Information Commissioners don’t want amendment to RTI Act

Two amendments out of seven proposed by DoPT receive an okay from Information Commissioners

Information commissioners (ICs) across the country have said that that no amendments were necessary to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

In a bid to strengthen the RTI Act, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had called a meeting for consultation with around 60 central and state ICs across the country on 14 October 2009. However, the ICs received the minutes of the meeting only after three months.

During the meeting, all ICs pointed out that the decision of what constitutes ‘vexatious’ or ‘frivolous’ would have to be left to the personal information officers (PIOs). This would result in large-scale rejections by PIOs and would go against the present principle that no purpose needs to be given by applicants.

The DoPT outlined seven amendments. The ICs almost unanimously pointed out that the first five points needed no amendments.

Here are the seven proposals, out of which five needed no amendments and two which would dilute the RTI Act and would need an amendment to the Act:

1) Constitution of benches: DoPT held that the present constitution of benches, where cases are heard by a single Information Commissioner is not legal. The Commissioners pointed out that this was not the correct position, and the Central Information Commission had already ruled on this matter. Even if the DoPT’s argument was accepted, only a change of rules would be required. DoPT was proposing that all benches should be two-member benches, which would increase the expenditure per case by nearly 100%, and most Commissions would be overwhelmed by the cases, since they would not be able to cope with the same.

2)  Removal of nine exempted public authorities from the list in Schedule (2): There is no need for an amendment, as a few public authorities have already been included and deleted through a notification as per Section 24(2) of the RTI Act.

3) Include Citizens Charter in Section 4 declarations of each public authority: Here again, there is no need to amend, as it can be included under Sec 4(1)(b)(xvii), which says, ‘Such other information as may be prescribed’.

4) Defining what is meant by ‘substantially financed’ under 2(h)(d)(ii): This is already being judicially defined by Information Commissioners.

5) Facilitate Indians abroad to use RTI Act through embassies: This can be done very easily by making appropriate rules.
The two proposals which needed an amendment to the Act proposed by DoPT are as under:

6) Adding ‘frivolous & vexatious requests’ to the list of Section 8 exemptions: Commissioners pointed out that the decision of what constitutes ‘vexatious’ or ‘frivolous’ would have to be left to the PIOs.

This would result in large-scale rejections by PIOs and would go against the present principle that no purpose needs to be given by applicants. Most Commissioners spoke against such an amendment, while two stated that it was necessary.

7) Excluding discussions/consultations that take place before arriving at governmental decisions; in other words, exclusion of file-notings, which would render the working of the government completely opaque to citizens. This would mean that citizens will know the reasons for taking decisions only after the decisions have been taken and never know why certain decisions in their benefit were not taken.

All the ICs gave their verdict that for the first five objectives there was no need to amend the RTI Act. On point (6) two Commissioners spoke in favour of amending the Act to prevent frivolous and vexatious RTI queries, whereas over half a dozen opposed these. On point (7) also the Commissioners expressed a clear view that no amendment was desirable. Some Commissioners pointed out that any change in the RTI Act would lead to unnecessary confusion in implementation and in the minds of citizens and PIOs.

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    Vijay Trimbak gokhale

    1 decade ago

    This is welcome, but ICs need to improve their own functioning in keeping with the letters and spirit of RTI Act to inspire confidence of the citizens

    Low-cost insurance products quietly replace equity mutual funds

    Less popular, low-cost insurance products are compensating the distributors’ fall in income from selling equity funds

    Low-cost life insurance products are making a comeback, occupying the space once reserved for equity mutual funds. With the sales of equity mutual funds almost grinding to a halt thanks to abolition of entry load from August 2009, low-cost life insurance products that look like equity mutual funds have got a new lease of life.

    “Life insurance companies always had products that were of lower cost. But distributors were not keen to sell them because they made much more money selling other insurance products. But with distributors now unwilling to sell equity mutual funds, insurance companies have sensed an opportunity to sell low-cost insurance products too,” says a chief executive officer (CEO) of an insurance company.

    Accordingly, these products are being dusted down and pushed into the market. Plans like HDFC’s pension plan which is a single premium plan, are making a comeback. Other products in this category are LIC’s Market Plus unit-linked single premium policy and ICICI Prudential’s Life Time Super Policy. For instance, LIC’s pension plan deducts 3% (Rs990) as allocation charges for a premium of Rs30,000 which comes with options of life cover, accident benefit and critical illness benefit.
    In fact, one of the largest and high-profile insurance companies is set to launch a product soon that will mean a commission of just 2% for its distributors.

    The mutual fund distributors are also put off by the cumbersome and frequent changes in regulations. They want to ditch mutual funds completely. Many of them wanted insurance companies to protect their revenues they used to derive from selling mutual funds. To fill this gap in income, insurance companies have decided to highlight the low-cost funds in their portfolio.

    Earlier, distributors were reluctant to sell these because they used to make much more money on selling regular insurance products. “If I have to sell an insurance product, I might as well sell one with the highest premium,” said a distributor.

    “Why would I sell a product that yielded such low commission?” he asked.

    Meanwhile, in the correction of the last two weeks, some money has come back into equity funds. “But this is not retail investors’ money. It is smart money that usually comes in when the market is down sharply. It also goes out quickly, once there is a rebound,” says a CEO of an asset management company.

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    1 decade ago

    If life insurance company sell mutual fund product then what is the justification of existence of MF industry. if their is no harm to deduct commision from investor's investment in life insurance product then why so hue and cry about entry load. Please dont confuse us and other.

    Srikanth Matrubai

    1 decade ago

    Do not categorise all IFAs as being after Commission only. There are genuine Advisors among them too.

    CBI arrests SEBI official for taking Rs25-lakh bribe

    CBI has arrested an official of SEBI on charges of demanding and accepting Rs25 lakh from a Kolkata-based businessman

    The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested an official of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) for demanding and taking a bribe of Rs25 lakh from a Kolkata-based businessman.

    SEBI's assistant general manager Rajesh Pratap Singh had asked Gautam Kundu, chairman, Rose Valley Group of Companies, to furnish some documents and other particulars of the business being transacted by one of its companies as a corporate agent of LIC and GIC. RP Singh also allegedly asked for a bribe of Rs25 lakh from Mr Kundu for not pursuing the matter.

    CBI's head for the anti-corruption unit Samir Ranjan Muzumdar led a team to make the arrest on Sunday evening at a restaurant in Alipore area of South Kolkata.

    According to media reports, cash worth Rs28 lakh and other documents showing huge investments in movable and immovable property were recovered from the residence of RP Singh.

    On Monday, Mr Singh was produced before the Special Judge at Alipore in Kolkata. He was remanded to judicial custody until 12th February.

    “The arrested official (RP Singh) has been put on suspension with immediate effect,” an official from SEBI said. According to our sources, SEBI chairman CB Bhave has sent out an email expressing concerns over the bribe-taking incident.

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    10 years ago

    Why CBI arrested Singh of SEBI?As per the functioning of SEBI I found the SEBI officials are exempted from CVC & CBI raid as because they are working for the interest of fraud companies,brokers and Depository Participant and Depository.Though SEBI Act was enacted in the parliament for the best interest of the General Investment Public but in reality they are safe guarding the interst of the fraud/Cheator companies,Brokers,Depository and DPs.Dr.Man Mohan Singh rightly told our Vigilance depts,CBI and CVC failed to catch Big Fish those officials taking bribe worth crores

    debashish mohanty

    1 decade ago

    Instead of regulating capital market and mutual fund C B Bhave should bring strict regulation in his office and investro should know what happened in the case of NSDL against him.

    Avinash Murkute

    1 decade ago

    It was heartening to read the news of arrest of SEBI AGM while accepting huge bribe of 25 Lakhs. This very episode exposed transparency claims of state and defaced the slogan of Zero Tolerance to Corruption.
    Public servants striving for such big amount of bribe is really shocking and this could be eye opener for many PSU CMD's too.

    CBI as well as complainant needs to be congratulated for delighting citizens of India for such wonderful news.
    The corrupt should understand that true citizen of India celebrate arrest each corrupt national.

    Time to brand corrupt nationals as terrorist. Thanks to Money Life for better coverage.

    Avinash Murkute

    rangan v

    1 decade ago

    this claerly shows that sebi which is formed for invetorsprotection actaully colluding with shadypromoters since sebiofficials can easily negotiate unlike the public .sebi is aden of corruption and no public can approach with ease and anypublic going to sebi are traeted shabbily as if they are demi is high time that sebi make all face value of shares to re 1 so that it can out to rest all cconfusion by investingpublic

    Vijay Trimbak Gokhale

    1 decade ago

    I bow my head down in utter shame. Pray god that there are not many skeletons waiting to tumble from the cupboard and this is not just a tip of the iceberg.

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