#India- Political Parties afraid of #RTI


 

Let’s ask the political parties what makes them fear public scrutiny
Shailesh Gandhi

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

Illustration: Vikram NongmaithemIllustration: Vikram Nongmaithem

The recent decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring political parties within the ambit of the Right to Information () Act is a welcome step. And there’s nothing surprising in the way the political parties have reacted to it. After all, no one in a position of power wants to be transparent. It’s almost a human tendency. In this case, the political class clearly does not know what the  is. In fact, a common user of the knows it better than them. The negative reactions of the political class stem from the typical mindset of “why should I?”

Three key questions must in turn be asked of the political parties. Firstly, are they not financed by government funds? If they are not, the CIC’s judgment is flawed. But if they are, then they must come under the RTI. The RTI Act clearly says any non-government organisation that is substantially financed by government funds is a public authority — and that includes political parties. In this judgment, the bench has clearly cited instances of the massive tax exemptions they get, the huge subsidies on the government land allotted to them and so on.

Secondly, are they are not receiving funds in crores? Isn’t that substantial? They cannot refute that it is and so they are public authorities as defined by law. If they still object, they must explain why they should not be subject to RTI.

Thirdly, do the political parties believe transparency will do them good? If they don’t, then we must ask them what harm it would do.

If you are a public authority, you come under the RTI. but the Act also provides exemptions to protect you from disclosure of certain types of information. based on these exemptions, various public authorities have now functioned for over seven years without any major damage to the institutions.

The parties ask, how can people dictate how they choose candidates. The answer is, they cannot. The information that parties do not have on record, is not information and hence does not have to be provided. but citizens have the right to ask if there is a process and what are the criteria laid down. beyond that, this law doesn’t in any way allow the citizen to “dictate” any terms. besides, the humble Indian citizen cannot dictate to the powerful, but can hope to speak the truth to power, and make them truthful.

Parties also argue that they are already monitored by the Election commission. come election time, they go and beg for votes. Are they saying they don’t want ordinary citizens to monitor them? That they are not answerable to individual citizens, and find the idea abhorrent? Let them answer that and we will know where we stand. Some political parties even declared themselves as private organisations. Do they really think they are businesses?

I think the political parties don’t really know where they might get hit. The  scam got exposed because of RTI. It’s an unknown animal, and so political parties believe it’s best to avoid it. Some of their illegal acts, their arbitrariness, may come out, hence the fear.

If you become transparent, you become better. Transparency is a tool for self-improvement and in the long-term interest of the political parties. Today, we have a trust deficit that may lessen if they become transparent. Tomorrow, if the  says they will do it, the congress will also fall in line, provided there is a national clamour.

If they choose to take the CIC order to court, it will be unfortunate and cause an indefinite delay, in case the court stays the order. One of the respondents, the Association for Democratic reforms, a civil society group, has already filed a caveat in the Delhi High Court, asking to be heard before any political party gets a stay against the CIC order.

The rhetoric on news channels has been mostly along the lines of “shouldn’t the citizens know?” That’s a side comment, but not a valid legal argument. An organisation doesn’t become a public authority on the grounds that “a citizen must know”. we have a strong case as the parties are substantially funded by the government, and are therefore public authorities as defined in the RTI Act.

As a believer in transparency, I think a ‘No RTI, No Vote’ campaign is a great idea. If we can build up a nationwide clamour for it, there is some hope that this order will be effectively implemented. That will be an extremely important step for democracy.

(As told to )

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magaz

 

Why I-T returns of Pawar, Jindal and Gandhi are exempted from #RT ?


Sharad Pawar speaks at BISA launch

 

 

 

VINITA DESHMUKH , Moneylife.com| 24/04/2013 

 

Income Tax authorities have denied information about I-T returns of 22 MPs, including Sharad Pawar, Naveen JindalManeka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav and 20 MLAs. After suspending the hearing 27 times for over three years, the CIC has given the MPs and MLAs three weeks to file their replies
It often takes just one election victory of five years—for Members of the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to get stinking rich, what with their wealth increasing a 1,000 times, in some cases.
According to a research carried out by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), the Lok Sabha MPs (2004-2009) have had an average increase in assets to the tune of 289% or Rs2.9 crore per MP within five years.
As for the MPs from the Rajya Sabha, BJP has 14 out of 16 candidates who are crorepatis, followed by Congress with 12 crorepati candidates out of 15 candidates. “There is also the issue of conflict of interest,” says Anil Bairwal of ADR. “58% of the Rajya Sabha members are ‘crorepatis’ with flourishing professional practices, shareholding in media, infrastructure, hospitality besides paid consultancy and other engagements,” he adds.
Thus, Bairwal says, “Going by the swelling in the pouches of our MPs and MLAs in the 2009 elections, it is extremely desirable that their I-T returns are made public. The recent increase in the assets of Members of Parliament (MPs) portrays some figures which appear lopsided and doubtful. There are parliamentarians who have increased their assets more than one thousand times over while in Parliament. Furthermore, what is the foundation of this breeding money among the political parties, nobody knows.”
Bairwal has filled innumerable RTI applications in the relevant Income Tax offices of the 22 MPs and 20 MLAs, which he zeroed on, considering the increase in their assets between 2004 and 2009.  His RTIs, which were filed in 2010 were stonewalled by all the respective Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities. In fact, his second appeal with the Central Information Commission (CIC) was suspended 27 times until it was finally heard on 16 April 2013, a good three years later. Once again, three more weeks have been given to reply.
The prominent names in the list of 22 MPs and 20 MLAs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI are Sharad Pawar, Naveen Jindal, Maneka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Bairwal has asked for the following information in his RTI application:
1. Whether the MPs/MLAs who fall in your jurisdiction have filed their I-T returns for all the five years (2004-2009)
2. Please provide the years for which these MPs have not filed their returns
3. Please provide details of the -IT return & assessment orders for all the years for which they have filed.
Apart from the RTI application, Bairwal also separately requested all Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs to disclose their I-T returns in larger public interest. Says Bairwal, “Some of these MPs sent us their I-T Returns and insisted that we make them public on our website whereas others uploaded them on their own website. We also came across some MPs and MLAs who have already submitted their I-T returns along with the respective chief minister’s office and the prime minister’s office.’’ In all, 28 of them including Anu Aga and Ambika Soni have revealed their I-T returns – (see box below).
As per the press release issued by ADR on 16 April 2013 “Of the 20 MPs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI, the details of only three MPs—Mr Baju Ban Ryan MP from Tripura East constituency), Mr Shafiqur Rahman Barq (MP from Sambhal constituency of Uttar Pradesh) and Ms Usha Verma (MP from Hardoi constituency of Uttar Pradesh) were made available by the Public Information Officers (PIO). The I-T returns of others MPs were denied under various sections, like 8(1)(j), 8(1)(d), 11(1) and 11(3) of the RTI Act. TheRTIs of seven MPs were transferred but lost in transit hence no information was available.”
At the CIC hearing, representatives of 10 out of 20 MPs were present. The public information officers who denied the information stating lack of larger public interest and the representatives of MPs/ MLAs were invited for the hearing. The bench comprised Information Commissoners (IC) Mr ML Sharma, Ms Annapurna Dixit and Mr Rajiv Mathur.
The three CICs repeatedly questioned the representatives of the MPs as to how disclosing of their I-T returns was not in larger public interest. They repeatedly referred to the Supreme Court judgment which made declarations of assets and other details mandatory at thetime of contesting elections.. However, no arguments were put forth by the Public information Officers of the I-T department who had initially denied providing the information stating lack of public interest, states the press statement of ADR.
Mr Bairwal argued that there is overriding public interest in I-T returns of the MPs and that most of the requested information was already in public domain as the total income filed in the latest I-T returns of all candidates have to be provided in their affidavits along with their nomination papers to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Mr Bairwal stated during the argument at the CIC that, “the Supreme Court has deliberated in detail on this issue while directing the ECI to collect and make public the information on assets of the contesting candidates at the time of elections through affidavits. The Supreme Court of India had specifically noted through its decision on 13 March 2003 (Writ Petition No. 490/509/515 of 2002) that asking for asset details of the parliamentarians/legislatures does not invade the privacy of the individual.”
Amongst the arguments put forth by representatives of MPs, Mr Ajith Singh’s senior advocate argued “that if the MPs are considered public servants, the I-T returns of every public servant should be requested for; lawyers of Mr Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia argued that any tax payer serves larger public interest by paying tax hence their personal information cannot be made available in the public domain; the representative of Kumari Selja when asked if he would be willing to declare his/his client’s I-T returns, stated that “rule of privacy will prevail” and “I am not obliged under law to declare my I-T returns in the public domain”.
The attendees included lawyers, chartered accountants and representatives of Mr Uday Singh, Ms Maneka Gandhi, Mr Sachin Pilot, Mr Dushyant Singh, Kumari Selja, Mr Beni Prasad Verma, Mr Ajith Singh, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr T R Baalu.
The CIC has given three weeks’ time for the representatives of the MPs to provide a copy of their written submissions after which it will give its decision.
Says Mr Bairwal, “Tax returns of Parliamentarians are voluntarily being disclosed in countries like the US and UK. Presidential tax returns in the United States are available online. Like all other citizens, US presidents also enjoy the protection of their privacy, but they chose to release their tax returns publicly. Tax returns of Barack Obama, George W Bush and others are available online. (www.Presidentsusa.net). Their tax returns are open for public scrutiny and such sort of a transparency is truly commendable. Our parliamentarians should also do likewise as this will underline the faith of the citizens in the representatives chosen by them…”

State Average asset in 2007(Rs) Average asset in 2012(Rs) Percentage
Goa 2.91 crore 7.65 crore 163%
Punjab 5.73 crore 9.17 crore 60%
Uttar Pradesh 98.05 lakh 3.10 crore 217%
Uttaranchal 83 lakh 2 crore 177%
Manipur 20 lakh 1 crore 492%
The timeline of events for MP I-T returns case
1. 22 February 2010: An RTI was filed with the respective I-T departments to retrieve I-T Returns of 20 MPs with exponential growth in assets between two elections.
2. 6 May 2010: First Appeal with I-T department for follow up on information denied under Sections 8(1)(j), 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act
3. 20 August 2010: Second Appeal with Central Information Commission.
4. 20 April 2012: Notice for the first hearing at CIC sent to concerned parties.
5. 3 May 2012: First hearing with the CIC takes place for MP Uday Singh and MP Dushyant Singh
6. 8 November 2012: Notice for second hearing of CIC was sent to concerned parties in the case.
7. 22 November 2012: Second hearing at CIC takes place. Press Release for this CIC hearing to make MP I-T Returns public.
8. 22 November 2013: Submission No. I filed with the CIC on the day of this hearing.
9. 7 March 2013: Notice for the hearing of the full bench of CIC sent to concerned parties.
10. 4 April 2013: Submission No. II filed with the CIC based on voluntary disclosure by MPs prior to the full bench hearing.
11. 12 April 2013: Larger Bench of CIC to hear the case on making income tax returns of MPs public.
12. 16 April 2013: Hearing with the larger bench at CIC takes place.

 

Those who voluntarily put their Income Tax returns in the public domain
S No Name State Constituency Party MP/MLA ITR
1 Neeraj Shekhar UP Ballia SP MP LS ITR
2 Sadashiv Dadoba Mandlik Maharashtra Kolhapur IND MP LS ITR
3 Abhijit Mukherjee West Bengal Jangipur INC MP LS ITR
4 Mirza Mehboob Beg J&K Anantnag J&K National Conference MP LS ITR
5 Bijoy Krishna Handique Assam Jorhat INC MP LS ITR
6 Arnavaz Rohinton Aga Maharashtra NIL Nominated MP RS ITR
7 Raju Anna Shetty Maharashtra Hatkanangle Swabhimani Paksha MP LS ITR
8 Dr Ajoy Kumar Jharkhand Jamshedpur JVM MP LS ITR
9 Mandagadde Rama Jois Karnataka Karnataka BJP MP RS ITR
10 Dinesh Trivedi West Bengal Barrackpur AITC MP LS ITR
11 Vilas Baburao Muttemwar Maharashtra Nagpur INC MP LS ITR
12 Baishnab Charan Parida Orissa Orissa BJD MP RS ITR
13 Tathagata Satpathy Orissa Dhenkanal BJD MP LS ITR
14 Baju Ban Riyan Tripura Tripura East CPI(M) MP LS ITR
15 Sudip Bandyopadhyay West Bengal Kolkata Utter AITC MP LS ITR
16 Subodh Kant Sahay Jharkhand Ranchi INC MP LS ITR
17 Pratik Prakashbapu Patil Maharashtra Sangli INC MP LS ITR
18 Mahadeo Singh Khandela Rajasthan Sikar INC MP LS ITR
19 Ajay Maken Delhi New Delhi INC MP LS ITR
20 AmbikaSoni Punjab Punjab INC MP RS ITR
21 Sadanand Singh Bihar Kahalgaon INC MLA ITR
22 Pramod Kumar Bihar Motihari BJP MLA ITR
23 Subodh Roy Bihar Sultanganj JDU MLA ITR
24 Virendra Beniwal Rajasthan Lunkaransar INC MLA ITR
25 Rajkumar Sharma Rajasthan Nawalgarh INC (contested on BSP ticket) MLA ITR
26 Rajendra Pareek Rajasthan Sikar INC MLA ITR
27 Murari Lal Meena Rajasthan Dasua INC (contested on BSP ticket) MLA ITR
28 Hema Ram Choudhry Rajasthan Gudamalani INC MLA ITR

(Vinita Deshmukh is the 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”.)

 

Five men have been killed in KKNPP in 3 months mostly due to electric shock


nuke-liar-logo-small-yellow

April 12, 2013
The Struggle Committee
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
The Regular and Contract Employees
The Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP)
Koodankulam
Dear friends:
Greetings! As you know, we conducted a siege protest on April 3, 2013 at the back of your Anu Vijay Township. That was an earnest attempt to point out the dangers you are exposing yourself and your families at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP). As educated and informed people, you must be familiar with most of our arguments against the KKNPP. We would very much like to repeat a few more relevant points here for your serious analysis and careful consideration.
You do not have to go too far to check the veracity of our claims. Even a cursory look at your own homes in the Anu Vijay Township should reveal the pathetic quality of construction both in your Township and at the KKNPP site. The houses you dwell in are not even ten years old but most of the buildings are in a dilapidated condition already.
One of the erstwhile KKNPP subcontractors and the present big-time leader of the Koodankulam Panchayat told us once that he himself had mixed so many big pieces of wood when he poured concrete in a KKNPP reactor building in order to minimize the need for sand and cement and to maximize his profit. He also confessed that he and most other contractors used sea sand instead of river sand in their constructions to have a higher profit margin.
We all know how the cancer of corruption is eating into the heart and soul of our country. When the Honorable Minister V. Narayanasamy accused us of receiving foreign funds for our anti-KKNPP campaign, we countered that by expressing our struggle committee members’ willingness to reveal our assets and income details and demanding to know the assets and income details of the top leaders of the KKNPP, the NPCIL and the DAE etc. There were reports that the top KKNPP leadership that time was upset with the Minister as he was raking up the money issue. We challenge again now if the top nuclearocrats in India are willing and ready to reveal their assets and income details to the people of India.
Every single deal that India has signed with Russia has proved to be a disaster and big loss for India. The INS Vikramaditya/Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier has been delayed by five years with the final cost hovering in the $2.9 billion range. The time overrun and cost escalation also plagues another mega Indo-Russian defense deal of upgrading MiG-29 fighter planes. The KKNPP is yet another disaster. Instead of expressing his displeasure over the enormous cost overrun and time overrun in all these projects, our Prime Minister has recently offered the Russian president permission to build KKNPP 3 and 4. We all should ask ourselves why our Prime Minister tried to please the Russian president when the latter’s reactor has failed to function for more than a year now.
The Koodankulam delay is being blamed on the “corrosion and leakage since sea water was used as the coolant.” If these pipes and parts cannot withstand one year of sea water circulation, how on the Earth are they going to function for 40-60 years? If the pipes leak and corrode within such a short time, the government should order a probe into the quality of these pipes, the quality of the various equipment and spares that were sent by the Russians.
Already there are recurrent reports that the Russian companies Zio-Podolsk and Informteck have been supplying low quality products to the Russian nuclear power projects in Iran, China and India. These two discredited Russian companies have provided many substandard equipment and spares to the KKNPP but the NPCIL and the AERB do not answer our RTI queries squarely and fairly. The government and the DAE must tell the people the real truth about this issue. Some of us happened to meet a few of your officers a few months back. They confessed that they had never known the fact that there were belt-line welds in the RPV before we problematized it and they thanked us profusely for the information.
As you know, the Government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) have not shared any basic information with us about the KKNPP. Even after the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instructed them, they have not shared the Site Evaluation Report (SER) and the Safety Analysis Report (SAR) with us. They have not heard our opinions or allayed our fears and concerns about the lack of fresh water resources in the KKNPP, the changes in the design of the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV), the management of liquid and solid waste and so on.
Several scientists and technocrats such as Dr. Abdul Kalam and Dr. M. R. Srinivasan claimed more than a year ago that the KKNPP was the best in the whole wide world. If this is so, why are the KKNPP officials still trying “to ensure foolproof safety”? Dr. Srinivasan has claimed recently: “We sought an additional safety mechanism well before the Fukushima disaster. The safety mechanism consists of valves. The original reactor design had to be altered and I feel this is the basic cause for delay.” According to him, the valves were designed partially in India and Russia and compatibility with the reactor led to some hiccups.
No wonder why the Russians do not want to commit to any kind of liability arrangements for their “best” reactors in the whole world. The Government of India is not even willing to share the secretive Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that they signed with the Russian government in 2008. It is our and your liability but our own government hides all of the details from us. Why?
Please think of work safety in your KKNPP. When Mr. S. K. Agrawal had died of “multiple organ failure” (an euphemism for cancer) at the Jaslok hospital in Mumbai a few years ago, the DAE or the NPCIL did not even acknowledge his death in public or condole his untimely demise. If this is the treatment meted out to one of the top leaders of the department, you can imagine how you would be treated. In fact, you must already know the scant regard that the DAE/KKNPP has for human beings. Some 5 men have been killed in the KKNPP in the past 3 months and most of them have died of electric shock. Nobody knows the exact number of people who have died in the KKNPP all together.
And finally, let us also point out to you the serious concerns and reservations expressed by Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, the former head of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB): “Sub-standard materials have come to the Kudankulam plant and they are causing problems. Chinese have now started examining the components from Russia.”
Please understand that we are the citizens of the democratic Republic of India and we must assert our inalienable right to life and livelihood. We seek your kind cooperation in getting rid of nuclear energy from India. While we find safe and alternative employment for you all, let us make sure that all Indians, rich and poor, live with safety, security and dignity in our country.
Cordially,
S. P. Udayakumar       M. Pushparayan          Fr. F. Jayakumar         M. P. Jesuraj
Coordinator
R. S. Muhilan              Peter Milton                V. Rajalingam

Bhopal hospital treated gas victims as guinea pigs for drug trials #WTFnews


Raipur, (Chhattisgarh), March 26, 2013, Suvojit Bagchi

CIC orders disclosure on drug trials in ‘larger public interest’

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ordered the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Center (BMHRC), a government body, to disclose information related to drug trials on victims of the 1984 gas tragedy to safeguard “larger public interest.”

The CIC criticised the BMHRC for not initiating the process of collecting testimonies from the “poor, helpless victims,” even after it issued an order. Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) had moved the commission.

Talking to The Hindu, Rachna Dhingra, who has been working with the gas victims, levelled a series of allegations against the hospital. “BMHRC was built to provide free medical care to the gas victims but they started testing [victims] as guinea pigs at the behest of multinational pharmaceutical corporations. As many as 15 trials and 13 deaths in 3 trials have taken place and no action was initiated against the BMHRC doctors, management or pharma companies,” Ms. Dhingra charged.

According to the commission’s initial notice, information was sought on the identity of the persons on whom different drugs were tested from 2000 to 2011; how much funds were received for the trials and the names of the companies which commissioned them; the names of the drugs, the number of patients involved and the number who died; and the minutes of the meetings which approved the trials.

On the basis of Ms. Dhingra’s RTI application, the commission asked the hospital to furnish details within a month which it did not. The hospital said the drug trials were conducted on private individuals and “disclosure of identity of these would compromise their privacy,” which is not permitted under the RTI Act. This argument annoyed the commission as it had instructed the BMHRC to “issue notice to any 25 patients at random on whom drugs were tried” to obtain “their consent for disclosure of their names” as per law.

Central Information Commissioner M.L. Sharma wrote that even if the patients did not agree to disclose information, “it is still open to this Commission to order disclosure.”

“Given the fact that a number of drugs manufactured by foreign/Indian companies were tried on these poor, helpless victims of the gas tragedy, I am of the opinion it would be in the larger public interest to disclose the requested information,” said Mr. Sharma in his order.

Chief Public Relations Officer of BMHRC Mazhar Ullah has been given six weeks’ time to “comply” with the order. Mr. Ullah said that he cannot comment till he received a copy.

Meanwhile, Ms. Dhingra has submitted papers to The Hindu that shows, as on 13.08.2010 the hospital conducted at least 10 drug trials and received an amount of 1,008,5100.

“We have proof that 15 trials were conducted and the money for the other trials are not accounted for,” she said.

Narendra Modi’s travelling cost during ’07 mahila sammelans is zero! #Wtfnews


 

English: nehal,narendra modi

English: nehal,narendra modi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Times of India, 3 October 2012

 

 

VADODARA: A day after Hisar-based RTI activist punctured Narendra Modi‘s claims on Rs 1,880 crore public money spent on Sonia Gandhi‘s foreign tours, there is more embarrassment in store for the chief minister.

 

A social activist from the city on Friday claimed that Modi’s office has failed to share information on his travelling expenses for women sammelans even though its five years now that she sought the details through right to information (RTI) application.

 

Trupti Shah had filed an RTI application on July 18, 2007 to know about expenses incurred by Modi during the 27 women empowerment sammelans organized in that period. Shah had demanded details about expenses incurred on food-packets for women, traveling expenses of Modi and other ministers, publicity expenses and government officials involved in the sammelans.

 

“My application to chief minister officer (CMO) was forwarded to general administration department (GAD) that gave me the list of 27 districts where the events were organized. I was also given information about food-packets and other expenses. But the traveling expenses were not provided,” Shah told TOI.

 

“I wrote to GAD to provide me travelling expenses. But, I got the reply that as per the information provided by the CMO, chief minister does not mention the travelling expenses separately. They further said that as far as travelling expense of the chief minister is concerned, consider that as nil. This is ridiculous as Modi had travelled in helicopter to most of the sammelan venues,” Shah said.

 

“I was practically denied the information by forwarding the letters from one department to another. If Modi wants Sonia Gandhi to share her travelling expenses, then why doesn’t his government share similar details sought by me?” questioned Shah.

 

Shah said that if Modi has travelled to so many places, his expenses must have been borne by some government department or private parties. When she didn’t get replies despite several reminders, she filed complaint before the chief information commissioner (CIC) under 18 (1) of RTI Act in 2008.

 

“In the last hearing on September 26, the CIC directed GAD to collect information sought by me and pass it on to me before next hearing,” Shah said.

 

Shah had sought the information as the state government had denied to implement machinery for the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 andPCPNDT Act 1994 citing lack of funds.

 

 

 

Urgent Action Alert: SOS message from Koodankulam


Idinthakarai SOS

May 5, 2012

The indefinite hunger strike has been going on for the past 5 days. Some 25 men have been on the fast since May 1 and 302 women and 10 more men have joined the strike on May 4, 2012. More and more women are eager to join the indefinite hunger strike but because of logistical issues such as space, bedding and toilet facilities, we are not in a position to accommodate them all.

Many of the men have become very tired and are suffering from fatigue and nausea. Scores of women are suffering from severe headache this morning and some seem to be dehydrated because of the scorching summer heat. They need immediate medical advice and help.

The Tahsildar (county administrator) of Radhapuram contacted us yesterday and said he was sending a medical team to check the health of the hunger strikers. Nobody has come so far and we have contacted the officer again this morning.

Our people have been struggling so patiently, peacefully and nonviolently for the past nine months. Our people have not hurt or harmed or killed anybody or damaged any public or private properties. No untoward incident has ever taken place. But neither the central government nor the state government has ever tried to meet our people or listen to their opinions, thoughts, feelings and standpoints about the Koodankulam nuclear power project in a democratic manner.

Even now, instead of talking to our people, the authorities are warning us not to turn our movement into a violent one. We are not sure if they are hatching a conspiracy against us. The whole world knows that our people have been struggling nonviolently for the past nine months.

When Maoists kidnap MLAs and District Collectors and engage in random acts of violence such as attacking police stations and killing people, the governments nominate high-level mediators, talk to the Maoists in their own hideouts and grant all their wishes and demands then and there. But when our people struggle peacefully and nonviolently, the governments, authorities, politicians, scientists and even some pro-government media houses turn a deaf ear to us.

Our helpless and desperate people appeal to the Indian civil society and the international community to come to our rescue as our men and women are becoming weak and tired. We remain open to dialogue with the government officials but we demand a written agreement with a definite action plan and clear timeline.

Please contact the following officers and demand justice for our people:

[1] Dr. R. Selvaraj, District Collector, Tirunelveli District, Tirunelveli. Phone: 91-462-2500828; Fax: 91-462-2500224; Mobile: 91-9444185000; Email: collrtnv@nic.in
[2] Mr. V. Varadharaju; Phone: 91-462-2568031; Mobile: 91-9840970530; Email: digtinrg@yahoo.co.in
[3] Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Fort St. George, Chennai 600 009, India; Phones: 91-44-25672345 (W); 91-44-25670215 (H); Faxes: 91-44-28133510; 25676929; 25671441; 28130787; Email: cmcell@tn.gov.in; cmcell@tn.nic.in
[4] Mr. Debendranath Sarangi, Chief Secretary; Phone: 91-44-25671555; Fax: 91-44-25672304; Email: cs@tn.gov.in
[5] Dr. Sheela Priya, Additional Chief Secretary; Phone: 91-44-25674234; Fax: 91-44-25675163. Email: cmcell@tn.gov.in

We have put forward the following demands to the authorities:

[1] The ongoing work at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) must be halted and the following steps must be taken immediately.

[2] As the Central Information Commission (CIC) has instructed the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), the Safety Analysis Report and the Site Evaluation Report must be released to the public immediately. And the full and final post-Fukushima safety audit report must also be released to the press and the public.

[3] A new and comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report must be commissioned as the one that the DAE has released after 23 years of struggle is incomplete, erroneous and outdated. The Tamil and Malayalam translations of the new EIA must be shared with the local people and the Press in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

[4] The opinions and preferences of the project-affected people must be heard by a competent authority in an open, transparent and democratic manner to understand the fears and concerns of the people.

[5] An independent national committee must be constituted to study the issues of geology, hydrology, oceanography and seismology involved in the Koodankulam nuclear power plant.

[6] Disaster management training and evacuation exercises must be conducted in the 30-km radius of the Koodankulam plants and beyond in the wake of the recent earthquake all over Tamil Nadu and India.

[7] A Tamil Nadu State Assembly Resolution must be passed that the Pechipparai dam water from Kanyakumari District and the Tamirabharani river water from Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi Districts will not be taken for the KKNPP reactors.

[8] A copy of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on liability secretly signed between the governments of India and Russia must be made available to the project-affected public.

[9] Complete and truthful information must be given to the local people and the citizens of India about nuclear waste that would be produced at the Koodankulam plants and its management.

[10] All the false cases against the members of the struggle committee and the common people must be withdrawn immediately and unconditionally. Our friends who are still languishing in prison, Muhilan and Sathishkumar, must be released immediately.

[11] The local people’s right to protest peacefully and nonviolently against the KKNPP and other related issues must be respected and honored. And no more false cases and other intimidatory exercises should be used against the struggling people.

People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

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Disclose psychiatric info under RTI? Yes, says CIC; No, says HC


Pritha Chatterjee : New Delhi, Tue Apr 24

Do psychiatry patients have the right to access records of their treatment? While the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed a mental health hospital to provide this information to a patient, the hospital has moved court citing confidentiality.

The Delhi High Court has given the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) a stay order against disclosing the information till the next hearing in September.

The case pertains to a 32-year-old married woman. She was admitted to IHABS in April 2011 by the hospital’s mobile health unit from her Gurgaon home, after her husband approached hospital with her “symptoms”.

According to Dr Nimesh Desai, director of IHBAS, “Confidentiality of psychiatric information — which includes all information disclosed by different parties related to the patient for treatment purposes — is a very fundamental concept. It is something every psychiatrist promises his interviewees verbally. Unfortunately, till date, India does not have a legal provision regarding this. The unique nature of this information — which includes historical information of the patient, his or her recollections, fantasies, feelings, fears and preoccupations from the past as well as in the present — distinguishes it from other medical records.”

The patient was discharged after four days and has since been staying with her mother in Bhopal. After her discharge, she filed an RTI seeking “the basis for my admission, doctor’s observation, and clinical examination reports, and doctor’s observation…”

Meanwhile, the patient’s husband, too, filed an RTI application, seeking the reasons of his wife’s discharge, “without my information.”

In both cases, IHBAS authorities stated that “the information sought was provided by the patient and her husband, which is sensitive/confidential in nature.”

“The need for discretion in disclosing psychiatric information is compounded in cases like this, where there is a possible marital discord and each seeks such history to use against the other,” Dr Desai said.

The December 2011 CIC order by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi stated that while the hospital was exempted from disclosing treatment records to anyone other than the patient, “these precedents are not relevant when the information is being sought by the patient herself”.

Arguing against this, in their writ before the High Court, IHBAS said, “that every party disclosed information in confidentiality to the psychiatrist and the hospital should not give it away to anyone, including the patient.”

The disclosure of information contained in psychiatry case records would discourage the patients and their relatives to furnish personal and sensitive information and they would prefer to withhold such information, which would largely affect the treatment,” the writ stated.

Meanwhile, the patient’s family said they were “exploring legal options, on this violation of the CIC order.”

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