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'Citizens should never be satisfied with mere cribbing'

October 06, 2009 15:44 IST

Shailesh Gandhi, convener of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information, who was appointed a Central Information Commissioner in 2008, had an hour-long conversation with rediff.com readers on Monday evening on the Right to Information Act. Here is the complete chat transcript:

Shailesh Gandhi says, Hi. This is Shailesh here. Lets hope we have an interesting chat on RTI.


PNRV Prasad asked, As per the RTI Act, most of the departments have to suomoto present the information to public as much as they can , but how many departments have done this and how many ministries have statisticl data as to how many departments within their purview have acted in the spirit of the act
Shailesh Gandhi answers,  at 2009-10-05 18:20:33The compliance of Section 4 has been very poor and no statistical data is available about this.


rsrirams asked, Can i file RTI asking for the source of fund for the English Media like NDTV, CNN-IBN and Times Now. Is there a provision.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could try asking the I & B Ministry or any other Ministry which should have this information as per law. The media companies will not be obliged to give you information under RTI Act.


sandeep asked, if i file a RTI can it be used against me in any legal way to harass me
Shailesh Gandhi answers, NO


ajaykumar asked, Sir, Can I sought the information in one format which the information avilable in above 200 files?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Most probabaly the PIO will use Section 7(9) and either offer to give you photocopies of a very large number of pages or an inspection of the files.


noname asked, I am a student and preparing for bank exams for post of officers in PSU banks. I could clear a few but not others. I want to know the marks obtained in the written exams taken. Can this be obtained using RTI. This will help me understand the area where I can improve.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. The marks obtained in selection exams conducted by public authorities can be obtained under RTI Act.


rsrirams asked, Where can i find the information regarding the procedure for filing an RTI request.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could get it from many sources on the web. A few of them are- 1. www.righttoinformation.org; 2.www.righttoinformation.info; 3.www.satyamevajayate.info


Ganesh asked, Are you saying that the RTI is meant to ask only Government departments and the private companies are not covered by it
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The Act covers public authorities which are defined under Section 2(h)as- "public authority" means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted,— (a) by or under the Constitution ; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any-- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government;" Thus if a private company is either controlled or substantially financed by government or has been set up by a notification by the government, it would have to provide information sought under RTI Act.


PNRV Prasad asked, For ex. I am a resident of Sulurpet Mandal in Nellore dist of AndhraPradesh . I petition an application under RTI Act and When I dont receive information or when I am not satisfied with the information, I have got the right to appeal? So, I have to appeal to a senior officer who resides in the district HQ. In this case it is Nellore and to travel to nellore to file an appeal it costs me Travelling by bus(up and down)- Rs: 60.00 and with other costs to bear . This means that , for simple information, I need to spend so much - even Rs: 100/- is not a small amount for public. So how can we make this less costly ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You do not need to go to any government office to file a RTI Application or a First Appeal. It is prudent and wise to send these by speed post.


Rajesh asked, You were an activist and now you are on the other side. Has it helped your ideals for a transparent society
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I do not think there are two sides. What benefits citizens will benefit all sections of this nation.


Ganesh asked, Is it possible to get admission lists which are filled up by private professional colleges in their management quota
Shailesh Gandhi answers, If they are public authorities you could get this list.


Ganesh asked, If you make online filing of RTI enquiries how would we pay the 10 rupees stamp fees
Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is no way by which the Rs. 10 fee can be paid electronically. Hence, you would have to remit the fees by an Indian Postal Order if it is for a Central Government Organisation.


DEEPAK asked, CAN I FILE AGAINST SBU
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Firstly, RTI is not filed against anyone. It is only a device to get information which effectively means the truth as it exists on records. I am not sure what you mean by SBU. If it is SBI, it is a public authority


abbas asked, were Do one file the RTI in Mumbai 40003
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The RTI Application is filed at the office where the information is likely to be. As the Act is designed, most public authorities have a Public Information Officer available at most offices.


itsb asked, Is Lok Ayukta coming under RTI Act ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes. The Lok Ayukta is covered under the RTI Act.


manish asked, Does one need to wait for extra number of days to allow for postal transit of a reply after completion of one month after sening in an RTI application?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The period of 30 days does not include the postal transit time.


ACHARYAT asked, Sir can we ask for details of funds spent on laying roads at particular place .. how to do it
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You can ask for the funds spent on a particular work or project. It is not efasible to get the funds spent on a particular spot since it is never likely to be maintained in this manner.


rohit asked, I would like to be RTI activist in pune. Pl. tell me whome to contact. Thank you. E-mail = firstfive@rediffmail.com
Shailesh Gandhi answers, A few activists you could approach in Pune: 1. Vijay Kumbhar 09923299199 2. Vivek Velankar 09370066937 3. Vihar Durve 09860586039


yogesh asked, Sir, the Mumbai Municipality officials are not giving the required information and i had to go in appeal, after the appeal also i got the information regarding 1 point and the other 6 others were left unanswered. If there any system on review of the RTI applications received by Gov. Department and the information given by them? if not then should'nt there be such a system?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, In such cases you should file a second Appeal with the State Information Commission under Section 19 of the RTI Act.


ash asked, hi shailesh
Shailesh Gandhi answers, A big hi to you.


Koushikchatterjee asked, What steps can the CIC take if the public authority ignores/violates the directives of the CIC ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The Commission can summon various officers including the heads of the public authorities. Also there is a significant moral authority which can be brought into play when dealing with recalcitrant public authorities. I have found that simple steady pursuasion also works effectively.


chetan asked, what is rti
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Right to Information. It is your fundamental right.


jackk asked, can u not send rti application via email?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, RTI Applications can be filed by email but there are two practical problems in this - 1. a significant number of PIOs will not be opening emails. The truth is most of them are scared to even touch a computer. 2. Payment of the Application fees of Rs. 10 is not possible electronically. Hence the fee would have to be separately sent and linking the fee with the emailed RTI Application would be very difficult.


KrishnaRao asked,  I would like to be RTI activist in Banglore. Pl. tell me whom to contact. Thank you
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Names of person you can contact in Bangalore: Anil Kumar 09845813345


ajitjangid asked, AJIT JANGID I FILED APPEAL AGST THE OFFICER WHO AHAVE DENIED THE INFORMATION. BUT APPEALETEE AUTHORITY PASSED THE ORDER WITHOUT GIVING ME DATE. IT IS 2 YEAR AGO. NOW I CAN FILE APPEAL AGST APPEALETE AUTHORITY AND WHERE. AJIT JANGID
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You must file a second Appeal within 90 days of First Appellate Authority's response. The First Appellate Authority has a maximum period of 45 days to respond. Hence your second Appeal must be filed within 45 +90 = 135 days from the filing of the first Appeal.


anu asked, what is the eligibilty to to become RTI activist and what would be my roles, will it pose any hinderance if I am in a Job.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Any citizen can use RTI. The time required to file an RTI Application is less than an hour and you need not visit any government office if you send your RTI Applications by speed post. The additional requirement to be a RTI Activist is a certain perseverence and faith and commitment that you are willing to make the effort to change the society. RTI really offers us a very unique opportunity to participate in our governance structure.


itsb asked, Where is your office Shailesh, this is NK Pratapan, General Secretary of Pestom Sagar Citizens Forum
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Central Information Commission Club Building, Old JNU Campus Delhi 110067


VINOD asked, What remedy to the aggrieved/ information seeker is available in case no response is received from an RTI officer of a department even after a considerably long time
Shailesh Gandhi answers, In case no reply is received from the PIO you could file a First Appeal with the First Appellate Authority within sixty days of having filed the RTI Application. You could also send a complaint to the Information Commission in such a case.

 

VINOD asked, Please inform appeal provision under RTI in case first RTI officer fails to deliver in sought information without assigning any reason and chooses to remain silent.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, File a First Appeal with the First Appellate Authority. If you do not know the designation and address of the First Appellate Authority you could send it to the First Appellate Authority c/o Public Information Officer. In such a case put a note beneath stating that it is the PIO's responsibility to give you the details of the First Appellate Authority. Since he has not done it, he must now send it to the First Appellate Authority.


abbas asked, Sir Can I have some information For RTI Activist in Mumbai can you pls ans this
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Following are names of activists in Mumbai: 1. Bhaskar Prabhu 09892102424 2. SK Nangia 09322258038 3. SAndeep Jalan 09322671212


GAurav asked, Can officers of Public Works Department/Politicians be held accountable for poor state of Roads and other basic amenities under RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Our biggest problem is lack of accountability.


dm asked, Mr. Gandhi, thanks for the wonderful work you have been doing and the amazing number of decisions you have issued to date. I am an Indian living abroad and have been following the RTI Act and researching it for several years. What can Indians abroad do to help the cause of accountability and transparency in our government?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, We are looking for web volunteers who could spend a few hours in a month looking at the Section 4 compliance of various public authorities. If you or others would like to volunteer please send us an email at rtimonitoring@gmail.com.


rawnak asked, Is there a plan to include RTI education in school curriculum, say in Civics subject, this is best way to educate young generation
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Various efforts are being made to include RTI in school curriculum. We are also making some efforts to make this happen.


Antony asked, Most of the superfast trains in south(particularly TN run always late),but we pay an additional fare of 20Rs for this.. Want to know wht is the citeria for superfast trains & also want to history of actual train timings of a particular train to validate my case..What is the procedure?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Most probably the Southern Railway PIO should be able to provide you this information.


ash asked, Can RTI application be filed through post ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Of course. This is the most sensible way of sending the RTI Application. The best option is to send RTI Applications by Speed posts.


manmeet asked, What One should do if RTI is Not Replied despite several attempts?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Do not file several RTIs but follow a single one logically by filing a First Appeal and if required a Second Appeal at the Commission. Filing multiple RTI Applications has no benefit.


kevin asked, can we file a RTI for Income tax refund? If yes, how do i file it
Shailesh Gandhi
answers, There are number of cases where the following RTI queries have led to very positive results: "1. I had filed my income tax returs on --- date. There was an income tax refund of --- due. 2. I want the details of the progress of my return giving names and designations of officers who dealt with my IT Return." A friend of mine received a one lac IT refund within 20 days of filing such an APplication.


RajanRupani asked, Hello Sir, How can we save this Country from Sinking,THE Politicians will sell our country as their greed is unless,Can rti SAVE IT OR WE NEED TO REINVENT SOME OTHER ACT?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, We as citizens will have to take responsibility and not be satisfied with mere cribbing.


Antony asked, Sir, I ve applied for shift in telephone(BSNL) 18 months age,but not materialised.Whom should we/procedure) to write to seek details when it will be materialised & reasons for delay..?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Ask the PIO of the BSNL office information regarding the names and designations of the officers who have dealt with your application and the progress of the application.


suresh asked, Mr.Sailesh,i would like to know the information ascertained through RTI can be used as legal evidence.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Yes of course. I have used it myself.


SEETHAMRAJU asked, Hi Mr.Shailesh, Looks like you have slipped my posting. Here it is again, please answer: 1. Can i have the RTI activist contact details based in Hyderabad. Wish be to be one. 2. Does the expenditure or budget of PM, President and other Bueros covered under RTI act?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I do not have details of any Hyderabad contact with me. The expenditure or the budget of PM. President and all government departments is covered under the RTI Act.


suresh asked, shailesh sir, Is there any provision in rti act a person seeking information can be barred from asking info if he founds misusing the information.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, There is no such provision. Irrespective of what a person does, his fundamental rights cannot be taken away.


prasad asked, Hi Shailesh, Many people still hesitate to use RTI. It might be due to there fear about whole government system which is very corrupted & complicated. What are you doing on that front ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The fear my friend is in your mind. If you believe you are strong and a sovereign of this country you will not be afraid.


manisha asked, how can we use rti to check corruption in govt offices
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Ask about acitivities which expose the wrond doings of the corrupt.


mayank asked, Dear sir what are the benefits of RTI?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Converting this country from an elective democracy to a participatory democracy.


aks asked, I have filed an RTI application with MTNL. How long they are going to reply my enq. If I don't hear from them, what should I do?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, File a First Appeal if you do not get a response within 45 days of your RTI Application (making an allowance for postal transit time).


pandi asked, Where to get RTI application
Shailesh Gandhi answers, you do not need to get a RTI Application from anywhere. Any plain paper will do the job. The Central Government has no specified format but certain states have specified a format so you would have to use the format specified.


shashwat asked, Tell, me a thing, when you had joined as a CIC, you had come up with high announcements of not taking any benefits, etc. But then you changed your stance...do you not think that this in some ways reduced the kind of respect that was held for you, you professed Gandhianism and then reneged on it???
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I realise that the government was not providing enough staff to deliver as a Commissioner. MOst of my post-tax salary is spent on my staff.


GS asked, Can you please tell me whom to contact to become a RTI activist in Vadodara, Gujarat?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could contact Harinesh Pandya at 09824048842 in Ahmedabad.


anjanchatterjee asked, Sir,if an application is lodged with the CIC concerning failure to receive any reply or any satisfactory reply through RTI queries, does the CIC always call the applicant and the concerned PIO to attend hearings at Delhi? Can something not be done to avoid the applicant from always taking time off and spending for going to Delhi to attend such hearings. Contrarily the officialdom gets official tours and goes to Delhi for hearings at govt expense.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, You could participate in the hearing through videoconferencing. All district Head Quarters have NIC studios and you could go to a NIC studio and participate in the videoconference at no cost. You could also indicate that you would like to participate in the hearing through videoconference when you send in your complaint/appeal.


RedTapeBabu asked, Are o-operative housing socities covered under RTI ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Unless teh cooperative housing society is controlled or is substantially financed by the government, it is not a public authority and hence are not covered under RTI Act.


arjun asked, Bombay Stock Exchange isn't covered by RTI. Is there any movement to pressurize the government to bring them under RTI. They delist companies at whim. Millions of investors have lost billions of dollars over the years. Something must be done about this.
Shailesh Gandhi answers, SEBI had been declared to be a public authority by the Information Commission. However, the order has been stayed by the High Court.


ash asked, Hi shailesh, are u reading every question or just replying to random questions ?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, random ones.


coolguy asked, Can a foreigner in India make enquiries under the RTI act? Or can only Indian Citizens do this?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Only Indian citizens.


Kumar asked, You were an activist before promoting RTI act and now you are a CIC. How is the change? There is a complaint against you that you are shying away from levying fines on erring PIOs - any reasons?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, The object of the Act is to ensure a flow of information. However, just for your knowledge I have imposed penalty in 40 cases so far.


mj asked, can i sought information about excise income tax, sales tax departments and what are the guideines about it in thru the rti
Shailesh Gandhi answers, Of course you can seek information from all these departments.


trojan asked, Where does the buck stop as far as RTI is concerned?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, I believe the major responsibility lies with Commission.


dm asked, How is your relationship with the other CICs, you being the only one from a civil society background? What can we do to get more responsive CICs appointed by the govt?
Shailesh Gandhi answers, My relationship with all Commissioners is very cordial.


Shailesh Gandhi says, It has been very educative and interesting experience chatting with all of you. Bye for now. Shailesh