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Gentle Reminder: Looking forward to see you at 8th Prakash Kardaley Memorial lecture


Dear Friends,
See you this evening. You are sure to be inspired. Cheers


--
Vinita Deshmukh
Senior Journalist, RTI columnist & activist
98230 36663
Consulting Editor, Corporate Citizen magazine (fortnightly)
Consulting Editor, MoneyLife (www.moneylife.in)
Former Deputy Resident Editor and Senior Editor of The Indian Express, Pune
Author of the book `The Mighty Fall' (based on Pratibha Patil post-retirement home scam and Dow Chemicals - success stories through use of RTI)
co-author of the book`To The Last Bullet' (based on Vinita Kamte's expose of the needless deaths of her police officer husband Ashok Kamter along with Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar in 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, through evidence she procured under RTI)
Compiled and edited a book on RTI for YASHADA, `Milestone 7: Journey of RTI Act'
Guest faculty in Sri Balaji Society for teaching Conversational English and Communication Skills
Guest faculty in MIT, School of Government for teaching RTI Act
Convener, RTI Forum For Instant Information (RFII)
Convener, Pune Passport Grievance Forum (PPGF)
Convener, Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan
My philosophy: One tree can start a forest; one smile can begin a friendship; one hand can lift a soul; one word can frame the goal; one candle can wipe out darkness ; one laugh can conquer gloom; one hope can raise our spirits ; one touch can show you care; one ACTION can make a difference........ Be any ONE of that today 



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Posted by: Vinita Vishwas Deshmukh <vinitapune-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org>



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Constitutional conundrum regarding Parliamentary oversight on rule making exercise under the RTI Act [1 Attachment]

Dear all,
Please find attached a communication along with Annexures despatched to the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India regarding ensuring parliamentary/legislative oversight on the exercise of rule making powers of the State Governments, Heads of State Legislatures and Chief Justices of High Courts under The Right to Information Act, 2005. A shorter version of the letter is copied below.
Thanks
Please circulate this email widely.

In order to access our previous email alerts on RTI and related issues please click on: http://sartian.org (Latest News) . If you do not wish to receive these email alerts please send an email to this address indicating your refusal.
Thanks 
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55 A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai
New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215

The people of this 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 bearing": Justice K K Mathew, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, (1975)

"“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its credal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing": Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, (1981)

"Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society”: Justice A. P. Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts, (2010)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Venkatesh Nayak <venkatesh-VldVBIePPc7rfyPWP6PaXg+gnn+XHhfY2LY78lusg7I@public.gmane.org>
Date: Fri, Dec 18, 2015 at 3:22 PM
Subject: Constitutional conundrum regarding Parliamentary oversight on rule making exercise under the RTI Act
To: Sanjay Kothari <secy_mop-R9E+szwozl8@public.gmane.org>
Cc: d.chaturvedi-4CNQnjY0xcGf0DUV/oxz1A@public.gmane.org


To,

Mr. Sanjay Kothari, IAS

Secretary to Government of India

Department of Personnel and Training

Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions

North Block

New Delhi- 110 001


Dear sir,

Sub: Resolving the constitutional conundrum regarding oversight of the unbridled exercise of powers of delegated legislation by appropriate governments and competent authorities under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act)


I am writing to draw your attention to the unresolved issue of the unreasonable exercise of the power of delegated legislation under the RTI Act by delegatees and the absence of effective parliamentary/legislative oversight of the same. You are aware of the fact that some appropriate governments acting under Section 27 and several competent authorities including heads of State Legislatures and Chief Justices of High Courts acting under Section 28 have notified Rules for the implementation of the Act in their jurisdiction that are in clear violation of its letter and spirit. Your Department has written more than once to all delegates to take action to harmonise the RTI Rules in accordance with the Central RTI Rules, 2012. However hardly any positive action is evidenced from their end. 


It is well known that Parliament is competent to make laws under both List I and List III of the Seventh Schedule read with Article 243 of the Constitution. While making laws on subjects covered by either List, Parliament is competent to delegate the power of rule-making to both the Central and the State Governments. Rules made by the Central Government are required to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament within specific time limits. Parliament has the power to annul, modify or leave such rules unchanged. Section 29(1) of the RTI Act is indicative of this scheme of parliamentary oversight over the power of delegated legislation exercised by the Central Government. However where a parliamentary statute vests rule-making powers with the State Governments there is only a requirement of laying the Rules before the Legislature. There is no explicit mention of the power of the Legislature to modify or annul the rules in the manner done by Parliament. Section 29(2) of the RTI Act is a typical illustration of this procedure.

 

In 1979 the Lok Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation (LS-CoSL) studied the reports of previous committees which dealt with the subject, heard the Ministry of Law and invited views of the State Governments and the State Legislatures. The findings contained in its 20th Report may be summarised as follows (relevant extracts are in Annexe 4):

 

A law enacted by Parliament on a subject under the Union List: The LS-CoSL observed that the State Legislatures do not have the power to modify Rules made by State Governments under a law enacted by Parliament on a subject contained in the Union List (page 18). The reasons for such a restriction are discussed in detail in the enclosed extracts of the report. However such laws require the State Government to at least lay those Rules before the Legislature. The State Legislatures may in plenary sessions or through their respective committees on subordinate legislation make recommendations to the State Government to change or withdraw a Rule that is not in tune with the provisions of the principal Act. However they cannot annul or amend any offending Rule in the manner of Parliament.

 

A law enacted by Parliament on a subject under the Concurrent List: The LS-CoSL observed that where a law is enacted by Parliament under a subject contained in the Concurrent List, the State Legislature can modify or annul any Rule made by the State Government. However this will require an enabling provision in some other State law to empower the State Legislature to act in this manner. At the time of authoring its Report the Committee noted that only Uttar Pradesh and Orissa had amended their respective General Clauses Acts to empower the State Legislatures to modify the Rules made by the State Governments under a law dealing with a Concurrent subject. The LS-CoSL recommended that the Law Ministry under the Government of India follow-up with the other State Governments to amend their own laws in a similar manner. However to the best of my knowledge, since the presentation of LS-CoSL’s 20th Report, Rajasthan is the only State to have incorporated such an amendment in its General Clauses Act in 1993. Other States have not taken any action yet on this matter for reasons best known to them.

 

Given this scenario, the next question to examine is in which List does the subject matter of the RTI Act fall. The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the RTI Bill, 2004 did not connect it to any subject in any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Instead the RTI Bill stated that the proposed legislation would provide an effective framework for effectuating the right of information recognized under Article 19 of the Constitution. Does this mean that the RTI Act pertains to List III as States can also make laws to give effect to fundamental rights? There is no entry in this List within which RTI can be fitted unequivocally. Or can it be reasoned that Parliament passed this law under its residuary powers of legislation recognized under Article 248? This will put the RTI Act in the domain of exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. So State Legislatures will not be able to modify or annul Rules notified by the respective Governments. However the LS-CoSL did not deal with this scenario in its report.

 

There is an urgent need to resolve this constitutional conundrum. My recommendation is as follows:

 

1)    State Legislatures must be given the power to scrutinise, amend or annul  the RTI Rules notified by the State Governments;

2)    Parliament must exercise scrutiny of the manner in which competent authorities such as the Heads of State Legislatures and the High Courts exercise their rule making powers under the RTI Act through its Committees on Subordinate Legislation.

 

I believe Parliament being the law-making body that vested these competent authorities with the power of delegated legislation under the RTI Act is competent to examine them against the letter and spirit of the parent law. Rule 317 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha (14th Edn., 2010) describes the power of the House to vet rules made by any authority as follows:

 

“317. There shall be a Committee on Subordinate Legislation to scrutinize and report to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, subrules, bye-laws etc., conferred by the Constitution or delegated by Parliament are being properly exercised within such delegation.”

 

Similarly Rule 204 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) (7th edn., 2010) also vests the power to examine the exercise of delegated legislation by any authority.

 

There shall be a Committee on Subordinate Legislation to scrutinize and report to the Council whether the powers to make rules, regulations, bye-laws, schemes or other statutory instruments conferred by the Constitution or delegated by Parliament have been properly exercised within such conferment or delegation, as the case may be.”

 

The aforementioned Rules make it clear that both Houses of Parliament can examine the RTI Rules notified by all State Legislatures and Chief Justices of High Courts. This will not affect the independence of the State Legislatures or the judiciary as the parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation will only examine whether the powers granted by Parliament to the competent authorities for implementing RTI in their jurisdiction are being exercised within stipulated limits or if there is overreach. However due to the absence of a specific mention in the RTI Act of the laying requirement for these Rules they have escaped mandatory scrutiny by the parliamentary Committees on Subordinate Legislation. There is an urgent need to remedy this problem.

 

As the administrative Department for the RTI Act, your Department has an obligation to initiate action towards bringing RTI Rules notified by State Governments under the effective scrutiny of the respective State Legislatures. Similarly your Department has an obligation to initiate action to bring the RTI Rules framed by all High Courts to the attention of the twin parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation. I request you to initiate action in this regard immediately. If you wish to discuss this matter further please feel free to call me at 011-43180215; 9871050555 or email me at venkatesh <at> humanrightsinitiative.org.


Please find attached a scanned copy of the full text of this letter along with all Annexes. A hard copy of the letter and all Annexes are being sent to you by post. Kindly note that I will be circulating this email and attachment to other members of the RTI fraternity to keep them informed about this communication.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Venkatesh Nayak

Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55 A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai
New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215



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न्याय में देरी की बीमारी के इलाज के साथ साथ बीमारी न होने के भी उपाय करे सरकार – उर्वशी शर्मा

लखनऊ से उठी न्यायिक सुधार की मांग की चिंगारी को देश भर में फैलाकर ज्वाला बनायेंगे समाजसेवी 


लखनऊ/17 दिसम्बर 2015/ बीते 12 दिसम्बर को जहाँ एक तरफ पूरा देश लोक अदालतों के माध्यम से मुकद्दमो के अम्बार को कम करके न्याय में देरी की बीमारी के इलाज में व्यस्त था तो वहीं आबादी के हिसाब से देश के सबसे बड़े सूबे यूपी की राजधानी लखनऊ के हजरतगंज इलाके में सामाजिक संगठन येश्वर्याज सेवा संस्थान की सचिव उर्वशी शर्मा के नेतृत्व में देश भर से आये समाजसेवी 12 फुट ऊंचे पोस्टर के साथ अदालतों की ‘तारीख पे तारीख, दिए जाने की कार्यप्रणाली के खिलाफ हुंकार भर मुकद्दमों का अम्बार इकठ्ठा होने की बीमारी को होने से रोकने के लिए उपाय करने की मांग कर रहे थे. समाजसेवियों ने न्यायिक सुधारों की मांग करते हुए जिलाधिकारी आवास से जीपीओ स्थित महात्मा गांधी पार्क तक ‘न्याय संघर्ष यात्रा 2015’ के नाम से पैदल शांति मार्च निकाला और महात्मा गांधी की प्रतिमा के नीचे मोमबत्ती जलाकर भारत की अदालतों में ‘न्याय’ की जगह ‘तारीख पे तारीख’ ही मिलने की बात रखते हुए अदालती कार्यवाहियों में ऑडियो-वीडियो रिकॉर्डिंग कराने, अदालतों में मामलों के निपटारे की अधिकतम समय सीमा निर्धारित करने समेत अनेकों मांगों को बुलंद कर न्यायिक भ्रष्टाचार की भर्त्सना की और अदालती कार्यवाहियों में पारदर्शिता और जबाबदेही लाने के लिए अपनी आवाज बुलंद की.



कार्यक्रम की संयोजिका येश्वर्याज की सचिव और आरटीआई कार्यकर्त्ता उर्वशी शर्मा ने एक बातचीत में बताया कि न्याय मिलने में देरी भी मानवाधिकारों का उल्लंघन ही है और इसीलिये भारत की सभी अदालतों में सभी को एक समान,सस्ता,सही और त्वरित न्याय दिलाने के लिए लखनऊ से शुरू की गए इस पहल को अब एक देशव्यापी मुहिम का रूप दिया जाएगा. उर्वशी ने बताया कि लखनऊ से उठी न्यायिक सुधार की इस चिंगारी को देश भर में फैलाकर ज्वाला बनाने की इस मुहिम में येश्वर्याज के साथ साथ दिल्ली की सामाजिक संस्था फाइट 4 जुडिशिअल रिफॉर्म्स, गाजियावाद की राष्ट्रीय सूचना का अधिकार टास्क फोर्स ट्रस्ट और  लखनऊ की एस.आर.पी.डी.एम. समाज सेवा संस्थान ने यह निर्णय लिया है कि शीघ्र ही देश के सभी राज्यों की राजधानियों में और उसके बाद देश भर के सभी जिला मुख्यालयों में न्याय संघर्ष यात्राएं निकालकर न्यायिक पारदर्शिता और जबाबदेही की मांग की जायेगी.




उर्वशी ने बताया कि न्यायिक भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ हुए इस विरोध प्रदर्शन के बाद येश्वर्याज ने उत्तर प्रदेश के राज्यपाल के माध्यम से देश के राष्ट्रपति,प्रधानमंत्री,मुख्य न्यायधीश और सभी प्रदेशों के राज्यपालों,मुख्यमंत्रियों और उच्च न्यायालयों के न्यायधीशों को समाजसेवियों द्वारा हस्ताक्षरित 5 सूत्रीय ज्ञापन भेजकर जजों के रिक्त पदों को समयबद्ध रूप से भरने;जजों  की नियुक्ति करने,जजों के कार्यों का ऑडिट करने,भ्रष्टाचारी और अन्य मामलों के दोषी जजों की शिकायतों की जांच के लिए राष्ट्रीय और राज्य स्पेशल ज्युडिशिअल कमीशन जैसे स्वतंत्र आयोगों की स्थापना करने; वर्तमान कानून में संशोधन करके अदालती कार्यवाहियों की आडिओ-वीडिओ रिकॉर्डिंग को अनिवार्य बनाने; सभी ट्रायल कोर्ट और अपीलीय कोर्ट में मामलों के निस्तारण की अधिकतम समयसीमा का निर्धारण करने और जजों के विरुद्ध शिकायतों के निस्तारण की प्रक्रिया को पारदर्शी बनाने की मांग की है.



भारतीय संविधान  की बात करते हुए उर्वशी ने कहा कि संविधान की प्रस्तावना में स्वतंत्रता और समानता से पहले न्याय को जगह दिया जाना यह स्पष्ट करता है कि संविधान निर्माताओं ने भारत के सभी नागरिकों को न्याय उपलब्ध कराने को प्रमुखता दी थी किन्तु आजाद भारत की सरकारें इस संविधान के लागू होने के 65 सालों के बाद भी न्यायिक प्रक्रियाओं में समानता स्थापित करने में असफल ही रही हैं.उर्वशी ने कहा कि न्यायपालिका द्वारा स्वायत्तता के नाम पर जवाबदेही से बचने के कारण ही न्याय व्यवस्था दूषित हो गयी है और न्याय की एक पारदर्शी और जिम्मेदार प्रणाली विकसित किये बिना इस समस्या का समाधान संभव ही नहीं है. 


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Posted by: urvashi sharma <rtimahilamanchup-/E1597aS9LQxFYw1CcD5bw@public.gmane.org>



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लखनऊ से उठी न्यायिक सुधार की चिंगारी बनेगी ज्वाला

लखनऊ से उठी न्यायिक सुधार की चिंगारी
बनेगी ज्वाला

http://instantkhabar.com/articles/item/27801-article.html 

Written by  Editor Thursday, 17 December 2015 05:30

बीते 12 दिसम्बर को जहाँ एक तरफ पूरा देश
लोक अदालतों के माध्यम से मुकद्दमो
के अम्बार को कम करके न्याय में देरी
की बीमारी के इलाज में व्यस्त था तो
वहीं आबादी के हिसाब से देश के सबसे
बड़े सूबे यूपी की राजधानी लखनऊ के
हजरतगंज इलाके में सामाजिक संगठन
येश्वर्याज सेवा संस्थान की सचिव
उर्वशी शर्मा के नेतृत्व में देश भर
से आये समाजसेवी 12 फुट ऊंचे पोस्टर के
साथ अदालतों की ‘तारीख पे तारीख, दिए
जाने की कार्यप्रणाली के खिलाफ
हुंकार भर मुकद्दमों का अम्बार
इकठ्ठा होने की बीमारी को होने से
रोकने के लिए उपाय करने की मांग कर रहे
थे. समाजसेवियों ने न्यायिक सुधारों
की मांग करते हुए जिलाधिकारी आवास से
जीपीओ स्थित महात्मा गांधी पार्क तक
‘न्याय संघर्ष यात्रा 2015’ के नाम से
पैदल शांति मार्च निकाला और महात्मा
गांधी की प्रतिमा के नीचे मोमबत्ती
जलाकर भारत की अदालतों में ‘न्याय’
की जगह ‘तारीख पे तारीख’ ही मिलने की
बात रखते हुए अदालती कार्यवाहियों
में ऑडियो-वीडियो रिकॉर्डिंग कराने,
अदालतों में मामलों के निपटारे की
अधिकतम समय सीमा निर्धारित करने
समेत अनेकों मांगों को बुलंद कर
न्यायिक भ्रष्टाचार की भर्त्सना की
और अदालती कार्यवाहियों में
पारदर्शिता और जबाबदेही लाने के लिए
अपनी आवाज बुलंद की.

कार्यक्रम की संयोजिका येश्वर्याज
की सचिव और आरटीआई कार्यकर्त्ता
उर्वशी शर्मा ने एक बातचीत में बताया
कि न्याय मिलने में देरी भी
मानवाधिकारों का उल्लंघन ही है और
इसीलिये भारत की सभी अदालतों में सभी
को एक समान,सस्ता,सही और त्वरित न्याय
दिलाने के लिए लखनऊ से शुरू की गए इस
पहल को अब एक देशव्यापी मुहिम का रूप
दिया जाएगा. उर्वशी ने बताया कि लखनऊ
से उठी न्यायिक सुधार की इस चिंगारी
को देश भर में फैलाकर ज्वाला बनाने की
इस मुहिम में येश्वर्याज के साथ साथ
दिल्ली की सामाजिक संस्था फाइट 4
जुडिशिअल रिफॉर्म्स, गाजियावाद की
राष्ट्रीय सूचना का अधिकार टास्क
फोर्स ट्रस्ट और  लखनऊ की
एस.आर.पी.डी.एम. समाज सेवा संस्थान ने
यह निर्णय लिया है कि शीघ्र ही देश के
सभी राज्यों की राजधानियों में और
उसके बाद देश भर के सभी जिला
मुख्यालयों में न्याय संघर्ष
यात्राएं निकालकर न्यायिक
पारदर्शिता और जबाबदेही की मांग की जायेगी.

उर्वशी ने बताया कि न्यायिक
भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ हुए इस विरोध
प्रदर्शन के बाद येश्वर्याज ने
उत्तर प्रदेश के राज्यपाल के माध्यम
से देश के
राष्ट्रपति,प्रधानमंत्री,मुख्य
न्यायधीश और सभी प्रदेशों के
राज्यपालों,मुख्यमंत्रियों और
उच्च न्यायालयों के न्यायधीशों को
समाजसेवियों द्वारा हस्ताक्षरित 5
सूत्रीय ज्ञापन भेजकर जजों के रिक्त

पदों को समयबद्ध रूप से भरने;जजों  की
नियुक्ति करने,जजों के कार्यों का
ऑडिट करने,भ्रष्टाचारी और अन्य
मामलों के दोषी जजों की शिकायतों की
जांच के लिए राष्ट्रीय और राज्य
स्पेशल ज्युडिशिअल कमीशन जैसे
स्वतंत्र आयोगों की स्थापना करने;
वर्तमान कानून में संशोधन करके
अदालती कार्यवाहियों की आडिओ-वीडिओ
रिकॉर्डिंग को अनिवार्य बनाने; सभी
ट्रायल कोर्ट और अपीलीय कोर्ट में
मामलों के निस्तारण की अधिकतम
समयसीमा का निर्धारण करने और जजों के
विरुद्ध शिकायतों के निस्तारण की
प्रक्रिया को पारदर्शी बनाने की
मांग की है.

भारतीय संविधान  की बात करते हुए
उर्वशी ने कहा कि संविधान की
प्रस्तावना में स्वतंत्रता और
समानता से पहले न्याय को जगह दिया
जाना यह स्पष्ट करता है कि संविधान
निर्माताओं ने भारत के सभी नागरिकों
को न्याय उपलब्ध कराने को प्रमुखता
दी थी किन्तु आजाद भारत की सरकारें इस
संविधान के लागू होने के 65 सालों के बाद
भी न्यायिक प्रक्रियाओं में समानता
स्थापित करने में असफल ही रही
हैं.उर्वशी ने कहा कि न्यायपालिका
द्वारा स्वायत्तता के नाम पर
जवाबदेही से बचने के कारण ही न्याय
व्यवस्था दूषित हो गयी है और न्याय की
एक पारदर्शी और जिम्मेदार प्रणाली
विकसित किये बिना इस समस्या का
समाधान संभव ही नहीं है.


------------------------------------
Posted by: urvashi sharma <rtimahilamanchup <at> yahoo.co.in>
------------------------------------

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Kerala's Information Commission rejects use of IPOs for payment of RTI fees while some other SICs direct Governments to comply with a Supreme Court directive regarding accountability for acquittals in criminal cases [6 Attachments]

Dear all,
The Hon'ble Supreme Court  in a landmark judgement about transparency in the banking sector announced yesterday, expressed its concerns about the manner in which many Public Information Officers reject people's requests for information under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Some Information Commissions are only adding their weight to the problems that are increasingly preventing the effective implementation of the Act, instead of resolving them. The latest instance of this trend is from Kerala.

In January 2015, Ms. Shikha Chhibbar, Project Officer, Access to Justice Programme, CHRI, submitted an RTI application to the Home Department, Government of Kerala seeking information about action taken to comply with the Hon'ble Supreme Court's directives in the matter of State of Gujarat vs Kishanbhal [(2014) 5 SCC 108] delivered in in January 2014. She paid the RTI application fee of Rs. 10/- using an Indian Postal Order (IPO). The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Home Department promptly returned the RTI application stating that IPO was not a recognised mode of payment under the State Government's RTI Rules and demanded fee payment in cash or through Bank draft or court fee stamp. As fee payment in cash was not possible due to the distance between Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram and court fee stamps bought in Delhi would not be acceptable in Kerala, Ms. Chhibbar sent a Bank draft spending more than triple the amount on bank charges and postage. Simultaneously, she filed a complaint  (1st attachment) with the Kerala State Information Commission (SIC) arguing that IPOs were not prohibited by the RTI Rules as a mode of fee payment and that the value of the IPO could be readily realised by the PIO upon presenting it to the concerned post office for redemption. This complaint case filed in January was decided by the Kerala SIC on 2nd December. 

The SIC has dismissed the complaint holding that IPOs are not a valid mode of payment under the RTI Rules and that the PIO's action of rejecting the RTI application was not improper or illegal (2nd attachment). Despite the Complainant pointing out that Section 7(1) of the RTI Act permitted a PIO to rejection of an RTI application only by invoking the exemptions specified in Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act and no other reason would be valid or legitimate, the SIC chose to ignore that plea. Nor did the SIC bother to make a recommendation to the State Government to consider amending the RTI Rules to include IPOs as a valid mode of payment. The Central Government and several State Governments accept IPOs for fee payment. Members of the RTI fraternity in Kerala have pointed out the deteriorating situation vis-a-vis the implementation of the RTI Act in Kerala thanks to an SIC which is not only orthodox in its approach to transparency but also has several vacant posts of Information Commissioners. The recent order of the Kerala SIC only strengthens this collective impression. The Home Department has sent some documents as evidence of action taken to implement the Apex Court's directives.


Background of the RTI intervention - ascertaining compliance with a set of directives of the Supreme Court
The Kishanbhai case was about the acquittal of the Respondent in a case of rape-cum-murder of a six year old girl child in 2003 in Gujarat, for want of convincing evidence. The judges of the Apex Court expressed their anguish at having to set aside the conviction because the prosecution had not been able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, despite their conscience being troubled by the barbarity of the crime. In order to make shoddy investigators and incompetent prosecutors accountable for acquittals of such kind in criminal cases, the Apex Court laid down a mechanism for reviewing such cases to ascertain the reasons for the lapses, fixing responsibility and launching disciplinary action against errant officers, documenting such cases for use in enhanced training programmes for investigators and prosecutors. A series of directions to this effect are given at the end of the text of the judgement.

Several experts of human rights law and criminal law have been critical of the "conviction oriented-ness" of this judgement. However neither the State of Gujarat, nor any of the other Government or any human rights/criminal law expert or advocacy organisation has sought a review of the directions of the Apex Court in this case. So under Articles 141 and 144 of the Constitution these directions have attained the status of law that all jurisdictions must comply with. In January this year, we decided to ascertain the steps taken by States and Union Territories to comply with these directions. It was in this context that Ms. Chhibbar filed her RTI application with the Home Department of Kerala. In several States leading RTI activists and campaigners agreed to partner with us and seek information from their Governments about the action taken to comply with the Apex Court's directives in Kishanbhai. Armed with the circular issued by the Union Home Ministry (MHA) drawing the attention of the Governments of all States and UTs, they filed RTIs in 27 States and 3 UTs to ascertain compliance (3rd attachment).

RTI interventions woke up the Governments of Maharashtra, J&K and Manipur to the Apex Court's directives
Maharashtra SIC was the first to take up this matter. Mr. Bhaskar Prabhu of Mahiti Adhikar Manch and National Campaign for People's Right to Information(NCPRI)  filed 3 RTI applications (thanks to the 150 word limit) with the State's Home Department seeking details of action taken on the Apex Court's directives. The Government did not bother to respond. The matters escalated to the SIC in less than 4 months - remarkable speed as compared to other Information Commissions which receive a large number of appeals and complaints that remain pending for several months or even years on end. The State Government initially denied knowledge of the MHA circular. When Mr. Prabhu submitted a copy of the same to the SIC, it became apparent that the State Government had slept over it for more than a year. The SIC took a grave view of the lackadaisical manner in which the Government had dealt with the Apex Court's directives. The SIC directed the Chief Secretary to inquire into the lack of response to the RTI applications on such an important matter as compliance of the Apex Court's directives and recommended launch of disciplinary action against the officers found delinquent as a result of the inquiry (4th attachment). This order was issued in May, 2015. Not having received any communication from the Government about action taken on the SIC's order, Mr. Prabhu has once again sought details of compliance with the SIC's order under the RTI Act.

The SIC of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K SIC) was the next authority to take note of similar non-compliance on a complaint filed by RTI activist and journalist Mr. Raman Sharma. Upon not receiving any reply from the State Home Department to his RTI application regarding compliance with the Apex Court['s directives in Kishanbhai, he filed a complaint with the J&K SIC. The Home Department pleaded that it had not received Mr. Sharma's RTI application at all. However evidence of submission of the RTI application was provided during the hearing to prove otherwise. The submissions of the J&K Police who attended the hearings revealed that although they had issued some instructions after receiving the MHA's circular the committee that was required to be constituted to inquire into lapses of the investigating and prosecuting authorities as directed by the Apex Court had not been set up until the J&K SIC took notice of the RTI complaint. The J&K SIC recommended that the State Government implement the directives of the Apex Court in letter and spirit (5th attachment). It also issued a penalty show cause notice to the PIO of the J&K Home Department.

The Manipur SIC has also taken note of this matter. Mr. Joykumar Wahengbam, Executive Director, Human Rights Initiative and a Co-Convenor of NCPRI filed an RTI with the State's Home Department about action taken on the Apex Court's directives in Kishanbhai. The PIO rejected the RTI application pointing to a circular issued by the State Government 10 years ago exempting the entire Home Department under Section 24 of the RTI Act. When the matter escalated to the Manipur SIC, in November this year, the SIC rejected the Home Department's plea holding that implementing the Apex Court's directives is related to allegations of violation of human rights and therefore the PIO should disclose all information to the applicant free of charge within 45 days (6th attachment). Mr. Wahengbam is still waiting for the information.

In many other States this matter has escalated to the concerned SICs while in a few others some documents relating to compliance with the Apex Court's directives in Kishanbhai have been supplied. While RTI is proving to be a very useful tool in demanding transparency about lack of action in public authorities on key issues, the somnolence or impunity, as the case may be, of the bureaucracy is proving to be a stumbling block on the road to accountable governance.

Please circulate this email widely.

In order to access our previous email alerts on RTI and related issues please click on: http://sartian.org (Latest News) . If you do not wish to receive these email alerts please send an email to this address indicating your refusal.
Thanks 
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55 A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai
New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215

The people of this 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 bearing": Justice K K Mathew, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, (1975)

"“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its credal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing": Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, (1981)

"Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society”: Justice A. P. Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts, (2010)



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Attachment(s) from Venkatesh Nayak | View attachments on the web

6 of 6 File(s)

Posted by: Venkatesh Nayak <venkatesh-VldVBIePPc7rfyPWP6PaXg+gnn+XHhfY2LY78lusg7I@public.gmane.org>



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Supreme Court orders Reserve Bank of India to be more transparent under RTI Act - holds its relationship with other Banks "non-fiduciary" in nature

Dear all,
In what will be described as a landmark judgement (see attachment) in the history of the implementation of The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act), the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has thrown out hook, line and sinker, the plea of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI - India's Central Bank) not to disclose information to the general public about the action it takes against Banks against their alleged irregularities. In a batch matter of 11 cases transferred from the High Courts of Bombay and Delhi namely, Reserve Bank of India vs Jayantilal N. Mistry [Transferred Case (Civil) No. 707 of 2012 & other related matters] the Apex Court upheld the orders of Single Commissioner Benches of the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing RBI to disclose a deal of information about action taken regarding irregularities of Banks, loan defaulters etc. It is noteworthy that ten of these cases were decided by the then Information Commissioner, Mr. Shailesh Gandhi and one by former IC and later Chief IC, Mr. Satyananda Mishra. I hope all those who had criticised Mr. Gandhi's speed in disposing appeals and complaints (thereby setting new standards for the institution which unfortunately have plummetted again) and the alleged "unsatisfactory" quality of several of his decisions will now reconsider their views. Ordinarily, I would refrain from commenting on the identity and the performance of individuals who adjudicate cases at the Information Commissions. However this ex-Commissioner's legacy deserves in-depth and informed debate, particularly in the light of what the Apex Court has said in the judgement and due to the fact that he was the first civil society appointee in the CIC.

What kinds of information did the RBI refuse to disclose under the RTI Act?
The RBI invoked possible detriment to the nation's economic interest [Section 8(1)(a)], commercial confidence of Banks [Section 8(1)(d)] and fiduciary relationship with the Banks to reject information access when the RTI applicants sought the following categories of information under the RTI Act:

1) Reports of inspection of public sector Banks including Cooperative Banks conducted by the RBI on receipt of complaints of irregularities against them, fines imposed on them, all correspondence conducted with them in this regard and final reports and findings of RBI in such cases;

2) List of loan defaulters and action taken against them;

3) Minutes of Board meetings of Banks;

4) Losses suffered by Banks in the currency derivatives market (market to market losses);

5) Grade classification of a Cooperative Bank, etc.


What arguments were placed before and how did the Court Rule?
The Counsel for RBI argued mainly the following grounds:

a) that the Single Member Benches of the CIC treated as per incuriam a Full Bench (FB) decision of the CIC from 2006 which had ruled that ordinarily bank-related information shall not be disclosed for reasons of economic security, fiduciary relationship etc. (incidentally I could not find this decision in the matter of Ravin Ranchhodlal Patel vs. RBI anywhere on the CIC's website) because that FB had not examined the possibility of disclosure on grounds of overweighing public interest under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act;

b) that Section 22 of the RTI Act which gives it overriding authority did not nullify previous laws that relate to the banking sector which the RBI is bound t follow and under whose provisions confidentiality of information is a requirement; and 

c) that confidentiality of information in regulatory activities is a common feature in foreign jurisdictions; and

The Counsel for the Respondents drew the attention of the connect between the Constitution, its Preamble, the fundamental right of the people to know under Article 19(1) of the Constitution, the Preamble of the RTI Act, its purpose and the nature of exemptions as well as the public interest override, apart from citing the Apex Court's opinion about the importance of RTI from various judgements.

After recollecting the essence of the parliamentary debate on the RTI Bill from 10 years ago, the Apex Court refused to buy the RBI's argument that it was in a fiduciary relationship vis-a-vis Banks. After examining the nature of fiduciary relationships, the Court held:

"58. In the instant case, the RBI does not place itself in a fiduciary relationship with the Financial institutions (though, in word it puts itself to be in that position) because, the reports of the inspections, statements of the bank, information related to the business obtained by the RBI are not under the pretext of confidence or trust. In this case neither the RBI nor the Banks act in the interest of each other. By attaching an additional “fiduciary” label to the statutory duty, the Regulatory authorities have intentionally or unintentionally created an in terrorem [in fear] effect....

59. RBI is a statutory body set up by the RBI Act as India’s Central Bank. It is a statutory regulatory authority to oversee the functioning of the banks and the country’s banking sector....

60. RBI is supposed to uphold public interest and not the interest of individual banks. RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. RBI has no legal duty to maximize the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank, and thus there is no relationship of ‘trust’ between them. RBI has a statutory duty to uphold the interest of the public at large, the depositors, the country’s economy and the banking sector. Thus, RBI ought to act with transparency and not hide information that might embarrass individual banks. It is duty bound to comply with the provisions of the RTI Act and disclose the information sought by the respondents herein." 

62. The exemption contained in Section 8(1)(e) applies to exceptional cases and only with regard to certain pieces of information, for which disclosure is unwarranted or undesirable. If information is available with a regulatory agency not in fiduciary relationship, there is no reason to withhold the disclosure of the same. However, where information is required by mandate of law to be provided to an authority, it cannot be said that such information is being provided in a fiduciary relationship. As in the instant case, the Financial institutions have an obligation to provide all the information to the RBI and such an information shared under an obligation/ duty cannot be considered to come under the purview of being shared in fiduciary relationship.

68. Even if we were to consider that RBI and the Financial Institutions shared a “Fiduciary Relationship”, Section 2(f) would still make the information shared between them to be accessible by the public. The facts reveal that Banks are trying to cover up their underhand actions, they are even more liable to be subjected to public scrutiny....

69. We have surmised that many Financial Institutions have resorted to such acts which are neither clean nor transparent. The RBI in association with them has been trying to cover up their acts from public scrutiny. It is the responsibility of the RBI to take rigid action against those Banks which have been practicing disreputable business practices.

70. From the past we have also come across financial institutions which have tried to defraud the public. These acts are neither in the best interests of the Country nor in the interests of citizens. To our surprise, the RBI as a Watch Dog should have been more dedicated towards disclosing information to the general public under the Right to Information Act." [emphasis supplied]

The Apex Court dismissed the RBI's plea that the economic interests of the country would be hurt by disclosure with the following words:

"61. The baseless and unsubstantiated argument of the RBI that the disclosure would hurt the economic interest of the country is totally misconceived. In the impugned order, the CIC has given several reasons to state why the disclosure of the information sought by the Respondents would hugely serve public interest, and non-disclosure would be significantly detrimental to public interest and not in the economic interest of India. RBI’s argument that if people, who are sovereign, are made aware of the irregularities being committed by the banks then the country’s economic security would be endangered, is not only absurd but is equally misconceived and baseless....

73. Economic interest of a nation in most common parlance are the goals which a nation wants to attain to fulfill its national objectives. It is the part of our national interest, meaning thereby national interest can’t be seen with the spectacles(glasses) devoid of economic interest.

74. It includes in its ambit a wide range of economic transactions or economic activities necessary and beneficial to attain the goals of a nation, which definitely includes as an objective economic empowerment of its citizens. It has been recognized and understood without any doubt now that one of the tool to attain this goal is to make information available to people. Because an informed citizen has the capacity to reasoned action and also to evaluate the actions of the legislature and executives, which is very important in a participative democracy and this will serve the nation’s interest better which as stated above also includes its economic interests. Recognizing the significance of this tool it has not only been made one of the fundamental rights under Article 19 of the Constitution but also a Central Act has been brought into effect on 12th October 2005 as the Right to Information Act, 2005. [emphasis supplied]

The Apex Court appreciated the CIC's reasoning in its orders in the following words:

"81. In rest of the cases the CIC has considered elaborately the information sought for and passed orders which in our opinion do not suffer from any error of law, irrationality or arbitrariness.

82. We have, therefore, given our anxious consideration to the matter and came to the conclusion that the Central Information Commissioner has passed the impugned orders giving valid reasons and the said orders, therefore, need no interference by this Court."

This judgement of the Apex Court echoes the findings of the Madras High Court in the matter of Mr. K J Doraiswamy vs The Assistant General Manager, State Bank of India, Erode Branch and The Chief Manager (PBD), State Bank of India, ErodeBranch (0837) [(2006) 4MLJ 1877] where the issue was disclosure of names of loan defaulters. The High Court held as follows:

"31. ... Thus the aforesaid provision [Section 8(1)(j)] leaves no room for any doubt that the 'Right to Privacy' fades out in front of the 'Right to Information' and 'larger public interest'.

32. If borrowers could find newer and newer methods to avoid repayment of the loans, the Banks are also entitled to invent novel methods to recover their dues." [by publishing their names, photos and details in newspapers]


The Apex Court also noted with dismay the attitude of public authorities towards RTI in the following words:

"61. ... it had long since come to our attention that the Public Information Officers (PIO) under the guise of one of the exceptions given under Section 8 of RTI Act, have evaded the general public from getting their hands on the rightful information that they are entitled to.

65. And in this case the RBI and the Banks have sidestepped the General public’s demand to give the requisite information on the pretext of “Fiduciary relationship” and "Economic Interest”. This attitude of the RBI will only attract more suspicion and disbelief in them. RBI as a regulatory authority should work to make the Banks accountable to their actions." [emphasis supplied]

I hope PIOs will read this judgement as thoroughly as they read other judgements of the Apex Court (like the CBSE case) which they use to reject access to information at the drop of a hat and adopt a more positive approach towards implementing the RTI Act.

I have a few other concerns about the manner in which the specific RTI queries were dealt with by the Apex Court without examining the likely impact of their disclosure as the harm test required to be applied under Section 8 was not applied satisfactorily in each of the 11 cases before subjecting thejm to the public interest override in Section 8(2) of the RTI Act. However, that analysis can wait for a later email alert. Thankfully, the obstacle created by the Thalappalam judgement of the Apex Court regarding accessing information about cooperative societies and banks is beginning to be melt away.

Please circulate this email widely.

In order to access our previous email alerts on RTI and related issues please click on: http://sartian.org (Latest News) . If you do not wish to receive these email alerts please send an email to this address indicating your refusal.
Thanks 
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55 A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai
New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215

The people of this 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 bearing": Justice K K Mathew, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, (1975)

"“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its credal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing": Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, (1981)

"Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society”: Justice A. P. Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts, (2010)



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Posted by: Venkatesh Nayak <venkatesh-VldVBIePPc7rfyPWP6PaXg+gnn+XHhfY2LY78lusg7I@public.gmane.org>



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NHRC takes cognizance of the October murder of RTI user in Banaskantha, Gujarat on CHRI's complaint [3 Attachments]

Dear all,
On 17 October, 2015, a day before the Annual RTI Convention organised to celebrate a decade of implementation of The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) Shri Ratansinh Chaudhary an RTI user based in Garamdi village of Suigam taluka of Banaskantha district, Gujarat was allegedly murdered by a group of residents of the same village in front of his son when he was out in the fields that morning. According to media reports, Ratansinh had demanded information from the District Collector and the District Development Officer (DDO) about the manner of distribution of flood relief package in his area earlier this year. Suspicion of irregularities in relief distribution due to the alleged nexus between local politicians and bureaucrats is said to have triggered the RTI intervention. The murder is said to have occurred even before the information was supplied to the the Late Ratansinh. Mahiti Adhikar Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat alerted the rest of the RTI fraternity in India about this ghastly incident.

Soon after receiving information about this incident, CHRI sent a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take cognizance of the case and seek action taken reports from the police who are investigating the case (2nd attachment). The NHRC has taken cognizance of this case recently (1st attachment). It has called for action taken reports from the Superintendent of Police, Banaskantha district regarding the investigation into the murder within four weeks.

I am requesting members of the RTI fraternity in Gujarat to send us whatever updates they may have about this case that could be submitted to the NHRC.

Simultaneously, CHRI wrote to the Gujarat State Information Commission (SIC) to launch an inquiry into all pending RTI applications of the Late Ratansinh and order disclosure of all information in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act (3rd attachment). RTI activists informed us that the SIC has already taken note of this case and sought reports. However we have not yet received any reply to our complaint from the SIC, Gujarat. I am requesting members of the RTI fraternity to share with us any information they may have about the action taken by the SIC on the collective demand to make all information sought by the Late Ratansinh in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act.

Kindly circulate this email widely.
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Thanks
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai, New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215

The people of this 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 bearing": Justice K K Mathew, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, (1975)

"“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its credal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing": Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, (1981)

"Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society”: Justice A. P. Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts, (2010)



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Make Indian Judges accountable, get court proceedings videographed : Urvashi Sharma


Know more about the event with more than 150 pics at http://upcpri.blogspot.in/2015/12/lucknow-nyay-yatra-candlelight.html

Lucknow/13 December 2015/With the aim of raising voices for making the Indian judiciary more natural, neutral, and fast, social activists from several registered NGOs from across the country assembled yesterday in Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh.
 
 
Calling for transparency & accountability in judicial system to curb corruption over there, they,under the leadership of Urvashi Sharma, a well known RTI activist & Secretary of Yaishwaryaj Seva Sansthan  undertook a Peace-March from District Magistrate’s residence to Mahatma Gandhi Park near G.P.O. via Hazratganj and also staged a candlelight peaceful demonstration  at Mahatma Gandhi Park near G.P.O. in Lucknow.
 
 
While addressing media persons Urvashi said “We are espousing the cause of 10 crore litigants across India loitering in the hallowed corridors of several courts seeking justice. We feel intense need to do something so that these Litigants have to be rescued from their delusion that justice is real and attainable and is not a distant mirage. We are of the view that corruption in the judiciary not only threatens the rule of law but is one of the greatest violations of  human rights also”
 
 
Activists sent memorandums to President,Prime minister, Chief Justice of Supreme court, Governors & Chief Ministers of all states of India and to Chief Justices of all High courts   with their 5 demands for filling-up of all Vacant posts of judges within a stipulated time frame;appointing a Full time Commission called the National Judicial Commission or whatsoever to administer, supervise and monitor judicial appointment, define Indian Judicial Services (IJS) curriculum, perform audit on judges and deal with complaints against them;amending current laws to bring in transparency in judicial proceedings with audio and video recording;devising & implementing a system for fixing of maximum disposal time limits for cased in all category of courts in India and also for bringing transparency in the process of judicial appointments and in handling grievances against judges.
 
 
Legal right activists have urged the authorities to take prompt action at their end and oblige the nation. Humbly
 
 
Urvashi told media persons that soon similar demonstrations shall be organized first in all  state capitals and then in all district headquarters all across India.
 
 
More than 100 activists attended the demonstration .


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दोषी और भ्रष्टाचारी न्यायधीशों की जांच के लिए बनें स्पेशल ज्युडिशिअल कमीशन जैसे स्वतंत्र आयोग : उर्वशी शर्मा

 लखनऊ/12 दिसम्बर 2015/ आबादी के हिसाब से देश के सबसे बड़े सूबे यूपी की राजधानी लखनऊ के हजरतगंज में आज नज़ारा बदला हुआ था. लखनऊ का यह इलाका मौज मस्ती और शॉपिंग के लिए विश्वविख्यात है. पर आज की ‘अवध की शाम’ में हर कोई फ़िल्म अभिनेता सनी देओल की हिंदी फ़िल्म ‘दामिनी’ के अदालत में बोले गए डायलॉग ‘तारीख पे तारीख, ‘तारीख पे तारीख’, ‘तारीख पे तारीख’ को याद करता और गुनगुनाता नज़र आ रहा था. चौंकिए मत, यहाँ न तो दामिनी फ़िल्म की स्क्रीनिंग हो रही थी और न ही इस फ़िल्म से जुड़ा कोई कलाकार यहाँ आया हुआ था बल्कि लोग ऐसा बोल और गुनगुना रहे थे 12 फुट ऊंचे उस पोस्टर को देखकर जिसे लेकर आज यहाँ देश भर से आये हुए  सामाजिक संगठनों और समाजसेवियों ने लखनऊ के सामाजिक संगठन येश्वर्याज सेवा संस्थान की सचिव उर्वशी शर्मा के नेतृत्व में  लखनऊ के जिलाधिकारी आवास से हजरतगंज जीपीओ स्थित महात्मा गांधी पार्क तक पैदल शांति मार्च ‘न्याय-यात्रा’ निकालकर भारत की अदालतों में ‘न्याय’ की जगह ‘तारीख पे तारीख’ ही मिलने की बात रखते हुए अदालती कार्यवाहियों में वीडियो रिकॉर्डिंग कराने, अदालतों में मामलों के निपटारे की अधिकतम समय सीमा निर्धारित करने समेत अनेकों मांगों को बुलंद कर न्यायिक भ्रष्टाचार की भर्त्सना की और अदालती कार्यवाहियों में पारदर्शिता और जबाबदेही लाने के लिए अपनी आवाज बुलंद की. न्याय यात्रा के संपन्न होने पर समाजसेवियों ने हजरतगंज जीपीओ स्थित महात्मा गांधी पार्क में महात्मा गांधी की प्रतिमा के नीचे मोमबत्ती जलाकर बैठकर शांतिपूर्ण प्रदर्शन भी किया.
 
 
 
 
येश्वर्याज की सचिव और आरटीआई कार्यकर्त्ता उर्वशी शर्मा ने न्याय मिलने में देरी को मानवाधिकारों का उल्लंघन बताते हुए कहा कि देश भर की सभी अदालतों में सभी को एक समान,सस्ता,सही और त्वरित न्याय दिलाने के लिए चल रही देशव्यापी मुहिम के तहत ही आज इस कार्यक्रम का आयोजन यूपी की राजधानी लखनऊ में किया गया है जिसमें येश्वर्याज के साथ साथ दिल्ली की सामाजिक संस्था फाइट फॉर जुडिशिअल रिफॉर्म्स, गाजियावाद की राष्ट्रीय सूचना का अधिकार टास्क फोर्स ट्रस्ट, लखनऊ की सोसाइटी फॉर फ़ास्ट जस्टिस, जन जर्नलिस्ट एसोसिएशन, एस.आर.पी.डी.एम. समाज सेवा संस्थान, अवाम वेलफेयर सोसाइटी और सूचना का अधिकार कार्यकर्त्ता वेलफेयर एसोसिएशन ने भी अपने अपने बैनर के साथ प्रतिभाग किया l
 
 
 
कार्यक्रम की संयोजिका उर्वशी शर्मा ने कहा कि न्याय देने जैसा ईश्वरीय काम करने बाले जज भी आम लोगों के बीच से ही आये होते हैं और इस कारण उनमें गुणों के साथ साथ अवगुण भी होना स्वाभाविक ही है. उर्वशी ने भ्रष्टाचारी और अन्य मामलों के दोषी न्यायधीशों, जजों  की जांच के लिए राष्ट्रीय और राज्य स्पेशल ज्युडिशिअल कमीशन जैसे स्वतंत्र आयोगों की स्थापना की मांग करते हुए हाई कोर्ट और सुप्रीम कोर्ट के न्यायधीशों के खिलाफ कार्यवाही के लिए बनी सुप्रीम कोर्ट की इन-हाउस कमेटी द्वारा आज तक किसी भी न्यायधीश के खिलाफ कार्यवाही न करने के आधार पर इस कमेटी को न्यायिक व्यवस्था के भ्रष्टाचार की रोकथाम के लिए  नाकाफी बताया. न्यायधीशों की भिन्न और महत्वपूर्ण जिम्मेवारियों को इंगित करते हुए उर्वशी ने कहा कि सभी को न्यायधीशों से बहुत अधिक अपेक्षाएं होती हैं क्योंकि यदि लोकतंत्र का और कोई अंग गलती करता है तो सुधार का मौका होता है  लेकिन एक न्यायधीश के गलती करने पर उसे दूसरा मौका नहीं मिलता है । भारतीय संविधान  की बात करते हुए उर्वशी ने कहा कि संविधान की प्रस्तावना में स्वतंत्रता और समानता से पहले न्याय को जगह दिया जाना यह स्पष्ट करता है कि संविधान निर्माताओं ने भारत के सभी नागरिकों को न्याय उपलब्ध कराने को प्रमुखता दी थी किन्तु आजाद भारत की सरकारें इस संविधान के लागू होने के 65 सालों के बाद भी न्यायिक प्रक्रियाओं में समानता स्थापित करने में असफल ही रही हैं.उर्वशी ने कहा कि न्यायपालिका द्वारा स्वायत्तता के नाम पर जवाबदेही से बचने के कारण ही न्याय व्यवस्था दूषित हो गयी है और न्याय की एक पारदर्शी और जिम्मेदार प्रणाली विकसित किये बिना इस समस्या का समाधान संभव ही नहीं है.
 
 
न्याय व्यवस्था के मकड़जाल में बहुतायत मध्यम वर्ग और गरीबों के फंसे होने की बात कहते हुए आंकड़ों की बात करते हुए उर्वशी ने कहा कि अभी देश में जजों की संख्या लगभग 19 हजार है जिसमें से लगभग 18 हजार निचली अदालतों में कार्य कर रहे हैं. उर्वशी ने बताया कि देश के उच्च न्यायालयों  में न्यायधीशों की संख्या  की संख्या अंतरराष्ट्रीय मानकों के सापेक्ष लगभग   30% कम है.भारत में  लगभग 62 हज़ार नागरिकों पर एक ही जज है जो अंतर्राष्ट्रीय मानकों से बहुत कम है जिसके कारण देश की अदालतों में तीन करोड़ से ज्यादा मामले लंबित हैं और देश की बढ़ती आबादी के चलते अगले 25 सालों में यह संख्या 15 करोड़ तक पहुंच जाएगी और यदि हम अभी नहीं चेते तो स्थिति अत्यन्त भयावह हो जायेगी. अभी निचली अदालतों में ढाई करोड़ से ज्यादा  मामले और उच्च न्यायालयों में 45 लाख से अधिक मामलों पर सुनवाई चल रही है तो वहीं सुप्रीम कोर्ट में भी  लगभग  70 हज़ार  मामले लंबित हैं.इनमें से एक चौथाई मामले ऐसे हैं जो पांच साल से भी अधिक समय से चल रहे हैं.
 
 
दिल्ली के समाजसेवी गुलशन पाहुजा का कहना था कि न्यायिक पारदर्शिता की कमी के कारण  न्यायिक प्रक्रियाओं में भ्रष्टाचार गहरे तक घर कर गया है और  इसलिए आज सभी के लिए एकसमान न्याय की बात बेमानी सी होती जा रहे है. फ़िल्म अभिनेता सलमान खान के केस का जिक्र करते हुए पाहुजा ने अदालती कार्यवाहियों की आडिओ-वीडिओ रिकॉर्डिंग की अनिवार्यता पर बल दिया तो वहीं मोदीनगर,गाजियावाद से आये समाजसेवी सुरेश शर्मा ने कहा कि वे यहाँ अर्थ आधारित उस न्यायिक व्यवस्था के खिलाफ आवाज बुलंद करने को आये हैं जिसमें विशिष्ट लोग और अमीर लोग जेल जाने से बच जाते हैं और निर्दोष होने पर भी गरीब जेलों में पड़े रहने को मजबूर हैं. सुरेश ने कहा कि हालांकि अदालतों को न्याय का मंदिर कहे जाने बाली अदालतों का चक्कर काटना बहुत बुरा और कष्टदायक है और सभी ट्रायल कोर्ट और सभी अपीलीय कोर्ट में मामलों के निस्तारण की अधिकतम समयसीमा के निर्धारण की मांग की.आज आयोजित होने बाली लोक अदालतों का जिक्र करते हुए लखनऊ के राम स्वरुप यादव ने कहा कि इन लोक अदालतों में न्याय नहीं समझौता मिलता है. न्याय में देरी को न्याय न मिलने जैसा बताते हुए यादव ने भ्रष्टाचार को न्याय में देरी की मुख्य वजह बताया.
 
 
 
 
सरकारों का देश की सबसे बड़ी वादकारी होने पर चिंता व्यक्त करते हुए समाजसेवियों ने कहा कि यह आवश्यक है कि सरकारें भी अपने निर्णयों और फैसलों में स्पष्टता और पारदर्शिता लायें ताकि अदालतों पर पड़ा मुकदमों का बोझ कम हो सके.समाजसेवियों ने न्यायधीशों की नियुक्तिओं में पारदर्शिता लाने,अंतर्राष्ट्रीय मानकों के अनुरूप जनसँख्या के समानुपातिक कोर्ट और न्यायधीशों की संख्या बढाकर प्रणालीगत समस्या को दूर किये जाने,न्यायिक प्रणाली में न्यायधीशों द्वारा दिए निर्णयों की संख्या और उनकी गुणवत्ता को लेकर उत्तरदायित्व निर्धारण की स्पष्ट व्यवस्था लागू किये जाने,सरकारी अधिकारी या पुलिस द्वारा किसी नागरिक पर किया गया केस  अदालत में गलत सिद्ध होने सरकारी अधिकारी या पुलिस पर स्वतः पेनाल्टी की व्यवस्था स्थापित किये जाने,गैर-आईपीसी अपराधों के लिए सीआरपीसी की व्यवस्था के अनुसार सेवानिवृत्त ज्युडिशल मैजिस्टे्रट या एग्जिक्युटिव मैजिस्ट्रेट को स्पेशल ज्युडिशल मैजिस्ट्रेट नियुक्त किए जाने,अदालत में सभी मामलों में मौखिक सुनवाई की अनिवार्यता के स्थान पर वादी और प्रतिवादी के लिखित पक्ष के आधार पर  भी फैसला किये जाने,अदालत द्वारा तारीख दिए जाने में उभय-पक्षों की रजामंदी जरूरी किये जाने, गैर-जरूरी कानून को खत्म करने,न्यायपालिका का प्रभावी तंत्र स्थापित करने के लिए समुचित संसाधन प्रदान करने, न्यायपालिका की स्वतंत्रता पर आंच लाये बिना न्यायिक सुधार करने समेत अनेकों मांगों को उठाते हुए उत्तर प्रदेश के राज्यपाल के माध्यम से देश के राष्ट्रपति,प्रधानमंत्री,मुख्य न्यायधीश और सभी प्रदेशों के राज्यपालों,मुख्यमंत्रियों और उच्च न्यायालयों के न्यायधीशों को ज्ञापन भेजा गया.
 
सोसाइटी फॉर फ़ास्ट जस्टिस लखनऊ के उपाध्यक्ष विनोद कुमार शुक्ल और सदस्य कमर खान ने भी कार्यक्रम में शिरकत की.
 
येश्वर्याज के इस कार्यक्रम में आये समाजसेवियों दिल्ली के अरुण कुमार,हरिद्वार के मनोज कुमार, उन्नाव के ओम प्रकाश यादव,श्याम लाल यादव, सीतापुर के एच.एस.आनंद, लखनऊ की समाजसेविका इंदु सुभाष,पत्रकार राशिद अली आजाद, फरहत खानम,मो० हयात कादरी,स्वतंत्र प्रिय,अधिवक्ता रुवैद किदवई, अधिवक्ता अशोक कुमार शुक्ल, अधिवक्ता अरविन्द कुमार गौतम,अशफाक खान,संजय आजाद,अधिवक्ता अब्दुल्ला सिद्दीकी,शमीम अहमद,मनीष त्रिपाठी,होमेंद्र पाण्डेय,एस.के.शर्मा,राम पाल कश्यप,सूरज प्रसाद,सईद खान,टी.बी.गुप्ता,हरपाल सिंह,आर.डी.कश्यप,मारूफ हुसैन, अजय कुमार,अशोक यादव,अनुज कुमार,जे.पी. शाह,सरवन कुमार,विनोद कुमार यादव,राणा प्रताप यादव,मंजू वर्मा,बबिता सिंह,नीतू अवस्थी,समीर अंसारी,कवि अनिल अनाड़ी  समेत बड़ी संख्या में समाजसेवियों ने हिस्सा लिया.समाजसेवी तनवीर अहमद सिद्दीकी ने इस कार्यक्रम का समन्वयन और राम स्वरुप यादव ने सह-समन्वयन किया.  


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Posted by: urvashi sharma <rtimahilamanchup-/E1597aS9LQxFYw1CcD5bw@public.gmane.org>



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न्यायिक सुधारों की मांगों के लिए समाजसेवियों का जमावड़ा कल लखनऊ में l



अदालती कार्यवाहियों में  पारदर्शिता लाकर जजों की जबाबदेही निर्धारित करके अदालतों की कार्यवाहियों से भ्रष्टाचार का खात्मा करने की आवाज उठाने के लिए कल भारत के आबादी के हिसाब से सबसे बड़े सूबे उत्तर प्रदेश की राजधानी लखनऊ में  देश विदेश के समाजसेवी और देश के सामाजिक संगठन न्याय यात्रा निकाल निकालेंगे और मोमबत्ती जलाकर शांति-प्रदर्शन करेंगे l इस कार्यक्रम का आयोजन लखनऊ के सामाजिक संगठन ‘येश्वर्याज सेवा संस्थान’ की सचिव और समाजसेविका  उर्वशी शर्मा के नेतृत्व किया जा रहा है l


कार्यक्रम के समन्वयक समाजसेवी और आरटीआई कार्यकर्ता तनवीर अहमद सिद्दीकी ने बताया कि न्याय यात्रा दोपहर बाद 3 बजे से 4 बजे के मध्य लखनऊ के जिलाधिकारी आवास से आरम्भ होकर हजरतगंज जीपीओ स्थित महात्मा गांधी पार्क में संपन्न होगी  और इसके बाद अपराह्न 04:30 बजे महात्मा गांधी की प्रतिमा के नीचे मोमबत्ती जलाकर सबको समान और त्वरित न्याय दिलाने की मांग के लिए प्रदर्शन किया जाएगा l


कार्यक्रम के सह-समन्वयन समाजसेवी राम स्वरुप यादव ने बताया कि इस कार्यक्रम में येश्वर्याज के साथ-साथ  दिल्ली की सामाजिक संस्था फाइट फॉर जुडिशिअल रिफॉर्म्स, प्रेस भारती सिटीजन, गोरखपुर की परिवर्तन वेलफेयर सोसाइटी, गाजियावाद की राष्ट्रीय सूचना का अधिकार टास्क फोर्स ट्रस्ट ,लखनऊ की एस.आर.पी.डी.एम.3एस.,जन जर्नलिस्ट एसोसिएशन और सोसाइटी फॉर फ़ास्ट जस्टिस लखनऊ भी प्रतिभाग कर रही हैं l कार्यक्रम में भारत से बाहर से सऊदी अरब से सुरजीत कुमार और यूपी के बाहर से आने बाले समाजसेवियों में राजस्थान के हनुमानगढ़ से अनुज कुमार, राजस्थान के पाली से प्रबीन कुमार, राजस्थान के जोधपुर से जगदीश कुमार श्रीमाली, गुजरात के सूरत से हर्ष छाबड़ा और हर्ष मोरदिया, असम के गौहाटी से विश्वजीत कलिता,पंजाब के अमृतसर से प्रबोध चन्द्र बाली, मध्य प्रदेश के ग्वालियर से अमित मिश्र और दिल्ली से सुदेश सोनकर,कुमार सत्यम,आर.के.त्यागी,ज्योति पाठक,प्रियंवदा शुक्ल,अभिषेक शर्मा और गुलशन पाहुजा,मुंगेर से मंटू शर्मा,मुंबई से विजय जेस्सानी,सलमान अंसारी कार्यक्रम में शिरकत करेंगें l इनके अतिरिक्त यूपी के मोदीनगर (गाजियावाद) से सुरेश शर्मा, हापुड़ से महावीर वर्मा,बस्ती से हरीराम शर्मा,झांसी से कपिल तिवारी,बदायूँ से राहुल गुप्ता,सुल्तानपुर से नीरज तिवारी,वाराणसी से रवि बसाक,हरिद्वार से मनोज कुमार,बरेली के कवि प्रदीप वैरागी,मुरादाबाद से अवि सिंह. गोरखपुर से डा० मनीष चौबे,शिवपुरी से अभय नाथ बाजपेई, कानपुर से विवेक गुप्ता और नॉएडा से अमित मिश्र लखनऊ आकर इस कार्यक्रम में शिरकत करेंगे l इसके अतिरिक्त लखनऊ से राशिद अली आजाद, रुवैद किदवई, शीबू निगम,अशफाक खान,आलोक कुमार सिंह,अनवर आलम,सुभाष चन्द्र विश्वकर्मा,संजय आजाद,अब्दुल्ला सिद्दीकी,अरुण कुमार पाण्डेय,अश्विनी जायसवाल,हरपाल सिंह,हयात कादरी,अभिषेक पाण्डेय रूपक,शमीम अहमद,मनीष त्रिपाठी,होमेंद्र पाण्डेय समेत बड़ी संख्या में समाजसेवी प्रतिभाग करेंगे l यादव ने बताया कि कार्यक्रम की अद्यतन जानकारी इवेंट के पेज https://www.facebook.com/events/967905499949064/   पर उपलब्ध है l


इतने बड़े स्तर पर किये जा रहे कार्यक्रम की पूर्व अनुमति के बाबत पूछने पर उर्वशी ने बताया कि उन्होंने इस कार्यक्रम की सूचना हेतु निर्धारित प्रपत्र भरकर दिनांक 20-11-15 को जिलाधिकारी कार्यालय में प्राप्त करा दिया था और इस सम्बन्ध में सूबे के राज्यपाल, सी.एम., मुख्य सचिव,डी.जी.पी.,लखनऊ के जिलाधिकारी और एस.एस.पी. को भी इस कार्यक्रम की सूचना ई-मेल के माध्यम से दी जा चुकी है l


कार्यक्रम के लिए भेजा गया ई-मेल और कार्यक्रम में प्रयुक्त होने बाले बैनर,पोस्टर्स की 6 जे.पी.जी. फाइल्स वेबलिंक http://upcpri.blogspot.in/2015/12/12-2015-l_10.html पर उपलब्ध हैं l 


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Posted by: urvashi sharma <rtimahilamanchup <at> yahoo.co.in>



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Pay your dues, go to school and build a toilet if you want to contest panchayat elections in Haryana - Do none of these to become an MP or MLA [1 Attachment]

Dear all,
Yesterday (10th December) the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India pronounced its judgement on a challenge to a set of recent amendments to the law relating to Panchayati Raj institutions in the north Indian State of Haryana. In the matter of Rajbala & Ors vs State of Haryana & Ors. [Writ Petition (Civil) 671/2015] the Apex Court has held that the action of the State Legislature of Haryana of introducing three grounds for disqualifying voters from contesting elections to the Panchayats at all 3 levels (village, taluka/tehsil and district) on the grounds of: 

a) not possessing minimum educational qualifications; 
b) non-payment of electricity Bills or dues to cooperative banks; and 
c) (believe it or not) not having a toilet in their homes. 

The Apex Court has held that these disqualifications do not violate the right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution and they are not unreasonable or arbitrary. One of the judges on the Bench which delivered the judgement in a separate concurring opinion said that these disqualifications have a reasonable nexus with the objectives sought to be achieved by making the changes in the law and that such disqualifications must be applicable across the country and not only in the State of Haryana (jjt in the attachment).


What was the core issue?
The Petitioners described as 'political activists' by the Apex Court, recently challenged the constitutionality of an amendment made by the Haryana State Legislature in the Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 (PR Act). Earlier this year the State Government of Haryana secured legislative approval for a set of new grounds on which voters in Haryana will be disqualified from contesting elections to the offices of the Sarpanch (elected village headman) and Panchas (other elected members of the Panchayat) at all three levels of the Panchayati Raj structure. The Petitioners challenged three of these disqualifications listed above on the following grounds: that they violated Article, 14 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees the right to equality of every person before the law and equal treatment of the law; that the amendment was arbitrary in nature; that it would prevent more than 50% of the citizenry in Haryana from contesting elections to these rural local self-governing bodies and that the classification of voters based on their education qualifications, debts owed to public service providers and cooperative banks is an unreasonable classification where the criteria were not defensible under the Constitution.


How did the Apex Court decide the matter?
The Apex Court threw out the challenge, lock stock and barrel through a line of reasoning which will be discussed shortly below. However, before deciding the core issue, the Court took upon itself the job of determining whether the right to vote and contest elections to constitutional bodies with particular reference to Panchayats was a constitutional right or not. Earlier Benches of the Court, including a Constitution Bench had held differently on this issue. In the matter of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) & Anr. vs Union of India & Anr. [(2003) 4 SCC 399], celebrated as the reiteration of the voter's right to know the financial and educational background and criminal antecedents of candidates (if any) contesting elections to Parliament and State Legislatures, the Court had held that the right to contest elections to Parliament and Legislatures as well as the offices of the President and Vice President was a constitutional right guaranteed under Article 326. While this position was reiterated in some later judgements, in the matter of K. Krishna Murthy (Dr.) & Ors. v Union of India & Anr. [(2010) 7 SCC 202] a Constitution Bench (CB) of the Apex Court had ruled that the right to vote and contest in elections was only a statutory right arising from the Representation of the People Act, 1951 The Court's observations in PUCL earlier were not noticed by the CB before giving its opinion. The Apex Court in the Raj Bala matter set the record straight that the right to vote and contest elections to all constitutional bodies such as panchayats was a constitutional right.

However the Court threw out the Petitioners' challenge to the new grounds for disqualification from contesting elections to Panchayats in Haryana on the following grounds:

1) Article 243F of Part IX inserted in the Constitution through the 73rd Amendment empowers State Legislatures to enact laws that stipulate both qualifications and disqualifications for candidates contesting elections to the Panchayats. However the Court noted that Parliament does not have similar power to vary the qualifications and disqualifications for people to contest elections to the office of the President and the Vice President or the Parliament or State Legislatures above and beyond what is mentioned in the relevant constitutional provisions. 

2) The Apex Court reiterated its position pronounced in a catena of judgements that the constitutionality of a statue cannot be successfully challenged merely on the ground of "arbitrariness". The vires of a statue can be challenged only on the ground that the legislative body enacting the law does not have the power to so do, or that the provisions of the law violate the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution or any other constitutional provision. Therefore merely claiming that a law is arbitrary cannot be an adequate ground for holding it as violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to equality to all persons.

3) On the Petitioner's plea that the educational grounds for disqualification of a candidate would amount to creating a new class of persons eligible for contesting panchayat elections at the detriment of others who do not belong to that class, the Apex Court held that such a classification was not unreasonable. While the Petitioners stated that as a result of the amendments more than 50% of the voters would be disqualified from contesting elections, the Court examined the data relating to the population of Haryana and the literacy of men, women and those belonging to the Scheduled Castes submitted by the Attorney General of India (AGI) from the National Population Register. The AGI also argued that minimum educational levels were necessary for the elected representatives to perform their functions effectively. The Court accepted the fact that the education level based disqualification would render a large segment of the voter population in Haryana ineligible to contest elections. What followed is the reasoning applied by the Court to justify the disqualification. The Court ruled:

"85. The impugned provision creates two classes of voters - those who are qualified by virtue of their educational accomplishment to contest the elections to the PANCHAYATS and those who are not. The proclaimed object of such classification is to ensure that those who seek election to PANCHAYATS have some basic education which enables them to more effectively discharge various duties which befall the elected representatives of the PANCHAYATS. The object sought to be achieved cannot be said to be irrational or illegal or unconnected with the scheme and purpose of THE ACT or provisions of Part IX of the Constitution. It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, prescription of an educational qualification is not irrelevant for better administration of the PANCHAYATS. The classification in our view cannot be said either based on no intelligible differentia unreasonable or without a reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved. [emphasis supplied]

4) Further, in relation to the disqualification of candidates for non-payment of electricity Bills and dues to cooperative banks, the Petitioners had argued that a very large proportion of the rural population was indebted already and they would all be disqualified from contesting elections to Panchayats. The Court held that insolvency was a ground for disqualifying citizens from contesting elections to the offices of the President, VP, Parliament and State Legislatures. The Apex Court observed: 

"92. No doubt that rural India, particularly people in the agricultural sector suffer the problem of indebtedness. The reasons are many and it is beyond the scope of this judgment to enquire into the reasons. It is also a fact that there have been cases in various parts of the country where people reportedly commit suicides unable to escape the
debt trap. But, it is the submission of the respondents that such incidents are very negligible in the State of Haryana as the agricultural sector of Haryana is relatively more prosperous compared to certain other parts of the country. We do not wish to examine the statistical data in this regard nor much of it is available on record. In our view,
such an enquiry is irrelevant for deciding the constitutionality of the impugned provision. We are also not very sure as to how many of such people who are so deeply indebted would be genuinely interested in contesting elections whether at PANCHAYAT level or otherwise. We can certainly take judicial notice of the fact that elections at any level in this country are expensive affairs. For that matter, not only in this country, in any other country as well they are expensive affairs. In such a case the possibility of a deeply indebted person seeking to contest elections should normally be rare as it would be beyond the economic capacity of such persons. In our opinion, the challenge is more theoretical than real. Assuming for the sake of argument that somebody who is so indebted falling within the prescription of clauses (t) and (v) of Section 175(1) of the Act is still interested in contesting the PANCHAYAT elections, nothing in law stops such an aspirant from making an appropriate arrangement for clearance of the arrears and contest elections. At this stage, an incidental submission is required to be examined. It is submitted that there could be a genuine dispute regarding the liability falling under the clauses (t) and (v) and therefore it would be unjust to exclude such persons from the electoral process even before an appropriate adjudication. Justness of such a situation is once again in the realm of the wisdom of the legislation. We do not sit in the judgment over the same. But we must make it clear nothing in law prevents an aspirant to contest an election to the PANCHAYAT to make payments under protest of the amounts claimed to be due from him and seek adjudication of the legality of the dues by an appropriate forum. We do not see any substance in the challenge to clauses (t) and (v) of Section 175(1) of the Act." [emphasis supplied]

5) The Petitioner's challenge to the ground of disqualification of a candidate for not having a toilet in one's home was dismissed by the Court with the following words:

"95. It is a notorious fact that the Indian population for a long time had this unhealthy practice of defecating in public. The Father of the Nation wrote copiously on this aspect on various occasions. He took up with a missionary zeal the cause to eradicate this unhealthy practice. At some point of time, he even declared that the priority of this country should be to get rid of such unhealthy practice than to fight for independence. It is unfortunate that almost a hundred years after Gandhiji started such a movement, India is still not completely rid of such practice. The reasons are many. Poverty is one of them. However, this unhealthy practice is not exclusive to poorer sections of not in a position to construct a toilet. As rightly pointed by the respondents, if people still do not have a toilet it is not because of their poverty but because of their lacking the requisite will. One of the primary duties of any civic body is to maintain sanitation within its jurisdiction. Those who aspire to get elected to those civic bodies and administer them must set an example for others. To the said end if the legislature stipulates that those who are not following basic norms of hygiene are ineligible to become administrators of the civic body and disqualifies them as a class from seeking election to the civic body, such a policy, in our view, can neither be said to create a class based on unintelligible criteria nor can such classification be said to be unconnected with the object sought to be achieved by the Act." [emphasis supplied]

Justice Sapre who concurred with this judgement penned by Justice Chelameswar said the following in his concurring but separate opinion:

"11. Now coming to the question regarding constitutionality of Section 175(w) of the Act, which provides that if a person has no functional toilet at his place of residence, he/she is disqualified to contest the election. In my view, this provision too has reasonable nexus and does not offend any provision of the Constitution. Indeed, there are no grounds much less sustainable grounds available to the petitioners to question the validity of this provision. This provision in my view is enacted essentially in the larger public interest and is indeed the need of the hour to ensure its application all over the country and not confining it to a particular State. Moreover, the State having provided adequate financial assistance to those who do not have toilet facility for construction of toilet, there arise no ground to challenge this provision as being unreasonable in any manner." [emphasis supplied]


What is problematic in this judgement?
1) The judgement ignores important international human rights standards that India has accepted and agreed before the international community to comply with in relation to its own people. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR) which India acceded to in 1979 prohibits discrimination between human beings in relation to voting or contesting elections in the following words:

"Article 25. Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: 
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; 
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free ex pression of the will of the electors;..." [emphasis supplied]

Article 2 of the ICCPR states:

"Article 2. 1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." [emphasis supplied]

Further Article 26 of the ICCPR states as follows:

"Article 26. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." [emphasis supplied]

In the text of the judgement in Raj Bala there is nothing to show that this important commitment that India has made before the international community was raised by the Petitioners. Perhaps the Petitioners did so and the Court did not find it a persuasive argument enough to include in its opinion. Clearly, "other status" mentioned in the Articles of the ICCPR cited above would include educational status, status of indebtedness and also the status of not being the owner of a toilet. It is strange that the Apex Court which is often sensitive to India's international human rights commitments did not go the extra mile to check whether their judgement would be tenable in the light of those international commitments. 

There is a clear case for the Petitioners and others in civil society and academia to bring this judgement as well as the stance of the Government of India in collaborating to make a large segment of the voter population in Haryana ineligible to contest Panchayat elections, to the notice of the international agencies such as the UN Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee- the treaty monitoring body for the ICCPR complaining that India has violated a major human rights commitment it made internationally 36 years ago.

2) Should the rural folk of Haryana be held to fault that they have not been able to avail themselves of the opportunities of going to school when the entire primary and secondary education system in the public sector across the country is in a huge mess? Look at the irony- if you are a woman who is only a 6th Class pass, you cannot contest elections in Haryana in the non-reserved category but you can successfully contest elections to Parliament from anywhere in India and become the Union Cabinet Minister for Water Resources and work to rejuvenate river Ganges. Or you could contest elections successfully to the Haryana State Legislature. According to the data uploaded on the website MyNeta.Info by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), there are at least two MLAs in Haryana who have not completed even matriculation level studies. One woman member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly is said to be unlettered. So these three MLAs will be be disqualified from contesting elections to Panchayats but there is no bar on their becoming MLAs. Ergo, the bar for contesting elections to lower level public offices is higher than the bar on contesting elections to higher level constitutional offices! Somehow this logic defies basic commonsense and the values of justice and fair play.

While looking at the statistics regarding the unlettered or poorly educated segments of society in Haryana collected by that controversial exercise called National Population Register, the Apex Court did not go into the issue of whether people who have the necessary qualifications to contest panchayat elections are evenly distributed across all panchayats in Haryana. What if some villages do not have any candidate who meets the necessary educational qualification? Will the panchayat remain without an elected body? Unfortunately, the Apex Court has not gone into the implications of its judgement while giving its opinion - a sacrosanct duty of any Court which is empowered to adjudicate on the rights between parties appearing before it. 

Can formal education alone be the benchmark for testing the intelligence of people? Can only formally educated people discriminate between good and bad and right and wrong as the judge held? If, so why is the air in New Delhi so polluted today? Surely it is not the unlettered people living in this city who are contributing to this pollution. It is mainly because of the educated and well off people who have recklessly abandoned every care for the environment in their consumerist fervour. 


3) Equating "rural indebtedness" with "insolvency" is like pouring salt over an already festering wound. Mere indebtedness does not amount to insolvency to the ebst of my knowledge. The disqualification for contesting elections to high constitutional offices is for insolvency not for mere indebtedness. They are in two different categories and recognised as such by the law. Leaving the legal interpretation aside, so many thousands of candidates many of whom have successfully been elected to Parliament and State Legislatures in Haryana and elsewhere have declared unpaid Bills and loans in their election affidavits which are publicly available on website of the Election Commission of India. Should they not be prohibited from contesting elections using the Apex Court's reasoning? For example, according to the data uploaded on ADR's website, one Lok Sabha MP from Vijayawada has declared liabilities to the tune of Rs. 710 million in his election affidavit in 2014 while contesting elections. 3 MPs from Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra have outstanding dues of more than Rs. 400 million each. 70% of the MPs (384 out of 543) in the Lok Sabha have declared dues ranging Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 300 million. 17.5% of the MPs (95) in the Lok Sabha have declared dues of more than Rs. 100 million each. A prominent MLA in Haryana has declared Rs. 100 million as outstanding dues. A large number of MLAs in Haryana have declared dues between Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 100 million. Should the Constitution be amended to declare them all "insolvents" and debar them from contesting elections to Parliament and the State Legislatures in future? 

If such action cannot be even contemplated against the MPs and MLAs, why are more than 50% of the rural folk in Haryana subjected to such stepmotherly treatment? Why should such patently discriminatory laws be extended to other parts of the country by following the Apex Court's wishful thinking? The large volume of non-performing assets in public sector banks is not due to the poor rural people taking loans but wealthy people in the business and the industry exerting their influence on the powers that be from taking action against them. They may be barred from contesting elections to panchayats in Haryana but they can happily contest and even win elections to the Haryana State Assembly and Parliament. It is most unfortunate that the Apex Court 's reasoning lends itself to these implications.


4) Can the people be blamed for not having toilets when the Governments have done precious little to curb corruption in the Total Sanitation Campaign which is nowadays subsumed into the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign). Case after case is reported by the media abut corruption in these programmes. Instead of pulling up the Governments for preventing such corruption and ensuring better delivery of project outputs, the Apex Court has held the actions of the Haryana State Legislature valid. Thanks to this judgement, the very poor, unlettered, the indebted and the underprivileged are being "cleaned out" of the political scene in Haryana


5) Although the 2015 amendments to the PR Act in Haryana also introduced a disqualification for candidates who had criminal charges framed against them, where they would serve not less than ten years in prison upon conviction, the Apex Court observed that the Petitioners had not challenged that ground. A reader of the Raj Bala judgment notices unmistakably the Court's mildly couched disappointment at not being called upon to interpret the constitutionality of this ground for disqualification. Readers will recollect that introduction of such a disqualification has been a major demand of a large number of civil society actors and NGOs working for electoral reforms for several years now. 


6) With the deepest respect to the wisdom of the Apex Court, it must be said that it has elected to ignore the main objective of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment, namely, entrenching grass roots level democracy. That entrenchment cannot be achieved if a large majority of the people are disqualified from contesting elections. The solution is not to bar people from contesting elections, but to roll out targeted programmes to help them acquire quality adult education, enable them to clear their dues on reasonable terms, and provide corruption free assistance to construct individual toilets in their homes. In a democracy laws must be designed to empower the disempowered people. Instead the amendments to the PR Act empower the State to disqualify people from participating in one of most basic activities in a democracy - namely, contesting local body elections. The amendments  appear to be punitive and retributionist in nature, imposed by a State that is frustrated by the lack of desired outcomes in its developmental programmes targeting poverty, illiteracy and sanitation.


7) Unfortunately, the AGI while representing the Union before the Apex Court seems to have forgotten to include in his brief, a reference to the promise made by the Hon'ble Prime Minister in his election campaign in 2014 - "sabka saath sab ka vikaas" (with all and development for all = inclusion of the excluded). Or else he might have argued differently. This amendment to the PR Act in Haryana is not a programme of inclusion. It is a diabolical programme of exclusion of the most disempowered and marginalised people from even participating in the shaping of their collective destiny. With the deepest respect to the wisdom of the Supreme Court of India, it must be said that the people of Haryana did not deserve this gift on International Human Rights Day (10th December). I hope the Bar will move the Apex Court to re-examine the wisdom of this judgement, sooner than later because if this precedent were allowed to remain, the High Court in Rajasthan, will in all probability uphold similar education related disqualifications introduced in the PR Act of that State which is under challenge before it and other States may feel encouraged to make similar amendments to their panchayati raj laws.

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Thanks
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
#55A, 3rd Floor, Siddharth Chambers-1
Kalu Sarai, New Delhi- 110 016
Tel: +91-11-43180201/ 43180215

The people of this 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 bearing": Justice K K Mathew, former Judge, Supreme Court of India, (1975)

"“Where a society has chosen to accept democracy as its credal faith, it is elementary that the citizens ought to know what their government is doing": Justice P N Bhagwati, former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, (1981)

"Information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society”: Justice A. P. Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi and Madras High Courts, (2010)



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