An appellant filed 50 RTI applications thus nearly paralyzing a Biodiversity park project in Delhi university. This is the 125th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an inspection of complete records of the Biodiversity Park project in Delhi for which the applicant had filed 50 applications under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, stated that citizens must use RTI with some sense of responsibility and not as instruments to paralyze institutions or projects.
While giving this judgement on 29 July 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “The Commission has realized that the modus operandi of the appellant of filing multiple RTI applications has the effect of nearly paralyzing a project of significant scientific importance. Right to Information is a sacred fundamental right but cannot be allowed to be used to destroy organizations.”
Delhi resident Tarun K Roy, on 15 April 2009, sought information regarding the Biodiversity Park from the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the University of Delhi, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Here is the information he sought...
i) Following information with regard to RTI reply of the PIO dated 27/01/2009
a) Brand name and manufacturing company of the stolen laptop and photocopy of the valid receipt against purchased value of the laptop.
b) Photocopy of the expenditure statement submitted by the concerned project in charge for audit and utilization certificate submitted to DDA in which the cost of the stolen laptop was reflected.
a) Photocopy of the grant sanctioned and grant released letters of the concerned funding agency (DDA) for the Biodiversity park programme to the University of Delhi from the beginning till date.
b) Photocopy of the list of the total assets/property belonged to the Biodiversity Parks Programme (Separately of Yamuna Biodiversity Park and Aravalli Biodiversity Park) against the released funds from the funding agency DDA.
c) Photocopy of the chronological expenditure statements of the Biodiversity Parks Programme submitted by the project in charge to the finance department of the University of Delhi for audit.
d) Photocopy of the audited accounts of the biodiversity parks programme.
a) Photocopy of the approved terms & conditions between DDA and University of Delhi for the Biodiversity Parks Programme.
b) Photocopy of the approved management plan for the Biodiversity Parks Programme.
c) Photocopy of the signed MoU between Delhi University and DDA for the Biodiversity Parks Programme.
d) Photocopy of the terms & conditions issued by the University of Delhi to the appointed all staffs of the Biodiversity Parks Programme.
iv) Reason for not providing information to the appellant if in case the PIO unable to collect/consolidate any specific information from the concerned section/departments of the University of Delhi within 30 days’ time limit of the RTI Act, 2005. Photocopy of the internal communications/notings in this regard rather than irrelevant/vague reply as “information is not available in the concerned department” or “no input had been received” to avoid or ignore the points.
In his reply, the PIO stated that the RTI application had been transferred to the PIO of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on 9 May 2009 for providing information.
Citing the information provided by the PIO as incomplete, Roy filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA), observed that the information provided by the PIO was complete and no further action was required.
Roy, then approached the Commission citing unfair disposal of his first appeal by the FAA.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, directed the PIO to provide information about queries 1(a) and (b). He said, “The PIO has provided certain information. However, looking at the extensive and voluminous data required by the appellant the Commission feels that a useful purpose would be served by him inspecting all the files relating to the Biodiversity Park project.”
Mr Gandhi directed the PIO to get all the files relating to the Biodiversity Park Project to the Commission’s office on 8th and 9 October 2009 at 10am. “The appellant (Roy) will select whatever records he wants and he will provided photocopies of these. The deemed PIO, Prof CR Babu will send an affidavit stating that all the material with relation to the Biodiversity Park has been sent to the Commission. This affidavit will state the number of files and the total number of pages in each file. A copy of the affidavit will be given to the appellant and the original affidavit will be kept by the Commission,” the CIC said while allowing the appeal.
Subsequently, the PIO brought 68 files related with the Biodiversity Park project’s complete record and an inspection was carried out on 8th and 9 October 2009. The PIO also brought two files related with Roy from the office of deputy registrar (legal) of DU.
Roy, the appellant stated that he believes that there should be some more files. However, Prof CR Babu, project in-charge of Biodiversity Parks Programme had given an affidavit that the entire record consists of 68 files. His affidavit also includes a list of the files. Both these were given to Roy.
Roy made certain comments, which were attached with the final order of the Commission. Mr Gandhi observed that the appellant had in the last two years sought information regarding the Biodiversity park through over 50 RTI applications and repeatedly been asking for fairly voluminous information. “Hence, the inspection was ordered on the two days at the Commission’s office where all relevant records were brought by the public authority. The appellant wanted to use a pen during the inspection and he was allowed to use only a pencil by the order of the Commission,” he noted.
Mr Gandhi said, “The Commission has realized that the modus operandi of the appellant of filing multiple RTI applications has the effect of nearly paralyzing a project of significant scientific importance. The Commission is now sure that any legitimate information need of the appellant has been adequately taken care of.”
The CIC said, the appellant (Roy) identified some pages for which he wanted photocopies, and it would be provided to him before 15 October 2009. The Commission said that following details will not be provided to the appellant out of the records sought by him since the respondents have raised objection about these being an intrusion on privacy of the employees:
1. Details of families of employees and their addresses
2. Health certificates
3. Home town declarations and addresses of candidates
Mr Gandhi said, “The Commission treats all applications of the appellant regarding the Biodiversity Park and appeals which are pending as closed with this order.”
“Right to Information is a sacred fundamental right but cannot be allowed to be used to destroy organizations. Citizens who use it must do it with some sense of responsibility and not use it as instruments of destruction,” he said.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001841/4861Adjunct
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/001841
Appellant : Tarun K. Roy
Respondent : Public Information Officer
University of Delhi
A recent strike in Yemen allegedly killed a 10-year-old boy. Despite months of promises of new transparency around drone strikes, the administration won't comment
On June 9, a U.S. drone fired on a vehicle in a remote province of Yemen and killed several militants, according to media reports.
It soon emerged that among those who died was a boy – 10-year-old Abdulaziz, whose elder brother, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, was believed to be the target of the strike. A McClatchy reporter recently confirmed the child’s death with locals. (Update: The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism today reported that there was "strong evidence" it was a U.S. drone strike, but it could not confirm the fact.)
It’s the first prominent allegation of a civilian death since President Obama pledged in a major speech in May “to facilitate transparency and debate” about the U.S. war on al Qaida-linked militants beyond Afghanistan. He also said “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured” in a strike.
So what does the administration have to say in response to evidence that a child was killed?
National security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden would not comment on the June 9 strike or more generally on the White House position on acknowledging civilian deaths. She referred further questions to the CIA, which also declined to comment.
The president’s speech was the capstone on a shift in drone war policy that would reportedly bring the program largely under control of the military (as opposed to the CIA) and impose stricter criteria on who could be targeted. In theory, it could also bring some of the classified program into the open. As part of its transparency effort, the administration released the names of four U.S. citizens who had been killed in drone strikes.
An official White House fact sheet on targeted killing released along with the speech repeated the “near-certainty” standard for avoiding civilian casualties. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated it a few days later, when he told an audience in Ethiopia: “We do not fire when we know there are children or collateral — we just don't do it.”
But White House press secretary Jay Carney said in late May that “this commitment to transparency…does not mean that we would be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation.”
The new White House statements don’t address what happens after a strike, even in general terms.
CIA Director John Brennan offered one of the few public explanations of how casualties are assessed during his nomination hearing in February. Before his confirmation, Brennan was the White House counterterrorism adviser, and is considered to be the architect of Obama’s drone war policy.
He told senators that, “analysts draw on a large body of information — human intelligence, signals intelligence, media reports, and surveillance footage — to help us make an informed determination about whether civilians were in fact killed or injured.”
Brennan also said the U.S. could work with local governments to offer condolence payments. As we’ve reported, there’s little visible evidence of that happening.
At the hearing, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Brennan if the U.S. should acknowledge when it “makes a mistake and kills the wrong person.”
Neither overall numbers nor a policy of acknowledging casualties made it into Obama’s speech, or into the fact sheet. Hayden, the White House spokeswoman, would not say why.
The government sharply disputes that there have been large numbers of civilian deaths but has never released its own figures. Independent counts, largely compiled from news reports, range from about 200 to around 1,000 for Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia combined over the past decade.
Researchers agree that the number of drone strikes and civilian deaths have dropped during the past year. (Before Obama’s speech, an administration official attributed this partly to the new heightened standards.) The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which generally has the highest tally of civilian dead, has found there were between three and 16 civilians reportedly killed in about 30 drone or other airstrikes in Yemen and Pakistan so far this year. No strikes have been reported in Somalia.
“Official” statistics might not be much help without knowing more about how they were compiled, said Sarah Holewinski, head of the advocacy group Center for Civilians in Conflict.
That’s because it’s still not clear how the U.S. distinguishes between civilians and “militants,” or “combatants.”
In so-called signature strikes, operators sometimes fire on groups of people who appear to be engaged in militant activity without necessarily knowing their identities. The newly instituted drone rules reportedly roll back the military’s ability to use signature strikes, but the CIA can keep firing in Pakistan under the old rules at least through the end of the year.
An administration official told ProPublica last year that when a strike is made, “if a group of fighting-age males are in a home where we know they are constructing explosives or plotting an attack, it's assumed that all of them are in on that effort.”
The new White House fact sheet contradicts that, stating: “It is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants.”
From the outside, in a strike like the recent one in Yemen, it’s impossible to know how these things were determined. McClatchy reported that the target, Saleh Hassan Huraydan, had “largely unquestioned” ties to al Qaida. Yemeni officials said he arranged to bring money and fighters from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.
As for Huraydan’s young brother, “They may not have realized who was in the car. Or they may have realized it and decided collateral damage was okay,” Holewinski says.
The same questions dog the death of another boy that the administration has acknowledged: the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric tied to terror attacks. Awlaki and his son were killed in separate strikes in Yemen in the fall of 2011. The boy, Attorney General Eric Holder has said, was “not specifically targeted.”
Medical developments from around the world
Of Sodas and the Heart
A case was presented at the European Society of Cardiology where a lady, aged 31, had sudden collapse with cardiac arrhythmias and very low levels of potassium in the serum. After she recovered, the woman told her doctors that she had not taken water in the previous five years and depended on cola drinks only for that time. Similar cardiac arrhythmias were reported in five other patients on sodas in the same meeting.
Liver and Heart Disease
In future, all fatty liver patients should be investigated for coronary artery disease. Obese people, who do not exercise and have fatty liver changes which might go on to cirrhosis of liver, had significantly higher incidence of coronary artery disease than control groups. This study was reported at the Annual Gastroenterology meet in the USA
Effect of Anti-depressants on Babies
Stephen Pilling, professor at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), said that there is evidence that suggests that selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can double the risk of a child being born with heart defects. Furthermore, it was found that anti-depressants have been used by up to one in six women of child-bearing age.
These anti-depressants have been shown to increase the risk of suicides as well. Another important issue that keeps coming up, now and then, is that elderly women, who are either depressed or are on anti-depressants like SSRIs, have a higher chance of heart attacks.
Exercise Could Turn White Fat into Brown Fat!
Exercise in men, and also in mice, has shown that the body fat in those who regularly exercise slowly turns brown. Brown fat has a higher metabolic rate and burns more calories. Brown fat is also known to prevent diabetes in the long run, if the exercise is kept up.
Too Much Exercise Not Good
I have been writing about this for decades. Too much of anything is bad. A recent Bloomberg news release by Natasha Khan & Shannon Pettypiece stated, “As the average age of competitors in endurance sports rises, a spate of deaths during races or intense workouts highlights the risks of excessive strain on the heart through vigorous exercise in middle age.” Furthermore, it states, “benefits of exercise are well known; researchers now suspect that there may be a point at which exertion becomes dangerous, especially for middle aged men.” In this context, I feel that periodic marathon running might not be a good idea, although it might net quite a few patients for the sponsoring organisations.
Obesity Is a New Disease
Apparently, obesity is a disease now. And there will be newer drugs to address it. According to a piece which appeared on The New York Times (NYT), “The vote of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates went against the conclusions of the Association’s Council on Science and Public Health, which had studied the issue over the last year. The council said that obesity should not be considered a disease mainly because the measure usually used to define obesity, the body mass index, is simplistic and flawed.” Furthermore, the NYT report said, “Delegates rejected the conclusion of the Council and voted... in favour of a resolution pushed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American College of Cardiology and some other organizations.” This confirms what I had been saying for so long, that ‘disease mongering’ is here to stay and people are scared into believing that they have a disease.