The applicant made a charge of plagiarism about a thesis based on which an M Tech degree was awarded. While allowing the appeal, the CIC asked the PIO to provide a certified copy of the thesis. This is the 46th 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), without going into the issue whether any exemption is applicable in the case, felt that there was adequate prima-facie evidence which shows the possibility of plagiarism. It then allowed the appeal directing the Public Information Officer (PIO) to provide complete information.
While giving this important judgement on 18 January 2010, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, “One of the key objectives of the Right to Information (RTI) Act is to improve transparency and contain corruption. The evidence before the Commission that has been present by the appellant seems to show a very strong possibility of plagiarism which is one of the worst forms of corruption.”
Kurukshetra resident Mahesh Kumar Gupta sought copy of an M Tech dissertation. He sought a certified (with date) readable copy (starting from cover page till last page including pages with Library facsimile) of the following information:
“Copy of M Tech Dissertation titled ‘Production Planning Problems in Engineering Industry (A Goal Programming Approach)’ submitted in 1991 in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Regional Engineering College, Kurukshetra which is available in the Library, NIT Kurukshetra with the details: Call No Thesis-M,l 1991 Acc No540.”
The PIO while claiming an exemption denied the information. He said, “The dissertation submitted by a candidate was a part of the examination. When the answer papers were evaluated, the authority conducting the examination and examiners evaluating the answers papers stand in a fiduciary relationship between each other. Such relationship warrants maintenance of confidentiality by both of manner and method of evaluation.”
Not satisfied with the reply from the PIO, the applicant then approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA). In his first appeal, Gupta stated that he was issued same M Tech Dissertation from the Library on 9 July 2009, however, the CPIO, NIT Kurukshetra has refused to provide a certified copy of the same.
The FAA, while rejecting the appeal, stated that sought information by the appellant could not be provided.
Gupta the filed his second appeal before the CIC. During a hearing on 18th January, the PIO stated that all copies of the dissertation are kept in a library and these are available for everyone to take a look. He also stated that library users are permitted to get it issued and take them with themselves. He raised the issue of whether a person can use Right to Information (RTI) to demand photocopies of the other books which are kept in the library.
Gupta, in his statement said, that he had clearly indicated that he was making a charge of plagiarism since his contention is that the said thesis based on which an M Tech has been awarded to Pankaj Chandna in 1991 is a complete copy of the thesis submitted by Yogesh Saxena as his M Tech dissertation to IIT Delhi in 1982.
Gupta also submitted a copy of Yogesh Saxena's dissertation as also a purported copy of the dissertation by Pankaj Chandna before the Commission. He further alleged that this dissertation by Pankaj Chandna was under the guidance of Prof SK Sharma and that the copy in the library of the Institute has Sharma’s signature with the date 4 May 1991 on the page of the dissertation.
The RTI Act in preamble states,
“AND WHEREAS democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;”
Mr Gandhi, the CIC, said, that it appeared the appellant (Gupta) had raised this (the issue of plagiarism) within the institute. Gupta also produced before the Commission newspaper cuttings in which these allegations of plagiarism have been mentioned. The news reports mentioned that the reporters had spoken to Pankaj Chandna, and JK Palit, chairman of the Board of Governors of NIT, Kurukshetra.
“Thus it appears that the Institute was well aware of this charge and perhaps did not wish to correct anything,” Mr Gandhi noted.
Gupta also submitted a letter by the deputy registrar of NIT, Kurukshetra dated 7 September 2009, and addressed to the ministry of human resources development (HRD), mentioning the issue.
Section-8(2) of the RTI Act states,
“Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interests in the disclosure outweigh the harm to the protected interests.”
“Thus even if an exemption clause of Section 8(1) applies, larger public interest would dictate that the information must be disclosed. In the instant matter the Commission is not going into the issues of whether any exemption applies but feels there is adequate prima-facie evidence which shows the possibility of plagiarism,” Mr Gandhi said in his order.
The Commission then asked the PIO to give complete information to the appellant before 30 January 2010.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2009/003039
Appellant : Mahesh Kumar Gupta
Lecturer, Mechanical Engr. Deptt.
National Institute of Technology,
Respondent : GR Samantaray
Central Public Information Officer &
National Institute of Technology
(Institute of National Importance),
“Anyone transacting with Sahara India Real Estate Corporation, Sahara Housing Investment Corporation and their three promoters and directors would be doing so at their own peril,” market regulator SEBI said
Close on the heels of ordering attachment of bank accounts, investments and all other assets of two Sahara group companies and their promoters, including group chief Subrata Roy, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Friday cautioned the investors and general public against transacting with these companies and persons.
“Anyone transacting with them (Sahara India Real Estate Corporation, Sahara Housing Investment Corporation and their three promoters and directors) would be doing so at their own peril,” market regulator SEBI said.
The regulator said that in furtherance to a Supreme Court order directing refund of investors’ money collected by these Sahara firms, it has ordered “attachment of all moveable and immoveable properties, bank accounts and demat accounts of these two companies and that of its promoters and directors namely Subrata Roy Sahara, Vandana Bhargava, Ashok Roy Choudhary and Ravi Shankar Dubey”.
“Investors and general public are advised to exercise caution and take note of the said orders before transacting with the aforesaid entities/persons in any manner whatsoever,” SEBI said in a public notice.
On 13th February, SEBI passed two separate orders, together running into 160 pages, directing attachment of properties and freezing of accounts.
It was after the Supreme Court said that the regulator was free to freeze the accounts and attach properties if Sahara firms were not complying with the apex court’s earlier orders of August 2012 towards refund of investors’ money totalling over Rs24,000 crore.
The assets ordered to be attached included those related to the group’s Aamby Valley resort town near Pune, other real estate assets in Delhi, Mumbai and at other places across the country, shares, mutual funds and various other investments.
Passing the attachment orders, SEBI said that the two companies had raised Rs6,380 crore and Rs19,400 crore, respectively from bondholders and “various illegalities” were committed in raising of these funds.
With regard to Subrata Roy and three other directors, namely Vandana Bhargava, Ravi Shanker Dubey and Ashok Roy Choudhary, SEBI ordered freezing of all bank and demat accounts of these four persons, as also attachment of all moveable and immoveable properties in their name with immediate effect.
Subsequently, the Sahara Group claimed that the actions taken by SEBI were based on “old facts” and the orders for attaching assets of individuals are incorrect on part of the market regulator.
It also said that it has already deposited with SEBI an amount of Rs5,120 crore that was in excess of its total liability towards refund to investors.
Infosys is involved in migration of a another website and like in the case of the MCA21 portal, this time too users are complaining about several issues with Traces, the new site of CPC and I-T department launched to simplify the TDS filing process
In November, Infosys, India’s most reputed IT company took over the management of the Traces website, and since then people are complaining about inaccessibility, login issues and also problems with downloading and checking Form16/16A as well as their annual tax credit statements of form 26AS.
In fact, yesterday morning, the Traces site, was down. And yet, the last line of the error message claimed "The website is not encountering any technical problem at the moment”! The site became alive only after 1pm. See the image below...
Traces, the new website for tracking tax deducted at source (TDS), launched by the Income Tax (I-T) department's Centralized Processing Cell (CPC) and managed by Infosys is giving nightmares to lakhs of tax payers, both individuals and companies. The I-T department’s TDS related services were shifted to the new site from the one managed by National Securities Depository (NSDL).
When Moneylife sent a query regarding issues faced by tax payers on the new site, Infosys, in an email reply stated that “We see you have already written to the ministry officials and they are best placed to respond to you on this matter.” We are waiting for a reply from the Directorate General of I-T (Systems) and would post it as and when we receive it.
The TDS CPC team of Traces, replied asking for email IDs and contact numbers of tax payers mentioned in our mail. In an email reply, the team said, “In order to identify the issue and subsequent action to be taken, it is requested you to please provide the contact details of each of the deductors. We will reach out to one of them individually to address their concern.”
But this is not the first time users are facing issues with Infosys and its takeover process. Infosys took over the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ (MCA) portal MCA21 from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) on 16th January. And there are still several issues with the MCA21 website. (Read MCA21 is down for a month after a handover of the management by TCS to Infosys. Why?)
Traces stands for TDS Reconciliation Analysis and Correction Enabling System and it is claimed that this new web-based application would provide more feature compared with the old site maintained by Tax Information Network (TIN) and NSDL (TIN-NSDL).
What is important to remember is that the government has forced ordinary taxpayers to take on the responsibility of deducting TDS and has imposed draconian penalties for non-payment. Also, whenever deductions of TDS are not reconciled with taxpayer’s records, the I-T department disallows the payment and adds it to income. The problems with TDS hence have enormous implications for ordinary persons and it is shocking that there are no answers forthcoming. The only reason there isn’t a bigger hue and cry over the matter is that people are too scared to ‘upset’ the tax authorities.
Here are some complaints from our readers as well from taxpayers posted over the internet...
“Earlier the TDS online system was maintained by NSDL, however from 1 November 2012, the new site has been named as TRACES, which is supposed to be maintained by Infosys. Since then the site is not working properly, consolidated files are available for FY2010-11 onwards, earlier year files are not available at TRACES, in NSDL regime form 16A was made available within 1-2 days after filing the TDS return, however in TRACES this takes about 15-20 days. Maxim revise return submitted after 31st October is still showing as under process at CPC.” —Banka
“We had filed many revise returns of our clients after 30 October 2012. But till date (24 January 2013) TRACES is not giving any consolidated file and changed Form 16A for those returns. I called them many times, but every time they are assuring that within a day or two it will be over. I don't know, is this the picture of Infosys service on behalf of IT dept. Income Tax dept should involve themselves to clear all these problems by war footing process.” —Amitabha Debroy
“We are unable to get the Form 16A for Q2 year 2012-13. When we request the same one message came that the data not available. Please help us as the vendor requires this form 16A badly.”—Golekha
“Traces is very difficult for us to deal with. We were all familiarised with TIN NSDL sites and now this change over put us in difficulties. Even though I give correct details it is showing invalid details. Our clients are asking for form 16A but we cannot generate it and we are wasting our time also. Very unhappy with this.”—Besy
“What is the issue with this new website, simply impossible to download TDS statement 26AS etc? Why migrate to a new set-up when the old one was working ok? Make changes in the existing one. Any ideas how can the form 26AS be downloaded/viewed?”—SPS
“I have filed the correction return in December 2012, even after a one and half month the status is under process by CPC. When I called Traces people they are not giving any deadline, even there is no notification or web massage for delay is provided. How to answer deductees without any notification or message from Traces. Even Traces is not responding to mail sent by us. Any one has any notification in this regard please share it.”—CA RAMACHANDRA SHARMA
“When the new site Traces will come into operation perfectly. It is waste of time killing others time. Depute the higher income-tax official and show the site work how much efficiency. Please call the Honourable Finance Minister to show how the new Traces site is working. Even a fresher will create the site more efficiently than this.”—S THEYAGARAJAN
“TRACES site fully fake & totally waste of time. What type services Infosys is giving to people and itd. They are wasting the time of users. Please stop this USELESS TRACES site and enable old TIN NSDL site.” —sanjay
“The site is very erratic I managed to get the new password for two companies. But when I tried for the third Company yesterday, after filling in the required details and clicking ‘submit’ the screen shows ‘invalid details’. I tried several times, but same result. Also I am not able to download PDF Generator Utility.”—N. Gopala
In addition to issues like accessibility and uploading, the new system requires the taxpayer to download a special utility for viewing Form16/16A or Form26AS. The TIN-NSDL site used to provide a password-protected file, whereas on Traces, the user has to download a .zip (compressed format file) and then convert it into a pdf or portable document format file.
Unfortunately, downloading the utility is also not easy. Several people could not even download the PDF Generator software and are looking for alternate sites. Here are few reactions regarding the issue...
“Pls help me out how to download pdf convertor utility 1.1. Facing great problems, also tell the site from where it is available as Traces is not showing this utility for download. It is only showing the message to use this utility. Pls treat it as most Urgent.”—ruby
“Yes, I downloaded the PDF Generation Utility 1.1, it took me one day to download. TRACES said they will modify the PDF Generation utility file size 61MB to 10MB. If you want to download, please log in to TRACES and click DOWNLOAD- Requested Download and Click here option at the bottom of the page and it show two options, HTTP and download Manager, please click on download Manager.” —K Ganesh Nayak
“I have been trying since past three days to download the PDF Converter Utility from TRACES, every time download gets terminated due to session out. Is there any way to take it up with TRACES for their response on this? Please respond.”—Babu Balasingh
“I had downloaded the earlier version. But I have been unable to download the current version. The downloading starts but gets timed out and stops. Can we get this version on a CD from any of the TDS software providers like Fastfacts etc?”—N Gopala
In addition, for downloading the PDF Generator, the user needs to keep his session on Traces portal in active mode. Otherwise, he would have to download the PDF Generator again, unless he is using download manager software.
Even after downloading the latest PDF Generator, the taxpayer need to see if the operating system of his PC/laptop is updated and he has the latest (Internet Explorer 7 and above) version of Java installed. Also the user has to pass the zip file he downloaded for Form16/16A or Form26AS through the PDF Generator, instead of unzipping or opening the file. Only the PDF Generator utility can create the appropriate file and then after using either TAN or PAN number the user can view the file.
For opening the pdf file for Form26AS, the user need to provide TAN number along with his request number in typical manner. For example for a TAN number MUMB12345C with request number 1234, the password would be MUMB1234C_1234.
The malfunctioning of second site handled by Infosys however raises several questions. Due to the technical glitches on MCA21 portal, work done by thousands of chartered accountants (CAs) and company secretaries (CSs) has come to a half since last month. And this was not an expected event. The handover was planned full six months in advance and yet the MCA21 portal is breaking down without any explanation.
No wonder, s similar thing is happening with the TDS online system as well. First, they shifted the site on to a new system (Traces), and then they changed the processes as well. Tax payers have become familiar with the TIN-NSDL portal and it was working without much of an issue. It was changed to Traces in order to provide more features. But all the while the users were kept in the dark about the change in processes. This is leading to not just confusions but also causing physical and mental agony to lakhs of taxpayers.
“I have filed my regular returns, but all in vain. For first time validation, the site asks references of FY, quarter returns and form numbers. For other cases, latest accepted returns are taken as valid even if it is regular return or correction. We get the message ‘All is Well’ from the site. I think, Infosys would require some more time to get used to government schemes,” said one commentator.
Handling interactive portals is not rocket science and Infosys, one of the most reputed companies in IT and software, should have handled it with ease. But there is something wrong as the company seems to have goofed up the job for the second time. This also raises big question on the public-private partnership (PPP) module when the union government is keen to transfer subsidies worth crores of rupees online.