Thursday, 14 July 2016

Redevelopment: Ghost-like Politicians Protecting Builders

Mumbai, 14th July, 2016: I would not have believed it if I had'nt seen it with my own eyes. For many months, my client Tukaram Sutar had been insisting that the Jogeshwari Municipal Corporator Ujwala Modak was giving political support to the non-performing redevelopment builder and former managing committee members of his cooperative housing society... but I was skeptical. I asked him, "Where is the evidence? Has this corporator ever spoken or written letters to us, or interfered in our society's matters? No!" However, three days ago, when I found myself confronting Ujwala Modak at the society's hearing at the office of the Deputy Registrar of Cooperation (K-East Ward), Wadala, I realized that Mr Sutar was right. At the hearing, Ujwala Modak's conversation with Cooperation Department officials indicated that she had been meeting and phoning them for favourable orders. 

After our heated argument, corporator Modak helped the society's chairman Mrs Rajshree Pariyawala register a police complaint – a non-cognizable offence (NC) – at Wadala Truck Terminal police station, alleging that I had "looked at her with anger". (It's funny that cops register such frivolous complaints under political pressure, but it's also scary. What, men can't even argue with women now without fear of a police complaint?!)

More info about that incident in my blog.

"What is wrong if I am present at Deputy Registrar's office? So what if I am a corporator? Don't I have a right to go to any government office?" Corporator Ujwala Modak argued. I countered: "These proceedings are a society's internal matter. Your presence here exerts undue influence on government officials to pass orders favouring the side you are representing, because you are a well-known political personality from BJP, the ruling party. Orders are not passed on merits of the case. Also, the other side will feel cowed down in your presence."

Jogeshwari Majithia Cooperative Housing Society is fighting an uphill battle against managing committee members who, together with the builder, are holding the building hostage. Corporator Modak's political influence has caused Deputy Registrar to pass perverse orders and perform actions designed to fail (described in this complaint to Secretary of Cooperation, Mantralaya).

Jogeshwari Majithia CHS is not an isolated incident. In the name of being available and helping their constitutents, our municipal corporators/councillors, MLAs and MPs are showing their faces at various administrative and quasi-judicial proceedings. Their names are never noted in the roznama because the practice is to write down only the names of the people who are supposed to be present e.g. society members, managing committee members, authorized representatives like myself, advocates, etc. Government offices are not required to name all those present, if they have no bearing on the case. So, these politicos are allowed to speak, and they are heard very respectfully by the authorities, but no written records are created... but favourable orders are passed.

The hidden hand of a municipal councillor, MLA or MP in various projects is the black-market economy of power and influence. Concerned people accept it as natural, and it is an open secret within the administration. But nobody wants to talk, nobody wants to name names, and nobody wants to allege corruption. Cloaked by silence, our politicians wield their ghost-like influence in the corridors of power.

Cloaked by silence, our politicians wield their ghost-like influence in the corridors of power. 

Chalo, let's not allege corruption; after all, where is the evidence? Ujwala Modak would want us to believe that she has not accepted any bribe in cash or kind from Tanna Realtors or anyone else. So let's believe her. Let us believe that she spent four or five hours on Monday travelling to and fro between Jogeshwari and Wadala for honestly serving the people of her constituency. Very kind of you, Madam!

Still, the question remains: Is this what our elected representatives are supposed to be doing? Do lakhs of voters repose their confidence in our elected representatives, and give them powers and privileges, so that they can spend their five-year term doing such invisible seva -- being heard at administrative hearings without leaving a trace? Bhai wah! Such public sevaks are very useful friends to have, especially for every builder, road contractor and businessman!

Krishnaraj Rao

Monday, 11 July 2016

Corporator Ujwala Modak frames Activist Krishnaraj Rao in false case

Mumbai, 11 July, 2016: I am issuing this press release today because I have been summoned on phone by the Wadala Truck Terminus Police Station, following a verbal altercation with BJP Corporator Ujwala Modak (Chairperson of Improvement Committee of MCGM) at the office of Deputy Registrar’s  (K-East Ward) PB Satpute. Ms Modak was representing the newly-elected managing committee members of Kundan Apartments in Jogeshwari Station. My argument with Ms. Modak was, why was she at the Deputy Registrar’s office? What legitimate business does a Corporator – an elected representative -- have at the office of a Deputy Registrar? Why was she speaking on behalf of the managing committee on a matter concerning the total disappearance of society’s records? Was she fronting for the builder, Tanna Realtors, who has not performed a jot of work for six years, ever since he got MCGM’s IOD approval? Why was this corporator entertained by the cooperation department officials in this case, when she did not even have a letter of authority from any of the society members?

During this argument in the presence of Mr Pagare of Cooperation Department (who was officiating on behalf of Mr Satpute, who was absent), a society member named Mrs Rajashree Pariyawala, who was seated far away from me (and not even in his visual field) suddenly started crying, and started alleging that I had made inappropriate eye-contact with her. Very shortly afterwards, Mr Pagare and the officials of Deputy Registrar’s office (022-24014339) dismissed the hearing by giving another date (28th July 2016) for continuation of the matter.

Earlier, during this conversation, I had exchanged phone numbers with Mr Ujwala Modak, and even sent her an SMS with his name and email id. Shortly after leaving from the Deputy Registrar’s office at about 4 pm, I received a call from Wadala TT Police Station (022-24036645) and was told to report there immediately as there was a complaint against me. Another society member, senior citizen Tukaram Sutar, also received a similar call on his mobile summoning him to the police station.

I am issuing this press release today at 7 pm, before I go to the police station to give my statement. Under these circumstances, I reasonably anticipate that a false case of molestation and related offences may be made against me, under the undue influence of BJP Corporator Ujwala Modak, who came and left the Deputy Registrar’s office with the society’s managing committee members. It is quite likely that after registering FIR, the police may abuse their powers to arrest me and put me in police lockup, and later judicial custody. A false case may also be made against Mr Tukaram Sutar (, due to the leading role that he and his daughter Pratiksha Sutar (9969302761) have been playing in opposing Tanna Developers owing to his non-performance.

Background material:
1)      The hearing before Deputy Registrar today was concerning this society, about which I issued a press release recently. Read press Release:

2)      Read hearing notice from Deputy Registrar’s office where Ms Ujjwala Modak was present:

3)      A lot of crucial documents regarding Tanna Developers and Jogeshwari Majithia society is uploaded here:

4)      Details of the police complaint filed before Jt. CP Crime and also Jogeshwari Police Station against Tanna Realtors and Managing Committee:

Warm Regards,
Krishnaraj Rao
98215 88114

Friday, 8 July 2016

Swimming pool: Amazing for exercises, physiotherapy & joint mobility and discovery of your super-powers!

As an avid swimmer who has been spending about 14 hours in the swimming pool per week, I have some insights and learnings to share. Swimming pool exercises give measurable improvement in physical and mental health to senior citizens, obese persons, patients recovering from paralytic strokes and spinal injuries, and even children with low self-esteem, body-image issues, bad posture, and learning disorders. The swimming pool has immense use as a place for therapeutic and rehabilitation exercises, as well as tremendous self-improvement, whether you are able to swim, or otherwise. For people who are weak, obese, arthritic, aged, etc. doing exercises on land can quite easily cause painful muscle pulls or joint injuries. However, doing the same exercises in the swimming pool is easy and painless, because water supports the body weight and also the weight of the limb being exercised. The below-mentioned exercises – which can all be practiced in the shallow end, start showing measurable results within a few days. Whether you are a normal sedentary person, or someone with disabilities and/or age-related disorders, you can actually feel a very large improvement within a couple of weeks!

Eight Benefits of exercises in the shallow end of the pool:
  1. Stretching. One may get an excellent hip, calf and hamstring stretch standing in the shallow end of the pool. This is possible with legs spread out at the pool bottom, or alternatively with one leg raised to the edge of the pool. 

  2. Strengthening. Various leg, arm and torso movements can be performed against water resistance, to strengthen groups of muscles such as abdomen, back, sides, hip, front, back, insides and outsides of thighs, chest, shoulders, biceps,triceps and front and back of forearm, and neck muscles. Water exercises work regardless of the strength or weakness of the muscles or of the person exercising.

  3. Increasing the angle of spread of less-mobile joints. Due to years or decades of disuse, joints lose their full angle of movement, and most sedentary people are able to use a very limited range of their joint movements. Limited joint mobility also causes bad posture and muscle adhesions, causing chronic fatigue, irritability, and continuing or intermittent aches and pains.Many chronic aches and pains are a side-effect of such limited joint mobility, and painkillers provide only a temporary respite in such cases. By extending the range of movement with the support of water, it is possible to achieve a better posture within a few days, and get permanent relief from chronic fatigue, aches and pains.

  4. Deeper breathing, better lung capacity and relief from chronic asthma. In the course of our normal sedentary lives, we use only a small portion of our lung capacity. Even running and climbing stairs exercises only the upper one-third of our lung capacity, as we tend to expand our chests and breathe more deeply. However, the lowest one-third of our lung capacity i.e. the capacity to deeply exhale and empty our lungs completely, is generally neglected, even by active people. It is possible to develop this lung capacity -- the power to empty your lungs completely – in a water-assisted way in a swimming pool.

  5. Kinesthetic sense – spatial awareness of what your limbs and various parts of your body are doing. Water is a constant source of feedback, and every movement that you make gives you a sensation of pulling or pushing against water, or alternatively, gliding through water without resistance. Performing various exercises and movements can give you a better sense of your body within a few days.

  6. Losing inches without losing weight. People who go on diets for weight-loss often feel hungry throughout the day, and therefore tend to give up or cheat on their diets. Sometimes, even bariatric surgery fails to yeild adequate weight-loss, and the loss of ability to eat normally causes depression and other health complications. With water-exercises, one starts toning up the body and losing several inches from the hips, waist, thighs, shoulders, upper arms etc. while losing only a couple of kilograms of weight! For many people who are looking for fitness without necessarily losing weight, water exercises is a wonderful thing!

  7. Getting rid of excess water-retention in the legs, belly and all over the body. Anybody who is suffering from fluid-retention in the feet, calves etc. should consider this: they can shed the excess water from their body within half an hour of getting into the pool, by engaging in only moderate activity! This has amazing effects on your health in the immediate run, as well as in the long run. 
  8. Discovering your "super-powers" in water. It is falsely believed that all human beings float. The fact is that some people float very easily, while others can sink effortlessly to the pool bottom. This depends on the specific gravity of the body i.e. its mass relative to its volume. Many obese people will be pleasantly surprised to find that they float very easily, and this makes learning swimming unusually easy for them. Many plump people can master basic-level swimming within a few minutes of getting into a pool for the first time in their lives! For the others, who may be thin or dense, the ability to sink easily, and therefore, to cut through water effortlessly, can be a novel experience. Quite a few thin or muscular people find that they are natural-born underwater swimmers, and it takes only a few minutes to master underwater moves!

The best thing about swimming-pool exercises, stretching and physiotherapy is that it is very enjoyable, and you can go on for a couple of hours without fatigue.

Next time, I shall write about what special activities can be done in the deep end of the swimming pool, besides of course, diving and swimming.

These things are easy to self-learn after getting some initial lessons and tips from a friend. If you wish to learn these exercises, feel free to call or email, and discuss it with me!


Thursday, 7 July 2016

Prophetic Ramblings Chapter XI: The Dead Donkey and Nine Yards Of Silk

Throughout the length and breadth of the land, the infamy of Samirah, the rebellious and once-cast-out third wife of The #Messenger (blessings!), preceded her. The oracle in the mountains of Zo'am had prophesied that Samirah would be with child in nine moons, although The #Messenger (blessings!) had turned away from her in anger, and ceased to lie with her.

And verily, Samirah defied her lord and master, and swore to conceive a child. And lo and behold, on the nineth moon after the Day of Offerings, Samirah's belly swelled. "By what wickedness have you conceived this child?" asked Za'kilah, fifth wife of The #Messenger (blessings!). At that moment, a donkey brayed in the yard of their neighbour, Harugh the woodcutter. And Za'kilah rushed out to see and beheld that the donkey was in heat. "Confess! You have lain with the donkey, and brought shame to the tribe! Have you no piety, woman? Have you no respect for the man who wived you?" said Za'kilah.

"You judge me falsely," replied Samirah. "In truth, it is our husband, the #Messenger (blessings!), who has made my belly swell." But Za'kilah was not swayed by this untruth. Upon the return of the #Messenger (blessings!) from faraway lands, Za'kilah took her complaint to him. "How, in the name of the Great Rickrack Rock, did Samirah come to be with child?" Za'kilah questioned The #Messenger (blessings!). "Surely, she has committed wickedness with the donkey of Harugh the woodcutter, for the donkey, upon hearing my question, has confessed with his own tongue!"

Upon hearing this, The #Messenger (blessings!) smote Za'kilah with his sacred right hand, and proclaimed, "Samirah shall not bear blame for the deeds of man or donkey. I have spoken". And Za'kilah fell down to the earth and was silent.

And it came to pass that the donkey died before sunrise, and Harugh, the woodcutter, was grieved by his loss. "Alas", he lamented. "Alas my donkey has been slain, and great is my loss. How long shall I remain silent?", he cried.

Hearing this, The #Messenger (blessings!) issued forth from his house in the mountain, and proclaimed, "With the Great Rickrack Rock as my witness, I say this: to every man who suffers a loss on my account, nine yards of silk shall be given. Upon which, Za'kilah exclaimed, "My Lord, wherefore do you say Harugh has suffered on your account? Surely the donkey has not died at your hands." And The #Messenger (blessings!) replied, "Hush! Woman! My words are to be obeyed, not questioned. Give the woodcutter nine yards of your most prized silk." And Za'kilah, heeding the command of her lord and master, gave the woodcutter nine yards of her most prized silk and held her tongue.

Thereafter, at midnight of the new-moon day of the Babroogh harvest festival, Samirah bore a male child, and Za'kilah, who assisted in the birth, named him Harugh-Mateen in memory of the woodcutter's donkey, and Samirah bore her no ill-will for it.

And thereby arose the tradition of blessing a new-born child with the benediction, "May The #Messenger (blessings!) reward your father with nine yards of silk." And as time passed, a custom arose of gifting the child's father nine yards of silk. And it is often said in jest to a child, "You are so handsome! To which man in this village should I gift nine yards of silk?"

Praises and benedictions! May the Great Rickrack Rock be your guardian and your guide!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Prophetic Ramblings Chapter XIV: Festival of Cleansing followed by Feasting

And thereupon it came to pass, on the Fourteenth Day of Za'karah, that The #Messenger (blessings!) and his tribe, whom he had led away from the cursed land of B'azilah, were resting in the mountains of Zo'am where they had taken up residence. And Za'kilah, fifth wife of The #Messenger (blessings!), saw that the toilet bowls were filthy, having been shat upon by her fifteen children, but the toilet brush and broom were nowhere to be found.

"And how, in the name of the Great Rickrack Rock, am I supposed to clean up this mess?" Za'kilah questioned The #Messenger (blessings!). The words of The #Messenger (blessings!) issued forth from the divine pie hole. "You may cut your hair and tie it to my staff, woman, and it shall be your toilet brush and broom. And you may cut the shredded gown on your body, which you brought from your father's household 15 moons ago, and it shall be the swab to wipe the floor with. Ask me no further questions, for the Great Rickrack Rock shall be your guide from this moment onwards."

And Za'kilah, obedient fifth wife of The #Messenger (blessings!) tore off her hair with her bare hands and tied it on the staff of the #Messenger, and fashioned a broom therefrom. And she tore from her body the shredded gown from her father's household, and used it as a swab.

And thereupon Za'kilah, fifth wife of The #Messenger (blessings!) proceeded to clean up the toilet bowls as she had been instructed.

And that is how it came to pass that the women of the tribe of The #Messenger (blessings!) clean the toilet bowls of their children with their hair tied to the staff of their husband on the fourteenth day of Za'karah, every year.

And thereafter the women of the tribe of The #Messenger (blessings!), and the women of the familes of #Believers (praises!) on the fourteenth day of Za'karah, every year, proceed to cut their gowns which they brought from their father's household 15 moons ago, and make it into a swab to wipe the floor.

And thereby, great benedictions are bestowed by the Great Rickrack Rock upon the children of these obedient women, and upon their husband's wealth, and upon their father's household, and peace and prosperity reigns upon the tribe of The #Messenger (blessings!).

And upon their enemies in the cursed land of B'azilah, the Great Rickrack Rock showers curses throughout the year, for they are not among the #Believers (praises!). The Bazillions (for by such name they are known in their ignominy) suffer the wrath of the Great Rickrack Rock, and they are afflicted with plagues and pestilences and neverending pennywise-poundfoolishness, for they are among the #Unguided.

And that is how it came to be that the Fourteenth Day of Za'karah is observed throughout the world by #Believers (praises!) as the festive day of Haggeth, which is a day of cleansing followed by feasting.

Praises and benedictions!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 7: Tips for writing successful RTI applications

  1) A good RTI application as boring as a laundry list.

It is a bare list of items of information WITHOUT ANY reasoning. If the first draft of RTI application is interesting to read, something is wrong. Make corrections by deleting the interesting material, such as logical threads of reasoning and justification. You must focus on how to draft an RTI application that DOES NOT disclose the overall nature of the problem in your mind. It must not give a glimpse of what you intend to do with the requested information e.g. register police complaints, approach investigating agencies, file a PIL etc. Also, your RTI application must not indicate how badly you want the information, and therefore, please don’t mention anything such as “I am a senior citizen dependent on my pension cheques, and I have been pushed from pillar-to-post in search of this information.” When you write an RTI application, you must try to gain only information, and not sympathy, respect etc.

  2) A good RTI application is short and childishly simple for the PIO to fulfill.

On the other hand, a badly-drafted RTI application is like a huge challenge to the PIO, virtually saying “I dare you to try and answer all these questions.” Put yourselves in the shoes of the Public Information Officer (PIO); what would you do if you saw a lengthy RTI application that asks endless questions and supplementary questions? If we were PIOs, we would endlessly postpone looking at the application, and then go out of our way to justify the delay or denial. Wouldn’t you? Think that you are a PIO, and then think about how to draft an RTI application that you would like to give a reply to without any delay.

 3) If you need a lot of info, write multiple RTI applications.

A single lengthy application may scare and overwhelm the PIO, and tempt him to throw it into his drawer and delay in answering it. He will hesitate and postpone searching for the information. Instead, send a small, manageable RTI application with only 3-4 questions. Then, after you receive a reply to that, send another one… and another. This strategy also has another advantage: If the public information officer fails to answer more than one of these applications, he feels the threat of being liable for a larger penalty (Rs 250 x days of delay x no. of RTI applications). Even if he escapes penalty after denying information to one application, there is always the chance that other pending applications will get him penalized or reprimanded. Ask yourself: how to draft RTI applications that are difficult to deny, but very easy to answer? Draft your RTI applications in this way.

 4) Keep the period of information minimal.

Don’t be over-ambitious. For an RTI applicant, it is very easy to write a question like, “Give copies of all gun licenses issued from January 1981 till date.” For the PIO, this means searching 30 years of files and records. Older files may have been put into basements or buried under tons of old dusty files. Therefore, please ask yourself whether you REALLY need data that is so old, or whether you are just trying to satisfy an academic curiosity. Don’t request 30 years data if five years data will suffice for your purposes. Don’t ask for five years data if six months data is sufficient.

 5) Crime-fighting RTI application?

Ask for plenty of unnecessary data to misdirect mala-fide PIO. (Of course this contradicts earlier points… but there is method in the madness.) Suppose you want the details of a certain building that you suspect has built-up area in excess of permissions. To confirm your suspicions, you need the approved floor plan, etc. You may fear that if you make a direct request, corrupt officials of the Building Proposal department may deny, delay endlessly and argue that the files are lost. Question: how to improve your chances of quickly getting these key documents? Answer: Ask for inspection of entire files of five other unrelated buildings in your neighborhood. Include the name of this particular building in a random and casual way. When you go for inspection, don‘t show any special interest of this particular building; request photocopies of some unnecessary documents along with what you really want. Of course you may some money rupees on xeroxing unnecessary documents, but if you get the necessary documents without delays and appeals, it is worth it!

 6) You are a citizen, not an investigating agency.

You don’t have to substantiate every allegation. File complaint first, RTIs later. That way, you will stop worrying about how to draft an RTI application that covers all the problem areas. Sometimes, we hesitate before leveling allegations and writing complaints. Our sense of fairness compels us to get into fact-finding by filing an RTI application first. That is not necessary. You are an alert citizen and not an expert; your first duty is to register a complaint! Let the investigating agency guys do their job and earn their salaries. Later on, you may optionally write an RTI application to uncover facts and documents… but that is your second step, not first. As the cowboys say, “Shoot first and ask questions later.”

 7) Don’t shoot your first draft; first drafts are always faulty.

After you have written down your first draft of RTI application (or complaint or anything else), let it cool down in your drawer for a couple of days. Then take a re-look and think about making improvements. Ask a friend or colleague to have a look and give you suggestions.

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 6: Understanding RTI Rules

Maharashtra Government‘s RTI Rules are almost identical with Central Government’s RTI rules, with only tiny differences.

The rules are:
  1. Form of application. RTI application should generally be filed in format given as Annexture A of the Rules.
  1. Word limit and subject: Each RTI application should only be about one subject, and the queries or requests under the heading ‘Description of Information‘, should not exceed 150 words. You can file additional RTI applications on same subject, if your queries exceed 150 words, or you want information on more than one subject. For Central government, the word limit is 500 words.
  1. Application fee. Application fee of Rs.10/- are to be paid by affixing Court Fee Stamp or Indian Postal Order (IPO) or bank’s demand draft or banker’s cheque in favour of public authority from whom information is sought, or in cash at the concerned office against receipt.
  1. Copying charges. Information in A-3 or A-4 size paper -- Rs.2/- per page
Large photocopies or printouts (e.g. architectural plans) – as per actual cost.
Publications – as per printed cost.
If any government department has prescribed fixed charges for documents/maps etc under its rules, then such charges are payable.
Information given on CD / DVD / Pen Drive etc. -- Rs.50/- apiece.
  1. Postage. Postal charges for sending the information to the applicant will be charged in advance as per estimated actual cost, unless the information is collected in person.
  1. Cost of inspection. Actual Inspection of files at the office of the public authority: Rs.5/- each 15 minutes or part thereof, with first hour free. If copies of documents inspected are requested, then copying charges will be as per rule no. 4 above.
  1. Appeal fees. First Appeal has to be filed in Annexture-B format, and Second Appeal in Annexture-C format. Appellant has to affix court fee stamp of Rs.20/- each for first and second appeal (State Information Commission). For Central Information Commission, there is no appeal fee.

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 5: Your Rights As A Citizen

Quite often, people feel guilty and try to explain why they want a particular piece of information. Some people write a covering letter for their RTI application explaining their grievances and how getting the information will help them. Others explain that they are collecting information for their doctoral thesis or newspaper article. Still others try to impress the PIO by writing that they are relatives of a Member of Parliament, or the president of some association or trade union.

All that is unnecessary.

Section 6(2) clearly says: An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason or any other personal details except those that necessary for contacting him.

So, whether you are drafting your RTI application, speaking to a PIO or any Appellate Authority, remember: you need not disclose the purpose for which you want the information, or any additional details about yourself. Your name and contract details is all that anybody needs to know!

What are your rights?

The duties of the Public Information Officer are your rights under RTI. So, understand the duties of the PIO, which are set out in Sections 5, 6 and 7 of RTI Act 2005.

 Section 5:

(3) Every PIO shall deal with requests from persons seeking information and render reasonable assistance.

(4) PIO may seek the assistance of any other officer for the proper discharge of his or her duties.

(5) Any officer, whose assistance has been sought under sub-section (4), shall render all assistance to the PIO seeking his assistance and for the purposes of any contravention of the provisions of this Act, such other officer shall be treated as a Public Information Officer.

 Section 6:
  1. A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area, accompanying fee prescribed, to —
  1. the PIO of the concerned public authority;
  2. the Assistant Public Information Officer
specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:

Where such request cannot be made in writing PIO shall render all reasonable assistance to reduce the same in writing.

  1. An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason or any other personal details except those that necessary for contacting him.

  1. Where an application is made to a public authority requesting for an information, —
  1. which is held by another public authority; or
  2. the subject matter of which is more closely connected with the functions of another public authority,
the public authority, to which such application is made, shall transfer the application or such part of it as may be appropriate to that other public authority and inform the applicant immediately about such transfer:

The transfer of an application shall be in no case later than five days from the date of receipt of the application.

 Section 7:
  1. Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of section 6, the PIO shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9:
Where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours.

  1. If the PIO fails to give decision on the request for information within the period specified under sub-section (1), the PIO shall be deemed to have refused the request.

  1. Where a decision is taken to provide the information on payment of any further fee representing the cost of providing the information, the PIO shall send an intimation to the person making the request, giving —
  1. the details of further fees, together with the calculations made, requesting him to deposit that fees, and the period between the despatch of the said intimation and payment of fees shall be excluded for the purpose of calculating the period of thirty days;
  2. information concerning his or her right with respect to review the decision as to the amount of fees charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the appellate authority, time limit, process and any other forms.

  1. Where the person is sensorily disabled, the PIO shall provide assistance to enable access to the information, including assistance appropriate for inspection.

  1. Where access to information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format, the applicant shall pay such fee as may be prescribed:
The fee prescribed shall be reasonable.

  1. The person-making request for the information shall be provided the information free of charge where a public authority fails to comply with the time limits.

  1. Before taking any decision under sub-section (1), the PIO shall take into consideration the representation made by a third party under section 11.

  1. Where a request has been rejected under sub-section (1), the PIO shall communicate to the person making the request, —
  1. the reasons for such rejection;
  2. the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
  3. the particulars of the first appellate authority.

  1. Information shall be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record.

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 4: Refusal and Severability of Information

In case the requested documents are denied to you under sections 8, 9 or 11, and the PIO and appellate authorities refuse to budge, what to do?

The answer is: Take whatever documents you can get, after severing off the documents (or parts thereof) to which the above-mentioned sections apply.

Section 10:
(1) Where a request for access to information is rejected on the ground that it is exempt from disclosure, access may be provided to that part of the record which does not contain any information which is exempt from disclosure and which can reasonably be severed from any part that contains exempt information.

(2) Where access is granted to a part of the record under sub-section (1) the PIO shall give a notice to the applicant, informing —
  1. that only part of the record requested, after severance of the record containing information which is exempt from disclosure, is being provided;
  2. the reasons for the decision, including any findings on any material question of fact, referring to the material on which those findings were based;
  3. the name and designation of the person giving the decision;
  4. the details of the fees calculated by him or her and the amount of fee which the applicant is required to deposit; and
  5. his or her rights with respect to review of the decision regarding non-disclosure of part of the information, the amount of fee charged or the form of access provided, including the particulars of the senior officer specified under sub-section (1) of section 19 or the Information Commission, time limit, process and any other form of access.
If you have asked inspection of, or copy of, a certain file, the PIO may argue that it contains confidential material. You should counter-argue that it is the PIO’s duty to remove any confidential documents from that file, but give you access to the rest of the papers in that file. However, he must mention which papers are being withheld from you, and under what sub-sections of Section 8, 9 or 11 etc. are those document being withheld.

Alternatively, if you have asked copy of a specific document, and the PIO argues that some words or lines in that document are confidential, you may ask the PIO to photocopy that document after covering those words with patches!

Layman’s Guide to RTI Act 2005 Part 3: How to avoid refusal by Public Information officer?

Can government give every information that is requested by a citizen? No. The country cannot run unless some information is secret or confidential in government organizations.

For example, information that is of strategic importance (such as the latest missile being developed by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), cannot be shared with the public. Similarly, if peace talks are being held between Indian and its neighbouring country, such details cannot be disclosed until the talks are concluded.

Intelligence and national security organizations of the government are generally exempted from the ambit of the RTI Act. For example:
Intelligence Bureau.
Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)
Directorate of Revenue Intelligence
Central Economic Intelligence Bureau
Directorate of Enforcement
Narcotics Control Bureau…

A complete and updated list of these exempted organizations is available in Second Schedule of RTI Act.

Generally, all the types of information that you may not get under RTI are specifically mentioned in Section 8, 9 and 11 of RTI Act. Please read these sections carefully, and word your RTI application in such a way that it does not attract the provisions of these sections.

 Section 8:
8(1) There shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
  1. Information which would affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
  1. information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
  1. Information which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
  1. information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants disclosure;
  1. information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants disclosure
  1. information received in confidence from foreign Government;
  1. information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
  1. information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
  1. cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:
The decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over.
  1. information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless PIO or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure.
The information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

Section 8(2) says: Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.

Section 8(3) says: Subject to the provisions of clauses (a), (c) and (i) of sub-section (1), any information relating to any occurrence, event or matter which has taken place, occurred or happened twenty years before the date on which any request is made under section 6 shall be provided to any person making a request under that section:
Where any question arises as to the date from which the said period of twenty years has to be computed, the decision of the Central Government shall be final, subject to the usual appeals provided for in this Act.

Confidential papers

What happens if the information that you have requested directly pertains to a third party?

Section 9 says: PIO may reject a request for information where such a request for providing access would involve an infringement of copyright subsisting in a person other than the State.

In cases other than copyrights, the PIO will probably have to seek the opinion of that third party and take their opinion into consideration. However, by cleverly framing your RTI application as a request for a generic class of information i.e. not relating to any particular individual or commercial entity, it is usually possible to get around this obstacle.

Section 11 says: “Where a PIO intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO shall, within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party of the request and of the fact that the PIO intends to disclose the information or record, or part thereof, and invite the third party to make a submission in writing or orally, regarding whether the information should be disclosed, and such submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about disclosure of information:

Provided that except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party.

Where a notice is served by the PIO under sub-section (1) to a third party in respect of any information or record or part thereof, the third party shall, within ten days from the date of receipt of such notice, be given the opportunity to make representation against the proposed disclosure.

PIO shall, within forty days after receipt of the request, if the third party has been given an opportunity to make representation under sub-section (2), make a decision as to whether or not to disclose the information or record or part thereof and give in writing the notice of his decision to the third party.

There is a slim chance that the third party will not object to the PIO giving you the papers. There is an even slimmer chance the PIO will overrule the objections of the third party and give you the papers. The odds are you will not get confidential documents.

Protection of confidentiality is also covered under Sections 8(1) (d) and (e), mentioned in the previous chapter i.e.

(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants disclosure;

(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants disclosure.

However, if you are able to convince the PIO and his bosses (i.e. the competent authority) that it is necessary to disclose this information in the larger public interest, then you can indeed get access to even information that is identified as third-party, confidential or given to the public authority in fiduciary capacity. Choose your words carefully while drafting your RTI application. Prominently mention public interest so that it becomes difficult for the PIO to refuse at the initial stage itself.