Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Jurists: no justification for not disclosing file notings

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 10, 2006

Jurists: no justification for not disclosing file notings

Legal Correspondent


Amendments restrict people’s right to know what public servants are doing



  • Right to information is untrammelled constitutional guarantee
  • Disclosure of all `file notings’ will not deter honest persons


    NEW DELHI: Jurists V.R. Krishna Iyer, J.S. Verma and P.B. Sawant have strongly opposed the Centre’s move to introduce amendments not to disclose `file notings’ under the Right to Information Act (RIA), 2005.

    No justification

    In a statement, Mr. Justice Verma, former Chief Justice of India; Mr. Justice Krishna Iyer and Mr. Justice Sawant, former Supreme Court judges, said: “There is no justification for such amendments which unreasonably and unconstitutionally seek to restrict the people’s right to know what their public servants are doing on their behalf.”

    The statement referred to the recent Cabinet decision approving far-reaching amendments, which “seek to restrict access to `file notings’ and allow access to only substantial notings relating to social and developmental issues.”

    It said: “File notings are the recording of the views and reasons by various officials for or against any proposed decision. It is settled that the `right to information,’ implicit under Art. 19 (1) (a), is [an] untrammelled constitutional guarantee, subject only to the `reasonable restrictions’ validly imposed by legislation under Article 19 (2).”

    The scheme under Article 19 (2) did not permit an omnibus restriction.

    The jurists said all government decisions must be based on a discernible principle and cogent reasons. A reasoned order/decision was the assurance against nepotism, arbitrariness and corruption. Reasons provided an internal check against arbitrariness in the decision-making process. Mere information of the decision without disclosure of the reasons for it and the decision-making process was not enough to permit scrutiny of the decision made, which even otherwise might become known.

    “The very purpose of the `right to information’ would be frustrated without the knowledge of the `reasons’ for the decision, emerging from the `file notings.’ Except for information, which can, or needs to be withheld in the interests of the specified heads under Art. 19 (2), there is no reason or authority to permit exclusion of the remaining information in the form of `file notings’ or otherwise.”

    The stated apprehension that disclosure of all `file notings’ would deter honest persons involved in the process from expressing their candid opinion was misconceived. “The fact is the opposite.”

    The assurance of public scrutiny or transparency in government business would motivate the honest to be frank in the expression of their views in writing.

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