Friday, February 26, 2010

Letter seeking transparent appointment of Information Commissioners

I had drafted a letter to the Chief Secretary and the Secretary of Personnel and Administrative reforms seeking a public consultation to evolve a transparent appointment procedure for appointment of Information Commissioners to the State Information Commission. Then I got it signed by some eminent people in Tamil Nadu and by groups interested in RTI. The scanned version of the letter and it doc version can be seen here. The related news reports can be seen below. As the letter says the Chief Information Commissioner is going to retire in Aug 2010 and another Information Commissioners is going to retire in Oct 2010. I see it as the start of the campaign, as I am sure there will be a lot of work to be done on this. Arving Kejriwal is planning to file a PIL in Delhi on appointments to the CIC. I am in touch with him as he said I can do something similar in TN. Though I dont know what the grounds of his PIL are, when I pointed out that an earlier PIL filed in Delhi HC on the same issue was dismissed, he replied that he now had more information on hand and hence could make a much better case. Let us see.

The Hindu: Transparency sought in SIC commissioners’ appointments
Dinamani: தகவல் ஆணையர்களின் நியமனத்தில் வெளிப்படைத்தன்மை தேவை
The Times of India: Appoint info panel chief in transparent fashion: RTI activists

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Functions, they indeed are!!!

An RTI application filed with the Chennai Corporation has revealed that on a day when 2 flyovers and a subway were inaugurated by the Chief Minister, close to 24 Lakhs were spent on the inaugural functions. This is equivalent to the amount that is allocated to each councillor for his/her ward improvement works for a complete year, which is 25 Lakhs. This was featured in Times of India today and the Mayor has justified it too, saying this is the same as was spent by the previous government. They just dont seem to get it. Even assuming this is true, why is their benchmark the previous government. If the previous government was corrupt, is a claim that this government is less corrupt good enough a justification. The Mayor also says that this is usual for functions involving the CM. What the heck? Whose money is this?? The functions are essentially a platform for the ruling party to publicise their "achievements" and hence is as good as the political meetings that they normally convene. Only this time, it is being done in the name of inaugurating a flyover, and all expenses borne by you-know-who.

The actual replies can be seen here.

Update: Tamil Osai, the party newspaper of Pattali Makkal Katchi (Headed by Mr.S.Ramadoss) has written an editorial on this. The editorial (in Tamil) can also be seen in the same link as given above for the replies.

Transparent appointment of Information Commissioners and other updates

Right now, I am working on Transparent Appointment of Information Commissioners in Tamil Nadu. In this direction, as a first step I have drafted a letter to be sent to the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu and the Secretary of P&AR department, asking them to hold a public consultation to decide on a procedure for appointment of Information Commissioners. The letter can be seen here.

Another important development is that I have scheduled a meeting with the Secretary of DoPT, Government of India on friday (12th Feb 2010). I had fixed this up on behalf of the group that had previously filed the PIL in Delhi HC seeking transparent appointments in CIC. We are in the process of drafting a memorandum and demanding a time bound response from them. So I will be travelling to Delhi this weekend to be a part of this meeting.

Regarding the assets disclosure of IAS and IPS officers, the Judge had earlier reserved her judgment in this case in Dec. Now after reminding her, she passed a judgment dismissing the writ. The order, a copy of which is not in our hands yet, but the lawyer was allowed to look at the order in the court itself, essentially reiterates what the SIC has said. But we had also enclosed CIC decisions where assets disclosure of IAS and IPS officers were allowed. To this, the Judge mentioned in the judgment that "though the lawyer referred to the decisions of CIC copies of these were not produced", whereas, the initial set of documents enclosed along with the affidavit itself contained copies of not one but two CIC decisions. It was such a stupid statement to make. Even assuming that the docs were missing, (which is not the case anyway) it is the Judge's duty to ask for copies and ensure that a fair judgment is passed. I wonder how she can ignore those important CIC decisions when passing such a judgment. Krishananth said that it will make it all the more easy to challenge the decision in a bench. We are waiting for a copy of the order, for us to file an appeal.

As for the DVAC order in our favour, I am yet to get information from DVAC. The two weeks time given by the judge will be over with this week. But Krishnananth, has meanwhile filed a caveat, which would mean that if the DVAC goes on appeal to a division bench, then the bench wont hear the case or order a stay without giving us notice. This would help us put our arguments forward even before the division bench considers granting an interim stay.