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Thread: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

  1. #1
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    Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    As reported by Raksha Shetty on CNN-IBN on January 16, 2008:

    Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund

    Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister's relief fund is under the scanner for refusing to give details about its finances, despite repeated RTI applications.

    This comes even when most other states are publishing details about their Relief Funds on their websites.

    Despite that, RTI applicant Shailesh Gandhi’s efforts to find out simple details – such as who are the beneficiaries of the Fund or even how much is there in it – have not come to fruition. On its part, the state has decided to throw its weight against Gandhi’s application.

    "The state of Maharashtra had no one but an Advocate-General to argue a case against a simple citizen like me," said Gandhi.

    The Chief Secretary was not available for comment but in a response to Gandhi’s RTI application, the State has stated that the Chief Minister’s fund is not answerable to the public but is a private trust, even though its trustees are salaried public servants and the fund is run on taxpayers’ money.

    Gandhi is indignant about that.

    “It's not Antulay Fund or Vilasrao Deshmukh fund. The very name signifies public authority,” he insists.

    “There is no need for secrecy. All the funds run by the Chief Minister and belong to the state government,” said BJP spokesperson Nitin Gadkari.

    Maharashtra’s tight-lipped stance is curious, particularly in the wake of other states such as Bihar, Rajasthan and Orissa divulging the same in detailed accounts on their websites.



  2. Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    There must be something dubious for avoiding transparency.

  3. #3
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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    As reported by TNN on timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 29 February 2008:
    Info on Maha CM's relief fund to be public-India-The Times of India

    Info on Maha CM's relief fund to be public



    MUMBAI: Embarrassed by the unprecedented row over the lack of transparency in the disbursement of the CM's Relief Fund, Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh has said that all information on the subject would be made public.

    "We had not parted with specific details under the RTI since we had not given those even to the legislature," he said.

    "However, I have now given instructions to my office to provide all the information to the people."

    The move is viewed as a major victory for RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi who had first sought such information from Deshmukh's office in 2005.

    Finding his appeal rejected by the general administration department (GAD) headed by Deshmukh, Gandhi had filed a second appeal before chief information commissioner (CIC) Suresh Joshi. The GAD, however, filed an affidavit before Joshi, stating that since the information had not been provided to the legislature, it would amount to contempt of the legislature if it was given to Gandhi.

    CIC Suresh Joshi was to have delivered his verdict on a plea by activist Shailesh Gandhi for details on the CM's relief fund on March 3. But Deshmukh's secretary C S Sangitrao wrote a comprehensive letter to the CIC, saying that in the larger public interest and to ensure that there was complete transparency, Deshmukh had given instructions to make public all transactions.

    Accordingly, all the information sought by Gandhi will be provided to him in a reasonable period. Simultaneously, a public information officer will be appointed in his office to provide information as per the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

  4. #4

    Maharastra PM Relents on Relief Fund



    RTI Crusader Shailesh Gandhi's Letter on above Issue
    [Inspiring Reading]
    ==================================================
    After a 27 month RTI saga the Chief Minister has conceded that the Maharashtra CM’s fund will come under RTI scrutiny. But the path to reach here has been a long and chequered one. On 26 October, 2005 I asked for some simple details about the money spent from the CM’s relief fund which was refused by the PIO, on the grounds that it is a Registered Trust with no Government controls, hence not a Public Authority.

    A first appeal on 21 February 2006, by me arguing that this was a Public authority in all senses, prompted the first appellate authority to give a decision it would be a breach of Legislative privilige!

    A second appeal was filed to the Information Commission on 10 April, 2006, and the Single Commissioner held a hearing on 1 June, 2006, but did not issue any order.

    I argued that if the Legislative assembly chose not to ask questions on a particular matter, it could not supercede my Right to Information.

    After repeated questioning about this by Citizens and media, the full bench of the Maharashtra Commission was called on 7th December, 2007. Four Commissioners-one each from Nagpur, Aurangabad and Pune met in Mumbai with the Chief Commissioner in Mumbai,- for the hearing.

    After I made my opening argument for a minute the State lawyer said they wanted to make a written submission and that the Advocate General would place the State’s arguments, hence the matter should be adjourned by six weeks.

    I protested that the State could have presented its submissions earlier and the Advocate General could not be the only person in the State to present arguments. Besides, if at all an adjournment was desired, the State should have asked for it earlier. After the full bench had assembled, the State was only flexing its muscle and devaluing the Commission by insisting on an adjournment.

    The Commission however was willing to agree to the State’s demand, and the next hearing was fixed on 7th January, 2008. On that day, again the four Commissioners assembled in Mumbai and the Advocate General presented the same arguments which the PIO and the First Appellate authority had presented.

    I also argued that the CM’s relief fund trust had 12 members- six ministers and six secretaries who were all Public servants, and every paper or telephone of the CM’s relief fund was Citizen’s money, apart from the argument of the disclosure being a breach of legislative privilige being completely illogical. The Advocate General also told the Commission that they had recently written to the Legislature to elicit their opinion.

    My protests notwithstanding the Commission again gave in to the State’s diktat and decided on another hearing on 29 Jaunary, 2008 for giving final orders.

    On 29th January, the Advocate General stated that they felt it was necessary to give their arguments made on 7th January in writing to ‘crystallise’ what they had said. My protests that the Commission was allowing the State to denigrate the Commission and thereby the RTI Act fell on deaf ears. The decision has still not been given by the Commission. In the meantime I asked the Charity Commissioner for details of the Trust and got information that apart from the initial filing of details in 1967, no details had been filed! Media had also been highlighting all this and on 27th February, 2008 the CM displaying sagacity announced that the details of the CM’s fund would be disclosed under RTI.

    The same cannot be said about the senior officers in the State who
    doggedly refused to give information in a show of arrogance. The Advocate General also does not appear to have been keen to advise in the letter and spirit of the law, but was only concerned with defending what he perhaps perceived as his clients, “ the Government officers”.

    I wish the Advocate General would understand the RTI act better since he will have to give an opinion in future as well on a matter which has become very important for Citizens. The Information Commission also appears to be willing to be taken around the mulberry bush by the State, and this will result in a devaluing of the position of the Commission and concomitantly the RTI Act. I am hoping the Commission will display wisdom and give its reasoned order atleast now.

    In one sense however, this is a true triumph of democracy with RTI being the tool to bring accountability; Citizens and media highlighting a gross mistake; and the CM at some point acknowledging that the State had been in error, and taking corrective action. On this count I would thank the CM for not sticking to an arrogant position, and graciously accepting the Right to Information.
    shailesh gandhi
    28 February, 2008

    PS.: As per the CIC’s order on 15 March, 2008, details of PM’s Relief fund have to be given under RTI. However my RTI application asking:
    As of 31st March, 2007 I want the details of the amounts deposited in banks or any other place, in the following format:

    Name of bank or Institution where Money is deposited
    Interest rate at which money deposited

    Has been rejected, on 4 January, 2008 refusing to give even this information, saying it may amount to ‘disclosure of information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or disclosure of intellectual property the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of third parties’! There is also another still more obfuscating reason given, claiming fiduciary relationship of the officers holding the information.


    There is a balance of over 1400 crores, and my first appeal has also been rejected without any reasons.

    At the current disposal rates of the CIC, the second appeal I have filed might be heard after the present Shri Habibullah retires.

    Love
    shailesh
    All my emails are
    in Public Domain.
    S A T Y A M E V A J A Y A T E - Right to Information Act (RTI) - Shailesh Gandhi's website
    Mera Bharat Mahaan...
    Nahi Hai,
    Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai
    ==================================================

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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    As reported by Prachi Jatania on ibnlive.com on 14 March 2008:
    Maharashtra CM fund relief for clubs, kabaddi

    Maharashtra CM fund relief for clubs, kabaddi

    Mumbai: If you thought the Chief Minister's relief fund would be used for relief work - here's an eye-opener. Right to Information Act documents reveal how the Maharashtra Chief Minister's relief fund is being misused.
    A fund meant to help people in dire need - that's the general perception about the Chief Minister's relief fund.

    Forget donations to save the poor - a relief fund that provides little relief, the Natya Parishad was given Rs 10 lakh from the CM's relief fund even when it there is a cultural fund dedicated to it.

    A response to an application filed under the Right to Information Act reveals how the Maharashtra Chief Minister's relief fund is infact being misused over Rs 50 crore was collected as public donations between 2003 and 2005.

    While more than Rs 24 crore was disbursed in 2003, Rs 27 crore was disbursed in 2003 and nearly half of that money was given to carom associations, ghazal performances, mango festivals and kabaddi tournaments.

    RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi says, "The Chief Minister's fund has become like a raja's money he treats it like a private discretionary fund."
    And this startling misuse of funds comes at a time the state tops the list for farmer suicides and malnutrition deaths, raising questions about the purpose of having such a fund.

    If the Government would care to listen this is how the voters want the money to be spent.

    Since our generous Chief Minister is on a charity spree Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh maybe our state hockey team can get some funds?

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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    As reported by Viju B of TNN on timesofindia.com on 15 March 2008:
    'Maha CM's relief fund spent on trivial expenses'-India-The Times of India

    'Maha CM's relief fund spent on trivial expenses'

    MUMBAI: For those who believed that the Chief Minister's Relief Fund was meant to assist people in dire straits, here's an eye-opener — the public money collected between 2003 and 2005 went to the organisers of a kabaddi competition, a women's football match, a ghazal contest, a Marathi actor's fan club and a Congress MLA's religious congregation.

    These are just some of the shockers that have emerged after activist Shailesh Gandhi filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act for details on how the fund was spent.

    The fund, which lists assisting people trapped in natural disasters as its sole objective, was registered with the Charity Commissioner in 1967. The RTI query has now revealed that a large part of the Rs 50 crore or thereabouts which the Maharashtra CM's office received in donations between 2003 and 2005 (when first Sushilkumar Shinde and then Vilasrao Deshmukh were at the helm) went to events conducted by institutions that were in no way related to calamities and disasters.

    Incidentally, during this very period, between April 2003 and May 2004, 9,000 children below the age of six were severely malnourished and 1,041 children died due to related complications in 15 rural districts of Maharashtra.

    Meanwhile, state government on Friday informed the Bombay HC that the chief information commissioner of Maharashtra had issued a show-cause notice to officials of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research.



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    Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    This is very good work by Mr Shailesh Gandhi.

    No wonder that the Maharashtra Government had to even ask the Advocate General of the State to appear before the full bench of the SIC to prevent disclosure.....against just one appellant Mr Sailesh Gandhi.

    Lesson learnt:

    Don't donate to PM Relief fund
    Don't donate to CM Relief fund
    Don't donate to Red Cross

    Lets see which is the next one ?

  8. Re: Maharashtra refuses to answer RTI query on CM's fund


    This is great victory of RTI and common man of India. It is indicative of empowerment of a common Indian through RTI. What is required is will to keep on keeping on against corrupt machinery. This has shown what one man can do throgh RTI. Mr.Shailesh Gandhi deserves public honour for this frustrating journey.
    It takes each of us to make difference for all of us.

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