Appeal not to amend the Right to Information Act
Posted by rtiact2005 on August 3, 2006
Appeal not to amend the Right to Information Act and drop the clause allowing access to file notings.
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Honorable Prime Minister of India
The Prime Minister’s Office
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi, India 110 011
Fax: +91 11 23019545 / 23016857
03 August 2006
Reg.: Appeal not to amend the Right to Information Act and drop the clause allowing access to file notings
Every Prime Minister has a legacy to keep and we really hope that yours would not be one of blocking access to information.
As you are aware there is a country wide debate on the current moves of your government to drop access to file noting from the purview of the Right to Information Act. The general mood is that the Act has served the citizens very well, and that in time it could establish a wholly different culture of governance, where every decision could potentially be accountable not merely by claim, but by evidence. Good governments would champion provisions in law which provides access to such clauses as file notings in legislations such as the Right to Information Act. Your government is attempting to do the converse, and we believe an amendment dropping the file noting clause would be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.
Whatever be the compulsions by which this thought has emerged that file notings need not be shared, as an administrator in regulatory agencies before becoming the Prime Minister, you would have seen hundreds of documents, and in so reviewing them, concentrated on file notings to form your decision. Much as the content of a document in itself is important, what brings more value to the document is who took what decisions and why. File notings thus become a crucial guiding light in forming a good decision. Similarly, it is only by file notings that a bad decision can be understood, including exploring the lack of rationale that go against the wider public interest.
People across the country have awakened to the creative possibilities of utilising their Rights to Access Information. In this light it would be expected that your government, which not too long ago was guided by one of the most progressive governance agendas of free India, would sustain this Right to access file notings. Beyond mere electoral gains, it has the potency of promoting a legacy that few Prime Ministers in the past have enjoyed. Allowing regressive attempts as dropping access to file notings is equivalent to betraying an intelligent people the possibility of using their creativity in enjoying the full fruits of decision making. Sooner than later, such betrayal will revive the messy loop of bad governance promoting bad decisions, as millions of babus, big and small, will bask contently in the knowledge that their hand in the pie will not be shown.
It is up to you to formulate your legacy.
You will be remembered as one who withstood the pressures of party and coalition compulsions, bureaucratic sleight of hand and also corporate pressures, in ensuring that act remains un-amended because peoples of India mattered more to you. You will be remembered as the Prime Minister who ensured that peoples right to know as fully as can be possible without breaching the security of the country, what their government was doing for them, was a cornerstone of your governance approach.
File notings are critical in this schema, as it reveals good decisions for praise, as it exposes does bad decisions for contempt and punishment. Take out file notings from the RTI and you will take out the hard fought hope of the citizens that our democracy works for its people.
Please retain a legacy you will be proud of.
Do consider this sincere appeal from a non-profit group that has systematically exposed many scams in decision making in the wider public interest, by accessing documents with file noting.
Leo F. Saldanha
Bhargavi S. Rao
Mallesh K. R.