Right to Information – Master key to good governance

No right to know file notings

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 22, 2006

No right to know file notings

Express News Service

Posted online: Friday, July 21, 2006 at 0000 hrs 

RTI AMENDMENT: File notings in ‘few areas’ exempt from RTI


NEW DELHI, JULY 20:In a move that is likely to reduce the spectrum of information that citizens can access from government files, the Union Cabinet today approved an Amendments Bill to the Right to Information Act, 2005 that would exclude notings made by officials on files related to all areas except social and development sector projects.

In December 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had instructed the Department of Personnel and Training to change the rules pertaining to disclosure of file notings under the Act.

“Substantive file notings on plans, schemes, programmes and projects of the Government that relate to development and social issues may be disclosed,” the PM had said. “However, file notings relating to identifiable individuals, group of individuals, organizations, appointments, matters relating to inquiries and departmental proceedings, shall not be disclosed.”

After today’s Cabinet meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said that the decision to amend the Act was taken in response to objections from government organizations like the Union Public Services Commission on making file notings public.

The opinion forwarded was that while decisions could be conveyed, the process of how it was arrived at could not be. While defending the amendment, Dasmunsi pointed out that such exemptions have been made in the US, UK and Australia as well.

“Decisions can be conveyed, not in terms of details about what the Under Secretary or Joint Secretary wrote or what the Secretary disapproved,” Dasmunsi said on the impact of the amendment. This would reduce ‘certain ambiguities’ in the Act, he added.

Contrary to Dasmunsi’s claims, while the US information law does exempt internal government communications from being disclosed, the exemption is only for the period while decisions are being made. Once a decision is taken by the government, the same communication (equivalent to the Indian ‘file notings’), however, are open to public.

In Australia, the right to information is curtailed where an agency can establish that non-disclosure is necessary for protection of essential public interest and private and business affairs of a person about whom information is sought. But documents on the internal working of the government, including Cabinet documents, are out of bounds, though in some cases, documents can be accessed with the exempt information deleted.

In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act contains exemptions to the right of access in order to protect legitimate interests and sensitivities—some of these exemptions are absolute while some are subject to a public interest test and are known as ‘qualified’.

But in the UK too, the formulation and development of government policy that includes Cabinet proceedings and communications between ministers and other official advisories on policy proposals, are exempt from disclosure.

Sixth pay panel gets Cabinet OK

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for setting up the Sixth Pay Commission for Central government employees. The term of the Commission would be for 18 months.



3 Responses to “No right to know file notings”

  1. P.K. Aditya, Chandigarh said

    “ The RTI Cauldron

    The heading on the front page of your esteemed paper, on July 21, 2006: “No right to know govt file notings”, seems no more than reiteration by the Union Cabinet, of a press-release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, on December 1, 2005, entitled: “PM initiates change in RTI Rules to enable disclosure of notings”. That the title of the said press-release indicated intention of the PM “to enable disclosure of notings”, rather than debar it, and that the decision now of the cabinet is meant to “exclude notings made by officials on files related to a few areas”, may not be read to mean, at their face value, that all type of file notings are being barred from disclosure. The real culprit is the Department of Personnel which surreptitiously amended the RTI Act to the extent of excluding all type of file notings from the definition of ‘information’. In fact ‘file notings’, by themselves, are not such a ‘category’ as other constituents in the definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of the RTI Act. As long as the said “few areas” entail primarily the sensitive matters already exempted under section 8 of the RTI Act, or may be a clarification regarding ‘some more’, from disclosure, it should not matter if ‘file notings’ related to all these are exempted from disclosure.

    If the Government does propose to the Parliament to make an amendment in the Act to debar disclosure of all type of ‘file notings’, irrespective of sensitivity of the subject matter, apart from those defined under section 8 of the RTI Act, there can be no doubt that: “The powers that be can be sure that they will face a relentless battle and this time the people will be stronger than before”, as Aruna Roy jointly with Nikhil Dey has concluded in her article published in the Indian Express on July 22, 2006.

    P.K. Aditya, Chandigarh.”

  2. rtiact2005 said

    IT’S OUR RIGHT. An inalienable right has been conferred on citizens.

    `Right to Information Act will empower common people’

    The legislative intent is clear; we are entitled to know how our money is spent.

    The onus is on us to make the Act work. In effect, therefore, the right conferred on the citizen is an exhaustive one.

    It allows him to assess and examine every government decision, to study the reasons recorded by the government for taking a particular step, and to utilise information so gathered to ensure that government acts in a transparent and just manner.

    Indeed, the preamble to the Act puts it well when it says, “democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information” and adds these “are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed”.

    eGovINDIA and INDIA RTI and other groups

  3. rtiact2005 said

    A whistle Blower’s tale: The judgement makes an point that a note file is crucial to find out corruption in a transaction. Without notefile a file has no life. The right to information Act would be toothless without the notefile coming under the RTI’s purview.


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