Supreme Court Trashes National Judicial Appointment Bill…

Supreme Court Trashes National Judicial Appointment Bill…

Says Unconstitutional.

It is extraordinary that there should be near-unanimity in the country that the present system of judicial appointments that was put in place in 1993 is deeply unsatisfactory, and yet the most significant legislative effort to reform it should fail before the Supreme Court. It is no surprise that a five-judge Bench has struck down the Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014, by which the government established a National Judicial Appointments Commission to select members of the higher judiciary. There were doubts whether the composition of the NJAC, especially the inclusion in it of the Union Law Minister and two “eminent persons” appointed by the government, would survive judicial scrutiny. For, the law also gave any two members a veto over all decisions, raising the question whether the judicial members could be overruled by the executive representatives. The Attorney General could not convince the court that the amendment, along with the NJAC Act, was aimed at restoring the system of checks and balances which, according to the government, was lost after the Supreme Court created the collegium scheme of appointments. The core question was whether the new institutional mechanism to appoint judges impinged on the independence of the judiciary, a basic feature of the Constitution. The court has ruled that it does. Justice J.S. Khehar, writing the main judgment, has held that the clauses provided in the amendment are inadequate to preserve the primacy of the judiciary. The inclusion of the Law Minister in the body impinged on both the independence of the judiciary and the doctrine of separation of powers.

Nobody on either side of the debate disagrees that the judiciary should be insulated from political interference. Yet, should the judiciary retain its primacy, or should the executive have a say in order that flawed choices do not erode the institution’s credibility? Justice Khehar has said the conduct of the political executive showed it tended to reward favourites in many fields. Preserving the primacy of the judiciary was a safe way to shield the institution from “the regime of the spoils system”. Justice J. Chelameswar, in his dissenting opinion, is candid in questioning the lack of transparency in the collegium system. Even while restoring this system, the majority has invited suggestions to improve it so that it is more responsive to the expectations of civil society. While to some it may appear that striking down a Constitution amendment passed unanimously in both Houses of Parliament and ratified by 20 State Assemblies amounts to negating the people’s will, it cannot be forgotten that the judiciary remains the sole authority to decide whether a law violates the basic structure of the Constitution. What the situation indicates is that India is still struggling to put together a transparent appointment system not vitiated by executive patronage or judicial nepotism.

Digital India complements RTI’

Digital India complements RTI’

The Hindu 17 October 2015…

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday emphasised that transparency was vital to good governance.

He was speaking at the 10th Annual Convention of the Right to Information (RTI) law. The theme of the two-day convention celebrating a decade of the transparency law is ‘RTI: Outlook for the future – Trust through Transparency.’ The Right to Information Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005.

Inaugurating the convention, Mr. Modi said that his government’s Digital India initiative was, “complementary to RTI, because putting information online brings transparency, which in turn builds trust. RTI has become a tool for good governance. The RTI Act should not just be limited to a citizen’s right to know but it should empower every one to hold truth to power.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley complemented the Central Information Commissioners (CIC) on the completion of a decade of the RTI Act and called it an ‘exemplary law.’ The transparency law had transformed society and India had passed the first stage of civilised governance. The use of technology has made the transparency law more effective, less time-consuming and cost-effective, he added.

Meanwhile, prominent RTI activists like Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Shekhar Singh and Venkatesh Nayak stayed away from the celebrations, after a vast majority of activists were not cleared by the Intelligence Bureau to attend the seminar. Of the 80 lakh people who use the transparency law, only seven activists were approved by the IB, after detailed background checks, Ms. Roy informed.

“This should have been an occasion to celebrate. Activists are being treated like criminals. The IB has never been involved in the past, despite the fact the PMs have been attending the valedictory. We decided to boycott the inaugural session. When we arrived for the sessions, the PM was not attending, we were still not allowed inside. Eventually, the Joint Registrar of the Commission had to get us in. The easiest thing to do would be to boycott the entire session but we had to raise questions. We need to assert our rights and will be attending the sessions tomorrow,” said Mr. Nayak.

Central government appoints new CIC chief to pacify the anguish of RTI activists:

Central government appoints new CIC chief to pacify the anguish of RTI activists:

Will it serve the purpose? Because thousands of appeals are pending before commission and the new CIC chief with his very short can hardly clear the thousands backlog appeals.

Central government has appointed Vijay Sharma as new chief information commissioner of Central information commission who is retiring in the month of December 2015.

It is clear that he has only a few months in hand and already thousands of applications are piled up before the commission, how can he clear scores of appeals with very short stint of just 6 months?

It has raised eyebrows of whistleblowers all across the country, with the RTI activists claiming and alleging the central government of cheating people by appointing such a chief for very short term although the CIC chief’s post has been lying vacant for the last months.

But the question over here is that when government was not worried for the last nine months to appoint a chief does it seem logical that after the CIC chief gets retirement in December 2015, Modi govt. will be quick to appoint new chief? This is a major question hauling the minds of RTI activists.

In my opinion a chief should have been appointed for at least one year so that he could get elbow room to clear the prolonged pending cases before the commission.

To bring transparency in the functioning of the government it is of the dire need to have CIC CVC and Lokayukta seats always filled. Government should be quick in appointing and making arrangements for such key posts before they get laid vacant.

Nonetheless at last Modi government hit the nail on the head by appointing chief of CIC, now the new chief has some challenges ahead, how he takes decisions and what will be his priorities in dealing with the bundles of appeals is a major concern for him.

Any way it is a good move by the Modi government that after much too furore and hue and cry in the media and by the RTI activists, it appoints new chief and it will give, if not so much, a little breather for the withering Central information commission.

Indian Army Euthanises Retired Dogs and Horses: RTI

Indian express 05-06-2015

Indian Army Euthanises Retired Dogs and Horses: RTI

Dogs are considered the most faithful and loyal animals but they also face terrible reality after serving under the Indian Army. Though they are trained to catch, fetch, sniff and track down criminal movements while serving for the nation, they are denied a honourable life after their retirement.

The India Army gave a shocking response to a right to information (RTI) query that the dogs and horses, which serve for the nation’s security by sniffing bombs, hunting down enemies’, finding hidden places and fetching evidences are euthanised after a month of their retirement.

The canines after a month of being declared unfit to work are euthanised as it is considered unsafe to leave them in civilian hands as they might have been exposed to sensitive locations while in service.

“Army horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. The animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia,” the army said in its response.

Th Indian Army mainly uses Labradors, German Shephard and Belgian Shephards for security services. The logical reasons given by retired Army officers to a leading national daily are that the upkeep of such dogs with the kind of facilities they enjoyed while in service will be expensive and that they are exposed to severe sensitive locations while in service makes it unsafe to leave them in civilian hands.

PETA India CEO Poorva P Joshipura said, ‘Animals cannot be tossed away like empty ammunition shells. It is unfortunate that the dogs are euthanised’.

Ensure govt depts file RTI implementation report, GAD directed:

Hindustan Times: 02-06-2015

Ensure govt depts file RTI implementation report, GAD directed:

The State Information Commission (SIC) has directed the MP state general administration department (GAD) to ensure that all the government departments submit report on implementation of Right to Information (RTI) norms to the commission as required under section 25 of the RTI Act.

The commission has observed that government departments are failing to submit the annual reports on RTI implementation, which is creating hindrance in the commission’s own compilation of reports.

The SIC is expected to come out with annual reports on RTI status which would be tabled in the state assembly.

In a recently issued order, information commissioner Heeralal Trivedi observed that during an exercise to compile reports he had found reports from the some departments were missing, which was a violation of provisions of Section 25 of the RTI Act.

“We have directed the general administration department to send out circular to all government departments asking them to submit reports on implementation of RTI by all agencies/public authorities under their respective purviews to the commission,” Trivedi said, while speaking to HT.

The GAD has been asked to present a report on the action taken to the commission within four weeks after the order was issued (May 20).

Govt aided NGOs told to implement RTI guidelines

Meanwhile, the GAD has directed all government departments as well as officials at divisional and district levels across the state to ensure implementation of RTI norms by non-government organisations (NGOs) which get over `50,000 government grant.

Deputy secretary of GAD, Rajesh Kaul, has sent out a letter reiterating the fact that the substantially financed NGOs fall in the category of public authorities under the RTI Act.

These NGOs should thus take steps for voluntary disclosure of their activities and appoint public information officers/first appellate authorities according to norms, he said.

Kaul said these officials should also be provided requisite training. The government departments are also to ensure that while providing grant to any NGO, the clause of mandatory implementation of RTI norms should be mentioned in the agreement, he said.

The deputy secretary has mentioned in the letter that the SIC has been receiving complaints that many NGOs were not implementing the RTI norms.

Modi received 65 gifts including diamond cufflinks on foreign tours, RTI reveals NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received 65 gifts worth Rs 3.11 lakh during his foreign visits in the past ten months since assuming charge last year, an RTI query revealed.

The Times of India:

New Delhi 31-05-2015

Modi received 65 gifts including diamond cufflinks on foreign tours, RTI reveals

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received 65 gifts worth Rs 3.11 lakh during his foreign visits in the past ten months since assuming charge last year, an RTI query revealed.

On February 19 Modi received gold and diamond studded cufflinks, valued at Rs 75,000. The PM was also twice given tea-sets and books as gifts. He also was presented a statue of Lord Buddha, whose messages he has invoked in several of his speeches abroad, said foreign ministry in response to an RTI query.

The gift items received by the prime minister also included porcelain dishes, replica of temples, paintings, carpets, photographs, ornaments among others.

The government also said that former PM Manmohan Singh had from 2010 to June 2013 received gifts worth Rs 83.72 lakh during foreign tours.

In 2010 he was presented with a sword worth Rs 20.91 lakh, besides ornaments valued at Rs 48.93 lakh. Table-clock, pen, prayer mat, a statue of Lord Pashupatinath, a box made of gold are among other gifts Singh received during the UPA tenure.

The foreign ministry provided information on the gifts received on foreign tours by the President, the Vice-President, MPs, and government officials during the period between year 2010 to June 2013 while details for period between July 2013 to March 2015 have been mentioned on the ministry’s website, it said.

Punjab: Living man declared dead, to get pension after RTI reveals truth

Indian Express:

Punjab: Living man declared dead, to get pension after RTI reveals truth

Man alleges he was declared dead on paper at the behest of certain political leaders from his area who were upset with him for not voting for them

For over a year, Dhir Singh (75) — a resident of Jhanjjian Khurd village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district — made several rounds of the corridors of power, from his village sarpanch to the district social security officer, (DSSO), to determine why his pension had been stopped. The daily wager had last received his pension in February 2014.

It was only after Fatehgarh Churian-based RTI activist Sukhchain Singh came to his aid that Dhir discovered the reason why he had not received the meagre Rs 250 a month for a year. As far as the Punjab government was concerned, the daily wager was dead.

As per an RTI reply, signed by DSSO, Gurdaspur, Amarjit Kaur, Dhir Singh’s pension had been discontinued “due to his death on February 11, 2014”. This, after allegedly denying him the information for six months.

Singh said he had to write to the director, social security, in Chandigarh, who finally directed the DSSO Gurdaspur to provide him the information.

Embarrassed, the department has also said in the same reply that his pension would be  resumed soon.

Dhir Singh, whose right eye is damaged since birth, now alleges that he was declared dead on paper at the behest of certain political leaders from his area who were upset with him for not voting for them.

“I met the village sarpanch, made countless rounds of other offices. But nobody listened to me,” Dhir Singh said.

Gurdaspur DSSO Amarjit Kaur, however, said that Singh’s case appeared to be a clerical error as they were asked to verify the list of pensioners recently. “I was posted here only two months ago. I am not aware of the case. I will study it on Tuesday and will be able to give information only a day after that. I can only say that I will personally ensure his name is included in the list. We have asked him for the copy of his Aadhar card. The pension will be restarted,” he said.

Salman’s hit-and-run case papers with govt. lost in fire, RTI query reveals

The Hindu 28 May 2015

Salman’s hit-and-run case papers with govt. lost in fire, RTI query reveals

An RTI query has revealed that the Maharashtra government does not have any papers on actor Salman Khan’s 2002 hit-and-run case as the files pertaining to it were gutted in a fire at Mantralaya.

The RTI activist had sought to know from the State Law and Judiciary department the names and the total number of counsels, solicitors, advocates and legal advisors, public prosecutors appointed by the State government for this case.

The RTI reply informed that the files pertaining to the case were burnt on June 21, 2012, when a fire engulfed the State Secretariat and therefore, they cannot be made available.

To a query on total expenses incurred by the State government in the case from 2002 to May 6, 2015 , when the judgment was pronounced in the case, the activist was told that “the only thing that the government knows is about the appointment of Special public Prosecutor Pradeep Gharat who was appointed at a fee of Rs. 6,000 per hearing.”

On May 6, a Sessions Court had convicted Salman Khan for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in the 2002 hit-and-run case and sentenced him to five years imprisonment.

The Bombay High Court had on May 8 granted the actor bail and suspended his sentence pending hearing and final disposal of his appeal against conviction.

Draft notification of Capital land shortly

The Hindu May 20, 2015

Draft notification of Capital land shortly


After issuing the draft notification, the CRDA would give 30 days for filing of objections. The objections would be pertaining to land ownership.

The CRDA will publish the draft notification of extent of land taken under Land Pooling Scheme (LPS) Land Acquisition after the master plan for the core capital region is submitted to the State Government, Commissioner N. Srikanth said here on Tuesday.

With the publication of draft notification under under section 56 (2) of AP CRDA Act, yet another crucial phase in the Land Pooling Scheme would begin.

Land to the extent of 33,800 acres in 25 villages has been pooled so far and annuity payments were given for 16,000 acres. The draft notification would have a final base map along with details of extent of area and ownership status, category of land, extent of reconstituted plots to land owners in residential and commercial zones with details of sectors, zone and extent, reserved land and land use break up etc.

After issuing the draft notification, the CRDA would give 30 days for filing of objections. The objections would be pertaining to land ownership, reconsitution of plots to land owners and reserved land