The PIO's rejection was completely wrong since there is nothing in the law or the rules preventing more than one citizen from submitting an RTI application, ruled the CIC. This is the 56th 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 pointing out that the Public Information Officer (PIO)’s rejection of an application since it was signed by seven other people has no basis in the law, asked the PIO of the regional officer of Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) at Ranchi, to give complete information to the appellant.
While giving this important judgement on 16 July 2010, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “...the PIO’s rejection has no basis in law. The First Appellate Authority (FAA) has not supported the PIO's contention but has justified denial of information claiming exemption under Section 8(1) (j) to deny information relating to those who had signed the RTI application.”
Bokaro resident Samir Kumar Haldar, on 4 February 2010, sought information from the regional officer of Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) at Ranchi, about provident fund accounts of labourers of Magadh Engineering Works. He sought the following information...
1. All the appellants, who are labourers in the Magadh Engineering Works (EPF Code: JH /10532), have EPF accounts in which their monthly payments are deposited. The names along with their father’s names and their account numbers are enclosed. Furnish the self-certified copies of the AR and 6 AR of the mentioned names from 1999 to 2008.
2. Detailed copy of the orders passed since 2005 till present, under the EPF 1952 scheme provision 7 A against the Magadh Engineering Works.
The PIO did not provide any information and instead rejected Haldar's application citing it as a joint application by the applicant and seven others. Haldar then filed his first appeal before the FAA.
In his order, the FAA said, “In the original application of Shri Haldar, the same is joined by seven other applicants but the address of communication which has been given is of Shri Haldar. Further, the copy of Form 3(R) and 6 (AR) has been sought in respect to all applications. Now, these returns contain the details of members like details of wages and details of PF contribution, which is personal information in respect of those members and is maintained by this office in its fiduciary capacity. Sending this information for all members on the postal address of one applicant will tantamount to disclosing these personal information to the individual on whose address the same is sent and thus would be violation of the provisions of Section 8(1) e) and (J) of the RTI Act 2005.”
“I do not think proper to disclose the information sought jointly and hence the request of Shri Haldar is rejected. However, the individuals are free to make an application individually to seek information under the RTI Act 2005,” the FAA said in his order on 25 May 2010.
Not satisfied with the reply of PIO and order of FAA, the applicant then approached the CIC with his second appeal.
During a hearing, the CIC pointed out that both the parties were not present. It said, the RTI application was filed on 4 February 2010 and the information should have been provided to the appellant before 6 March 2010. Instead a rejection was sent to the appellant on 30 March 2010 stating that since seven other people have sought the information the PIO was refusing to supply the information, the CIC noted.
Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, pointed out that the FAA had not taken cognizance of objections raised by the PIO that seven other people have signed the RTI application along with the appellant but upheld the refusal to give information by invoking Section 8(1)(j) since the appellant had sought details of wages and PF contributions.
“The PIO’s rejection was completely wrong since there is nothing in the law or the rules preventing more than one citizen from submitting the RTI application. Section 3 of the RTI Act states, ‘subject to the provisions of this Act, all citizens shall have Right to Information’. Hence the PIO's rejection has no basis in law,” the CIC said.
Mr Gandhi said, “It is correct that the details of an individual’s PF account cannot be given to anyone else, since it would be an intrusion on the privacy of an individual but since seven other people had signed the RTI application jointly with Haldar the information could have been provided. In case the FAA wanted to verify if the other seven people had no objection in giving the information he could have ordered the PIO to seek their concurrence under Section 11 of the RTI Act.”
The CIC while allowing the appeal asked the PIO to give complete information to Haldar before 5 August 2010.
Since the PIO failed to provide information within stipulated time under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act, the Commission issued a show-cause notice to him. The CIC said, the PIO would present himself before the Commission on 16 August 2010 along with his written submissions showing cause why penalty should not be imposed on him as mandated under Section 20(1) of the Act.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2010/001429/8585
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2010/001429
Appellant : Samir Kumar Haldar
Respondent : Public Information Officer
Employees Provident Fund Organization,
Regional Office, Bhagirathi Complex,
Near Circuit House, Karamtoli,
Ranchi (Jharkhand) – 834001
The White House announced 17 pardons on Friday. But Obama has still granted clemency at a lower rate than his predecessors
On Friday, President Obama pardoned 17 people. But despite the new pardons, the Obama administration has still granted clemency more rarely than any president in recent history.
Indeed, the day before the pardons were announced, a Department of Justice spokesman said, Obama had denied 314 other applicants.
A ProPublica analysis of Justice Department statistics last November found that Obama had granted pardons at a lower rate than Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush had at the same point in their administrations.
Obama has now granted a total of 39 pardons and denied 1,333.
The people pardoned on Friday – including a mother of two in Honolulu who had faced the possibility of deportation due to a 1996 conviction and a fishing company executive who went to prison in 1991 for a bid-rigging scam – will not have their records wiped clean. But pardons do allow convicted criminals to restore their rights to vote, buy firearms, and open up other opportunities closed to them by their records.
Pardons are largely processed based on recommendations from the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney. As we reported in November, recommendations in favour of pardons have been rare during Obama's presidency.
The president also has the power to commute sentences – a privilege Obama has used only once.
After ProPublica and the Washington Post detailed the commutation case of Clarence Aaron, the Justice Department's inspector general criticized the pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, for failing to convey key information about the case to the White House.
The report concluded that Rodgers had engaged in "conduct that fell substantially short of the high standards expected of Department of Justice employees and the duty he owed the President of the United States."
While Moneylife exposed how a MoF official asked govt banks to emulate HDFC Bank, Cobrapost exposes HDFC Bank helps money laundering!
According a sting operation conducted by online magazine Cobrapost, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank, three of India's top private sector lenders, are running a nationwide money laundering racket. Moneylife has been constantly pointing out the mis-selling and overcharging by banks. Earlier, this week we published a story Now, penalty for paying credit card dues by cheque! that shows how an under-secretary in the finance ministry by using HDFC Bank as a model asking chairmen of all public sector banks (PSBs) to levy charges on credit card dues paid through cash or cheque.
Cobrapost said its investigation conducted in five zones across several branches of these banks and their affiliates like insurance companies revealed following facts...
Cobrapost said its investigation found that banks and their managements systematically and deliberately violate several provisions of the Income Tax (I-T) Act, Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), regulations of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), know your customer (KYC) norms, the Banking Act and Prevention of Money laundering Act (PMLA) with utter disregard to consequences, driven by their desire to boost cheap deposits and thereby increasing their profits.
It took just a cold call by the Cobrapost reporter to the branches of the banks, mentioned above, to put a grossly illegal proposition on the table: A politician wants to launder a huge sum of black money. The purpose: make it white. Would the bank officials help? And the lid came off the murky world of money laundering in the Indian banking sector, as the officials of these banks rolled out the red carpet for Cobrapost's associate editor Syed Masroor Hasan.
Taking an alias of Rajeev Sharma, Masroor visited dozens and dozens of branches across the length and breadth of the country, including many major cities and state capitals, across all five zones. Nowhere was he disappointed. Nowhere was he turned away. Almost every banker that he came across was willing to help launder the black money of the fictitious politician Masroor was supposedly working for. The discussions on how to launder the money went up the management hierarchy.
How these banks launder black money
The ways HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank suggested to transform the black money into white were both imaginative in their range and brazen in their approach, says Cobrapost. This brought to the fore a modus operandi that is tailored to rake in vast amounts of black money in the form of illegal deposits, insurance and investment products, sold by these banks. All these creative methods are used to convert the dirty money into squeaky clean without the regulatory authorities ever getting a whiff of what they are doing.
Here is a gist of what the various bankers suggested to help the politician launder his illegitimate money:
* Accept huge amounts of cash and invest it in insurance products and gold.
* Open an account to route the cash into various investment schemes of the bank.
* Do it even without the mandatory PAN card or adhering to the KYC norms laid down by the RBI.
* Split the money into tranches to get it into the banking system without being detected.
* Use ‘benami’ accounts to facilitate the conversion of black money.
* Use accounts of other customers to channelize the black money into the system for a fee.
* Get demand drafts made for the client either from their own banks or from other banks to facilitate investment without it showing up in the client’s account.
* Keep the identity of the investor/depositor secret.
* Open multiple accounts and close them at will to facilitate the investment of black money.
* Invest black money in multiple instruments in the names of different individuals, not necessarily drawn from among the family.
* Allot lockers for the safekeeping of the illegitimate cash, including special large size lockers to accommodate crores of hard cash.
* Personally come to the residence of the client to take the black money deal forward and collect the cash, even bring along counting machine.
* Use provisions like Form 60 to deposit the illegitimate cash into the account to route it into investment.
* Help the client to transfer black money abroad through NRE (Non-Resident External)/NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary) account; transfer the money telegraphically or through means other than regular banking procedures.
Cobrapost said, other than these ways, bank officials suggested further innovative methods unique to their banks. For instance, HDFC Bank’s officials offer such convenient cash laundering services like the operation of lockers (with cash in them) outside regular banking hours to ensure the secrecy of these customers’ identities and to mask the nature of the transactions, the report said.
“To stay one step ahead, ICICI Bank officials were ready to make a suitable profile for the client, such as showing him as an agriculturist or engaged in some business, so as to make the investment unquestionable,” the report said.
On the other hand, Axis Bank officials proved to be a notch above in inventing fraudulent means, Cobrapost said. “Use ‘sundry’ accounts of the bank, they (Axis Bank) suggested, to deposit all the illegal cash from where it is to be routed into investment. Either use accounts of other customers, for a fee, to transfer money abroad, or use some shell company and take away a chunk of foreign currency as expenses toward business-cum-leisure trips,” the report said.
In a statement, Axis Bank said, "We will examine whatever information that is brought to our notice and investigate thoroughly".
Cobrapost said they (these banks) would pamper you, offering you privilege banking or priority banking, pulling out all stops to make the deal happen. At least, after this expose, the ministry of finance should stop using private banks as models of efficiency.