The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has refused to provide a list of live files held by one of its sections on grounds that it would disproportionately divert its resources, prompting RTI activists to wonder if the government practises what it preaches.
RTI activist Lokesh Batra had asked the PMO and the department of personnel & training's RTI Section to provide a list of live files, the files lost since 2005 and the number of files digitised.
It turned out that the DoPT's RTI section had only one file -relating the exemption of the CBI from the RTI - in digital form.
The PMO, on the other hand, refused to provide any information.
"The information sought by the applicant is not specific and spread over a substantial period of time. This is certainly a constrain on time and resources and would result in disproportionate diversion of the internal resources of this office," the PMO responded.
Batra said this was a surprise since it indicated inefficient record keeping. And this, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been calling for better information housekeeping.
"With the improvement in data management, the time may not be far when citizens may locate on their own, the status of their requests in the work flow artery of public authorities. The RTI Act itself mandates such disclosure and record management," Singh told the 2011 convention of information commissioners.
"It seems the PMO does not preach what it practises," Batra said, pointing that there were formal instructions too requiring departments to maintain all records duly catalogued to make retrieval of information easier.
RTI activist RK Jain, however, believes this was just an excuse to deny information.
"He is the chief executive of the country. How can his office not maintain proper records," Jain said, pointing that the PMO certainly had catalogued its files.
"This is only an excuse to deny information," Jain emphasised.
The PMO has already stopped providing photocopies of its files under the information law but gives a transcript of the file notings.