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#India -No jeans, mobile phones for Brahmin girls: BJP MP #Vaw #moralpolicing #WTFnews

We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,’ BJP MP Raghunanandan Sharma tells Rediff.com‘s A Ganesh Nadar.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP Raghunandan Sharma has come up with the following suggestions to check crimes against women: Girls should not be allowed to use mobile phones before marriage and women should not wear jeans.

Sharma — a member of the Rajya Sabha and vice-president of the BJP’s Madhya PradeshImages ] unit -expressed his views at a meeting of Brahmins in Ratlam district on Sunday.

The BJP MP termed mobile phone usage by students, particularly young girls, as a big menace and the genesis of other evils.

Sharma lambasted girls wearing jeans, saying it was the attire of American cowboys and in no way gelled with Indian culture.

Sharma, who was born a year before Independence, told Rediff.com on Tuesday, “I don’t know what the problem with you journalists is. I was at my samaj meeting. It was a meeting of my society of Brahmins.”

“I am a representative of the Brahmins and I am their leader. I was trying to suggest ways to improve my society. The advice was only for Brahmins, not for the country.”

“I was speaking not as a MP or a BJP leader, I was speaking as a Brahmin to other Brahmins. I have my ideas of improving my society, what is your problem?”

“We are under attack from Western culture, our culture doesn’t teach us to wear jeans,” Sharma added.

“I have every right to tell my society of Brahmins how to dress, not to use mobile phones and whatever I think is good for my society.”

“Nowhere did I suggest that I am trying to change the country, change my party’s views or change my state’s views. This was advice only for my people and meant only for them

 

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#India – Does law do justice to the poor & hapless?

draconianlaw

June 9, 2013, The Hindu

MATTHEW ADUKANIL

The powerful are presumed innocent until proved guilty but the indigent citizen under arrest is considered guilty until he is proved innocent

Learned judges toast the majesty of the law. Politicians swear by its sanctity asserting that it will take its due course. But seasoned criminals are thoroughly familiar with its loopholes. They know how to flout the law and yet how to survive by it. But those who have felt the slings and arrows of misapplied law unhesitatingly subscribe to the Dickensian dictum ‘The Law is an ass’. Probably, the highest tribute ever paid to the ass! Law commands respect only from the law-abiding.

One is reminded of two amusing constables in a Shakespearean play. Enforcing the king’s midnight curfew on tramps, they ordered two ruffians, ‘ In the name of His Majesty go home’. Upon their insolent reply that they did not recognise His Majesty, the policemen duly apologised and went their way. Successful execution of the time-tested strategy of questioning law enforcers’ jurisdiction, and going scot-free riding piggyback on technicalities.

Love is not Time’s fool, as Shakespeare said but Law is. The dictum ‘Art is long but life is short’ has its parallel also in law and it would be equally correct to say ‘Law is long but life is short.’ A shrewd and high profile offender of the law can have a long-drawn battle with it and keep it at bay practically all his life. Law is definitely on the side of the powerful criminal since he is presumed innocent until proved guilty but the indigent citizen under arrest is considered guilty until he is proved innocent.

A criminal can keep out of reach of the long arm of the law until he is finally convicted and a series of legal procedures is exhausted. A lawsuit starts in the lowest sessions court, winds its way through the maze of higher level courts and finally reaches the Supreme Court creeping at snail’s pace through numerous speed humps of adjournments, court vacations, appeals, revision hearings, single-judge hearings, Full Bench hearings, presidential pardons, etc.

Meanwhile, criminals who are MPs can contest elections, serve multiple five-year terms and amass colossal fortunes through corrupt practices. The money thus illegally made will more than cover the lawyer’s fees, bribes to those who can help, huge election expenses and still leave behind a tidy fortune. Meanwhile, as the plea for justice is on its pilgrim’s progress to the courts, crucial files disappear from offices, inconvenient witnesses meet with mysterious ends and unsympathetic law enforcers or judges just vanish.

But what happens to the poor villager or tribal who is picked up on trumped up charges at the instance of the well-heeled? It takes months and sometimes years for him to be taken to the magistrate to be enlightened on his crimes, verification of identity, etc.

When some political or business bigwigs are arrested for serious crimes and put behind bars, at once a host of ailments like high BP and kidney and heart problems visit them calling for immediate hospitalisation and quality treatment. The wonder is that with all these ailments they were able to go about their daily business. These health problems seem to be ‘bar-coded’ since they crop up only behind bars. It is a brave new world, indeed!

Crimes taking place in full public glare, caught on cameras and repeatedly beamed by the media for days and weeks need elaborate and long court procedures to establish their veracity and the identity of the perpetrators. We may recall the prolonged trials of Kasab or recently the members of the gang rape of Nirbhaya in a Delhi bus. Or take the case of the seven-year jail term serving Bitty Mohanty who jumped parole, studied for MBA degree and got employed in a bank in a new avatar. A criminal who does not know to exploit to the full the niceties of court procedures had better hang up his boots.

A huge number of police personnel are engaged in VIP security, for Ministers and MPs and, in some cases, even extended family members of MPs. Allegedly about one-third of the MPs in Parliament have criminal backgrounds and several have murder, rape and other serious cases pending against them. Upon seeing this posse of security personnel around them amid crowds, one may be excused if he/she gets a nagging doubt: who is the potential target and who is the perceived threat?

What about protection for women riding alone in buses to their homes at night after work, and farmers exposed daily to the attacks of marauding elephants in forest areas?

(The writer is an assistant college professor. Email: [email protected])

 

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Afghan MPs block divisive women’s rights law #WTFnews

Legislation was approved by President Karzai in 2009, but stalled by conservative MPs who deemed it un-Islamic.

Last Modified: 18 May 2013 14:27

President Hamid Karzai approved the law by decree in 2009, but it needs parliamentary approval [Reuters]
Afghanistan’s parliament has failed to pass a law banning violence against women, a severe blow to progress made in women’s rights since the Taliban was toppled over a decade ago.

President Hamid Karzai approved the law by decree in 2009 and parliament’s endorsement was required. But a rift between conservative and more secular members of the assembly resulted in debate being deferred to a later date.

Religious members objected to at least eight articles in the legislation, including keeping the legal age for women to marry at 16, the existence of shelters for domestic abuse victims and the halving of the number of wives permitted to two.

“Today, the parliamentarians who oppose women’s development, women’s rights and the success of women…made their voices loud and clear,” Fawzia Koofi, head of parliament’s women’s commission, told Reuters on Saturday.

Women have won back the hard-fought right to education and work since the Taliban was toppled 12 years ago, but there are fears these freedoms could shrink once NATO-led forces leave Afghanistan by the end of next year.

Increasing insecurity is deterring some women from seeking work outside the home, and rights workers accuse the government of doing too little to protect women – allegations rejected by Karzai’s administration.

“2014 is coming, change is coming, and the future of women in this country is uncertain. A new president will come and if he doesn’t take women’s rights seriously he can change the decree,” Koofi said.

The election for a new president is expected to be held in April 2014. The constitution bars Karzai from running again.

‘Morally corrupt’

After almost two hours of clashes between Koofi and the more religious members of the 244-member parliament, speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi said the assembly would consider the law again at a later date, but declined to say when.

Some members sought amendments, such as longer prison terms for crimes committed against women, such as beating and rape.

Many legislators, most of them male, cited violations of Islamic law.

“It is wrong that a woman and man cannot marry off their child until she is 16,” said Obaidullah Barekzai, a member from southeast Uruzgan province, where female literacy rates are among the lowest in the country.

An Afghan man must be at least 18 years old to marry.

Barekzai argued against all age limits for women, citing historical figure Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq, a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who married off his daughter at age seven.

At least eight other legislators, mostly from the Ulema Council, a government-appointed body of clerics, joined him in decrying the law as un-Islamic.

Abdul Sattar Khawasi, member for Kapisa province, called women’s shelters “morally corrupt”. Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb last year dismissed them as houses of “prostitution and immorality”, provoking fierce condemnation from women’s groups.

 

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MPs panel raps ministry for clearing 33 drugs without trials

New Delhi | Sunday, 2013 6:06:00 PM IST

Clinical Trials (journal)
Thirty-three new drugs were granted approval by the health ministry without clinical trials on Indian patients between January 2008 and October 2010, a parliamentary panel has found.

It a report tabled in parliament last week, the panel headed by parliament member Brajesh Pathak said: “This is yet another instance where the ministry, inspite of appreciating the serious problem the continued marketing of these 33 drugs may pose to Indian patients, has chosen to take no action to resolve it”.

The panel criticised the union health ministry for its “inaction” on certain alleged irregularities in clinical trials of drugs before their introduction in the country.

It also charged the officials involved in granting approval to these drugs with violation of law and “an intention to save the guilty”.

“The committee is shocked to note this dilly-dallying by the ministry on the matter, which could be affecting lives of lakhs of people in the country, who are consuming these drugs,” it said.

“The ministry agrees with the committee’s viewpoint about review of approvals to ensure safety of patients, fair play, transparency and accountability but instead of taking strict and immediate action in all proven cases of delinquency and omission and commission, it still continues to be in a state of profound procrastination,” the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare said in its 66th report.

It said that even after a lapse of more than seven months the three-member expert panel looking into this contentious matter has come out with “virtually nothing concrete” and observed that the government “intends to delay a decision by referring it to yet another committee”.

“These tactics have been, as stated at several places in this report, resorted to by the government to delay indefinitely the decisions and consequent actions that would be required to be taken against several officials and non-officials who have indulged in rampant acts of omission and commission while approving these drugs in gross violation of the law of the land.”

The committee has taken strong objections to these “dilatory tactics” and recommended immediate decision on these “proven gross violations, lest the health of the people is compromised irrevocably.”

Indo-Asian News Service spc/ros/vt

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Landmark win for dalits as UK bans caste bias

Kounteya Sinha, TNN Apr 26, 2013,
(Jo Swinson, the equalities…)

LONDONDalits in the United Kingdom have recorded a landmark victory after the British parliament finally agreed to outlaw caste discrimination.

In a major U-turn, the House of Commons, which had earlier trashed an amendment to include caste among other forms of discrimination, on Tuesday voted for legal protection for the four lakh dalits living in the UK.

This makes the UK the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. On Wednesday business secretary Vince Cables said “caste is to be outlawed in the UK”.

Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, told the House of Commons the government recognized that caste discrimination existed in the United Kingdom and it was “unacceptable”. She said “very strong views have been expressed in the Lords on this matter and we have reconsidered our position and agreed to introduce caste-related legislation”. “We hope that this decision will serve as an example to other countries,” said Rikke Nohrlind, coordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network. “Caste discrimination is a global issue, affecting hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world.”

The House of Lords had voted twice in support of the amendment, but the House of Commons had had reservations against it. MPs on Tuesday overturned their earlier decision and decided that caste would in future be treated as “an aspect of race”.

The amendment is part of the Equality Act 2010. Till now, the Act prohibited race discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace. The definition of “race” within the Act includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin but does not specifically refer to caste.

Conservative MP Richard Fuller said “caste discrimination in the workplace is wrong and the people who suffer from it deserve legal protection”. The issue has divided the Indian diaspora in the UK. While groups like Caste Watch UK had been rallying to urge MPs to introduce legal protection for those from traditionally lower-caste backgrounds, the Hindu Alliance has called for a boycott of the

 

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Why I-T returns of Pawar, Jindal and Gandhi are exempted from #RT ?

Sharad Pawar speaks at BISA launch

 

 

 

VINITA DESHMUKH , Moneylife.com| 24/04/2013 

 

Income Tax authorities have denied information about I-T returns of 22 MPs, including Sharad Pawar, Naveen JindalManeka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav and 20 MLAs. After suspending the hearing 27 times for over three years, the CIC has given the MPs and MLAs three weeks to file their replies
It often takes just one election victory of five years—for Members of the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies to get stinking rich, what with their wealth increasing a 1,000 times, in some cases.
According to a research carried out by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), the Lok Sabha MPs (2004-2009) have had an average increase in assets to the tune of 289% or Rs2.9 crore per MP within five years.
As for the MPs from the Rajya Sabha, BJP has 14 out of 16 candidates who are crorepatis, followed by Congress with 12 crorepati candidates out of 15 candidates. “There is also the issue of conflict of interest,” says Anil Bairwal of ADR. “58% of the Rajya Sabha members are ‘crorepatis’ with flourishing professional practices, shareholding in media, infrastructure, hospitality besides paid consultancy and other engagements,” he adds.
Thus, Bairwal says, “Going by the swelling in the pouches of our MPs and MLAs in the 2009 elections, it is extremely desirable that their I-T returns are made public. The recent increase in the assets of Members of Parliament (MPs) portrays some figures which appear lopsided and doubtful. There are parliamentarians who have increased their assets more than one thousand times over while in Parliament. Furthermore, what is the foundation of this breeding money among the political parties, nobody knows.”
Bairwal has filled innumerable RTI applications in the relevant Income Tax offices of the 22 MPs and 20 MLAs, which he zeroed on, considering the increase in their assets between 2004 and 2009.  His RTIs, which were filed in 2010 were stonewalled by all the respective Public Information Officers and Appellate Authorities. In fact, his second appeal with the Central Information Commission (CIC) was suspended 27 times until it was finally heard on 16 April 2013, a good three years later. Once again, three more weeks have been given to reply.
The prominent names in the list of 22 MPs and 20 MLAs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI are Sharad Pawar, Naveen Jindal, Maneka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Bairwal has asked for the following information in his RTI application:
1. Whether the MPs/MLAs who fall in your jurisdiction have filed their I-T returns for all the five years (2004-2009)
2. Please provide the years for which these MPs have not filed their returns
3. Please provide details of the -IT return & assessment orders for all the years for which they have filed.
Apart from the RTI application, Bairwal also separately requested all Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs to disclose their I-T returns in larger public interest. Says Bairwal, “Some of these MPs sent us their I-T Returns and insisted that we make them public on our website whereas others uploaded them on their own website. We also came across some MPs and MLAs who have already submitted their I-T returns along with the respective chief minister’s office and the prime minister’s office.’’ In all, 28 of them including Anu Aga and Ambika Soni have revealed their I-T returns – (see box below).
As per the press release issued by ADR on 16 April 2013 “Of the 20 MPs whose I-T returns were asked for under RTI, the details of only three MPs—Mr Baju Ban Ryan MP from Tripura East constituency), Mr Shafiqur Rahman Barq (MP from Sambhal constituency of Uttar Pradesh) and Ms Usha Verma (MP from Hardoi constituency of Uttar Pradesh) were made available by the Public Information Officers (PIO). The I-T returns of others MPs were denied under various sections, like 8(1)(j), 8(1)(d), 11(1) and 11(3) of the RTI Act. TheRTIs of seven MPs were transferred but lost in transit hence no information was available.”
At the CIC hearing, representatives of 10 out of 20 MPs were present. The public information officers who denied the information stating lack of larger public interest and the representatives of MPs/ MLAs were invited for the hearing. The bench comprised Information Commissoners (IC) Mr ML Sharma, Ms Annapurna Dixit and Mr Rajiv Mathur.
The three CICs repeatedly questioned the representatives of the MPs as to how disclosing of their I-T returns was not in larger public interest. They repeatedly referred to the Supreme Court judgment which made declarations of assets and other details mandatory at thetime of contesting elections.. However, no arguments were put forth by the Public information Officers of the I-T department who had initially denied providing the information stating lack of public interest, states the press statement of ADR.
Mr Bairwal argued that there is overriding public interest in I-T returns of the MPs and that most of the requested information was already in public domain as the total income filed in the latest I-T returns of all candidates have to be provided in their affidavits along with their nomination papers to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Mr Bairwal stated during the argument at the CIC that, “the Supreme Court has deliberated in detail on this issue while directing the ECI to collect and make public the information on assets of the contesting candidates at the time of elections through affidavits. The Supreme Court of India had specifically noted through its decision on 13 March 2003 (Writ Petition No. 490/509/515 of 2002) that asking for asset details of the parliamentarians/legislatures does not invade the privacy of the individual.”
Amongst the arguments put forth by representatives of MPs, Mr Ajith Singh’s senior advocate argued “that if the MPs are considered public servants, the I-T returns of every public servant should be requested for; lawyers of Mr Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia argued that any tax payer serves larger public interest by paying tax hence their personal information cannot be made available in the public domain; the representative of Kumari Selja when asked if he would be willing to declare his/his client’s I-T returns, stated that “rule of privacy will prevail” and “I am not obliged under law to declare my I-T returns in the public domain”.
The attendees included lawyers, chartered accountants and representatives of Mr Uday Singh, Ms Maneka Gandhi, Mr Sachin Pilot, Mr Dushyant Singh, Kumari Selja, Mr Beni Prasad Verma, Mr Ajith Singh, Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr T R Baalu.
The CIC has given three weeks’ time for the representatives of the MPs to provide a copy of their written submissions after which it will give its decision.
Says Mr Bairwal, “Tax returns of Parliamentarians are voluntarily being disclosed in countries like the US and UK. Presidential tax returns in the United States are available online. Like all other citizens, US presidents also enjoy the protection of their privacy, but they chose to release their tax returns publicly. Tax returns of Barack Obama, George W Bush and others are available online. (www.Presidentsusa.net). Their tax returns are open for public scrutiny and such sort of a transparency is truly commendable. Our parliamentarians should also do likewise as this will underline the faith of the citizens in the representatives chosen by them…”

State Average asset in 2007(Rs) Average asset in 2012(Rs) Percentage
Goa 2.91 crore 7.65 crore 163%
Punjab 5.73 crore 9.17 crore 60%
Uttar Pradesh 98.05 lakh 3.10 crore 217%
Uttaranchal 83 lakh 2 crore 177%
Manipur 20 lakh 1 crore 492%
The timeline of events for MP I-T returns case
1. 22 February 2010: An RTI was filed with the respective I-T departments to retrieve I-T Returns of 20 MPs with exponential growth in assets between two elections.
2. 6 May 2010: First Appeal with I-T department for follow up on information denied under Sections 8(1)(j), 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act
3. 20 August 2010: Second Appeal with Central Information Commission.
4. 20 April 2012: Notice for the first hearing at CIC sent to concerned parties.
5. 3 May 2012: First hearing with the CIC takes place for MP Uday Singh and MP Dushyant Singh
6. 8 November 2012: Notice for second hearing of CIC was sent to concerned parties in the case.
7. 22 November 2012: Second hearing at CIC takes place. Press Release for this CIC hearing to make MP I-T Returns public.
8. 22 November 2013: Submission No. I filed with the CIC on the day of this hearing.
9. 7 March 2013: Notice for the hearing of the full bench of CIC sent to concerned parties.
10. 4 April 2013: Submission No. II filed with the CIC based on voluntary disclosure by MPs prior to the full bench hearing.
11. 12 April 2013: Larger Bench of CIC to hear the case on making income tax returns of MPs public.
12. 16 April 2013: Hearing with the larger bench at CIC takes place.

 

Those who voluntarily put their Income Tax returns in the public domain
S No Name State Constituency Party MP/MLA ITR
1 Neeraj Shekhar UP Ballia SP MP LS ITR
2 Sadashiv Dadoba Mandlik Maharashtra Kolhapur IND MP LS ITR
3 Abhijit Mukherjee West Bengal Jangipur INC MP LS ITR
4 Mirza Mehboob Beg J&K Anantnag J&K National Conference MP LS ITR
5 Bijoy Krishna Handique Assam Jorhat INC MP LS ITR
6 Arnavaz Rohinton Aga Maharashtra NIL Nominated MP RS ITR
7 Raju Anna Shetty Maharashtra Hatkanangle Swabhimani Paksha MP LS ITR
8 Dr Ajoy Kumar Jharkhand Jamshedpur JVM MP LS ITR
9 Mandagadde Rama Jois Karnataka Karnataka BJP MP RS ITR
10 Dinesh Trivedi West Bengal Barrackpur AITC MP LS ITR
11 Vilas Baburao Muttemwar Maharashtra Nagpur INC MP LS ITR
12 Baishnab Charan Parida Orissa Orissa BJD MP RS ITR
13 Tathagata Satpathy Orissa Dhenkanal BJD MP LS ITR
14 Baju Ban Riyan Tripura Tripura East CPI(M) MP LS ITR
15 Sudip Bandyopadhyay West Bengal Kolkata Utter AITC MP LS ITR
16 Subodh Kant Sahay Jharkhand Ranchi INC MP LS ITR
17 Pratik Prakashbapu Patil Maharashtra Sangli INC MP LS ITR
18 Mahadeo Singh Khandela Rajasthan Sikar INC MP LS ITR
19 Ajay Maken Delhi New Delhi INC MP LS ITR
20 AmbikaSoni Punjab Punjab INC MP RS ITR
21 Sadanand Singh Bihar Kahalgaon INC MLA ITR
22 Pramod Kumar Bihar Motihari BJP MLA ITR
23 Subodh Roy Bihar Sultanganj JDU MLA ITR
24 Virendra Beniwal Rajasthan Lunkaransar INC MLA ITR
25 Rajkumar Sharma Rajasthan Nawalgarh INC (contested on BSP ticket) MLA ITR
26 Rajendra Pareek Rajasthan Sikar INC MLA ITR
27 Murari Lal Meena Rajasthan Dasua INC (contested on BSP ticket) MLA ITR
28 Hema Ram Choudhry Rajasthan Gudamalani INC MLA ITR

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

 

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Information that cannot be denied to Parliament cannot be denied to you and me… but does it happen? #RTI

 

VINITA DESHMUKH | 31/01/2013 12:15 PM |  , Moneylife.com

Does this provision in Section 8 wherein, despite exemptions you have the right to information if it is of larger public interest being correctly interpreted by Courts? A study thinks otherwise

Notwithstanding Section 8 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act under which you are denied the right to certain information, there is a provision which states that, every citizen has the right to get that information which our elected representatives, have access to. It reads thus, “Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”

 

However, it has been observed in an expert study, conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) that the judiciary has been inconsistent in application of this provision and therefore “does not provide clarity of interpretation of this crucial provision of the RTI Act.’’

 

Sometimes, the judiciary applies it to the entire Section 8 (1) which should be the case according to the CHRI’s analysis but many a time in its judgment, the judiciary restricts this provision only to Section 8 (1)(j) which relates to protection of personal information. Such varied interpretation which is diluting the power of this provision says the study, would have adverse repercussions for citizens, if this trend continues in the court of law.

 

Interestingly, even the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Government of India in its guidelines to public authorities, Public Information Officers (PIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs) at the Central and State level for implementing the RTI Act, directed them to follow this provision by stating that:  “The Act gives the citizens a right to information at par with the Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Members of the State Legislatures (MLAs). According to the Act, information which cannot be denied to Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.’’

 

However, many PIOs and FAAs continue to decline information and the matter goes to information commissioners who often order disclosure of information. However, petitioners seek legal intervention and it is here that the provision is not used in its true spirit, as per the study.

 

Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, Access to Information programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Imitative (CHRI) conducted the study to highlight how the provision is being narrowly used. States Nayak, “In 18 judgments interpreting the provision, this is far from convincing. We have chosen one such issue for analysis where despite the existence of more than 15 judgments, the jurisprudence does not provide clarity of interpretation of this crucial provision of the RTI Act.  Settlement of access disputes in the High Courts has not always conformed to the doctrine of precedent.”

 

Nayak observes that, “Eight High Courts have interpreted the scope and application of the proviso under Section 8(1) varyingly. Starting with the Bombay High Court, in 2007, five High Courts (Bombay, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Madras and Patna) have interpreted this proviso in six cases as being applicable only to clause (j) of Section 8(1), namely, the exemption protecting personal information of an individual from disclosure. Three High Courts (Calcutta, Kerala and Punjab and Haryana) have in ten cases interpreted this proviso as applying to all exemption clauses listed in Section 8(1). In at least two High Courts (Bombay and Delhi) single‐judge and Division Benches have held contrary views indicating the lack of crystallisation of judicial precedent, regarding the interpretation of the scope and application of this proviso.’’

 

Section 8 (of the RTI Act) deals with exemptions to the right to information.  Nayak points out that:

•  Sub‐Section (1) lists out the specific exemptions to disclosure –namely, information that an applicant may not claim as a matter of right

•  Sub‐Section (2) provides for the disclosure of even exempt information when public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

• Sub‐Section (3) limits the operation of seven out of the ten exemptions up to 20 years for a given set of records. The exemptions relating to national security, foreign relations with foreign Governments, Parliamentary and Legislative privilege and Cabinet documents apply for an indefinite period of time.

•  A proviso is inscribed at the bottom of Section 8(1) which states that… Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.”

 

The study highlights several judgments which have interpreted Section 8 (1) in different modes. In most of these cases, the High Courts have upheld the orders of information commissioners but the judgment is not based on a comprehensive look at this provision.  This study aims to provide insight into this discrepancy. Concludes Nayak, “We hope that in an appropriate case the true meaning of the proviso underlying Section 8(1) is interpreted by the courts with due regard to legislative intent and the drafting history of the RTI Act.’’

 

Following are a few examples:

 

Case 1: A member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) was sentenced to a month’s imprisonment for committing contempt of Supreme Court’s orders during his tenure as Minister in the Government of Maharashtra. He spent 21 days of his jail term in a hospital in Mumbai under the pretext of being treated for various illnesses.

 

A citizen sought medical reports of his treatment, under RTI, in order to ascertain why the MLA had spent most of the duration of his sentence in an air‐conditioned hospital. The Petitioner objected to the disclosure of his medical records claiming that such action would cause invasion of his right to privacy. The matter escalated to the State Information Commission which ordered disclosure in the larger public interest.

 

The Petitioner (the MLA) challenged the order of disclosure on various grounds includingthe right to privacy and the requirement of confidentiality of patient‐related information under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002.

 

A two‐judge Bench of the Bombay High Court upheld the order of disclosure of the Petitioner’s medical records in the larger public interest. (Mr Surupsingh Hrya Naik v/s State of Maharashtra Through Additional Secretary, General Administration Deptt. And Others, Bombay High Court [Writ Petition No. 1750 of 2007] decision date: 23/03/2007)

 

CHRI’s analysis: “The Court relied upon the judgement of a single‐judge Bench in an earlier dispute relating to access to information under the Goa Right to Information Act, 1997 (Goa RTI Act) to hold that the proviso underlying Section 8(1) applied only to clause (j)… The main cause in the Surupsingh Naik case was about an individual’s right to privacy in relation to his medical records. In our opinion inquiring into Parliament’s intent behind placing the proviso under Section 8(1) in the light of the Court’s earlier pronouncement was necessary before determining its scope and application. Instead the ratio of the Court in the Panaji Municipal Council case was applied mechanically without regard to the reasoning that informed it. In view of this glaring contradiction the Court’s reading of the import and application of the proviso underlying Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, deserves to be reviewed.’’

 

Case 2: An Applicant sought information about the appointment, posting, transfer and promotion of clerical staff employed by the Canara Bank (the Bank) in Ernakulam district of Kerala during the period 2002‐2006. The Bank denied access on various grounds. When the matter escalated to the Central Information Commission (CIC), it ordered that the information be disclosed. The Bank challenged this order before the Kerala High Court claiming the protection of Section 8(1)(e)‐ when information is available to a person in his fiduciary relationship‐ and Section 8(1)(j)‐ when disclosure of personal information has no relationship to any public activity or interest or if disclosure would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. A single‐judge Bench of the Court rejected both contentions and upheld the order of the Central Information Commission. (Canara Bank vs the Central Information Commissioner and Another, Kerala High Court [Writ Petition (Civil) 9988 of 2007, decision date: 11/07/2007]7 2.1)

 

CHRI’s analysis: The Court independently held that the proviso applied to the whole of Section 8(1) and not merely to clause (j) of that Section. More importantly, the proviso to the section qualifies the section by stating that information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

 

Case 3: A student sought access to his answer sheets in a Bachelor’s Degree examination conducted by the University of Calcutta. The PIO rejected the request without invoking any of the exemptions provided in Section 8 of the RTI Act. He merely stated, in an undated letter, that the University had taken a decision not to permit inspection of evaluated answer scripts under the RTI Act.

 

The matter escalated to the High Court where the University cited a decision of the CIC which had ruled in an earlier case that where Boards and Universities conducting public examinations had evolved a robust system of evaluation and, if, by their own rules, prohibited disclosure of evaluated answer‐sheets or where such disclosure would result in rendering the system unworkable in practice, a citizen could not seek disclosure of the answer‐sheets. The University also contended that answer scripts did not fall within the definition of information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act and that disclosure of the evaluated answer scripts would endanger the lives of the examiners. The University contended further that the Supreme Court had in earlier decisions refused to order disclosure of such documents, so Section 8(1)(b) of the RTI Act would apply. A single‐judge Bench of the Court rejected these contentions in a well reasoned judgement and ordered the evaluated answer sheets to be disclosed. (Pritam Rooj vs University of Calcutta, Calcutta High Court [Writ Petition No. 22176 of 2007], decision date: 28/03/2008.)

 

CHRI’s Analysis: …The Court also took notice of the need for protecting the privacy of individuals. However the Court held that the proviso underlying Section 8(1) applied to the whole of that Section…The proviso at the foot of Clause (j) appears to cover the entirety of Section 8(1), notwithstanding the view taken by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court. The manner in which the exceptions to the rule have been carved out in Section 8 and the proviso which appears to govern all the cases covered by Section 8(1) of the said Act, makes the exemption section exhaustive. [emphasis supplied]…That the Court rejected the finding of a larger Bench of another High Court without supplying a reasoned justification is problematic, particularly when both parties had used the ratio to support their contention..

 

 

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#India -Can’t disqualify MPs, MLAs facing rape cases: Supreme Court #Vaw

PTI, The Hindu

The apex court, which was hearing two PILs filed after the December 16 gang-rape incident, said it can only give notice to the government on limited issues as some of the prayers made in the petitions were beyond its jurisdiction. File photo

The HinduThe apex court, which was hearing two PILs filed after the December 16 gang-rape incident, said it can only give notice to the government on limited issues as some of the prayers made in the petitions were beyond its jurisdiction. File photo

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear a plea for disqualification of MPs and MLAs charge sheeted for crime against women but agreed to go into issues of fast track trial of rape cases and implementation of laws for safety of women.

The apex court, which was hearing two PILs filed after the December 16 gang-rape incident, said it can only give notice to the government on limited issues as some of the prayers made in the petitions were beyond its jurisdiction.

“The issue of disqualification of MPs and MLAs is not in our jurisdiction,” a bench comprising justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.

“What is our power on MPs and MLAs. Obviously, such a sweeping relief can’t be sought,” the bench said referring to the prayer made for a direction for suspension of MPs and MLAs who have been charge-sheeted for crime against women.

The bench, during the hearing, suggested that the PIL petitioners should have taken a ground that if the investigation into the cases was not up to the mark, it should be treated as “misconduct” on the part of the Investigating Officer.

The bench also asked the government to apprise it about the terms and references of justice J.S. Verma committee which was set up to review and strengthen the existing law on rape and offences against women.

While the submission was made about the disqualification of politicians facing criminal cases, the bench observed that without going into the status of a person in life, they should be put on fast track trial.

The bench was told that out of 4835 MPs and MLAs in the country, 1448 are facing criminal cases.

However, the bench said at the moment it was not concerned with the issue and decided to hear the PIL on the limited issues.

 

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Dear Abhijit babu: The Society of Painted and Dented Ladies responds

by  Dec 27, 2012, First Post
Dear Shri Abhijit Mukherjee,

I am writing to you in my capacity of  General Secretary of the Society of Painted and Dented Ladies of India. First of all, I would like to state that I was most touched that you have noticed our presence in your midst. For long, we the Painted and Dented Ladies have suffered on the fringes of society, waiting to be recognised – especially by the likes of political luminaries such as you. This honour from a sitting MP, has given me inestimable joy. Not to forget that you are our venerable president, Pranab Mukherjee’s very own son. I stand up in respect, sir.

Abhijit Mukherjee with his wife. PTI.

It takes a keen eye and an even keener mind to look beyond the rape of a young girl and the government and police inaction following it and spot the “shundoris” (beauties for the Bengali-challenged) in the crowd, protesting this inaction. Maybe it is because you are abhadralok and a shining example of the emancipated and perceptive Bengali man – and an obvious lover of beauty – that you were not blinded by the protests. Nay, your eyes looked through the crowds and the water cannons pelting us women and noticed that we were “highly dented and painted” women. We at the Society of Painted and Dented Ladies of India are touched – and I do use the word judiciously – that you realise that we were indeed dented by the force of the water cannons and the wallop of the policelathis. Your comment is not sexist as all the commentators on television are saying. No no. Your comment is actually an objective statement on the state of the women at the protests. We understand that you feel our paint.

We would also like to extend a sincere apology that we had not been informed that there was an age cut-off for the protests and that we had to be students to participate. It is most unfair of the ruling government and the police to have not announced this age limit and educational cutoff beforehand. If we had known, we would have only sent members of our sister NGO, The Society of  Slightly Painted and Mostly Undented Girls of India to the protest.

We are also very impressed at your display of psychological behaviour and personality-mapping, as we were not aware that you have these latent skills alongside your alleged misogynist ones and your narrow electoral victory. You became so much more personable when you said that even you have been a student and you know what a student’s character is like and that you have also frequented discotheques. As I heard this, I could imagine you wearing a fur cap and muffler standing in the Pink Elephant, looking at the young painted  girls shaking a leg. Even then, you must have had a discerning eye.

What saddened me though, is your sister Sharmishtha’s promptness in denouncing your perception and wisdom and stating that “Honestly speaking, I am really shocked…Whether these were students or not students doesn’t matter. My apologies on behalf of my brother. My father understands the anger people have against ill-treatment of women, their anger is justified”. E ta tho ekdom nonsense statement holo.

If siblings don’t stand together, who will? This is obviously what happens when Spring Revolutions take place. Age-old family ties are torn at the roots. Dear dada, this is something the Painted and Dented Ladies of India abhor. We uphold traditional Indian values. There is no dent a little paint cannot fix. If  next Raksha bandhan or bhai phonta you would like any new sisters I am sure many of our members would be willing to be of service.

As a card-holding member of the Painted and Dented tribe of ladies, I beseech you not to be cowed down by the naysayers. Do not apologise for your words. You must realise that you are strewing pearls before swine. Like Galileo, you will also be appreciated in another age.

Thanks to you, not just us, but even the emancipated, intellectual cult of the Bangalibhadralok has been brought into the spotlight. And we are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, monkey cap-to-monkey cap, face paint-to-face paint with you.

You Mr. Mukherjee are our answer to Freud, Jung and Bernard Henri-Lévy. Please let us know if you can address our next annual general meeting so we can also present a small token of our appreciation to you.

I must apologise that I have to bring this letter of appreciation to an end, but it is time for me to light the candles, touch up my face paint, finish some denting repair work and step out to India Gate. I will try and dodge the rapists and water cannons along the way. After all, one doesn’t want one dent too many.

Sincerely yours,

Shundori Secretary

P.S.: I’ve heard it’s very cold in Kolkata. Maybe it’s time to put on your monkey cap. Thaanda lege jaabe na hole. Take care. See you on TV.

 

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#India -Holding democracy to a whip #FDI

Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA | Sunday, December 9, 2012

 

In the FDI debate that happened in the Lok Sabha, a particularly painful moment saw ‘Netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav take the name of Ram Manohar Lohia. He talked about Lohia and Gandhi. Even as he made tired statements to the effect that he opposed FDI in multi-brand retail in principle, it was getting amply clear to everyone that he and his party would walk out when the moment of truth came in the form of voting. Paralysis and hypocrisy are two conditions where one’s action is not in line with publicly-expressed wish. At any rate, they are not among the desirable characteristics of ‘people’s representatives.’ Some old Samajwadis in his contingent might have wanted to defect and vote their conscience to avoid the ignominy of being associated with either of the two conditions. But that would effectively end the parliamentary career of such people. So they followed their ‘Netaji’ out of the house. Avoidance of trouble is preferable to happiness. The Anti-Defection law drawn up by party bosses have ensured that no Samajwadi Party member of parliament or for that matter, any member of parliament of any party cannot vote in accordance with what he/she deems right. One has to slavishly follow the party diktat or lose the their membership of the parliament, unless at least a third of the MPs of a party find their spine.

It may not be a totally idle exercise to think how the FDI vote would have turned out if the anti-defections law was not in place, given the murmurs of discontent that exist even within the Indira Congress. The anti-defection law is supposedly a counter against horse-trading. In the period from 1985 to 2009, only 19 members of parliament have been disqualified for violating the party whip. The party leaderships don’t have faith on people winning on their ticket, partly because they know on what flimsy self-serving ground such an assemblage of champions is created in the first place. The leaderships also know that enticements of greater value may sway legislators — irrespective of the publicly stated reason of coming together as party – Gandhian socialism, Indian nationalism, Hindutva, OBC rights or whatever. At a deeper level, these are signs of crisis in the very nature of the political class — namely, the absence of inner party democracy and ideology based politics. That crisis has only deepened. Hence the need of the anti-defection law to make parliamentarians falls in line with high command dictates. This form of quasi-Stalinist centralism somehow has a long afterlife in those nations (India, Bangladesh, Kenya) where freedom of expression is also under constant threat from the government of the day. I have a feeling that it is not accidental. UK, France, Canada, Germany and USA have no such anti-defection law for their legislators.

It is important to understand what a member of parliament represents. One is not simply a ‘proxy’ for the people but a representative of the changing wishes of the people of one’s constituency. That is to say, things change and so do people’s wishes, above and beyond the programme of the party on whose ticket one was elected. Party programme cannot be the sole guide if parliamentary democracy is to be a living entity. In a first past the post system, many MPs do not win by majority but by plurality. Parties command all the representative abilities of a MP by issuing whips. This is when democracy takes a beating at the hand of partycracy.

Parties are important tools of organising opinion and force multiplication, especially across larger geographical spaces. Do people vote for a party or a candidate or both? The answer is variable. Candidates use parties and parties in turn use candidates. The Mohammedan MPs of the BJP are a fine example of this symbiotic relationship. In some cases, parties change candidates and win. In other cases, some people win, irrespective of their party affiliation at the time. Clearly parties are not the last word in a democracy. The individual representatives matter too.

In the presence ofparty-whips, voting records of individual MPs are a monotonous copy of party stances, or worse still a continuous testimony to the nature of cynical machinations that the party-head has executed. The anti-defection laws were purportedly drawn up to avoid Matsyanyay — the condition where the big fish eat the small fish. It has resulted in a system where even the minimally conscientious fish is too scared to make its opinion known by voting one’s own opinion. The anti-defection law does not penalise anyone, even the leadership, when it deviates from stated party programme. With the rise and rise of parties that have dynastic or persona-based leaderships, a different Matsyanyay is at play. Only the top fish needs to be ‘managed.’ The top issues the whip and the rest of the shoal falls in line. This surely cannot be a good sign for an aspiring democracy representing such variegated shades as the subcontinent. The anti-defection law only solidifies the false majorities of parties in a first past the post system.

Garga Chatterjee is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • #India-Who said what in FDI debate (kractivist.wordpress.com)

 

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