Right to Information – Master key to good governance

File notings may be out of RTI purview

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 20, 2006

File notings may be out of RTI purview
Subodh Ghildiyal
[ 19 Jul, 2006 2345hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]


NEW DELHI: Access to information through the Right to Information Act might have just got a little tougher. After being rebuffed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on its claims that “file notings” were outside the ambit of the Act, the government is thinking of exempting “file notings” from information that can be sought for disclosure.

It may, however, keep “file notings” on social and development issues well within the right of an individual to seek details on.

Also to be put beyond the reach of information-seekers are cabinet notes, on which the government deliberates for policy decisions. The move comes days after the CIC ruled that a cabinet note was not a confidential document once a decision on it has been taken.

A proposal, which accedes to the UPSC’s request that the sensitive area of its selection process be put out of the RTI purview, will also be taken up by the government for approval on Thursday.

Ever since the flagship policy decision of the UPA government, pushed by Sonia Gandhi-led NAC, came into being, brushing aside the reservations of babudom, the CIC has given decisions to the dislike of the government, especially the bureaucracy.

The Wajahat Habibullah-led CIC gave a big blow to the officials of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) when it ruled that “file notings”, contrary to government’s claims, were not exempted under the RTI Act, 2005.

Article 2 (f) of the RTI Act mentions “file” under “material” which is used to define “information”. But the DoPT website on “what is information” surreptitiously added that file notings were not part of it.

The government is now likely to move to exclude notings from the ambit of information. Saying that they were only clarifying what exists, sources said the aim is only to avoid ambiguity to avoid people from going to court alleging violation of the Act.

Similarly, cabinet notes may also soon be out of the reach of information-seekers. The list of exemptions under Article 8 mentions “cabinet papers including records of deliberations of council of ministers..” but adds, “provided the decisions and the material on the basis of which decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken”.

Sources said government may delete “material on the basis of which decisions were taken” from clause ‘F’ of Article 8. This would put cabinet notes out of the reach of CIC.

Another aspect to be out of the RTI Act may be the UPSC selection process. It was said that revealing the process would compromise recruitment to government bodies.


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