Inquiries into various matters are conducted with public money and the public has a right to know their findings. Keeping them under wraps for months and years serves no purpose except allowing wrongdoers to be protected. This is the 14th in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Public Information Officer (PIO) or First Appellate Authority (FAA) should have applied Section 8(2) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act after which it would have realised that there is an overriding public interest in disclosing this information since it relates to alleged defalcation of funds. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner said, “…the Commission finds that no reason is assigned by the PIO or the first appellate authority as to how the investigation or apprehension of any offenders will be impeded by disclosing this report”.
“Inquiries into various matters are conducted with public money and public has a right to know their findings. Keeping them under wraps for months and years serves no purpose except allowing wrongdoers to be protected,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) said in its order dated 16 January 2009.
New Delhi resident Neeraj Kumar, on 24 June 2008, sought information about the report of an Inquiry Commission set up by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and subsequent action taken on it. In the RTI application, he asked information for...
1. Copies of all the proceedings of the Inquiry Commission which was constituted to probe the defalcation of funds in Supervised Study Package (SSP) Programme, Centre for Studies in Science Policy (CSSP)/School of Social Sciences (SSS) against professor Ashok Parthasarthy.
2. Certified copies of all the documents tendered in evidence before the Inquiry Committee by Prof Ashok Parthasarthy and JNU Administration.
3. A certified copy of the final Inquiry Committee report.
4. Whether the findings of the Inquiry Committee have been implemented by the JNU Administrations, if yes, and then provide complete records and documents.
The PIO denied the information saying, “Since no final decision has been taken on the said inquiry report, the information pertaining to the inquiry, cannot be disclosed at this stage because it is barred in terms of Section 8(1)(h) read with 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act.”
Neeraj Kumar then approached the FAA, who also endorsed the decision of the PIO. The FAA said, “The information cannot be disclosed at this stage in view of Section 8(1) (h) read with 8(1)(g) of the RTI Act. The appellant was also informed of the two decision of the Information Commission, which are enforcement or security purpose.”
Not satisfied with this reply, Neeraj Kumar then filed second appeal before the Commission. During a hearing on 13 January 2009, he contended that for the past one year JNU Administration had failed to take any action as per the finding to the Inquiry Report. He emphasized on the fact that the object of the RTI Act is to prevent corruption, and increase the transparency in the functioning, decision making and governance of the Administration. Neeraj Kumar also highlighted the fact that large amount defalcation of public funds is involved.
The PIO reiterated his stand for refusing the information citing Section 8 (1)(g) of the Act. He also quoted two previous decisions given by the Commission in the matter of Govind Jha Vs DGW E in C Branch Army HQS - in Appeal No.CIC/AT/A/2006/00039 dated 01/06/2006 and Ravinder Kumar Vs Joint Commissioner of Police in Appeal No.CIC/AT/A/2006/00004 dated 30/07/2006.
Neeraj Kumar, however contended that even if the above two decisions support the stand taken by the respondent for denial of information but in Govind Jha’s case the Commission, asked the disciplinary committee to take a view within two months in respect of findings in the investigating report so that the appellant’s right to access the investigation report can be reactivated without any unconscionable delay.
The decision was reserved on 13 January 2009.
In next hearing, Mr Gandhi noted that as per Section 3 of the RTI, citizen’s right to information, is the rule and exemptions under Section 8, are an exception. Section 8 being a restriction on this fundamental right, must therefore is to be strictly construed. It should not be interpreted in manner as to take away the substantive right created by the Act, he said.
Section 8 (1)(g) and (1)(h) says...
(g)Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
(h)Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
The Commission in its order on 16 January 2009, said, in the present case it finds that no reason was assigned by the PIO or the FAA as to how the investigation of apprehension of any offenders will be impeded by disclosing this report. "As a matter of fact since the report was submitted on 21 August 2007, there can be no reason to deny this or all the other relevant information. The PIO’s use of Section 8 (1)(g) claiming that disclosure of the information would endanger the life or physical safety or identify the source of information appears to a flight of fancy, in the absence of any cogent reasoning,” it said.
The Commission said the Delhi High Court in the matter of Bhagat Singh Vs Chief Information Commissioner and Ors dated 3 December 2007, at para 13 has held as follows:
"Under section 8, exemption from releasing information is granted if it would impede the process of investigation or the prosecution of the offenders. It is apparent that the mere existence of an investigation process cannot be a ground for refusal of the information; the authority withholding information must show satisfactory reasons as to why the release of such information would hamper the investigation process. Such reasons should be germane, and the opinion of the process being hampered should be reasonable and based on some material. Sans this consideration, Section 8(1)(h) and other such provisions would become the haven for dodging demands for information.”
“Thus no reasonable ground exists for denial of the information and the PIO and the first appellate authority have erred in their decision. While parting we must also point out that even if the PIO and the first appellate authority had made the error of taking refuge in these two sections, they should have applied Section 8 (2) of the Act and realised that there is an overriding public interest in disclosing this information since it relates to alleged defalcation of funds. If the inquiry report reveals defalcation there is a public interest in knowing about it, if it reveals that no defalcation has occurred it will exonerate the alleged perpetrators,” Mr Gandhi said in his order.
The Commission directed the PIO to provide complete information free of cost before 5 February 2009.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC /OK/A/2008/01303/SG/1145
Appeal No. CIC/OK/A/2008/01303/
Appellant : Neeraj Kumar,
Respondent 1 : Jit Singh,
DR (SC/ST Cell) & PIO,
Jawaharlal Nehru University,
Room No. 133, SC/ST Cell (Admn. Block),
Jawaharlal Nehru University,
There is no short-term direction so far but the medium-term downtrend is intact
The local market settled marginally lower, snapping the two-day winning streak, on weak global cues and a sell-off in consumer durables, auto and capital goods stocks. The market indices are struggling to stay firm. While there is no short-term direction so far, the medium-term downtrend is intact. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) reported a volume of 81.55 crore shares and advance decline ratio of 695:1018.
The market witnessed a flat opening weighed down by unsupportive global cues. Markets across Asia were seen lower despite the Bank of Japan announcing a hike in its asset buying and lending programme as talks to avoid a “fiscal cliff” in the US ended in a stalemate. Markets in the US settled in the red overnight as talks on a budget deal failed.
The Nifty opened four points higher at 5,934 and the Sensex started the day at 19,511, up 35 points over its previous close. The market hit its intraday high in initial trade with the two benchmarks rising to 5,938 and 19,521, respectively.
Profit booking after two days of gains pushed the market into the negative terrain a short while later. The decline expanded with most sectoral indices trading lower. The market fell to its lows in mid-morning trade wherein the Nifty touched 5,881 and the Sensex went back to 19,336.
The benchmarks were range-bound in the negative in the remaining part of the first half in the absence of any local triggers and selling pressure from heavy weights. Buying in metals, fast moving consumer goods and healthcare stocks helped the market bounce back from the lows in post-noon trade. However, the push lacked strength, which kept the indices marginally in the red till the end of the trading session.
The Nifty closed 13 points (0.22%) down at 5,916 and the Sensex fell 22 points (0.11%) to 19,453.
The broader indices underperformed the Sensex today. The BSE Mid-cap index fell 0.21% and the BSE Small-cap index declined 0.38%.
The sectoral gainers were BSE Metal (up 1.19%); BSE TECk (up 0.34%); BSE IT (up 0.26%) and BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 0.13%). The top losers were BSE Consumer Durables (down 0.97%); BSE Auto (down 0.76%); BSE Capital Goods (down 0.72%); BSE Power (down 0.56%) and BSE Realty (down 0.47%).
Fifteen of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The chief gainers were Hindalco Industries (up 2.59%); Jindal Steel & Power (up 2.27%); Tata Steel (up 1.90%); Hindustan Unilever (up 1.55%) and TCS (up 1.27%). The losers were led by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries (down 1.99%); Mahindra & Mahindra (down 1.68%); Bajaj Auto (down 1.37%); Wipro (down 1.37%) and Larsen & Toubro (down 1.02%).
The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—SJVN (up 3.90%) and Colgate Palmolive (up 3.55%).
The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—Adani Enterprises (down 6.98%) and Adani Power (down 4.46%).
The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—Alchemist Realty (up 20%) and TVS Electronics (up 19.89%).
The top two B Group losers on the BSE were—Mahanivesh India (down 19.98%) and Trio Mercantile Trading (down 19.89%).
Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 14 stocks settled in the positive. The major gainers were Jindal Steel & Power (up 2.46%); Hindalco Ind (up 2.39%); Tata Steel (up 1.74%); HUL (up 1.72%) and TCS (up 1.53%). The key losers were Ambuja Cement (down 3.10%); Sun Pharma (down 2.68%); BPCL (down 2.14%); Jaiprakash Associates (down 2.08%) and Cairn India (down 1.89%).
Markets in Asia settled higher following the Bank of Japan’s move to increase asset purchases. On the other hand, some markets settled lower on concerns about the economic stability of the US, the world’s top economy.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.28%; the Hang Seng rose 0.16.%; the KLSE Composite climbed 0.30%; the Straits Times advanced 0.54% and the Seoul Composite settled 0.32% up. On the other hand, the Jakarta Composite declined 0.49%; the Nikkei 225 tanked 1.19% and the Taiwan Weighted dropped 1.07%.
At the time of writing, two of the three key European indices were in the green and the US stock futures were mixed with a negative bias.
Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of shares totalling Rs1,244.96 crore on Wednesday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities amounting Rs369.06 crore.
Turnkey constructions major Punj Lloyd today said its arm, Sembawang, has won a Rs1,168-crore construction project in Hong Kong to build MTR Corporation's Shatin to Central Link Diamond Hill Station in Hong Kong. The project would be executed by Sembawang along with consortium partner Leader Civil Engineering Corporation. The stock gained 1.18% to settle at Rs59.85 on the NSE.
GMR Infrastructure today said commercial operations of two its road projects Hyderabad- Vijayawada section of NH9 (National Highway 9) and Hungund Hospet section of NH13, are expected to generate a total revenue of at least Rs1 crore on a daily basis. While the Hyderabad-Vijayawada road is expected to generate revenue in the range of Rs75-Rs80 lakh per day, Rs18-Rs20 lakh would be collected through toll from the second road project. GMR Infra surged 2.69% to settle at Rs19.10 on the NSE.
BGR Energy is set to start work on the Rs1,548-crore contract to supply two 800-MW steam turbine generators for NTPC’s Lara Super Thermal Power Project in Chhattisgarh. The stock climbed 2.77% to settle at Rs271 on the NSE.
Is the pharmaceutical industry trying to create an opportunity for making money by hard-selling new vaccines to parents by creating a false scare about the disease?
In July 2012, leading pharmaceutical major GlaxoSmithKline started issuing advertisements saying that nearly five lakh babies die in India due to Rotavirus. Hence, the aim was clearly to ensure that Rotavirus vaccines become a part of the mandatory vaccines that are given to new born babies and infants. What makes this advertisement interesting is that it did not promote a particular company but the need for the vaccine. In other words, here was a sly attempt by the pharmaceutical companies to unite and look forward to ‘creating’ a new market.
So, what is Rotavirus and its threat? Rotavirus is spread by ingestion of the virus through contaminated food, and effective hygiene helps in reducing the spread of infection. Former vice chancellor of Manipal University Prof Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan recipient has written a detailed and precise article shattering myths about Rotavirus. Dr Hegde debunks the process of vaccination by informing us that vaccination is now sold using statistical tricks of relative risk reduction while suppressing the most useful absolute risk reduction. The story also illustrates that medical companies have been using statistics as their weapon to sell ideas to gullible and doctors. The article also points to relevant studies quoted in the British Medical Journal.
What did the pharma companies aim to achieve by its so-called public service advertisement warning people about the Rotavirus vaccine? Once the alleged dangers of being affected by rotavirus are implanted in the minds of parents, pharmaceutical companies only need to push prescription by having armies of medical representatives to work on the doctors to promote it. Once a particular doctor also endorses the scare, then it is a win-win situation both for the pharmaceutical industry and the medical fraternity at the cost of ordinary people.
Thankfully, Dr Nalini Abraham, a Delhi-based medical practitioner, objected to the advertisements featuring the Rotavirus vaccination being broadcast freely on television channels and filed an official complaint with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). Her complaint dated 7 July 2012 alleges that the advertisement misrepresents facts as it demonstrates that vaccines are the only way to reduce incidents of infection. The advertisement further goes on to illustrate that simple methods such as hand washing do not help in prevention of infections. It is important to realize that the complaint was not about the expensive nature of the vaccine but the need for it.
Replying to the complaint lodged at the Advertising Standards Council of India in Mumbai, the advertisers maintained that the campaign did not refer to any brand name and did not mention the word ‘vaccine’. Thus, the advertisers maintained the campaign directed the audiences to consult his/her doctor for more information before making a direct-to-consumer sale pitch. They also claimed that their statements were substantiated by scientific studies conducted by global health authorities such as Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, PATH, Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization.
The Consumers Complaints Council (CCC) of the Advertising Standards Council of India reviewed the response provided by the advertiser and arrived at the conclusion that the claim of vaccination being the only way to reduce incidents of infection was inadequately substantiated. Keeping in mind the concerns lodged by the complainant, the claim that vaccination was the only way to treat rotavirus was also found to be misleading. The screening panel upheld the complaint filed by Dr Abraham under Chapters I.I. and I.4 and said that the issues raised by the vaccine were complex. The nature of the advertisement, therefore, could not be allowed to be broadcast in a direct advertisement to the public in such a misleading fashion.