Stung by the criticism that followed the proposed amendments to the RTI Act, the government on Wednesday contended that only "a small portion of file notings" would be outside the law's purview. It said the proposed changes would actually strengthen the information regime by enabling people to access file notings on the vast bulk of government activities.
The clarification came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took note of the "sharp criticism" by civil rights' groups and on a day social activist Anna Hazare went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to inform President APJ Abdul Kalam that he would return the Padma Bhushan award if the government blocked file notings.
A PMO communiqué said the criticism was largely misplaced since it was based on an "incomplete knowledge" of facts. Rather than a retrogressive move, it said, the cabinet decision to give statutory backing to access "file notings" was a "positive step forward".
Once the amendments come into force, the RTI Act will provide for the disclosure of "file notings of all plans, schemes and programmes of the government that relate to development and social issues". "The disclosure of file notings on the most important and vast bulk of government activities has now become possible for the first time," the statement said.
The PMO said, "Only a small portion of file notings now remains exempted from disclosure." This will include notings covered under the current list of exemptions and personnel-related matters like examination, assessment and evaluation for recruitment and disciplinary proceedings.
The statement said the amendments would make the law a "more powerful tool". Also, the government was committed to a greater transparency and accountability in decision-making process.