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(1) Appointment of Information Commissioners; and (2) Indian Black Money

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  • Milap Choraria
    (1) Appointment of Information Commissioners; and (2) Indian Black Money in Foreign/Swiss Banking System. Respected Members, In the times of India, Delhi
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2009
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      (1) Appointment of Information Commissioners; and (2) Indian Black Money in Foreign/Swiss Banking System.

       

      Respected Members,

       

      In the times of India, Delhi Edition dated 19th January, 2009, at page 10, a news item under the heading "RTI activist's CIC role under cloud", prepared by Special Legal Correspondent of the TOI Mr. Manoj Mitta, was published. I had opposed the appointment of any RTI activist as Information Commissioner, considering that it might turn out to be counter productive against the cause and object of RTI, with the result that a few friends even got annoyed from me on this score. In India even High Courts are not competent to declare a law on any issue, whereas under Article 141 of the Constitution, Supreme Court has inherent powers even to make a law, besides the Parliament of India. That is why on the same issue, different High Courts have passed orders with different legal implications. We also often come across incidences when even those sitting on the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court, do not see eye to eye with each other on certain issues and hence instead of a unanimous decision, split Judgment is given. Therefore, I don't understand that how Mr. Shailesh Gandhi was wrong when he did not agree with the Five Bench Decision of the Central Information Commission, when his conscious did not agree to concur with the decision of his other colleagues? However, the aggrieved party is always free to prefer a Writ Petition against such Orders. Mr. Shailesh Gandhi has very rightly said that ICs must adhere to the provision of the Right to Information Act, 2005, and should not pass any order in contravention of the same. However, ICs at times are prone not to tilt in favour of the disclosure, rather tend to find ways as to how far they can go to refuse the disclosure of the requisitioned information, since ICs do also suffer from their own mindsets, which they have got ingrained during their long long stint of Babudom. Therefore, they also need to have time to adjust to the climate of the needs of accountability and transparency in the governance, ancillary to their new assignment, having with just opposition direction from their earlier era of secrecy.

           

      The aforesaid News item has also propelled me to respond to a large number of messages, which are pending for quite some time. I have received so many messages in the past, containing suggestions for launching a campaign for an agitation or to file PILs, against such issues as appointments of ICs etc. Some others have even come out with the offer of the necessary support that may be required for a movement to retrieve the black money deposited in the Swiss Banking System or elsewhere, if needed to file a PIL. Considering the large number of Emails, so received, it may not be possible to reply each one individually. Therefore, here I am inclined first to take up the issue of launching an agitation or filing of the PILs against the issues like appointments of ICs, through this common mode of interaction. i.e. Email. In this regard I would like to mention here one particular message, which I have received through HumJanengeYahoogroup: -

      Sandeep Bhatnagar, wrote: -

      Subject: Re: [HumJanenge] Re: Calling for Immediate Nationwide Agitation against Chief CICs and SICs

      Yes, I also agree that we have to take both the routes. For mobilising people we have to UNITE first. 27th is a good day for it. We know each other mostly by e.mail address only. Let us unite properly. I sundeep bhatnagar belong to Delhi . My add. and contact no. is hereunder Work on it. What is going to be the matter of pluck cards etc. Are we inviting media? Be ready to work professionaly and consistently to achieve the required result. We have to build on this plateform. This will be a good starting. Let every one forward their add. and meet the people in their city to plan the 27th. Talk to as many other groups or individuals for the support to stand for it. Wishing the BEST to our start. Be going.

      "Jagnarain Sharma" wrote as under:

      YES DEAR RAVI We have to start agitation, dharna as also we will file Writs/PIL AS PROPOSED BY ALL

      Ravindran P M wrote:

      Though my faith is NIL in our courts and their approach towards RTI. Has been particularly damning we certainly cannot rule out PILs. But it is more important to mobile people and get them on the roads to agitate. Against the subversion of this only one of its kind legislation in post Independence . India that could have helpd to usher in real democracy. Unfortunately mobilising people is also an almost impossible task these days. Even though a handful of people can always be mobilised it is not only NOT supported by media but also totally neglected by the powers that be. But since we have no option shall we decide to launch a nation wide protest on 27 Jan 2009?

      Let us do it-have dharnas- at all possible district head quarters.

      Regards and best wishes

      Jagnarain Sharma wrote:

      O.K. DEAR KRISH

      Kindly carry on both ways, as proposed by you. May God help us.

      Krish Sahasipadyatri wrote:

      Dear Dr Sharma,

      In my view, both agitational methods and filing PILs have a role to play in building a movement for protecting people's right to information from encroachment by bureaucrats. I lean towards agitational methods; this is a personal preference. I am sure there are many other activists who think like me in this regard. However, there are many others like yourself who are inclined to file

      A series of PILs. Why dissipate our energies by arguing against one other or dissuading one another? Let us do both! Let us battle our common enemy on many fronts simultaneously!

      Regardless of whether you undertake agitations or spearhead PILs, I look forward to collaborating with you for the betterment of RTI implementation.

      DR.JN SHARMA wrote:

      First we will file BEFORE HON HIGH COURT/SUPREME COURT individual cases IN WHCH any member is aggrieved with the order of SIC/CIC/PIO then JOINTLY ON BEHALF OF GROUP LIKE humjanenge, which are registered as NGO, WE MAY PREFER  PIL REGARDS

      Vijendra Singh wrote:

      All the alert. intellectuals, dignified citizens must support this novel move. To tolerate injustice is also a crime. so all the good citizens must come forward immediately for this noble cause of the society. We can have candle march every week in Delhi & state capitals.

      We can send lettrs / emails to PM, President of India , Smt Sonia Gandhi, Sri Advani etc. Pl arrange soon;

      We are with u.

       

      First of all, I would like to share my views based on my own long experiences, through active participation in some of the agitation, with those, who intend to involve themselves in any sort of agitational activity. Before thinking to throw your head for any such activity, it must be very clearly borne in mind that it was not the Government that took the initiative to enact the Right to Information Act, 2005, for a transparent and accountable government. Rather, the RTI Act got its way through the statute book because of the compulsions of a far fetched political game plan to showcase the boasting of the claim that it has been enacted as an important milestone in the annals of the history of Indian Parliament. Owing to this very intention, it was only the most confident bureaucrats and others, who were brought-in to hold the office of ICs, in the first instance, whether at the Center or at the State levels. Since Information Commissioners are appointed with the unspoken understanding, therefore, whatever action oriented agitation is to be launched, it has to be directed against the establishment itself and not against any individual. They are just a cog in the Machinery. Under the aforesaid unspoken hidden understanding they would be acting as the instruments to successfully bailout the respective leadership, as and when required, while keeping the show of transparency going on. The intention of the Government is evidently clear from the very fact that at the time of the presentation of the Bill itself, the Government gave a very clear and explicit indication that no Budgetary Support would be provided, even for the very implementation of this important law. All this shows that the law was enacted under some sort of unavoidable pressure generated because of various Judgments of the Supreme Court, being aggravated owing to the pressure that was already in existence due to the world wide climate favoring the enactment and application of the Right to Information Acts, besides there could also have been some pushing off effect because of public activism, through NGOs, like that of Mrs. Aruna Roy's. Whereas, at the same time, it is also equally true that the Government was not at all keen to bring transparency and accountability in governance, and that is the reason as to why the monetary support required for the implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2005, was completely ignored by keeping it tight in the hands of its own bureaucracy. Therefore, without identifying the real root cause of the problem and targeting the same, any agitation would simply lead to nowhere, but failure. The cosmetic changes or treatment of the symptoms may provide some temporary relief, but cannot cure the disease itself. Therefore, agitation must be against the real disease, not against the symptoms.       

       

      Further it may be recalled that during 1st Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission (12-14 October, 2006), an activism in the form of agitational protest was displayed by Parivartan, an NGO. At that time, its main figure Mr. Arvind Kejriwal was away in the USA to collect Funds from the NRIs. On the eve of that occasion, to expose the alleged wrong orders passed by the IC's, Parivartan brought out a Survey Report in its own Seminar. During the inauguration of the aforesaid Convention, they could manage to get into the Convention Hall in quite a good number along with Banners containing slogans pertaining to the intended protest and were also able to display the same quite at the nick of the moment, when the then His Excellency President of India Dr. A. P. J. Kalam had just begun his Inaugural Speech. Subsequently, those responsible for displaying such Banners, who were none other than the members of the Parivartan team were arrested, while on the concluding day of the Convention one Mr. Rakesh Agarwal was also got apprehended, taking his activities as suspicious during the program of the Prime Minister's speech. Subsequently, the Parivartan team further got into the agitational mode by camping outside the CIC Office, which continued for quite a long period, while keeping themselves engaged in collecting the details from the intending CIC Appellants / Complainants, giving them assurances that they would be taking up their cases, if found genuine, to file the Writ Petitions. Now an important question that arises is, as to what benefits are gained from all such activities, or who were the ultimate beneficiaries? People also tend to feel that such activities have not been able to bring any improvement in the working of the ICs or in their appointments.  

       

      I have filed more than 800 applications under the RTI Act, including some 56 applications before the Supreme Court Registry, and have been able to gather valuable information. I do accept that in some of my matters ICs passed very good orders, while in some matters ICs are found to be inclined to take even such interpretations which are quite contrary to the law itself, thereby straightaway refusing to ensure the supply of the important requisite information, which might have helped in containing corruption, but in order to protect the wrong doings of the respective Public Officers committed for the gain and benefit of the wrong doers, they tended to look the other way. The mega question is that should have I moved the High Court against each such Order? Or should I am to restrain myself, till I am able to gather such tangible grounds, which are incontrovertible, to help me in exposing the biases of the respective ICs, if any? For the past 25 years I am having the feel of experience of fighting against the close Nexus between a Powerful Politician and Kolkata Land Mafia, and as such I am very much inclined in favour of allowing some more time to our ICs to enable them to adjust themselves to their new responsibilities and thus to get their mindset changed, before people start taking stand against them.

       

      Please keep in minds that no agitation is going to succeed, unless a clear target is fixed, and a thoughtful strategy is planned keeping in view the gravity and the root of the problems. People involving themselves in such agitations have to be prepared for sacrifices or for any eventuality. Every thing has a price, and it has to be paid. Any agitation for the betterment of the people should not be combined and confused with the object of highlighting the leadership. Before starting any agitation a well discussed thought out strategic plan must emerge from an open discussion and debate. It should be well planned and target oriented, then only the real goal could be achieved. Otherwise, `an unorganized and scattered, rather a piece of individually controlled' agitation, even though it might be for the very important Fundamental Right to expression or any other genuinely explicit cause is never likely to succeed. The Government of the day is so powerful, that in no time it would sabotage any agitation at any level, if it is causing hindrance or interferes with the interests of the political leadership and obstruct their control over the reins of the powers, which in fact they have become used to exploit for their own benefits, whereas the basic object of the Right to Information Act, is a direct challenge to contain the corruption and expose the corrupt.

      With regard to the filing of PILs, I take this opportunity to share the experiences, I had in 1995/1996, when I had filed several PILs before Supreme Court and each one contained several suggestions with full detail as to how to bring improvement in the respective system, which could have enabled every Indian to benefit from the same. In my Writ Petitions (PILs) I have submitted details suggestions including for retraining criminals having criminal case charge sheeted, 6th months prior to the filing of nomination for any election to Parliament or State Legislatures etc, (b) draft of a new Civil Procedure, which would have been ensured disposal of any civil litigation within 6th months form the date of its filing; (c) amendment in Official Secrets Act to ensure Right to Information of Citizenry etc. While what my experience was that for the reasons best known to Justice A. M. Ahmadi (the then he was CJI), the SC refused to entertain any of my aforesaid PILs. Rather, it was inclined to punish me for such activities. And subsequently, I was even victimized by the SC Registry, by refusing to register my own Writ Petition, which I have filed just for restoration of my fundamental rights, which were severally infringed under Political-Crime-Nexus. As already stated, under RTI Act, I had filed 56 applications before the SC Registry and hence was able to get valuable information that ran in quite a few hundred pages, without moving the CIC. From the file notings of the Respective File, regarding the new Rule, that was inserted in 1997, in the SC Rules, under which my aforesaid Writ Petition was refused to be registered and from other information that I got, it is now amply clear that only my single (Personal) Writ Petition was refused to be registered and that too without any authority said to have been provided by the aforesaid Rule, or powers from anywhere else. In fact refusal to register my Writ Petition was made under gratification, possibly just because in the Writ Petition Mr. Gopal Subramanium, who was earlier appointed as my Counsel to move the SC, was now Additional Solicitor General of India and Mr. S. Murlidhar, (then advocate who was appointed by Mr. Gopal Subramanium, to prepare my Writ Petition) was now a sitting Judge in Delhi High Curt, were also included as Respondents for the facts stated therein. So, when the process of appointment of Judges in the High Courts and Supreme Court itself is not regulated by any appropriate law to ensure transparent and accountable appointment of Judges in Higher Judiciary, how can we expect reflection of a fair and judicious and transparent and accountable posture of the judges while writing judgments in PILs.

       

      Therefore, under the prevailing circumstances, the matters of national importance, which virtually will squeeze the functioning of the political powers, cannot be resolved by resorting to short term agitation(s) or just by filing PILs, and hence we would not be able to get any result. For any fruitful result, the need of the hour is to work towards the creation of a "Strong Pressure Group", under an honest Leadership of known integrity. Its members should be from each part of India and from each segment of the society, so that it may be able to reflect the representation of an inclusive society. The object of such Pressure Group should not be limited to reforms in the Right to Information Act, or Police Reforms only, rather its target should be to aim for all round Reform in the entire System, which can only be done after having examine, the very root causes of the basic problems, suffered by the citizenry. If such pressure group at all is constituted, then its every member should agree to take an Oath that they will not partake in any political activity, directly or indirectly, till the object of the formation of the Group is not achieved. Further more, there should again another condition that the respective Pressure Group will never convert itself into some sort of a political identity. If with these conditions, people are able to come forward, then the success is bound to come, as prophesied in the "Bhagawat Geeta". In such an eventuality, the day would not be far off, when we ourselves or at best our next generation would be able to see that the money or even materials, transferred to Foreign States / Institutions including the `Foreign/Swiss Banking System', could well be retrieved back to India and then a really `True Democracy' would be descending on the Indian scene, in terms of, for the People, by the People and of the People, i.e. run by the People. Right to Information is just one crucial part of the entire democratic system/body. Remember, that when entire body is suffering from several serious diseases, one part of the body can never be cured. The question remains as to how far we can go to agitate and with what degree of seriousness for having patience?    

       

      May we remember what Elie Wiese has said, "Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself". Every Citizen is his own Boss to take his own decision. 

      Milap Choraria

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