Right to Information – Master key to good governance

For UPA govt, right to info does not begin at home

Posted by rtiact2005 on September 1, 2006

For UPA govt, right to info does not begin at home
D K Singh / New Delhi August 28, 2006
Cabinet Sectt refuses to part with information on Sonia-govt letters.
It’s the irony of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The UPA regime refuses to part with any information about Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who is said to be instrumental in making the Act a reality and who champions it as one of the biggest achievements of the Congress-led coalition.
Over two months after a Business Standard correspondent submitted an application to the Cabinet Secretariat, seeking information under the Act about some letters exchanged between Sonia Gandhi and the government, the officials refuse to reply. The Act sets a limit of one month for furnishing the information sought.
The Cabinet Secretariat, which got the application on June 23, 2006, sat on it for 12 days, before shaking off responsibility by forwarding it to the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation on July 4 (I.D.No. A.12011/40/2006). Nothing has been heard of the application since.
Two separate appeals to the designated appellate authorities in the Cabinet Secretariat and the ministry, sent on August 21, also failed to secure any response.
It is a case of sheer apathy and contempt to the RTI Act, which is evident from the officials’ response to two other RTI applications, sent on June 23, 2006, to the Ministry of Home Affairs (forwarded by the Cabinet Secretariat) and the Ministry of External Affairs.
The applications were about foreign junkets by the members of the council of ministers and the individuals who were issued diplomatic passports during a specific period.
Two months after the application was sent came a reply from the MHA, through a letter dated August 22: It gave information about the home minister’s visits and asked the BS Correspondent, the applicant, to approach each department and ministry for information about foreign tours by other ministers. The Cabinet Secretariat had earlier forwarded the application to the MHA, asking it to provide information concerning all ministries.
There was no also response to the appeal against the denial of information sent to the designated appellate authority in the Cabinet Secretariat and the MHA on August 21.
As for the application to the MEA, the reply did come within the stipulated timeframe, but did not provide the information sought. Instead of giving names of the individuals who were given diplomatic passports, the PIO’s reply merely mentioned the guidelines for issuing such passports.
When contacted, the PIO said the names could not be divulged, but failed to specify the reasons. Again, there has been no response to the appeal to the appellate authority in the MEA about a week after it was sent.

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