Citizens' Issues
SC constitutes special team to examine contents of Radia tapes

The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations—first from 20 August 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from 19th October for another 60 days. Later, on 11May 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on 8th May

The Supreme Court on Thursday constituted a six-member special team comprising five from the CBI and one from the Income Tax department to examine the contents of tapped telephonic conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with politicians, corporate honchos and others.

 

A bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya said the working of the team will be supervised by two officers of the CBI who will report to Superintendent of Police, CBI dealing with the 2G matter.

 

The bench said that the overall supervision will be under the Deputy Inspector General, CBI who is looking after the case.

 

The bench said that the team shall submit its report in four months. The apex court on 13th February had sought names of officials of CBI, IT department and the Enforcement Directorate for setting up of a team to enquire into the tapped telephonic conversations of Radia with others to ascertain element of criminality.

 

The court had earlier said that it had gone through some of the tapped conversations and some of them were ‘innocuous’ and hence, the voluminous transcripts were needed to be ‘scrutinised’ to find out elements of ‘criminality’ in them.

 

It had also made clear that the scrutiny would be limited to those conversations which pertain to criminal element and relating to interest of justice.

 

Earlier, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Ratan Tata, had submitted that “utmost secrecy” be maintained in the scrutiny of transcripts.

 

He was referring to various conversations that took place between Tata and Radia which are allegedly personal in nature.

 

“There are some conversations in public domain and those are hardly personal in nature. They relate to illegality and shed significant light on how government decisions are being influenced and how institutions run in the country,” Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Centre for Public Interest Litigation, had said.

 

Excerpts from the tapes earlier leaked in the media had sparked a political storm with the conversations bringing out the nature of corporate lobbying and also its purported impact on politics.

 

The Income Tax department placed transcripts of 5,800 tapped telephone conversations in 50 sealed envelopes. The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia’s phone on a complaint to the finance minister on 16 November 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs300 crore.

 

The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations—first from 20 August 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from 19th October for another 60 days. Later, on 11May 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on 8th May.

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RTI Judgement Series: PIOs played game of passing the paper without providing information

Expressing anguish, the CIC said the sequence of events displayed a pathetic admission of a complete lack of accountability and the incapability of the governance system to even know who is responsible for what. This is the 45th 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 coming down heavily on the Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the ministry of urban development (MUD), said that it was distressing that these PIOs have played the game of passing the paper but were not been able to provide the information sought by the complainant.

While giving this important judgement on 8 April 2009, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner, said, "All the five PIOs are guilty of not doing their job and their actions certainly attract the penal provisions under Section 20 (1) of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Either all the officers who have dealt with the RTI application are ignorant, or nobody knows who is responsible for what functions."

RTI activist and Delhi resident Subhash Chandra Agrawal sought information about government's policy on memorials for leaders. He sought the following information from the PIO and under secretary (W-II) of the MUD...

1. Details of the government policy to set up memorials and allow cremation of leaders for converting specially developed cremation sites into their respective samadhis.
2. List of memorial and samadhis built and/or maintained on government expenses.
3. Is it true that government works decided to have no more samadhis of departed leaders?
4. If yes, reasons for deviating from the said policy.
5. Is the government aware of its bungalows like the one at 6, Krishna Menon Marg, having been unauthorized converted into a memorial.
6. If yes, provide the list of all such unauthorized memorials, mentioning such encroachment on prime government Properties.
7. Please provide all other related information and documents.
8. Do rules provide the cremation of dead bodies at places other than regular cremation grounds like it was done for Delhi's former chief minister late Shri Saheb Singh Verma.
9. If not, what steps were taken by the government against cremation at a public ground.

The PIO, however, transferred the application to the MUD. SN Dubey, the under secretary, MUD asked five departments to directly send the information to Mr Agrawal. He asked DG (Works) PWD, Directorate of Estate, Chief Secretary of Delhi government, Secretary of New Delhi Municipal Corporation, and Commissioner of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to send the information.

OP Wadhwa, officer on special duty to the chief secretary of the Delhi government and PIO, transferred the application to the Joint Secretary Planning and PIO, Urban Development and to Dr RPS Yadav, DG (Works) Govt of NCT of Delhi. The application was again transferred to the Executive Engineer and PIO of PWD Maintenance Zone (M-3).

Finally, on 22 July 2008, the Executive Engineer replied to the application. He said...

1. No record in this regard is available in this office as it pertains to ministry of urban development, Central Government.
2. The construction or maintenance of samadhies or memorials is not under the jurisdiction of this office hence no information is available on the subject in this office.
3. Yes
4. Does not pertains to this office and issue is also out of the jurisdiction of this office.
5, 6 &7. Point 5, 6 & 7 does not pertains to this office in view of the information given above under Sl No2.
8. Shri Sahib Singh Verma, the former chief minister of Delhi's cremation took place on 3 July 2007 on the land of Delhi School of Sports, Ghevera More as per the decision taken by the Delhi government. For this purpose the arrangements were made by the concerned Deputy Commissioner Delhi and Engineer-in-Chief, Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The information given herein is factual and this office has not played any role on the issue.
9. Does not pertain to this office and no record what so ever is available in this office.

Meanwhile, Mr Agrawal, the RTI applicant, filed his first appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA) and after failing to receive any reply from the FAA, he then filed his second appeal before the CIC on 1 August 2008. The Commission, in an order on 13 January 2009, remanded the matter to the FAA.

However, since the FAA did not decide the matter, Mr Agrawal again approached the Commission.

During a hearing on 6 April 2009, the PIO and Executive Engineer stated that he could only reply to points 8 and 9 and that the other points would have to be replied by the other four public authorities to whom the RTI application had been transferred. Mr Agrawal then told the CIC that none of the four PIOs even bothered to provide any information to him.

While announcing the decision, Mr Gandhi, the CIC, said, "This sequence of events is displaying a pathetic admission of a complete lack of accountability and the incapability of the governance system to even knows who is responsible for what."

He said, the RTI Act envisages that a citizen will file a RTI application with a PIO and the information will be given to him within 35 days at most (including five days for transferring an application), unless it is rejected because of the exemptions of Section 8 (1).

Section 5 (4) & 5 (5) of the RTI Act state:
(4) The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, may seek the assistance of any other officer as he or she considers it necessary for the proper discharge of his or her duties.
(5) Any officer, whose assistance has been sought under sub-section (4), shall render all assistance to the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, seeking his or her assistance and for the purposes of any contravention of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be.

Section 6 (3) mandates:
(3) Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information,-
(i) Which is held by another public authority; or
(ii) the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority, the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform  the applicant immediately about such transfer: Provided that the transfer of an application pursuant to this sub-section shall be made as soon as practicable but in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

Mr Gandhi said, the provisions of Section 5 (4) & (5) along with Section 6 (3), clearly enunciate Parliament's intent that public authorities will have to provide the information within a stipulated time, even if the information is with different officers, or public authorities. "It is distressing that PIOs have played the game of passing the paper but not been able to provide the information sought by the complainant," the CIC said.

While allowing the appeal, the Commission asked the five PIOs to provide complete information to Mr Agrawal. "The five PIOs in the offices of DG (Works), Directorate of Estates, Chief Secretary -Delhi Government, Secretary-NDMC and MCD Commissioner's office are responsible for not providing information to the complainant," the CIC noted.

The Commission said the five PIOs are guilty of not furnishing information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 by not replying within 30 days, as per the requirement of the RTI Act. It then issued a show-cause notice to all five PIOs asking them to submit reasons as to why penalty should not be levied on them.

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

Decision No. CIC /SG/C/2008/00286/SG/1015adjunct
http://www.rti.india.gov.in/cic_decisions/SG-08042009-25.pdf
Complaint No. CIC/SG/C/2008/00286/SG

Complainant            : Subash Chandra Agrawal,
                                          Delhi-110006

PIO                              :  Manish Baijal,
                                         CPIO
                                         Under Secretary, (W-II)
                                         Room No. 333-C, Nirman Bhawan,
                                        New Delhi

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Sign a petition online to stop 10-12 daily deaths on Mumbai’s local trains!

Every day 10-12 commuters die in Mumbai due to overcrowding in local trains. This can be stopped by implementing cyclic timetable that can reduce passenger load on each local train by about 30% to 40% and also cut the travel time by 20% to 25%. Activist Samir Zaveri has started an online petition for this

Every day about 10 to 12 people die and 15-20 are injured while travelling on Mumbai’s local train network. This all can be stopped with a simple solution by using the cyclic timetable that can be implemented without spending a single paisa. With the Rail Budget round the corner, it is the time to make the commuters’ voice heard by the decision makers and by Members of Parliament (MPs) from Mumbai.

 

With this in mind, social activists Samir Zaveri and Dipak Gandhi, chairman of Mumbai Suburban Railway Passenger Association (MSRPA), have started an online petition requesting railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to implement the cyclic timetable on Mumbai’s local rail network. The petition is also being sent to all Members of Parliament (MPs) from Mumbai, including Milind Deora, minister of state, communications & IT and shipping, Sanjay Nirupam, Priya Dutt, Gurudas Kamat, Sanjay Dina Patil, Piyush Goyal, Murli Deora, Sanjay Raut, Tariq Anwar, DP Tripathi, YP Trivedi and Bharatkumar Raut.

 

Here is the link to the petition: https://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/implement-cyclic-timetable-on-mumbai-s-local-rail-network-to-stop-deaths#share

 

After doing research and due diligence for years, septuagenarian Dipak Gandhi, chairman of MSRPA, and his colleagues have prepared a cyclic timetable, which can reduce passenger load on each local train by about 30% to 40% and also cut the travel time by 20% to 25% for long-distance commuters. The cyclic timetable also makes it possible to introduce 30% more services with the same number of rakes and tracks through super-fast and sector-wise services.

 

The suburban railway system in Mumbai is the most complex, densely loaded and intensively utilised system in the world and has the highest passenger density in the world—over 70 lakh commuters travel every day. During 2012, in Mumbai alone, around 3,541 people died while 3,808 were injured in railway accidents. This happens due to overcrowding of suburban or local trains. Specifically, a twelve-car rake carries over 8,000 passengers against its carrying capacity of 1,800, which leads to unbearably overcrowded trains during peak hours.

 

Traditional approaches of increasing capacity by increasing the number of coaches in rakes have not resulted in any improvement in the problem of overcrowding. The situation is further aggravated with frequent delays and uneven frequency of trains.

 

A simple mathematical analysis done by Rajaram Bojji, former managing director of Konkan Railway and inventor of the anti-collision device (ACD) also shows that the use of cyclic timetable can reduce the turnaround time for a local train by around 30% as well as waiting period for a commuter.

 

He said, “A commuter has to wait, skipping a train to board the right one. To some extent, the railway platform may carry a little extra number of passengers. Maybe it is better than crowding the train. There are other factors like percentage failure of signals, track conditions and maintenance of speed restrictions, unauthorised slums crowding the track sides forcing motormen to drive cautiously, which may deny the benefit. However, the idea is worth trying.”

 

Several activists like Zaveri, Gandhi, Gaurang Damani, Rishi Agarwal and NGOs like Moneylife Foundation and various passenger associations under the banner of “Coalition of Associations & Persons for Safe Rail Travel (CAPSRT)” have been requesting the Railways to follow the cyclic timetable on Mumbai's vast rail network.

 

The Indian Railways today is in a position to give not only safe but also speedy and comfortable rides to all its commuters from tomorrow, only if it redesigns its suburban timetable in Mumbai as per the principles of timetable construction laid down under the Indian Railways Act and its rules—and in conformity with today's traffic needs.

 

Read more about the cyclic timetable: Reduce halts to gain speed on Mumbai local trains, say experts 

 

Act NOW. Sign the petition and help Mumbai save 10-12 human lives every day!

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COMMENTS

GOVIND GOPAL SHANBHAG

4 years ago

MDTeam - Day by day travelling by Railways especially Western suburb is becoming an ordeal. I am after using the railway system for nearly 40 years, I have retired and need not take rail route very often. But whenever I take the route, very though of travelling by rail shudders me. Before implementation of cyclic time table, people of all ages, healthy and otherwise (at times listening to music and speaking over cell phone) should be educated against crossing the railway tracks which is the major reason for such high deaths.

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