RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: PIO of Medical Council asked to pay Rs3,000 as compensation
The CIC found that the PIO of MCI treated the matter in a casual manner, thus subjecting the appellant to unnecessary harassment while waiting for the information. This is the 140th 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 appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the Medical Council of India (MCI) to provide complete information available and also pay a compensation of Rs3,000 to the appellant for the costs of filling appeals and for the loss and detriment suffered by him.
While giving this judgement on 22 December 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “It is evident that the PIO at MCI has treated this matter very casually and the appellant has been subjected to unnecessary harassment in waiting for the information.”
Srinagar (Kashmir) resident Mohammad Afzal Bhat, on 1 February 2011, sought information submitted by the Government Medical College (GMC) at Srinagar in their declaration forms from the PIO of MCI. Here is the information he sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act...
Declaration forms (2010-11) of faculty members submitted by Principal/Dean Govt. Medical College in July 2009 to MCI regarding recognition of various departments viz. 
i) Department of Pathology/Haematology ii) Department of Paediatrics iii) Social and Preventive Medicine iv) Pharmacology & v) Anatomy.
1. List of faculty members submitted by Principal/Dean Govt. Medical College Srinagar to MCI in the latest inspection of July 2009 Viz. No. of professors. Associate Professors, Assistant Professors and Demonstrators etc. of the above mentioned departments.
2. Their name, designation and address.
3. List of permanent and contractual faculty members submitted to MCI.
4. If contractual faculty members are appointed, mention name, address and year of contract with Govt. Medical College Srinagar/Date of expiry of contract with GMC Srinagar.
5. No. of faculty members presently working in the GMC Srinagar, permanently as well as contractual as per MCI inspection report of July 2009.
6. Library timing of GMC Srinagar submitted to MCI.
In his reply, the PIO provided list of faculty members for some department and also sanctioned strength of faculty.
However, citing no reply received from the PIO, the appellant Bhat filed his first appeal. In his order, the First Appellate Authority (FAA) and deputy secretary directed the PIO to provide the information sought by the appellant.
Bhat then approached the CIC with his second appeal in which he stated that the PIO provided incomplete, unsatisfactory and false information.
During the hearing, Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, noted that the appellant had sought information on six queries for information submitted by the Government Medical College Srinagar in their declaration forms. 
The PIO admitted that the declaration forms have to be submitted by the Medical Colleges at the time of inspection.
Bhat, who was not present during the hearing, had stated in his appeal, that an inspection of the said college was done in July 2009 for recognition of five departments and he was seeking information with relation to declaration form through his RTI application of 1 February 2011. 
Mr Gandhi noted that the PIO gave no clarification (on this issue) and very curiously transferred the RTI application on 8 March 2011 to the PIO of the Medical College, Srinagar.
The PIO admitted that at the time of inspection it was mandatory to give the declaration form and that it is one of the conditions for renewal of the recognition. 
The Bench said, "The Act of transferring the RTI applications to the PIO of the Medical College appears to indicate that these were not available with MCI. This would be a very serious default. Further, the PIO of the Government Medical College has also not provided the declaration forms to the Appellant. The inference could be that no declaration forms may have been given."
"It is evident that the PIO at MCI has treated this matter very casually. If he did not have the declaration forms, he should have informed the appellant accordingly. It is evident that the appellant has been subjected to unnecessary harassment in waiting for the information," Mr Gandhi said in his order.
While allowing the appeal, the Bench, using its powers under Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act directed the PIO to send a compensation of Rs3,000 to Bhat for the costs of filling the appeals and the loss and detriment suffered by him.
Mr Gandhi also asked the PIO of MCI to provide the declaration forms to the appellant before 10 January 2012. "If the declaration forms are not with MCI, then an affidavit will be given to this effect to the appellant and the Commission before 10 January 2012," the CIC said.
Further, finding the PIO guilty of not furnishing complete information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 as per the requirement of the RTI Act, the CIC issued a show cause notice to the PIO.      
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002815/16533
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/002815
Appellant                                  :                 Mohammad Afzal Bhat,
                                                                       Srinagar, Kashmir
Respondent                             :                 Dr Anshu Sethi Bajaj
                                                                      Public Information Officer & Dy. Secretary 
                                                                      Medical Council of India
                                                                      Pocket-14, Sector-8,
                                                                      Dwarka Phase-I,
                                                                      New Delhi-110077


NSA says it can’t search its own emails

In response to a public records request, the super-snooping spy agency from US says it doesn't have the technology

The NSA is a "supercomputing powerhouse" with machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second. The agency turns its giant machine brains to the task of sifting through unimaginably large troves of data its surveillance programs capture.

But ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' email? The agency says it doesn’t have the technology.

"There's no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week.

The system is “a little antiquated and archaic," she added.

I filed a request last week for emails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period. The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency's public-relations efforts.

A few days after filing the request, Blacker called, asking me to narrow my request since the FOIA office can search emails only “person by person," rather than in bulk. The NSA has more than 30,000 employees.

I reached out to the NSA press office seeking more information but got no response.

It’s actually common for large corporations to do bulk searches of their employees email as part of internal investigations or legal discovery.

“It’s just baffling,” says Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “This is an agency that’s charged with monitoring millions of communications globally and they can’t even track their own internal communications in response to a FOIA request.”

Federal agencies’ public records offices are often underfunded, according to Lucy Dalglish, dean of the journalism school at University of Maryland and a longtime observer of FOIA issues.

But, Daglish says, “If anybody is going to have the money to engage in evaluation of digital information, it’s the NSA for heaven’s sake.”

For more on the NSA, read our story on the agency’s tapping of Internet cables, our fact-check on claims about the NSA and Sept. 11, and our timeline of surveillance law.

Courtesy: ProPublica.org


Pulse Beat

Medical developments from around the world

Transparency in Drug Research
There is a move to push pharmaceutical companies to be more transparent in clinical trials. Activists, including Dr Peter Doshi, a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, want public access to all the data from clinical trials. “The current system, the activists say, is one in which the meager details of clinical trials published in medical journals, often by authors with financial ties to the companies whose drugs they are writing about, is insufficient to the point of being misleading,” quoted The New York Times in their story titled “Breaking the Seal on Drug Research”. Similar efforts are being made in Europe. Naturally, the pharmaceutical industry is trying very hard to stop this move.

HIV Vaccine Found Useless
A US government study, called the ‘HVTN 505 clinical trial’, kicked off in 2009. It had enrolled about 2,500 people in 19 cities, all men who have sex with men and transgender people who have sex with men. Half of the sample received an experimental vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health; the other half received dummy, or placebo, shots.

A safety review on 22 April 2013 found that volunteers who had received the vaccine later than those who received the dummy injection became infected with HIV. Overall, 41 cases of HIV infection occurred in the volunteers who received the experimental vaccine and 30 cases of HIV infection occurred among the recipients who received the dummy injection. The safety review also showed that the vaccine failed to reduce viral load among volunteers who acquired HIV infection at least 28 weeks after joining the study.

Women Deaths from Painkiller Overdose
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which showed increase in painkiller overdose-related deaths among women, received extensive coverage. Dr Thomas Frieden, of CDC, spoke of the magnitude of the problem. Dr Frieden said that prescription opiates kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. He also said, “It’s tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury.”

Unnecessary Cholesterol Testing
JAMA Internal Medicine, a part of the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) network, reported that about one-third of individuals who have heart disease undergo cholesterol testing more frequently than recommended. More than 9,000 patients out of about 27,000 had additional lipid panels in the 11 months after they achieved their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) goal of less than 100mg/dL. That was not necessary and could be dangerous. These seemingly inexpensive tests add up when done frequently.

Daily Painkillers Use May Increase CV Risk
The New York Times reported that “an authoritative and ambitious new analysis that included data from over 600 trials, including detailed case histories of more than 350,000 patients, concludes that people who take high doses of painkillers daily increase their cardiovascular risk by as much as a third, compared with those taking a placebo.” It also said: “the one exception is naproxen, which may actually have a protective effect against heart attacks.” The findings were published in The Lancet. I had written decades ago that painkillers do kill!

Smoking on the Decline in US
The prevalence of smoking among US adults declined from 24.7% in 1997 to 20.9% in 2005, and further from 20.6% in 2009 to 18.0% in 2012, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even in India, the rate is declining among the literate masses. Beedi business has shrunk significantly.


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