Right to Information
Nodal agency for RTI refuses information on selection of information commissioners
The Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the nodal agency for implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has chosen to be secretive regarding information on the selection process of information commissioners (IC), even though activists had successfully fought to make the selection process of chief information commissioners and information commissioners transparent. In fact, DoPT itself had earlier given information under RTI, regarding the number and names of applicants for these crucial posts, and any other information pertaining to this issue. Also, an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC) of 2012 supports transparency in this regard.
 
The trigger for denying information pertained to appointments for two information commissioners, posts which were advertised in September 2016 but to date no appointments have been made, despite the fact that Information commissioners MA Khan Yusfi and Basant Seth have completed their tenures in December 2016 and March 2017, respectively. Considering that these two vacancies have added to second appeal pendency, which numbers 30,000 now, activist Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra filed an RTI application in January 2017, and subsequently a first appeal in March 2017. But these were stonewalled. 
 
Last week, the DoPT has denied information on Batra’s RTI query on the list, with names of applicants who have applied for ICs posts, names of Screening Committee members and inspection of files of the same. It has only replied to his query on the total number of applications received in DoPT for ICs posts in CIC. It stated that 225 applications were received by the DoPT for the post of the two information commissioners.
 
Both the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and the First Appellate Authority (FAA) of the DoPT have irrelevantly clung to two sub-sections of Section 8 of the RTI Act, to deny information. The exemptions are:
 
Section 8(1) (i): “Cabinet papers, including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed” and
 
Section 8 (1) (j): “Information which relates to personal information, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information, which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”
 
Interestingly, a CIC decision on 21 December 2012 has ordered that since files relating to appointment of information commissioners “are most demanded by citizens, the department can decide to upload all files in their website since, in our opinion, there could be very little in these files which could come under any of the exemption provisions.” 
 
It further stated “We direct the CPIO to obtain the orders of the competent authority within the department and carry out the uploading within a month of receiving this order. This option would be far more economical than employing larger number of personnel to assist the CPIO”.
 
In fact, the Delhi High Court, in its order of 9 April 2015, has also reprimanded the delay in the appointment of information commissioners. The HC stated, “…having regard to the undisputed fact that the non-appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner has virtually frustrated the very purpose of the Right to Information Act, 2005, we are of the view that it is necessary for this court to monitor the steps that are being taken for filling up the vacancies in question so as to ensure that all the vacancies are filled up within a timeframe.”
 
Regarding DoPT somersaulting on the CIC decision and its own record of showing transparency in this issue, Commodore (retd) Batra rues, “…none of the information requested falls in the exemption clauses, which was accepted by previous FAA and also CIC order of 21 December 2012. The DoPT is now making a mockery of the transparency law. Are authorities responsible for implementing transparency regime moving in reverse gear?”
 
Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, says, “This is a very unfortunate development, which suggests that there is a regression in the approach to RTI. We will all need to find a way to stop this.”
 
Here is the order passed by FAA of DoPT…
 
 
Here is the order passed by CIC in 2012…
 
 
(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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Kaushal Bag, the young techie from Nashik, commits suicide
Mobile app developer and technology expert from Nashik, Kaushal Bag has committed suicide on Wednesday. Kaushal, more famous for developing several apps to help people during the Kumbh Mela, Chennai floods and on women safety, was second year student of Computer Science at KK Wagh Arts, Commerce, Science & Computer Science College. 
 
Kaushal had developed 'Helping Hand', a mobile app that had a facility to place an emergency call even when there was not network connectivity or internet connection available. During the Nashik Kumbh Mela, this app was in its initial stage and used as an automated SMS application. In emergency, the user could sent automated SMS to pre-fed emergency numbers. 
 
However, his app OCS proved helpful for over 18,800 people who were stranded in Chennai floods. Speaking with DNA, Kaushal had said, "We realised that our free link was downloaded by two crore people all over by December. During the floods, too many SMSes were sent and we had to route them to our server. We got to know the location of the stranded people and informed the NGOs working on ground. In this way, we helped rescue nearly 19,000 people. This was a great and satisfying achievement".
 
The app was also used during the Ujjain Kumbh Mela in 2016. 
 
Kaushal's efforts were even appreciated by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Last month, Kaushal did a live telecast on Facebook of a half marathon organised by Nashik Police. He was felicitated by Dr Ravindra Singhal, the Police Commissioner of Nashik for this effort.
 
Kaushal, in a tweet to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had expressed his desire to donate his app to all sectors across India.
 

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COMMENTS

Leon Fernandes

1 week ago

Why did he commit suicide?

Sivakumar Subbiah

1 week ago

Rest in Peace...We do not want such bright young people to commit suicide...He could have served society more...What drive him to suicide?

Milind Nadkarni

1 week ago

Sad to see a talented and young life lost so early in its journey. Wonder what could the reasons for this sad event, We may not ever know...... May his soul rests in peace.

Roy Aranha

1 week ago

good days new govt make in india no action , ruin has begun sad and tragic

sunil

1 week ago

The reason for tragic suicide should be proved to guide others

Dharmesh Bhuta

1 week ago

This is so Shocking and tragic.

WhatsApp brings back text 'Status' feature
Soon after attracting backlash over its Snapchat-like 'Stories' feature, WhatsApp has revived its text 'Status' option while keeping its image-based replacement, a media report said.
 
In mid-February, WhatsApp removed the feature that let users set a message and then gave the 'Status' name to a Snapchat 'Stories' clone. But last week, text Statuses reappeared in the Android Beta version of WhatsApp in the 'About' section of the profiles, Tech Crunch reported on Wednesday.
 
"We heard from our users that people missed the ability to set a persistent text-only update in their profile, so we have integrated this feature into the 'About' section in profile settings," WhatsApp was quoted as saying.
 
"Now, the update will appear next to profile names anytime you view contacts, such as when creating a new chat or looking at Group info. At the same time, we are continuing to build on the new Status feature that gives people fun and engaging ways to share photos, videos and GIFs with their friends and family throughout their day," the company added.
 
The 'About' status will roll out to all Android users over the next week and is coming soon to iPhone.
 
Users can open the 'About' section of their profile to set a text 'Status' and view other people's updates by opening their contact.
 
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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