History of Right to Information Act in India

By Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, Adv.

The Right to Information movement has begun in India when the activists in in Rajasthan to get accountability in the functioning of the state government in early 1990s. People started to question the expenditure by the government and also sought explanation for their non-functioning. This movement, then spread over to other parts of the country and became a massive movement whereby demand from all quarters started to emerge for transparency in Governance.

The movement of Right to information also got impetus from various Supreme Court judgments.  The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has also interpreted fundamental rights incorporated in articles 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution of India and said that the Right to Information is the fundamental right of the citizens of India. Supreme Court also took a view that in a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. Their right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor, which should make one wary when secrecy is claimed for transactions, which can at any rate have no repercussion on public security. But the legislative wing of the State did not respond to it by enacting suitable legislation for protecting the right of the people for long.

It was only in 1996, Justice P B Sawant, Chairman of the Press Council of India at that time, drafted a bill in this regard. This bill took all governmental and non-governmental entities, which perform public functions, into the purview of the Right to information. On 2nd January 1997, Government of India set up a working group on Right to Information and Promotion of Open and Transparent Government’ under the chairmanship of Mr. H D Shouri. The committee came up with detailed report and Draft Freedom of Information Bill on 24th May 1997. This draft provided that not only the Central and the State Ministries, but also public sector undertakings, municipal bodies and panchayats and other bodies substantially funded by Government, would come within the purview of the Act. Later the Consumer Education Research Council (CERC) draft also came up. It was by far the most detailed proposed freedom of information legislation in India. In 1997, a conference of chief ministers resolved that the central and state governments would work together on transparency and the right to information. Following this, the Centre agreed to take immediate steps, in consultation with the states, to introduce freedom of information legislation, along with amendments to the Official Secrets Act and the Indian Evidence Act, before the end of 1997. The central and state governments also agreed to a number of other measures to promote openness. These included establishing accessible computerised information centres to provide information to the public on essential services, and speeding up on-going efforts to computerise government operations. In this process, particular attention would be placed on computerisation of records of particular importance to the people, such as land records, passports, investigation of offences, administration of justice, tax collection, and the issue of permits and licences.

For the first time in 2000, the Freedom of Information Act was passed by the parliament of India. This enactment never came into force as the appointment the officers to execute the act and the modalities to enforce the act were never notified. This act was a weak legislation and was not at all operational. This enactment was replaced by Right to Information Act, 2005 which came into force from 12th October 2005. Prior to this date modalities like appointment of Public Information Officers (PIOs) and other modalities were completed. Now this act is in force and can be used in every state of India.

Now Right to Information Act is completing a decade next year. In last ten years, various people have achieved a lot by using Right to Information Act and in future also, it will be helping many in getting desired information from government functionaries and in making them transparent.

The author is a Supreme Court Advocate and has also authored a book on Right to Information titled Leading Cases on Right to Information.

By Dr S Chakraborty

We are given two ears and one mouth for a reason. God knew listening is twice as hard as speaking.

Right from birth to death, the first and most used skill is listening but we always take it for granted. We take coaching for speaking, stage mannerism, to be grammatically correct and all, with just one assumption that our audience is absolutely attentive and truly listening us. Is it so? With only 2% of people being taught listening as a skill, it’s too much of an ask with a mobile in hand.

So what exactly is true/emphatic listening?

So as the Chinese symbol suggests, listening not only needs ears but also undivided attention along with connecting with the heart of speaker while making eye contact.

For most people listening means waiting for your turn to speak or preparing for your next question. Due to this 70% of all communication are misunderstood, misinterpreted, distorted or not heard at all.

True listening depends on three skills; attention, attitude and adjustment. It is a active process and one needs to train oneself. Our brain inherently thinks four times faster than we can speak. We speak at 200- 300 words per minute but can think at 1000–1200 words per minute. So it gives us enough free time as a listener, for the mind to wander and go away from the topic.  By default our attention will be hard to focus because of this extra time. We need  to use this time to listen emphatically by analysing the content of talk, feelings of the speaker, looking for non verbal cues to know whether he means what he is saying, refrain ourself from completing the sentence of speaker and finally to summarize or reflect back what he said.

Why listening is important?

It is our primary communication activity. Our listening habits are not the result of training but rather due to the lack of it.  It is the most important skill that an employer searches before hiring and a patient desperately seeks before consulting a doctor.

Why listening is hard?

We are always pre occupied with the past or future, may not like the speaker or his mannerism, our own anxiety\stress before coming to listen  or often having a idea in mind what the person ‘ should do’, makes it hard to listen to that persons point of view.

Finally a good listener tries to understand thoroughly what the speaker is trying to say. In the end he may disagree sharply but before he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is, that he is disagreeing with.

By Dr. Dinesh

The road to Wandoor is undulating, full of greenery and a pleasant drive. At times, the terrain gets hilly as you encounter windy roads like those in a hill station. The greenery is a visual treat for the weary eyes of city dweller. On either side of the road you will see the trapped water of the tsunami of 2004. While going through to Wandoor due to my inquisitiveness I paid a visit to the Buddhist Mission Centre at Mayemeo at a hillock. The temple was in a dilapidated condition over the last few decades though now some Buddhist followers though in minority came forward seeing the pathetic condition and renovated the temple at Maymeo. A “floating decoration” which had come adrift probably from Burma/Thailand after two and half months was found in Morris Deara beach and Karmatang beach in Mayabunder, Middle Andaman and had been painstakingly brought to Port Blair by some devotees in a  truck and installed at an appropriate place which had an Buddha idol in it. This floating decoration is called Loi Krathong which is a long established and immensely popular tradition in Thailand, and thousands of people celebrate the festival every year. The name Loi Krathong can be translated to mean “floating decoration” which originates from the custom of making an attractive decoration that is then floated on a river, lake or even the sea. The decoration is traditionally made using a slice of trunk which is then decorated with leaves, flowers and candles. The festival takes place every year on the evening of the full moon which typically falls in November. It is believed the origins of Loi Krathong stem from Buddhism and that the festival provided the opportunity to pay respectful thanks to the Goddess of water. Many Thai people believe the Krathongs carry away their bad luck, which in turn helps to bring them good fortune. The festival has also become associated with love, and it is a common scene it seems to see couples floating their krathongs while making a wish for their future life together. I could only imagine how truly magical is to observe krathongs, with their candles sparkling, as they gently drift along the Andaman sea beneath the full moon. The Burmese Buddhist Mission, at Maymeo, celebrated the traditional Buddhist New Year. The celebration started in the Maymeo here on 16th April with the bathing of the Buddha idol with scented water, Buddha chants reverberates in the hall. Mrs. Masan w/o Late Aung Mynt aged 73 yrs is an entrepreneur & one of the most respected lady of Burmese community who had travelled all the way from Rangat just to offer prayers, a day before she had offered free food to the large gathering of around 400 devotees at the Buddhist temple at Mayabunder, which had been looked by her and maintained by her since many years. The Buddha Puja, which started in morning, was followed by offering food to devotees. The initial ritual was followed by water festival. Many followers of Buddhism participated in the celebration. Buddhists were seen splashing scented water over each other’s shoulder.

There is acute fund crunch in the Buddhist committee of Maymeo still with the help of some Buddhist followers they are planning to make a meditation hall and other amenities which will self generate some revenue for the renovation and maintenance of the temple. Since it is situated about 5 kms from the Wandoor which is a famous tourist spot they are hopeful this meditation hall will be an immense help for the tourists and local people to. Buddhist mediation techniques have become increasingly popular in the world, with many non-Buddhists taking them up for a variety of reasons. Core meditation techniques as path toward enlightenment and Nirvana, Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of meditation techniques that aim to develop mindfulness, concentration, supra mundane powers, tranquillity and insight.

Leave Entitlements Of Women Employees

By Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, Adv.

Women employee in any establishment- private or government- has to play dual role. In the office, she has to function as an employee and compete with her male counterpart and at home, she has to look after her family and also to take care of her children. In these two roles, the life of a woman employee becomes very difficult. Keeping in view of the dual role of women employee, the Sixth Pay Commission decided to recommend, inter alia, flexible office timing for women employee, introduction of 730 days of child care leave in her entire service period, extension of maternity leave from 135 days to 180 days, extension of period of leave which can be availed of in continuation of maternity leave from existing one year to two years etc.

While accepting the recommendations of Sixth Pay Commission, Government of India, with effect from 1st September 2008, extended the maternity leave to 180 days and also permitted to avail two years of leave of any other kind in continuation with maternity leave. Government also accepted the recommendation of introduction of Child Care Leave for a period of 730 days in the entire service period for women employees for upto two minor children.

In addition to these leaves available to the women employees, the male employees are also entitled for 15 days paternity leave in case of his wife is pregnant. It is also important to understand that the leave available to the employees of government may not be sought as a matter of right and in cases of public exigencies, the leave may be denied or curtailed. However in cases of Child Care Leave or Maternity Leave, adequate care and requirement of the woman employee at her home front is also required to be taken care of. As a matter of fact, it is also provided in the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules that efforts should be made to encourage the employees to take leave on annual basis. It is also warranted from the leave sanctioning authority to draw up phased programme for the grant of leave to the applicants by turn. In a recent Supreme Court Judgment in Kakali Ghosh versus Union of India, Supreme Court also held that a woman employee is entitled for uninterrupted 730 days of Child Care Leave. Supreme Court also held that CCL even beyond 730 days can be granted by combining other leave if due.

For a woman employee in private sector, similar facilities are available under Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. Under this legislation, every woman employed either directly or through an agency, is entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave- 6 weeks prior to her delivery and 6 weeks after delivery. She is also entitled for 6 weeks of leave in case of miscarriage. For illness arising out of pregnancy, delivery, premature birth or miscarriage, a woman employee can take extra leave up to a maximum period of one month. It is also provided that the employer is required to pay a medical bonus of at least Rs. 1,000/- extending to Rs. 20,000/- if the employer is unable to provide free medical care to the women employee. In addition, during the maternity leave, the woman employee is entitled to get average pay.

The Maternity Benefit Act also provides that a pregnant women is entitled for rest during her working hours. The employer is required to give light work for 10 weeks before the date of expected delivery if pregnant woman asks for it. After the delivery, the woman employee is also entitled for two nursing breaks in the course of her daily work until the child attains age of 15 months. In case of tubectomy, operation leave with wages for 2 weeks is also granted to the employee. It is also provided that during the period of maternity leave, there should not be any discharge or dismissal of the woman employee. There should also not be any change to her disadvantage in any of the conditions of her employment while on maternity leave. Pregnant woman discharged or dismissed may still claim maternity benefit from the employer under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1861.

The author is an Advocate practising in Supreme Court of India. He also represented Kakali Ghosh in the aforementioned judgment. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Baha'is around the world are celebrating the Festival of Ridvan, which marks the anniversary of Baha'u'llah's declaration in 1863 that He was a new messenger of God.

Ridvan is a twelve-day festival in the Baha’i Faith, commemorating the commencement of Baha’u’llah’s Prophethood. It begins at sunset on April 20 and continues until sunset, May 2. First, Ninth, and Twelfth days designated as Holy Days on which work and school should be suspended. This event, which took place thirty-one days after Naw-Ruz, in April 1863, signalized the commencement of the period during which Baha’u’llah declared His Mission to His companions.

"Ridvan" means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridvan outside Baghdad, where Baha’u’llah stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled Him from the city and before commencing His journey to Constantinople.

Ridvan is the most holy Baha’i festival, and is also referred to as the "Most Great Festival" and the "King of Festivals". In a Tablet, Baha’u’llah refers to His Declaration as "the Day of supreme felicity" and He describes the Garden of Ridvan as "the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of His Name, the All-Merciful".

The Bab’s Writings introduced the concept of "He whom God shall make manifest", a Messianic Figure whose coming, according to Baha’is, was announced in the Scriptures of all of the world’s great religions.

 (Compiled by T. Jaya Raju)