Customs rejects RTI query on its staff

October 11, 2006

Customs rejects RTI query on its staff

Customs rejects RTI query on its staff

Viju B | TNN

Mumbai: It’s a question of who will bell the cat. The customs vigilance department is refusing to divulge information pertaining to officials working in its own department under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The reason given: the information would hamper investigations and amount to an invasion of privacy.
   The application filed under the RTI act was rejected by the Additional Director General of Vigilance, who in a written reply stated that the information sought was “an unwarranted invasion of privacy’’ and would “impede the process of investigation.’’
   Mumbai-based RTI activist Rajesh Dharak had filed the query seeking details regarding various vigilance officers of the West zone unit located in Mumbai. However, the vigilance headquarters, Customs and Excise, New Delhi refused to give out the information citing sections 8(1)(h) and 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, 2005.
   A senior official with the customs vigilance department said the wing had a impeccable record. Entrusted with the task of keeping a vigil on customs officials, he said that it was preventing corruption and irregularities, inquiring into such complaints and punishing those responsible.
   But Dharak has now gone in for an appeal questioning the validity of the decision to deny the information. “It is a
fundamental right of the citizens of the country to find out whether probe agencies like vigilance department of the government are functioning properly,’’ said Dharak. In his query, he had not even asked the names of the officers; it was in the nature of a general application regarding the number of complaints received against vigilance officers, date of commencement of inquiries, date of completion of inquiries and the status of inquiries.
   Earlier, Dharak had filed another RTI query in April this year after he learnt that a vigilance department of the western zone had violated a Central Vigilance Commission circular that the tenure of officers cannot exceed more than three years in ‘sensitive’ postings. He had then obtained information that 11 officers, of the rank of additional commissioner and superintendent, had managed to continued in the same post for over three years and thus violated the CVC guideline.
   But even with this query, incomplete information was provided. “Queries like whether there has been a violation of the CVC circular and who is responsible and punishable for this violation was unanswered,’’ Dharak says. He has now filed a second appeal before the Chief Information Commission.
   RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi said Dharak’s case indicated the problems faced by the common man in acquiring information on government decision despite the enactment of the RTI act.

 

 

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Customs in the dock for flouting Right to Info Act

June 18, 2006

Customs in the dock for flouting Right to Info Act

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/nmirror/mmpaper.asp?sectid=2&articleid=618200601356187618200601222515

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Mumbaikar files contempt petition against department for not following Central Information Commission’s order

Narendra Kaushik

In a move that sets a precedent, a Mumbaikar, who did not get the information she sought from Customs and Central Excise under the Right to Information Act even after an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC), has filed a contempt petition against the department.

S R Sawant, a Bombay High Court advocate, had sought names of Customs officers who were promoted or placed in sensitive positions despite being on the ‘Agreed List’, which names those under discreet watch for corruption or against whom complaints are pending. This confidential list is prepared by the department in consultation with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and is reviewed annually. Listed officers are not supposed to be given public responsibilities or promotions.

The Fort-based advocate moved an application with the CIC on Saturday on behalf of a senior Customs official seeking penalty against Customs for non-compliance of the commission’s May 1, 2006, order. The Commission had told the department to furnish her with the information within 15 days.

In her three-page application, a copy of which is with Mumbai Mirror, Sawant has alleged that Customs has failed to furnish the sought information to her. She has sought action against Customs under section 20 of the RTI Act, which states that a department or Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) that does not furnish information despite an ordered from the central appellate authority may be asked to pay fine of Rs 250 per day. The maximum penalty prescribed under this section is Rs 25,000. The commission may also recommend disciplinary action against the concerned CPIO.

The order was pronounced by a two-member bench comprising Dr O P Kejariwal and Prof M M Ansari. Terming the non-compliance ‘unfortunate’, Ansari said the commission would take up Sawant’s application soon. Citing the case of former Maharashtra minister S S Naik, he said it had become a trend for bureaucracy and politicians to flout orders of commissions and courts.

Info Sawant wanted

• Names of officers on the ‘Agreed List’ that names officers on watch for corruption or against whom complaints are pending in 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06

• Names of officers from this list who were promoted or appointed to a higher grade within their cadre


My RTI Applications to Smt. Neerja Shah has not been responded yet. I have sent 40 RTI REQUEST letters to Neerja Shah. Is NEERJA SHAH the problem at MUMBAI CUSTOMS ?

June 11, 2006

May 10th, 2006

Shri Jogendra Singh
Director General of Vigilance
Custom & Central Excise
2nd Floor, Hotel Samrat
Chanakya Puri
New Delhi – 110021

Phone  – (011) 26115722
Fax – (011) 26115724

e-mail: dgvig@cbec.gov.in

and

Smt. Neerja Shah
Addl DG (VIg.)
Directorate General of Vigilance,
Customs and Central Excise
West Zonal Unit, 4th Floor,
Transport House, Poona Street, Masjid (East)
Mumbai – 40009

Phone No. (022) 22619506
Fax (022) 23703133

e-mail:  adgvigwest@cbec.gov.in

mail2vigilance@indiatimes.com,

Sub: No response from CBEC for RTI applications and requests. Is Director General of Vigalnce protecting Neerja Shah ? Why DGV has not responded to our emails on this issue of MUMBAI CUSTOMS MUDDLE.

Dear Shri. Jogendra Singh,

This is Mr. V. M. Kumaraswamy, MBA.

About eGovINDIA and it's activties

https://egovindia.wordpress.com/

Would you please respond for requests. I am copying this email to several TOP Officials of Govt. of INDIA and also to NEWS REPORTERS, JOURNALISTS.

ARC headed by Sri. Moily also recomending to repeal the Official Secrets Act.

Following is good news. BUT problems in MUMBAI CUSTOMS will go on as long as Neerja Shah and Customs Officer at Nhavasheva(Import) are still there at their positions.

These two officers needs to be SUSPENDED from SERVICE !!

5 Customs officers transferred – Following Newsline report, activist files RTI application, Department gives them the boot !

MUMBAI CUSTOMS PROBLEMS is Neerja Shah. She is COVERING lots of Officers in MUMBAI CUSTOMS.

Please go through this. All of our RTI applications to Neerja Shah is posted. This will be for PUBLIC and all officials in INDIA to know about what is happenning at VIGILANCE LEVEL.

More about MUMBAI CUSTOMS MUDDLE, visit:

https://customsmuddle.wordpress.com/ 

________

5 Customs officers transferred

As per a Central Vigilance Commission circular dated November 2, 2001, the Vigilance Department, classified as sensitive, should not be retaining staff and officers for more than the stipulated three years

.

The Vigilance Department handles cases of corruption and misdeeds by officers from the Customs and Central Excise

.

The officers whose transfer orders have arrived are Joint Commissioner G Ravindranath and Assistant Commissioner M A Andrade, who joined the Vigilance Department in February 2003, Deputy Commissioner V H Bhatija, who joined in March 2003, and Superintendents Narayan Singh and S K Hattangadi, who joined in August 1999.

Except for Hattangadi who is being relieved from June 30, all other transfers are with effect from May 31. Joint Commissioner Ravindranath has been replaced by G Srinivas Rao, who is joint commissioner at Central Excise, Mumbai.

Incidentally one of the replacements for the superintendents is not inclined towards joining the vigilance department. The officer, who recently underwent treatment for depression, has informed the vigilance department about his position.

A senior officer of the vigilance department said: “It is difficult to get the right mix of officers for the vigilance department as only few are willing, and those who are, have to satisfy our stringent norms.”

Rajesh Darak, an activist with Whistleblowers India, a non-governmental organisation, had made the RTI application and obtained the list of officers who were retained despite completing three years

_________________________


5 Customs officers transferred – Following Newsline report, activist files RTI application, Department gives them the boot !

June 11, 2006
5 Customs officers transferred

As per a Central Vigilance Commission circular dated November 2, 2001, the Vigilance Department, classified as sensitive, should not be retaining staff and officers for more than the stipulated three years

.

The Vigilance Department handles cases of corruption and misdeeds by officers from the Customs and Central Excise

.

The officers whose transfer orders have arrived are Joint Commissioner G Ravindranath and Assistant Commissioner M A Andrade, who joined the Vigilance Department in February 2003, Deputy Commissioner V H Bhatija, who joined in March 2003, and Superintendents Narayan Singh and S K Hattangadi, who joined in August 1999.

Except for Hattangadi who is being relieved from June 30, all other transfers are with effect from May 31. Joint Commissioner Ravindranath has been replaced by G Srinivas Rao, who is joint commissioner at Central Excise, Mumbai.

Incidentally one of the replacements for the superintendents is not inclined towards joining the vigilance department. The officer, who recently underwent treatment for depression, has informed the vigilance department about his position.

A senior officer of the vigilance department said: “It is difficult to get the right mix of officers for the vigilance department as only few are willing, and those who are, have to satisfy our stringent norms.”

Rajesh Darak, an activist with Whistleblowers India, a non-governmental organisation, had made the RTI application and obtained the list of officers who were retained despite completing three years

_____________________________________________________________


Bureaucrats are the biggest stumbling block

May 30, 2006
Bureaucrats are the biggest stumbling block
 http://www.ciol.com/content/search/showarticle1.asp?artid=84458

The law gives every Indian citizen the right to information. But, very few among even the educated people are aware of this right. Parivartan, a Delhi-based non government organization, is on the forefront of a mass awareness drive to let the common people know about their right to seek information from the government on issues that affect their lives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan spoke to Bhaskar Hazarika of CyberMedia News about this mass awareness drive and pointed out that the Indian bureaucracy was still suffering from the hangover of the British colonial rule, which governed behind a veil of secrecy.

What made you launch a mass awareness drive on the Right to Information Act?

Parivartan's primary objective is to bring about transparency in the government and eradicate corruption. Initially, the organization's main focus was on anti-corruption laws. The organization helped individuals file public interest litigations. The enactment of the Right to Information Act shifted our focus to empowering people through exercising this right. For this, we needed to first make people aware of their right to information.

How far has this movement helped in empowering the people? Are the educated people aware about this Act?

Our campaign has brought about some awareness among the people about this issue. We are mainly focusing our attention on the illiterate and semi-literate people, because it is they who have very little access to information. It is a sorry state of affair that even the educated people do not know much about the Right to Information Act.

As most poor people are illiterate or semi-literate, how do you expect them to exercise their right to information?

Literacy is an important factor in imparting education to the people. Slum areas have high degree of illiteracy mostly among women. We are taking the help of some educated people in these areas to spread awareness among the masses about the right to information. As a result of the awareness, the slum-dwellers were able to secure ration cards for their families, a right they were denied so long.

Which is the most effective way to create awareness among the masses about the Right to Information Act?

Mass media is the most effective means to spread awareness among the people. Media must carry out special campaign on the issue to make the citizens aware of their rights.

Do you think that the bureaucracy, which is so reluctant to provide information even to the educated public, would agree to share information with the poor and the illiterate?

The right empowers the people to acquire information. If a person approaches a government authority seeking information on a subject and if the authority fails to provide him with the information, the individual can approach his superior official in this regard. If the superior official too fails to satisfy the individual, he can file an appeal against the official and approach the central information commission.

The Act empowers the commission to impose a penalty on the official, and the fine imposed on him could be deducted from his salary.

What is the role of central information commission?

The central information commission has been set up to look into the grievances of the public. According to the constitution, the commission shall have 11 members. At present, the government has appointed only five members, four of who are former bureaucrats. The commission should have members from the judiciary, the legal community and eminent personalities who have held important positions in public life. Each member is appointed for a five-year tenure. Even the parliament does not have the right to remove the members.

What are the obstacles you have faced in empowering the people?

By and large, bureaucrats at various levels are still unwilling to provide information to the people. They are still not reconciled to the fact that the law has given the citizens the right to information. Above all there is little cooperation from the central information commission in this regard. As the members of this commission are former bureaucrats, they tend to act in favour of the bureaucracy.

There is an urgent need to change the process and lookout of the commission. Till now, in Delhi alone, over 15,000 applications have been filed under the RTI Act. Yet, so far, no official has been penalized for refusing to give information. If the government does not take any urgent initiative in this matter RTI Act will die a premature death.

What initiative should the government take in empowering or educating the masses?

The government should play an active role. The Act states that it is the duty of the government to educate the citizens about the right to information. We have also drafted a structure for the local self-government, which would also be effective for the urban areas. We are planning to meet chief minister Shiela Dixit to discuss the draft.

[ CyberMedia India Online Limited (CIOL)

http://www.ciol.com/ is India's first web site to focus on Information Technology.]


What is Right to Information? Where to file RTI application? How to write an application?

May 30, 2006

What is Right to Information?  Where to file RTI application?   How to write an application?

Right to Information Act 2005, which became effective in October 2005, empowers every citizen to

q       Ask any questions from the Government or seek any information

q       Take copies of any government documents

q       Inspect any government documents.

If the desired information is not provided within 30 days of application, the concerned officer becomes liable for a penalty of Rs 250 per day of default upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 per application. And if wrong information is provided, a penalty upto a maximum of Rs 25,000 can be imposed on the officer.

Some examples

Nannu is a daily wage earner. He lives in Welcome Mazdoor Colony, another slum habitation in East Delhi . He lost his ration card and applied for a duplicate one in January this year. He made several rounds of the local Food & Civil Supplies office for the next three months. But the clerks and officials would not even look at him, leave alone do his job or bother to tell him the status of his application. Ultimately, he filed an application under the Right to Information Act asking for the daily progress made on his application, names of the officials who were supposed to act on his application and what action would be taken against these officials. Within a week of filing application under Right to Information Act, he was visited by an inspector from the Food Department, who informed him that the card had been made and he could collect it from the office. When Nannu went to collect his card next day, he was given a very warm treatment by the Food & Supply Officer (FSO), who is the head of a Circle. The FSO offered him tea and requested him to withdraw his application under Right to Information, since his work had already been done.

Mrs Bakshi has a house in South Delhi. She rent a part of her house to someone, who was using it for commercial purposes. Therefore, a commercial water connection for that part of the house was taken. When the tenant vacated the house, she applied to Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for converting water connection back to domestic. She kept running around for several months. None listened to her. She was even told by some DJB men that the work would be done in no time if she paid a bribe. She refused. Her Neighbour, Saurav, one day told her about RTI and helped her in filing an application. She filed one and her job was done in the next few days.

Mr Sharma had to go to Germany. His daughter-in-law was expecting a baby. He needed a passport urgently. He applied for one. Acccording to the rules, it should be made in 45 days. For six months he kept running around. But no one listened. When he finally applied under RTI, his passport was made in a weeks time.

Pabitra is a Chartered Accountant, who refuses to pay bribes. There was a tax refund due to his client. Despite repeated letters and running around for a year, nothing happened. Pabitra suggested to his client that an RTI application be filed. Client agreed. Refund was received within a few days of filing RTI.

What did these people ask? How did this magic happen?

Nannu asked the following questions in his RTI application:

  1. I filed an application for a duplicate ration card on 27th January 2004. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

  2. According to the rules, my card should have been made in 10 days. However, it is more than three months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

  3. What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

  4. By when would I get my card now?

In normal circumstances, such an application would be thrown in a dustbin. But this law says that the Government has to reply in 30 days. If they don't do that, their salary could be deducted. Now, it is not easy to answer these questions.

The first question is – please provide the daily progress made on my application. There is no progress made. But the government officials cannot write in these many words that they have not acted for so many months. Else that would be admission of guilt on paper. The next question is – please provide the names and designations of the officers who were supposed to take action on my application and who had not done so. If the government provides names and designations of the officials, their responsibility gets fixed. Any officer is most scared of fixing of responsibility against him in this manner. So, the moment one files such an application, his/her pending work is done.

What did Pabitra's client ask? He also asked similar questions:

  1. The appellate Commissioner decided an appeal in my favor which should result in refund of taxes to me. I have made written requests earlier for the same. Please tell me the daily progress made on my requests so far. i.e. when did my application reach which official, for how long did it stay with that official and what did he/she do during that period?

  2. According to the rules, the appeal effect should have been given in 30 days. However, it is more than a year now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

  3. What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

  4. By when would I get my refund now?

And within a few days of filing this RTI application, Pabitra's client got his refund.

What did Mr Sharma ask? He asked the following questions from the Passport Officer:

  1. I made an application for issue of a new passport (copy attached). Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

  2. According to the rules, my passport should have been made in 45 days. However, it is more than six months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

  3. What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

  4. By when would I get my passport now?

And he got his passport within the next few days.

What did Mrs Bakshi ask? She asked:

  1. I made an application for conversion of commercial connection to domestic on ________. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e . when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

  2. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

  3. What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

  4. By when will my work be done now?

Where to file RTI application?

Every Government department has nominated one of its officers as a Public Information Officer (PIO). You should file your application with him/her. You have to deposit an application fee along with your application. In the case of Central Government Departments, the application fee is Rs 10. It is the same for many State Governments also. But many State Governments have fixed different fee. The fees fixed by different states are given in annexure. There is no fee for the people living below poverty line.

You could submit the application through following methods:

q       In person or by sending someone to the office of the PIO. You could deposit the fee in cash or by DD drawn in favor of the Department.

q       By post. You could deposit the fee in by DD drawn in favor of the Department.

q       In Post Offices. Several branches of Post Offices have been authorized to receive RTI applications. The list of these branches are available at the website ______. You just need to present your RTI application at any of these post offices. They will accept your fee in cash and give you a receipt of the money and the application. They will then deliver it to the concerned PIO at their own cost. If you deposit your application through a post office, the period for providing information increases to 35 days.

How to write an application?

Samples of application for Nannu and Mr Sharma are given in Annexure 1.

Why is it that this Act works when no other law seems to have worked in this country?

This is because of only one reason i.e. it says that if the concerned official does not give information in time, his salary could be deducted. This not only affects him financially, but also adversely affects his career. Therefore, every official tries to comply with this Act and provide information in time.

What if you do not hear anything in 30 days? Who would impose penalty on officials?

If you do not get information in 30 days (or 35 days, if you send your application through post office), you should file an appeal to the officer senior to the PIO. An appeal is nothing but a simple letter to the senior officer stating your grievance. He is required to listen to your grievance within 30 days of your appeal. If you do not get a satisfactory response from the senior officer also within 30 days, then you should file an appeal in the form of a simple letter to the Information Commission, specifically designated for this purpose. The Information Commissioners have the power to impose penalties on guilty officials.

Though RTI can be used by people in several ways,

Like developmental works, rations, etc, wherein people have to pay bribes to get their legitimate work done in any Government Department, either due to expectation of bribe or due to simple laziness of the concerned officials.

The following message should be aggressively promoted through advertisements and various programs:

"You need not pay bribes any more in this country. Now you have an effective alternative – Right to Information. Use RTI. Often, it works faster than bribes."

What are the types of issues, which could be taken up by Citizens of INDIA ?

Wherever you have a legitimate work pending, you have filed all the documents, you have completed all formalities, you have a genuine case, which the official ought to do in his normal course of duty but is not doing either for expectation of bribe or merely laziness. We call it extortionist bribery. For instance,

q       Issue of passport

q       Issue of any type of license

q       Issue of various certificates like marriage certificate, death certificate, birth certificate, SC/ST certificate, OBC certificate etc

q       Inclusion of name in voters' list

q       Issue of voter ID card

q       Correction of water, electricity, telephone bills

q       Any legitimate problem with a department like change of faulty meter, providing new water or electricity connection, etc

q       Filing of FIR

q       Claiming various kinds of refunds or payments etc like tax refund, medical reimbursement etc

q        

Samples of application for Nannu and Mr Sharma are given in Annexure 1.

 RTI Activist should be required to draft applications for the issues mentioned in Annexure 3. Many more such issues could be thought of and practice should be done for them.

 

Whereas in most of the cases, the standard RTI application form annexed at Annexure 2 herewith would be sufficient and only blanks would need to be filled, however, RTI Activists could ask more questions specific to the case, which tend to nail down the authorities.
 

Annexure 1

RTI application of Nannu

To

The PIO,

Food & Supplies Department,

K Block, Vikas Bhavan,

I P Estate, New Delhi – 1

Sub: Application under Right to Information Act 2005

Dear Sir,

Please provide the following information under Right to Information Act 2005. Since I am a person living below poverty line (copy of my earlier ration card attached as a proof that I belong to BPL category), I am not depositing application fee:

1.       I filed an application for a duplicate ration card on 27th January 2004. Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

2.       According to the rules, my card should have been made in 10 days. However, it is more than three months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

3.       What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

4.       By when would I get my card now?

Yours sincerely,

(Nannu)

E Block, Welcome Colony,

Seelampur, Delhi-93


 

RTI application of Mr Sharma

To

The PIO,

Regional Passport Office,

Bhikaji Cama Place,

New Delhi

Sub: Application under Right to Information Act 2005

Dear Sir,

Please provide the following information under Right to Information Act 2005:

1.       I made an application for issue of a new passport (copy attached). Please tell me the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

2.       According to the rules, my passport should have been made in 45 days. However, it is more than six months now. Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

3.       What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

4.       By when would I get my passport now?

I am separately depositing Rs 10 as application fee.

Yours sincerely,

(S Sharma)


 

Annexure 2

Draft application form which would be used by the volunteers during camp and which could be used as a standard template for every one

Dated:

To

The PIO,

_____________________

_____________________

_____________________

Sub: Application under Right to Information Act 2005

Dear Sir,

I had made an application for the following reason (copy of application is attached) but no satisfactory action has been taken on my application so far.

Please provide the following information with respect to the same:

1.       Please indicate the daily progress made on my application so far. i.e. when did my application reach which officer, for how long did it stay with that officer and what did he/she do during that period?

2.       Please give the names and designations of the officials who were supposed to take action on my application and who have not done so?

3.       What action would be taken against these officials for not doing their work and for causing harassment to the public? By when would that action be taken?

4.       By when would my work be done now?

5.       .

6.        

I am separately depositing Rs 10 as application fee.

Yours sincerely,


 

Annexure 3

Some situations for which volunteers should draft RTI applications during training sessions

q       You made a complaint to the police but they are not registering FIR.

q       You want to know balance in your PF account. You have retired and want to claim your PF but the authorities are not responding to your letters.

q       You are a Government servant and have been transferred out against the transfer policy. The Government is not responding to your requests to transfer you back.

q       You are a Government servant. Your requests for claim of medical reimbursements are not being heeded to.

q       You have a faulty electricity meter in your house. But the authorities are not replacing it despite repeated requests.

q       The sewer is choked in your locality for some time but the authorities have not responded to repeated requests.