M A I N   N E W S

Amendment to RTI Act approved
Notings not to be disclosed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 20
The Union Cabinet today approved an amendment, which aims at weakening the Right to Information Act, by debarring the notings of bureaucrats from the citizen’s domain.

The Act, considered to be the brain-child of the now defunct national advisory council, headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had been hailed as one of the biggest achievements of the Manmohan Singh government in bringing transparency and accountability.

“The amendment to the Right to Information Act, 2005, will remove the ambiguities and will make its provisions more effective and progressive”, Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters.

The only exception would be file notings on social and development issues, he said.

Under the Act, notings by secretaries on all files used to be provided.

According to government sources, the Prime Minister felt that giving access to file notings could be misused to target individual bureaucrats.

Also to be put beyond the reach of information-seekers are Cabinet notes, on which the government deliberates for policy decisions. The move comes days after the CIC ruled that a Cabinet note was not a confidential document once a decision on it had been taken.

The Wajahat Habibullah-led CIC gave a big blow to the officials of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) when it ruled that “file notings”, contrary to government’s claims, were not exempted under the RTI Act, 2005.

The decision has been taken following objections raised by some government organisations like the UPSC that file notings should not be made public, Mr Dasmunsi said.

The organisations had opined that decisions taken could be conveyed, but not in terms of the details as to how the decisions were arrived at. “Decisions can be conveyed, not in terms of details about what the Under Secretary or Joint Secretary wrote or what the Secretary disapproved”, he said

Aruna Roy, the prime mover of the right to information campaign, says the government’s decision is a setback.





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