Right to Information
Transparent process will help in selection of Information Commissioners

Individual decisions are randomly criticized and this does not give a picture of the overall trend of a Commissioner’s decisions. If we have a transparent process for selecting Commissioners and put continuous pressure on them for accountability, we will get much better results from our cherished Right to Information

There is considerable discontent amongst RTI users against the Information Commissions and Commissioners for not delivering the fruits of the RTI (Right to Information) Act. We have a law which directly empowers individual citizens and they are understandably concerned about getting its proper implementation. The political team mandated by the law—PM/CM, leader of the opposition and one minister—is not performing its function with diligence and is using the appointment of Information Commissioners as one more avenue for dispensing patronage. Perhaps they also lack the time required for such an exercise.

 

The political and bureaucratic establishment have been doing this for years in appointments for various commissions—and many other positions of high ranks—and is unable to understand this sudden outcry and anger of citizens against appointments of Information Commissioners.

 

Some activists have gone to courts and the Supreme Court’s order in the Namit Sharma case may institutionalize the Information Commissions as senior citizen’s clubs. It mandated that the Information Commissions must decide in benches of two, one of whom shall be a retired judge. This decision will have a huge negative impact on the Information Commissions, and lead to a further decline in their performance.

 

Presently, the order has been stayed. One positive outcome of this decision is its lament about the lack of a fair and transparent process for selection of Information Commissioners. There is a great need to introduce a transparent process for selecting Information Commissioners, who are expected to oversee transparency.

 

There should be an insistence on public exposure for those who are interested in becoming Information Commissioners. Many Information Commissioners have no understanding or interest in transparency, or the RTI Act. This is an affliction which is true for many people in power. I agree with the Supreme Court’s suggestion for a transparent process of selection made in the Namit Sharma case and hope that citizens would lend their voice for such a process. This would lead to a better environment for the RTI Act implementation.

 

The process I am suggesting is as follows:
 

A. The Information Commissions should set a target for disposals: I suggest 5000 per Commissioner per year. An attempt should be made to increase this target number (around 85% of the matters do not require any legal interpretations as per a study of four months of CIC decisions).
 

B. Every six months they should review their actual performance per Commissioner and forecast the expected receipts and disposals for the next two years, factoring the retirements. This information should be displayed on their websites. This forecast would show the requirements for new commissioners to be appointed by taking into account the expected retirements.   
 

C. The government should advertise its intention to appoint a certain number of Information Commissioners depending on the need, four months in advance. Eminent people could apply or be nominated by others.   
 

 D.  A search committee—perhaps—consisting of two members of Parliament, Chief Information Commissioner, one vice-chancellor, one Supreme Court judge and two RTI activists, could be formed to shortlist a panel which could be three times the number of Commissioners to be selected. These could be announced with the minutes of the meeting at which the shortlisting was done.       
                              

E.  An interview should be held by the search committee in public view to give citizens and media the opportunity to hear the views and commitment to work of the candidates. Citizens could give their feedback and views to the search committee. After this the search committee could give its recommendation for two times the number of Commissioners to be appointed. Based on these inputs, the final decision to select the Commissioners could be taken by the committee as per the Act consisting of PM, LOP and one minister. (A similar process could be adopted for State Commissions with MLAs instead of MPs and high court judge instead of Supreme Court judge).
 

Citizens will benefit if they could get the Commissions to publish data on the performance of each Commissioner monthly, and also build public opinion to lower the average age of the Commissioners. Atleast half the Information Commissioners should be less than sixty years. There are many RTI activists who have gained considerable understanding of the nuances of the law, and have a natural empathy for transparency. Some of these should be appointed as Information Commissioners. Another useful function which civil society groups could perform is to analyze all the decisions of each Information Commissioner each month continuously in a transparent manner. This would build pressure on those who may be giving errant decisions.

 

Presently, individual decisions are randomly criticized and this does not give a picture of the overall trend of a Commissioner’s decisions. If we can get a transparent process for selecting Commissioners and put continuous pressure on them for accountability, we will get much better results from our cherished Right to Information. If this works well, it could be used as a model for selecting commissioners for various commissions. The commissions are designed as our checks and balances of democracy. Presently, most of them are not delivering their expected functions effectively.

 

(Shailesh Gandhi is a former Central Information Commissioner,)

User

Motilal Oswal MOSt Focused 25 Fund: First actively-managed scheme from Motilal Oswal

The first actively managed scheme from Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund would look to select just 25 stocks. Though a focussed portfolio sounds good theoretically, it would be a tough job for the fund managers looking to beat the market

Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund plans to launch its first open-ended equity diversified scheme—Motilal Oswal MOSt Focused 25 Fund. Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund at present, in its product basket, has three exchange traded funds (ETFs) investing in equities. The new scheme would invest in a portfolio of just 25 stocks, similar to the Axis Focused 25 Fund and DSP BlackRock Focus 25 Fund. (Read: Will Axis Focused 25, a fund that will invest in just 25 stocks, deliver?) The scheme would invest 65%-100% in equities selected from the top 200 listed companies by size of market capitalization and up to 25% would be invested in equities falling out of the mentioned criterion, but with minimum market capitalization of Rs1,400 crore. Along with meeting the above criteria, the scheme would limit its exposure to just 25 companies. The remaining part of the portfolio, up to a maximum of 10%, would be invested in debt. A number of fund managers find it tough to beat the benchmark even when there is no limit on the number of stocks. Therefore, picking a winning portfolio of just 25 stocks would be a tough job for any fund manager.

 

This would be the first actively managed scheme from the fund house and it would not be an easy task for the fund manager to select just 25 stocks that are expected to beat the market. Fund managers have to tackle risk more proactively. They have less room for error. They emphasise in-depth stock research—digging into a company’s business and the quality of its finances and management, looking for the top prospects in myriad industries. And, as an extra cushion, managers have to buy shares at a discount to what they believe is the actual worth. Is this possible for all fund managers? It is tough. Axis’ Focused 25 Fund and DSP Blackrock’s Focus 25 Fund have a track record of less than three years hence we cannot adequately judge the performance.

 

It would be interesting to see how the fund management of Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund performs. Taher Badhsah is one of the two fund managers of this scheme and he would be handling the equity investments. He has over 18 years of experience in fund management and investment research. The other fund manager Abhiroop Mukherjee would be handling the debt portion. He has over four years of experience in the fixed income trading.

 

Other scheme details

NFO Period:  22 April 2013 to 6 May 2013

 

Expenses

Maximum total expense ratio (TER) permissible under Regulation 52(6)(c)(i) and (6)(a): Up to 2.50%

Additional expenses under regulation 52 (6A)(c): Up to 0.20%

Additional expenses for gross new inflows from specified cities: Up to 0.30%

 

Benchmark index:  CNX Nifty Index

Entry Load: Nil

Exit Load: Nil

 

Minimum Application Amount (During NFO):

Rs10,000 and in multiples of Re1 thereafter.

Additional Application Amount:

Rs1,000 and in multiples of Re1 thereafter.

 

Systematic Investment Plan (SIP):

Minimum instalment amount - Rs1,000 and Rs2,000, respectively, for monthly and quarterly frequency respectively and in multiples of Re1 thereafter.

 

Expenses

Maximum total expense ratio (TER) permissible under Regulation 52(6)(c)(i) and (6)(a): Up to 2.50%

Additional expenses under regulation 52(6A)(c): Up to 0.20%

Additional expenses for gross new inflows from specified cities: Up to 0.30%.

User

R*Shares Nifty ETF: Just another Nifty Index scheme

Will the new scheme be able to lure investors?

Reliance Mutual Fund plans to launch a new index exchange traded fund (ETF)—R*Shares Nifty ETF. The scheme would invest in stocks comprising the CNX Nifty Index in the same weightage as in the index and endeavour to track the benchmark index. Presently there seven ETFs that are based on the CNX Nifty Index. Five of these schemes have a corpus of under Rs10 crore. Goldman Sachs Nifty BeES has a corpus size of around Rs400 crore and Kotak Nifty ETF has a corpus around Rs45 crore. Seeing the poor response to the other ETFs, Reliance Mutual Fund has still decided to tread in this highly competitive space.
 

The fund house, at the moment, has two index ETFs in its basket— R*Shares Banking ETF and R*Shares CNX 100. Reliance has earlier filed offer documents to launch two ETFs— R*Shares Consumption Fund and R*Shares Dividend Opportunity Fund last year, as well. (Read: R*Shares ETFs: Should you invest in R*Shares Consumption Fund and R*Shares Dividend Opportunity Fund?) These schemes are yet to be launched. The two current ETFs—R*Shares Banking ETF and R*Shares CNX 100—have been able to generate a corpus of just Rs11 crore and Rs1 crore respectively.
 

One of the biggest negatives of investing in ETFs is the poor liquidity. These schemes are structured in such a way that you could end up buying at a premium and selling at a discount. Low trading volumes and settlement concerns are major factors that lead to low liquidity. It would be interesting to see if the fund house is able to generate a substantial corpus and generate trading volumes so as to attract investors.

 

Other details of the scheme
 

Minimum Application Amount DURING NFO
 

Rs5,000 & in multiples of Re1 thereafter
 

Expenses
 

Maximum total expense ratio (TER) permissible under Regulation 52(6)(c)(i) and (6)(a): Up to 1.50%
 

Additional expenses under regulation 52(6A)(c): Up to 0.20%
 

Additional expenses for gross new inflows from specified cities: Up to 0.30%.

User

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