Haldwani Railway Land

SC Rejects Plea Seeking Details Of 2018 Collegium Meet

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a plea seeking a copy of the agenda, a copy of the decisions, and a copy of the resolution of a 2018 Collegium meeting and clarified that only a resolution drawn and signed by all the Collegium members could be said to be the final decision.

A bench of justice MR Shah and CT Ravikumar rejected RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court order. The top court said that there was no substance in the plea challenging the Delhi High Court order and the same deserves to be dismissed.
SC clarified whatever is discussed in the Collegium meeting shall not be in the public domain and “only final decision required to be uploaded,”

SC also clarified that the consultation of December 12, 2018, was not concluded and was, therefore, adjourned.

The petitioner Anjali Bhardwaj, in the RTI application, had sought a copy of the agenda, a copy of the decisions, and a copy of the Resolution of the meeting of the Collegium of the Supreme Court held on December 12, 2018.

The court said that only after the final resolution drawn and signed by the Collegium, which is always after completing the due procedure and process of discussion, deliberation, and consultation, is the same required to be published on the Supreme Court website.

The court noted that no final decision was taken in the December 2018 Collegium meeting which was required to be drawn and signed by all members of the Collegium.

The court also said that the 2019 resolution is very clear which specifies that the process of consultation in the earlier meeting was not over and remained unconcluded.

The petitioner Anjali Bhardwaj, who was represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan and Ria Yadav, challenged the order dated July 27 2022 of the High Court of Delhi, which dismissed his plea for information under the Right to Information Act.

The appellant in the RTI Application had sought a copy of the agenda, a copy of the decisions, and a copy of the Resolution of the meeting of the Collegium of the Supreme Court held on December 12, 2018.

According to the petition, the resolution of the subsequent meeting affirms that there was indeed an agenda of the previous collegium meeting of 12.12.2018 and further that certain decisions were indeed taken and this was also affirmed through the public statements of Justice (Retd.) Madan Lokur and the statements made in the autobiography written by former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi (who were both members of the collegium as of 12.12.2018). In such circumstances, it cannot be held that the information does not exist, the petitioner said. (ANI)

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RTI Warriors III

RTI Warriors III – 'I Ruffled Many Feathers’

I am a resident of Rohillapur village in Noida’s Sector 132 and my father is the village pradhan (elected head). Being aware of the problems plaguing the locals, especially farmers, and the Noida Authority officials turning a deaf ear to them, I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. My journey of filing Right to Information (RTI) pleas started five years ago, in 2013, when I was a college student. I knew little about how to work this public weapon but had heard a lot about its efficacy in the media.

I was determined to fight for the people of the rural Noida which was not made of glass-and-concrete buildings. I listed the problems in the area and then began to ascertain, through RTI, who was accountable for the sorry state of affairs. It was slow work but paid off. After initial success of my RTI petitions, I was motivated to probe larger issues.

I learnt how to use RTI to fight corruption; for instance how to weed out the parking mafia in the region that was fleecing people with their arbitrary rates that varied according to the whims of each contractor. Thanks to the effort of my multiple RTI pleas, the Noida authority fixed the parking rate and the revenue collected this way goes directly to the authority, instead of the contractor.

Of course, I made enemies in my pursuit of a better Noida. My efforts had struck down the extra income of many senior officers and the parking mafia. While I did not receive any threats directly, I was warned by a senior authority official to stay alert as I had upset many powerful people. A relative of mine was told by a private contractor on social media to inform me to stay away from the “activism”.

Not that I cared much about such threats. All these years, I have worked not for myself but in national interest and to empower and inform people about the RTI Act. I consider this power to be one of the most powerful rights that Indian citizens have in the country’s recent history. At the same time, I have observed how Public Information Officers (PIOs) are often reluctant to divulge crucial information and try to delay or transfer the query to another department.

But if the applicant is focused enough, the details so revealed often end up being shocking. Through RTI applications, I once exposed a fake web page running in the name of the President of India which was pushing a communal propaganda. It was soon deactivated. My queries to the government have also forced policymakers to provide relief to the affected in many cases.

All these years, I have worked to dig out the truth from the huge government machinery and have penned and summarised my labour in a booklet titled ‘A Common Man’s Guide to the RTI Act, 2005’ that is available free of cost.

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RTI Warriors I

RTI Warriors I – 'Truth Is Inconvenient'

Jagjit Singh Walia was always pained by the rampant corruption, red-tape and profligacy that ate into government machinery. In 2006, he discovered the power of Right to Information. Since, he has made a minister of state for agriculture surrender eight of his vehicles that he had solicited from different departments, forced several central government offices being run from five-star hotels to shift to humble buildings.

And the list is growing:  The first time I used RTI was in 2006, to know the status of my wife’s passport. Her passport application was long pending with the department concerned. And we were running pillar to post trying to find a reason for the delay. I filed my first RTI, and it worked wonders for me. We soon got my wife’s passport. Empowered, I decided to use this weapon to clear out the rot in my own workplace – the CPWD.

The organisation is involved in large-scale construction and maintenance of government projects and thus, is a hotbed of corruption. I filed an RTI to know why CPWD was not asking for a discount from electricity product suppliers, as huge discounts are given as a routine. No discounts meant pay-out of large-scale commissions, at the cost of the government exchequer.

Once the RTI was filed, it led to a veritable commotion among the ranks of CPWD and it ultimately led to a vigilance inquiry as well. Finally, CPWD had to start asking for discounts. Since 2006, I have filed hundreds of RTIs to get information about policies, projects, and systems in the government. In 2011, in another RTI application, it was revealed that many offices of the central government ministries were running out of five-star hotels in Delhi.

And we, the taxpayers, were paying for it! As a result of this RTI, the Central government had to shift these offices to other buildings. Another RTI filed by me, once, forced the then Minister for State for Agriculture to surrender eight vehicles that had been solicited from different government departments. As a rule, a minister is entitled to only one vehicle. On several occasions, I have been confronted and stopped by my colleagues on behest of corrupt babus and contractors.

Senior officers from my department lured me with favourable posting, and when that didn’t work they resorted to threats. But nothing has refrained me from in unearthing the truth. Truth isn’t always what meets the eye. As a government servant for decades, I understood that in a typical bureaucratic system. Truths are inconvenient.

Interestingly, our ‘babudom’ has achieved excellence in keeping these inconvenient truths hidden from the public eye — under layers of dusty files. Since independence, the draconian Official Secrets Act – a relic of our colonial past — had played a pivotal role in hushing up inconvenient truths. But in 2005, the introduction of Right to Information, ushered in a new era of accountability and transparency.

For 1.3 billion Indians, RTI became a powerful tool to explore the truth. All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered, the point is to discover them, said Galileo hundreds of years ago. We, the citizens of India have finally got a potent weapon to unearth the truth.