Notice on Petition Challenging RTI Amendment Act 2019 Issued by Kerala HC
The High Court of Kerala on Wednesday issued a notice to the Centre on the basis of a petition filed by RTI activist Advocate DB Binu. The petition challenges the powers of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2019 stating that the recent amendments violate Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. 
 
The amendments to the RTI Act basically, prescribe that the term, salaries, allowances and conditions of service of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commission (SIC) will now be determined by the Central government. Earlier, information commissioners had a fixed tenure of five years and their pay/allowances were on par with Election Commissioners. 
 
The petition argues that “the entire independence and autonomy of the CIC and SIC have been taken away in a most undemocratic manner and in violation of the Rule of Law rendering the amendment unconstitutional”. Adv Binu explains that the RTI act was brought into force “as part of the constitutional duty of the State to give effect to the fundamental right of the citizens to get information from public authorities in a transparent manner with due accountability.”
 
But since the amendments have practically taken away the independence and autonomy of the respective institutions, “the foundation stone on which the entire structure of the practical regime has been built up” will be affected, essentially rendering useless the Right to Information of citizens. The petition further argues that the amendments will also affect the efficiency of information commissioners who essentially promote transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities which also includes the government. 
 
“The Parliament has no power or authority to take away the independence and autonomy of the aforesaid institutions” and “if such unbridled power is granted to the (government) the aforesaid officers who are to independently control the two vital institutions under the Act will become subordinate officers of the (government)”, the petition further reads. 
 
The Amendment Bill states that the salaries and allowances of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner are equal to a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, as the Election Commission is a constitutional body. The amendments further say that CIC and SIC are, however, statutory bodies and the mandate of the Election Commission of India and CIC/SIC are different; therefore, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly. 
 
In the petition, however, advocate Binu argues that, “This observation is factually incorrect. Status of CIC and SIC vis-a-vis other authorities similar in rank and status of the Judge of Supreme Court of India has to be considered not from the point of view of their constitutional status but from the point of view of their status having regard to the knowledge, expertise, public recognition and their status in society.” He further argues that the National Human Rights Commission, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and similar Commissions like Lok Pal are headed by eminent persons in the rank of the Judge of Supreme Court; but none of these commissions is a constitutional body.

Prior to the amendments, CICs and SICs were appointed to their positions by governor of the state on the basis of a recommendation from a committee consisting of the chief minister, leader of opposition in the legislative assembly and a cabinet minister. This essentially means that CICs, SICs, and information commissioners are “envisaged as persons of high eminence in public life having expertise in their respective fields to be appointed by the highest constitutional authorities in India and on their recommendations to ensure that they are not appointed by the government at its whims and fancies.”
 
On these grounds, advocate Binu represented by advocate P Chandrasekhar has prayed that the Court declare the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 as unconstitutional ultra vires of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
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    Anand

    2 weeks ago

    Advocate Binu, salute to you..!!

    Mumbai police hits record high in traffic penalties, reveals RTI
    The Mumbai Traffic Police collected record fines totalling nearly Rs 139 crore in 2018 for violations of traffic rules, according to an RTI filing here on Tuesday.
     
    This figure is much higher compared to the Rs 8.6 crore collected in 2017, said RTI activist Jeetendra Ghadge, and the credit for this goes to the 'e-challan' system implemented by the Mumbai Traffic Police in a big way.
     
    "This technology - whereby an officer can simply issue an 'e-challan' from his mobile phone - has not only reduced corruption on the roads, but resulted in a massive collection of fines for the government coffers," Ghadge told IANS.
     
    Interestingly, the RTI also revealed that the number of drunk driving cases have considerably decreased since the past three years.
     
    While there were 20,768 such cases in 2016, it came down to 18,056 in 2017 and then 11,711 in 2018.
     
    Shockingly, in the same period, the number of teenagers caught in drunk driving cases was 1,854 while 367 women were nabbed for drunk driving.
     
    However, Ghadge said the Mumbai Traffic Police suspended licences in only 14 per cent of the total cases, and penalties have been collected from the remaining violators.
     
    Accordingly, from 2015 till July 2019, there were a total of 77,455 cases of drunk driving in Mumbai, but the licences of only 10,702 offenders have been suspended, as per the RTI figures.
     
    "The figures clearly reveal that Mumbaikars are quite an indisciplined lot while driving on roads and even hefty fines/penalties don't act as a deterrent. Since time is more valuable than money for Mumbaikars, brief periods of detention (jail) or community services, as prevalent in some advanced countries, could teach them a lesson," Ghadge said.
     
    Similarly, the problem of drunk driving must be dealt with more strictly rather than just collecting fines and letting off the offenders without punishment, he said.
     
    Ghadge says that the traffic police must consider suspension of driving licence in every drunk driving case, go after the offenders from bars and pubs when they start driving instead of relying on the usual roadblocks ('naka-bandi') to catch them.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Meenal Mamdani

    4 weeks ago

    I am very happy to read this.

    While I do not minimize the importance of curbing drunk driving through stiffer penalties, the majority of traffic violations I have witnessed are done in broad daylight, at traffic signals by impatient, irresponsible two-wheeler drivers.

    They do not obey lane markings, they climb on pavements to get ahead, they veer dangerously between cars, going the wrong way on a one way street, they jump the signals causing a lot of fear among people trying to cross during the green walk signals. Also majority do not wear helmets. The rider on the pillion never wears one even if the driver wears one; as if the life of the pillion rider is expendable.

    I think if police employ temporary traffic monitors for 3 months as a trial at as many traffic signals as possible, I bet the fines will not only cover the salaries of these wardens, the police department will make a handsome profit too.

    The instant e-challan will definitely make these reckless drivers change their ways quite swiftly.

    SC issues notice to Centre, states over online RTI portal
    The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and state governments on a petition seeking to establish a Right to Information (RTI) portal to enable people to file online applications for information from any department.
     
    A bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana issued the order while hearing the plea filed by NGO Pravasi Legal Cell through lawyer Jose Abraham.
     
    The NGO, which seeks to empower migrant people including Non Resident Indians (NRIs) on the legal front, sought a direction to all state governments to provide the online RTI portal facility to obtain information through the electronic mode.
     
    Describing the RTI Act as a powerful tool, advocate Abraham said the true objective of the legislation can be achieved only by timely response to citizens' request for government information when the process was made online.
     
    "One of the most effective provision in the RTI Act is section 7(1) which states that 'information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the request' is not effective under the existing system and it severely affects the life and liberty of citizens," the petition said.
     
    The petitioner told the court that the Central government established an online RTI portal for any Indian citizen including NRIs to seek information under the RTI Act with the desired ministry or department.
     
    The applicant can also pay the fee online and submit the RTI application.
     
    The Central government then directed the state governments in December 2013 to explore the feasibility of implementing online RTIs in their respective states.
     
    The Centre told the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to provide technical support such as software and source code to the state governments which desire to replicate the web portal for online filing of RTI applications.
     
    The petitioner said that only Maharashtra and Delhi had set up online portals.
     
    The lawyer said that a person seeking information now has to make a physical application.
     
    Also, the applicant will have to obtain a postal order by visiting the post office and paying the fee for such an application.
     
    Then the application is sent to the concerned department.
     
    "It is also difficult for Non-Resident Indians (NRI) desirous of obtaining information from any department of the state governments at present since they have to undergo physical application process," the petitioner said.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    Rakesh Modi

    4 weeks ago

    Even the Maharashtra government has made a mocker of RTI. As after not getting any replies for my complaints I had to apply RTI to various Government departments such as MahaRERA, BMC, SRA & now even CMO, the highest office of Maharashtra, but even in that reply they pass on the buck to someone else by giving a reply as "Your complaint as has been forwarded to ..so & so dept., you will have to followup there" & even after applying 1st Appeal .., same reply in the hearing..., When other depts., says like that, we approach CMO office but if Chief minister office also says same thing, where we should go - is it then PM? Had approached PMO also but from there also the reply came as "its a State govt affair, please approach State Government". Maybe I m not offering them anything, that's why they are makig me going round & round since 4 years...
    Pathetic & Corrupt Maharashtra government & BMC!!! ---Rakesh Modi-9819993972

    Meenal Mamdani

    4 weeks ago

    An excellent idea.
    Many of us though living abroad are deeply concerned about India. When we notice irregularities that are uncovered by investigative journalists, we have no way to follow it up as we cannot physically go to the post office.
    I think that this requirement has been deliberately inserted by the babus to discourage individuals from filing RTI requests.
    US gov has a website that allows any one to file a request electronically and receive a reply electronically or by mail.

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