Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A few updates - DVAC, IAS officers Assets Disclosure etc

Here are the updates regarding a few things that I have been working on.

The State Information Commission had ordered that DVAC, which was exempted from the act, still has to give corruption related information. As expected, DVAC has challenged this decision in the High Court, and the HC has given an interim stay and will hear the case after 8 weeks. This has been mentioned today in the Times. I have been added as a respondent in the case, which saves me the effort of impleading myself :-). Past posts about this issue can be seen here, here and here.

I did an analysis of the number of cases in the High Court challenging SIC's orders. The registrar told me that there were 37 cases where an interim stay has been granted. This one is probably the 38th. Many of these have been challenging the pro-disclosure judgments of the high court, and some are challenging the penalties. A complete list can be seen here. I had given this information to Times of India and Dinamani a Tamil newspapers. Times of India clubbed it with the DVAC news and published it. Dinamani highlighted this separately which can be seen here.

TN State Information Commission has ordered that assets disclosure statements of IAS officers will not be disclosed. This decision was given as part of a long 12 page order. The idea, I think, was to give the impression of having made a well reasoned case, but the whole order is nothing but saying that the assets details are personal information and hence cannot be disclosed unless there is a prima facie credible allegation of corruption. A weird judgment considering that the Commission had earlier passed orders wherein it had ordered disclosure of all the officers of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in 3 districts. Naturally, a prima facie allegation of corruption cannot exist for ALL the officers. But the real reason is that in the earlier case, it was about "ordinary" officers and not about IAS officers. Of course, I am challenging it in the High Court and have completed the inital draft of the affidavit. Will post it here once finalised. The writ challenging this order will be filed most probably next week, since Mr.Krishnananth, the advocate who also helped me with the MLA assets disclosure PIL, is back in Chennai only this saturday.

Another development on the SIC front apart from the Commission starting to follow up on Show Cause Notices issued eariler, is that I have obtained legal opinion from Ms.Sudha Ramalingam, a leading advocate, to the effect that there were no legal issues involved in issuing Show Cause Notices for penalties along with the summons itself. I have sent a covering letter along with the copy of the legal opinion to all the Commissioners and the Registrar. I sent this on 2nd December 2009. Let me see what the response is, if at all there is one.

On the Chief Central Information Commissioner appointment, the Delhi HC had dismissed the PIL filed. After that there has been a few things have happened. We were discussing whether we need to go the Supreme Court against the Delhi HC's judgment, and finally decided on getting a "Certificate" from the Delhi High Court to go directly on appeal to Supreme Court. If not, it seems, one needs to file a Special Leavel Petition (SLP) with the Supreme Court and then go for appeal. These were entirely new things to me, so I just let the better informed people on the group to decide things. Meanwhile, yesterday we learnt that the Chief Information Commissioner was in fact not moving to J&K because the SC had slapped Contempt Notices on the Commission for putting up controversial decisions given by them against the Supreme Court in RTI applications filed by Subhash Chandra Agarwal, an RTI activist, on their website. Supreme Court had already stayed these decisions too. The decisions can be downloaded from http://cic.gov.in/CIC-Orders/WB-24112009-01.pdf

Some relevant links are given below.

That's it for now.

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