RTI activists are up in arms against political parties and, quite rightly, want all political parties to be come under the RTI scanner.

Political parties have, time and again, refused to divulge any information asked under RTI Act stating that they aren’t public authorities. Peeved with this attitude, two activists, Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms and Subhash Chandra Agarwal, filed a complaint against all political parties before Central Information Commission (CIC).

Reportedly, The Association of Democratic Reforms had asked all the political parties about their largest donors and the manner of the donations. All parties, other than CPI, refused to answer the questions stating that they aren’t government authorities and hence not bound to answer any questions.

The complaint filed by the two activists prompted the CIC to call a meeting with all the political parties’ secretariats to discuss transparency law and information dissemination. The meeting held on 26th September 2012 was ditched by most of these political parties other than CPI and NCP. The meeting concurrently was cancelled and a new date for the meeting is yet to be decided.

When it comes to exploiting power and enjoying sops, these political parties are the first to claim them but when it comes to talk about responsibility and accountability, they get defensive.

All political parties benefit immensely from various sops offered to them for being a ‘political party,’ one of such sops being 100 per cent tax exemption on income. It was recently reported that, due to this tax exemption, six major political parties saved more than Rs 500 crore between the years 2006 - 2009.

This means that, indirectly, they are benefitting from the exchequer’s money; which, according to RTI activists make them liable to be declared as ‘public authority’ and come under the RTI Act.

Out of all the political outfits, the Congress party was the one that gained that most. It got the maximum exemption of Rs 300.92 crore. The next in line was BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) which saved Rs 141.25 crore in taxes. Other parties that profited from the tax exemption were BahujanSamaj Party (BSP), which saved Rs 39.84 crore, Communist Party of India (Marxist) saved Rs 18.13 crore, Communist Party of India Rs 24 crore, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Rs 9.64 crore.

This data, was compiled by activist groups Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW).  Tax exemption is given political parties under provisions of Section 13(A) of the Income Tax Act.

The definition of public authority under Section 2(h) of the RTI is - any non-government organisation that is substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government.' And, since political parties enjoy tax benefits, land allotment and other such facilities, they should be included under the definition of ‘public authority.’ It was also reported that, in all, the six political parties were allotted land worth Rs 456.91 crore.

Besides that, the activists also pointed out the fact that free slots for advertisement are given to political parties on state-run Doordarshan and All India Radio during election time.

Political parties representatives go about damaging public property during bandhs and other protests causing immense losses to public funds that run into crores of rupees but they don’t want to be questioned about it.They have the right to use public money and damage public property but they don’t want to be held accountable.

It was reported that around 123 BEST buses were damaged in the ‘bandh’ protest called by BJP in May this year against hike in petrol prices. And, when it came to compensating for damages, one of the BJP party leaders, also on the BEST committee, was quick to point out to point out that the parties (BJP and Shiv Sena) that damaged the buses shouldn’t be paying the compensation for repairing the buses and that it should be claimed from the insurance companies. Although he was generous enough to mention that he understands that it will cause people trouble since almost 100 buses will be off the road for around a month.

The parties that refuse to be held accountable for their actions, benefit from public’s money, damage public property, yet refuse to act like a ‘public authority.’

So, when an upcoming political party accuses a member of another influential political party’s family member of a multi-crore rupee scam, if asked about their income and funding that come for the party, they can swiftly refuse to divulge any information regarding the same.

It was recently reported that, out of the 700 political posters that lined the city roads during Ganpati festival, only 41 were legal and rest were put up without BMC’s permission. This is when the rates for political hoardings were just Rs 182 for the first sqmt and Rs 121 for every subsequent sqmt.

These political parties are always swift to say that they will ‘look into the matter’ and ‘take action against their party members who put up illegal hoarding’ we don’t have a ‘right’ to question them about the ‘action’ that they take against such members who deface our city.

So, while all the politicians publically maintain that they are all for transparency regarding funds of political parties and such, when it comes to acting on it, they all went AWOL in the CIC meeting regarding the same issue.

A similar issue had risen in 2008 when the ADR and NEW had asked to make IT returns and contributions of political parties public. Even then, political parties were reluctant to share such information with the public and had protested but the ADR and NEW had won the CIC judgement.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings/issue featured here)

A while back, the National Consumer Dispute Commission observed a doctor can be booked for medical negligence even if the situation doesn’t turn life threatening but reasonable degree of care is not taken while deciding on the course of treatment or while treating the patient.


The Commission made the move after hearing a petition of a Delhi-based woman who underwent third surgery for abdominal pain in Mumbai and doctors found a gauze mop that was left inside her stomach from the previous surgery.

The complainant Kamla Devi, after getting discharged from the hospital, filed a complaint in the state panel against the doctors in Delhi who operated on her the first two times in November and December 1995. Reportedly, she was being treated by Dr R K Jain and Dr S Mehta and the former had suggested the surgery.

The first time she was admitted in the hospital in November 1995 was for abdominal pain and vomiting. On the basis of her doctor’s advice, she underwent a surgery but her pain didn’t get better so she was re-admitted and operated upon again.

Even after this, when her pain persisted, another surgery was reportedly suggested by Dr Jain. On relatives’ advice, she came to Mumbai for the surgery where the gauze was discovered in her abdomen.

The doctors at first denied the allegations. Their arguments were rejected by the state panel after which they appealed to the national commission. Here they argued the ‘negligence’ did not pose a threat to the woman’s health and life so it cannot be amounted as medical negligence. That is when the national commission observed negligence doesn’t have to amount to death or pose a risk to health and asked the doctors responsible to compensate the women by paying Rs 50,000.

The judgement was passed 17 years after her first operation.

Rarely a month goes by without some or the other doctor being accused of medical negligence by the patient or kin of the patient. The degree of negligence and its repercussions can vary from person to person but that does not mean a doctor is not liable for the negligence and shouldn’t be punished for it. But, many doctors think otherwise as was apparent in the case of Kamla Devi.


It is only when a patient dies or something seriously goes wrong with the patient’s health that doctors are held guilty for negligence. Sadly, even at times when the doctors are proclaimed guilty, it takes way too long for the punishment to actually be delivered. Dr Nikita Manchanda, who delivered a baby boy through C-Section on 3rd May 2009 in Max Hospital, Delhi, died after two days owing to a complication.

A day after her delivery, she complained of severe abdominal pain and began to vomit continuously. In desperation, she called her gynaecologistDrAlka Gupta. However, even after hours of writhing in pain her calls went unanswered. Nikita was administered pain-killers by the resident doctor at the hospital after consultation with Dr Gupta and the anaesthetist. The doctor did not find it necessary to examine Nikita even though the pain-killer did nothing to alleviate her condition.

The next morning, on realising that her condition wasn’t improving, the doctor rushed Nikita to the ICU. It took a full three hours to shift Nikita to the ICU and arrange for blood. Nikita was declared dead by noon.

Reportedly, Nikita’s father had filed more than 50 RTIs to the police department, the health department of India, Medical Council of India and Delhi Medical Council.

And, it was in 2010 that the reply to his RTI application to Medical Council of India revealed that Max hospital had enough evidence to prove the four doctors were guilty of medical negligence and their quantum of punishment would be revealed in ‘next meeting.’

That the doctors were guilty was decided by the ethics committee in June 2010. More than a year passed and there was no sign of the ‘next meeting’ in which the punishment of the guilty was to be decided even when Manchanda filed an RTI application asking about the case.

It was only in May 2012, when Manchanda filed a second appeal to the ex-Central Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi that Gandhi directed the PIO of the MCI to provide details of quantum of punishment awarded to the doctors and also put it up on its website along with other doctors found guilty since January 2011.


Around a fortnight back, Bombay HC refused to give relief to a doctor held guilty of negligence. Last year, a pregnant woman, Tabassum Sheikh had come to Bhabha Hospital and was examined by DrAtulKulkarni who then directed Tabassum to DrManorhitaGaikwad (the petitioner).

Reportedly, the doctors referred Sheikh to another centre but didn’t arrange for an ambulance for her and Tabassum delivered a baby right at the hospital gate. By the time any medical help could reach her the baby died. The BMC sacked the doctor for negligence and the HC upheld BMC’s decision.


In a similar situation, in April this year, in Hyderabad, a pregnant woman was allegedly turned away from a government-run hospital and she ended up delivering the baby on the road.

After severe protests from the locals, a probe was ordered against the hospital. Thankfully, in this case, the mother and the child survived.

Cases like these are not really rare to come by. Doctors in government hospitals turning patients away every now and then or doing a shoddy job without the fear of any sort of reprisal or exposure should be punished severely enough that it serves as a lesson for other such doctors who take issues of medical negligence lightly.

Not just in government hospitals, doctors in private hospitals too should have empathy towards patients, fear the law and not take issues of health lightly as is usually the case.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)

By Gajanan Khergamker

It has been a while since Mumbai’s Panvel orphanage horror tales made headlines. The 19 physically and mentally challenged girls, who reportedly suffered abuse at the hands of the caretakers and other employees of KalyaniMahila and BalSevaSanstha, a shelter home in Panvel, deposed in front of the court one by one.

It may have been a shock to see people who are supposed to take care of these children indulging into such a heinous act but this is not the first time such a crime has happened in a shelter home in India.


Around the time, the Panvel shelter home incident came to light, an almost similar incident was reported in the Home for Mentally Deficient Children in Mankhurd. Here, unlike in the Panvel shelter home, the children were reportedly abused by older inmates of the home.

Though the Mankhurd shelter home was meant for children only, there were only 22 boys under 18 years of age at the time these incidents was reported. The rest of the inmates were adult which included some as old as 60, who stayed back at the shelter as they didn’t have anywhere else to go after they came of age.


And, if these stories are not enough, there is evidence of thedeplorable conditions in which children live in various shelter homes all over India.

An RTI query filed by BachpanBachaoAndolan revealed over 1,800 children fled various shelter homes in Delhi over the past few years. The data related to the period from 2006 to 2010.

The information provided by the Women and Child Development Department of the Delhi government related to 26 shelter homes, both statutory and non-statutory.

Reportedly, the query revealed that 10,600 children residing in the 26 shelter homes over four years of which as many as 1,807 children escaped because the condition of the shelter homes was ‘uninhabitable.’

During the four years, 29 children had died out which 28 were from the same shelter home. It was reported that 807 children had escaped from a single non-government organisation - Prayas.

According to the Andolan which filed the RTI, Delhi has 37 state-run and 17 non-government shelters as well as observation homes for homeless children with a total capacity of 3,000. Reportedly, there are more than 10,000 children who live on Delhi’s streets. These children who are mostly picked up from the streets or rescued from employees are brought to these shelter homes so that they get a normal childhood. Instead, they are put up in these shelter homes where their condition is such that they run away from there not out of choice but for lack of it.

Back in Mumbai, the conditions aren’t any better when it comes to shelter homes. When a couple of cases of child abuse in shelter homes surfaced around a year back, the High Court appointed an apex committee as amicus curiae to look into the functioning of various shelter homes for mentally-challenged children in Maharashtra and the conditions of their inmates. The committee, led by DrAshaBajpayee, TISS faculty, submitted its report in July 2011 and the revelations were shocking to say the least.

Only 20 of the 35 districts in Maharashtra have homes for mentally-ill children. And, the report indicated the basis on which these shelter homes were opened were ‘suspicious’.


The report said that “When a home is sanctioned in any district, a cut has to be paid to the Directorate of Women andChild Development (DWCD) officer and also to Child Welfare Committee members in the district.” It also questioned “the mushrooming of homes” over the past two year. “This is done for political considerations and it is not in the interest of children,” the report suggested.

According to the study, three homes had been shut down following revelations of sexual abuse, malnutrition and death of children owing to carelessness of the officials. Allegations of financial irregularities too had surfaced.

It also mentioned that none of the staff at any of the homes was even aware of signs of child sexual abuse. The report also alleged that children are transferred from one home to another ‘like cattle’ without the knowledge of CWC members which is a contravention of the rules.

And, if any child is seriously ill or there is a probability of his/ her death, s/he is transferred as no one wants to deal with death, the report said.


Sometime back, two British nationals, Alan Waters and Duncan Grant, were arrested and convicted for sexually abusing boys at Anchorage Shelter Home for street children they ran in Colaba.  Although the first case of children abuse by these Britons surfaced in 2001, it took years for them to be convicted for their crime. The duo were first found guilty in 2006 but were later acquitted by the High Court in 2008.

However, their acquittal was revoked by Supreme Court in 2011 after which they were sent to jail where they completed their sentence and deported to UK the same year.


The latest case of child abuse in a shelter home came up in Rohtak, Haryana.

It was reported that around 100 inmates of the government-aided shelter home, ApnaGhar, which is in the Chief Minister’s constituency, alleged gang rape and abuse by government official and police officers. It was alleged that women were forced into prostitution and pregnant women were being tortured to induce abortion.

Jaswanti Devi, who runs the shelter, was arrested along with three relatives. There are allegations of her being given ‘special treatment’ so that she doesn’t reveal the names of officials involved in the barbarous act.

This horrid tale came out when two women inmates escaped from the shelter home in May last and narrated the stories to the National Commission for Child Rights after which a PIL was filed.

Most of these incidences surface after years of abuse the shelter home inmates go through and there is no guaranteeing how many such “shelter homes” actually serve the purpose and are not just an ‘official’ cover for abusing helpless children and women.