eGovernance in India

Improving eGovernance in INDIA

No right to know file notings

Posted by egovindia on July 21, 2006

No right to know file notings

Express News Service

Posted online: Friday, July 21, 2006 at 0000 hrs


RTI AMENDMENT: File notings in ‘few areas’ exempt from RTI


NEW DELHI, JULY 20:In a move that is likely to reduce the spectrum of information that citizens can access from government files, the Union Cabinet today approved an Amendments Bill to the Right to Information Act, 2005 that would exclude notings made by officials on files related to all areas except social and development sector projects.

In December 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had instructed the Department of Personnel and Training to change the rules pertaining to disclosure of file notings under the Act.

“Substantive file notings on plans, schemes, programmes and projects of the Government that relate to development and social issues may be disclosed,” the PM had said. “However, file notings relating to identifiable individuals, group of individuals, organizations, appointments, matters relating to inquiries and departmental proceedings, shall not be disclosed.”

After today’s Cabinet meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said that the decision to amend the Act was taken in response to objections from government organizations like the Union Public Services Commission on making file notings public.

The opinion forwarded was that while decisions could be conveyed, the process of how it was arrived at could not be. While defending the amendment, Dasmunsi pointed out that such exemptions have been made in the US, UK and Australia as well.

“Decisions can be conveyed, not in terms of details about what the Under Secretary or Joint Secretary wrote or what the Secretary disapproved,” Dasmunsi said on the impact of the amendment. This would reduce ‘certain ambiguities’ in the Act, he added.

Contrary to Dasmunsi’s claims, while the US information law does exempt internal government communications from being disclosed, the exemption is only for the period while decisions are being made. Once a decision is taken by the government, the same communication (equivalent to the Indian ‘file notings’), however, are open to public.

In Australia, the right to information is curtailed where an agency can establish that non-disclosure is necessary for protection of essential public interest and private and business affairs of a person about whom information is sought. But documents on the internal working of the government, including Cabinet documents, are out of bounds, though in some cases, documents can be accessed with the exempt information deleted.

In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act contains exemptions to the right of access in order to protect legitimate interests and sensitivities—some of these exemptions are absolute while some are subject to a public interest test and are known as ‘qualified’.

But in the UK too, the formulation and development of government policy that includes Cabinet proceedings and communications between ministers and other official advisories on policy proposals, are exempt from disclosure.

Sixth pay panel gets Cabinet OK

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet on Thursday gave its approval for setting up the Sixth Pay Commission for Central government employees. The term of the Commission would be for 18 months.   


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