Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Supreme Court Directs Government to Ensure Basic Infrastructure in Schools

Provide toilets in schools in six months, orders court

News from Newspaper 'The Hindu' 
The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed all States and Union Territories to ensure that basic toilet facilities, in particular to girl students, are provided in all schools within six months.
A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra gave the direction on a petition from the Environmental and Consumer Protection Foundation since it was informed that the court’s direction issued in October last was yet to be implemented by many States, which sought further time.
The court had said: “Right to free and compulsory education of children in the age group of six to 14 is part of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21-A. This right cannot be enjoyed unless basic infrastructure is provided by the state. While keeping this in view, we, in our order dated October 11, 2011, gave a direction to the States to provide basic toilet facilities to children, girl children in particular.”
The court had said, “Experience and empirical survey have revealed that parents are reluctant to send their children, particularly girls, to schools where basic toilet facilities are not available. The direct consequence is breach of children’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21-A. If it is not possible to provide permanent toilets, then at least temporary toilets are provided on or before November 30, 2011 and permanent toilets be made available by December 31, 2011.”
The Chief Secretaries of all States were directed to ensure that separate permanent toilets for boys and girls were constructed in all schools on or before March 31, 2012. In case it was not possible to construct permanent toilets, at least temporary ones should be made available on or before February 28.

Basic infrastructure in schools vital: Supreme Court

New Delhi, Oct. 3 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and state Governments to provide basic infrastructure, including drinking water and toilets, in all schools within six months.
A bench headed by Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan fixed the time limit, and asked the governments to take steps to provide the basic facilities in schools across the country.
The bench said that all its previous directions pertaining to providing infrastructure should be implemented within the time frame fixed by it.
The court passed the order on a PIL seeking its direction to Centre and state governments to provide basic facilities of drinking water and toilets in schools. (ANI)
A Recent Supreme Court Ruling Could Kill RTI

Supreme Court asks Centre not to alter pricing system for essential drugs ( From Economic Times )

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked the government not to alter the existing pricing system for essential medicines, a step which may allegedly lead to a steep hike in their prices. 

"We make it clear that the Government should not alter the price system as notified on July 13, 1999 and similar subsequent notification," said a bench headed by justice G S Singhvi, while granting seven days to the Centre to decide on the pricing of essential medicines. 

The bench said it is concerned about the issue and it is needed for the court to intervene into the issue. 

"We are directly concerned about it. The court does not run the government, but it steps in only when required," the bench observed while posting the matter for further hearing on next Tuesday, October 9. 

The Centre informed the court that the recommendations, made by the Group of Ministers, will soon be placed before the Cabinet for final decision on the issue. 

The court was hearing a public interest litigation plea filed in 2003 by the All India Drugs Action Network and others which had complained that currently only around 78 drugs are placed under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995 (DPCO) making rest of the medicines beyond the reach of the common man. 

During the last hearing on the matter, the petitioner's counsel had expressed apprehension that the proposed drug policy may lead to a steep hike in prices of essential drugs

The apex court on last hearing too had asked the government to ensure that rates do not "escalate" and cause a burden on the common man.

A Recent Supreme Court Ruling Could Kill RTI by Udit Misra

Why the recent Supreme Court ruling threatens to kill citizens’ Right to Information

he Supreme Court has placed the Central Information Commission (CIC), the apex body to deal with appeals regarding RTI, as well as the Information Commissions across the states in a fine pickle.

On September 13, a division bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by Justice AK Patnaik and Justice Swatanter Kumar, passed an order which would fundamentally change the constitution and working of Information Commissions. Apart from the operational problems, the suggested changes would require an amendment to the RTI Act by the government. As a result, none of the information commissioners know whether to discharge their duty and, if so, how. Moreover, many RTI activists are complaining about a blatant case of judicial over-reach.

“The SC can say something is wrong and needs to be changed but they can’t order the legislature to make a law according to their directions,” says Subhash Agarwal, a prominent RTI activist in New Delhi.

The Order
The SC has ordered that Information Commissions should henceforth hear appeals as two-member benches, replacing the existing norm of each member working separately. What further complicates the matter is the ruling that one member in each bench should necessarily be a ‘judicial’ member. By ‘judicial’, the SC implies someone who has practised law for 20 years or preferably a judge or a retired judge of the SC or a high court. Lastly, the Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre and the states should also be a judicial member.

The Disorder
The Central Information Commission has eight active members, including the chief, out of the total 11 vacancies. Not one among them is a judicial member. Nobody, including the commissioners, is clear how they should function, considering there are no judicial members to constitute even a single bench. Even when judicial members join, the bunching of two members in a team is likely to slow down the disposal rate because there will only be half the outlets dealing with complaints, not to mention the increased time taken when two members deliberate. “Effectively the disposal of pending cases will drop to about 50 percent of the current disposals,” says Shailesh Gandhi, a former Information Commissioner at the CIC. The probable rise in pendency to almost five years could sound the death knell for the Act, according to Gandhi.

Certain other elements in the order have confused observers. For instance, it is unlikely that a sitting judge will ever leave the Supreme Court to join the CIC. Yet ironically, a retired judge of the SC would also not be able to join since both the SC and CIC have the same retirement age of 65 years. It is not clear why the head of Information Commissions must necessarily be a judicial member. “If anything, he or she needs to have some administrative acumen over and above a regular member,” says Agarwal.

Still, not every thing is wrong with the SC order. One view is that the inclusion of judicial members is likely to bring some diversity in the appointees to these commissions, often described as a parking lot for bureaucrats. “While the decisions will be more robust, one is still afraid that the real loser might be the common man who may find it too daunting to represent himself in front of a judge and may incur additional costs in hiring lawyers,” says Anjali Bhardwaj, member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information.
This article appeared in Forbes India Magazine of 12 October, 2012

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