Officials suppress file notings from RTI applicants

        Babus derive their power from the ability to deny even  lawful rights to a citizen. It can be a ration card, a passport, a certificate, an I card, an noc, aan approval; a million things that are necessary for survival. They also derive power from the fact that they are never held accountable.

     

The RTI act was supposed to help a citizen unravel some of the mysteries in the labyrinthian corridors.

       Unfortunately the babus have ganged up together at all levels to ensure that  information is denied to a citizen as a matter of course. Some organs of the government have even managed to successfly stay out of the ambit of RTI.

       The fact that the judiciary which delivers homilies to one and all has kept itself out of the purview of the RTI act has not helped the matters. In the meantime a fight is on between the citizens and the beauracracy. 

        An extract from mail today  IT HAS been more than two years since the Right to information (RTI) Act came into effect. But the bureaucracy, it seems, is still trying to resist parting with information — the crucial instance being ‘file-noting’.
       The Central Information Commission (CIC) has repeatedly said ‘file-noting’ — correspondence in files — are ‘information’ and not exempt from disclosure. But the department of personnel and training (DoPT) has been opposing this.
       In the latest instance, the department has not complied CIC’s directions to make public the file notings in the case of S.S. Bhambra, an assistant in the President’s secretariat, who sought details regarding his promotion.

      But Instead of complying with CIC’s directions, the President’s secretariat approached DoPT for advice, drawing a contempt notice from CIC DoPT, which coordinates the RTI Act, has actually stated in its website that ‘file notings’ are excluded under the definition of ‘information’ under the Act.

       In the past, the railways ministry refused to part with information, citing this. The Delhi Development Authority and the Telecommunication Consultants India have also refused to reveal file notings to RTI applicants on the same grounds.
        Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said: “The difficulty is that the department has not removed the erroneous information about file notings from its website, although we have recommended it on several occasions.

      Several public authorities have refused information on this ground.”
Since 2006, CIC has repeatedly said file notings are to be disclosed under RTI. It has constantly urged DoPT, (at least once every month since January 2006), to “remove the misleading information from its website” and inform other ministries and departments.

       There was a full bench hearing to clear doubts on the issue. It was clarified that a ‘file’ was a ‘record’ and contained both the part containing correspondence and the part containing opinions and advice, i.e. notings.

      Under the Act, all such records have to be disclosed to bring transparency. Only classified information, like official secrets, are exempt from being disclosed, according to Section 8 of the Act.

       CIC directed the misleading information to be “immediately” removed as it affected even the office of the President.
kavita.chowdhury@mailtoday.in

Citizens face beauracratic obstacles even with RTI

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