Moneylife Impact: NRIs Eligible To File RTI Shows Corrected Reply from Lok Sabha
Non-resident Indians (NRIs) also have a right to seek information under the provision of Right to Information (RTI) Act, says a reply corrected by the Lok Sabha. Delhi-based RTI activist, commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd) had received a reply that NRIs were not eligible to file an RTI application. Cmde Batra took up the issue with all authorities about ineligibility of NRIs to file RTI. 
 
The rectified response to an unstarred question by Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister's office (PMO), now states, "All citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005. Non-resident Indian citizens are eligible to file RTI applications."
 
Cmde Batra says, "It is not every day the government accepts mistake of this kind leading to correction of response given by a minister of state that too under the PMO. I had shared the Moneylife story to all concerned at highest level to make necessary rectification." (Read: RTI Reveals Government Doesn’t Know Who Is an NRI)
 
Varsha Sinha, director in the US-RTI division in the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) told Cmde Batra that "The corrected reply to the Lok Sabha Question No.3535 has been uploaded on the official site of the Lok Sabha on 26 October 2018."
 
Here is the rectified reply as provided by Ms Sinha...
 
 
After the faulty reply from the minister in the Lok Sabha, Cmde Batra (retd) had filed an RTI application with the DoPT to get some clarity on the definition of an NRI. "As I understand it, NRIs are very much citizens of India, holding an Indian passport, but whose stay abroad exceeds 182 days in any financial year. Thus, NRIs also have the right to seek information under the provision of the RTI Act, 2005," he had said.
 
In fact, the government, in its circular in 2013 had stated under 'Right of NRIs' that "…under the current provisions of the RTI Act, NRIs can file RTI applications seeking information either from a particular Mission or Post abroad or from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) itself. Accordingly, a fee of Rs10 per application, equivalent in local currency is accepted by Missions and Posts abroad." 
 
Despite this, the minister made a statement, in August 2018, that NRIs cannot file an RTI application, although they have been given the facility in over 176 countries through missions and posts.
 
With the rectification from the Lok Sabha, the route for NRIs to file RTI application for seeking information from Indian public authorities is now clear.
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    Assaults and Killings of RTI Users Continue; 17 Recorded So Far in 2018
    While the government is going ahead with amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act aimed at seriously and adversely affecting the power and dignity of information commissions, which will effectively kill the Act, no less serious is the government’s lack of will to prosecute alleged killers and assaulters on RTI users, thereby emboldening nefarious elements to threaten and kill whistleblowers. Nine murders and eight assaults on RTI activists have been reported so far from all over the country in 2018 alone!
     
    Satish Shetty was the first ever RTI activist to be killed in 2009.  The now tainted Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had carried out thorough investigations and had named 13 accused that include a well-known businessman close to senior political leaders. Ironically, the CBI now wants a closure of the case which is dragging on.
     
    While Sandeep, brother of the late Satish, continues to fight tirelessly, he rues that his brother’s life has gone in vain, fighting against corruption, as his murder investigation has turned into a bonanza for the corrupt. “When an agency like the CBI relentlessly lies in a court of law, it is very obvious that an invisible hand is forcing it to act in this manner.”
     
    On 7 September 2018, Kedar Singh Jindan, a Himachal Pradesh activist was ruthlessly killed.  As per the press release issued by the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) (which has appealed to the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh for a thorough investigation),  he was first brutally assaulted and then crushed under an SUV in broad daylight near his house in Shillai, Sirmaur district. 
     
    “He had filed numerous applications under the RTI Act to expose fraud and irregularities in the identification of families living below the poverty line (BPL). He had presented these findings at a conference in Shimla on 29 June 2018. He had also put forth proof that he had obtained from six families relating to members of the panchayat that had used fake BPL certificates to secure government jobs. As per media reports, he had also registered a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau. According to information available in the public domain, Jindan had previously been attacked multiple times and had sought police protection, which was denied.’’
     
    Last week, a citizens’ committee, which investigated into the Jindan murder matter, published a 13-page report which provided an insight into the brutality, modus operandi and motive of the murder. His family has appealed for a CBI inquiry.
     
    Should the issues raised and information sought by slain RTI activists get buried after they have passed away? No, says a central information commission (CIC) order. Once again, in June this year, the CIC issued an order that late activists’ appeals/complaints be pursued posthumously. The CIC order states: “Section 24 of the central information commission (management) Regulations, 2007, states that  the matter was discussed at the Commission’s meeting held on 13 September 2011 and Commission made the following declaration: 
     
    "The Commission, therefore resolves that if it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of the information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provision of the law.
     
    "The matter was discussed in the Commission’s meeting held on 5 June 2018. The Commission has decided that in case of death of the appellant/complainant the case would be heard as usual as a second appeal/complaint and the decision would be put up on the website."
     
    Sadly, the order has remained on paper. The culprits are growing  more and more brazen in silencing whistleblowers of RTI, which reflects the failure of the public authorities and the CICs to ensure that the former adhere to the suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act.
     
    And therein lies the most serious complacency!
     
     
    Killings and Assaults on RTI activists in 2018
     
    (Source: Commonwealth Human Rights CHRI Initiative (CHRI)’s compilation of reports of attacks and killings of RTI activists, in the Hall of Shame map on the CHRI website here:  http://attacksonrtiusers.org/)
     
      
      
      
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    COMMENTS

    Harish

    2 years ago

    Sad to learn about the travails of these brave people.

    RTI Reveals Government Doesn’t Know Who Is an NRI
    Not too long ago, that is, on 8 August 2018, in response to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on the subject of ‘Online RTI Applications,’ Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister’s office (PMO), had  stated that only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of the Rght to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. “Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) are not eligible to file an RTI application,” he is reported to have stated. Would that mean the NRIs are not citizens of India? In that case, what is the government’s definition of an NRI?
     
    Delhi-based RTI activist, commodore (Cmde) Lokesh Batra (retd) filed an RTI application with the department of personnel and training (DoPT) after the minister’s statement to get some clarity on the definition of an NRI. He states, “As I understand it, NRIs are very much citizens of India, holding an Indian passport, but whose stay abroad exceeds 182 days in any financial year. Thus, NRIs also have the right to seek information under the provision of the RTI Act, 2005.”
     
    In fact, the government, in its circular in 2013 had stated under ‘Right of NRIs’ that “…under the current provisions of the RTI Act, NRIs can file RTI applications seeking information either from a particular Mission or Post abroad or from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) itself. Accordingly, a fee of Rs10 per application, equivalent in local currency is accepted by Missions and Posts abroad.” Despite this, the minister made a statement, in August 2018, that NRIs cannot file an RTI application, although they have been given the facility in over 176 countries through missions and posts.
      
    In the RTI requisition to the DoPT, the information that Cmde Batra sought through email, soon after the minister’s statement, was:
     
    • Definition of an NRI;
    • Certified scanned copies of a complete set of documents and notings relevant to Lok Sabha unstarred question No. 3535, starting from the time the question was first received in DoPT up to the time a response was finalised and forwarded to the Parliament (Lok Sabha). 
     
    As DoPT failed to provide the information, Cmde Batra filed a complaint to the chief information commissioner (CIC) saying that, since the DoPT did not respond to his RTI application, it should be treated as deemed refusal to provide information as per Section 7(2) of the RTI Act. Hence, he appealed to the CIC to inquire into the matter and take appropriate action and also impose penalties under Section 20(1) & 20(2) of the RTI Act.
     
    Cmde Batra also filed a complaint with Deepa Jain, under secretary, MEA protesting against the non-reply to his RTI requisition. She replied to Cmde Batra thus: “Reference your trailing mail dated 25 September 2018 in the matter of your RTI application. It may be noted that your application was received in this ministry for point (a) i.e. "Definition of an NRI" through DoP&T which was initially transferred to Under Secretary (US) (Coordination) in MEA and now has been forwarded to the concerned CPIO, i.e., Lakshmikant Kumbhar, US (OIA-II), Room No. 1023, Akbar Bhawan, New Delhi, Tel: 24197930, Email: [email protected] Reply would be sent by the above-mentioned CPIO to you directly. Deposition of additional fee (if required) would also be intimated to you by them.”
     
    To that, Mr Kumbhar wrote back to Ms Jain stating, “Information requested by Commodore Lokesh Batra about the definition of NRI does not pertain to OIA-II Division. This division deals with the welfare of NRIs. Hence, I have transferred (online) the RTI request to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which deals with the citizenship issue. You may advise the DoPT accordingly.”
     
    Cmde Batra pointed out to Ms Jain:  “With reference to your trailing post, the division that deals with the welfare of NRIs, ought to know, if their target persons (availing welfare measures) are Indian citizens, holding Indian passports OR are they persons of Indian origin but have changed the citizenship and are holding foreign passports (after surrendering their Indian passports)? The entire issue is related to the eligibility of NRIs for filing RTI applications under the RTI Act.”
     
    Cmde Batra also pointed out that, in 2013, when eIPO facilities for filing RTI in most Indian missions abroad were made available for Indians residing abroad, the term NRIs was used by the MEA. To prove his point, he provided a 23-page document which the MEA and the PMO had sent him, when he had earlier asked for these documents in 2013. He pointed out that the deliberations with MHA concluded that NRIs are Indian citizens. 
     
    Says an exasperated Cmde Batra, “On the 39th day of my RTI application dated 27 August 2018, the MEA again forwarded my application to Lakshmikant Kumbhar, US(OIA-II) & CPIO, MEA and to Pramod Kumar, Director (Foreigners) & CPIO, MHA. I need this information as, despite the record in 2013 wherein NRIs have been given the right to file RTI applications in Indian missions abroad, why is the minister contradicting it in the Lok Sabha?” 
     
    Commodore Batra is patiently waiting for the CIC hearing.
     
     
    (Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte with Vinita Kamte and is the author of The Mighty Fall.)
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    COMMENTS

    Dipakkumar J Shah

    2 years ago

    When we talked about this for Law, even Registrar of Companies Gujarat , Ministry of Corporate Affairs and all offices can not understand what is Fraud? Mere Book entry of Profit and much more frauds? See Gujarat High Court case Company Petition No 17/1996 Merger case Judgment of Ratnamani Engineering Limited where full fraud proved on records by documents and done a way with disposed off. Registrar of Companies Gave consent to Fraud? Advocates like Chartered Accountant Converted As Advocate Mr Saurabh N Soparkar , Mrs Soparkar, Mr Jayant N Patel Central Government Counsel ( then Turned to Justice in Gujarat High Court all joined hands with Justice Mr Mohit Shah order worth noting How cases are handled by Hon. Justices in Court . Very open fact. I was also one of the objector on record, no notice was given to me? Also moreover in Judgment written that 4 objectors had filed Pursis of withdrawal of their objection? Pusis are not on record on file. Many material documents are not in file .Just like pigeons feathers are there.?!!

    Ashok ashok

    2 years ago

    People are losing faith in all govt schemes since nothing is reaching the needy and actually the way govt is functioning looks like it will be hard to repeat .Very sad to say that Modi should have taken more interest in giving a more transparent govt and not a similar one

    Satish Mathew

    2 years ago

    Very sad reading this news
    Losing faith in police and judiciary.

    Hemant Chitale

    2 years ago

    RBI has one definition under the FEMA.
    The Income Tax Dept has one definition under the Income Tax Act.
    The Aadhar Act has a definition of "Resident" (but not of "Non Resident").

    bharati

    2 years ago

    Also suggest ALL govt employees learn to write as simply as possible. Deepa Jain's reply shows this necessity. All writing should be clear and edited to remove ALL unnecessary words.

    bharati

    2 years ago

    Only Indians citizens can be NRIs when they stay abroad for so many days.

    How can foreign citizens of whatever origin be NRIs?
    OCI is a life long visa to India forIndian origin people, with the same rights and duties like Indian nationals who are residents. Only they cannot join the forces ro stand for elections.

    V Ramesh

    2 years ago

    The definition of an NRI has been very elusive. I can think of three categories of NRIs.
    1) People holding Indian passports, but living abroad.
    2) People of Indian origin, with foreign passports, living abroad. Some of these people may have OCI cards.
    3) People of Indian origin, with foreign passports, living in India. These people may or may not have OCI cards.
    Government of India, and the RBI, never had a unified definition of an NRI.

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