of the RTI application, but does disservice to the applicant’s family and to the benefit that may have accrued to public interest at large by the disclosure.
 
“Legally too, the proposed Rule 12 will not stand scrutiny. The Supreme Court has made clear in a 2013 judgment (Union of India vs. Namit Sharma) that IC proceedings under the RTI Act are purely administrative in nature, requiring a simple determination whether the requested information should be disclosed or not. It is not a civil or a criminal matter. Even under civil law, abatement of proceedings on death of a party is not absolute and heirs and legal representatives retain their right to sue. In criminal cases, the death of a complainant does not terminate the criminal proceeding and the magistrate can exercise his powers to decide whether the complaint should be dismissed or the accused acquitted or discharged.”
 
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar says, “…the same rule existed in the 2012 Rules, which are set for amendment now and at that time too activists had vociferously registered their objections. Despite that, they have included the Rule 12 in the Draft Rules 2017. This is indeed treacherous of the government and a way of encouraging murder of RTI activists.”
 
Pondering on the grievous implications if Rule 12 of the Draft RTI Rules 2017 comes into force, Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and programme coordinator of CHRI, says, “If the Central Government has its way, all RTI applications and appeals that Suhas Haldankar may have filed with public authorities would abate automatically on his death. The accused who battered him to death with cement blocks would attain a victory ... Civil society actors have been demanding that the RTI Rules do not allow for the closure of appeals on the appellant's death.”
RTI activist Lokesh Batra considers Rule 12 as “dangerous for appellants.”
 
The way out is to again file as many objections as we can. 
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and 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

Roy Aranha

2 months ago

have to fight sounds dangerous

Simple Indian

2 months ago

The new rules of RTI are like State-backed goondaism. There is no basis/logic to discontinue an RTI application simply because the original applicant has expired. Social causes are often backed by a whole group, though the applicant may be an individual. As there are class-action suits in the US legal system, we should have similar provisions in India's legal system, and also for RTI Applications, which can be made by an organization. Of course, the Govt can use its 'good offices' to close down NGOs, like it has been doing for a while now (say, by throttling their funding). When the State itself acts like a goonda, there is no escape for conscientious citizens.

ramdas naik

2 months ago

If the party is found guilty, then strong criminal action should be taken against them. Suitable compensation should be awarded to the Applicant. Atleast his efforts should not have gone in vain

SC ruling on tariff is credit-negative for Tata Power: Moody's
New Delhi, Following the Supreme Court's rejecting the Tata Power plea for compensatory tariff, US rating agency Moody's said on Wednesday that though the company's 'Ba3 negative' rating remains unaffected, the court verdict is a credit-negative for the power major.
 
"The Supreme Court's decision is credit-negative but does not impact Tata Power Company's (TPC) Ba3 rating," Moody's Investor Service said in a report.
 
Ba3 is a Moody's medium grade rating indicating moderate credit risk.
 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the plea for compensatory tariff by Tata Power and Adani Power for the additional costs they were incurring on raised prices of the coal imported from Indonesia for their power plants in Gujarat. 
 
The apex court overturned the order issued by the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity (ATE) in April 2016 which allowed relief to Tata Power subsidiary Coastal Gujarat Power Limited (CGPL).
 
CGPL's 4,000 MW Mundra ultra mega power plant (UMPP) relies entirely on imported coal, which is primarily sourced from Indonesia. 
 
The power generating companies had sought compensatory tariff after coal imported from Indonesia witnessed a steep hike following change in their laws in 2010 and 2011 by which the export price of coal was aligned with international market price. This changed prices that were prevalent for last 40 years.
 
The order by the ATE would have benefited CGPL by allowing compensation for higher coal prices, the extent of which was to be determined by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).
 
"Tata Power did not recognise revenue based on ATE's and CERC's earlier orders allowing for compensatory tariff, following a conservative accounting policy. Accordingly, this order should not lead to any restatement of historical financials," Moody's said. 
 
"CGPL is currently in breach of its bank loan covenants relating to its maximum debt-to-equity ratio and minimum debt service coverage ratio, given the impairment booked on its assets and the reduced cash flows, and they have been in discussions with its lenders for the waivers," it added. 
 
Tata Power is supplying power under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana and Adani Power under PPA is supplying power to Gujarat and Haryana from its plant in Mundra.
 
In the judgement, the Supreme Court has clarified that changes in the cost of fuel or the agreement becoming onerous to perform are not treated as force majeure events under the PPA.
 
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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Availability of cash dispensing ATM worsens in some parts of the country: Survey
 
Although cash availability in banks has improved, the availability of cash at automated teller machines (ATMs) has actually worsened over the past two months or so in many parts of the country. About 36% citizens, who visited an ATM during 5th to 8 April 2017 could not find cash, says a survey conducted by citizen engagement platform LocalCircles.
 
According to the Survey, in which over 10,000 citizens from across India participated, 36% of participants could not find cash in ATMs. "This number was a sharp increase from the 22% who had faced problems in finding a cash dispensing ATM a month back, between 14th to 16 February 2017," LocalCircles says in a statement.
 
According to the statement, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)'s move to lift withdrawal limits on 31 March 2017 could be attributed to this happening. It says, "People have been withdrawing cash in bulk from the counters and the banks have been forced to maintain high liquidity. This has resulted in the maintenance of ATMs taking a back seat and them not getting replenished with cash frequently. People have also been with drawing large amounts from the ATMs due to some banks levying a transaction fee after four withdrawals from ATMs, leading to the ATM going out of cash quite quickly."
 
 
LocalCircles also conducted a citizen pulse check in 11 cities across India to find out that Hyderabad was worst hit with ATM outages followed by Pune. 88% citizens in Hyderabad and 69% citizens in Pune said that they were unable to find cash dispensing ATMs between 5th April to 8 April 2017. Delhi recorded the highest availability of cash dispensing ATMs with only 11% citizens unable to find money in the ATMs during the mentioned time, it added.
 
 
You can also sign on online petition requesting RBI Governor to Stop Banks Fleecing us Depositors! Here is the link

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COMMENTS

Vivek Silla

2 months ago

ATMs are now part of basic infrastructure of any economy and hence their availability is very important. However, it is often seen in various parts of the country that either the ATM is not working or is out of cash. It is high time that the banks start taking the availability of ATMs more seriously for the benefit of the banks and the customers. Not sure if RBI has any mandates on availability requirements for ATMs.

If yes, it needs to be enforced better so that public can have easy access to cash when required.

If no, then it is high time that RBI comes up with mandates on availability and issue hefty fines for those banks whose ATMs are not meeting the availability requirements.

Roy Aranha

2 months ago

yes some atms in the city are stil dry

Anil Galgali

2 months ago

Government change but there attitude towards attitude and thinking same. Very Shame

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