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    'RTI - Common Man's Brahmastra' - Shailesh Gandhi

    'RTI - Common Man's Brahmastra' - Shailesh Gandhi
    As Reported by Dr Eugene D'Souza, for Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai (GA)

    Addressing a well-attended workshop of the representatives of the
    political and civic cells of different parishes of the Thane deanery
    organized by the Bharatiya Lok-Adhar Manch (BLAM) of Our Lady of
    Fatima Parish at Ambernath (West) on Sunday June 8, Shailesh Gandhi
    said "As the sovereign citizens of the country, we have the right to
    information, which is the common man's Brahmastra".

    Shailesh Gandhi, who gave up his business a few years ago to take up
    the crusade for the Right to Information (RTI) has been one of the
    well-known and foremost social activists using the RTI to make the
    government accountable to the people.

    In his informative and impressive speech sprinkled with humour,
    Shailesh Gandhi traced the background of the Right to Information
    Act. He pointed out that the Right to Information is derived from
    fundamental right of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution
    of India. "If we do not have information on how our government and
    public institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion
    on it. This has been clearly stated by various Supreme Court
    judgments from 1977. In a democracy, as the Government is run on
    behalf of the people, they are the rightful owners who have a right
    to be informed directly.

    To strengthen the cause of the Right to Information, Shailesh Gandhi
    cited Justice Mathew's ruling in the Raj Narain case, "In a
    government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the
    public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few
    secrets. The people of the country have a right to know every public
    act, everything that is done in a public way by their public
    functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every
    public transaction in all its being. Their right to know, which is
    derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute,
    is a factor which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for
    transactions which can at any rate have no repercussion on public

    Tracing the history of the Right To Information Act, Shailesh Gandhi
    said that the movement originated in a small village in Rajasthan,
    when the villagers wanted to know how much money was sanctioned for a project and how much was spent on it. The success of the movement
    undertaken by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghathan in rural Rajasthan
    brought RTI on the agenda of the nation. So far nine states across
    India have enacted the Right To Information Acts, the first being
    Tamil Nadu. The Maharashtra Right To Information (MRTI) Act was
    passed in 2002 and notified on August 11, 2003. The Indian Parliament
    passed the Right To Information Act on May 12, 2005, which became
    operational from October 12, 2005.

    Citing a number of relevant examples, Shailesh Gandhi stressed the
    importance of the RTI and how it can bring a change, though not
    substantial, in the working of the government and public
    departments. Alert and conscientious citizens, instead of complaining
    about corruption and non-functioning of the government and public
    agencies, can seek the information and try to bring about the
    transparency and accountability in their functioning.

    To emphasize the importance of the RTI Act and its power, Shailesh
    Gandhi narrated an incident of a slum dweller who had learnt the use
    of the Right To Information. When he applied for a new ration card,
    he was told that he would have to give a bribe of Rs 2000 to the
    officials to get the card. However, this RTI-empowered citizen went
    ahead and applied for the ration card without offering any bribes or
    making any noise about the issue. A few weeks later, he found out
    that all the bribe-givers had got their ration cards in about four
    weeks. He waited for eight weeks, and then applied for information
    under RTI. Using the simple format with an application fee of Rs.10/,
    he submitted it to the Public Information Officer of the Food and
    Supply Office. In his application he had asked up to which date
    applications for ration cards had been cleared, and the progress
    report of his application. This shook up the corrupt officials, since
    the answer would reveal that they had given ration cards to others
    who had applied after him, which would be conclusive evidence that
    they had no justification for delaying his card. The result of his
    simple RTI application was that the ration card was given to him
    immediately. In a similar way thousands of citizens have got their
    pensions, passports, Income Tax and Sales Tax refunds, electricity
    connections, birth certificates, etc.

    The Right To Information Act is applicable to all public authorities.
    A public authority means any government office, department or
    institutions such as universities, colleges and schools or non-
    government organizations substantially financed by the government.
    `Information' means any material in any form including records,
    documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases,
    circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples,
    models, etc. `Right to Information' means the right to access the
    information held by or under the control of any public authority and
    includes the right to: inspection of work, documents, records, taking
    notes, extracts, or certified copies of documents or records; taking
    certified samples of material; obtaining information in the form of
    diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other
    electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored
    in a computer or in any other device.

    However, there are ten exemptions of information and request for such
    information can be rejected. These exemption include any information
    that would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of
    India, the security, strategic, scientific and economic interests of
    the state, relation with a foreign State; information which has been
    forbidden to be published by any court of law; information, the
    disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament
    or the State Legislature, etc.

    Every public authority has appointed one or more special officers
    called Public Information Officers (PIO) to deal with requests for
    information. Assistant PIOs (APIO) are also appointed by such
    authorities at Sub-division or taluk-level.

    Citizens seeking information have to submit written applications to
    the PIOs or APIOs in plain paper in the prescribed format along with
    a fee of Rs.10to be paid in cash, demand draft or cheque payable to
    the Public Authority, or by affixing a court fee stamp of Rs.10.
    Once the PIO or APIO accepts the application for the information that
    a citizen has sought, he may ask for payment of fees for the copies
    of the documents. Rs 2 per page (A4 size) or Rs 50 for information
    given on floppy or CD. There is no charge for the inspection of files
    or records for the first hour and then Rs 5 for every fifteen
    minutes. Postage charges would be added to this.

    Under the Right To Information Act, the PIO will either supply the
    information or reject the request on certain specified grounds within
    a period of 30 days. If information is not provided or wrongly
    refused, the citizen can go in appeal to an Appellate Authority who
    would be an official in the same department, senior to the IPO. The
    Appellate Authority has to give a decision in 30 days.
    The RTI Act has stipulated a penalty of Rs 250 per day subject to
    maximum of Rs 25,000 imposed on the IPO if he has, without any
    reasonable cause has refused to receive the application or not
    furnished information within the prescribed period or knowingly given
    incomplete, incorrect or misleading information or obstructed in any
    manner in furnishing the information. Besides, disciplinary action,
    according to the relevant service rules, can also be recommended by
    the Information Commission against the concerned officer, if he
    repeats the above stated acts.

    Thus, the RTI Act provides for a time-bound and defined process for
    citizens to access information about all actions taken by public
    authorities. The penal provisions on the PIO are the real teeth of
    the Act, which ensures that the PIO cannot treat citizens' demands
    for information in a cavalier manner.

    These are a few types of cases where conscientious citizens can use
    the RTI Act: when the citizen needs information on some activity of
    the government, or reasons for certain decisions; when the citizen
    knows or suspects corruption or wrong-doing in some department or
    activity; when bribes are sought to provide ration card or water
    connection or an authority refuses to act on a complaint or FIR. The
    mere asking of information sometimes reduces illegal acts, since the
    wrong-doer feels restrained or threatened by exposure. A citizen
    could suggest improvements in the functioning of a Government
    department only if he has the information.

    Besides a large number of representatives of the Political and Civic
    Cells from different parishes of the Thane Deanery, the work-shop was
    attended by Fr Barthol Machado, the dean of Thane deanery, Willy
    Sirsat, coordinator of Church in city in Mumbai Archdiocese, Fr
    Sylvester, parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Church, Ambernath
    (West), Fr Adrian and Celine Patil, the coordinator of the political
    and civic cells in Thane deanery.

    D A I J I W O R L D

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  2. #2
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    Re: 'RTI - Common Man's Brahmastra' - Shailesh Gandhi

    Please see this important announcement from IC Shailesh Gandhi

    I will quit if I fail to clear appeals in 3 months:Shailesh Gandhi


    RTI INDIA: Invoking Your Rights. We provide easy ways to request, analyze & share Government documents by use of Right to Information and by way of community support.

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