Right to Information – Master key to good governance

More fireworks on file notings

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 23, 2006

More fireworks on file notings

Vidya Subrahmaniam


Ministry and CIC differ on the interpretation



  • The Commission’s ruling is that notings are accessible under the Act
  • Ministry’s website continues to maintain that file notings are outside the purview of the RTI


    New Delhi: The Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievances and the Central Information Commission (CIC), a statutory body constituted under the Right to Information Act, 2005 are once again on a collision course on the interpretation of file notings — on whether or not the Act allows access to them. The latest offensive is from the Ministry and comes within days of Minister Suresh Pachouri’s assurance that the RTI Act will stand in its original form — that is without an amendment to withhold file notings.

    The CIC and the Ministry have taken opposite positions on file notings with the commission ruling in a series of cases that the notings were accessible under the Act and the Ministry adamantly maintaining that these were excluded under the Act. Indeed, the Ministry’s website claimed that file notings could not be treated as information under the RTI Act. Reacting sharply to this, the CIC, on July 13, ordered the Ministry to remove within five days the “instruction relating to the non-disclosure of file notings from the website.” It held that “the website was creating a lot of unnecessary and avoidable confusion in the minds of public authorities…”

    Swift retaliation

    The Ministry retaliated swiftly. In a letter dated July 17, C.B. Paliwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry, informed the Commission that the “Government has taken a conscious decision not to include file notings in the definition of information.” The Commission stuck to its stand, and on August 8, it directed the Ministry to comply with its order of July 13, 2006 by August 22, 2006. Through all this, the Ministry’s website continued to maintain that file notings were outside the purview of the RTI.

    With a day to go for the deadline, the Ministry struck. Writing to the Commission on August 21, L.K. Joshi, Secretary to the Ministry, sought a review of the Commission’s July 13 direction on the removal of its website posting on file notings.

    Obtained by The Hindu under the RTI Act, the letter draws strength from an opinion submitted to the Ministry by Additional Solicitor-General, Gopal Subramanium. Says the letter: “As directed by the Prime Minister, the matter [of file notings] was examined in consultation with the Ministry of Law, Department of Legal Affairs. A copy of the considered opinion of the Additional Solicitor-General received in this regard is enclosed.”

    Rendered void

    In Mr. Subramanium’s opinion, the “orders dated 13th July 2006 and 8th August 2006” are rendered “void” by virtue of the fact that they were passed by a “single member of the Central Information Commission.” Mr. Subramanium contended that the Commission was not competent to deal with a department “which is not directly before it as respondent in an appeal” and further that its July 13 order was “plainly in excess of the lawful authority conferred on the Commission under Section 19 of the Act.”

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    One Response to “More fireworks on file notings”

    1. P.K. Aditya, Chandigarh said


      That Shri L.K. Joshi, Secretary to the Ministry, has written to the Central Information Commission on August 21, seeking a review of the Commission’s July 13 direction on the removal of its website posting on file notings, is rather unfortunate.

      Where is room anymore to keep confrontation on, after contentions have been ascribed in the name of the Congress President, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of State for Personnel and Grievances, and the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. Most important thing is that following a decision taken by PM Manmohan Singh, the amendment bill was not likely to be introduced in the current session of Parliament, which concludes on August 25, 2006. As abundantly agreed, the matters will be discussed with more people and stake holders.

      Is it not just theoretical to beat about the bush to support or decry what DOPT did long ago? Need of the hour is that the questionable alteration in the definition of “Information’ has to be just dropped, irrespective of what the CIC said long ago and what is the opinion submitted to the Ministry by the Additional Solicitor-General, just the other day. Let bygones be bygones.

      P.K. Aditya, Chandigarh.
      July 23, 2006.

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