Right to Information
PIOs should not reveal names of RTI applicants for safety

In compliance of the Calcutta High Court order, ministry of personnel has asked all ministries and government departments to take appropriate action regarding revealing identities of applicants to third or private parties

Recent cases of two Right to Information (RTI) activists highlight the risks where one was done to death and the other brutally assaulted, after their names were disclosed to those against whom information was sought. This led to the central government asking its ministries and offices to abide by the Calcutta High Court order of 11 November 2013, to facilitate the authorities to ‘take appropriate measure to hide information with regard to personal details of the activist to avoid any harassment by the persons having vested interest’. A similar petition was also filed by Delhi-based RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) on 28 October 2013.
 

It may be recalled that, on 13 December 2013, RTI activist Anoop Singh from Greater Noida was burnt with cigarette butts and iron rods before he being dumped on a roadside, four days later. On 18th December, Abrar Ansari, a Bhiwandi (Maharashtra)-based RTI activist was killed because he sought information regarding violations in building constructions. In both case, the persons against whom information was sought have allegedly committed these crimes.
 

Cmde Batra pursued the case with Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions (the Ministry) asking it to intervene immediately to protect the lives of the whistleblowers. He wrote to the secretary of the ministry stating that, sending applicants’ request directly to private organizations or persons was in contravention of Section 2(f) and 6(3) of RTI Act. He said, “Private companies do not fall under public authorities, and therefore applications should not be forwarded to them. Instead, PIOs should collect the required information by withholding the name of the latter.”
 

Accordingly, last week, the Ministry sent an official memorandum to all ministries and departments to comply by the directions of the Calcutta High Court.
 

The order states, “we have considered the relevant provisions of the statute. Section 6 /(2) of the RTI Act, 2005 would clearly provide, an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
 

Looking at the said provision, we find logic in the submission of the petitioner. When the legislature thought it fit, the applicant need not disclose any personal detail, the authority need not disclose any personal detail, the authority should not insist upon his detailed whereabouts particularly when post box number is provided for that would establish contact with him and the authority.
 

In case the authority would find any difficulty with the post box number, they may insist upon personal details. However, in such case, it would be the solemn duty of the authority to hide such information and particularly from their website so that people at large would not know of the details.
 

…the Secretary, Ministry of Personnel should circulate the copy of this order to all concerned so that the authority can take appropriate measure to hide information with regard to personal details of the activist to avoid any harassment by the person having vested interested.”
 

As per the High Court order, “the writ petitioner claiming to be an activist in the field of the right to information, has approached us  by filing the present writ petition with the prayer, the authority should not insist upon the detailed address of the applicant as and when any application is made under the Right To Information Act. He apprehends, the interested parties would cause a threat to the activist and in fact there had been past incidents of unnatural deaths of activists in the field, presumably by the interested persons having vested interest to conceal the information that is asked for by the activist.”
 

“The petitioner submits, the authority may not insist upon the detailed address particularly when the applicant would provide a particular post box number that would automatically conceal their identity to the public at large.”
 

Another RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak has another view. He writes, calling for views, “I am not too sure if the name of an applicant should be withheld in every case where third party information is involved. Of course when seeking information that may expose corruption or wrongdoing, this is necessary for the safety of the applicant. However a lot of people seek information under RTI to settle personal issues such as divorce or alimony suits. I am not too sure it would be just to withhold the name of the applicant in such cases. Of course the contact details of the person may not be provided. I am copying this to NCPRI and other RTI discussion groups for their reaction.” 
 

Here is the office memorandum sent by DoPT to all ministries and departments…
 


Earlier story: Whistleblower killed, but other RTI activists manage to publish info he sought
 

(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

Simple Indian

3 years ago

Anonymity of RTI applicants is a myth. In India one can get anything at a price, and there is hardly any government office where one can't bribe and get what they want.

Hemlata Mohan

3 years ago

Do you sincerely think the name of the activist will be withheld by the various ministries?
There is a mole everywhere t anything in India for as low as Rs 5/-and you could get any info you wish.
Remember Satyendra Dubey who was the whistle blower in the NHAI episode?

SuchindranathAiyerS

3 years ago

Do we dare hope? India is a "Quota-Corruption Raj" that cannot swallow its tail no matter how hard it tries:

nagesh kini

3 years ago

This HC decision must be brought to the attention of all authorities especially the BMC.

Is is not possible to have the name and other particulars in a detachable portion to be filed with a copy of the application?

Vinay

3 years ago

Strange that you need laws and court intervention for what should be common sense!

Price war in the air: Travellers win for the time being!

Considering the high fare structure applicable today among airlines in India, even this short period given for slashed and discounted rates would bring some relief for many passengers

In a startling move, SpiceJet fired the first salvo in the aviation price war, by reducing its rates by offering a whopping 50% discount, on base fares, for three days, to facilitate booking by air travellers. This is provided the booking is made 30 days prior to actual travel!

 

It did not take too long for others to react! IndiGo and GoAir promptly responded with similar discount on their fares. Not to be outdone, Air India followed suit that would open its counters for booking on Wednesday, but the travel to be completed by 15th April. We must remember that all those flying to the east coast of US face serious snow problems and European market has an automatic repercussion on such drastic change in passenger traffic. Until the snow situation becomes safe, it may be ideal to purchase available tickets.

 

In any case, the discounted fares on all these airlines are available only for a limited number of seats, details of which have not been made public. Considering the high fare structure applicable today, even this short period given for slashed and discounted rates would bring some relief for many.

 

Last year, in January, SpiceJet had offered a million seats at a flat fixed price of Rs2,013, which had an overwhelming response, though they had not stated the number of seats offered at that time.

 

In the present instance, SL Narayanan, group chief financial officer, Sun Group, which owns the SpiceJet, stated that the pricing was done "to improve utilisation so that revenue is optimised". The most dangerous thing for an airline is to have empty seats and less cargo than it can carry on each flight! During a lean period, such sales gimmicks help both the airline and regular passengers. The response to this offer has been "superb" according to Narayanan.

 

In order to support the effort of the aviation sector, whether, for the time being, the airport operators will give special reduction in their charges is not known, but it may be a good idea for them to do so. It will mutually benefit both.

 

As this aviation price war is in full swing, efforts are underway for Air Asia

to launch its operation in the next couple of months. As we all know, this is another low fare airline, which was to have taken off in December 2013, but did not do so, for want of air operating permit (AOP). In our earlier report on this story, Moneylife had pointed out the optimistic attitude of this airline, and their hope to get AOP couple of months ago. It is now learnt that the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has just issued a public notice only on 20th January, seeking the "feedback" to be submitted in twenty days from the public notice, from public and "all persons likely to be affected by the grant of AOP" to the airline. What they were doing so long, or what was the reason for them to make this public now, is a question that needs to be answered—by them!

 

Air Asia India has a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and approval from Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) already. The delay in issue of AOP, for whatever reasons, will only mean that the actual launch of Air Asia India may have to be further delayed, though its management has shown serious interest in recruitment, training programmes, related work on flight and ground operations, besides arranging for required technical and engineering services.

 

Regrettably, we all know the unpredictability and lack of transparency in India’s regulatory government work. They work at their own pace. While noting the reduced fare structure from SpiceJet, IndiGo, GoAir and Air India, regular travellers may also bear in mind that, if and when Air Asia gets the required clearance to operate its flights, it will initially cover, with Chennai as its hub (base), flights will cover Bangalore, Trichy, Coimbatore, Kochi, Hyderabad, Goa, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Pune. It is hoped that their fares will be competitive and service excellent.

 

Finallly, according to the data available from Director General of Civil Aviation,

air traffic in India has registered a 4.43% growth in 2013 leading to the scheduled airlines carrying 61.42 million passengers, compared to 58.81 million in 2012 and 60.66 million in 2011. No doubt, with the reduced, discounted fares offered by the four airlines, even if for a short period, will boost the full utilisation of space and all these airlines will enjoy full loads and occupancy. One other constraint was the impact of the fall in the rupee against the dollar, having recorded a low of Rs68.15 at one time and recovering to Rs61.50 recently.

 

Now the question for the investor is whether such sales gimmicks will affect the overall profitability of the company or not?

 

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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RBI to withdraw all pre-2005 currency notes from circulation

Anyone can easily distinguish rupee notes issued before 2005 as they do not have the year of printing on reverse side, which is visible for notes printed after 2005 in a small font at the middle of the bottom row in notes

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to withdraw all currency notes issued prior to 2005, including Rs500 and Rs1,000 denominations, from 31st March. This move is apparently aimed at curbing black money and fake currencies.

 

In an advisory, the RBI said, "After 31 March 2014, it (RBI) will completely withdraw from circulation all bank notes issued prior to 2005. From 1 April 2014, the public will be required to approach banks for exchanging these notes".

 

The public can easily distinguish the currency notes issued before 2005 as they do not have the year of printing on reverse side. The year of printing in a small font is visible at the middle of the bottom row in notes issued after 2005.

 

 

Asking people not to panic and cooperate in the withdrawal process, the RBI said old notes will continue to be legal and can be exchanged in any bank after 1st April.

 

"From 1 April 2014, the public will be required to approach banks for exchanging these notes. Banks will provide exchange facility for these notes until further communication," it said.

 

From 1 July 2014, persons seeking exchange of more than 10 pieces of Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes will have to furnish proof of identity and residence to the bank.

 

Although the RBI did not give any reason for withdrawal of pre-2005 currency notes, the move is expected to unearth black money held in cash.

 

As the new currency notes have added security features, they would help in curbing the menace of fake currency.

 

At present, currency notes in denominations of Rs5, Rs10, Rs20, Rs50, Rs100, Rs500 and Rs1,000 are issued.

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COMMENTS

Dr Anantha K Ramdas

3 years ago

I sincerely trust this is the first step towards replacing our paper currency with polymer notes.

As very correctly pointed out by Mr Hemant, there is NO need to replace lower deonomination notes; preferably, the RBI should start with Rs 1000 and Rs 500, and once the bulk is withdrawn, they may consider
Rs 100. Lower denominations have truly no consequence in the "fake" currency area, as the counterfeiters would rather spend their time "perfecting" to make higher deonominations. After all, they are are aided by Government experts in Pakistan from where these have been coming for sometime, and Moneylife has covered this aspect in several articles in the last few months.

What RBI needs to do is to atleast clarify their views and plans on the polymer notes, which they actually test marketed in a few selected cities 8/9 months ago. Better still, they need to identify the name of the officer to whom we may raise our views on the subject.

If, in this way, black money can be taken out,it is atleast a good step in the right direction, and we must appreciate this intelligent move by RBI.

Hemant

3 years ago

What is the rational in cancelling notes below 100 Rs denomination ?

Suresh

3 years ago

If the move by RBI is "apparently aimed at curbing black money and fake currencies." then why is so much advance notice being given? All the pre- 2005 notes will now be pushed into circulation!

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